Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 4th November 1997.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham 3:34 pm, 4th November 1997

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it in order for the President of the Board of Trade to refuse to answer a parliamentary question—in this instance, from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood)—even though to provide an answer would entail only 10 minutes of the right hon. Lady's diary secretary's time, and would involve neither excessive expense nor any risk to our national security?

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

The hon. Gentleman must give me details of such a situation. I cannot give him a yes-or-no answer without being fully informed of what he is talking about, which I am not at present.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat, Orkney and Shetland

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall that on Question 1, I asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he was able to make an announcement about criminal cases and the review authority for Scotland. I was told to exercise some patience, because his hon. Friend the Minister of State would reveal all when answering Question 13. Of course, we did not reach Question 13. Is there any chance of extra time, Madam Speaker?

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

I wish there were. I shall let the hon. Gentleman into a little confidence, if I may. When the Scottish Office team were leaving, I observed that we did not make the progress on Scottish questions that I had hoped we would. That being so, I make the general point that I hope that we shall make better progress in future on Scottish questions. Perhaps I can be helped by Back Benchers as well as those on the Front Benches. Perhaps, also, those on the Treasury Bench will let the Scottish Office team know what I have said.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

Further to the first point of order, Madam Speaker. The question was a simple one, based on how many days the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had spent in her office between 1 August and 5 October. May I have the exact criteria for not answering the question? I understand that national security or excessive cost must be involved. Tracking down the Beckett family caravan surely does not fall into either of those categories.

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

I shall want to know the full situation. The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) said that he would write to me about the matter. I shall look into it and respond. I have no idea how many hours or days the President of the Board of Trade spent in her office, and I cannot be expected to respond until I have undertaken my research. I open my mouth in the House only when I have a proper answer to give, not to state something that I imagine.