§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During exchanges on the private notice question, the Attorney-General threw out a challenge, asking for evidence to be produced about an allegation that I made in a question. Will you, Mr. Speaker, arrange to be printed in the Official Report copies of letters sent by the chairman of the Conservative party and the Prime Minister in October this year thanking B & Q for again sponsoring the Conservative party ball this year?
I should be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you would also arrange for the appropriate Committee of the House to look at financial sponsorship—not of individual Ministers, because I accept entirely what the Attorney-General said, but surely we should look at links between political parties and vested interests. That should be a matter for the declaration of interests.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he should put it to the Committee concerned. It is not for me to monitor how the political parties in this place are financed.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is important to point out—you will have been aware of this when the Shops Bill came before the House in 1986—that about 80 Conservative Members voted against it. I was one of them. Many of us are still here and still hold the same view. The letter mentioned by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) is purely a thank you letter to a sponsor and nothing more. There is no connection with this matter.
§ Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the law is to be more flexible, as interpreted by the Government on behalf of the big traders, will the Government also——
§ Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)
The House learned this afternoon, to the amazement of many of us, that the United Kingdom has been in breach of Community law since 1972. Would it be in order for you, Mr. Speaker, to seek to establish whether, if the European Court finds against us, the Governments of the day since 1972 will be responsible for damages for every injunction served since then?
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is to do with Hansard, and has nothing to do with the Shops Act. It is a matter entirely for you. At Prime Minister's Question Time yesterday, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), the Prime Minister said:It is entirely clear from the documents in front of us in the Treaty that what we are doing is entirely enabling for ourselves to have an option to opt in".That is what the Prime Minister said.
As you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that was a lot of gobbledegook. The right hon. Gentleman made a faux pas, and did not get his answer correct. The verbatim account of his comments appears in early-day motion 262, but what appeared in Hansard was entirely different. It says:It is entirely clear from the documents in front of us in the treaty that we are enabling ourselves to have the option to opt in."—[Official Report, 26 November 1991; Vol. 199, c. 778.]I can understand the Prime Minister wanting his staff to sort out his gobbledegook and, more important, his faux pas, but this is a very important issue.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Very briefly. Will you find out from the Editor of Hansard exactly what happened—who made the change and why it was made—and direct him to have the entry corrected so that we know exactly what the Prime Minister said yesterday?
§ Mr. Speaker
I will, of course, discuss the matter with the Editor, but I have told the House before that Hansard does sort out gobbledegook. If hon. Members' speeches were always reported verbatim, they might not be widely understood.
§ Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for me to raise a serious and disgraceful affront to a leading hon. Member that requires you, Mr. Speaker, to act? The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), Labour's transport spokesman, went to the annual dinner of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders last night only to find that a place had not been laid for him. Understandably aggrieved, he tore a strip off the staff in front of royalty and stormed out. One could understand the——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is a good try, but what goes on at dinner parties, thank goodness, is nothing to do with me.
§ Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)
I know that you, Mr. Speaker, like to be fair and even-handed in calling hon. Members on a statement. I notice that you did not call 50 per cent. of the Conservative or Labour Members who were seeking to put a question, but you called 50 per cent. of a fringe party—the Liberals. Is that right, or is it a new development that the Liberals will get preference over the parties that really matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
The Liberal Democrats spokesman speaks for them all. However, I am pleased to confirm that I did manage to call the hon. Member at Question Time today.
§ Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you heard from the Secretary of State for Defence or the Foreign Secretary about an incident that happened 24 hours ago, when United Kingdom nuclear weapons were exploded underground in the Nevada desert? The Nevada desert was closed, yet Parliament was not informed of the explosion.
At a time when the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons is getting out of hand, any violation of the non-proliferation treaty will only encourage other countries to proceed with their weapons. Given that serious violation, did the Secretary of State for Defence or the Foreign Secretary contact you with a view to making a statement?
§ Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Was it in order for the Foreign Secretary to issue from his office at four o'clock this afternoon a very important and significant statement on Libya, which could affect the security of thousands of United Kingdom citizens, without following the normal practice of making a statement to the House and subjecting himself to questions?
There has been a multitude of reports, statements and publications in the past seven days, including a devastating leader in The Sunday Times, to the effect that the dreadful terrorist outrage at Lockerbie was commissioned by a middle east country through another middle east terrorist group. Is not the House entitled in circumstances affecting life and property to have a statement and to ask questions?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a matter for me, but it will have been heard by those on the Front Bench. There will be an opportunity to ask about that during business questions tomorrow. It is not a matter for me.
§ Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In future, when hon. Members refer to "our country" when they mean England as opposed to the United Kingdom—which it is—will you pull them up and say that it is unparliamentary?
§ Mrs. Gorman
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As we have been talking about shopping, and 80 per cent. of shopping in this country is done by women, I could have wished that more women had been called. In the circumstances, do you agree that, if men had to do the shopping during their working day, more women would be called during the debates and there would be more sense in the law?
§ Mr. Ewing
Yes. Since you have been encouraging points of order, I thought that I would let you know—on a final point of order—that I shall be doing the shopping on Sunday because of the laws that apply in Scotland. If there is anything that you want for Christmas, let me know and I shall see what I can do.