§ Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you have had any indication today of whether the Secretary of State for Transport is willing to make a statement to the House on the shocking press reports on Friday and Sunday that he proposes to abandon the targets on reducing road congestion and increasing passenger numbers introduced by the Deputy Prime Minister and, furthermore, that he proposes to cut public subsidy in a way that will ensure fewer trains and higher fares. Is not such a statement important to put right the indication from the Downing street press office this morning that tomorrow's statement will be only a written statement, as I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would expect such an important matter to discussed on the Floor of the House and dealt with properly?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)
I have no indication that a statement of the kind that the hon. Gentleman suggests is about to be made at the moment.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask you whether the Speaker would consider issuing a fatwa to Ministers who fail to answer their correspondence in a timely manner—a matter that I have raised with the occupant of the Chair on several occasions? This morning, I received a reply to a letter that I had addressed to the Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety on 6 September. The letter has been chased up on any number of occasions, and I finally received a reply not from the Minister himself, but from a private secretary, four months late. That is not only impertinent to my constituents, but rude to Parliament. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, raise this matter with the Speaker and find out whether he will issue more general instructions to Ministers about the generally lamentable way in which they answer correspondence?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Mr. Speaker has made his views on that matter clear on a number of occasions. He agrees very much with the point that the hon. Gentleman makes and, no doubt, Ministers will have heard him put it on the record again.
§ Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If Mr. Speaker is unable to get the response that my hon. Friend seeks, will he seek a concession from Ministers so that they issue a series of apology notices that Members of Parliament can send out to make it clear that, when constituents do not get a proper reply, it is because the Minister, not the Member of Parliament, has been dilatory?
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you do make a ruling such as the right hon. Gentleman has just 569 requested, will you make it retrospective to the last Conservative Government, including former Secretaries of State for the Environment in that Government?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
As I have said, Mr. Speaker has made his position clear on this matter. I am sure that he would not want to become involved with the specific details of ministerial replies.