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Ministerial Statements

Volume 986: debated on Thursday 19 June 1980

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday there was a long and complicated statement on agriculture and today there has been a serious statement on steel. The statement on steel, for example, contained information about expenditure which only those reading the statement—as opposed to those listening to it—could easily assess and make a judgments as to whether it is better to keep the steelworks open or to spend this money on remedial measures. Once again, as the statement was being read out by the Secretary of State, it was being distributed to the press. On neither occasion has it been available in the Vote Office.

It is a courtesy to the House to provide the information in written form for both sides of the House, but particularly for those who take a deep and serious interest in those constituency matters which affect the steel areas, in order that they may ask more informed questions rather than use their opportunity simply to find out, or perhaps confirm, information which could have been checked in the written statement.

I ask you yet again, Mr. Speaker, to use your offices to place elected Members who are accountable, at least on a par with those members of the press who receive these statements immediately the Secretary of State starts to speak.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I always listen with care when he advances his case, which, he reminded the House, he has done previously on this question. It is, however, a matter for the House itself and for the usual channels to discuss the issue of papers. The present system has endured for as long as statements have been made.