HC Deb 18 May 2004 vol 421 cc824-36 12.31 pm
Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will, no doubt, be aware of the terrible events going on in the Gaza strip, with the Israeli armed forces slaughtering large numbers of Palestinians day after day, and demolishing huge numbers of homes, making large numbers of innocent people homeless—all in violation of international law and human decency. I rise to ask for your guidance on how we can raise this matter as an issue of urgency, so that whatever our Government can do to intervene to try to stop these events can be done as soon as possible.

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Foreign Office questions will not be taken until 15 June but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) says, we should have an opportunity to raise this matter in view of the deep disquiet and concern that exist in the House, and certainly in the country at large, about what the Israelis are doing. I am totally opposed to suicide bombing and terrorism as such, but innocent civilians are undoubtedly being killed, many homes are being demolished—we have seen it on television—and the Palestinians are being forced to live in tents. Those are terrible events, so I hope that there will be an opportunity for a Minister to come to the House, where we can ask questions, press for the British Government to dissociate themselves very strongly indeed from what is happening and urge the British Government to ask President Bush so to dissociate himself. What is happening now in the Gaza strip is totally unacceptable. For that reason I hope, Sir, that you can advise us how we can raise this matter as quickly as possible.

Mr. Speaker

These are very troubled and serious matters indeed, but both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman are well aware of the procedures of the House, and they will know that I cannot bring a Minister to the House unless an application has been made for an urgent question; but, of course, the relevant Ministers will have heard the comments and the concern that has been expressed and, no doubt, will take whatever action they feel is necessary in informing the House. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman know the rules of the House, and they know what they can do to bring a Minister to the House.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order of which I have given you some notice; I apologise that it was not more notice. In reviewing my written parliamentary answers in preparation for my oral question on today's Order Paper, I discovered that I tabled a question on 19 November 2003, to the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety, the hon. Member for Salford (Ms Blears), to which the reply was: I will write to the hon. Member and place a copy of my letter in the Library."—[Official Report, 19 November 2003; Vol. 413, c. 1035W.] In investigating the matter this morning, I found that I have still not had a reply in the Library. I understand that, at the end of last year, there were a substantial number of such cases. Although the number has fallen, there may still be several of them, and it is unacceptable for Ministers to say that they will write to hon. Members and then not do so. I seek your advice on this matter.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me warning of this matter. I will investigate it and come back to him.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you been approached by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport about her coming to the House to make a statement about tomorrow's planned auction of the papers of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? You will know that there is substantial public concern that due process has not been followed by Christie's on this issue. It is proposing the break-up of papers that would be better placed in the British Library to serve the public good. Such is the concern that, last Friday, the British Library made it clear that the sellers are refusing to make available documents to confirm the legal title of the papers that are being sold. With just 24 hours to go before the planned auction, is there anything that Members can do to raise the issue on behalf of the public interest?

Mr. Speaker

There are certain things that hon. Members can do to raise these matters, but I have no powers to raise them. It is up to the hon. Gentleman to approach the Department and Ministers with his deep concerns.

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