Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 18th May 1998.

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Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex 3:31 pm, 18th May 1998

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Although I understand that, to your great relief, you are not responsible for ministerial answers, may I nevertheless ask you to intervene with Ministers who consistently fail to supply simple parliamentary written answers on the day on which they are due?

I had a number of questions to the Secretary of State for Defence due for written answer on Thursday. They were simple questions, relating to the dates and times when Ministers first discovered the Sandline operation in Sierra Leone. I received an answer from the Minister to the effect that the office could not answer the question but would reply shortly. Is that not unacceptable? Should not written answers arrive on the day they are due?

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

Does the Minister wish to respond to that point of order?

Photo of John Reid John Reid Minister of State (the Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence, The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Perhaps I can assist the hon. Gentleman. My information is that all those questions answered by the Ministry of Defence in that fashion last week will, with two exceptions—because of the continuing inquiries—be answered today. We said last week that we would answer shortly; "shortly" is within two working days, and we shall be answering today.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On 27 April, the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), having been criticised for his and his Liberal colleagues' minimal attendance at last summer's Finance Bill Standing Committee, informed the House that he was not a member of the Committee. Having checked the record, I discovered that the hon. Gentleman was indeed a member of that Committee, although his attendance record reveals that he clearly did not realise it. Have you been approached, Madam Speaker, by the hon. Gentleman with a view to his making a statement to correct the inadvertently misleading statement that he made to the House in April?

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

This tedious point-scoring has been noted.

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

Is this another tedious point of order?

Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Conservative, Mid Norfolk

I shall try not to be too tedious, but it is tedious for hon. Members when they put in for named day answers but do not get answers on that day. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames), I tabled six questions to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for answer last Tuesday. I still have not received any answer, not even one to what I would have thought was a very simple question—which member of the Foreign Secretary's private office was responsible for policy relating to Sierra Leone.

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

The Leader of the House is present and there are Ministers on the Front Bench, so I am sure that the point of order has been noted. Perhaps we might now proceed with the debate on Sierra Leone.