POINT OF ORDER – AIRCRAFT CARRIERS – 11 December 2008

[Dr Liam Fox: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you might have heard, there is bad news today for our armed forces and defence industry, with delays in major procurement programmes, including our aircraft carriers, the Navy tanker programme and future Army vehicles. There is, therefore, huge uncertainty about jobs at what is a very difficult economic time. When Ministers made previous announcements about these programmes, they were all too happy to do so by oral statement to the House, yet today, when it is bad news, we get a written statement with no opportunity for Members to ask the questions that matter. Have you, Mr Deputy Speaker, had any requests for an oral statement on these very important and worrying matters? It is in stark contrast to the courage expected of our armed forces that the Ministers who represent them are too afraid to come to the Commons to explain and defend their own incompetence.]

Dr Julian Lewis: Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. At business questions, we witnessed the spectacle of the Leader of the House doing her level best to answer the substance of questions on the statement that was issued in the form of a written statement, but failing dismally to explain to the House why an oral statement was not being made. Can you, Mr Deputy Speaker, tell us whether there is any reason, from the point of view of Mr Speaker's office, as to why that statement could not have been an oral statement?

[Several hon. Members rose —

Mr Deputy Speaker (Michael Lord): Order. I think I understand the point that Members are seeking to make. Mr Speaker has made it very clear that on all important issues on which the House will have a view, statements must be made to this House. Whether they are oral or written statements is entirely a matter for the Department and Ministers concerned. That is not a matter for the Chair, but I repeat that Government Front Benchers will have heard the comments, which are on the record.]