Points of Order

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 1991.

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Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley 12:00 am, 11th June 1991

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that, a week or two ago, a number of Opposition Members raised points of order suggesting that questions concerning national health service hospital trusts could not be tabled in the Table Office. At that time I expressed concern about that. The immediate response from the Table Office to me was that that was inaccurate. Since then, I have written to the Principal Clerk of the Table Office, who has replied to me saying, and I quote—

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

Order. We do not quote in the Chamber correspondence that we have had with Officers of the House.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

I accept that, Mr. Speaker, so to paraphrase the reply that I received, he confirms that the tabling of questions about NHS trusts is entirely in order and that there has been no question—[Interruption.]—of them not being in order. My point of order is to ask you what can be done to stop entirely bogus and inaccurate points of order being raised by Opposition Members for purely party political reasons. Is it not clearly an abuse of this House—

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

Order. I think I can help the hon. Member. It is not just the correspondence that he has had with the Clerk. The Leader of the House himself confirmed it, so I do not know what is the reason for his point of order for me.

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

Order. The incident took place a few weeks ago, and it was cleared up absolutely by the Leader of the House.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for pointing that out. Following those points of order, I received a letter from a constituent saying that it was disgraceful that questions about NHS trusts could not be tabled and answered in the House. In other words, Opposition Members successfully communicated to people outside—[Interruption.]—inaccurate information through points of order.

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

Order. The hon. Member is robust enough to reply to his constituent in straight terms to put the records straight.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

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

Order. I remind the House that we sat until 3 o'clock this morning and are likely to have to do the same again tonight. It is all very well for hon. Members to raise points of order at this time, it being prime time from their point of view, but it takes time away from other hon. Members later in the evening.

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

I hope that it is very brief.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

The point of order concerns the accuracy of Hansard. Early-day motion No. 934 concerns the deplorable behaviour of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), but the record shows that it is signed by 11 hon. Members, including one member of the Labour Whips Office. Although I fully accept that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollock (Mr. Dunnachie) is entitled to sign that excellent motion—we must all be grateful to him for doing so—the difficulty is that, of the 11 signatories, only seven are printed. If one member of the Labour party is prepared to sign it, it would be useful to know which other members would be prepared to do so. If all the names were printed, we could find out how many members of the Labour party agree with the motion. We could also discover which members are so careless that they do not even know what they are signing.

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

Again, I do not know quite what the hon. Gentleman's point of order is for me. Perhaps he was a Minister when the rules regarding the printing of names on early-day motions were changed. It was done to save costs and time, but the names are available in the Table Office, if required.

Photo of John McAllion John McAllion , Dundee East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to a practice whereby Ministers refer parliamentary questions to be answered by the chief executive of executive agencies? That ensures that the answers do not appear in Hansard, thereby denying the right of hon. Members to read those answers in Hansard. It also denies members of the public who read Hansard in public libraries throughout the country the right to see answers to questions that have been tabled by hon. Members. Such a practice is a serious erosion of parliamentary democracy and I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on what you can do about it.

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

That is old hat, too. [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] Well, it has been going on for the best part of a year, and if the hon. Gentleman objects to it—I understand his feelings—he should draw the matter to the attention of the Leader of the House at Business Questions. I cannot deal with the matter.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

Well, I hope that it is legitimate.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Naturally, Mr. Speaker. As you know, a by-election is pending. I seek your guidance on the rules of the House about the moving of the writ for the by-election. It has become plain over the past few days in Liverpool, Walton that the Labour party has been split in two. I seek your guidance on which of the warring factions of the Labour party should seek to move the writ for the by-election: the real or the genuine Labour party.

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

I have been in the House for long enough —a little longer than the hon. Gentleman—to know that there are divisions on both sides of the House. They are not a matter for me. I consider that every hon. Member in his own right should be able to put the views of his constituents. I could not adjudicate on such a matter.

We must move on to the ten-minute rule Bill.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Let us have some entertainment.

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

Well, the television cameras will soon be switched off.

Photo of Mr John McWilliam Mr John McWilliam , Blaydon

Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), Mr. Speaker. The decision about questions being transferred to the chief executives of executive agencies is taken politically by the Government. We were informed by letter—we were not asked. It has given rise to a practice that denies to the House rights that it previously had, without debate in the Chamber or changes to Standing Orders. You, Mr. Speaker, could rule on this matter, or at least consider it, and direct Ministers to answer questions when they are put. We do not care whether the chief executive writes to the Minister to give him the answer, as long as it is printed in Hansard so that we can all read it.

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

I understand that point, but I do not have any more to say about it than I have already said to the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion). The matter should be taken up with the Leader of the House, perhaps most usefully through the usual channels, of which the hon. Gentleman was once a part.