On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During Defence questions, the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) made a statement that was unfortunately untrue. He suggested—in fact, he did not suggest; he stated—that the silver that I had removed from county hall for safe keeping, to prevent it from being stolen—which, if I may say so, was more than Defence Ministers were able to do for their paintings—had not been returned.
The silver was, of course, handed over to the London residuary body, and was all accounted for. We will get it back when the new Greater London authority is set up. I ask you, Madam Speaker, to invite the hon. Member for Surbiton to correct the record, withdraw his statement and apologise.
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. You will have noted that I made no mention of silver; I said "artefacts". I certainly did not say that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) had taken them. I said that they had disappeared from county hall, and, as far as I am aware, they have still not been returned.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), who asked the Prime Minister a question about the insurance industry, is a paid consultant to the Institute of Insurance Brokers, and a director of an insurance company. Should not that interest have been declared?
Not during parliamentary questions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Order. The House determined some time ago that it was not always possible for an hon. Member putting a parliamentary question to declare his interest. Of course, we expect it at the very beginning when any hon. Member makes a speech.
Order. I have not finished yet. Hon. Members must sit down. I think that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) has made his point, and that the House fully understands it.
Before the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) leaves with his electronic device, could you confirm, Madam Speaker, that there is a ban, enforced by yourself, on electronic devices? When an hon. Gentleman has a message from the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) on his electronic device, which he reads at the Dispatch Box, I suspect that that is a new departure for the House.
I would not know who is on the electronic device, but I have requested that electronic devices—which make noises, of course—are not used in the Chamber, and I want to see that carried out.
Are you, Madam Speaker, like me disturbed at the question of interest that was raised by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), who himself failed to declare an interest yesterday, a point that I drew attention to in my speech? I find it astonishing that he should come to the Dispatch Box on the following day to make a point about interest, when he himself failed to declare an interest in a speech.
My concern is that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), who rose to the Dispatch Box just now, did not declare £100,000-worth of grants to his company from the Highlands and Islands development board. My hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) made that point yesterday. The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North was in full knowledge of that point, and could have said at the Dispatch Box that he himself was guilty of a non-declaration in a speech yesterday.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could I have your guidance? I tabled a question to the Secretary of State for the Home Department asking what representations had been received from the German Government in relation to bail for Roisin McAliskey, through what channels, and when they were received. Those must be matters of record in that Department; they have been going on for the past four months. The reply is:
I will reply as soon as possible.
Will you give a ruling that, where information is readily available in a Department, it should be available to hon. Members in answer to parliamentary questions?
I understand that, a few moments ago, when I had left the Chamber, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) alleged that I had failed to declare an interest in the question that I raised with the Prime Minister. All my interests with the insurance industry are declared in the Register of Members' Interests, and have been for many years, but I have no interest in the Chartered Insurance Institute. It is the main education insurance body in the world, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this week, and is not a commercial organisation.
The hon. Gentleman, who did not give me notice that he was going to raise that point, has demonstrated the extent to which the Labour party has a deep distrust of the insurance industry.
I wonder whether you can help me, Madam Speaker
The hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) declares in the Register of Members' Interests that he has a remunerated directorship in the AdScene Group plc, a newspaper company. Should he not have further declared that he is using that group's headquarters to telephone-canvass for the general election?
Would you, Madam Speaker, clarify your reply to a point of order that was raised a few moments ago? Is it appropriate, correct and permissible to use an electronic device in this House and use it while raising a point of order? You said that you deplored the use of electronic devices that make a noise; you did not specify whether you deplored the use of electronic devices that do not make a noise.
I do not think that such an incident has occurred previously. Personally, I do not like the use of such devices in the Chamber. I think that hon. Members should be aware and alert enough to determine for themselves what they are going to say. I should like to consider the point, if I may.
Further to the points of order raised about the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), Madam Speaker. Following what my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) said, plainly the point made about him by the hon. Gentleman was factually inaccurate and wrong. Should not the House consider the point that the hon. Gentleman was receiving instructions from somebody via his pager—presumably the Labour party dirty tricks department? Should we not know who was giving him his instructions, and for whom he was acting merely as a messenger boy?
Pursuant to the issue of pregnant women in prison raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), whereas you are of course right in saying that, if the Home Office response was that it had no information, it might be correct, it is nevertheless a widespread understanding of hon. Members that there is information in the Home Office. As a pregnant woman is in prison in such circumstances, should not the House of Commons dig a little deeper to find out the facts—if, as we are told, information in the Home Office is available?
Further to your statement a moment ago, Madam Speaker. Would you include in your review the possibility that, if messages are to be communicated to Members in the Chamber by means of the device you have in mind, they could equally be communicated by an earphone in the ear—which, in my opinion, should also be outlawed in this assembly?
I have got an old-fashioned device here: it is a bit of paper. It says on it that the Tory party was bankrupt last year—by 19 million quid—but it now has a surplus of £40 million. The question is whether anybody will stand up and tell us where the Tories have got it from.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will remember that a former Member of this House, who is now a Member of the upper House, had a device that enabled him to take part in debates and understand what was going on. Will you in your ruling take particular care for our colleagues who are blind, deaf or disabled in some other way?
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Very simply, I ask for your guidance. You said earlier that the matter of declarable interests on the Register was not relevant to parliamentary questions. However, the sheet for parliamentary questions says "tick". So what is the guidance?
Of course it does, but I do not expect an hon. Member who is asking a supplementary question to begin with a long preamble declaring his interests. That information is already declared. We would have to extend Question Time to three hours if I were to expect hon. Members to declare their interests before asking a question.
I wonder, Madam Speaker, whether you can give some help to a constituency Member. I am trying, on behalf of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, to get to the bottom of germ warfare tests that were conducted in my constituency 30 years ago. I have approached Ministers on the matter, but they have told me that they are unable to obtain the advice given to the then Secretary of State for Defence by his scientists on whether those tests were safe.
In Dorset, we cannot discover exactly what happened and who knew what. My point of order is to ask whether it would be possible for Lord Healey, who was Secretary of State for Defence at the time, to examine those papers and to report to me and to the House on what has happened to my constituents.
Bearing in mind Column 41 of yesterday's Hansard, the comment on the large sums of money paid to a company with which the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) is associated, the fact that he has returned to the Chamber, and your earlier comment, Madam Speaker, would it not be in order for him to apologise to the House?
As a small business man, I am very proud of my association with that company. I am also very proud of the fact that, from the day that it was formed, I have both practised and preached openness about every penny that it should receive; if only Conservative Members would practise or preach the same. My association with that company is well known, and it is and always has been registered in the Register of Members' Interests.
What Conservative Members object to so strongly is that a very successful socialist newspaper is operating in that part of Scotland. It has been very influential, and it will continue to be very influential in making the highlands and islands of Scotland a Tory-free zone.