HC Deb 06 February 1989 vol 146 c652 3.50 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a point of order in connection with your role as protector of Back-Bench rights, particularly in relation to direct constituency cases. Question No. 10 to the Secretary of State for Social Security was about the age limit for widows' pensions. My constituent, Mrs. Doreen Whitbread was the one who won the important test case about that age limit and the tribunal ruled that the retrospective impact of the regulations was unfair and that they were invalidly introduced. Mrs. Whitbread stated that she felt that the rug had been pulled from under her feet—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has raised a point of order, but he is only one of a large number of hon. Members in this House who have an equal interest in this question. If it is a point of order for me, I shall deal with it.

Mr. Cohen

The point of order is that it was a direct constituency case, because my constituent was involved and won that important test case. The points that Mrs. Whitbread made during and after that tribunal hearing were the ones I wanted to put to the Minister. Will you confirm that it was your choice that I was not given the opportunity to do so?

Mr. Speaker

Sadly, it was my choice and I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman has already said that I am the protector of Back-Bench Members' rights and interests and I must pay regard to all hon. Members. We did not get far at Question Time today and if I took into account every hon. Member who wanted to be called on every question, I fear we would have gone even more slowly. Today we reached only question No. 12, which was not a very good score.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) because, although I understand the point that you have made, the Minister specifically mentioned Mrs. Whitbread on a number of occasions and she happens to be my hon. Friend's constituent.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am afraid that I do not know who Mrs. Whitbread is.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Minister mentioned her.

Mr. Speaker

Well, he may know her, but I regret I do not.