HC Deb 09 December 1993 vol 234 cc498-500
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Could you clarify the nationality requirement for membership of this House? Should one be a citizen of the United Kingdom to be elected a Member? If so, will you look into the growing practice of Members travelling to the EC having attached to their luggage labels declaring, "My country is Europe"? I believe that statement to be fallacious. It is an insult to Members that that is plastered on their luggage.

Madam Speaker

What the hon. Lady said in the first place is not quite correct. In my time as a Member of this House, there was a Member who was not a British citizen.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In what way can you preserve the rights of Back Benchers by preventing the Government from encroaching on the time that is normally allocated to the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill? It appears that on Tuesday evening the social security legislation and guillotine motion will soak up all the time for debate and that the Consolidated Fund debate may not start until 10 o'clock or even later.

I should be grateful for your guidance, Madam Speaker, on whether you are prepared to tell the Government that the usual amount of time for the Consolidated Fund debate will be preserved by you, because it is an important occasion for Back Benchers to raise subjects. Indeed, the Leader of the House has continuously used it as an excuse not to provide debating time. It would be unfair if, unknown, the Government were eroding that important debating time.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Let me first try to help the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). His point of order is a business question which he might have raised with the Leader of the House a few moments ago. However, I am concerned about the eroding of private Members' time and I take seriously the matter that he has just raised with me.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My colleagues and I abstained in the voting in the Chamber yesterday evening, basically because we considered that English Members were perfectly capable of deciding whether English shops should open on Sundays; England deserves that measure of self-government. Will you confirm that it would be perfectly in order for English Members of Parliament to exercise a similar self-denying ordinance over Scottish local government, a Bill relating to which stands on the Order Paper today, particularly given the resentment and anger that there will be in Scotland if Scottish local democracy were determined by English Conservative Members parachuted on to Committees dealing exclusively with Scottish legislation?

Madam Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman realises that all Members of the House are free either to vote or to abstain whenever they wish. It is not for me to speculate about their reasons for voting or abstaining; it is up to individual Members.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You have explained on a number of occasions that you are not responsible for Ministers' words. However, I should be grateful if you would use your good offices to point out to the President of the Board of Trade that his answer in response to an intervention that I made two days ago was inaccurate—

Madam Speaker

Order. I understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration, but he began his point of order—which is not a point of order for me at all—by saying that it is not my business. Indeed, it is not my business to comment on what Ministers or Back Benchers say in the House. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman must find another opportunity to pursue that matter.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Your statement may have provided at least some of the guidance that I seek. You may recall that, yesterday, I raised a point of order pointing out that a report was to be published today into the effects of radiation on British nuclear test veterans. You helpfully advised me that Members of the Treasury Bench had heard what I said. They may have heard it, but they certainly did not act on it as the statement was made today outside the House and inside the House by means of a planted question.

In his reply to my business question, the Leader of the House expressed surprise that I had claimed that the report was already discredited. I should like the opportunity to explain to him and to other hon. Members why I believe that it is discredited. What action can I take?

Madam Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman would like to come and see me, I might be able to advise him, but I cannot advise on procedural matters across the Floor of the House. He will know that there may be an opportunity for him to raise the matter next week and he may consider it at that time.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), you said that you were worried about arrangements for the Consolidated Fund debate. In view of the short time available for hon. Members to enter the ballot for the debate, will you, in accordance with what happens with Adjournment debates, extend the application time from 9 am, when few people will have travelled down to Westminster, although I shall be here, to 10 pm?

Madam Speaker

I know that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is always here in good time but that, although he will be here at 9 am, many others who have a long way to come will not be. I am therefore prepared to extend the application time until 1 pm.