Point of Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:16 pm on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Opposition Chief Whip (Commons) 1:16 pm, 15th May 2003

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise to ask what you can do to force Government Departments to follow the normal convention in the House that statements are given to Opposition spokesmen a reasonable time before they are made by a Secretary of State in this House. The statement that is about to be made was faxed through a mere 15 minutes ago. That is not the fault of the usual channels or of the Leader of the House's office. I believe that staff there were in despair that another Government Department had not given reasonable notice to the House authorities that an important statement was coming.

The statement has been in the pipeline since January. We all saw on the news last night that a huge press conference was planned for today; journalists are en route there at this moment. We were told that this statement was going to be made, and in those circumstances there is no justification for giving the text to Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen a mere 15 minutes beforehand.

Finally, Sir, I must warn the Government that if they persist with this behaviour, as Opposition Chief Whip I will have no option but to find what measures Standing Orders allow me to take to buy some time for Opposition spokesmen to read a statement. I may have to disrupt procedures accordingly.