HC Deb 19 June 1996 vol 279 cc877-9 3.31 pm
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Did you notice that I have been sitting quietly during Question Time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Unusual."] Yes, very unusual. I have been observing the questions being asked, and twice as many Opposition Members as Conservative Members have spoken. Often no Government Back-Benchers at all sought to ask supplementaries on the important subject of trade and industry. When we discuss the pay of Members of Parliament, may we discuss some aspect of performance-related pay, Madam Speaker?

Madam Speaker

That will be a matter for the hon. Gentleman to put to the Leader of the House tomorrow. However, I must tell the House that I am gratified to see that today we have reached a total of 20 questions plus supplementaries. I congratulate the Board of Trade team and Back-Benchers, who have, in the main, been speedy in their questions and answers today.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Further to the point of order that I put to you this morning, Madam Speaker. I understand that Mr. Speaker Weatherill's ruling of 17 February 1992 blocks the early-day motions that I attempted to table last night relating to the North Wales police and child abuse. I should be grateful if you would reconsider the position, because it now seems that one cannot table a motion or a question for oral or written answer; one cannot speak in a debate or, probably, even introduce a Bill drawing on the experience in Clwyd. One cannot raise the issue in a Select Committee or a Standing Committee either. A wall of silence will surround the passage of the Government motion later tonight.

I cannot defend that in my constituency. My constituents were involved, and there are things that should be done before that motion is passed. We should have had a debate in the House on child abuse, and the Secretary of State for Health should have made a statement on the Utting review. This morning a Welsh Office Minister tried to convince me that the Jillings report was defamatory. That is rubbish. What are they trying to hide?

Finally, I want to expose the fact that 25 years ago there was a report on Bryn Estyn, one of the homes involved in the Clwyd child abuse case, but it was never published because the Home Office suppressed it. We cannot close down debate in the House of Commons on an issue as important as child abuse.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I have a ruling. I am quite prepared. I have carefully considered the points of order that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) raised yesterday, to which I replied, as well as this morning at 9.30 am, and have looked at the two proposed motions that she has attempted to table. I am satisfied that one of her motions breaches the campaign rule, to which she referred and to which my predecessor referred in a ruling that he gave on—the hon. Lady is correct— 17 February 1992 at column 21. As the hon. Lady, I understand, has now been informed by the Table Office, I am content that the other motion be tabled.

Obviously, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley is aware, however, that this motion, along with the three other early-day motions that she tabled on Monday, will be withdrawn automatically as a result of the operation of the House's sub judice rule—that is the House's sub judice rule, not a ruling of the Speaker—if and when the motion setting up a tribunal of inquiry is agreed to by the House. If she is seeking a statement from a Minister or a debate on the matters before that motion is passed, she should ask questions of the Leader of the House tomorrow. She should deal with her Front-Bench team about having the subject placed on the Order Paper. Of course, she will be aware, as the House is aware, that in raising her voice in objection to the motion, which is now on the Order Paper, the setting up of the tribunal will be delayed.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

Further to the point of order, Madam Speaker, raised by the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) on performance-related pay. Like him, I sat quietly through Question Time—

Madam Speaker

Order. Performance-related pay is not a matter for me. What is the point of order for me?

Mr. Devlin

The point of order is simply that, if we were to be paid on that basis, and given that the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley represents only 55,000 constituents whereas I represent 80,000, would he be paid five eighths of my salary?

Madam Speaker

If our pay were performance-related, I would say that I spend more time here than anyone.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

As the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) observed Members rising to speak in Question Time, I observed the hon. Gentleman never at any time attempting to get to his feet. Does that suggest that he has no interest in trade and industry?

Madam Speaker

I think that we have had a good exchange on the matter.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that the Select Committee on Health is undertaking an extensive inquiry into all aspects of children's health and well-being. Will you clarify whether the ruling that you have just made means that the Select Committee cannot take evidence on Clwyd?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Lady has given me no notice of her point of order and I am not aware of how far the Select Committee has proceeded. I would certainly have to look at the matter before I could give a ruling. I would want to be absolutely clear about it.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Over the years, it is inevitable that many Speakers' rulings have raised proverbial eyebrows, but none more so than that given by Lord Weatherill in 1992 on campaigning to which you referred. Who makes the judgment on whether something is a campaign? Who initiates it—the Government, the Speaker, or other Members? Such decisions seem to come out of thin air, when the matter is inconvenient.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. Such rulings do not come out of thin air. They come out of very deep consideration of the precedents of the House. Those precedents are sometimes changed. I am prepared to change them if it is common sense and for the convenience of the House. I have looked very carefully at the campaign ruling, especially on this issue, and have given rulings that I think are in the best interests of the House at the present time.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. You have certainly been extremely helpful. Will you clarify a matter for me? Yesterday, the Government also announced that there would be a review of the care and abuse of children and of children's homes and residential accommodation throughout England and Wales. I am particularly concerned about problems that have been encountered in Cheshire, which is also very much in the news. Will you confirm that there are no restrictions on Members who want to take matters forward in respect of England and Wales, but especially in respect of Cheshire?

Madam Speaker

As far as I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is quite correct. There will be no restrictions. The Government's announcement was perfectly clear and it is being interpreted correctly by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Dalyell

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I have gone as far as I can. I have answered four or five points of order on this issue and I can go no further now. If the hon. Gentleman has anything to say to me, I will be pleased to see him to discuss it.