HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 cc31-2

4.3 pm

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last week, the deputy leader of the Labour party visited Harrow. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) and I are keen that he should visit Harrow as often as possible because it is good for our votes. However, the courtesy of the House is for hon. Members who are visiting the constituencies of other hon. Members to let them know. Not only did the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) not let us know that he was visiting our constituencies, but when my hon. Friend reminded him of the usual courtesy, he used my hon. Friend's letter to ridicule the suggestion that people should abide by such courtesies.

Could you give us your advice, Madam Speaker, on how we might protect ourselves from such an abuse of the courtesies of the House? Perhaps the deputy leader of the Labour party regards himself as too important to abide by such courtesies.

Madam Speaker

This matter is raised with me several times a week. Quite frankly, it is very juvenile to raise such a point of order on the Floor of the House. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman could deal perfectly adequately with the deputy leader of the Labour party and not use the time of the House, on a very busy day, to raise such an issue.

Ms Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Has there been a request from the Secretary of State for Social Security to make an oral statement about his decision to privatise, against the wishes of the civil servants involved, the child benefit centre in Washington? Surely such an important issue should not be left simply to a written answer.

Madam Speaker

No Government Department has told me that it is seeking to make such a statement. As I explained earlier, I have no control over statements and I cannot demand them from a Minister. I have not been advised that the Secretary of State is seeking to make a statement, at least today, on that issue.

Mr. Bill Walker (North Tayside)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is item 2 on the Order Paper, the Adjournment (Summer) motion, debatable?

Madam Speaker

No, it is not debatable.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Overnight, there was a break-in at Clyde submarine base, which houses Trident submarines, by seemingly amateur intruders. Had they been armed terrorists, the consequences would be too horrible to imagine. Given that there was a similar break-in seven years ago, when the then Prime Minister ordered a board of inquiry investigation, has the Secretary of State for Defence taken this regrettable incident equally seriously and ensured that a statement will be made to the House?

Madam Speaker

I have not been informed that a statement is to be made on that incident. However, before the House goes into recess, there will be opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to raise the issue if he so wishes.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will have heard many references—and no doubt seen reports in the press over the weekend—to the Premier Club, where business people apparently spend large sums of money wining and dining with Ministers. As it is alleged that some people pay up to £100,000 for dinner with the Prime Minister—which clearly cannot be for either the food or the company—do you think you should ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate to ensure that the facilities of this House are not being used for what are clearly party political purposes: to raise money for the Conservative party and to buy influence in Government decisions?

Madam Speaker

I do not have to ask the Serjeant at Arms; I know what the facilities of the House are used for, and it is not for any such fund-raising activities.