Oral Answers to Questions — Questions to Ministers

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th June 1976.

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Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds 12:00 am, 24th June 1976

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful to you for allowing me to raise this point of order, of which I have given you notice, about Question No. 9 to the Home Secretary. It concerns the use of the adjective "working-class" in the second and third lines of the Question, which speaks of photographers being present at working-class demonstrations". My experience of the Table Office is that the Clerks quite rightly resist hon. Members putting on the Order Paper editorial points or points of political argument and ask that our Questions should be objective. May I ask you to rule that the nasty language of class warfare has no place on the Order Paper of the House of Commons?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The wording of the Question was obviously approved or it would not have been on the Order Paper.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I say with the greatest respect that although it is implicit that the wording was approved by the Table, I understood my hon. Friend to be making the very important point that it should not have been approved, and that in future Questions worded in such a way should not be approved.

Photo of Mr Norman Atkinson Mr Norman Atkinson , Haringey Tottenham

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do we understand Conservative Members to be advancing the argument that the words "working class" should never appear on the Order Paper?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

If there is any doubt about whether the wording of a Question or motion should be approved, it is referred to me.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

I am referring it to you, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Gentleman is, but obviously the Question was considered to be quite in order.

I find it difficult to rule that the use of the expression "working-class" is part of the class war. [Interruption.] There is no need for temperatures to rise. There is plenty of time later in the day. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will let me look at this matter. If I feel that I need to make a statement to the House, I shall do so.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

You will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that I was responsible for putting down Question No. 9 to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, a Question including the expression "working-class". Unfortunately for me, I also tabled on the same day before 4 o'clock a Question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and somewhat misguidedly framed it as follows: "When he next expects"—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not pursue another Question on this point of order. I think that I have settled the matter. Does the hon. Gentleman wish to pursue another point?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

I was going on to say, Mr Speaker, in relation to your deliberations on Question No. 9 and whether the expression "working-class" should be used in a Question, that I also tabled another Question which might help you in your deliberations. In it I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister whether he expected to meet the CBI. I do not want him to do so. I think that he has met the CBI too often as it is. But it is the same use of class Ianguage.—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. We are getting a little out of control.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Kinross and West Perthshire

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Labour Members said when I stood up earlier to try to catch your eye, "There's a typical working-class man". Therefore, I should be obliged if after your deliberations you would advise me and other hon. Members whether we are classified as working.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I am prepared to give that ruling only in private.