Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 18th February 1992.

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

We have passed the stage for points of order.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker: I thought you had said that you wanted to have points of order taken after the ten-minute Bill.

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

I normally take points of order before ten-minute Bills, but if there was a misunderstanding I shall take the hon. Member's point now.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

I seek your advice in respect of a rather difficult matter. You will recall that, on 14 February, we dealt with the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bill. That Bill was defeated narrowly—by only 12 votes. On Monday 17 February, The Times carried an advertisement, placed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. That advertisement named every Member of Parliament and indicated how each had voted. You will recall that I was a sponsor of the Bill. I am a vice-president of the League Against Cruel Sports, and in the advertisement I was recorded as having abstained in the Division. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) was also recorded in that way, but we both voted for the Bill. We have been contacted by people saying that we betrayed their trust and the undertakings that we gave to our constituents. Can you, Sir, give me some advice?

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

The survey was pretty inaccurate, because I also found my name on it as having abstained. My three deputies were also recorded as having abstained, so I am not sure that the public should place too much credence on such an advertisement. The hon. Gentleman has made his point, and I think that he should raise the issue with the organisation concerned.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson, Shadow Spokesperson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have great sympathy with the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) in this respect. It is a serious matter, especially for those of us who hold the cause as dear as we do. I was a Teller for that vote on the Bill and, of course, journalists being what they are, I was missed off the list in The Guardian as being absent. I have taken steps to remedy that omission if anyone cares to read today's "Diary" in The Guardian, but that is neither here nor there. I think that it would greatly assist some journalists who are perhaps not fully aware of our procedure if Tellers were recorded among those who vote for or against as our vote is taken by voice, before we move to count in the Division Lobbies. It is a serious matter, because we want people outside to know what Members of Parliament are doing, for and against strong arguments.

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

I do not think that we need to pursue this. The House knows—and I hope that, as a result of this, the country may know—that Hansard is the official report. What is recorded in Hansard is what matters, not what may be reported in the press.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

On a wholly different point of order, Mr. Speaker, but I suggest a far more important one in the long term. In his question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) asked about the health service in Norwich. The hon. Gentleman has it as one of his ambitions that the health service of Scotland —[Interruption.]

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

Order. I cannot hear this. I stopped a member of the Opposition for seeking to continue Question Time. I saw the hon. Gentleman standing but, unhappily, I was not able to call him on that particular question. I suggest that he tries his luck on a future occasion, not under the guise of a point of order.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

I know that this will be helpful.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Falkirk East

I wonder whether I could raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a matter which is very sensitive in the run-up to the general election. Without being critical of any of the House authorities, I am surprised at the contents of the Government motion on the Order Paper. You have always ruled, that the Government have no responsibility for Opposition parties' policies. The sensitive issue is the involvement of the civil service in, first, drafting the motion, because that seems to be a clear breach of the impartiality rules by which the British civil service is governed; and secondly, its briefing Ministers on the contents of this motion. There can be absolutely no doubt that the civil service has become embroiled in party politics in the drafting of the motion and in the briefing of Ministers.

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

I have no knowledge of that at all. I am not responsible for the drafting of motions, as the hon. Gentleman well knows. There are lots of motions on the Order Paper on which I might express my opinion if I dared.

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

No. I am specifically required never to give my reasons, and I do not intend to do so on this matter.