HC Deb 08 December 1993 vol 234 cc324-5 4.11 pm
Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you assist the House in deciding whether the rules governing the broadcasting of our deliberations here extend to tribunals that the Government set up outside? You will know, Madam Speaker, that Lady Thatcher is giving evidence to the Scott inquiry today, but no broadcasters will be present. Next month, the Prime Minister will give evidence to the same inquiry; again, no broadcasters will be present.

It seems extraordinary that, although when the Prime Minister speaks to the nation in this place his words are broadcast, no broadcasters will be present when he speaks to a tribunal that he himself set up. The public want to know what happened in the Iraq arms trade affair. Do the rules affecting this place also affect tribunals?

Madam Speaker

We make rules only for ourselves in the House. Our Select Committee on Broadcasting lays down the regulations; those regulations cover only us and our operations in the House.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Further to the point of order that I raised yesterday, Madam Speaker. Will you confirm that, following the Opposition's failure to table an amendment to the Budget motions on the Order Paper, and following last night's vote on the amendment to the law, it will now not be possible for the Opposition to table an amendment on that issue at any stage during the passage of the Finance Bill?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is clearly well aware of our proceedings here, as his point of order yesterday showed. He will know that the issue that he has raised will be a matter for the Chairman of the Committee debating the Bill.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. Let me make the position quite clear, in case the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) misheard me. We have now finished debating the Budget in the House, and the point that he raised will be a matter for the Chairman when the Bill is in Committee.

Mr. Riddick

I am grateful to you, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have campaigned over a number of years on behalf of British nuclear tests veterans who were exposed to radiation at Christmas Island, Maralinga and other locations. Many have campaigned longer than myself.

On 11 November, I received a reply from the Prime Minister saying that a study commissioned by the Ministry of Defence into radiation exposure and its effects on service men would be published next spring. I have discovered that the National Radiological Protection Board has already notified people outside the House that it intends to hold a press conference tomorrow to reveal the report's contents. Is not that matter—which affects 20,000 ex-service people who obeyed instructions when undergoing national service—so serious that a statement should be made to the House? Today, the Glasgow Evening Times reveals the conclusions of the board's report, yet the House is not to be told.

Madam Speaker

That matter is not for me at this stage, but I am sure that members of the Treasury Bench heard the hon. Gentleman's comments.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your ruling. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition said during Prime Minister's questions that the Budget resolution as framed denied the House the right to vote on value added tax on domestic fuel. Later, in the debate on the amendment of the law, the shadow Chief Secretary, the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman), said: The first vote at the conclusion of tonight's debate will give us the chance to vote down VAT on gas and electricity."—[Official Report, 7 December 1993; Vol. 234, c. 230.] Who was correct—the right hon. and learned Gentleman or the hon. Lady?

Madam Speaker

The Speaker has great responsibilities, but is certainly not responsible for the utterances of any right hon. or hon. Member.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it appropriate to raise at this stage a point of order on the Sunday Trading Bill?

Madam Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Lady will wait until we are in Committee, for that is the business of the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Mr. Riddick

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is absolutely genuine.

Madam Speaker

Order. Am I to take it that the hon. Gentleman's other points of order were not genuine?

Mr. Riddick

Perhaps I did not express myself clearly earlier. I entirely understand that it is for the Chairman of the Committee on the Finance Bill to decide what is put before that Committee, but when the Bill returns to the House—for example, on Report—I imagine that you, Madam Speaker, will have to decide along with your advisers whether an amendment on the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel can be accepted. Would you be able to accept such an amendment after last night's vote on the amendment of the law?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman's point of order is real, but at this stage it is hypothetical. Whatever advice I receive, I make the final decision—as I think the hon. Gentleman knows. When the time comes, I shall be prepared to do so again.