HC Deb 05 February 1992 vol 203 cc288-90
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had a request today for a statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? As you know, the citizens charter is the jewel in the crown of the Prime Minister's Administration. Seven months after the event, apparently a citizens charter for Northern Ireland—the first one—is about to be launched in Belfast. By launching it in such a hole-in-the-corner way, the Secretary of State is avoiding questions in this House and is putting at a serious disadvantage those Ulster Members of Parliament who are attending to the business of the House. They are being kept in ignorance of the citizens charter, cannot comment on it and do not know what is contained in it.

Mr. Speaker

I am not responsible for any statement outside this House. However, I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman said will have been heard by those on the Government Front Bench who are responsible.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I request a statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland both about yesterday's incident in Northern Ireland and about the most recent incident today, in which, I believe, another six people were killed in one multiple murder attack? It is essential that a Minister makes a statement as soon as possible.

Mr. Speaker

Again, I am sure that the whole House has deep sympathy with those affected by the events in Ulster at the moment, and what the hon. Gentleman said will have been noted.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During yesterday's Prime Minister's questions, all hon. Members will have distinctly heard the Prime Minister ask, whether inadvertently or not, the rhetorical question, "Did we cause the recession?" The Prime Minister's question was recorded on television and radio, yet it does not appear in the Official Report. Can you, Mr. Speaker, give me any guidance on how the Prime Minister's question came to be removed from the Official Report?

Mr. Speaker

I should need notice of that question to look into it—

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Another Government cut!

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is not for me to read his mind, but it occurred to me that the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) might have been referring to the fact that Opposition Members were saying, "Answer, answer." That kind of rhetorical question would not appear in Hansard, because if such comments did, there would not be room for much else. If the Prime Minister's whole answer has disappeared, however, that is a very serious matter, and I shall look into it.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not expect you to answer my question immediately, but I think that it is a serious point.

Hansard is the official report of the proceedings of the House, and takes precedence over any other record of our proceedings; yet, simply by watching the videotape—as hon. Members know, we now have a video record of everything that occurs in the House—we can see that we are now in a totally ludicrous situation. We can read the words in Hansard, and then, by observing what has happened on the videotape, see clearly that what actually happened is not what is recorded in Hansard.

According to the procedures of the House, the records in Hansard are deemed to be the official report of the House. Surely common sense shouts at us that, in future, the proper, official record of the House must be that which is preserved on videotape, so that we can all see and hear it. I ask you to look into the matter, Mr. Speaker. We shall make ourselves look very silly unless we resolve it quickly. Yesterday's record will clearly show—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has made that point before.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it further to this point?

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman

Yes, Mr. Speaker. The reason why the whole of the Prime Minister's answer could not be heard was the barracking of Opposition Members when the Prime Minister had uttered only a few words. We were able to hear what he was saying, but Opposition Members deliberately blocked it out. I have the record here.

Mr. Speaker

That did not exactly follow the previous point of order, but I shall deal with both together.

First, let me say to the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) that yesterday's was a very noisy Prime Minister's Question Time: even I had difficulty in hearing what was said. Secondly, I say to the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) that it has always been the rule in the House that Hansard is the official report. If the hon. Gentleman wants to change that, he must understand that it can be done only by direction of the House.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you received a request from the Department of Health for a statement to be made by a Minister, following the occasion during this morning's sitting of European Standing Committee B, when the Committee voted against Government policy? May we have a statement from the Government to the effect that they will now back the European proposal to ban the advertising of tobacco throughout the Community?

Mr. Speaker

If that took place during a Standing Committee sitting, it is not a matter for me to deal with here.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I feel that we are approaching dangerous ground if we are to allow Hansard to report "noises off" during Prime Minister's Question Time. It was abundantly clear a week or so ago, when the Leader of the Opposition questioned the Prime Minister about something that he had read in a popular tabloid newspaper, that his claims were grotesquely wrong, and Conservative Members said as much at the time; but Hansard failed to report that. I would caution against allowing Hansard to report all the rubbish that comes from the Opposition Benches.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I hope that there is no rubbish in this place, but let me put the matter into proper perspective. The whole House knows, I think, that Hansard is a report of what goes on in the Chamber. I have said before that, if it reported every hon. Member's words absolutely verbatim, speeches might not be wholly and always understood. Sometimes, therefore, some licence is taken in putting them into correct English, and I am sure that hon. Members always feel when they read Hansard how excellent their speeches are—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—probably as a result of that. Sedentary interruptions are not recorded, for reasons that I have already stated.