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Points of Order

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 25 January 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you are aware of the recent court case that has led to yet another reversal in the attempt to limit the protest in Parliament square. Whatever one thinks about that, there can surely be no human right to fill the square with incessant amplified noise, which interferes with the ability of Members to do their work, and which is a distraction and danger to police who are in the front line of providing security for the House. Have you received any advice as to whether the latest court judgment entitles the protester in the square to recommence, as he has done, the broadcasting of amplified messages at unbearably high volume in that public place, which would not be allowed anywhere else that I can think of?

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. It is a nuisance—I have been on demonstrations throughout my working life, and it has nothing to do with the right to demonstrate. Let me say that this is a matter for the police, as excessive noise can be a breach of the peace. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms to investigate, but it is not a matter in which I can intervene.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not exclusively a matter for the police, because one could secure a civil injunction, and the authorities of the House might be able to do so against the protester.

Of course, but that is nothing to do with me. That is why I have Speaker’s counsel. I let them do that type of work.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are aware of my interest in abortion and my abhorrence of late abortions. Last week, at business questions, I brought to the attention of the Leader of the House the fact that organisations, individuals and PCTs were raising concerns with me that, as a result of NHS deficits and restrictions on finances, women were waiting up to seven or eight weeks longer than normal for terminations, some of which were even being tipped over into the next financial year.

To gain some supporting statistical evidence for those claims, I wrote to the appropriate Ministers. The Ministers of State at the Department of Health, the hon. Members for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) and for Leigh (Andy Burnham) respectively advised me that the answers to my questions would be in the Library. The Library has told me that it does not have answers to those questions. In my attempt to gain the evidence, I feel that I am being given the runaround. Will you give me your advice on that?

I shall have to look into the matter to assist the hon. Lady. Let me also say that both the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and the Leader of the House mentioned the number of parliamentary questions being tabled. I am not saying that the hon. Lady is tabling too many, but I understand that at times there are tranches of hundreds of questions going into the Table Office. Hon. Members should bear in mind that that causes a backlog, and can have an impact on questions of the type tabled by the hon. Lady, who has a legitimate case in pursuing a matter in which she is deeply interested. I ask hon. Members whose researchers are compiling questions to bear in mind that this is causing a backlog and putting pressure on Departments and Ministers.

I shall certainly look into the matter that the hon. Lady has raised, and we will see what we can do about it.

Further to the points of order, Mr. Speaker. If it will assist you and the hon. Lady, I shall be happy to see her straight away and try to ensure that better answers are given. As for the points raised by the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) about the Parliament square area, I think it would be wise for us to discuss it in the House of Commons Commission.