HC Deb 19 January 1989 vol 145 cc495-6
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we have established for the official record that the case referred to of the mother who took certain action after the raping of her child is not sub judice, as the Leader of the House told us in what I think was a slip of the tongue. It would be sub judice only if the appeal had been registered, and I do not think that it has. I am sure that the Leader of the House would not want unnecessarily or unfairly to curtail discussion of that matter in the House.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

I only reported what was advised to me. I did not intend to curtail discussion; I simply felt that since an appeal is pending, even if it has not already been lodged, it would be unwise of me to express any views on the matter.

Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise two matters arising out of supplementary questions to the Prime Minister? The first relates to the extent to which it is legitimate to ask the Prime Minister in the House about local authority matters. Local authorities are the creations of statute. The Department of the Environment is responsible for their supervision and my hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) had hoped to complete his supplementary question by suggesting to the Prime Minister that she should abolish Cleveland county council. Surely that is a matter for which she has responsibility.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

She should abolish?

Mr. Smith

That she should suggest to Parliament that it should be abolished.

My second point relates to the supplementary question that was asked by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen). When Conservative Members were protesting about the terms of his question, I think that you, Mr. Speaker, thought that they felt that he, too, should be subject to your strictures on the question about local authorities. In fact, his supplementary question bore no relation to the question on the Order Paper and that was the point of concern.

Mr. Speaker

I hope that hon. Members, particularly those who have been here for some time, will endeavour to get their questions to the Prime Minister in order. I shall look carefully at Hansard because it is difficult in the hurly-burly of debate to take account of everything, but I think that the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) said that he was seeking the Prime Minister's guidance in dealing with a constituency problem, which is a different matter from an issue for which she has responsibility. However, I shall look at the matter carefully. The House well knows that at Question Time Members must direct questions to Ministers, and to the Prime Minister, on matters within their responsibilities.

On the second point, Question No. 2 on the Order Paper tabled by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) was a definitive one. I did not hear anything out of order and I was listening carefully.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. However experienced one is, there are only two ways to approach a question to a Minister—either by asking the question and then substantiating it, or substantiating the question and then putting it. If one takes the latter course, and one is faced with the baying of the mindless morons on the Opposition Benches and with your intervention, Mr. Speaker, it makes matters difficult. It may well be that I did not finish my question as I would have liked to have done. If I had not been interrupted, I might have been able to put my question to the Prime Minister in my own manner.

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman gets another opportuniy, as I hope that he will during the course of the Session, I suggest that he puts his question first and follows with the rationale.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

On a completely different point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been a Member of the House for 15 years but I have never before seen the procedure followed during Prime Minister's questions today when, because the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) had lost her voice, you, Mr. Speaker, allowed the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) to put her question for her, which had to be read because the hon. Lady did not know precisely what the hon. Member for Cynon Valley wanted to say. When was that procedure last followed and in what circumstances would you allow that to happen in future?

Mr. Speaker

I happened to know that the hon. Lady had lost her voice. Since her question was reached, it seemed chivalrous that she should have the opportunity to ask another hon. Member to read it for her. I have no knowledge of any precedent. I hope that it will not happen too often, but that seemed to be the right thing to do today.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In order to assist you, I can tell you that the last time that an hon. Member lost his voice and another hon. Member was allowed to read what he wanted to say was in the case of the hon. Member for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook).

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I should like to know what happens when the Prime Minister loses her voice.

Further to an earlier point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is fair to record, since my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) is not in his place, that he courteously gave notice of his question to the Prime Minister's Office. Conservative Members should know that.

Mr. Speaker

I do not know about that, but I do know that he had a definitive question on the Order Paper and it seemed to me that his supplementary question was relevant to it. Let us move on to the debate on local government finance.