Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:13 pm on 31st January 1994.

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Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield 4:13 pm, 31st January 1994

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer to the ruling that you gave on 26 October in respect of the decision by the Home Secretary to decline to allow the president of Sinn Fein to come to Britain.

You, Madam Speaker, then properly said that it was a matter for the Government and that it was not your responsibility. However, for the president of Sinn Fein, armed with a British passport in which the Foreign Secretary asks all foreign Governments to let him go without let or hindrance and to afford all possible assistance to him, to go to an unofficial body in the United States, but not to be allowed to come here raises the question again. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to consider, not today, but at some stage, whether you could find a way of protecting Members of Parliament so that a British citizen who is not convicted or even charged with any offence can come to this country, as he can travel to America, Dublin, or to any other country in the world.

In view of the importance of the peace process that has begun being completed, I invite you, Madam Speaker, to consider carefully whether this would be the moment to indicate to the Executive that the two Secretaries of State should resolve their differences; one asks every foreign nation to assist Mr. Adams, while the other excludes him from the Palace of Westminster, where he should be allowed to answer questions put by hon. Members of the House.

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

I have given this matter a considerable amount of thought. I recall very well that the right hon. Gentleman raised this matter with me last October. Nothing has changed since then so far as my responsibilities are concerned. I shall simply repeat what I said on that occasion: this is a matter for the Home Secretary, who is not responsible to me for what he does in his official capacity. It is not my intention to comment on any action that he may care to take.

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you received any request from the Secretary of State for Wales to seek an opportunity to clarify in the House contradictory statements that he made outside the House? You, Madam Speaker, will be aware that last year the. Secretary of State for Wales was required to appoint a new chair to the Welsh Development Agency, the previous occupant having left in disgrace, and the WDA was enmeshed in a web of fraud, corruption and mismanagement. In the summer, Mr. David Rowe-Beddoe was appointed.

Following months of speculation concerning Mr. Rowe-Beddoe's previous political activities, the Secretary of State for Wales, in an interview broadcast by the BBC in November, said: I have no idea what his political affiliations are. I wish to put this point directly to you, Madam Speaker. It is now clear that the Secretary of State for Wales had received a copy of a curriculum vitae, which featured prominently a political position that Mr. Rowe-Beddoe was holding as chairperson of the Monte Carlo branch of Conservatives Abroad. That post was responsible for gathering—[Interruption.]

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

Order. If I could have a little order here, I would be able to hear what is being said.

The hon. Gentleman is now getting into an argument and putting forward a point of view. Although I am always interested in points of view outside the Chamber, I can listen only to points of order that are for me. Will the hon. Gentleman come to his point of order?

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

Two contradictory statements have been made: first, the Secretary of State for Wales maintained that he was unware of the political affiliations and, secondly, on Friday of last week, the press department of the Welsh Office put out a notice saying that he had received a copy of the curriculum vitae and was aware of the political affiliations of Mr. Rowe-Beddoe. It is quite clear that no right hon. or hon. Member could mislead the House, but it seems to me that that is a clear case of the public in Wales having been misled. I wonder whether you, Madam Speaker, could give guidance, first, on whether you will take it on yourself to ensure that the same strict standards of honesty which you maintain in the House will be maintained outside the House—

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

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman is now reflecting on the Secretary of State. He must not do that. If he wishes to do that, there are ways and means of doing it by means of a substantive motion. He must not reflect on the Secretary of State. I am sure that he will withdraw that reflection.

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

I am seeking your assurance, Madam Speaker. I am sure that it is the case that—

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

As soon as the hon. Gentleman sits down, I will give him my assurance and let him know what I think about the case.

Photo of Mr Ron Davies Mr Ron Davies , Caerphilly

Of course I understand quite clearly that no right hon. or hon. Member can cast any aspersions on the integrity of any other Member of the House. I am concerned because contradictory statements have been made outside the House. I should be grateful if you could confirm, Madam Speaker, that if you receive any request from the Secretary of State for Wales to come to the Dispatch Box, you will facilitate that so that he can take the earliest opportunity to clarify those clear contradictions in his public position.

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

As the hon. Gentleman and all hon. Members understand, Cabinet Ministers and all hon. Members from all parts of the House are responsible themselves for the comments or statements that they make. As Speaker of the House, I cannot be responsible for the comments or statements made by any right hon. or hon. Member.

