Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 4:10 pm, 29th February 1988

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order, of which I gave you notice, in as succinct and gentle fashion as possible. On the front page of the Mail on Sunday yesterday, there appeared the banner headline "Fines for Hooligan MPs."

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Yes, it is "Oh, dear." I am as quiet as a church mouse. Those who sit next to me know that I never open my mouth, shout, bawl or do any of the things about which that article complains. However, the article raises issues for the House because it states that Government business chiefs are considering drastic action before television is introduced and that the Commons Procedure Committee is considering making recommendations. The article states: Last week a group of senior Tories met behind closed doors and criticised Mr. Weatherill for being too soft on Labour Left-wingers. And with Mrs. Thatcher worried about Parliaments increasingly tarnished image, the committee's recommendations are sure to be pushed through by the Tory majority. We wish to be clear about those recommendations. It is open to argument whether those Members of Parliament suspended by the House should he fined. Speaking as one who has been in that position, I am not necessarily against a deduction of salary. There are arguments on both sides of the issue, but, before any proposals are introduced, there should at least be a debate.

We should also debate what should happen to Ministers who are less than candid with the House and, therefore, provoke some hon. Members to behave in that way. It is a question of sauce for the goose being sauce for the gander. By all means, let these matters be considered, but let us see the issue as a whole.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. A number of matters appear to be being trailed on the back of the introduction of television cameras into the Chamber. There are rumours of recommendations for a glass screen above the Strangers' Gallery and for the number of seats in the Strangers' Gallery to be greatly reduced. If it has been proposed that those who are suspended should be fined by losing their salary for the duration of their suspension, have you, Mr. Speaker, received any suggestions that there should be loss of pay for those hon. Members who deliberately absent themselves from this House for days and, in some cases, for weeks and months?

Have there been any suggestions that there should be loss of pay for those hon. Members who see fit to visit South Africa and other unsavoury regimes for weeks on end? Will there be loss of pay for those hon. Members who are away from this House for long periods on non-parliamentary official business? We should know whether any such suggestions have been made by those who are trying to gag hon. Members and thus prevent them making a legitimate protest in this Chamber.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has any suggestion been made to you that we should take a leaf out of the books of the other courts of this land and not permit those who have been suspended to return until they have apologised? It is not sufficient merely to deprive them of their salaries.

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

Order. I do not need any more help.

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

Order. I know that it is and I take it seriously, but this is an Opposition Supply day, on which there are two debates.

I saw the article to which the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) referred. It was grossly overdone. I know nothing about meetings behind closed doors. If the House wishes to change its procedures in any way, whether in respect of pay or the introduction of screens, the matter should be debated on the Floor of the House and have the agreement of the House. We have controversy politics in this Chamber and I hope that we shall always have a robust Parliament and not be mealy-mouthed.