Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 28th January 1992.

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Several Hon. Members:

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

It will delay matters. I ask hon. Members to raise points of order—

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Mr.Speaker:

Please sit down. I ask hon. Members to raise points of order with which I can deal and not questions that might have been directed to the Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point relates to Prime Minister's Question Time. I do not know whether mathematics is one of your strong points, and I do not expect an answer to the point today, but you will have noticed that the first five questions to the Prime Minister on the Order Paper today were tabled by Labour Members. Can you explain to the House how it was possible for seven Conservative Back-Benchers to be called? Only the five Labour Members who had tabled questions were called. That is an almost impossible situation to create.

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

I know that the hon. Gentleman is usually very helpful and I am quite good at mathematics. It is unusual for all the questions on the Order Paper to come from one party, and it does not help the Chair. The Leader of the Opposition asked three questions today, and a member of one of the minority parties was called. That is why Conservative Members were able to ask seven questions—[Horn. MEMBERS: "He is challenging your ruling."] It is not a challenge; I am giving an explanation. I say to hon. Members who shouted earlier, "Marginal constituency", that these days many constituencies are marginal. I seek to call Members who have not asked the Prime Minister a question this Session. Those who have do not stand quite such a good chance.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know of your concern for the reputation of the House. So that there is no misunderstanding, would you, from your knowledge of debates and interventions when you have been in the Chair and before, confirm that, when sponsorship is involved —almost every time Labour Members asked questions, the Secretary of State for Employment responded "Sponsored, sponsored, sponsored"—literally not a single penny goes into the pockets of hon. Members? We are not ashamed of our involvement. I have been involved in my own union now for 40 years, and proud of it, but not a single penny has ever gone into my pocket, or ever will.

Will you also confirm that, in the case of hon. Members on the Government Benches, where there are business engagements, involvements and the rest—90 per cent. of Tory Members are involved in such matters—all the money goes into their pockets? That is the difference.

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

That is not a matter for me to comment on, but all these matters should be declared in the Register of Members' Interests.

Photo of Mr Terry Lewis Mr Terry Lewis , Worsley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Going back to the statement of the Secretary of State, I have no doubt that it is the presence of television cameras which persuaded him not just to make a statement but to wrap it up in such a way that it was like a party political broadcast. I do not think that it does the honour of the House any good whatever for a Secretary of State to conduct business in that way, and I think that you should use your good offices to restrain Secretaries of State who abuse the House as this Secretary of State has done.

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

I am not responsible for whether or not statements are made. If the hon. Member feels strongly about it, it is a matter for the Select Committee on Broadcasting and he should draw it to the Committee's attention.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

You said last week that you were concerned about balance and impartiality in the run-up to the election. You showed obvious concern, and we all understood. What I suggest is this. Can you make arrangements, to provide some balance to what we have had today, something which has passed its sell-by date, for us to have a statement, from anybody—we will do it on the Opposition side—which looks into moonlighting by 250 Tory Members and then into the Economic League and the Freedom Association? To top it off, we can look into the freemasons as well.

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

I think that we will move on.