Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 2nd March 1999.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow 3:51 pm, 2nd March 1999

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In view of reports of escalating amounts of ordnance being rained down on Iraq, have you had any request from either the Foreign Office or the Ministry of Defence to offer the House of Commons some explanation of the objectives of that bombing and bombing and bombing?

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

I have received no intimation from the Foreign Office or from the Ministry of Defence that any Minister seeks to make a statement on the matter today. Those Ministers on the Government Front Bench will have heard the point raised by the hon. Gentleman today and on various occasions during the past few weeks. No doubt they will note what he has said.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On 9 December, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Lloyd), replied to a private notice question in respect of the reported deaths of four hostages in Chechnya. One hostage, Rudi Petschi, was a constituent of mine. The Minister said that we had had no notice of any attempt to rescue the hostages, and would not have advised such an attempt.

Since then, I have put down a series of named-day written questions to the Foreign Office. On 21 January, the Minister confirmed that an Interfax report of 6 December, flagging up a rescue attempt, was received by the British embassy in Moscow and by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, but was not dealt with until the following Monday, 7 December.

On 25 February, the FCO confirmed that it had passed on the Interfax report to Granger Telecom by 1300 hours on Monday 7 December. That was two days before the Minister came to the Dispatch Box to claim that the FCO had had no notice of a rescue attempt.

Have you had any indication, Madam Speaker, of whether the Foreign Office has carried out an investigation into how that chain of events occurred? Is there likely to be a debate or a further statement from the FCO?

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

I have not heard that there is to be a statement on those matters, but the hon. Lady will appreciate that how Ministers answer questions is a matter for them, not for me.