Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 23rd January 2002.

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Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Shadow Secretary of State for Health 3:32 pm, 23rd January 2002

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You may be aware that yesterday the BBC "Today" programme put into the public domain a letter from the chief executive of the south east region of the NHS indicating that the NHS would overspend in that region by some £60 million this year. That figure was accepted on the programme by the Secretary of State.

In a reply dated 14 January to a parliamentary question, the Minister indicated a projected overspend of £7.5 million, an almost tenfold difference. Both the letter and the reply are dated 14 January. Given that the Minister must by now know that there is a serious difference in the answer given to Parliament and the answer given to the region and to the public, has there been any indication from the Minister of any attempt to come to the House to explain the discrepancy between the two?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Shadow Financial Secretary

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was the hon. Member who tabled the question that received the answer to which my hon. Friend Dr. Fox has referred. Can you investigate the discrepancies, which clearly led to incorrect information being given to me? That has added insult to injury. It took the Department of Health some six weeks to give me any sort of reply to a question that I had tabled back in November, and I have discovered that my own health authority, Buckinghamshire, was predicting a deficit on publicly available material in November and December last year that was significantly larger than the deficit for Buckinghamshire that the Minister gave me in the answer received on 14 January this year.

It seems that I had to wait a very long time for an answer for my constituents and received inaccurate information from the Department. I hope that Members can get a better service in future.

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

I am governed by the rules of the House, and I am not responsible for the content of answers. The hon. Members for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) and for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) can seek further clarification through parliamentary questions, by correspondence or indeed by asking for a meeting with the Minister, but I repeat that it is not a matter for me.

Photo of Adam Price Adam Price Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On two occasions yesterday, the Secretary of State for Health made comments that were grossly insulting to hon. Members from Wales and indeed to the people of Wales. Will you take the opportunity to point out to the Secretary of State that he has responsibility in a range of areas for issues covering Wales, not least one of the issues about which he was asked yesterday? Will you also point out that comments such as

"I do not do Wales . . . However, I occasionally like to do people from Wales"—[Hansard, 22 January 2002; Vol. 378, c. 770.]

are extremely unbefitting of a Cabinet Minister? Re-reading them, I was trying to work out exactly what

"to do people from Wales" meant. Is it sexual innuendo, or are we being invited to step outside the Chamber? It should be pointed out to the Secretary of State that such comments are way below the standard that we expect from Cabinet Ministers.

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

The hon. Gentleman mentioned responsibility. I am not responsible for the Secretary of State's statements. The Secretary of State is.