Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 10th November 1999.

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Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 3:30 pm, 10th November 1999

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, quoted what he had said on 14 July last year. He said: The Chancellor hopes that we will oppose his plans to spend more money on health and education, but I am going to disappoint him…we welcome…money for those priority services."—[Official Report, 14 July 1998; Vol. 316, c. 195-96.] He continued: I said that last year and I say it again today. We support increases in health and education spending."—[Official Report, 9 November 1999; Vol. 337, c. 893.] Twice in the following column of Hansard—column 894—the Chancellor said that the shadow Chancellor had just told us that he opposed the extra spending on health and education last year. The Chancellor repeated that in column 905. In this House, we are properly prevented from calling anyone a liar—nor would I ever so call the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whom I greatly respect. However, there is an Alice in Wonderland dimension to those exchanges—[Interruption.]

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

Order. Just a moment, Mr. Brooke. I will hear out this point of order properly.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

There is an Alice in Wonderland dimension to the exchanges, if the Chancellor of the Exchequer can say not once but four times the precise opposite of what the shadow Chancellor has just said. The remarks of both right hon. Gentlemen are recorded in yesterday's Hansard. Can you advise us, Madam Speaker, as to the best way of dealing with this matter? It is patently one of fact—not of debate.

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

As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, I cannot comment on the utterances of right hon. or hon. Members. I have no responsibility for what any of them say—providing that it is within order. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he creates opportunities to raise the matter through the Order PaperQuestion Time, early-day motions or even an Adjournment debate. He can then put the record straight as he thinks fit. He must use the Order Paper, and, as a long-standing Member of the House, he well knows how to use it to the best advantage.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In response to a question from the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice) at last Wednesday's Question Time, the Prime Minister said that, within a few days, the Home Secretary would make an announcement about the Labour party's approach to fox hunting. We have now almost reached the end of the Session. It has been suggested that, as a fig leaf for the Prime Minister's embarrassment, the Home Secretary might answer a written question tomorrow. Have you, Madam Speaker, received a request from the Home Secretary to come to the House to make a proper statement on the subject?

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

No, I have had no request for any such statement.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you have received a request from the Government for a Minister to make a statement to the House about the position in Chechnya, where hundreds of innocent civilians are being killed and wounded, refugees are being denied safe passage and it appears that we may well be on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. Has any Foreign Office Minister requested an opportunity to make a statement on those matters?

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

I am very conscious of the serious situation in that part of the world. As yet, I have not received a request from any Minister to make a statement on the issue.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This weekend, the Prime Minister will attend the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Many of us are concerned about the outcome of those negotiations—and in particular whether the Prime Minister will raise the issue of the Commonwealth ban on beef. Given that we have the unhappy coincidence of Prorogation with that meeting, is there a mechanism whereby the Prime Minister can report back to the House on the outcome of the meeting, as he would do if we were sitting?

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

When the House is prorogued, the Prime Minister can make no report to the House.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Labour, Workington

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In the light of your preparedness to listen to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), may we therefore presume that points of order of that nature will be heard by the Chair?

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

No, the hon. Member cannot assume anything. I receive many requests for points of order that are in fact points of frustration or anything other than points of order. I believed, on hearing the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), that he was about to make a serious point of order that should concern me. It was for that reason, and that reason alone, that I felt he should be heard.