On a point of order, Madam Speaker, as a new and inexperienced Member I seek your guidance and a ruling. Is it not a contempt of this House for the leader of one of Scotland's principal parties, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), to absent himself from one of Scotland's biggest statements of the year—the Secretary of State's annual expenditure statement?
On a point of order, Madam Speaker, while I appreciate the decision you have just given to my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) in respect of Cammell Laird, would it be possible to use your good offices to ask the President of the Board of Trade, who once posed as a friend of Merseyside, to come to the House at 7 o'clock this evening to make a statement and answer questions which are vital for our constituents on Merseyside and elsewhere?
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I risk mildly irritating you for a second time today. Further to the Standing Order No. 20 application made by my hon. Friend—and I use that term advisedly—the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) in relation to Cammell Laird, I accept your decision and I realise that you do not have to give a reason for that decision. However, might I ask as strongly as I can that, perhaps when you are taking a cup of tea, you might reconsider that decision in the light of the plea made eloquently, sensibly and with plenty of evidence by my hon. Friend?
I tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that I am not easily irritated. If I have a chance to have a cup of tea today, I will, as ever, take the Standing Order No. 20 application very seriously. I realise the seriousness of the situation.
Madam Speaker, my point of order is genuine and helpful to the Chair. You will recall the somewhat protracted exchanges that took place last week in respect of the proper use of Government and private money in the Chancellor's case to evict his tenant. Those protracted exchanges would have been brought to a much speedier conclusion which would have been helpful to our business if it had become clear early on that the Comptroller and Auditor General intended to examine the matter.
Has a Minister indicated to you that the Comptroller and Auditor General will also consider the use of important Government buildings for private purposes? In that regard, I refer to the use this morning of No. 11 Downing street for fund raising activities for the Conservative party. Once again, that seemed to cross the line between public and private use. I have no doubt that exchanges on the matter in the House would be curtailed if we could be assured that the Comptroller and Auditor General will look into that matter to ensure that public moneys have been properly expended.
The use of official Government accommodation is a matter for hon. Members, who should pursue the matter with Ministers. It does not raise points of order for the Chair.
Further to the application under Standing Order No. 20 by my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), while I appreciate and respect your decision, Madam Speaker, would it be in order for me to ask you to look favourably on an application for an Adjournment debate on that extremely important issue given that the Speaker can choose one subject for an Adjournment debate a week?
I do not want to put myself in the position of encouraging hon. Members to make such applications to me across the Floor of the House because, if I did, I would have a rash of them. The hon. Lady had better leave it with me.
I am not sure, Madam Speaker, whether my point of order is genuine. No doubt you will put me right if it is not. I am a positive European which is why I have problems with the Maastricht treaty. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that there was a parliamentary group known as the positive Europeans. Knowing your interest in parliamentary groups, Madam Speaker, I went to the Library to find out about it. I was very excited because I was told that there were 75 members. When I went to the Library, I discovered that there were only five officers and one member. I am deeply concerned about that. Is it right and proper that people should say that there is a parliamentary group with 75 members when there are only five officers and the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett)? Is there something that you can do to clarify the matter because it seems that the House is being misled?
Yes, Madam Speaker. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) is deficient in knowledge, but I will certainly ensure that a copy of the list of 79 members of the Positive European group is placed in the Library. It was already available to the Press Association. I am sorry that my hon. Friend and his collegues are so ill-informed on that matter.