HC Deb 24 April 1996 vol 276 cc437-8 3.31 pm
Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Earlier this afternoon during questions to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson)—entirely inadvertently, I am sure—suggested to the House that the Employment Policy Institute had pronounced against the minimum wage. I assure you, Madam Speaker, and the House that the Employment Policy Institute is scrupulously impartial in political terms. It publishes papers setting forth a variety of arguments in the general debate about employment issues. The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong to claim that the Employment Policy Institute has come out on his side of the argument. I speak as a trustee of the institute, as is the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman).

Madam Speaker

That is not a point of order, but I am sure that it is welcome as a point of information.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I raise the question of the behaviour of a Minister towards the House and towards hon. Members. I refer to the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope), and his actions concerning a refugee, Mr. Mikrea Ilin, who is due to be deported from my constituency on Friday and who is currently being held in Rochester prison.

The Under-Secretary wrote to me last night—I received the letter late last night—to say that he would not receive any representations whatsoever from anyone concerning that man, who attempted suicide following a previous attempt to deport him from this country. Is it in order for a Minister to tell another Member of Parliament that he is not prepared to receive letters, representations, faxes or telephone calls about a matter of deep concern regarding a constituent's human rights? It seems to me that the Under-Secretary is setting his face against the Parliament to which he should be accountable.

Madam Speaker

That is not a point of order for me, although the hon. Gentleman certainly raises a serious and interesting matter. He will understand that I have no authority over Ministers' actions, their remarks or the attitude that they adopt to such matters. The issue has now been drawn to the attention of those on the Government Front Bench with the relevant responsibilities and perhaps some action will be taken as a result of the hon. Gentleman's raising it on a point of order.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In the event of an hon. Member giving a clear assurance to the contrary, is it in order for a Minister speaking from the Dispatch Box to continue to peddle a view that the hon. Member in question has refuted? If it is in order, what protection does that hon. Member have?

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. You act to defend Back Benchers such as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who have raised the issue and said how wrong the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) is in that particular respect.

Madam Speaker

I defended the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) when he was being shouted down by hon. Members. Any hon. Member who is a member of a minority party has every right to be heard and to express his views in the House. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to persist with his views, perhaps he will seek an Adjournment debate, introduce a ten-minute Bill or use some other method to make his views even better known.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to reinforce the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington. North (Mr. Corbyn) concerning the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. Recently, that Minister refused on two occasions requests by me for meetings to discuss immigration cases. For that Under-Secretary now to refuse written representations is an extension of the barrier that he seems anxious to build between himself and hon. Members on important matters. If, on reflection, the Minister in question does not have a change of attitude, perhaps you will give a ruling, Madam Speaker—bearing it in mind that the right of hon. Members to make representations to Ministers is a basic right, but one that the Minister in question seems anxious to erode.

Madam Speaker

I will take the matter no further. I responded fully to the original point of order, and we will see how matters develop.