Points of Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 18th April 1990.

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Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton 4:07 pm, 18th April 1990

During his statement, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said several times that he could not answer the points raised by hon. Members because there could be, there might be or there may possibly be a case pending before the courts. Is that a new doctrine in the House? I have always understood that, when a case was before a court, we did not have the opportunity or the right to question Ministers on that matter, because the issue was before a court and comments here could prejudice that case.

I may be wrong, Mr. Speaker, but I have never before heard a Minister make a statement and say, "I cannot answer the hon. Member"—who had raised a perfectly legitimate question that the Minister should answer—"because there could be, there might be or there may possibly be a case before the courts." Is that a new doctrine, Mr. Speaker? Is that allowed in the House? Is it not time that Ministers should be told that, when there is not a case before the courts, hon. Members who ask questions have a right to be given answers to those questions?