HC Deb 10 May 1988 vol 133 cc158-60

4.2 pm

Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie (Glasgow, Pollok)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Due to the inaccurate and misleading answer that the Prime Minister gave me today, is there nothing in Standing Orders to ensure that she should give more realistic and truthful answers to Members' questions? The housing benefit cuts are the responsibility of this Government, not of local government.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may possibly be right, but that is not a matter for me. I understand that he is dissatisfied with that answer, but I cannot help him because it is not a matter of order. If the question is asked again—and there will be other opportunities to raise it—the hon. Member may receive a different answer.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It may be that you have been ill advised, as we all are from time to time, but bearing in mind the importance of the confectionery industry in my constituency, easily the biggest employer, and bearing in mind—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know it is difficult.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

No, it is not difficult; it is disgraceful.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I understand the hon. Member's frustration, but he may have another opportunity tomorrow to ask questions about this subject, if he behaves himself.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to refer to a general principle of the constitution—indeed, a convention of the constitution.

The exchanges on the private notice question demonstrated how important it is that the Secretary of State should make the decision. You consider that issues should be raised on the Floor of the House, but we were unable to question the person who is legally obliged to make decisions because the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is in the other place. I should be grateful for your advice on how hon. Members can bring their influence to bear so that, when statements such as the one that has been made, today are made we get the organ grinder, not the monkey, and we can question the Secretary of State.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member knows that that is not a matter for me. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is also a member of the Cabinet.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the Prime Minister found that under pressure she had inadvertently misled the House and sought your permission under Standing Orders to make a statement to correct what she had said, would you be able to provide time to allow her to do that later today?

Mr. Speaker

Any personal statement has to be cleared with me, but I am not certain that suggestions would be appropriate.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that in another lengthy written answer to a question from the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) the Prime Minister used these words: housing benefit has been changed".—[Official Report, 6 May 1988; Vol. 132, c. 634.] Given that the Prime Minister outlined what she said were her achievements, that does not seem to be consistent with the reply that she gave this afternoon to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie). Taking into account your excellent interview at the weekend—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let us not go into that, please. What is the point of order for me today? I believe the answer to the question was on Friday, not at the weekend.

Mr. Clarke

I thank you for what you have just said, Mr. Speaker, but, given that you want there to be an excellent relationship between Parliament and the people, do you accept that that also includes local government? If the Government are making it difficult for local authorities by blaming them for something with which they have had absolutely nothing to do, is it not right that you should give us your guidance on the possibility of a parliamentary debate?

Mr. Speaker

I am responsible for questions of order in the House. I cannot be held to be responsible for questions on the Order Paper, and certainly not for the answers that are given to them. That is a matter for parliamentary debate. Hon. Members must find parliamentary opportunities to raise these matters. I cannot deal with them.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I heard what the Prime Minister had to say. On Saturday I heard about 30 constituents complaining about the same matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) referred.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have just replied to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). I, too, have constituency surgeries, but I cannot answer his question. That is not my responsibility.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie) and for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin), is it not deplorable that the Prime Minister is so parsimonious with the truth that she prefers to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have already said that hon. Members must find parliamentary opportunities to deal with matters of that kind. They must not seek to debate them through the Chair.