HC Deb 15 December 1993 vol 234 cc1106-8 5.41 pm
Mr. Terry Rooney (Bradford, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to raise two aspects of written question No. 134, which appeared on yesterday's Order Paper. First, does the convention on hon. Members interfering in other hon. Members' constituencies apply to written questions? Secondly, a written question was tabled yesterday, but, at 9 o'clock yesterday morning, the local authorities concerned received a press release from the Minister giving the answer, before the Vote Office was open and before hon. Members representing the relevant constituencies knew that the question had been tabled.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman must raise his latter point with the Minister concerned. On his first point, the hon. Member raises a matter of convention rather than a matter of order. I prefer to leave particular cases to hon. Members to resolve between themselves. In general, however, there is no doubt that it is far preferable for hon. Members to inform colleagues when they touch on events in their constituencies. That is the courteous thing to do. I should like hon. Members to continue in that way.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you aware that hon. Members have been challenged to use words such as "victrix" and "reverist" in the House? Is that in order, or is it balderdash?

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Three hon. Members—I have informed one of them at least—have earned for their constituents £1,000 in goods today by using the Chamber for what I believe to be a publicity stunt for a commercial organisation. Although all hon. Members would like to do the best for their constituents, and we would all like £1,000 worth of goods to distribute, the only way in which we can do that is by giving publicity to a commercial organisation. Although that might be fairly innocent in this situation, could it not lead to other commercial organisations putting pressure on hon. Members to use the House and our powers of influence here for purely commercial ends?

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

No, I can deal with it, thank you very much. I understand that there was some charitable element in what took place.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

It was a business.

Madam Speaker

Order. I am on my feet. But I cannot approve of hon. Members being incited to play games with our proceedings. [Interruption.] Order. I have not yet finished; I am on my feet. That is what has taken place today. Nor do I approve of hon. Members agreeing to do so and that is what has happened today. I hope that there will be no more tomfoolery, because I deprecate it very greatly.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. At 3.30 pm, a written answer from the Secretary of State for Health was placed in the Vote Office while the right hon. Lady herself was holding a press conference at Richmond house. Both answer and press conference deal with the financing and delivery of health care in my constituency. Although I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has decided to keep the renal unit at the Royal Free hospital, is not it disgraceful that, yet again, a Minister of the Crown has revealed changes in Government policy and funding to the press before they were detailed to the House?

Madam Speaker

I understand that that is the subject of a written answer which was made available to the House at 3.30 pm today. I understand that the Secretary of State also gave a press conference at that time. Possibly the press has picked up on an embargoed advance briefing and has breached that embargo. I deprecate such breaches, just as I deprecate any statements that are made outside the House to the media before they are made to the House.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I apologise to the House? I certainly did not appreciate that I was breaking the rules of the House when I mentioned that word. It is always a temptation, when not many Conservative Members have white beards, to try to play Father Christmas to our constituents.

Madam Speaker

There was no breaking of the rules of the House, but the hon. Gentleman was playing games with our proceedings. That is what I deprecate and I hope that it will never happen again.

Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

I seek your guidance, Madam Speaker. Is it in order for the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the House to seek to disrupt Back-Bench business? I thought that the Leader of the House was meant to protect Back-Bench Members. Is it in order for that Parliamentary Private Secretary to remain in his position? May I refer the matter to the Procedure Committee?

Madam Speaker

There is no appeal from one day to the next and it is up to individual hon. Members to use the Standing Orders or the procedures of the House, provided that they do so correctly.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

I have dealt with that point of order, thank you very much. [Interruption.] I have dealt with that point of order. There is no further point of order. I know precisely what happened. The matter should have been dealt with right away. It is up to hon. Members to use the Standing Orders and the procedures of the House, provided that they do so correctly.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I make it absolutely clear that none of that money whatsoever will go to anybody's constituency—

Madam Speaker

Order. I have dealt with that matter.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Notification of the two statements this afternoon did not appear on the annunciator until 10 minutes to 2. I realise that that has nothing to do with you, Madam Speaker, because you deal only with the notification of private notice questions. The provision of information at 1 o'clock is a very strong convention, to allow hon. Members to organise their afternoons so that they are present for statements. Your ruling has always been that, if hon. Members are not present for statements, they are not allowed to put questions. Therefore, it is very important that information is available at 1 o'clock so that hon. Members can plan their afternoons. The Leader of the House was responsible for the difficulties which were created for hon. Members this afternoon by the incompetence which he undoubtedly displayed. I hope that that is not a precedent and that you would deprecate any future occurrences.

Madam Speaker

As a matter of fact, the matter has nothing to do with the Leader of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Order. The matter is the responsibility of the authorities of the House.

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that I did not notice that the information was not on the annunciator. The hon. Gentleman is quite right that it should be on the annunciator by 1 o'clock to allow hon. Members to make preparations. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will take the matter up as soon as I have left the Chair.