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Points of Order

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are not responsible in any way for the quality of Departments’ replies to written questions, but I believe that the named day procedure was put in place to limit the number of questions that we ask on a given day for written answer so that we would have a good chance of getting a decent answer to them. In mid-December, I tabled a series of very specific questions about the assassination of Georgi Markov in 1978, bearing in mind that next year the statute of limitations will run out for any possible prosecution of the alleged assassin, Francesco Gullino. I was given a holding answer on 19 December saying that a reply would be given as soon as possible, but I have had to wait until 8 March to receive the substantive answer, which reads:

“The investigation into the death of Georgi Markov is a matter for the Commissioner of metropolitan police.”—[Official Report, 8 March 2007; Vol. 457, c. 2164W.]

I could just as easily have been told that on 19 December and not have lost two and a half months. Is it not part of the deal that if the Department is going to give an answer such as that it should give it on the named day?

I can take the blame for many things, but I am not responsible for the answers that Ministers give.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether I can seek your advice. Some 1,400 of my constituents wrote to the Secretary of State for Health about their concerns about the closure of our local general hospital. On 1 February, the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), who is on the Front Bench, wrote to me assuring me that even though acute services would be closed, an independent sector treatment centre would be built in my constituency. Yet on Friday evening, the chief executive of my trust phoned to tell me that the ISTC was not going ahead and my constituents had been misled. How can we clarify such misleading statements from Ministers?

It sounds to me as though the hon. Gentleman should apply for an Adjournment debate. I cannot make any promises, but sometimes the Speaker looks at local constituency matters favourably.

ESTIMATES DAY

[2nd Allotted Day]