– in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 9th May 2006.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will know, the Identity Cards Act 2006 received Royal Assent on
Order. In points of order in the House, you do not get paid by the word. The hon. and learned Gentleman is making a political point, but I cannot be drawn into a political argument. I shall leave him to reflect on what I have said.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Among the 14 written statements published in the Order Paper this morning is one on helicopter search and rescue that has the effect of announcing the privatisation of the helicopter search and rescue service. That causes a great deal of concern among coastal communities around the country. I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on whether that statement should have been made on the Floor of the House to allow Members to question the Minister on that policy instead of being sneaked out in a written statement in this manner.
That is a decision for Ministers and something that the hon. Gentleman is able to challenge.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had any early notification of a Government statement on the growing impact of the university pay dispute? Given that the graduation prospects of some 300,000 students, including those in your own constituency, are now in jeopardy, would not you expect an early statement from the new Secretary of State?
I am sure that the Secretary of State will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has to say.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have always been very good at defending the rights of this House to ensure that statements by Ministers are made first to this House, not to the media in advance of the House being informed. I have been given a written answer by the former Leader of the House, now the Minister for Europe, Mr. Hoon, dated
"It has been the practice of successive Governments to release specific reports and other documents under timed embargo to assist the media in its coverage."—[ Hansard, 4 May 2006; Vol. 446, c. 1727W.]
He goes on to explain that that is in advance of Parliament being informed in the Chamber. May I ask you to reflect on whether that breaks the spirit of the ruling that you have consistently given whereby this House should be informed first, before the media? Is not it wrong to give the media embargoed statements?
This practice has been on the go for a long time. As the hon. Gentleman has said, the matter is embargoed and the media must respect that embargo.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I am a new boy here, and I am not yet au fait with procedures. However, I am aware that if one has recorded something in the Register of Members' Interests, one must declare that interest if one takes part in a debate or vote. As we are going on to a debate on health, should not Conservative Members declare whether they are covered by private medical insurance schemes or use the national health service?
We do not have to go as far as that these days.