Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:41 pm on 5th February 2003.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 1:41 pm, 5th February 2003

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I realise that you are enjoined to confine statements to one hour, and that you ran the statement that has just ended for an hour and 10 minutes. However, my constituency is one of the growth areas that the Deputy Prime Minister described, as are the constituencies of my hon. Friends Bob Spink, for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois) and for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). I seek protection for Back-Bench Members like us, who had no opportunity to ask questions on the statement. Indeed, the first Back Bencher was able to ask a question only 40 minutes after the commencement of the statement. What can you do to assist those—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. I shall have to cut the hon. Gentleman short. I ran the statement for 10 minutes over the hour to try to allow every hon. Member wanting to speak a chance to get in. However, I cannot get every hon. Member in: it is as simple as that.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Opposition Whip (Commons)

No, it is different. The Deputy Prime Minister assured the House that this afternoon's statement had not been leaked in advance to the media. However, a quick check reveals that The Sunday Times of 2 February carried an article entitled "Prescott Fires Up Southeast Building Boom"—

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Opposition Whip (Commons)

Well, the article was written by the ironically named Jonathan Leake, the newspaper's environment editor.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Order. I do not want to go through the article. I heard the Deputy Prime Minister say that he does not speak to The Sunday Times. [Interruption.] This is a serious matter. The Deputy Prime Minister gave an assurance to the House, and privately sent word to my office—to me—that the matter was not leaked. I take the Deputy Prime Minister's word on that, as I would take the word of every hon. Gentleman. I shall not pursue the matter further.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn Labour, Newport West

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of the greatest seriousness. I believe that the House has been misled on a matter of prime importance. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that on 24 September we were presented with a dossier, at three hours' notice, containing claims against the behaviour of Iraq. On page 34, the dossier stated that, before 1998,

"Iraq consistently refused to allow UNSCOM inspectors access to any of the presidential sites".

A lot of faith was put in that statement, which seemed to prove that the Iraqi regime had behaved in bad faith. Yesterday, the Foreign Office answered a question of mine by saying that UNSCOM inspectors did have access to the presidential sites, and UNSCOM has confirmed that it visited eight of the sites before 1998. The rest of the dossier is full of statements that have proved to be misleading or, in many cases, completely untrue. As we are going to make the most serious decisions on the basis of military intelligence and dossiers from the Government, is not it crucial that someone comes to the House to correct the gross errors in the dossier before we use such information to send our soldiers to Iraq, where they will kill and be killed?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Vice-Chair, Conservative Party

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are not responsible for answers given by the Prime Minister to oral questions, but in the past I have heard you chide him for straying into presenting Conservative policy as part of an answer. When he replied earlier today to a question about the change in policy on House of Lords reform after the 2001 election, the Prime Minister clearly told the House that the Conservative party sought to establish an all-party committee to decide the matter. I was shadow Leader of the House in the year prior to the 2001 election, and I was actively engaged in discussions about setting up such a committee with the then Leader of the House and the leaders of the other two parties in the Lords. That was a year before the 2001 election. The matter was not taken forward because the Government refused to allow the committee to discuss the composition of the House of Lords. That is an important point to make in response to the Prime Minister's answer.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance. Given that the Milton Keynes and south midlands study envisages another 59,000 homes for the Aylesbury vale district area by 2031, and that there is a pervasive concern that the £8.5 million of infrastructure investment that is required will not be forthcoming—with damaging consequences for traffic congestion, air quality, school provision, medical facilities and so on—do you think that the Deputy Prime Minister will have taken account of the level of grievance felt by Opposition Members? Should not another statement, providing a further opportunity for detailed scrutiny, be provided in the near future?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

It sounds as though the hon. Gentleman is putting to me the question that he would have asked had I called him during the statement. Perhaps he can put it to the Deputy Prime Minister sometime.

Photo of Peter Kilfoyle Peter Kilfoyle Labour, Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice. You may be aware that the elected Australian Senate has passed a vote of no confidence in the Australian Government's line on Iraq. Can you advise humble Back-Bench Members on how they may be able to effect a debate to the same end in this House?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced and long-serving Member of Parliament. There were times when I used to go to him for advice and I am sure that he could tell me how to go about securing the debate that he wants.