Point of Order

– in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 5 March 1993.

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Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland 9:34, 5 March 1993

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I should be grateful if you would consider a point of order arising from our proceedings on Wednesday this week, when we were dealing with Scottish questions. You may recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. McMaster) asked whether the Secretary of State would be meeting representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to discuss local services.

Later in our exchanges, I intervened to ask for the Government's response to the problems of community care in Scotland. That led to the following reply from the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart), the Minister responsible at the Scottish Office: The House expected the hon. Gentleman to defend Monklands district council and its employment policies and religious discrimination. Does the hon. Gentleman not defend every action of Monklands district council? I see that he sits silent, and I am not surprised."—[Official Report, 3 March 1993; Vol. 220, c. 291.] I gave the hon. Gentleman notice that I intended to refer to him, although he did not do the same to me.

That exchange led to a comment in yesterday's evening papers by the chairman of the Monklands West Conservative Association: It was noticeable that Tom Clarke, given full opportunity in the Commons yesterday to make his position clear, refused to do so. He sat through it all and said nothing, no doubt believing that this will show he was not involved. Madam Speaker, you and I know the rules of the House, and you know that I was not entitled to respond to a question from a Minister at Question Time. You also know that it is disgraceful that the Minister, in an effort to influence television viewers and get the response that we saw in yesterday's evening press, made that comment which was not a contribution to an inquiry that was published yesterday—in which I had no involvement whatever—covering events after I had left Monklands district council to come to the House in 1982.

Is not it despicable that the Minister has abused the procedures of the House for cheap smears based on unsubstantiated allegations? I ask for your considered view on that abuse of our procedures.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

I noticed that one or two rhetorical questions were asked during Question Time on Wednesday. Of course, there is no possibility for Members to reply to such questions and therefore no conclusions should be drawn when they do not. That fact is well understood within the House, but it may not be so to those who follow our proceedings, and I am glad to be able to make that position clear now.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

Further to that point of order—

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

There can be no further point of order. I have dealt with the matter.

Photo of Mr Graham Riddick Mr Graham Riddick , Colne Valley

Well, Madam Speaker, it is fair to point out that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) had a number of opportunities to respond to the accusations of corruption in Monklands district council.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. That is not the case. I have given my ruling and it is an abuse of the House to attempt to reopen the matter. We will now move on to the Adjournment debate.