§ 5 pm
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you had any approaches from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? I understand that the Ministry's regional offices, including the one in my constituency, are closed this afternoon in order that staff can be told of considerable job cuts. Such a major announcement should have been made in the House, because it has significant implications, not just for the civil servants concerned, but for the quality of the Ministry's work and its response to the agricultural sector. Has the Minister asked to make such a statement?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)
I must tell the hon. Lady that I have had no such information. It really is not a matter for the Chair, but the hon. Lady's words and concerns will have been heard by those on the Front Bench.
§ Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I realise that we have just had a statement on defence, but it was not appropriate to raise this matter in a statement on spending.
The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recently stated that the action in Kosovo was almost certainly illegal under international law. A senior ex-Defence Minister has now stated:If you ask my personal view, I think the terms put to Milosevic at Rambouillet were absolutely intolerable; how could he possibly accept them;and he said that NATO was almost certainly spoiling for a fight. More than 250, 000 ethnic minorities have been expelled from Kosovo and, in the past 14 months, more than 1, 000 people have been killed or kidnapped under the very nose of KFOR, yet we have had no statement on the situation in Kosovo for more than 14 months. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that during the bombing we had a statement almost every week. Is there any way in which we can get a Defence Minister to the House before the recess to tell us about the situation in Kosovo and to give us an honest appraisal of how long our forces will be there?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Lady has made her point. It is not a matter for the Chair. She knows her way around the House and how to ask for a Minister to make a statement, and I have no doubt that those on the Front Bench will have heard her concerns.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I gave notice of this matter to the Speaker's Office.
I refer to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) on 20 July about how a Speaker is selected or elected. The Deputy Speaker in the Chair said:I have been asked to assure the House that Members will be given clear advice in good time about the procedures to be used on 23 October.—[Official Report, 20 July 2000; Vol. 354, c. 567.]What is meant by "in good time"? Bluntly, if it is after Wednesday, it is not in good time; that is insufficient time. Given the entirely novel circumstances, we should have the opportunity at least to discuss the procedures for the selection of a Speaker.
791 I go back a long way to the election of Mr. Speaker King following the death of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, and the election of all subsequent Speakers—Selwyn Lloyd, George Thomas and Jack Weatherill. The present circumstances are entirely different and it really is not satisfactory that we should return on 23 October having been told in the recess what the procedure is to be, or perhaps presented with a fait accompli. There are various rumours going around about how it will happen, some of which are, frankly, appalling. We should have the letter before Wednesday.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for having raised this matter and I am sure that his concerns have been heard, but all I can say is that my colleague made a statement on behalf of Madam Speaker and it would not be proper for me to elaborate on it.