HC Deb 15 November 1979 vol 973 cc1502-4
Mr. Buchan

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am concerned about the rights and privileges of hon. Members. That concern arises from the Home Secretary's answer to a question on immigration policy and was compounded by an answer given by the Minister of State, Home Office.

Mr. Speaker

Points of order are normally taken after statements. Unless the hon. Member feels that the matter is pressing, perhaps he will wait until the customary time.

Mr. Buchan

It would perhaps be preferable to raise the matter now, as it relates to questions.

The Home Secretary said that the Government had no intention of changing the policy on the rights of hon. Members to make representations on behalf of their constituents but that it was a different question in relation to other constituencies. The Minister of State later referred to the fact that an hon. Member may take up a constituent's case that had been deserted by the hon. Member for that constituency.

My constituency contains an airport, as do constituencies of other hon. Members. Immigration organisations frequently contact us and sometimes immigration officials make recommendations, and we often have only a short time to act. Hon. Members are also frequently known to have special knowledge of particular areas of the world. For example, cases from Chile are often referred to me.

The matter concerns the rights and duties of hon. Members, and we require your protection, Mr. Speaker. If the policy that was apparently suggested is to be implemented by the Government, it will prevent hon. Members from exercising their rights and democratic duties, and I ask for your guidance.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was a Minister in the Home Office and know about the customs of that Department. There is a convention in the House that hon. Members do not take up cases from other constituencies, but it exists only between hon. Members and has nothing to do with the Executive. The Executive are not entitled to declare that an hon. Member should not take up a case from another constituency.

You are the defender of hon. Members against the Executive, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that you will make it plain that it is not for the Home Secretary to seek to take away the right of an hon. Member to take up a case from another constituency. It is for the House and not for the Executive.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I did not make myself clear, I believe that I should do so now. In my 25 years in the House, I always understood that it was a condition and a principle amongst hon. Members that we did not interfere with cases in each other's constituencies. That is what I was saying. Of course I understand that there may be exceptional cases. I think that I used the word "normally". I was never at any time stating what the Executive thought. The Executive have no power in the matter. I thought that I was stating what had been the practice amongst hon. Members for a long time.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I understand that there is to be a major statement after business questions. The relationships and codes of conduct amongst hon. Members are not for the Chair but for hon. Members to observe. However, if necessary, I shall look into the matter and make a statement.

Mr. Heffer

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) was on holiday for a fortnight and I took up a case in his constituency. Had I been on holiday, he might have done the same for me. It is utterly ridiculous for the Home Secretary or any Minister from the Home Office to complain because hon. Members are doing their jobs and looking after the people of this country.

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is no point in pursuing that matter. I said that I would look at it, but I doubt whether it is my concern.