On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In a recent debate in Westminster Hall, the Minister of State, Department of Health, Mr Burns, suggested that one way of solving the problems of Whiston hospital would be a merger with another trust. Given that the obvious trust for a merger is North Cheshire Hospitals NHS Trust, that suggestion has caused widespread concern in my constituency about a possible loss of jobs and services from Warrington hospital. Is there any way in which you, Mr Speaker, can urge a Minister to come to the House and make a statement about their plans for health services in the area? So far, they have failed to address the concerns that my hon. Friend Mr Watts raised about Whiston and are now causing real concern about the future of Warrington hospital.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order, but I fear that she invests me with mystical powers that I do not possess. She is a very experienced and indefatigable Member, who will be well aware of the avenues open to her to pursue such matters—and of which I feel sure she will shortly take advantage.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier, the Secretary of State for Defence said in his statement, “I can tell the House this afternoon that the Government will bring forward amendments”. He is completely and utterly delusional, because he was not announcing anything to the House; it was announced in the national newspapers for all and sundry to see on Saturday and on Sunday. Indeed, I understand that the Prime Minister was expressly going to make the announcement on Sunday, only to be beaten to it by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Robathan, who on the record gave quotations to The Daily Telegraph. I understand that he was given the hairdryer treatment, but is it not time that you, Mr Speaker, gave the hairdryer treatment to Ministers who keep on doing this, week in, week out?
I am grateful that the House has had the opportunity to question Ministers on the statement made today. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, and I saw the newspapers myself over the weekend. I think that the Secretary of State has left the Chamber, but if a Minister from the Ministry of Defence, possibly the right hon. Gentleman to whom reference has just been made, wishes specifically to respond, he can do so.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to respond. If the hon. Gentleman cares to read what was in the newspapers, he will discover that what he has said is not in fact in any way correct.
We must leave it there for today.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I, for one, certainly do believe you have mystical powers. May I seek your guidance in relation to the next item of business? I think the whole House is aware of the rules relating to sub judice when matters are put before the courts and are under consideration by them. The next item of business could easily become a matter for criminal investigation; indeed I, for one, believe that it should become one. Could you offer any guidance as to whether that imposes a similar constraint on what might be said in the debate on the next item?
The issue that the hon. Gentleman raises is, at this stage, a hypothetical matter, and it would be very unwise for the Speaker to speculate on a hypothetical situation. I know that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to do so, and I will not. What I would say to him and to the House is that whether or not there are to be police inquiries into any particular matter is not a matter for the Chair. Unless a criminal charge has been brought, the matter is not sub judice. Today is the opportunity for the House to debate any matters covered by the report of the Standards and Privileges Committee. I am genuinely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I hope that he found the response helpful.