East Thames Corridor

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 24 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 3:30, 24 March 1993

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you could assist a frustrated and perplexed Member. During Question Time, the Secretary of State referred lightly to the east Thames corridor, and we moved quickly on. Today, he made an important announcement about the corridor which, according to his policy document, will help to shape the region's environment and guide its development for the remainder of this century and the early years of the next.

One understands that the east Thames corridor initiative and the consultation process are important to the whole country, so it would seem to be an appropriate subject for a ministerial statement at the Dispatch Box. Ministers make some fairly insignificant and unimportant statements when they choose, but we have had no statement on a matter that everyone agrees is of great importance.

Yesterday, you, Madam Speaker, said, as reported in column 824 of Hansard, that you would consider the matter and would in due course make your views known. I wonder whether you are in a position to give us the benefit of your thoughts on the matter.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Shadow Secretary of State (Environment)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. May I reinforce my hon. Friend's point? The report on the east Thames corridor is of immense significance to more than 1 million people who live in the area and to at least 100 Members on both sides of the House. In view of that, I wonder whether you would accept that it is precisely the sort of issue on which Ministers should make their views known to the House before they make them known to the press.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

I am sure that I shall be able to help the House. As the issue was raised in the Chamber last night, as the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, I have had an opportunity to look into the sequence of events relating to it.

A written question from the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett) was answered yesterday evening, and the answer was placed in the Library in a perfectly regular way. By means of that answer the House was informed that the Government's consultation proposals for the east Thames corridor would be available in the Vote Office at 10 o'clock today, and they duly arrived. At the same time, the House was informed that general publication of the proposals would take place simultaneously.

As the House knows, occupants of the Chair have frequently stated that it is a discourtesy to the House for Governments to make available substantial information for publication in the press before it is available to hon. Members. On this occasion that is distinctly not the case. On the contrary, the written answer drew the attention of the House to the fact that information would be available in the Vote Office at the same time as it was released for publication. Whether the launch of that consultation exercise justified an oral statement to the House is entirely a matter for the Government's judgment and is not one on which the Speaker is, or will ever become, involved. I am satisfied that there has been no breach of order or discourtesy to the House—and I now intend to move on.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to raise a different point of order?

Photo of John Denham John Denham , Southampton, Itchen

It is a rather similar matter.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I have dealt with this subject, and I shall not take points of order on similar matters. If it is on a different subject, I shall, of course, take the hon. Gentleman's point of order.

Photo of John Denham John Denham , Southampton, Itchen

This morning, the Secretary of State for the Environment issued a press release concerning the Hampshire county structure plan, which is an important strategic issue. So far as I have been able to establish, no attempt was made to alert me, as a Hampshire Member of Parliament, to the intention to issue the press release. At Question Time, the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Malone) made it clear that he had been made aware of the press release. Would not it be courteous for the Secretary of State to inform all Hampshire Members, and not just his hon. Friends, of such important strategic announcements?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

This is a matter for the Secretary of State, but I should point out that I did call the hon. Gentleman, and was delighted to do so. I hope that, with regard to this matter, I have been as helpful as possible.