HC Deb 27 January 1993 vol 217 cc1039-40 3.31 pm
Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your advice and guidance on a particular matter which is for the Chair. During this afternoon's proceedings, the shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), accused a Cabinet Minister of dishonesty. That disgraceful unsubstantiated allegation is wholly unworthy of a Member of the House. Do you not think that the hon. Gentleman should be made to withdraw it?

Madam Speaker

Nothing that was said this afternoon sounded to me anything like a reference to a Member of either House of Parliament. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Member has asked for my guidance and advice, and I am giving it to him.

Nothing that was said sounded to me like a reference to a Member of either House of Parliament. However, I remind hon. Members on both sides of the House of the wise words of "Erskine May": Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language. I hope that the entire House—

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)


Madam Speaker

Sit down, please. I am taking no more points of order on the matter.

I hope that the entire House will take to heart the wise words of "Erskine May".

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point of order arises as a result of last night's debate on an order relating to a grant scheme for companies which are attempting to manufacture newsprint from recycled fibre, when the Minister for Industry suddenly announced the abolition of the scheme. Thank you for allowing those Members who were present to debate the wider issue, but would it not have been more appropriate for the Minister to announce in advance on the Order Paper his intention to abandon the scheme? That is particularly important as Gartcosh intends to apply for a grant under the scheme and last night's announcement means that it will now have only 28 days to make a final grant application. Would it not have been more appropriate if that announcement had appeared on the Order Paper, so that hon. Members who were interested could have debated the matter fully?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman and the House might have seen what I hope were my wise words last night, when I allowed a wide debate on the motion. However, the Chair was placed at a disadvantage in so doing, as was the House, because hon. Members were not notified. I hope that those on the Government Front Bench have taken notice of what I said last night and in this exchange today.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You mentioned "Erskine May" a moment ago. Has "Erskine May" anything to say about the length of ministerial answers in Question Time? Today, we got as far as question 14. A number of us have observed that a considerable part of Question Time—perhaps an increasing proportion—is now taken up by extremely long, filibustering responses from Ministers.

Madam Speaker

I cannot remember what is on every page of "Erskine May", or refer the hon. Gentleman to an appropriate page. I doubt that "Erskine May" has any comment to make on that point, but I assure him and the House that the Speaker has.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. There have been a number of references to "Erskine May", which is a very important document: it is the bible of the House of Commons. Will you protect it from Maastricht?

Madam Speaker

There are a good many documents around the House that I seek to protect, in more than one way. Some I may have to protect from the ravages of the hon. Gentleman. Now, perhaps we can move on.