HC Deb 26 February 1990 vol 168 cc21-4 3.34 pm
Mr. Robin Squire (Hornchurch)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had any notification from Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers that they want to make a statement on the outcome of the election in Nicaragua, which has seen the destruction of another Socialist icon and the rejection, once and for all, of the concept that the Sandinistas are a popular regime rather than one that was imposed on the people?

Mr. Speaker

I have had no such request today.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed the arrival at 3.30 pm of the Government Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip on the Front Bench. Could this have been a matter of their concern to support question 78, which is on providing accommodation for the archives of Government Chief Whips? Would they like recorded —if they are not too profane—their expletives when they have to persuade their colleagues to accept the community charge——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That was an interesting question, but we did not reach it.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of the exchanges during questions to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I seek your guidance on the length of time for questions. I tried to temper my comments on the community charge in Lancashire so as to give adequate time for a response. I could have gone on at some length about reductions in the charge that could have resulted if Lancashire had not topped up its balances—£160 off the community charge——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman had a jolly good run on that; I do not think that he can have another bite at it.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you have received a report about the incident on Friday when my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) moved the Second Reading of his Bill on access to medical records. At 2.28 pm the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) rose to say that he supported the Bill, and proceeded to talk it out. We asked for a report from the Deputy Speaker to be passed on to you, because we have reason to believe that the hon. Member for Esher has been linked with certain medical firms——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I read about that in Hansard. I was not asked for a report. In any case, if the hon. Gentleman is making that allegation, he must make it, not to me, but to the Select Committee on Members' Interests.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire), Mr. Speaker.

It is important that Ministers be aware of the concern among Conservative Members that there should be a statement on Nicaragua, especially as we want to know what the view of the Opposition will be —particularly that of the hon. Member for Newham, North East (Mr. Banks), who has just lost the use of the aeroplane that he has enjoyed in the past few years.

Mr. Speaker

Come on.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), Mr. Speaker.

Was Mr. Deputy Speaker aware at the time of the debate on Friday that the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) was a director of a company called Angel Care UK Limited——

Mr. Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to make allegations of that sort, he knows exactly what to do: he must make them, not here, but to the Select Committee on Members' Interests, which is directly responsible for such matters.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will understand that Back-Bench Members look on Question Time, and particularly on supplementary questions, as an opportunity to obtain answers to their questions. You will have noticed that during Question Time today Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen —especially the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who asked two questions —took up an inordinate amount of time asking questions, thereby preventing Back-Bench Members from getting in. I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Is it not about time these people were advised that Back-Bench Members want to participate?

Mr. Speaker

Quite right. I am strongly in favour of short supplementary questions, which tend to lead to short supplementary answers. I agree that questions asked today by hon. Members on both sides of the House were rather long.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)


Hon. Members


Dr. Cunningham

Given that Conservative Members raised the issue in the first place, it ill becomes them to groan when I decide to respond. In the interests of well-informed debate on all sides, I wanted to ensure that the question of the higher levels of poll tax in Tory shires and Tory councils would be raised.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This seems to be developing into an extension of Question Time on the part of those Members who, sadly, could not be called earlier today. I shall take only points of order that I can deal with because we have a busy day ahead of us.

Mr. Eric S. Hefter (Liverpool, Walton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to ask for your advice because I am somewhat confused about question No. 64. I should like to know whether it was right to phrase it in that way or whether the Table Office should have phrased it differently. It talks about, revenues from his properties in Lancashire. Surely the point is that the Duke of Lancaster is Her Majesty the Queen. Therefore, these are Crown properties, and not the properties of any Minister or of any body other than the Crown. On that basis I should like to know precisely how a question in relation to the Duchy of Lancaster should be phrased. The Duchy of Lancaster is an ethereal body that does not exist. The real body is the Crown and Her Majesty the Queen.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. I think that this is what one might call shorthand for the properties for which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has responsibility. Perhaps the question should have appeared in that form on the Order Paper.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On occasion you ask hon. Members to confine themselves to a narrow question and to concern themselves solely with Lancashire. If I had been given the freedom that was given to the Front-Bench spokesman for the Opposition, I would have been able to tell the House about Cleveland and the high community charge there——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I should prefer the hon. Member not to do that now.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. For the benefit of all hon. Members, will you make clear precisely the procedure to be followed about the declaration of interests? Is it satisfactory for hon. Members simply to record them in the Register of Members' Interests and not to make any further reference to any interests when they rise to speak on a matter in which they clearly have an interest or in which it could be believed that they had an interest? Would it not be better if, when hon. Members with an interest rise to speak, they do not just leave the matter at something written in the book but declare the interest orally to the House? That would have got us round the difficulty that we encountered on Friday with the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor).

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it on the same matter?

Mr. Taylor


Mr. Speaker

Very well, I shall hear it and deal with the matter all at once.

Mr. Taylor

I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, because the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was about my good self. I make it clear that I was not notified that this matter would be raised today, and that is unfortunate. As I said on Friday, I had no relevant interest to disclose in relation to the speech that I made. Whether Opposition Members approve or disapprove of that speech, I hope that they will take that as the final word.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)


Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that we will leave the matter at that.

Mr. Dickens

I must declare an interest.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may do so in a minute. This is a serious matter. I draw the attention of the House to Standing Order No. 128. The House knows that it is not necessary to declare an interest at Question Time, but that in a debate, if a Member has a direct interest, he would always declare it.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not taking it yet.

Mr. Dickens

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to declare an interest which I should declare every day of the week: I hate Socialism.

Mr. Alan Williams

It is a well-established rule of this House that any Member making a speech on a topic in which he has an interest should declare that interest. I am sure it will be agreed that this matter is particularly sensitive when, in the last two minutes of private Members' time on a Friday, the purpose of an intervention may be to block progress——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Member, who was here, heard the hon. Gentleman say that he had no such interest—[Interruption.]

Order. We in this Chamber are honourable Members.

  1. STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c. 24 words
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