HC Deb 14 May 1996 vol 277 cc767-8 3.31 pm
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. We all know that the Nolan recommendations are bedding down. However, on Question 2, the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Dr. Goodson-Wickes)—I have given the hon. Gentleman written notice that I wish to raise the matter—sought to persuade the national health service to buy more drugs under the selected or limited lists. In the declaration of interests, the hon. Gentleman declares a paid financial interest in a pharmaceutical company. I am not suggesting that he has done anything improper, because it is a matter of judgment whether that fact is announced during an oral question. When the hon. Gentleman tabled the question, he might well have provided a declaration of interest, but there is no mechanism through which to record that interest on the Order Paper. There is such a mechanism for making that information available when early-day motions are tabled.

Could we not ensure that if declarations are made by hon. Members, they are recorded on the Order Paper, so that when a Member declines to make a declaration when he tables a question, the House is informed?

Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. In accordance with the traditions of the House, I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice, even if it arrived after the event. You will know, Madam Speaker, that my question made no mention of the interests of pharmaceutical companies, whether actual or implied. My question related solely to the clinical freedom for doctors to prescribe in the best interests of their patients. I thus deeply resent the hon. Gentleman's allegation. If the recommendations of the Nolan committee mean that someone such as myself, as a physician, is unable to ask questions on health matters, in which I have a professional interest, I ask for your ruling, Madam Speaker, and your protection. The matter will have to be sorted out once and for all.

Madam Speaker

It is very much a matter for the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. There is an arrangement whereby Members can register with the letter R against their question when they wish to declare an interest. I suggest that the hon. Member seeks advice if he chooses to ask questions on pharmaceuticals in future.

Dr. Goodson-Wickes

I apologise, but I repeat that I did not ask a question about pharmaceutical companies.

Madam Speaker

If there is any complaint whatsoever, the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) should raise it with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Hon. Members should not take up the time of the House by raising petty points of order on the Floor of the House. We have a structure and such matters should be referred there. I will hear no more on these matters in future. That is my ruling.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During questions, reference was made to the report of the working party on school security that was published by the Department for Education and Employment. Will you inquire as to why it is not available in the Vote Office?

Madam Speaker

Certainly. I shall make some inquiries. It may well need to be available in the Vote Office. I was not sure where it was available, but I shall make inquiries right away. It is available in the Library, but perhaps we should also have it in the Vote Office, if Members so wish.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last week, you kindly ruled on the matter of legal advice that the Government were given in respect of the Westminster city council district auditor's report. Further to that, is it a correct interpretation of your ruling that if the Government assert as a matter of law some advice that they have been given, they have to justify that advice by revealing it? The only reason why I raise the matter is that we are potentially at risk if the Government do not either show their hand and their advice, or change their attitude of providing completely inaccurate representations of the legal status of a district auditor's report.

Madam Speaker

I refer the hon. Gentleman and the entire House to my response last week. It is a matter of questioning the Government, who are accountable on some of these matters as a matter of debate and argument. I can give no ruling on that. It is the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate across the Floor of the House.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point is similar to one that was raised earlier. I do not want to try your patience, but I understand from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that if one travels to a foreign country and is paid for by anyone other than the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or the Inter-Parliamentary Union, that has to be registered and it debars an hon. Member from discussing the matter in the House of Commons. That rather negates the point of going on any such journey abroad to familiarise oneself with a problem. Is that right?

Madam Speaker

That matter has been raised very many times. Members are familiar with it. We have a Committee that sits regularly to advise Members on such matters. They should not be raised individually on the Floor of the House. If the hon. Gentleman sees the Chairman of that Committee, I am sure that he will advise him accordingly.