HC Deb 20 October 1992 vol 212 cc333-5
Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am not seeking to extend Question Time, as you will readily appreciate, but my point of order arises from education questions. At the end of questions, the Secretary of State for Education impugned the integrity of Salford city council, which I represent in this place. He suggested that Salford city council unfairly interfered in a successful ballot in which 70 per cent. of parents at Earlham community high school in my constituency voted last week and yesterday to stay with the local education authority. I have to place on record in this House that that ballot was carried out fairly, without interference, and the people spoke. The Secretary of State should not abuse the procedures of the House in the way he did at Question Time.

Madam Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will find other methods of making his point known.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. One of the most essential democratic rights in Britain is the right to lobby Parliament. You will know of the demonstration and lobbying which is to take place on Wednesday as a result of the grave situation in the coal industry. Will every effort be made to ensure that as many as possible of those lobbying—obviously a limited number, we know that, and there is no doubt about it—will be able to see their Members of Parliament and that those involved in the coal industry will not be told at St. Stephen's entrance that they cannot get in? I hope that every effort will be made by the Serjeant at Arms and his staff—I am sure that that will be the case—and by the police to ensure that those exercising their democratic rights in Britain will be able to lobby just as others do and that there will be no form of discrimination because the people who happen to be lobbying are miners.

Madam Speaker

I am deeply concerned that British citizens who want legitimately to lobby their Members of Parliament should have access to these premises so to do. I am already involved in negotiations to ensure that as many people as possible will be able to do that tomorrow, although the House will understand that there are limits.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I worked in the steel industry for about 20 years before I entered the House and I wish to raise a matter on which the House was seriously and inadvertently misled yesterday concerning that industry. Yesterday, the President of the Board of Trade said: I had to go to Corby in 1979 when the Labour party closed the steelworks".—[Official Report, 19 October 1992; Vol. 212, c. 209.] On 1 November 1979, the then Member of Parliament for Kettering applied for a debate under Standing Order No. 9 on the urgent matter of the announcement by the British Steel Corporation today"— 1 November 1979— that it will begin a speedy run down of the iron and steel works in Corby."—[Official Report, 1 November 1979; Vol. 972, c. 1479.] Is it not right that that matter should be corrected tomorrow by the President of the Board of Trade along with his other U-turn? Would it not be a good thing if he relinquished his responsibility for energy and concentrated on—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is trying to continue yesterday's debate, but he knows that there are ways and means by which he can do that, either by tabling a motion or by raising the matter, if he catches my eye, in tomorrow's debate.

Mr. Winnick


Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already raised a point of order. I have to deal with those of other hon. Members.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). There is a story going around that members of the public will be admitted to Parliament square tomorrow—Parliament square, not the precincts of this building—only if they are in possession of a letter from a Member of Parliament saying that they have an appointment to lobby that Member of Parliament. [Interruption.] I am rather surprised that the Government Whip should be supporting that process.

Will you confirm, Madam Speaker, that the Sessional Orders carried at the start of this Session of Parliament make it clear that the public have a right of entry to Parliament square and have a right to lobby their Members of Parliament, as you have just explained to us? I should be grateful if you would make it clear to the police that any restrictions, such as that members of the public should carry letters from Members of Parliament, would be contrary to the Sessional Orders that we have agreed.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. With reference to the remarks of my hon. Friends, and particularly to those of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), Labour Members of Parliament are happy to send such letters to their constituents because they support the motion to save the pits. Some Tory Members of Parliament might not want to do so. The result may be an imbalance in the lobby, with members of the public who do not have letters from Tory Members of Parliament kept out.

I refer also to an earlier point of order raised during Question Time. You, Madam Speaker, know that there will be a close vote tomorrow. It is supposed to be an orderly vote, yet the hon. Member for North Down (Sir J. Kilfedder) was hauled out of the Chamber by the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight), to be told how to vote tomorrow night. A lot of arm twisting, bullying, and intimidation is going on. We want to make sure that it will be a clean vote and a clean Lobby.

Madam Speaker

Right hon. and hon. Members will make up their own minds how to vote tomorrow. That has nothing to do with the Chair. I made it clear earlier that I am as keen as anyone here to see that citizens of this country who want to lobby their Members of Parliament are allowed to do so. Tomorrow will be an extremely difficult day for the House authorities and the police. I am already involved in talks, and I will do my utmost to ensure that as many people as possible have access to this place.

Mr. Winnick

I am genuinely grateful to you, Madam Speaker—as I am sure my hon. Friends are—for your remarks. However, if the position is that described by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)—if British citizens who come to see their Members of Parliament are stopped by the police when they try to enter Parliament square-and if that information is communicated to you as quickly as possible, will you make arrangements to hear our point of view and to negotiate with the police accordingly?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) began his point of order by using the words, "There is a story going around." I do not work on rumours; I work on fact. Perhaps right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House will leave it to me to deal with the matter as best I can.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you give serious consideration to allowing Prime Ministerial statements on European Community matters to run for one hour for the remainder of the United Kingdom's presidency of the EEC? Given that part of that presidency was, in a sense, lost to Parliament because of the summer recess, that is a reasonable request, particularly in respect of those right hon. and hon. Members who take a deep interest in all things European. I therefore respectfully ask that you, Madam Speaker, accede to my polite request.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is always polite when making requests to me, and I hope that I am always polite in trying to dodge them. If I were to allow the Prime Minister to spend one hour on EC statements, I would next be asked to allow a different Minister one hour on another matter. The hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to leave the matter in my hands. I am not at the end of the line in which medals are given for the time allowed for statements. Yesterday, I allowed two hours on yesterday's statement, and I allowed just over three quarters of an hour on today's statement. I am in a no-win situation. The House will just have to leave it to me. However, I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I noticed that he rose in his place throughout today's statement—I know that he is very keen. [HON. MEMBERS: "And me." Yes, I am sure that is true of other right hon. and hon. Members as well.

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