§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)
I am still awaiting further information from the hon. Member. When this is received I will be glad to answer the Question.
§ Mr. Ridley
While I agree that an invention in this field would be valuable, I must add that it would be equally valuable if the hon. Gentleman could remember the name of the firm he alleges has made the invention.
§ Mr. Eadie
On a point or order. I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I know that since you have occupied the Chair you have always tried to protect the rights of back-bench Members in relation to the Executive. On Question No. 5, I put to the Under-Secretary of State a question about the process of extracting sulphur. He failed to inform the House that he had lost information which I sent him, and, moreover, he took the opportunity, quite improperly, I think, to score a debating point. Furthermore, I think there was a betrayal, to some extent, of confidentiality in this case, because he sent his Parliamentary Private Secretary to me, and I thought that we had a private conversation in relation to the matter. I do not seek to criticise the Under-Secretary of State for losing the paper. That could easily happen. I do take objection, however, to his attempting from that Front Bench to score a debating point in the circumstances. If the Minister wants to gain the respect of the House he must be frank and forthcoming. While the Hon. Gentleman's Parliamentary Private Secretary was beside me, there was lost another paper from an hon. Member who happened to be sitting beside me. Therefore, I ask your protection from the Front Bench seeking in such circumstances to making debating points against back benchers.
§ Mr. Speaker
I can only say to the hon. Member that if he complains of a Minister scoring a debating point he has done his best, under the guise of a point of order, to score a debating point in return.
§ Mr. Michael Foot
Further to that point of order. Is it not the case that if 12 a debating point has been scored by an hon. Gentleman opposite it is unique in the history of this Administration? Secondly, is it not the case that my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) raised a legitimate point of order on the question of the confidentiality of discussions between people in this House? If such a thing has occurred, is it not proper for my hon. Friend to raise the matter to see whether the Minister will look into it to see whether an apology is not owed to my hon. Friend?
§ Mr. Speaker
I missed that second point. It is a convention of this House that it keeps in confidence what passes between Members on the basis of confidence.
§ Mr. Ridley
Further to that point of order. No communication has been received from the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) about the name of the firm to which he referred in his Question. In order to try to be helpful my Parliamentary Private Secretary contacted the hon. Gentleman to see whether he could give us a clue as to which firm it was. As the hon. Gentleman was unable to tell us, it seemed to me that it was perfectly fair to give him the Answer which I gave him on a supplementary question.