Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 19th February 1997.

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

It would not be a perfect day without a point of order from the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

I appreciate your appreciation, Madam Speaker. A little earlier this afternoon, an hon. Gentleman on the other side referred to a statement being made to the viewers. That really is unacceptable in this ancient Chamber. Would it not be advisable that, when these occurrences take place, the hon. Member should make a requisite apology to the House? Would it not also, in addition, be advisable to consider the removal of these objectionable cameras, which give an extremely false impression of the House at work?

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

The original reference to the television came from an Opposition Front-Bench Member. I deprecate the reference that was made. Such behaviour is infectious, and it was referred to again by a Conservative Member. However, I have received an apology from the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell), who seems to be itching to say something, and no doubt to apologise.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

I apologise for referring to the cameras. All I can say is that it was a slip of the tongue under pressure.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

On a wholly different point of order, Madam Speaker. You have always deprecated the release of information outside the House that ought properly to be given to hon. Members in the House. I want to draw your attention to my complaint about the proceedings of the Scottish Grand Committee, which met in Montrose on Monday. I tabled Question 2, which was about the local government funding formula imposed by the Scottish Office on local authorities. During that meeting, we expected and received from the Secretary of State for Scotland an announcement of a change in the capping formula. The change affects not only my constituency, but 15 local authorities.

Immediately the Secretary of State sat down, my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) and I went next door to telephone our local authority to get its reaction. We informed it of the statement, only to be told that it already knew about the change, because it was mentioned in a local newspaper, which, it turned out, had received a fax from the two prospective Conservative candidates for our constituencies.

The seriousness of the complaint was such that I wrote to the Secretary of State about it. In his reply, he said that no discourtesy was intended and added: My special adviser telephoned Scottish Conservative Central Office as soon as the Committee was informed. If that is true, I have no objection. But the time was clearly on the fax, and it was sent before the Secretary of State had even risen to speak to the Scottish Grand Committee.

I find that absolutely intolerable. We are sent here as Members of Parliament to represent everybody in our constituencies. It is intolerable that Departments should release information in advance, not to the elected Members of Parliament but to prospective Conservative candidates. That is quite unacceptable.

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

I have read the correspondence with the Secretary of State for Scotland, which the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to send me. I have carefully examined that exchange of correspondence. As the House knows, I deplore any breaches of the convention that important information on public affairs should be made known to the House before it is released to anyone else. There was a deplorable lapse in this case and I look to the Secretary of State, as I do to all Ministers, to take particular care that that convention is observed at all times.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

I should like to raise a point of order, Madam Speaker, as I am also itching to say something. In his very courteous answer to Question 1 earlier, the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs said that Ministers in his Department were not particularly responsible for relations with Madeleine Albright in London. May I take it that that will be brought to the attention of Downing street and the Foreign Office, so that the question of Libyan sanctions can be brought to her attention?

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. John M. Taylor):

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I am not authorised to say more than I did earlier, but I shall certainly convey the hon. Gentleman's point of order to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.