Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 11th February 1998.

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Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock 3:51 pm, 11th February 1998

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to delay the House, but I have received three packages in the post, because the postal system apparently could not find any person to whom they could be appropriately delivered. On one package it says, "Not Clerks Department" and on another it says, "Try A. Mackinlay", although I do not know why it was decided that I should receive them.

Those packages are addressed to "The Treasurer, The European Research Group, House of Commons, London SW1." They are important for two reasons. First, and probably of least importance, that group is not a registered all-party group. I would not detain the House merely to make that point and I would just pass those packages to your office, Madam Speaker, but they contain 100 cheques and a Midland bank paying-in book for an account in the name of "The Danish Referendum Campaign Account."

The second, more serious point is that someone is running a fund-raising exercise from the House for that group, which could bring the House into disrepute. It means that those who cannot command a majority in the House to scupper the Amsterdam treaty are trying to use the Danish people as a surrogate to do so. That should not happen through the offices of the House.

I shall pass the packages to your office, Madam Speaker, because I genuinely do not know to whom they belong; nor does the postal system or the Clerks Department. It is wrong that such fund raising should be conducted from the House; the fact that it coincides with our presidency of the European Union is acutely embarrassing to the United Kingdom. I hope that the Danish people will note that there are people in the United Kingdom who want to use them to scupper the Amsterdam treaty.

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

So many things land up in my office most days, but this is extremely serious and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will hand those packages to my office so that I can look through them.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham Labour, St Helens South

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This afternoon you made a statement with which all of us concur. Can you perhaps advise me whether at future Prime Minister's Question Times the length of time taken up by the Leader of the Opposition will be specified, no matter how long-winded his questions, or will he be allowed to ask a set number of questions? Today, we heard seven minutes of rubbish.

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

Today, the Leader of the Opposition used his entitlement to ask six questions. I have calculated the number of questions answered at Prime Minister's Question Time today, and the answer is particularly good because the Prime Minister answered 28 questions in half an hour, which is much more than most Ministers achieve in that time.