Points of order

– in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 5th April 1995.

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Photo of Mr Dafydd Wigley Mr Dafydd Wigley Leader and Party President, Plaid Cymru 5:08 pm, 5th April 1995

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This morning on the radio and on television, it was widely reported that a statement would be made to the House on the future of dental services. We now find that a statement has been made by way of written answer. It refers to the reduction in dental treatment available on the national health service, to a system for charging to be renegotiated locally, and to a system of charges for community dental services to be introduced. Is not it appalling that, on a matter as important as that, and about which we have been waiting to hear for many months, no statement has been made in the House? Could you clarify whether anything in the House's rules prevents a Minister who has answered a private notice question from coming back here to make a statement on such a matter?

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

Certainly, if any Secretary of State sought to return to the House to make a statement, I would be here to hear it but I have not been informed that such a statement is to be made today. As the House knows, it is up to the Secretary of State when making such a statement to determine whether it is to be done by means of written answer or orally at the Dispatch Box. I have no influence or authority over that.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall making a statement to the House prior to the Second Reading debate on the Disability Discrimination Bill in which you said in effect that there were no procedural problems in progress on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. However, some procedural peculiarities seem to have developed in Committees dealing with the Bills that are being debated before that Bill. I am thinking especially of Standing Committee C which is debating the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Bill and where debates are being strung out by 50 amendments having been tabled on a measure about which there is no dispute. In any event, it was initially a Government Bill although promoted by a private Member. In the circumstances, would it be possible for you to call for reports from the Chairman and Clerks of the appropriate Committees in order to discover what is happening?

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

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to tedious and lengthy or filibustering remarks in particular Committees, although I am sure that he is not making such allegations. However, if that is the case, I am sure that the Chairmen of the appropriate Committees will report to me. It is not for me to ask them to do so; they will report to me anything untoward takes place.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I regret having to return for the third time in as many weeks to a matter that I understand has also been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) and others. The problem is that we are not getting answers to questions that we table to Ministers; Ministers are denying us information, refusing to make statements in the House and giving only written answers. The Government are becoming less and less accountable to Parliament and the public. Democracy is approaching crisis. What are we going to do? I know that in your rulings you say that it is not within your power to do anything about these matters, but who is listening?

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

I am listening. The hon. Gentleman can sit down. He is making a great many wide allegations, but I take the matter seriously. I have already examined one example provided by a Back Bencher but there was no substance in it whatsoever. If the hon. Gentleman will give me examples of his not receiving information when that information was available, I shall certainly look into the matter as thoroughly as I have done in other cases.