HC Deb 06 December 1989 vol 163 cc334-6 4.34 pm
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think we would all agree that one of the great strengths of the House is the way in which it respects and defends the position of every person in it, however lowly or exalted. I fully agree that you, Mr. Speaker, cannot be responsible for the ill manners and discourtesy sometimes shown by Ministers to hon. Members. I sat here yesterday and today and watched the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) being treated in a discourteous manner by a Minister. When a pattern like that is established, it becomes the business of the House. I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Would this be the time to ask the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip to remind Ministers that, when they offend against one person in that way, they offend against the integrity of the entire House?

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is on this point.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Winnick

The explanation is that on many occasions you have asked hon. Members to withdraw or apologise. As you know, hon. Members respond to the Chair. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) was out of order. You accepted that it was not out of order, or you would have pointed it out. Although you cannot force Ministers to apologise if what they say is not directly out of order, under those circumstances should not the Secretary of State have apologised? By not apologising, has he not shown contempt to the House and to you?

Mr. Speaker

As the House knows, I am not responsible for what is said, provided that it is in order. Yesterday I did not hear the question from the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown), because, as I explained, the microphones are out of date. I hope that in due course they will be replaced. However, the hon. Gentleman was heard today, perhaps because I suggested to him that he move his place.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to raise a separate master concerning the Secretary of State for Scotland. He said that I should table a question to him on Barratt's. I have done that, but I am not satisfied with the reply, and neither are my constituents. If it is a cover-up job and he does not want to answer openly, then something is wrong. I believe in perestroika, glasnost, and open government, whereas the Government do not.

Mr. Speaker

Again, I am not responsible for the answers given to questions.

Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan)

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that, while this afternoon's exercise on the Scottish statement was quite useful, it is no substitute for the inquisitorial attitude towards the Government which is required and would come from a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

I should like, Mr. Speaker, to take you back a few minutes to the slight altercation between yourself and the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) who complained that he was not receiving enough time to question the Minister. Is it possible, through you, to invite the hon. Member for Tayside, North to reconsider his position in respect of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

Can you explain why, if someone in the House allegedly—I use that word advisedly—disobeys the Standing Orders, he can be evicted from the precincts of the House, yet when a Government refuse to obey Standing Order No. 130 and set up a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, they can do so with impunity?

Mr. Speaker

This matter was raised with me by the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh). I have given him a reply, and I have nothing further to add to what I said the other day.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We do have an important debate before us.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance and, I hope, your protection. May I draw your attention to the fact that the issue of membership of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is regularly alluded to in the Chamber?

You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that in two Parliaments the Scottish National party refused categorically to serve on that Committee. Those hon. Members are no longer with us, but the present members of the Scottish National party seek to deny me, as an hon. Member, the rights that they enjoyed. Their reasons for refusing to serve were quite different from mine. I have served in two Parliaments and know something about what happened in that Committee.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman, like all hon. Members, has my protection. We have heard what he said, but it is not a matter for me.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since there is real difficulty in scrutinising Government business adequately, if the Government persist in their refusal to set up a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, might it be a matter for the Procedure Committee to examine? If we cannot have a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, perhaps we can have at least double the ration of Question Time.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must put that matter to the Procedure Committee.