HC Deb 25 April 1995 vol 258 cc661-2 3.30 pm
Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen)

For the first time in my years in the House I rise on a point of order to seek your help and guidance, Madam Speaker. This is a matter of courtesy between colleagues, about which you have expressed concern. During the past four weeks, three senior Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen have visited my constituency. Not one had the courtesy to send me a note of the visit. They were the hon. Members for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), for Peckham (Ms Harman) and for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett). Of course, I sent them a note to say that I would raise this point of order referring to them. During those visits, two of them visited projects that are up and running only due to my lobbying in the House for Government finance. I seek your help and guidance on how we might prevent that sort of thing from happening in future, as it is a discourtesy.

Madam Speaker

I cannot help the hon. Lady, but I can give the House guidance, as I have done on numerous occasions. I expect hon. Members to inform each other when they are visiting other Members' constituencies in a public capacity. I have said so on numerous occasions. As the House knows, I have no authority to ensure that that is carried out.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last week, when two hon. Members were suspended, you said that they could use their offices provided that they took the direct route. Have you changed the policy, because some of my hon. Friends, who have been expelled for what some of us would consider trivial reasons, have been banished from the premises? What is worse, they have been taken ignominiously to their offices by the Serjeant at Arms and escorted through the gate. Will you clarify the matter for the House?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Member obviously wants some explanation. Access to the House is a matter for the Speaker. There is an anomaly between the Standing Order—[interruption.] Just a moment. Let us have a little quiet as this is a serious matter. There is an anomaly between suspensions made under Standing Order No. 43 and suspensions made in other circumstances, as laid down in "Erskine May". When the House suspends a Member under the Standing Order, he or she is not allowed to enter the precincts. According to "Erskine May", when a matter has gone before the Privileges Committee and a Member is suspended from the House, that Member is not excluded from the precincts, unless the order for his suspension expressly provides for that. That is an intolerable situation, which is why I chose the compromise of allowing those Members to have access to their offices, but by the most direct route only. I have referred the matter to the Procedure Committee because I am not satisfied with how it stands. I want a clear ruling from that Committee so that it will be clear for all hon. Members in future.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Further to the first point of order, Madam Speaker. Does the same judgment apply to Ministers? Last week, a Minister came to my constituency to visit a crumbling school that desperately needs some money—he did the Labour party good because he said that he would not give us the money. He visited Withinfield school in my constituency and did not inform me. When a local councillor, who was there to meet him, asked where the money would conic from, he stayed away for two and a half hours because he did not want to face the flak.

Madam Speaker

Yes. My ruling affects everyone.

Mr. Mike Hall (Warrington, South)


Madam Speaker

Is it a me-too-ism?

Mr. Hall

Yes, Madam Speaker. Further to that point of order, the Secretaries of State for Education and for the Environment recently visited my constituency, both without the courtesy of informing me that they would do so. Will you pass judgment on that as well?

Madam Speaker

I do not exclude Ministers from this ruling. I see that the Leader of the House is on the Treasury Bench. I know how keen he is on this matter and I hope that he will assist me in letting Ministers know that their offices should inform hon. Members when Ministers are to visit an hon. Member's constituency.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance because, during Prime Minister's questions today, I and a number of my colleagues noticed that at least two or three persons who are no longer members of the press but are now advisers to the Leader of the Opposition were in the Press Gallery. Should they be there at all, given that they no longer work for organs of the press with official press passes?

Madam Speaker

From where I sit, I can see no one in the Press Gallery. I should like the evidence from the hon. Gentleman and I shall then make a decision about it.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure that you and the rest of the House would thoroughly agree with the Prime Minister when he said today that we should not use derogatory expressions that give great offence to those against whom they are aimed. Are you aware of the expression being used, as a result of which the person against whom it was used said that he felt like Cardigan at the charge of the Light Brigade, and he does not want to be referred to as a Conservative again?

Madam Speaker

Order. That has nothing to do with the Chair. It is one of the usual bogus points of order that I get at this time on a Tuesday.