Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 1st May 1995.

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Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey Opposition Whip (Commons) 3:31 pm, 1st May 1995

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I should like to enlist your help on how to proceed with a matter. On 5 April, in response to an oral question, the Minister with responsibility for information and technology said that he had an undertaking from the Cable Communications Association that all schools in the areas for which it has franchises would be connected. I then asked the Minister whether I could see a copy of that undertaking. No such undertaking exists. It is important for the Minister to make the matter clear because this is an important issue. His undertaking is in Hansard.

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

That is not a point of order for me: it is a matter for argument between the hon. Lady and the Minister. She might care to use the Order Paper to put down more questions or perhaps use an early-day motion to bring the matter to light.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On Friday the House dealt with a number of private Members' Bills, one of which was the War Crimes (Supplementary Provisions) Bill [Lords]. A Government Whip and I objected to that Bill, but Hansard does not record that fact.

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

I will have a look at Hansard. I went through it today but I did not see that point in it.

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

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On entering Parliament today through St. Stephen's entrance I noticed that the automatic screening apparatus had been removed. Everybody will appreciate that it is necessary to have those security booths intact, but when I inquired, the security people told me that they had removed them all because they had to lay a red carpet for the Queen on Friday. There is a strange language of priorities in this place when people can shift all the screening apparatus for several days to put down a red carpet. I suggest that it is high time the matter was looked into with a view to making sure that people coming into this place are effectively screened, that there is security and that red carpets are not regarded as being as important as security in the Houses of Parliament.

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

The hon. Gentleman is usually the first who wishes to dispose of security in this place. I am sure that the House would wish to see a red carpet laid in Westminster Hall for the Queen's visit there on Friday. At the same time there must be a proper balance in terms of security. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has been the first to notice this matter and I shall take it up as soon as I leave the Chair.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Does the presence of a Scottish Office Minister show that there might have been a request for the Scottish Office to make a statement explaining on what basis it gave permission to Shell to sink a terminal structure with arsenic, cadmium and other nasties, which, like the oil sludge, will doubtless end up on the shores of my constituency?

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

Not to my knowledge. The Scottish Office Minister is here to deal with the House's business but he will doubtless have noted the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mrs Helen Liddell Mrs Helen Liddell , Monklands East

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your advice on a question that relates to two different Departments. You will be aware of the outcry in the country about hospital closures, which has now been underscored by the work done by my right hon. Friend the shadow health spokesman, who today revealed that 304 hospitals have closed in Britain and that 34 of those are in Scotland—

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

Order. As the hon. Lady will appreciate, I cannot deal with policy matters. I can deal only with points of order that affect our Standing Orders and procedures, so perhaps she will come straight to those.

Photo of Mrs Helen Liddell Mrs Helen Liddell , Monklands East

I seek your advice on how to proceed with getting a statement, not just from the Secretary of State for Health, given her coyness on these matters, but, as this relates to the closure of 34 hospitals in Scotland, from the Minister responsible for health in Scotland, who sits in another place.

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

The hon. Lady could do a number of things. She could ask the shadow Leader of the House to press for a statement; seek an Adjournment debate through me on a Wednesday or a weekday evening; or use the Order Paper for early-day motions or parliamentary questions.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

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

There are no further points of order now that I have given the answer requested by the hon. Lady. She asked for my advice and I have given my best advice.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson , Hampstead and Highgate

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I, too, should be grateful for your advice on how to proceed. A report in today's edition of The Times highlights the fact that an all-party group of Back Benchers has produced a draft report for the Transport Select Committee which says that, despite the Government's arguments to the contrary, subsidy will still be needed for at least a decade if the railways are privatised. As the Department of Transport consistently hides behind commercial confidentiality to avoid answering those issues—

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

Order. The hon. Lady knows full well that that is a matter not for me but for the Committee. I never comment on newspaper reports—it is very foolish so to do.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe and Nantwich

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I ask for your support because I am worried about the growing habit in the House, which is a grave discourtesy to yourself and the Chair: the continuing inability of Ministers and others on the Front Bench to address the Chair. It happens not only on the Floor of the House but in Committee. Many of us are worried about the new habit of referring not to Her Majesty's Opposition or Her Majesty's Government but only to the names of the political parties of those concerned. If that is to be so, are we now to abandon any reference to the Government and refer to them by their doubtful title of "the Conservative party"?

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

The hon. Lady is a long-standing and respected Member of the House. She is quite right. I find it very disagreeable when hon. Members refer to political parties. They should refer to Her Majesty's Government or Opposition.

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

Order. I am on my feet. I must be allowed to answer one point at a time.

The hon. Lady is correct, too, to say that when Ministers and others appear at the Dispatch Box, they often turn to and answer the person concerned, believing it to be polite. They should speak through the Chair because, not only do I want them to be heard through the microphone but there is the occasional handsome face which I should like to see. I am pleased that the hon. Lady has raised this matter. It is one of the more genuine points of order, which I see is sparking off many new ones.

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

I hope that this is a new point and does not relate to Scottish health.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Having listened to the advice given to the hon. Member for Monklands, East (Mrs. Liddell), I, too, wish to register concern. What advice can you give me with respect to finding out how much money has been transferred in Scotland from the health service to local authorities for community care?

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

I refer to my earlier answer to the hon. Lady.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) has left. She raised a point of order with you and quickly went out of the Chamber. When hon. Members rise to speak on matters in which they have an interest, they have to declare it, but the hon. Lady did not declare her interest on that point of order. Would it not be a courtesy to the House for hon. Members who are sponsored by unions to make that clear when they are raising points of order?

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

The House has never required hon. Members when they ask questions—and a point of order is a method of asking a question—to declare an interest. But I must say, on points of order, that there are far too many of them and that most of them—99.9 per cent. of them—are bogus points of order, disingenuous points of argument, points of frustration and points of politics. I ask hon. Members, before they raise points of order in future, to make sure that they are raising genuine points of order. I hope that that has been a shot across the bow of the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes).

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

Good afternoon, Madam Speaker. I hesitate to rise on a point of order, but earlier my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) said that today is a bank holiday in Scotland. Manifestly it is not one for everybody but, seriously, there is a great deal of confusion in Scotland and, indeed, in the whole United Kingdom, about how and by whom bank holidays are designated. That creates many problems for conditions of service. I seek your advice on to whom to direct this question, because it is not clear who is responsible for the total chaos and confusion over bank holidays.

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

I can tell the hon. Gentleman the person who is not responsible: the Speaker of this House. If the hon. Gentleman wants to put a question down, he might seek the advice of the Table Office, which is always sound.