HC Deb 30 January 1991 vol 184 cc941-3 3.30 pm
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It concerns hon. Members' access to Downing street. Twenty of my hon. Friends and I had arranged to present a letter voicing our concern and that of other hon. Members about the 20 million people threatened with starvation in Africa and the Government's wholly inadequate response to that. We had arranged to be there at 10.30 this morning—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Lady relate her point of order to my responsibilities? I have no jurisdiction over what goes on in Downing street.

Mrs. Clwyd

I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have made a previous ruling on this matter. We were told by the police in Downing street that only six hon. Members would be allowed through the gates. When we asked why, we were told that that was the rule and that it had always been so. We know that that is not true.

We were treated with considerable discourtesy and abuse by the police. We asked the policeman in charge to consult his superior; he returned 10 to 15 minutes later, and all 21 of us were allowed through the gates with no inspection of our passes.

I make this point not to ask for any privilege for hon. Members but to seek to uphold the democratic rights of elected Members to have access to the Prime Minister in No. 10.

Mr. Speaker

I have no recollection of ever having made a ruling on Downing street, which is well outside the precincts of the Palace—

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me finish.

All I can tell the hon. Lady is that I am sure that what she has said will have been heard by the Ministers now on the Front Bench.

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My point of order concerns access to this place, which is your responsibility as Chairman of the House of Commons Commission.

Yesterday there was a lobby of firemen worried about cuts in the fire service, and one of my constituents, Jack Womersley, had been sent a letter by me arranging to meet him in Central Lobby, as is the custom. He was not allowed access to Central Lobby; when he was allowed in, at 2.30 pm, he was ushered down into Westminster Hall and not permitted access to Central Lobby even after a meeting in the Grand Committee Room. That meant that he had to pass a green card, transferred to him by someone else, to another person to put in for me.

It is the usual custom and practice for Members who want to show that they are meeting a constituent in Central Lobby, when this place is open, to send him a letter stating that a meeting will take place, and that is what I did. But my constituent was refused admission both before 2.30 pm and after 3 pm, and he was not allowed to come and see me. This needs looking into. I know that arrangements are made when there is a lobby, but my constituent particularly requested permission to see me and was refused, and that is disgraceful.

Mr. Speaker

I shall ask for a report about the case. I understand that there were several thousand people in the Lobby yesterday. A great deal of trouble has been caused in the past by people on lobbies coming with letters from their Members of Parliament and by that means gazumping the queue. I imagine that may be the reason why this incident took place. However, I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many hon. Members, myself included, have an office on the outskirts of the Palace, in my case in St. Stephen's Porch. Therefore, we have occasion several times during the day to come through St. Stephen's and the Central Lobby to reach the Chamber and Committee Rooms. For us, trying to get through mass lobbies is often a difficult job, but the police officers on duty are extraordinarily helpful and respectful to constituents visiting this place. Those who observe them carrying out their duties know that some of the accusations made today are far from the normal practice. We should be grateful for their vigilance.

Mr. Speaker

The House accepts that the police do a remarkable job, particularly in dealing with what I understand was a lobby of 10,000.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I call Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, although he is taking time from an Opposition supply day.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a simple point of order. I understand that the BBC, as part of a general move towards censorship, has banned any song that includes the word "peace" in the title or lyrics. Some 67 songs have been banned and—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Not by the wildest stretch of the imagination could I be held responsible for that. I would not relish songs in the Chamber, either.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). I was in the same position yesterday during the firemen's lobby. When you review this matter, may I suggest that you think about the convenience of hon. Members? I write to constituents and arrange to meet them at a specific time in a specific place, for my convienence. Yesterday, I was seriously inconvenienced by the fact that my constituent was trying to gain entrance with my letter but was refused. Will you consider that, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker

I shall consider that, but I recollect that, when I was in a rather different position, with the late friend of many hon. Members, Mr. Walter Harrison, we had trouble with large lobbies.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Late? I saw him yesterday.

Mr. Speaker

I beg his pardon. I hope that Walter Harrison is very much with us.

I shall look into the matter, but it is not as easy as hon. Members sometimes make out.

    1. c943
    2. PROTECTION OF BADGERS 116 words
  2. STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c. 44 words