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Points Of Order

Volume 201: debated on Monday 13 January 1992

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5.1 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I refer you to the Order Paper and to Transport questions. A cursory examination of the questions dealt with will reveal that the majority were on British Rail. Very few questions concerning roads were likely to be reached, although they are important for those of us in the west midlands. However, Question 9, on roads, was reached and it was noticeable that you were unable to call many hon. Members because no Opposition Members stood up, possibly because they have no policies and do not wish to reveal that.

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but that question was withdrawn.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Mr. Knox) asked Question 9 on the Order Paper on the subject of road construction.

I do apologise. I thought that the hon. Member was referring to Question 8 on transport. I beg his pardon. Question 9 was asked and answered.

Indeed it was. The point that I wish to make was that many of us were seeking to catch your eye, as we had not had the opportunity to ask any questions on the important subject of roads. Your difficulty was that no Opposition Members were standing up. It is possible that they have no policy on roads, and we understand that, but in such circumstances is it not possible to extend to Conservative Members the opportunity to ask important questions, as we have a policy on roads?

The selection of hon. Members to ask questions at Question Time is a difficult matter. In 40 minutes, I try to reach at least Question 12, and we were able to achieve that today.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was much appreciated by all hon. Members representing Scotland that you allowed the private notice question on Ravenscraig to extend for some considerable time. However, you will understand the disappointment of hon. Members from Scotland that we are not to be afforded the opportunity to debate that in the House, following the request by the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray).

If neither the Government nor the official Opposition are prepared to allocate time for such a debate to take place in the near future, would it be in order for the House to consider the establishment of a special Scottish Grand Committee to meet in Scotland to discuss the matter, or the establishment of an interim Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, which could summon witnesses such as Sir Ian MacGregor, Bob Scholey and representatives of the steel industry at management and at union level, because this is a matter of great importance to people the length and breadth of our nation of Scotland?

I am well aware of the concern. I told the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) that his application did not meet the requirements of the Standing Order for a debate today or tomorrow. I hope that there will be other opportunities to discuss that important matter.

On that very point, Mr. Speaker, may I thank you for your liberal attitude towards debating steel in the House, often—in fact, almost always—under the auspices of the Opposition, who have allocated several days to it? When you say that you hope that there will be a debate—I am sure that we all share that hope—will you bring any influence to bear because of the question raised about the powers of Parliament and requiring answers from British Steel? As you may know, the chairman of British Steel showed extreme reluctance to turn up and to give any information to the members of the Select Committee. Ministers, members of the Select Committee, and hon. Members on both sides of the House have constantly reiterated that they required British Steel to give reasons for its actions, but to date it has not done so. Can you use your good offices to impress the case on the Government, on behalf of all sections of Parliament?

I am only responsible for debates which take place on the Floor of the House. Whether the Select Committee decides to investigate the issue is not a matter for me, but I take note of what the hon. Member has said.