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Points of Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 17th May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Chesterfield 3:31 pm, 17th May 1995

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. When you come to consider the ruling that you make on the matter that has been raised, may I invite you to think carefully about it? Your ruling may have historic importance, and may be studied over many centuries. We are not merely discussing the possible conduct of an individual Member of Parliament, which is normally dealt with by a secret meeting of the Committee of Privileges and a minor suspension and then left; I put it to you, Madam Speaker, that we are discussing a new challenge to the authority of the House.

Your predecessor, Madam Speaker, dealt with the King when he tried to interfere. I believe that commercial interests are now trying to dominate the House of Commons by other means. There are 14 pages of offices that are disqualified from service in Parliament—including that of Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds—on the ground that they might be under the control of the King: the mere fact that they are royal appointments excludes them.

When you give your ruling, Madam Speaker, it should go beyond the conduct of the individual Member of Parliament and begin to open up matters of much deeper importance that it is not appropriate for the Nolan committee to consider, because it is not answerable to the House. It is for the House, and only for the House, to legislate to deal with any abuses that may arise.