HC Deb 04 November 1993 vol 231 cc539-40 4.52 pm
Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise this point of order, which relates to events that occurred in the House last night, with some regret, but in view of the scale of the problem and the possibility that Tellers were switched and that votes were spuriously challenged. There was also some difficulty in the Serjeant at Arms obtaining access to the Lobbies at your request, Madam Speaker. As you are the guardian not only of our traditions but of our reputation, would it not be prudent for you to make your own inquiries into what occurred and to give the House your considered advice?

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I can certainly tell the hon. Gentleman and the House in general that I will take no more points of order on that matter. At this stage, I am not seeking an inquest across the Floor of the House. Neither do I want a re-run of what occurred last night, when there was disgraceful behaviour on the part of many hon. Members in an attempt to disrupt our procedures.

I assure the House that it will not be left there. I will make my own inquiries. Some hon. Members believe that the matter should be referred to the Procedure Committee. That is up to them. The House must allow me to make my own inquiries. The matter is best left there.

Mr. Roger Evans (Monmouth)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Does it relate to last night's events?

Mr. Evans

It does in the sense that the record of the vote—

Madam Speaker

Order. I have dealt with last night's events. I am being firm. I will take no more points of order on that subject. I shall make my own inquiries as soon as I am allowed to leave the Chair. Leave it to me now.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may be interested to know that the Railways Bill has now passed all its stages in another place very successfully.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I refer to the statement made earlier by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and to the subsequent exchanges. The right hon. Gentleman misled the House by confusing an in-house bid from the Inland Revenue with an attempted bid from the people who actually do the work in the Inland Revenue. Must we wait for yet another Scott inquiry before we can show the right hon. Gentleman up yet again for what he is?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. William Waldegrave)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I did not mislead the House in any way. I set out the situation exactly as it exists. There are two contracts in, and no strategic decision was taken to contract out. That will be judged against the value and quality of the service provided by those people presently doing the job.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As the defender of Back Benchers, I draw your attention to the way in which the statement was introduced on the annunciator, which simply displayed the words "Competing for quality", with no indication of the subject or the Department involved. I do not want to embarrass any Conservative Members, but I asked a number of them whether they knew what was meant by those words and none of them was able to tell me.

You, Madam Speaker, always insist that we are in our places to hear such statements. Few Members, unless they know precisely the title of all Government documents, would have been aware that the statement concerned market testing. That subject might be of vital interest to their constituencies, yet right hon. and hon. Members who were in their offices might have missed the opportunity to hear the statement and to question the Chancellor of the Duchy.

Madam Speaker

It would be helpful if the titles were a little more explanatory. Often, I am not sure what a statement is about until I have read it. Perhaps we may have fuller explanations in future.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During the statement of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy, reference was made to early-day motion 2587. Heading the list of those putting their names to that motion is the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), whom I informed of my intention to raise this point of order. No marks appear next to that hon. Gentleman's name to suggest that he has a registrable interest in the issue. He is of course a consultant to the National Union of Public Employees. He is leading the charge on an issue—

Madam Speaker

Order. The new rule does not start until next Session.

Mr. Heald

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. My understanding is that the decision that right hon. and hon. Members should in future register their interests if they are to present early-day motions in which they have an interest was taken as long ago as June. In this case, the hon. Members concerned are orchestrating an early-day motion on behalf of the trade unions that pay them.

Madam Speaker

It was made clear at the time that that rule would not apply until the next Session.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

He is thick.

Madam Speaker

No, I am trying to be helpful to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) without wanting to embarrass anybody. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will leave it at that, but he is free to obtain more information from the Clerk of the Register of Members' Interests.

Mr. Riddick


Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is attempting a higher quota of points of order than usual.