Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Lembit Öpik indicated dissent.

Mr. Ingram: In that case, we should have a discussion elsewhere. If the hon. Gentleman would care to write to me with some proposals, perhaps that would be the best way of taking the issue forward.
17 Nov 2005 : Column 1131

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, but what is coming across—he must now admit it—is a degree of confusion. People find that these decisions take them by surprise. Would it not be better if he and his Department took a more personal interest in the guidelines within which they operate? What is a good business case and what weight is given to the community? Then, hon. Members would better know the requirements for those based in our areas. We would not be taken by surprise when the announcements are made.

Mr. Ingram: I am usually grateful for my hon. Friend's questions, but I am not so sure that I am on this occasion. I do not think that people should be surprised. That is why I indicated in my statement all the different points where we gave advice on the development of the process. We have written to hon. Members and indicated to them through other means when certain airfields were no longer being considered. I announced to the House the five airfields that were being considered. After a detailed analysis, we have now come to the end of that process.

As to investment appraisal and the business case, we make as much information available as we can, but there are sometimes commercially sensitive issues involved and I know that my hon. Friend would understand that we should not release such information. We try to make information available to the people who matter most—our own personnel, and, in respect of civilian people, the trade unions. As I said, we are now entering a process of consultation on all these matters and we will take the views of trade unions into account. We try to be as open and transparent as we possibly can, but at the end of the day I have to get a final paper from the Department, make my decision and then announce it. I can think of no better way of doing that than by ensuring that hon. Members are given best advice
17 Nov 2005 : Column 1132
through oral and written statements and other means. If anyone has a particular interest and if there is a purpose to be served by it, we seek to meet them well in advance of any announcement.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): May I thank the Minister for his good grace in apologising to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Rogerson) for cancelling his appointment? What reassurance can he give my constituents that he will not cancel his appointment with me at 5.15 pm on 28 November to discuss the job cuts at the Army Base Repair Organisation? While some elements of the defence review are welcome, is this not another case of the MOD's leading on estates and economics, rather than national security and defence?

Mr. Ingram: I do not think that I will apologise to the hon. Gentleman for cancelling our original meeting. He was invited to a meeting arranged for 29 November, and he then called my office to ask whether we could meet instead on 28 November, because he did not want to participate in such a meeting with the others attending. Moreover, I was not aware that he had been put in the diary for the 28th, so there is no chance of such a meeting happening, particularly given his heated exchange with my member of staff today. He can participate in the 29 November meeting, for which there is plenty of time for him to plan in his diary. Representatives of the various interests will be there to discuss these matters. So I am making myself available to MPs to deal with what is a major issue, as the hon. Gentleman correctly suggests. I do not accept his description of what we are doing, however. I note in passing that he has apparently called for those engaged at the location in question to come out on strike. If so, he does not have the security of the country at heart.

Mark Pritchard rose—
17 Nov 2005 : Column 1131

17 Nov 2005 : Column 1133

Points of Order

1.11 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Last night, the House very sensibly decided to move the business originally scheduled for Friday 24 February to Friday 3 March, because we have decided to have our recess during the week in which the 24th falls. You will be aware that these are days for private Members' Bills, in which some of us take a very great interest. You will therefore imagine my astonishment when I opened today's Order Paper and discovered on page 1278 that the business is still there for 24 February, and that there is nothing for 3 March. I hope that this confusion can be cleared up quickly. Those of us who want to plan ahead and draft our contributions on that day are indeed somewhat confused, so I hope that you can put this matter to rest and make sure that the Order Paper properly reflects the decision of the House.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I deal with one point of order at a time. I commend the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) on his careful reading of the Order Paper. He is quite right: the decision taken last night to move private Members' Bills from 24 February to 3 March has not yet been reflected in the future business paper. I assure him and the House that that will be done today.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you tell me whether the Prime Minister has asked to make a statement on his comments yesterday at Prime Minister's Questions, which related to comments that I made in the House on Monday about the Trooper Williams and Colonel Mendonca case? In response to the suggestion that either he or one of his Ministers had something to do with the initiation of particular prosecutions, he said the following:

That appears to contradict entirely what the Attorney-General said in a letter to my noble Friend Lord Astor on 9 July. The Attorney-General said:

Furthermore, that was backed up by the following Attorney-General's written response to my noble Friend Lord Marlesford:

formally referred—

17 Nov 2005 : Column 1134

The positions of the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister appear entirely contradictory. If the Prime Minister has not sought to correct that which he said yesterday, might it not be a good idea for him to be asked to come to the House to explain why he and his Attorney-General are saying totally different things about the same subject?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: In a sense, the hon. Gentleman is seeking to—

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is quite plain from the context of the discussion and debate at the Dispatch Box yesterday that the Prime Minister was referring to Defence Ministers. Secondly, for the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) to suggest inside, and apparently outside, this House that there was some lack of moral courage or an intervention in this process by either Defence Ministers or—an even more slanderous smear—the Chief of the General Staff, is in my view absolutely disgusting. It was in that context that the Prime Minister responded yesterday, and all the hon. Gentleman's bluster will not cover his—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order.

John Reid: Smear against—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Secretary of State will take his seat when I am on my feet. I am not going to allow a debate to develop on this matter now. What both Members have said is on the record. We have a defence debate later this afternoon in which these matters can be raised, if necessary, and we must now proceed to that.

Next Section IndexHome Page