HC Deb 19 February 1987 vol 110 cc1083-4 4.54 pm
Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We always abide by your decisions and try to take your advice. It would be helpful if you could give a little guidance and clarification to the House. Over the past two or three years there have been a number of early-day motions which have attacked not only the personal integrity of the Prime Minister but members of her family. Indeed, they have included statements which, if repeated outside the House, would be actionable. Would you tell the House in what way those early-day motions differ from the proposed early-day motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox), which was rejected by you? Is there a difference, or has there been a change of ruling? We need to know exactly where we stand in the future.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I, like most other Back Benchers, have become aware over the past 12 hours or so of the events yesterday and during the evening, and we have heard through the media about a certain involvement of yourself and the Chief Whips. Could you let me and other Back Benchers know exactly where the House now stands with regard to statements, either in the form of early-day motions or, indeed, unsupported and unsubstantiated allegations and statements made in the House about individuals either in the House or outside? We need to know where we stand now, the importance of what has happened over the past several hours, and the effect that it will have on Back Benchers on both sides of the House, particularly those who have been prone recently to make unsubstantiated allegations, so that we know exactly what may or may not be done within the House.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was in my constituency yesterday and I came back to the House at about 7 o'clock and went to the Table Office wishing to sign the three early-day motions in question, all of which I supported. I would be grateful to find out from you when it was decided that hon. Members were no longer able to sign those early-day motions. Was one of the reasons the fact that the Leader of the Opposition was alleged to be anti the monarchy? If that had been removed, would that early-day motion have been—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Since the matter has been raised, I shall clarify the position. I do not usually refer in the House to rulings that I have made in private. However, the House may wish to know that last night I directed that three early-day motions submitted by the hon. Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) and others about the Leader of the Opposition should not be printed. That was at 7.30 in the evening. In my opinion they were irregular and not a proper subject for debate, being, in the words of "Erskine May" — the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) will find it on page 382— designed merely to give annoyance. This gives me the opportunity to say that I deprecate the Notice Paper being used for personal attacks by one hon. Member upon another, and I hope that the House can conduct its affairs without recourse to such attacks.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the support that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has just been giving you in making your ruling, may I draw your attention to early-day motion 550 and ask that your ruling be made retrospective in view of the embittered, hateful and totally untruthful statement that the hon. Member for Workington makes about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal party when he says that he should advise the House what sums have been paid or agreed to be paid to the Alliance by Mr. Ernest Saunders and when and how such payments were arranged"? It was suggested by the hon. Member for Workington that Mr. Ernest Saunders was offered a peerage by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal party. That is unsubstantiated and untrue. Therefore, I hope that you will also rule on that.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that we want to have a debate upon this. I cannot make rulings retrospective. Every motion that is outside the normal scope is brought to my attention. I cannot recollect that long ago whether that particular motion was so brought to my attention. Nevertheless, I hope that the statement that I made today will make its impact on the House, because we should use our freedom of speech and the freedom of the Notice Paper with the greatest care particularly if we impute any motives or dishourable conduct to those outside the House who have no right of reply.

Mr. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to clarify the record. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) referred to two amendments, one of which is mine. The one referring to money was tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn).

Mr. Alton

The hon. Gentleman added it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I did not. I tabled the amendment that appears before that. The hon. Gentleman has not read the first amendment. If he reads it he will note that I asked the Leader of the Liberal party to make a statement. Perhaps the subtlety of it has escaped the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Alton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal party has tabled an amendment to that proposed amendment, I hope that the hon. Member for Workington will withdraw his insinuations.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought that the purpose of your ruling yesterday was to try to get the House to behave like adults and, if at all possible, like gentlemen. If that was the purpose of the exercise, I certainly support it.

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.