Points of Order

Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 5:04 pm on 11th December 1997.

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Photo of Mrs Helen Jackson Mrs Helen Jackson Labour, Sheffield, Hillsborough 5:04 pm, 11th December 1997

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis) was a member of a Back-Bench cross-party fact-finding visit to Northern Ireland this week, during which we had a number of useful private meetings with parties and organisations. He left the visit early to come back to Prime Minister's questions, because his question to the Prime Minister had been selected.

Not only did the hon. Gentleman leave the visit early, but when he came back here he raised an issue arising out of one of these private meetings. The assertion that he made was totally—I cannot say untrue, can I?—misleading. I wanted to put the record straight and to ask for your guidance, Madam Speaker.

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

Order. I suspect that the hon. Gentleman's point does not relate to this one, which I will deal with first. What Members say in the House is a matter for them. Providing the language that they use is good parliamentary language, I cannot intervene. Sometimes Members ought to be a little more circumspect in what they say after private meetings, however.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not conventional, when a Member intends to refer to another Member in such terms, that she should give the latter notice of her intention?

Photo of Mrs Helen Jackson Mrs Helen Jackson Labour, Sheffield, Hillsborough

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I placed letters on the Board not just to the Member concerned but to the political party that nominated him and to the leader of that party.

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

I just hope that letters informing Members that they are to be mentioned will be put on the Board in good time, not at the last moment.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to clear my name. I have been in the House for only six months, but I am accustomed to going up to senior members of my party, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), in the Lobbies, asking them questions and getting friendly answers. Last night was my first opportunity to ask the Prime Minister a question on equal terms in the Lobby—I understand that we are all equal Members of the House.

You, Madam Speaker, have just heard that local government funding is a burning issue in Shropshire. I have twice written to the Minister for Local Government and Housing, but she has refused to see me. I therefore approached the Prime Minister to ask whether he could bring his influence to bear. I assure you that I approached him in a friendly way. I waited for a chance when he was free, which he was—for a very short time. My story can be corroborated by my hon. Friends the Members for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray), for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn)—who is in a Treasury Committee meeting—and for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth). I can assure the Leader of the House that I am not "boorish".

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

That was barely a point of order, but the hon. Gentleman has got his point on the record. I regret the fact that a Minister has not been able to see him. When I was a Back Bencher I would never have approached a Prime Minister—I was always rather intimidated by Prime Ministers. I should like to help the hon. Gentleman, so if he will let me see the exchange of correspondence with the relevant Minister I shall try to be helpful. It is the Minister responsible, not the Prime Minister, who should be available.