Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:53 pm on 7th September 2004.

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Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Secretary of State (Justice), Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 4:53 pm, 7th September 2004

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The standard practice is to give the House notice of two weeks' business in advance. So far, however, we have details of business only for this week, although it seems that every national newspaper has been briefed and reported what we will be dealing with next week. In those circumstances, have you had a request from the Leader of the House to make a business statement today? If not, will you confirm that that is not in accordance with the practice of the House and that the Leader of the House should make such a statement? Modernisation should not apply only when it suits the Government.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Labour/Co-operative, Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not the case that we should receive information about the subject for Opposition day debates two weeks in advance as well?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I am not entirely sure how far that supplementary point of order was helpful and I must say to Mr. Foulkes that that matter has been aired before Mr. Speaker in the past. It is a question of balance between topicality and longer-term planning.

I am sure that Mr. Heald will appreciate that announcements on the business of the House are not a matter controlled by Mr. Speaker. No notice has been given of any intention to make a statement on next week's business any earlier than the usually predicted time. Indeed, it is the Chair's understanding that it is often the hon. Gentleman who receives earlier notice than anyone else of these matters.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Cunninghame South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In a previous life, I was a trade union official and took much interest in questions of health and safety. I must admit that, on returning to the House today, I would condemn the conditions that obtain here and that I would not let anyone work in this environment. Worse still, staff have been expected to work here all summer, when the temperature in the offices has sometimes reached 38° C. Surely something must be done to protect everyone who has to work in this environment.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving notice that he wished to raise this subject. Obviously, it is a matter of great difficulty for hon. Members and for the staff of the House. Necessary long-term work has to be completed and hon. Members were given notice that there would be some inconvenience in the short term, and that it would be impossible to get the building back to normal in time for the September sitting. In certain instances, conditions may have gone beyond what is normally acceptable, but I obviously do not know the details. If the hon. Gentleman is aware of specific concerns, they should be brought to the attention of the Clerk of the House and the Serjeant at Arms so that they can be investigated. I am sure that the whole House will agree that everything possible must be done to safeguard the interests of our staff, and of those who are working on a temporary basis, and to put the building to rights. Ultimately, that will benefit us all.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to today's Order Paper, and to the 17 written ministerial statements listed on page 2374. Those statements are due to be given today, and they include two—Nos. 12 and 13—that are listed to be made by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. However, my understanding is that that person resigned yesterday, so how can he make a statement?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

It is a constitutional feature that Secretaries of State are interchangeable. Indeed, legislation only ever refers to one Secretary of State, even though several in fact exist. However, I am sure that there are adequate deputies in the particular Department of State to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, and it may be that the statements will be made in their names on this occasion. I suspect that the large number of statements being made today is because there has been an accumulation while the House has been in recess over the past few weeks.