HC Deb 13 June 1991 vol 192 cc1064-5 4.47 pm
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to detain you and the House, but this is an important matter.

You will recall that during business questions the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) referred to early-day motion 946, which he has sponsored. You will see that that motion gives the home address of a councillor. I am sure that you can imagine, as I and I am sure other hon. Members can, the obvious and unacceptable repercussions that could occur from the mentioning of a home address in such a motion. It is extremely irresponsible for any hon. Member, particularly an ex-Minister, to cite an individual's home address in a motion. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will deprecate that action and ensure that in future the Table Office does not allow home addresses to be shown in motions.

Mr. Speaker

All hon. Members must take responsibility for motions that they put on the Order Paper and for what they say in this place. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have freedom of speech here. I hope that he gave notice of his point of order to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn).

Mr. Madden

The hon. Gentleman left before I could do so.

Mr. Speaker

It is a convention that we should try to uphold.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During the statement, the weather changed from bright sunshine to pouring rain, yet, despite the spaces in the Gallery, people queuing up outside to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry are being denied entry by the security people. In future, can we come to a more sensible arrangement? After all, we are paid for in this place by the public. I do not think, and nor do many of my colleagues, that they should have to stand in the rain when the Chamber is almost empty inside.

Mr. Speaker

We do not recognise the Strangers' Gallery, as the hon. Gentleman knows, but I sense that it is not all that empty. Of course, security has to be taken into consideration these days. I am sure that those people who wish to get in will probably be able to do so later in the debate.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I had hoped that the Leader of the House would have heard me raise this matter, but I am sure that he will read about it.

Mr. Speaker

Come off it; sit down. It must be a point of order to me and not to the Leader of the House.

Mr. Nellist

I still have to refer to him in my point of order to you, Mr. Speaker. You have just told my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) about a convention of the House, which I was trying to obey. I tried to give notice that I wished to raise a point of order when the hon. Member that I wanted to mention was present. You will realise that that was not possible because you are taking points of order some time after the time at which the matter arose.

On 12 occasions today, and on many hundreds of occasions previously, the Leader of the House has, quite rightly, said that he would refer to his right hon. Friends inquiries from hon. Members on both sides of the House about specific subjects. He did so in reply to me a couple of months ago, when I mentioned to him the need for medical help for children in the Ukraine following the Chernobyl accident five years ago. I know that he does so; I have seen the letter.

When an hon. Member asks a question or tables a petition, he receives a reply from the Department concerned. I have just done a straw poll and I have not been able to find an hon. Member who, subsequent to that referral, has had the courtesy of a letter from the Department to which the Leader of the House has referred the matter. Will you consider at your leisure whether it should be a rule of the House that if the Leader of the House gives such a reply hon. Members will receive a letter from the Department concerned saying why a debate cannot take place or a statement be made?

Mr. Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's request will have been heard by those on the Government Front Bench. The contents of an answer are not a matter for me. The object of business questions is to ask about the business for next week. The trouble with business questions these days is that they refer to a wide range of subjects, which by any stretch of the imagination could not possibly all be dealt with next week.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will appreciate that all Back Benchers greatly value business questions and appreciate the fact that in most weeks you allow all hon. Members who are standing to ask questions. Will you examine the record of today's proceedings? If you do, you will see that many hon. Members used business questions to make contrived political jibes that had nothing to do with business? I realise that you do not know in advance what hon. Members are about to ask, but will you ensure in future that those hon. Members who continually abuse the privilege are those who are left with their questions unasked?

Mr. Speaker

That was what I was trying to tell the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) whose question I have just answered. Of course business questions should be directed to business for next week. I said that at the beginning of questions about business today. However, I notice that politics tends to creep into business questions at a time when a general election surely cannot be far off.

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