Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 24th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Martin Redmond Mr Martin Redmond , Don Valley 3:36 pm, 24th February 1992

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your advice? You will recall that on 27 January I asked the Secretary of State a question about the disabled in the coal mining industry. He ignored and disbelieved the figures which I quoted but which I had obtained from a Government agency. He stated that he would write to me, but he has not done so. If Ministers make misleading statements from the Dispatch Box, what recourse does a Back Bencher have?

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

I understand that there has been a misunderstanding, but we must not have another debate on the subject now.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

When the hon. Gentleman asked his question earlier this afternoon, I had no idea to what he was referring. I have since checked the Hansard report of the previous Energy questions, and I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that the information that he requires will be sent to him today. There was some delay in my Department in getting the information, and I apologise to him for that.

Photo of Mr Allan Rogers Mr Allan Rogers , Rhondda

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will have noticed from today's Financial Times, the Army is to shed 3,500 service personnel. As you know, this causes many problems with regard to affordable housing and relocation of those who are being discharged. I understand that the Secretary of State is to give a press conference at 3.30 pm. I wonder whether you, Mr. Speaker, can use your good offices to bring the subject before the House so that we can debate it.

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

The hon. Gentleman knows that hold that press conferences—if given—should preferably be given on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know that points of order were raised on Friday when a Conservative Member objected to the Shops (Amendment) Bill under which there would be a White Paper and a detailed Bill to overcome the Government's intolerable laziness in condoning law breaking on this subject. We called for the Government to find time to consider the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell)—

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

Order. What is the point of order for me? There was an exchange about this on Friday which went on for a long time and which, in my judgment, was somewhat out of order.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

The point of order for you, Sir, is whether you can guide us. Having had a vote of 222 to 4 in favour of the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend, how can Ministers be dragged into allowing us to debate and vote on the issue?

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

The hon. Gentleman knows that I do not give procedural advice on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Mr Derek Enright Mr Derek Enright , Hemsworth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you can advise me. At the weekend a group of constituents came to see me because they were incensed by a statement made by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department which implied that the West Yorkshire police were incompetent. How can I raise this matter and get the Secretary of State or someone else to apologise for the disgraceful slur on the West Yorkshire police, who are gallant and efficient gentlemen?

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

I am sure they are. The hon. Gentleman has not been here as long as some other hon. Members have. I can give him advice on such matters of procedure privately, if he comes to see me one evening after 10 pm.

Photo of Mr Win Griffiths Mr Win Griffiths , Bridgend

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you advise me? It is obvious that the Government have not made a request to you today to make a statement on the meeting of Environment Ministers and European and United States leaders in Estoril at the weekend on the important issue of banning chlorofluorocarbons and protecting the ozone layer I understand that today the Department of the Environment is either issuing a press release or holding a press conference on the issue. Has the Department requested to make a statement, if not today at least tomorrow, on that important issue?

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

It is an important issue. I have had no request today for a statement.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be possible to refer to the death in the Netherlands of Mrs. Kate ter Horst? She was a very brave person during the battle for Arnhem in September 1944. Would you consider writing a letter—[Interruption.] Conservative Members may not be interested. At the cost of her life, in September 1944 she allowed her home to be used by British troops.

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

The hon. Gentleman should table an early-day motion on the matter, which would achieve wide support from hon. Members of all parties. It is not really a matter for me.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At the weekend, there was a report that an employee in the private office of the Secretary of State for Employment was phoning industrialists touting for quotes to be used against Labour. It is clearly a deplorable practice to use ministerial telephones in such a way.

