I undertook, in response to a point of order yesterday, to make a statement on the rules relating to the use of the House emblem for party political purposes. Those rules are clearly set out in the "Members Handbook" and in a separate leaflet published by the Serjeant at Arms. They make it clear that the designs and symbols of the House should not be used for purposes to which such authentication is inappropriate or where there is a risk that their use might wrongly be regarded as having the authority of the House.
In particular, neither the crowned portcullis nor the royal arms, whether or not associated with the words "House of Commons", may be used
in connection with…supporting the return of any person to public office.
The application of those rules rests on the good sense of individual Members. Where they have any doubt about their application, Members should consult the Serjeant at Arms.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have listened carefully to your statement, and I have received the letter that you sent to me. I am grateful for your response and for your defence of the rights and privileges associated with being a Member of this House.
However, can you confirm that, in 1986, the then leader of the Liberal party gave the same explanation for an exactly similar breach of the rules in an election campaign, and was reprimanded in the same way? I ask for your guidance as to whether that conduct could be construed as a deliberate and calculated campaign to distort the rules of this House, and whether it is a contempt.
Further to my point of order yesterday, Madam Speaker. Can you confirm that, having received the letter in which you asked me for evidence that the breach of the rules was on-going, I have given you today the names and addresses of constituents in Liverpool who have received the same letter with the same letterhead since the undertaking given to you?
I received the later undertaking some time around lunchtime—at about the same time as the hon. Gentleman sent me a letter. I believe that the dates in his letter are not clear, but I have not yet had an opportunity to examine his correspondence.
Just a moment.
I think that I have made a very clear statement today. If any Members have any criticism of another Member of this House, the usual procedure is to refer the matter to an appropriate Committee or to table a substantive motion about the Member's behaviour. That is the way in which we have always proceeded. If the two hon. Members who represent Liverpool are not satisfied, that is the way in which they must proceed.
As far as the Chair is concerned, that is the end of the matter. If there is another point of order, I am willing to hear it, but that matter is closed.
It had better be a different point of order, because I have just made a statement to the House and the hon. Gentleman is not entitled to raise that matter again. Is he going to rethink? I shall ask him to resume his seat if he is raising that same point of order again.
As it is a general point of order, I will try not to test your patience, Madam Speaker. If it is perceived that an hon. Member has, unintentionally or otherwise, made a mistake according to the rules of the House, is it customary for that hon. Member then to apologise to the House for the mistake that has been made?
That is a rather hypothetical question. I hope that most hon. Members would have sufficient good manners to do that, but I am afraid that during my Speakership they have not always done so.
Madam Speaker, as you know, I have been a long-time supporter, colleague and admirer—I love you dearly. But I do have a simple resolution to the problem. There has been persistent misuse of this emblem over my many years in the House. There is one way that it could be satisfactorily resolved. The House of Commons emblem should be branded on the left or right haunch of hon. Members, depending on their party affiliation, when they have offended.
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I have taken into account what you have said, but I would like you to clarify one point. If, before the local elections, I sent a letter on House of Commons paper to the constituents of another hon. Member with the intention of ensuring the election of, say, a Labour candidate over a Liberal Democrat candidate, would I be in order?
Perhaps I should repeat the words so that they are very clear. In particular, neither the crowned portcullis nor the royal arms, whether or not associated with … the words "House of Commons", may be used
in connection with … supporting the return of any person to public office.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On this historic day in South Africa, would it not be a good idea to get hold of one of those pieces of paper with the House of Commons crest and send congratulations to Nelson Mandela on behalf of those of us who supported him in his long campaign to end apartheid and to get the vote? You would be doing a wonderful job if you sent it on behalf of those who wish to send such a letter. I will find you such a piece of paper if you do not have any—or I will borrow it from the hon. Gentleman.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Given the point that you have already made about the politicisation of the portcullis and crown, do you not believe that there could be a saving to the House—and indeed a depoliticisation—if we just stuck to using paper with a green emblem instead of having blue and red also?