Palace of Westminster (Films)

– in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 4th February 1987.

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Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party 3:36 pm, 4th February 1987

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have just heard at Question Time Ministers complaining about the abuse of ratepayers' money for party political propaganda. May I draw your attention to the fact that this morning a film called "Keeping the Peace" that has been produced by the Ministry of Defence was shown—

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

Is this a point of order?

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party

It is a point of order for Mr. Speaker.

The film purports to be objective about the defence policies of this country, but it is suggested that it contains party political material. As it is difficult to judge whether the cost of £181,000 should be borne by the taxpayer through the Ministry of Defence or sent to Conservative Central Office, will you rule, Mr. Speaker, that this is one film that should be shown within the precincts of the Palace at the earliest opportunity?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I hope that I shall never be put in the position again of having to rule about films shown within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not giving you notice of this point of order.

In your great wisdom, Mr. Speaker, you gave a ruling that, until the House had decided on the issue, the film concerning Zircon should not be shown on the premises of the House of Commons. We are aware that the Leader of the Opposition has stated that he believes that this is a very important matter of national security. However, we read on the tapes today that an Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), intends to spread this wretched film all round Scotland to a wide audience.

Page 154 of "Erskine May" refers to Other indignities offered to either House. It refers to Other acts besides words spoken or writings published reflecting upon either House or its proceedings which, though they do not tend directly to obstruct or impede either House in the performance of its functions, yet have a tendency to produce this result indirectly by bringing such House into odium, contempt or ridicule I am concerned that the Leader of the Opposition does not have either the guts or the ability to control his Front Bench. As the House is likely to be—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman come to the point of order for me? He has drawn my attention to the relevant part in "Erskine May". At the moment, the film may not be shown within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster, and that is a matter for me. However, if it is shown in Scotland or anywhere else, it is not a matter for me; it is a matter for the Attorney-General.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the ruling is contained under the heading "Breaches of privilege and contempts". This is a further indignity. This House has decided, and you decided, that the film must not be shown here, and the Leader of the Opposition said that the film should not be shown here, yet an hon. Member—an Opposition Front Bench spokesman—is taking the trouble to spread this film around Scotland.

I submit that that brings this House into ridicule. If the film cannot be shown here, how can it be shown in Scotland? When you have made a ruling, Mr. Speaker, how can it be right for any hon. Member, especially a Front Bench spokesman, to take such action? We seek—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I think that I can help the hon. Gentleman. As I understand it, this film was shown in Wales and it was not subject to any injunction at that time. If that is so in Wales, I imagine that it may be so in Scotland.