In direct response to the hon. Gentleman's question, I have not been informed by the Secretary of State that he is seeking to make a statement on that matter. If he wishes to do so, he will certainly be facilitated.

Photo of Mr Rod Richards Mr Rod Richards , Clwyd North West

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

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

Does it relate to the previous point of order?

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

In that case, I have dealt with it.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

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

Does it relate to the previous point of order?

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

No. It is a point of order arising out of Question Time, or, more candidly, a point of curiosity arising out of parliamentary language.

In answer to Question 5, the Minister referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) exceedingly inappropriately, but nevertheless he did, as being a man of "shifty nature". That was allowed. Are we to take it that we can apply any adjective, such as "lying", providing we put the noun "nature" after it and get away with it? That would be an excellent parliamentary device.

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

When the hon. Gentleman reflects on the matter and looks at Hansard tomorrow, he will probably find that that description was a reflection on the policies of the hon. Member for Garscadden and not on him personally. I am very concerned about such matters and that is how I interpreted what was said.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I revert to the matter of the portcullis? Is it not somewhat unfortunate that some years ago the relevant Committee took the decision that the shop downstairs, and I think other outlets as well, were allowed to use the portcullis in their commercial transactions for various bits and pieces of various sorts of commodities? Should that policy not be reconsidered? In view of your animadversions against the improper use of the portcullis, should not the hon. Member who has given rise to the raising of the issue—

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

The hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie).

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

I am so grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Should not the hon. Member who misappropriates the portcullis be subject to some sort of penalty?

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

I made it clear when I made my statement that I was issuing a general reminder to the House. I am not referring to individual cases, which, I will tell the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), I deal with, having received advice from the Administration Committee. I have already dealt with the case to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

As regards the kiosk and the sale of goods from it, such sales are conducted on behalf of the House, with the entire approval of the House.

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Further to the earlier point of order—

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

No. I have dealt with that point of order; it can go no further. Once I have given a ruling, the point of order has been dealt with.

Photo of Mr Bruce Grocott Mr Bruce Grocott , The Wrekin

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order arises out of the statement made earlier today. It affects the authority of the House and it seems to reflect a growing trend. When a major issue of national importance is before the House, such as the sell-off of the Rover Group, the House is addressed not by a member of the Cabinet, but by a Minister of State. The same thing happened last week in the debate on housing, which is another matter of major national importance. I do not intend any disrespect to the hon. Members concerned, but a debate is downgraded if the Cabinet does not send someone of Cabinet authority to address the House. When matters of national importance are raised, surely someone of Cabinet rank should address the House.

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

The hon. Gentleman is aware that the level of the Minister who appears at the Dispatch Box is not a matter for me. I am sure, however, that his remarks will have been noted by those sitting on the Treasury Bench.

Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

On a different point of order, Madam Speaker. Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Wales made a plain statement that he was unaware of the political affiliations of Mr. David Rowe-Beddoe, the incoming chairman of the Welsh Development Agency. It is clear from the evidence available that he well knew at the time what the political affiliations were. Has—

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

Order. That is the same point of order. Having dealt with it, I refused a point of order from a Member on the Government side. The hon. Gentleman is taking advantage of my tolerance and generosity on this matter. I have dealt with it and it must be left there.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) made a point of order, with which you dealt, but it must be pointed out that the Minister replying today made it clear that the Secretary of State was out of the country—he is in the far east—which is why he was not making the statement today—

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

Order. The House is inclined to get into a bit of a tangle on such matters. The Secretary of State was on the Front Bench at the time, which was why the hon. Gentleman for The Wrekin made that point of order. He wondered why another Minister in the Department should make the statement.

Photo of Mr Raymond Powell Mr Raymond Powell , Ogmore

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last weekend's press, particularly the Welsh press, contained a statement by the Public Accounts Committee regarding the funding of the Welsh Development Agency and all that has gone on in the investigation that has been conducted there. Can you advise me on how to ask the appropriate Ministers about the publication of the Public Accounts Committee report? What channel should I use to ask my questions?

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

As the hon. Gentleman may be aware, I never give advice on procedure across the Floor of the House. The hon. Gentleman is a long-standing Member of the House who is rather shrewd and well aware of how to get things done. I shall, however, point his nose in the direction of business questions on Thursday as a way to begin.