Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:46 pm on 4th December 1996.

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Photo of Mr James Spicer Mr James Spicer , West Dorset 3:46 pm, 4th December 1996

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The House noted with concern the demonstration that occurred yesterday, but it was with far greater concern that we noted another factor. We have seen demonstrations over many years, but we have seldom seen a demonstration that has had the support of Members within the Chamber. You made your views known very firmly, Madam Speaker, and I wonder whether those views might be reinforced if we could establish which Member of the House issued the tickets concerned. What further action might you be prepared to take to make it clear that the House will not accept support for demonstrations?

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

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has raised that point of order. It has been the custom of the House and all its Members to pay no attention on the infrequent occasions when demonstrations take place in the Gallery. I hope that that custom will be followed in future by all Members of the House. I might add that the tickets yesterday were provided by an Opposition Member; those today were provided by a Government Member.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. It is important not only who issued the tickets but whether, as you said, the demonstrators had support from the Floor of the House. When I went into the Members Lobby after the demonstration yesterday, I was concerned to see that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) appeared to have a great deal of knowledge when she briefed the press about what had happened. Clearly she knew what was on the banner, which had not been unfurled and so could not have been read from inside the Chamber. If Members were aiding and abetting such a demonstration, I hope that you will take the most serious view.

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

Of course I would, but I must have evidence. I have no reason to believe that Members of the House were aiding and abetting anything yesterday. I think that they were over-enthusiastic, and did not recognise their responsibilities to the House.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is normal for there to be a period of reflection between Report and Third Reading of any Bill. This gives an opportunity for those who are affected to advise their Member of Parliament as to whether they wish him or her to support the Third Reading or not. This period of reflection will not be allowed in respect of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, which is just another indication of how the Bill is being rushed through the House. In those circumstances, will you suggest to the Government that they explain how those affected can be consulted if there is no gap between the two stages?

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

It is not always the case that there is a period of reflection between one reading and another. Indeed, the House itself came to a conclusion that we should deal with the Bill in this way.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

Further to the earlier point of order, Madam Speaker. As you will recall, I wrote you an extraordinarily warm, gracious and gentle letter yesterday, pointing out that as an old, old Member of the House, I do remember that the practice was that the Gallery does not exist. Yesterday—I regret having to make this point—there were two breaches of this practice. There was the recognition of Dame Vera Lynn—God bless her, but she should not be recognised as having sat in the Gallery. The second offence was not clapping the demonstration—Members are entitled to do that, in my view—but recognising that a demonstration had taken place. That was totally out of order. I will give as much muscle as I can to your powerful right arm if you enforce these regulations.

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

I have already made my views clear on one of the points. The hon. Gentleman is quite right—in this Chamber, we do not recognise what goes on in the Gallery. On his second point, the hon. Gentleman wrote me a charming letter. But, unhappily, I have to say that he is quite wrong about Dame Vera Lynn. The hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink), who put the question, did not make the point that the lady was in the Gallery, but that she was in the precincts of the House. There is a very clear distinction.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

I stand corrected, Madam Speaker.

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

Another charming letter tomorrow will be appreciated.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), Madam Speaker. Since he named me specifically, may I say that I had no knowledge of the demonstration yesterday, nor of the demonstration today? However, I am well aware of the issues that were being raised. It is a question of genocide, and I have campaigned on this issue since 1989. It is regrettable that, in order to draw the attention of this House and the press to the issue and to the policy of the British Government, people have been forced to demonstrate in the Gallery.