Points of Order

Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 7:26 pm on 11th May 1988.

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Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South 7:26 pm, 11th May 1988

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. By way of a written question to the Minister of State, Home Office I raised questions concerning the number of qualified and non-qualified persons employed over various dates in the magistrates courts in each of the petty sessional divisions of England and Wales. Tonight I received, dated 11 May, what might be called an advance copy of the response, on which I had a holding answer on 21 April which merely states: I have today written to the hon. Member and a copy of the reply has been placed in the Library. When one asks za parliamentary question, the object of the exercise is for not only the hon. Member but the public to find out what the situation is. The general public does not have access to the Library of the House of Commons, but over the past few years I have noticed that this practice has grown. If Members of Parliament are to do their job properly, it is only right and proper that the question should appear in Hansard. Therefore, I raise this issue as a matter of principle.

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

I do not think that anything out of order has occurred. I understand that that is done regularly, particularly when lengthy documents are involved.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

Does it concern the next Bill? I think that we should get on to the Bill.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

It concerns the previous debate, Mr. Speaker. When you, Mr. Speaker, were not in the Chair, the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim), on a point of order, suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), in an intervention, had omitted to make a declaration that he was receiving an advantage from the NUS. You, Mr. Speaker, will know that it was uncalled for, untrue and dishonest of the hon. Member for Amber Valley to make that suggestion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover is not, in the words of the hon. Member for Amber Valley, in receipt of any grace-and-favour advantage from the NUS. The flat in which he has been staying for some time has had a fair rent fixed under the legislation for 14 years. In any event, during the dispute my hon. Friend has not been living in that flat. The hon. Member for Amber Valley suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has been less than forthright about this issue. That is patently untrue and casts doubts on a Member of this House. When doubt of that kind is cast, it is usual for the hon. Member who has cast that doubt to withdraw his comment. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to require the hon. Member for Amber Valley to withdraw the uncalled-for and disreputable aspersion that he has cast on my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover.

Photo of Mr Dave Nellist Mr Dave Nellist , Coventry South East

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is big enough to look after himself, but it would be worth while to look tomorrow at the exchanges in Hansard and at the disgraceful allegation by the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim), who used the phrase, "a cut-price, grace-and-favour flat." Had my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) been living in a cut-price flat, which clearly he was not, he ought to have been congratulated on saving Parliament money. A Member of Parliament's rent is paid out of the London allowance and any hon. Member who is able to negotiate a cheaper rent for his flat is saving Parliament money.

The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) is recorded in the Register of Members' Interests as having 11 directorships and consultancies, including Corporate and Public Affairs Strategy Limited. When I tabled an early-day motion during the Land Rover strike, the hon. Gentleman tabled an amendment that, word for word, was the management's case during the dispute, from which people may draw the conclusion that by means of one of his consultancies he was acting on behalf of the Land Rover management in this place.

That is OK, but then the hon. Gentleman accused my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, who has no grace-and-favour relationship with the National Union of Seamen. He is a Member sponsored by the National Union of Mineworkers. He has correctly notified the House of that fact each year since the Register of Members' Interests was compiled. After looking at Hansard tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, you ought to require the hon. Member for Amber Valley to make a personal statement to the House withdrawing the allegation and personally apologising to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is always very quick to demand financial details about other hon. Members—

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

Order. I do not think that we ought to go into that matter now. I call the hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim).

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a brief statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] After an intervention earlier today by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), I asked Mr. Deputy Speaker, on a point of order, whether it was in order for somebody who had not declared a possible interest—[HoN. MEMBERS: "An interest."]—an interest in the National Union of Seamen not to declare it. I stated that the hon. Member for Bolsover had lived in a flat for which he paid a grace-and-favour rent and that later I had found out that the rent was only £18.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

Despite the fact that I stayed in the Chamber for some time after making that point of order, the hon. Member for Bolsover chose to wait until I had left before stating that it was not a subsidised rent but that it had been fixed by the rent officer. I suggest that a rent of £18 must have been fixed a long time ago.

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

That is not a matter on which I can adjudicate. It is not a matter for me.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) referred to the rent that had previously been paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) as a cut-price rent. He also suggested that he had been failing in his duty to the House by not declaring that he was paying a subsidised rent.

It is improper for the hon. Member for Amber Valley to suggest that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover should have registered that rent in the Register of Members' Interests. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover says, it was a registered rent, there can be no question of it being a subsidised rent. At the very least, Mr. Speaker, I think that you ought to rule that if it were a registered rent, my hon. Friend should not be expected to declare such a rent in the Register of Members' Interests, otherwise any hon. Member who is paying a rent or who has a mortgage would be obliged to say how much was being paid.

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

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) will allow me to deal with this point, because I think I can help him. I confirm that, if the rent had been judged to be a fair rent by the rent tribunal, what the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) said was correct. Last week the hon. Member for Bolsover gave me the reasons why he had moved out of the flat. I am sure that the whole House will agree that the hon. Member for Bolsover is a man of high integrity. I respect the fact that he gave me that information and also the reasons that he gave me for his decision.