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Points Of Order

Volume 124: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1987

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4.26 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you reflect in the next 24 hours on a parliamentary malpractice which is on the increase? This is the habit of even the most senior and informed Ministers of using their answers to refer questioners to questions that do not in any way answer the question asked. You will recall that question No. 13 referred to Mr. Charles Powell, a senior Foreign Office civil servant, and I asked very carefully how it was that he remained in the post in the circumstances.

Order. We are going back into Question Time. I shall reflect upon what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I cannot have any responsibility for answers to questions. I often wish that I could.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During questions on the health authorities statement, a number of hon. Members were called. Perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, could help some of us who will no doubt face criticism in our local press about not being called and not appearing to be here—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, dear."] When Conservative Members take that sort of attitude, let me draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that no one from the Merseyside area, the north-east or the north was called. You may recall. Mr. Speaker, that there is a problem with mental hospitals in my constituency, which I have raised many times.

Order. I know about that. I was reluctant to curtail questions on the statement, but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we have an important debate ahead of us. I wish it were possible for every hon. Member who wishes to participate in these matters to speak. I cannot say more than I have already said, but I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's complaints in mind. If he wishes his position to be reinforced in a letter to his constituents, I shall be pleased to help him.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This afternoon the Minister for Health made an important statement about National Health Service funding. It was only in questioning him that the position of Scotland was extracted. He also went on to say that the appropriate Scottish Minister would make a statement in his own way. I have since learned that the Minister responsible for the Health Service in Scotland is appearing on a radio programme in Scotland at 5 o'clock to speak on this subject. I have always understood that the first priority of hon. Members, particularly Ministers, should be their attendance in this place, to account for what they are doing, rather than appearing on the media.

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was on to a very good point in his question when he elucidated the reply.