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

If that is true, it is not a matter for me. I am not a member of the Government, and I do not know who is telephoned at weekends. I can say that I was not telephoned at the weekend.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The quotes were to be used by a Minister in the House. Is that not tantamount to misleading the House? Is that not an appalling practice and a matter for you—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I tried to catch your eye at Question Time because of a matter which has been drawn to my attention and which seems to be extremely serious. I understand that in at least one of the executive agencies, the Benefits Agency, staff are about to be required to wear uniforms. Can the House directly challenge or approve such a development in an agency? There may be serious implications. If such a practice is established in an agency, it may be only a matter of time before staff in Government Departments have to wear uniform. Shall we see shoulder flashes bearing the name of the Department concerned? Would you approve of such a development, Mr. Speaker?

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

There is an old Chinese proverb—"In vain is the net laid in front of the bird."

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that you are in the tricky position of not being able to communicate with the two political parties, or with any of the other Rag, Tag and Bobtails, and in view of the fact that you have to live a relatively lonely life, may I ask whether you have been tipped off about the election? The Press Gallery is abuzz. There have been leaks from Ministers—not from civil servants—that the whole thing is fixed for a Cabinet meeting on the Thursday following the Budget, for an announcement to be made that day, for the Finance Bill to be wound up in two days and for this Parliament to come to an end on 16 March. Everything has been sorted out by the Government. Have you been tipped off? We have to pick up the information from the press. If the press knows, it is high time that the Government had the guts to tell us the information from the Dispatch Box.

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

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my intelligence is good, and I have been tipped off that there is to be an election in the near future.

Photo of Mr Terry Lewis Mr Terry Lewis , Worsley

On a genuine point of order concerning the protection of Back Benchers, Mr. Speaker. No doubt you, Sir, will be aware that the Table Office is refusing to accept hon. Members' questions referring to health authority matters in the regions. I accept that, up to a point, there are good reasons for that. I also accept the advice of the Table Clerks that I should write to the chairmen of regional health authorities and that I have now done. But surely Ministers responsible for divulging to Back Benchers information on the health service should be aware that delays are being built in at source—in the regional health authority areas—and that hon. Members are not being given the information about the health service that they seek on behalf of their constituents.

I suspect that this is another of those conspiracies whereby those on the Treasury Bench are trying to suppress bad news in the run-up to the general election. Should not you, Sir, protect Back Benchers' interests in this matter?

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

I have not had the matter brought to my attention, but I will look into it.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Further to my earlier point of order, Mr. Speaker. On reflection, I should perhaps have raised the matter on another day, and I take your point about tabling an early-day motion. I think that there will be general agreement in the House that Kate ter Horst was an exceptionally brave person who gave aid to dying and wounded soldiers. The purpose of my point of order, Sir, was simply to ask whether it would be possible for you to write to her husband, who was also injured in the road accident, to express our sympathy and to let him know that we have not forgotten what his wife did in 1944.

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

I could do that only with the permission of the House, but as Arnhem is linked with my own borough of Croydon, I would certainly consider writing a private letter on this matter.

Photo of Mr Bruce Grocott Mr Bruce Grocott , The Wrekin

Further to the important point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), Mr. Speaker. I fully understand and accept that you will not have been told by the Government the date of the general election, but I am sure that you will agree that the traditional right of hon. Members in connection with what is probably the most important day in the parliamentary year—Budget day—to have a full four-day debate on the Budget is extremely important. Can you confirm that, if any attempt were made by the Executive to curtail debate on the Budget to fewer than four days—a four-day debate would be in accordance with the precedent established as far back as any hon. Member can remember—it would be a serious infringement of hon. Members' democratic rights?

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

That is an absolutely hypothetical question because there are other dates mentioned.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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

I will have to take it by way of balance.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

If we are regularly to be faced—as we have been this afternoon—with a succession of points of order exclusively from Labour Members attempting to continue until as to near 4 o'clock as they can, would it be possible for the Labour Chief Whip to organise a raffle so that only one or two of them can raise points of order while the rest of us get on with the business for which we are here?

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

I think that we should get on. The trouble is that, as the House knows, if we do not have a private notice question or statement to take us to 3.50 pm, when the television cameras go off, we tend to have points of order instead.