§ 48. Mr. Hunter
asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will agree to the request of the Feltham Urban District Council for hint to receive a deputation in order to express their views that he should reconsider his decision to close No. 31 Base Workshops, Ashford, Middlesex.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With great respect, might I ask for your guidance? As my hon. Friend has mentioned, this R.E.M.E. workshop is in my constituency. The matter came to public light some five weeks ago, and I have had much correspondence and discussion both with my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend. There are on the Order Paper, Questions 53 and 54 in the name of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). As far as I am aware he has no connection with this workshop—[Interruption.] Is not it courteous for a hon. Member who wishes to put down a Question to notify the hon. Member whose concern it is? I may add, Sir, that the hon. Members for Feltham (Mr. Hunter) and for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) have constituents who work in the workshop, and that the hon. Member for Feltham has been courteous enough to keep me in touch with what he is doing, just as I have kept him in touch with what I have been doing. I should like your guidance on the point, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
Further to that point of order. I would respectfully submit, Mr. Speaker, that it is well known that I have frequently asked Questions affecting the War Department. In particular, some years ago I initiated an Adjournment debate directly affecting this workshop, which is of great value to the nation, and I should have thought it obvious from the facts that I would have been one of the persons interested. I would further respectfully submit that a point of order cannot be used to restrict the right of any hon. Member to ask Questions about anything he likes.
§ Mr. Speaker
What the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) says is quite right. No point of order is involved. It used to be the custom when I was a Member of the House—[Laughter.]—I should say a Member of the House in current circulation—that if one wanted to ask a Question about another Member's constituency, one generally let the other Member know. That was certainly the old custom, and I think that it was a good custom; but there is no bar against a Member asking Questions about another Member's constituency.
It is true that some hon. Members specialise in certain subjects and their 380 specialisation often leads them to probe into events in geographic parts of the country other than their own constituencies. I looked at this Question this morning and I assumed that many hon. Members would be interested in the redundancy question which arises from the closing of this workshop. They are entitled to ask Questions about it because men living in their constituencies are affected. I have stated the rule, which is not one of order but one of custom, and a very good custom it is, and I hope that hon. Members will pursue it in the future.
§ Mr. Stewart
May I point out that this workshop is not merely a constituency matter? The use made of it is a matter of national importance. If, for example, we had to ask Questions affecting, say, the University of Oxford, would it be regarded as necessary to consult the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Turner); and, similarly, with other institutions of national importance, would it be necessary to consult the hon. Members in whose constituences they were situated?
§ Mr. Speaker
I accept what the hon. Member for Fulham says. Of course, one has to apply these rules with common sense and with a certain amount of tolerance and understanding of the difficulties and problems of other hon. Members. If that is done in the right spirit, these difficulties should never arise.
§ Mr. Beresford Craddock
I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your courtesy in dealing with the point I have raised. It would be presumption on my part to object to any hon. Member raising anything. I was merely asking whether it was not a matter of courtesy, as I tried to explain.