HC Deb 26 January 1995 vol 253 cc490-2 4.15 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have informed the hon. Member concerned—the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes)—about this point of order. During business questions, the hon. Gentleman made direct and serious allegations that Labour Members had financial interests that did not appear in the Register of Members' Interests. Will you invite the hon. Gentleman to withdraw those remarks? If he is not willing to withdraw them and to apologise to Labour Members, will you instruct him to report any evidence that he has to the Registrar of Members' Interests?

Madam Speaker

I tend to treat such remarks with the disdain that they richly deserve, but if the hon. Lady will leave the matter with me, I shall take up her point.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During Agriculture questions, you will have heard the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food complain that I had not notified him when I raised a point of order with you last: Thursday. I have listened on a number of occasions when you have made it clear to the House that, when hon. Members are referred to in debate or in points of order, they should be notified in advance. On that particular occasion, the hon. Member whom I referred to was the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Marland). I rang up that hon. Member and informed him that I would refer to him. I have written to the Editor of Hansard to point out that mistake, but I hope that you will accept my explanation to you.

Madam Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman. When hon. Members make speeches or comments in the House, it is incumbent upon them to go to the Hansard office afterwards just to check what they have said. Indeed, the Editor of Hansard normally invites hon. Members to do that. That should be an established practice so that any errors can be corrected. It is no good making complaints in exchanges across the Floor of the House unless hon. Members have been to the Hansard office to ensure that corrections have been made.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you reflect on the way in which you decide to call hon. Members during Agriculture questions? When we have Scottish questions, you often use your discretion and do not call one hon. Member on one side of the Chamber, then another on the other side. Sometimes in Agriculture questions, not enough Labour Members stand, and you then tend to move on. Bearing in mind the fact that sometimes Conservative Members are standing at those times, will you perhaps consider the way in which you call hon. Members in Agriculture questions, so that you might follow the precedent that you have already set in Scottish questions?

Madam Speaker

Of course, I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has asked me to do, but I have total discretion, as I know that he appreciates. I must also take into account whether a question has been explored sufficiently. That is also uppermost in my mind, to ensure that we do not go on with one question simply because hon. Members are keen, frustration is showing on their faces, and they think that they should be called to put a supplementary question. I must keep it in mind whether a question has been explored and debated sufficiently across the Floor of the House.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You were clearly twice placed in considerable difficulty during Prime Minister's questions. I think that that situation arose in part because of the difficulty that hon. Members have in asking specific questions of the Prime Minister due to his narrow responsibilities and the danger of his transferring questions. Nevertheless, I wonder whether you might invite the Procedure Committee, I presume, to consider ways in which hon. Members could successfully table questions of a closed nature to the Prime Minister and thus, we would hope, avoid some of the difficulties that arise from the numerous open questions. Would you reflect on that and perhaps ask the advice of the appropriate Committee, which could investigate ways to enable us to put more specific questions to him in the hope that we would receive more specific answers, which might also help the general order of the House?

Madam Speaker

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's sympathy for the difficulties that I sometimes have, but it is my understanding that the Procedure Committee is already considering the matter. However, I shall pursue it.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you are prepared to comment on the incident that occurred between you and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). He referred to the view held by some people that Lord Archer was involved with criminal activities. In view of the fact that the Nolan committee has been set up to examine, among other things, the idea held by some people out there that some Members of Parliament are involved in such activities and taking money for various causes when they should not be doing so, why, when my hon. Friend refers to someone in another place, is he pulled up? He is merely voicing the views expressed by people outside about some Members of this House and some in another place. I do not know why people are so sensitive—the Nolan committee has been set up to examine those very views.

Madam Speaker

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. The House entrusted me with its Standing Orders and the precedents that I have to follow. I refer him, and the House for that matter, to page 379 of "Erskine May", which states: Unless the discussion is based upon a substantive motion, drawn in proper terms .… reflections must not be cast in debate upon the conduct of … Members of either House of Parliament". I was entrusted to carry out the procedures, which is why I had to take the action that I took. I try to give hon. Members a bit of a cooling-off period and time to reflect, but the bottom line is that I have then to carry out the procedures entrusted to me by the House.