HC Deb 18 October 1995 vol 264 cc353-4 3.30 pm
Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Before the vote on the defence estimates yesterday evening, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement informed the House that I, along with some of my hon. Friends, had withdrawn my name from the amendment. In a point of order later in the evening, I explained that that was not the case. I assumed that an apology would be forthcoming from the Minister, but it has not. Have you, Madam Speaker, been informed that the Minister intends to make a statement, and that part of it will constitute an apology?

Madam Speaker

I have not been informed that a Minister is seeking to make a statement on that matter, but I have before me the exchanges that took place on the hon. Gentleman's point of order. I believe that at that time my Deputy Speaker dealt with the matter in the right manner, and that no further point of order arises on the issue.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance on whether, and in what circumstances, parliamentary privilege should be used to overturn or ignore a legal requirement of the European Court of Justice.

You will be aware, Madam Speaker, that yesterday the European Court of Justice said that it was illegal for women to be appointed to organisations on a quota basis, and that those organisations are therefore questionable. One such organisation exists in the House: I refer, of course, to the shadow Cabinet. Someone who is salaried by the House—the shadow Chief Whip—is appointed from what, allegedly, is now an illegally constituted body. Would you entertain any application from Opposition Members to use parliamentary privilege to overturn that legal requirement, and what would that do constitutionally to our relationship with the European Court of Justice?

Madam Speaker

I am not prepared to give a ruling on the matter at present, but now that the hon. Gentleman has made the point to me I shall certainly look at it and give him a carefully considered response.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During Question Time, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Dick Douglas—whom we all know—was mentioned. Is it not a matter of fact that, when the legislation went through the House, it made it the local authority's responsibility to deal with individuals?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. Of course it was the local authority's responsibility to see that the tax was collected from each individual.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Several hundred disabled people and carers are currently holding a meeting in Westminster Hall because the booking of the Grand Committee Room, which was made in advance, has been superseded. Those people have been forced to hold their meeting in Westminster Hall without the advantage of a public address system. Will you please look into the matter, Madam Speaker? On a number of occasions, people have come here and have been forced to attend meetings in which they cannot hear what people are saying. Surely we should welcome disabled people and carers to the House, rather than making them feel unwelcome.

Madam Speaker

The Committee considering the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill is sitting in the Committee Room in question; it takes precedence over any lobbying of the House. This morning I carefully went into the circumstances of the lobby to which the hon. Gentleman refers, which is greatly welcome here. I understand that about 300 disabled people and carers have come here. The best possible facilities have been provided for them in Westminster Hall, where there is a loudspeaker to let Members know where their constituents are. Everything possible is being done by the Serjeant at Arms Department to see that these people are made comfortable and welcome and that hon. Members know where their constituents are.

Mr. Berry

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

No, he cannot pursue the point of order—I have already answered the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Greenway

On another point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been to Westminster Hall to try to find constituents of mine who have sent me green cards and who are there, and I must respectfully tell you that no loudspeaker system is in operation. It was extremely difficult to find people, although I did manage to find one or two of them. Whatever system is in place is not working as it should be, so the people who have come here are not being seen as they are entitled to be.

Madam Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman. At 12 o'clock today I was assured that the loudspeaker system was working, so perhaps the Serjeant at Arms will take care of the matter without further delay.