HC Deb 11 February 1987 vol 110 c311 3.31 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At 10.14 pm last night the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—I have obviously given him notice of this—purported to raise with you what he described as a "point of privilege".

It would be of tremendous benefit to the House, Mr. Speaker, if you would remind us of the clear resolution passed on 6 February 1978, which laid down the procedure for raising a point of privilege. I can summarise it as giving you written notice of a complaint of breach of privilege after that breach had occurred. Should you find that a prima facie case had been made, you would notify the hon. Member of that in writing. He would then rise in his place and move that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges.

I think that it would be unfortunate if violence were done to that resolution by a precendent created last night. Would you reiterate that resolution, Mr. Speaker?

Secondly, on the substance of what the right hon. Member for Chesterfield said, if he now, after the event, claims that it was a point of order and not one of privilege, would it not be as well to remind the House and the right hon. Gentleman that Speaker after Speaker has declared that he would not give rulings on hypothetical points as opposed to questioning events which have actually occurred?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) for raising that point. It is perfectly true that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) said in his submission that he was raising a matter of privilege. It was not a matter of privilege; I think that it was a slip of the tongue, and I took it to be so.

I readily confirm what the hon. Member for Tiverton said—that a complaint of breach of privilege should not be made on the Floor of the House, but sent to me in writing.


Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that I was a moment late and missed the statement that you have just made. However, when I saw you last night, I raised with you the question of a possible aspect of privilege and notified you of that. You kindly said that I could rise at 10.15 pm, which I did. In my statement I said that the matter related to privilege, which I have raised with you privately, and I checked what I had said in Hansard. That was what I said, and if I made a mistake in putting it into the wrong category, I wish to apologise to you and to the House.