HC Deb 17 January 1995 vol 252 cc583-4 3.31 pm
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not a long-established practice in the House that, when a Member raises an issue affecting another Member's constituency, he writes to tell that Member that he intends to raise it? As the town of West Bromwich also forms part of your constituency, do you not agree that it would have been common courtesy for the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) to inform my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), in order to give him the right of reply?

Madam Speaker

I make it quite clear that I am the Member for West Bromwich, West—the better part of West Bromwich. In all seriousness, I received a similar request yesterday which I am looking at and I hope to make a statement to the House fairly soon about those matters.

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

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will know that the Nolan committee is carrying out an inquiry into conduct in public life and that many hon. Members are giving evidence to that committee. They wish to give evidence in some detail about the relationship between lobbying companies and Ministers of the Crown, and over a period, I have tabled a number of questions on that issue.

Before Christmas, I tabled a question to the President of the Board of Trade asking on how many occasions he or his departmental officials had met representatives of Messrs Ian Greer Associates. I was told that I could not be given that answer, for a reason that you will understand, Madam Speaker: Ministers regularly cite disproportionate cost as a reason for not answering questions.

The problem is that I know—as you do, Madam Speaker—that Nolan himself is in a position to secure that information from Government. Yet I, as a Member of Parliament, am not allowed to seek the information because Ministers will not answer questions. As the whole country is observing what is going on in the Nolan committee, will you express the view on this occasion that Ministers should answer questions, not on the detail of meetings but on when they met lobbying companies, thereby enabling Members of Parliament to speak responsibly about those matters when they appear before Nolan? If we are not in a position to do so, we shall find it difficult to substantiate our claim to the Nolan committee that it should consider the matter in some detail.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. If a question has been answered with the response that to obtain the information would cost too much, and later on that information is supplied to some other body, surely it would be a courtesy for the Government Department concerned to write to the hon. Member saying that the information is now available.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has made a wise suggestion in that respect.

The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) began by saying that I know that hon. Members are giving evidence to the Nolan committee. I do not know who those Members are, but he has raised a serious point with me. Perhaps I can look at the responses that he has received and see whether I can be helpful in that respect.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In his reply to a question, the Prime Minister said that the Government's Disability Discrimination Bill contained provisions relating to education and transport. As that is not the case, would you consider inviting the Prime Minister to apologise for again misleading the House?

Madam Speaker

That is not a matter for me, but concerns political exchanges across the Floor of the House. The proceedings were perfectly in order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue the matter, he can find opportunities to do so, either with the Ministers concerned or with the Prime Minister himself.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

Following the event at Downing street yesterday, which was clearly party political, and especially given the present financial condition of the Conservative party, I wonder whether Parliament can take a view on whether 10 Downing street is to be used for party political fund-raising events at any time in future.

Madam Speaker

There has been no breach of our procedures here, which are a matter for me. Proceedings which take place outside the House are not my concern.