Points of Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 27th June 1995.

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Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons 4:39 pm, 27th June 1995

During a statement, Ministers must of course be allowed to respond off the cuff, but only very briefly, to comments from both sides of the House. However, I do expect such responses to be brief, and not to be a great diversion from the statement that a Minister is making. In that respect, I refer the right hon. Gentleman to page 297 of "Erskine May", which says: Explanations are made in the House by Ministers on behalf of the Government regarding their domestic and foreign policy … announcing the legislative proposals they intend to submit to Parliament; or the course they intend to adopt in the transaction and arrangement of public business. I have already said that Ministers often make quick responses in the excitement of the moment and that is perfectly acceptable. Equally, the Minister is making a statement of Government policy—that is what the Minister is doing at the Dispatch Box. Ministers should not at any time attempt to transform that statement into a speech or an attack upon the Opposition, minority parties, or anyone else for that matter. I repeat, statements are the enunciation of Government policy from the Dispatch Box. I hope that that clears the matter up.