On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wrote to the Prime Minister just a few days before Christmas seeking his support for those who have gone voluntarily to dangerous locations in Africa where people are suffering from and dying from Ebola. I felt that their unstinting and selfless work should be recognised and acknowledged in some formal way, and I received an acknowledgement of that letter, but have heard nothing further.
I was somewhat surprised that earlier today, in response to a question from Margot James, the Prime Minister said that he was looking to recognise such volunteers and was taking that forward. Is it not somewhat discourteous to announce that in this place when he has not even replied to my initial letter?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and I do understand why he feels aggrieved at not having received a reply to his letter. It is not a matter of order for the Chair and although all letters should of course be answered, it is not for me to say quite where the letter is in the system. I am sure that the Prime Minister, as a matter of course, responds to many thousands of letters and does his best to do so in a timely and courteous way. Whilst understanding the hon. Gentleman’s irritation—and I do—perhaps we can just take pride in the fact that there is to be such recognition. He has got his point on the record, but if it is understood by him and by the House, I think it best to leave it there.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As we approached midday today, the noise in the Chamber went up, as so often happens just before and during Prime Minister’s questions, and I and others, and yourself too, found it even more difficult than usual to hear colleagues asking and Ministers answering International Development questions. Although it is natural that the noise level goes up and it is right and proper that you try to control it, I do wonder whether the microphone levels may be lower than they used to be, or whether the loudspeakers at the back of the seats are perhaps turned down a bit too much because of fear of feedback. May I ask that the technicians investigate this, so that we can better hear not just yourself, Mr Speaker, but Ministers and questioners?
I am sure that these matters can be looked into, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction to the hon. Gentleman that we will always profit by his counsels. We will leave it there for now.
I will come to the hon. Gentleman; I am saving him up. I saved up Michael Fabricant momentarily, and we have now dealt with him. Let us first hear a point of order from Mr Reckless.
I am very grateful to the Secretary of State. A last point of order, I think, for now, from Mr Peter Bone.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had two exceptionally important statements today, and with your great courtesy, as usual, you have got every Back Bencher in. However, it is a little unfair on the Opposition, on a day when they have two official Opposition day debates. We do have the Leader of the House here. Is there any mechanism whereby we can extend today to make up for the two hours the Opposition have lost?
The hon. Gentleman is nothing if not fair-minded, and a champion of the rights of all parliamentarians. As he knows, I would be perfectly happy to sit here for an indefinite number of hours because I enjoy nothing more than listening to all hon. and right hon. Members from all parts of the House expressing their views. There may be people attending to our proceedings who think, “What a strange chap”, but the fact is that I like listening to hon. and right hon. Members. I do not sense any great desire on the part of the Leader of the House urgently to accommodate the hon. Gentleman’s fair-mindedness, but he is a very fit and lithe fellow and if he wishes to leap from his seat to offer comfort and encouragement to the hon. Gentleman, there would be no happier Member of the House than I.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Of course we try to avoid having a large number of statements on Opposition days, but sometimes it is unavoidable and there were good reasons for having both those statements today. I am sure that that is understood across the House. To extend the ensuing debate would have required a motion to be placed on the Order Paper earlier, and that has not been done.
I am grateful to the Leader of the House. I shall take this opportunity to mention that nine Back Benchers are seeking to contribute to the first debate, on apprenticeships, and 11 to the second debate, on electoral registration. In conformity with our normal procedures, there can be no time limit on Front-Bench speeches, but I feel sure that in each case the Minister and shadow Minister will tailor their contributions accordingly in order to facilitate their Back-Bench colleagues, which is a way of saying, “Get it out pretty pithily”. We will leave it there.