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Mr. Speaker: I cannot do that, but correspondence can be answered after Dissolution. There is nothing to stop the hon. Gentleman writing and saying, "Please reply to my question in writing. I should be obliged if the Minister would do that." However, there is nothing that I can do about that.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not somewhat strange that Conservative Members want a different situation from that which pertained in 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1997? Your answers have been extremely helpful, but we did not get such co-operation from Ministers at the time of those elections.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman and I have been in the House a long time. Many of the Ministers during the period to which he refers were very good at replying to correspondence. I appreciated the replies that some of those Ministers gave to a Back Bencher like myself in those days.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the House becomes noisy during exchanges at Question Time, many of us rely on the amplification equipment to hear what is said. I wonder whether, in the period between now and the election, the amplification equipment on the Government side could be checked. During questions to the Chancellor, I distinctly heard requests being made for him to deal with questions

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about whether taxes would rise to sustain his spending plans. However, the Chancellor did not seem to hear that question and no reply was given.

Mr. Speaker: Perhaps we will hear the reply after the election.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the Secretary of State for Health notified you that he intends to come to the House in the last few hours of this Parliament to make a statement about heart transplant services in south Manchester? The matter has been outstanding for some time, and people are worried because a well-respected unit in south Manchester could be closed. The delay is wrong. An election is upon us and the people of south Manchester ought to know the Government's intentions. Have you had such a request, sir?

Mr. Speaker: I have had no such request.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Foot and mouth has not gone away. This is the first week since the crisis began when the Minister of Agriculture has not come to the Chamber. There are strong reports that cases are being underestimated. We all have difficult constituency problems with licensing and movement of stock. First, have you received any notice that there has been a change of mind and that the Minister intends to make a statement to the House? Secondly, a lobby yesterday reported that the tourism industry had lost £12 billion so far. Is there any sign that the Minister for the Environment has changed his mind and proposes to make a statement about the taskforce? We have had numerous announcements, but constituents are writing and asking for detail. Finally, has the Prime Minister notified you that as the catastrophe has cost the British nation £20 billion, he intends to come to the House to announce the establishment of a full, independent inquiry under the impartial chairmanship of a judge?

Mr. Speaker: I have had no communication from Ministers.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for your helpful replies to earlier points of order. Further to the point of order from my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), should I take it that you think that the Minister should reply if my hon. Friend accepts your very good advice? Pensioners need to know whether VAT is to be levied on their warden services, and it would be good to clear that up soon.

Mr. Speaker: That matter is up to the Minister.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: I do not really think that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) has a point of order.

Mr. Bercow: Oh, I have.

Mr. Speaker: In that case, I shall call the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) first.

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am still encountering serious problems in relation to foot and mouth, which are brought to my attention by constituents almost daily. Will you confirm, Mr. Speaker, that MAFF and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will maintain all lines of communication with election candidates, so that they may put to the Ministry any serious problems that they find and be assured that prompt action will be taken? For example, will the hotline be maintained for candidates' use?

Mr. Speaker: I understand that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the matter, but it is up to the Minister to decide whether he contacts candidates. We must be careful about that. I understand his difficulty and the very serious problems in rural areas, and I am sure that the Minister will take note of them.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. One of the biggest concerns is that many cattle will be turned out to pasture during the next couple of weeks. There is grave anxiety in my constituency, which is very rural and situated in the dairy farming area of this country, that the foot and mouth epidemic from which we have so grievously suffered might be caused to upsurge by the turning out of cattle. If that happens, candidates of all parties will need the answers that they seek from MAFF and must be able to give authoritative, reliable and, above all, responsible information to all those who have a deep anxiety about the matter and who need answers. Can you do anything to assist?

Mr. Speaker: I am sure that the Minister will take note of the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Bercow rose--

Mr. Speaker: I must take a point of order from the other side of the House.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The shadow Chancellor was specifically asked during Treasury questions about the £6 billion hole in his pension package. He showed a great discourtesy to the House by leaving the Chamber halfway through questions, presumably to talk to the financiers about how to overcome the problem. Do you have power to call him back to the House to apologise for his discourtesy and to allow us to get answers from him on that very important point before the general election?

Mr. Speaker: That question should not have been put to the Chancellor, as he has no responsibilities on matters that concern the Opposition Front Bench in relation to the Exchequer or finance.

Mr. Bercow rose--

Mr. Speaker: The best has been saved until last.

Mr. Bercow: I never doubted that, Mr. Speaker, as your impartiality is, of course, absolutely legendary. I could not understand why my intentions could conceivably be in doubt. May I ask you, on what I think is a genuine point of order, to confirm that it is incumbent

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upon all hon. Members, including Ministers, to address the House? In that context, is not it somewhat disturbing that the Chancellor, while not answering questions, yet again did not address the House, but kept looking at the Labour Benches? May I put it to you that his failure to look us in the eye runs the very worrying risk of ensuring that he will be regarded as in some way shifty, disingenuous or even untrustworthy?

Mr. Speaker: I saw nothing out of order, but I must, of course, concentrate on the hon. Gentleman all the time, because he keeps talking. That sometimes distracts me, but when I was looking at the Chancellor and other Ministers, I saw nothing out of order.

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Health and Social Care (Programme)(No. 3)


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Orders of the Day

Health and Social Care Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Before Clause 12

Lords amendment: No. 6

Insert the following new Clause--

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