Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 29th January 1992.

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Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo , Bristol South 3:31 pm, 29th January 1992

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the Secretary of State for Education and Science given you notice that he will this afternoon make an urgent statement about the state of our schools? In a school in my constituency, a three-storey wall has collapsed into a classroom. Because of the danger to the children, the school is now closed. An urgent statement about the state of our schools and about what the Government intend to do about it would be appropriate.

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

I am sure that the Government Whip will have heard the hon. Lady's remarks, but she will have an opportunity tomorrow to put the matter to the Leader of the House at business questions.

Photo of Donald Dewar Donald Dewar , Glasgow Garscadden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has just made a statement about Coats Viyella—a very well known public company—in relation to the Labour party's policy on a minimum wage. I understand that the press report has been commented on by Coats Viyella itself. The company has made it very clear that it wishes to be dissociated from the misreporting and the travesty of its views. I fear that this Minister of the Crown must have been aware of that fact as he continued to spread the inaccuracy. Does not he owe us an apology?

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

I cannot be held responsible for what is said.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It arises out of Scottish questions. With respect, every time that you, Mr. Speaker, call an English Tory when a large number of Scottish Labour Members of Parliament stand in their places to be called during Scottish questions, it fuels my suspicion that you, Mr. Speaker, and some of your English Tory friends are in a—

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

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that at once.

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman should know that I have no friends.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I suspect that some English Tory Members—whether or not you, Mr. Speaker, are friendly with them—are in an unholy alliance with the Scottish National party, to help the break-up of the United Kingdom. That suspicion is growing very strongly.

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

I have heard many extraordinary allegations in this Chamber, but never anything quite as wild as that.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. English Members of this United Kingdom Parliament do not complain when Scots come over the border and sit in English seats. Nor do we complain when Scottish Members join in English questions. They should exhibit a little reciprocity.

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

I think that all Scottish right hon. and hon. Members understand this—we seem to have this at every Scottish Office Question Time. English Members of Parliament are called during questions on subjects that concern the United Kingdom. If the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) will read Hansard tomorrow, he will find that there were questions today about Germany, electoral registration, and so on. I do not propose to allow a debate on how I decide which right hon. or hon. Member to call.

Photo of Mr Roy Beggs Mr Roy Beggs , East Antrim

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the nature of the exchanges during Scottish questions this afternoon—when the allegation was made by some that lies were told, and others were called traitors—will you, Mr. Speaker, recommend to the Secretary of State for Scotland that he arrange talks between Conservative Members, Scottish Labour Members, and Scottish National party Members before we next have Scottish questions, so that it may be more seemly?

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

If Scottish questions were more like Ulster questions, it would probably be a happier occasion.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I say on behalf of right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House that we assume that you, are a friend to all Back Benchers; we acknowledge that. As a Welsh-born Scottish Member of Parliament who looks after the interests of an English constituency, I acknowledge that you do your best—even though you did not call me during Scottish questions today.

In response to an earlier point of order, you said, Mr. Speaker, that you try to ensure that questions are relevant to the United Kingdom when you call English Members. Every question on the Order Paper for Scottish Question Time is relevant to the whole United Kingdom and the love that every United Kingdom Member of Parliament has for our cousins in Scotland.

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

I think that I will let this blow out.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. When my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) raised his point of order, you, were smiling.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

You felt, Mr. Speaker, that my hon. Friend was making an outrageous point. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the conduct that we see from many English Members during Scottish Office Question Time is helping to bring not only the Government but the House into contempt in Scotland. That matter is of great concern to those of us who want to represent responsibly all the people in Scotland. There is a constitutional crisis, which it is up to hon. Members in all parts of the House to address seriously.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

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

Order. Let me deal with one at a time. I say to the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) that I do not smirk. What I was trying to say—I hope that the whole House accepts this—was that I have no special friends. I think that that was what the hon. Gentleman was alleging.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have already spoken about the allegations made by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes). As an English Member of Parliament, I take great exception to the suggestion that English Members seek to undermine the Union—[Interruption.]

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

Order. That is what the hon. Member was trying to say in Question time. But he said it then, and it is not a point of order for me now.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

The point of order is this, Mr. Speaker. English Members have just the same interest in preserving the union between England and Scotland as Scottish Members. Whenever the matter is raised, English Members should have the opportunity to put that point, as should Scottish Members who believe in the Act of Union between our two great countries which has existed for 300 years.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Secretary of State for Scotland is on record in Scotland as saying that, after the election, everyone who votes Labour will be counted as a Tory voter. May I have your assurance that you still make a distinction between the unionist Labour party and the unionist Tory party in the House?

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

I shall not be here after the election, so it will not arise.

Photo of John McFall John McFall , Dumbarton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is because of the narrow, intolerant attitude espoused by the Scottish National party that we find ourselves in this position. We have important business to deal with in the House. I rose on four or five questions but was not called. I accept that; but I take exception to the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) ranting and raving but saying nothing about Scottish issues. When people in Scotland see such episodes, they feel that their considerations are not taken care of in Westminster. If one session of Scottish Questions is not enough, I ask you to think again and do something so that the views of Scottish Members of Parliament can be taken into consideration.

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

I am not prepared to have a debate on how I call hon. Members at Question Time, because it might be painful in subsequent Question Times. May I repeat that Scottish questions—[Interruption.] Order. Hon. Members who were called during the previous Scottish questions on 12 December—as the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) was—did not stand quite such a good chance of being called today. I try to call all hon. Members from Scotland fairly.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

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

Order. I will not have a debate about devolution now.

Photo of Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark Mr Anthony Beaumont-Dark , Birmingham, Selly Oak

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many of us in the House do not mind the disproportionate amount of time given to Scots, Welsh and Irish questions, but hon. Members from Scotland, Wales and Ireland should recognise that many of us come from areas of Britain such as the west midlands which would welcome even once a year a west midlands question time. We are the ones who provide the fuel that they consume. We are tired of the Scots being so sensitive about this being their Parliament. It is our Parliament too, and if we are to have question times for minority groups, why not the west midlands, too?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not unsatisfactory that, in Scottish Question Time, we no longer have the 10 minutes that were given to the Lord Advocate? In those circumstances, have you had a request from the Minister to answer Question 38, which could explain why the views of the Scottish police, and, I believe, the Lord Advocate, about Lockerbie are materially different from the stated public view of the Foreign Secretary?

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

I have not received such a request, but no doubt the hon. Member will receive an answer to his question in the normal way.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

With friendly respect, may I remind you, Mr. Speaker, of the gentle reprimands that you have issued to Members on both Front Benches during Scottish Question Time about what I can only describe as verbose answers—I think that you described them as "lengthy"? If you were to check tomorrow on the number of column inches in Hansard devoted to answers given by Scottish Office Ministers, you would realise that a number of Scottish Members were prevented from being called today.