New Forest East

TRADE & INDUSTRY – ROVER – 29 March 2000

Dr Julian Lewis: Opposition Members sympathise with the right hon. Lady [Margaret Beckett], who is obviously still suffering from the effects of her severe cold, but at least it gave her the advantage of being able not to be present to hear the dismal performance of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry [Stephen Byers] commenting on Rover. She will not therefore have heard him, when he was challenged over his refusal to make a statement to the House on this crucial matter, say by way of an excuse that he was evidently taking it seriously and that was why he was answering the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr Fabricant).

Does the right hon. Lady accept that it is the duty of Ministers to answer the questions of those hon. Members who are fortunate enough to be drawn high up in the ballot, and that it simply will not do to exhibit the cowardice shown by the Secretary of State and, when a statement on a crucial matter is evidently required, to shelter behind the fact that my hon. Friend was fortunate enough to think of the question in advance and to come top of the ballot?