Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 5 March 2001.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment) 4:33, 5 March 2001

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall the anxiety that was expressed by hon. Members of all parties last week about the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, and especially hon. Members' wish to obtain as much information as possible from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other Departments. It is natural at such a time that our constituents may want to apply to us for information that they are experiencing difficulty in obtaining, or for clarification of that information. To be fair, the Minister of Agriculture responded to those anxieties by saying that he would establish information machinery for hon. Members.

I received two difficult constituency representations and rang the Minister's private office. I refer to you and your judgment on that matter, Mr. Speaker, because, to my surprise, the private office referred me to the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly), the Parliamentary Private Secretary, and her private office. I believe that that is unprecedented. I make no complaint about the courtesy with which my inquiry was handled, and I am sure that the person who spoke to me wanted to be as helpful as possible, but, given the seriousness of the matter, it is somewhat cock-eyed and inappropriate to handle it in that way.

Would it not be better for those who listen to these issues to take the matter back to the Ministry and set up proper machinery at an official level, so that hon. Members on both sides of the House can refer their cause to the Ministry and get the matter officially clarified?

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I did not know that my hon. Friend was going to raise the issue, but I would like to concur with what he said. A way must be found for Members of Parliament to put cases directly to Ministers. I rang the Minister's private office not long ago, and was also directed to the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ms Kelly).

A farmer in my constituency has calving heifers on land about two miles away from his farm. He is unable to get to those animals and to be with them while they are calving. The Minister must come to the House and make a statement, so that hon. Members have the opportunity to raise such concerns as these.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

The points of order raised by both hon. Members are matters for the Minister. I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say, and I got the feeling that he wanted to give as much information to the House as possible. I am sure that the concerns expressed by both hon. Members will be noted by the Minister and taken on board.