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Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are well aware of the importance of RAF Kinloss and RAF Lossiemouth to my constituency and my previous difficulties in being properly informed about statements by the Ministry of Defence. Today, journalists have raised with me the impending announcement of the future stationing of Nimrod MRA4 aircraft at Kinloss. I have been told what the scope and time scale of the decision are supposed to have been, but, despite six calls to the Ministry of Defence, I have not received written confirmation about the details of the announcement, although I was promised it within seconds at 1.14 this afternoon. At 4.10 pm, I received a faxed letter with no details about the Nimrods but a hand-written addendum from the Minister of State saying that there would be an announcement tomorrow.
On the related matter of job losses, the Ministry today issued a written statement on how many posts are set to go as part of the end-to-end logistics review. Part of the statement was provided to the House, but not the tables with the numbers, which were forwarded by the MOD three hours late. The details had to be faxed to me by a newspaper that had received them before me. That information confirms that almost 1,000 posts are to be relocated or lost from bases in my constituency.
How many points of order will it take for the Ministry of Defence properly to inform Parliament and parliamentarians about key issues relating to thousands of jobs? It is a scandalous abuse of Parliament that the service community and the media have been so cynically manipulated. What can you do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to protect Parliament and parliamentarians so that announcements are made properly in this House?
Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The table to which the hon. Gentleman referred reveals that 160 jobs will go at RAF Leuchars, which is in my constituency. Has any member of the Ministry of Defence team suggested making an oral statement to the House? Is it not right that, for the proper protection of those we represent, such announcements should be made in the House so that Ministers can be made to answer for them to those Members of Parliament whose constituents' interests are directly affected?
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con):
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It seems likely that we are about to suspend our proceedings while we await further messages from the other place about the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. Instead of suspending, what better opportunity is there for a Minister to come to the Chamber to make a proper statement so that we all know exactly what is happening about these important issues? That point was raised
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with the Leader of the House at business questions today. He said that he would take it up, so perhaps he can tell us exactly what he has done and exactly what is happening.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Should it not be your judgment that the House continue, could Ministers request an early resumption, ahead of the Lords messages, so that these matters can be properly dealt with? We have the ideal parliamentary opportunity to do so and it would be a pity if a petty procedural point got in the way of Ministers accounting to us for their actions.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will recallI think you were in the Chair at the timethat I raised this matter with the Leader of the House. He promised to take urgent action to ensure that the Secretary of State for Defence was told of the concerns of hon. Members on both sides of the House about constituency matters of great importance to us and our constituents being announced in a written statement with no details when a briefing was given to the local media, but not to Members of Parliament. As the Leader of the House is in his place and as the House is sitting, may we have a statement from a Defence Minister?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) for giving me notice that he intended to raise this point of order. Mr. Speaker has said on several occasions how concerned he is by cases in which the media are informed of official decisions relating to a Member's constituency before the House and Members are notified. It is also important, in Mr. Speaker's view, that such information should be provided in a timely, accurate and complete manner. I will of course draw the hon. Member's remarks to Mr. Speaker's attention.
In response to the further points of order that have been made, the House will know that the Chair cannot command the presence of a Minister. Whatever opportunities may exist have to be determined in another way. I hope that it has been noted that there is widespread concern that such incidents are unfortunately becoming less rare and that Members are rightly concerned, as is Mr. Speaker on their behalf. Members come first as far as important and sensitive information about their constituencies is concerned, and such information should be dealt with in a proper manner.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain):
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy
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Speaker. I am well aware of the concerns of the House, which were expressed at business questions and have been vigorously reiterated this evening. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has been made aware of those concerns and will be made even more aware by the points that have been raised.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am glad that the Leader of the House intervened at this point. Several references have been made to the possibility of a statement being made tomorrow, but the House is not sitting tomorrow, although it may continue to sit today for some time. Therefore, there will be no opportunity for a statement to be made and for Mr. Speaker's advice to be obeyed. That surely adds to the pressure for a Defence Minister to come to the House at some point this evening to meet the reasonable requests of Members.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I can, with joy, confirm that to the hon. Gentleman. That is a parliamentary fact. The Leader of the House has heard what right hon. and hon. Members have had to say on this matter and the Chair cannot go further than that.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have just been given a copy of the table and it shows substantial changes for RAF Leeming in the Vale of York. The House now has an opportunity to discuss those changes, which will cause enormous concern across north Yorkshire, and it is astounding that we cannot do so.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am obviously concerned that the hon. Lady's constituency will also be affected, but the general point has been well made. It must be left now to the Government to decide how to respond.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I must inform the House that a message has been brought from the Lords as follows. The Lords insist on certain of their amendments to the Prevention of Terrorism Bill to which the Commons have disagreed, for which insistence they assign their reasons. They agree to certain Commons amendments to certain Lords amendments and disagree to certain other Commons amendments to Lords amendments, for which disagreement they assign their reasons. They do not insist on certain other amendments to which the Commons have disagreed but do propose amendments in lieu thereof, and they do not insist on their remaining amendments to which the Commons have disagreed. Copies of Lords reasons and amendments are available in the Vote Office, as are the Government's proposals relating to the message. All Government proposals will be debated together.
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