You will be aware, Madam Speaker, that Friday 27 January is the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Have the Government said what the House is going to do to commemorate the holocaust, and who will represent them at the memorial service at Auschwitz in Poland on Friday?
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. These camps were, of course, the scenes of mass extermination on a scale that the world had perhaps never known. The 50th anniversary of the liberation of the camps—especially that at Auschwitz—should concern us, as Britain was in the war against Nazism from the very beginning. In the circumstances, is it not inappropriate—I put it no more strongly than that—that the House is not being represented in any way?
I hope that I shall not be misunderstood if I say that, not only would we have liked the House to be represented, but that we hoped that you, Madam Speaker, would have been authorised—clearly, you could not do so without such authorisation—to represent us, so that people in Poland and the international community know that the House of Commons is concerned about what happened, and that we shall never forget the millions of people who were murdered for no reason other than their race, politics or some disability which, in the eyes of the Nazis, meant that they should be put to death.
I understand the sentiments, which, I am sure, are those of the entire House on this matter. The hon. Lady mentioned 27 January. I have not been informed by the Government that they intend to commemorate that date, but I remind the House that we have business questions tomorrow and that the matter could perhaps be put to the Leader of the House.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder if you would give me your guidance? I think that it is correct to say that you have repeatedly made it clear that, in any Question Time, especially in Prime Minister's Question Time, interventions should always be in the form of questions.
I wonder, therefore, in the light of that confirmation, whether you would kindly look at column 136 of Hansard yesterday and the second intervention of the right hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair), which certainly was not a question but a statement? Would you be inclined to remind the right hon. Gentleman of his obligation, above every other Member of the House, to put questions and not to make statements?
Yes, I think it is incumbent on any hon. Member, whether Front Bencher or Back Bencher, not to make statements, but to put their questions to Ministers very briskly, so that as many hon. Members as possible may be called. I should also remind Members, especially Back-Bench Members, that, at Question Time, the Government are required to account for their policies, so questions must relate to ministerial responsibility and not go further afield. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raised the earlier point with me.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall that, on 13 July, the Government made a statement on their White Paper "The Civil Service: Continuity and Change", that the statement took 55 minutes, and that over 30 hon. Members took part. It now transpires that, in a written answer that is to be tabled tonight, the Government will slip out their reply to a Command Paper and to the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee report.
This is a deliberate attempt to pre-empt the Scott committee and Nolan committee reports. Therefore, would you make representations to the people involved, to see that a statement is made in the House, that the Paper is delayed until then, and that the statement is not made in Opposition time?
The House knows my views on those matters. I have stated them clearly and frequently. Important Government decisions must, of course, be communicated first to this House. I feel very strongly about that, and wish to see it carried out. Whether that is done by oral statement or by written answer is for the Minister to decide, and I have no authority over that decision.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you seen, in your official capacity, the distressing account of the death of Mr. Keith Abel, who was described by his wife as a valiant servant of the health service and who spent many years of his life saving the lives of others? He had to wait five hours, during which he was dying of a brain haemorrhage, while efforts were made to find a hospital. Five long hours went by, and no hospital could be found to deal with him. Have you had a request for a statement about that incident and the distressing state of our national health service?
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I know that we have had Scottish questions, but I wonder whether the Government have requested that one of their Ministers could make a statement on their new policy, and whether they have informed you about their declaration last night on television regarding the new laws on Sunday opening hours, especially in view of the fact that we know that the Tories have been hunting for money and that the brewers are very happy about the proposals? I should like to know why no statement has been made, because I want to ask the Ministers concerned how much the brewers have promised the Tory party for this change of policy that has not been announced in this House.
That is barely a point of order for me. The hon. Gentleman may try to use the Order Paper to put those questions to Ministers. He was really asking whether the Government are making a statement on that matter today. The answer, as far as I am concerned, is no.
It is an absolutely and completely different point of order, Madam Speaker. You may recall that, two weeks ago, you gave a very helpful answer to a point of order that I raised indicating that all questions must relate to responsibilities of Ministers, so that Conservative Members could not ask questions about the Labour party and Labour policy. Does that mean that I would be precluded from asking whether the costs of the legal action against The Guardian by the director-general of the Tory party will be paid for out of Tory party funds or out of Government funds?
The hon. Gentleman must not try to use the Chair of this House to put questions of that nature. He is ingenious enough, and has been here long enough, to know his way around the Order Paper and to know how to raise issues. I guessed correctly—he had a twinkle in his eye before he started.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you received any representations from the Government making their position clear concerning the reports that, shortly after leaving Government service, many senior civil servants from the Ministry of Defence, and many people who have held very senior positions in Her Majesty's armed services, receive directorships and arrive on the boards of defence companies managing large orders for the Government? Have you received any representations on that subject, Madam Speaker?
Yes, but not on every occasion; that must be left to my discretion. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has raised that matter today because he rose several times at Question Time but I could not call him—I saw the look of frustration on his face. I say to him and to other Scottish Members that I keep a list of Scottish Members who have not been called very often during Scottish Question Time. The hon. Gentleman is not on my list, because I know that he has been called quite frequently; that is probably one reason why he was not called today. I keep the list here with me at every Scottish Question Time, and try to deal as fairly as possible with all Scottish Members, whatever party they may come from.
The hon. Gentleman gives me an opportunity to say that, at Scottish Question Time, we do not make the progress that I would like to see. We have made a little more progress today because of the extra few minutes, but I hope that we shall try harder next time.
The hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman) always has something to say that is welcome in the House. We shall now move on to the ten-minute rule Bill.