HC Deb 21 October 1991 vol 196 cc658-9 4.47 pm
Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have given you notice of my point of order, and I also conveyed my intention to the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen).

The ability of hon. Members to petition on behalf of their constituents is a treasured privilege. That privilege was abused last Friday, when the petition that was presented to you, Mr. Speaker, was based on a fraud. Signatures were fraudulently collected and sought to give credibility to that fraud. There never has been, there is not, nor is there going to be any likelihood of the Nottingham city hospital or the Queen's medical centre in my constituency being taken out of the national health service.

I will acknowledge that the form of the petition must have been correct, Mr. Speaker, or your office would not have accepted it. However, I ask whether it is possible for you to investigate how the other signatures were collected, for I believe that those people were unaware of what they were being asked to sign. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is quite right. The petition was in order when it was presented to the Table Office, and the Table Office accepted it in good faith. It is not for me to judge its accuracy. I should call the hon. Member concerned.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

The signatures on the petition were collected by Alan Simpson, the next Labour Member for Nottingham, South, and myself. They came from thousands of people in Nottingham—health workers, doctors, nurses and patients—all of whom know that the Nottingham city hospital opted out last Wednesday. If it is of assistance to you, Mr. Speaker, I will read the full text of the petition. It states: "We"—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Allen

I am trying to be helpful.

Mr. Speaker

Not now. [Interruption] Order. The petition was properly presented on Friday. It would have been open to the hon. Member to include a number of signatures on the hand-written top sheet of his petition. That did not happen. Nevertheless, as far as the Table Office was concerned, the petition was in the correct form.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. What are hon. Members supposed to do when petitions are put forward which are totally misleading and totally misrepresent the situation? We have even seen such a petition held up by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen). He seems to be happy to have presented a misleading petition to the House. What are we to do in those circumstances?

Mr. Speaker

I cannot advise the hon. Member on tactics of that kind. I am concerned only with whether the petition was properly presented, and I have to say that it was.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have a great deal of sympathy with you because of the onerous responsibilities facing you, especially as we approach the intense battle of a general election. However, may I prevail upon you, in the coming short recess, to examine your responsibilities in relation to the Representation of the People Acts? According to the motions on the Order Paper, today's debate will be an exclusively English debate on the health service—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If that is indeed the case, we shall have no opportunity of raising the position in Scotland and the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland and his Minister of State are at odds on the issue of hospital trusts in Scotland.

We cannot question a Scottish Office Minister today, and if I were to raise this matter with the Secretary of State for Health, he would say, "This is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he will reply." May I have your assurance, Mr. Speaker, that in future, and especially in a general election or by-election period, you will seek to ensure that such debates are not dominated by Front-Bench speakers as happened during last Monday's defence debate when, although you asked for short speeches, the two Front Bench spokesmen consumed two hours—[Interruption.]

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We should get on with it. The debate is certainly not limited to England and Wales and I hope that, with any luck, when we get to it, I shall be able to call some Scottish Members.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Well, what else?

Mr. Ewing

If you are to make the Representation of the People Acts your bedside reading during the short recess, perhaps you could consider the position of an hon. Member who is elected under one political banner but who then changes party—[Interruption]

Mr. Speaker

I am not certain that I shall he reading those Acts.

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am now pretty certain that those Acts will not be part of my bedside reading in the short recess.