On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to ask for your help or advice on the growing discourtesy of the Minister with responsibility for sport in replying to vital questions by means of written answers, and not consulting or presenting himself to the House.
You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that we had to complain about this last week in respect of the sale of local authority sports facilities. On the same day, the Minister issued another answer announcing fundamental changes in the structure of the Sports Council which not only go back on the White Paper that I presented to the House in 1975, but, in my judgment, affect the independence of the Sports Council and the right of governing bodies of the Central Council of Physical Recreation to elect their own membership, which may well be a breach of the royal charter. In this instance, the Minister concerned briefed journalists on Friday and gave a written answer on Friday, which was printed in Hansard only today. In other words, for four days hon. Members who are entitled to be consulted or informed did not receive either courtesy. Was this a breach of order, and how should we proceed in the matter?
I can answer only about those matters for which I have responsibility. The House knows that it is in order for a Minister to reply to a written question; I have no responsibility for that. I regret that the reply that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind was not printed in Friday's Official Report. I have made inquiries about this. There have been some delays in printing answers in recent weeks, but the problems are being overcome. The answer is printed in the Official Report today. It has been available in the Library since noon on Friday last.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Anyone in your position has a great problem in the sense that, in the morning, when you come to make the decisions that we all know you have to make, you cannot know what questions the Prime Minister will be asked. You will recollect that in 1982 there were frequent statements from the Government on the rules of engagement in the war of the south Atlantic. Ought there not to be a statement on the rules of engagement in the Gulf? At Question Time the Prime Minister properly said that British forces have a right to defend themselves.
My point of order is this. Should not the House of Commons, and others, be told precisely under what rules of engagement the Armilla patrol is operating?
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, relating to the matter raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). It is difficult for me, or for the House, to avoid the conclusion that had last night's events in Belfast occurred in Tottenham, Islington or Toxteth they would have been treated as a matter of national importance. Is it right that the city of Belfast and the Province of Ulster should be treated as somehow being different from the rest of the United Kingdom?
I can say only that I have to base my judgment on Standing Order No. 20 applications on whether they meet the criteria and involve the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. I have already given my view on that.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want genuinely to ask for your advice. Many Members of the Labour party, and I now also a Member of the Liberal party, have been wearing sticky bits of paper on their lapels. The proceedings of the House are not currently being televised, but, as we all know, a Select Committee is considering the possibility of televising the House. Will it be addressing this particular issue, because obviously it could lead to great abuse? Hon. Members could come in with little slips saying "Mars bars" on them, and be paid by an outside organisation. That sort of thing clearly should be looked at closely. I wonder whether you could tell the House whether anything is being done about this matter.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that last week, on a point of order, I was, to say the least, rude to you when I said that you might have been in collusion with the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook). I should have realised that nobody would be in collusion with the hon. Member for Stockton, North—anybody who was would be out of his mind. I wish to withdraw my remark and apologise to you, Mr. Speaker.