HC Deb 12 November 1985 vol 86 cc461-2
Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order concerns the Paymaster General, who has just been answering questions. I hope his answers to questions were not as remote from reality as his remarks about me in the House at Question Time a fortnight ago. The Minister was endeavouring to answer a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I think the Minister was rather stung about it, as he got carried away. The Minister is usually a smooth operator with a fatal facility for words, but he pushed himself into a position he could not get out of. He said—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The point of order should be addressed to me and it is difficult for me to answer for the Minister.

Mr. Flannery

Mr. Speaker, what the Minister said has caused me a great deal of inconvenience. It was quoted in the press and if the Minister had said it outside the House, I would have sued him. It was quoted in the press. I will read what he said: I notice that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has just taken his place. When he said that—I do not know whether his eyes are bad—I was in a school in Dusseldorf in West Germany studying primary education.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman lingered within the same idiom, to which he seems to be addicted, in the same way that I am addicted to Question Time in the House. He said: If he had been here sooner, instead of engaging in some part-time occupation, his earlier question could have been answered." —[Official Report, 29 October 1985; Vol. 84, c. 804.] That has caused me a good deal of inconvenience. It was in my local press, a very Right-wing Tory press that does not like me and which I assume likes the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although it seems to have a certain affection for my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I should like an apology from the right hon. and learned Gentleman and a confession that he was as remote from reality then as he was when he answered questions this afternoon.

The Paymaster General (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

Further to the point of order. I hoped that I had sorted out that unfortunate matter in a letter which I wrote to the hon. Gentleman last week, which I said he could use quite freely and publicly. I regret that he was caused embarrassment locally by the serious reporting by his local newspaper of a frivolous incident in the House, which was not accurately reported in Hansard. I do not blame the Hansard reporter because it was difficult to hear what was being said at the time, but the remark to which the hon. Gentleman takes particular objection was aimed at the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). He had just slipped into his place and I was engaged in an exchange with him. I can tell the difference between the hon. Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and for Bolsover. I can confirm, if it helps with his local newspaper, that both are most assiduous in their attendance and that both make themselves only too readily apparent when they are here at Question Time. The hon. Member for Hillsborough had not been in his place for a question earlier on but I accept that that was because he was unavoidably absent on parliamentary business with his Select Committee.

Mr. Speaker

Honour is satisfied. I think that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has received a generous apology.