HC Deb 17 November 1997 vol 301 cc19-21 3.30 pm
Mr. Norman Baker (Lewes)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I should like to raise an important matter relating to my constituency, of which I have given you notice. It is the report on the front page of the business section of The Observer, which suggests that a decision has been reached that P and O and Stena should be allowed to merge.

I am surprised, first, that not only the decision but detailed considerations should be announced in a Sunday newspaper, when I and other hon. Members, including Labour Members, have shown a substantial interest in the matter since May and have asked to be kept informed of details. Is this not discourtesy to the House, if indeed it is a Government leak? Would it be possible to arrange for a statement by other methods, so that hon. Members with constituency interests could discuss this matter?

Madam Speaker

The House knows how much I deprecate such matters appearing in newspapers. I know that the hon. Gentleman has shown great interest in the matter, because he has questions on the Order Paper.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I have not finished.

I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he tries to frame a parliamentary question seeking information about why and how this information appeared. That would be helpful to me in what I am regularly trying to do.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Further to the Prime Minister's interview yesterday in "On the Record" with John Humphrys, is it not now essential that he should be required to go on the record with a statement to the House on the whole saga of "fags for favours", so that the reality can be clarified? I seek your maternal guidance on this important matter. The whole saga of concealment and the errors of judgment by the Prime Minister should be debated and exposed in the House, the Parliament of the people.

Madam Speaker

The Opposition have days on which they can put down a motion, and if they wish they can do so on this subject. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, if he seeks to catch my eye on Wednesday when the Prime Minister is here for half an hour answering questions, he might be lucky: who knows?

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

There is nothing further to that point of order. I have dealt with it.

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is similar to the one raised about the prospective merger of P and O and Stena. About two weeks ago, I was told by local journalists that the coastguard station in my constituency was to be closed. Therefore, I tabled a parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, who passed it to the chief executive of the Coastguard Agency. The latter wrote me a long letter spelling out what the coastguard service was in the south of England. That did not answer my question, so I wrote to the chief executive of the agency asking him to confirm that the coastguard service would remain as originally stated.

I hear today that the coastguard station in my constituency is to be closed, despite the fact that I tabled questions two weeks ago trying to elicit information. That is a poor way for the Government to behave. Can you give me any guidance on how I can ensure that it does not happen again?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is a long-standing Member. I cannot give guidance on how to prevent it from happening again, but I deprecate the fact that the information with which he has been supplied is not as accurate as it might be.

I will look favourably on an application for an Adjournment debate if the hon. Gentleman would like to seek one. He could then find out precisely where the information came from and about the inaccurate information with which he has been supplied. I select the subjects for Adjournment debates on Thursday evenings, and I shall look favourably on an application from the hon. Gentleman.