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Mr. Speaker: The Minister has worked within the rules of the House, and it is for me to ensure that the rules that the House has made are applied properly. The hon. Gentleman could apply for an Adjournment debate, which would allow him to question the Minister, and of course, he could table parliamentary questions.

David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 14 July 1997, there were points of order about reports that the BBC intended to drop "Yesterday in Parliament", replacing it with some kind of panel discussion. As you will probably recall, as a result of public and parliamentary pressure, the programme was not axed but put on a more limited channel. I raise the point of order again today because it has been reported in the Evening Standard that it is expected that the programme will be dropped. It is true that that is not official, but a kind of softening up exercise is probably taking place so that there will be less controversy when it is dropped.

I hope that the BBC will reconsider the matter if it is indeed true that it intends to drop the programme. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that there is an obligation on the part of a public service broadcasting organisation to report the proceedings of Parliament. The decisions taken here are important to many people. Indeed, the debate referred to in the previous exchanges will surely be important to people who want to hear what is happening in the House of Commons. Will you therefore use your authority as the Speaker of the House of Commons to try to ensure that the programme is not axed and that the BBC recognises its obligation to report Parliament? It always claims that it accepts that obligation, and the last time the subject arose, everyone agreed—there was no controversy—that it should not
 
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axe the programme. I hope that you will do what you can to ensure that both the evening programme and the morning programme are retained.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con) rose—

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con) rose—

Mr. Speaker: First let me answer the hon. Gentleman. I have given before in the House the advice that we should not believe everything that is put in a newspaper. Certain Select Committees of the House can call officials of the BBC and question them on their stewardship. My worry is more about today in Parliament than "Yesterday in Parliament".

Mr. Heald: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The judgment about the airports White Paper found that the Government's actions had been unlawful because they had not consulted properly on the options for Stansted or consulted at all about the situation at Luton airport. In those circumstances, it would be very helpful for local residents and others to know what the timetable will be for the proper consultations that will now have to take place. Is it in order for the Secretary of State to make an oral statement now that he has already made a written one? Is there any bar to his doing that? Is such a statement possible if, in the light of the comments made, he decides that he wishes to make one?

Mr. Speaker: That might well be in order, but I certainly do not want to be drawn into the argument.

Sir Patrick Cormack: My point of order relates to what the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick)
 
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said. Would it be possible for you in your capacity as Speaker and spokesman for the House to find out from the chairman of the BBC precisely what is intended?

Mr. Speaker: Once again, let me say that the hon. Member for Walsall, North raised the matter because it was reported in a newspaper. I am not prepared to work on that basis, but there is nothing to stop the hon. Gentleman raising the matter with the governor of the BBC.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Although I accept what you said about not believing everything that we read in newspapers, it is unfortunately all too common to read something in newspapers and then be told it in the House of Commons. I read in the newspaper this week that the Government are going to introduce an order in the House to stop the payment of allowances to four Members who have not taken the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty. That has appeared in the newspapers, but there is nothing on the Order Paper. Would it not have been correct for the House rather than newspaper journalists to have been told first? If it is going to happen, I very much welcome it, but it should have happened a long time ago.

Mr. Speaker: I would prefer it if Ministers came before the House, and I have put that view on the record on many occasions. However, the Leader of the House made the helpful remark that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland hopes to come before the House this week. Such questions can be put to him then.
 
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Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question proposed,


TABLE

ProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 1; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 2; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 3; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 4.2 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.
New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 5; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 6.3 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.
New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 7; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 8; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 9; New Clauses, amendments and New Schedules relating to Part 10; remaining New Clauses and New Schedules; remaining proceedings on consideration. 4 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.



(a)   5 hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order; or



(b)   at the moment of interruption,



whichever is the later.—[Alun Michael.]
3.59 pm

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): I shall oppose the programme motion as vigorously as possible for several reasons. It is not yet 4 o'clock on the day of the week on which the House usually sits until 10 pm, so Conservative Members find it difficult to understand why knives have been imposed that will fall arbitrarily and thus deprive the House of an hour's debate and scrutiny of a Bill on which both we and the Liberal Democrats wish to raise several new issues. We failed to secure the number of Committee sittings that we would have liked, but having lost that argument we gave the Bill the fullest possible scrutiny, while being mindful of the timetable that was imposed on us.

The most extraordinary thing occurred because the usual channels were not followed as rigorously as is normal on this occasion. As the walk-on speaking part, I was called on to agree with the usual channels about when the knives should fall. I am sure that the usual channels will not want that to happen in future. An even more extraordinary event occurred because my office today received a faxed copy of a letter from the Minister
 
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for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality, who will lead for the Government, and although the time on the fax said that it was received at 16.25 on 21 February, the House will note that it is not yet that time. I then received a hard copy of the same letter in my hand at 3.40 pm, which was only just before we started our proceedings on the Bill. The letter informed me of why the Government have drafted several amendments that were tabled at the last possible moment—Thursday last week.

I do not wish to eat into any more time, but we deplore the Government's rather shabby behaviour because we thought that we had achieved a good working relationship and co-operation, given the circumstances. On a positive note, I am delighted that we have stirred the Government into action and that they have recognised that there are failures in the Bill, as we consistently stated on Second Reading and in Committee. We shall continue to point them out today. As I said, we will oppose the programme motion as vigorously as possible.

4.2 pm


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