Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 22nd May 1995.

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Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham 4:26 pm, 22nd May 1995

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is best to resolve minor difficulties without bothering the House or the Speaker, but would you, Madam Speaker, consider that it would be helpful to the House to remind us of the expected courtesies when an hon. Member advises another Member before going into their constituency on a public visit or to make a controversial speech?

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

My postbag is inundated these days with letters from Back Benchers, complaining of other Back Benchers who visit their constituencies without notification. It takes up a great deal of my time to try to resolve those matters. Hon. Members should attempt to resolve them themselves. I think the House knows full well my views on this matter. I cannot enforce them. I merely ask that the consideration and courtesy should be extended to each other which I find lacking these days.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain , Neath

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. What action can be taken to investigate the press allegations of the widespread practice of questions and amendments being tabled in other Members' names in order to conceal their commercial origins? Surely too many Members of Parliament are now regarded by members of the public as Arthur Daley lookalikes.

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

The hon. Gentleman may seek to refer this matter to the Committee on Members' Interests, which may wish to pursue the point that he is making.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last Wednesday, you told my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) that you had received a letter alleging breach of privilege, and you continued: I am seriously examining the situation and I shall do so with all speed."—[Official Report, 17 May 1995; Vol. 260, c. 335.] I wonder whether you could say whether you intend referring that complaint to the Committee of Privileges now, or at a later date.

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

I did consider the matter with all speed. The House will understand that I had to wait for the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare to come back and to see me. That was only natural justice.

I have written to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), who sent me the letter alleging a breach of privilege. I have indicated the action that I have taken to him. That letter was sent to me; it is not yet in the public domain. It was an exchange of letters between the hon. Member and myself. If he wishes to put it in the public domain, I have no desire to oppose him on that issue.

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

It seems an odd state of affairs. A few weeks ago, two Tory Members of Parliament were told that they were going to get 10 days' and 20 days' suspension—

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

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would come to the point that is for me to deal with.

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

I do not understand how, in those two instances and others—

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know how to put a point of order if he wants to do so. I shall do my best to respond if the hon. Gentleman has a genuine point of order. At the moment, he is putting an opinion.

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

My point of order is this: you, Madam Speaker, have just made a statement to the House. We cannot comment on the fact that the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) has made a personal statement, but your statement follows on from the fact that it appears that the personal statement will be the end of the matter. The fact that two Tory Members of Parliament were suspended for 10 and 20 days for attempting to take money and not receiving it, seems to contrast with the treatment of the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare, who is still getting the money.

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

Order. There is nothing to contrast. The hon. Gentleman knows the procedures of the House; we do not comment after a personal statement. At this stage in our proceedings and in light of the difficulties that the House is experiencing, I am sure that the House will understand and be supportive if I give four or five lines of my beliefs to the House once in a while.

Photo of Michael Clapham Michael Clapham , Barnsley West and Penistone

On a different point of order, Madam Speaker. The Daily Mirror this morning published a dossier showing that the Government have wasted £35 billion—ranging from £245 million spent on a Ministry of Defence building to £25,000 which was wasted on the cones hotline. Has a Minister indicated that he or she will come to the House and make a statement on the matter?

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

That is not the case. The hon. Gentleman would have seen it on the annunciator screen at 1 o'clock when the other statements were announced.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

One of the themes in last Thursday's debate on the Nolan report was self-regulation. Are we to take it that self-regulation means, in effect, what we have heard today from the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Sir J. Wiggin) and that will be the end of the affair? May I assure you, Madam Speaker, that many people outside the House will not understand the position.

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

The House must decide for itself what procedures it will adopt. I am a servant of the House and I will follow those procedures.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A few moments ago you told the House that you had sent a letter to a Member of the House who had raised a matter on a point of privilege. You further kindly informed us that if that hon. Member so wished it, the letter's content could be made public. My understanding until now has been that a matter sent to you alleging breach of privilege is not referred to, either by the person sending it or by you, unless, in your opinion, the matter raised is a matter of privilege, in which case you would make your decision known to the House. It appears that your decision on today's matter is in the hands of the hon. Member and only he can now tell us what you may have decided. If I am incorrect, will you correct me? If I am correct, is there a precedent for the way in which the matter has been dealt with, which did not include a statement from you?

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

It is not the normal procedure. If the House wishes, I shall certainly give it the information that I have given to the hon. Member as soon as I have a copy of the letter to hand.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson , Delyn

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have written to you stating my intention to raise this point of order on the appointment of part-time non-executive members of new health authorities in Wales. The Secretary of State for Wales advertised in local papers in my constituency on 11 May for members to be appointed to new health authorities in Wales. The Bill establishing those health authorities in Wales has not yet completed its parliamentary progress. I wonder whether you, Madam Speaker, have a view on whether the Secretary of State for Wales should spend public money on adverts and pre-empt the wishes of the House before legislation has been passed by the House. I would hope that you would uphold the right of the House and that the Secretary of State should not spend public money on advertising positions that the House has yet to authorise.

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

As a result of the constituency Friday, I have not seen the letter from the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Hanson). I shall certainly examine it and give the hon. Gentleman a reply.

Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice , Pendle

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it open to individual members of the House to refer the actions of other hon. Members to the Committee of Privileges?

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

It is a matter for the House, and a resolution of the House must be obtained.

[Following is the text of Madam Speaker's letter to Mr. Hain:Dear Peter:You wrote twice to me on 17 May asking that precedence be given to a Motion to refer to the Privileges Committee the action of Sir Jerry Wiggin in tabling amendments to the Gas Bill in Standing Committee in the name of Sebastian Coe but without his knowledge or agreement.You will have heard Jerry Wiggin's personal statement this afternoon. It is my view that the statement disposes of this unpleasant matter, and no interests of the House would be served by a reference to the Privileges Committee. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, there is no dispute about the facts. Secondly, it is the practice of the House to accept without further demur the bona fides and candour of a Member who makes a personal statement. That being so, it is hard to see what task the Privileges Committee would be asked to do.You may of course take on your own account any parliamentary action within our rules of order which you think appropriate, including the tabling of an Early Day Motion.]