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Points of Order

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although you have previously explained to the House that you are not necessarily allowed to listen to Radio 4 in the mornings in Speaker’s House, may I draw your attention to the fact that this morning there was clear Government spin that there would be a statement in the House on the serious issue of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria into this country, in light of their accession to the European Union on 1 January 2007? You will be aware that there has been only a written statement. Have you received a request from the Home Secretary to make a full statement from the Dispatch Box, which is what I believe is necessary?

I get the chance to watch Sky News, from which I understood that there would be a statement, and, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, it is a written statement. The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of Parliament. I am not inviting him to do so, but if any hon. Member feels that a written statement is inadequate, there is nothing to stop a request being made to the Speaker as to whether an oral statement should be made or whether an urgent question should be tabled. That is not to say that such a request would be granted, but that facility is available to hon. Members.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am extremely interested in what you have just said. An oral statement is necessary to allow the Minister in question to be cross-examined on the extent to which any of the matters that you have mentioned would infringe the existing rules of the European Union.

I will not be drawn into that. A facility is open to hon. Members, both Front Benchers and Back Benchers. The hon. Gentleman knows that, because he has often applied for an urgent question—sometimes he has been refused.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. After your very generous clarification of the position, would it be in order to make an oral request for such a process to take place?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This morning, I had the honour of welcoming 13 of my constituents on a tour of the House of Commons. As they are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing, they found it very difficult to do a fulfilling tour of the House of Commons because there are no facilities within the Palace for the hard of hearing or the visually impaired. Will any money be spent on improving that deficiency during the investments that we are making in the visitor centre, in trying to improve our constituents’ time in this House?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, especially for me, because as Chairman of the Commission I am involved in these works. We want to encourage as many visitors as possible. I will take up the matter with the Serjeant at Arms and other officials of the House, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising it.

My point of order was eloquently made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay).

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on reports in The Times that my former employer, ITN, is to have its reporting from war zones restricted by the Ministry of Defence. Given the extreme difficulties in reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan without MOD co-operation, and the importance of the public being allowed access to ITN’s first-hand reporting, is it not appropriate that a Minister should come to the House of Commons to explain what lies behind this enormous decision, which looks very much like an attempt to punish a major news organisation for speaking the truth?

The hon. Gentleman is a new Member. The Speaker should not be drawn into such matters. However, the hon. Gentleman is entitled to table parliamentary questions about these important matters to MOD Ministers in order to seek both a written reply and, when the time comes, a reply in oral questions.