HC Deb 22 June 1994 vol 245 cc235-7 3.31 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Madam Speaker, may I raise a point of order of which I have given your Office notice, namely, whether the term Lord Haw-Haw is an acceptable parliamentary term as applied to those with whom one has a difference of opinion?

Madam Speaker

I try to deal with matters as they arise and not to allow contention to run into the following day. However, the hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I do not consider that that is a parliamentary term which should be used in the House. I expect Members to exercise good temper in their exchanges here and to use moderate language in the Chamber. I deprecate what was said yesterday in the exchange to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your protection once again for Back Benchers against the arrogance of Ministers.

This morning, in Manchester, the Minister for Roads and Traffic made an announcement about my constituency. I was told the detail of that announcement by the press. Last night the press was informed and this morning the rest of the media were informed. Indeed, one Conservative Member of Parliament was informed this morning. I received notification at 12 o'clock. I believe that that is outrageous and that when one Back Bencher is treated in such a way, the whole House is treated in such a way. I seek your protection for all Back Benchers.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows that I am concerned to ensure that the House as a whole is informed when important statements are made. Of course, it is for Ministers to decide whether they do that from the Dispatch Box or by means of a written answer. In my view, if the announcement affected the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he should certainly have been informed before the media were informed.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Following your helpful announcement about questions—I realise that this is a matter partly for you and partly for the Procedure Committee—may I suggest that the final helpful step, in the age of technology when we have annunciators, would be to relay the information to the House as and when questions are withdrawn during the day, even up to 2.15 or 2.30 pm?

Madam Speaker

That would not be as easy as it sounds, but I understand that the matter is being looked into.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is there any way in which we can thank the servants of this House and the other staff who have struggled in today, in defiance of the rail strike?

Madam Speaker

That is certainly not a point of order. I am sure that Members have also struggled in, and I am happy to see so many of them here.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understood that, when Front-Bench spokesmen visited one's constituency, it was normally a courtesy to write to the hon. Member concerned. Will you rule on the visits of Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen to our constituencies without affording us the courtesy that the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis) requires?

Madam Speaker

Irrespective of whether they are Front-Bench or Back-Bench Members, when one Member visits another's constituency, it is a courtesy to tell that Member that he or she will be there.

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This morning, the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee published a report condemning the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for refusing to allow it to commission a confidential attitude survey of civil servants. Will you rule on whether the Minister has any right to refuse to allow it to carry out such a survey? The Select Committee is entitled to summon the same civil servants to give evidence before it, if it so wishes, but is apparently not permitted to write to them.

As both Departments of State and trade unions frequently carry out surveys of their staff and members —on their morale and attitudes—why should not a Select Committee of this House be empowered to carry out exactly the same type of survey when it is strictly relevant to its functions? Is not that clearly an arbitrary abuse of power by the Minister to cover his embarrassment? Will you rule on whether an action of that type is a breach of the privilege of this House?

Madam Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman is contending that a breach of privilege has taken place, he must write to me. I was prepared to deal with his point of order, but now that he has raised an issue of privilege I must ask him to send me the full details in writing.

Mr. John Garrett (Norwich, South)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker—

Madam Speaker

There can hardly be anything further as I now have a matter of privilege to deal with. If the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) writes to me, I will deal with the matter as one of privilege.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. A moment ago you said that it was a courtesy for hon. Members visiting other constituencies to write to the Member concerned. When you said so, I heard an Opposition Member—I am not sure who it was —say, "No way." Do you think that the House should be doing anything to enforce that, and perhaps you could advise me—

Madam Speaker

Order. I am not in favour of a great many rules and regulations and of dotting the i's and crossing the t's. I have just celebrated 21 years in this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear".] Whenever I have visited another Member's constituency—no matter what party he or she belongs to—I have let that Member know. That is a good standard, and I would like other Members to follow that example.

Mr. Riddick


Madam Speaker

That is all I have to say on the matter.