Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 25th March 1998.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham 4:18 pm, 25th March 1998

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It has been brought to my attention that the hon. Members for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. White) and for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey) have urged residents of Milton Keynes to canvass for the Labour party and have sent them invitations in franked House of Commons envelopes to attend a social event, which has apparently been organised by the Labour party, to discuss local elections with Members of Parliament from the region.

You will be aware, Madam Speaker, that I provided you with some documentation on the subject and said that I would raise it as a point of order because I seek your advice and guidance on it. It seems to me that what has transpired is a scandalous abuse of taxpayers' money for a party political purpose in which the two hon. Members are engaged. I think that the Serjeant at Arms' office has had something to say about the matter, but I should be grateful for your ruling.

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

Let me tell the hon. Gentleman and, indeed, the House that if any hon. Member thinks that others are abusing the use of stationery in that way, the matter should not be raised in the House. Our procedure is to go directly to the Serjeant at Arms who will resolve the matter. The two hon. Members concerned are here. I will not allow a debate on the point of order, but they have been challenged and it is their right to be heard.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. It is true that my staff sent invitations to party members and supporters. The vast majority of them were sent in Labour party envelopes. Unfortunately, when they were finished, a member of my staff used some House of Commons envelopes by mistake. When I heard about that, I went to the Serjeant at Arms on Tuesday and offered to reimburse the House for the misuse of those envelopes. I apologised at that time and I apologise now. It was a genuine error.

However, the comments by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) will not stop me standing up for the people of Milton Keynes and campaigning on their behalf.

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

Thank you, Mr. White. That resolves the problem.

Photo of Mrs Maria Fyfe Mrs Maria Fyfe Labour, Glasgow Maryhill

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry that the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) is no longer in his place. Earlier this afternoon, the hon. Gentleman accused the Lord Provost of Glasgow of corruption. At no time was that person charged with corruption and it is disgraceful conduct for any hon. Member to accuse an elected member of a local authority of that, because it besmirches the local authority. I know that hon. Members are free to say things in the House that they dare not say outside, for fear of being sued, but the hon. Gentleman's conduct was deplorable, and it ought to be discouraged.

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

I am not responsible for what hon. Members say in the House. I have always urged that when hon. Members use the privileges of the House what they say should be tempered by responsibility. I heard the comments and I heard the Prime Minister's response. I think that he dealt with it very well.