HC Deb 25 November 1996 vol 286 cc58-9 5.40 pm
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. With the greatest respect, hon. Members get only 10 minutes every four weeks to question the Chairman of the Select Committee on Finance and Services. Today, regrettably, we had only three. I wanted to point out to him how much many hon. Members intensely dislike the renovation of the Tea Room—it is total chaos and a gross waste of taxpayers' money. Unfortunately, I shall not be able to raise that matter—well, I might, as you have allowed me to speak, but I will not receive a reply.

Madam Speaker

I do not call supplementary questions to fill the time available. I call a supplementary when I feel that the substantive question has not been fully explored. I believe that it was in that case. I called an Opposition Member and a Member from the Government side, and the Chairman of the Finance and Services Committee gave a full reply. I am sure that the hon. Lady will have an opportunity on some future occasion to underline what she has just said.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall that you appointed the hon. Member for Staffordshire, Moorlands (Sir D. Knox) and myself to serve as joint Chairmen on the Standing Committee considering the Firearms (Amendment) Bill. Yesterday, the newspaper Scotland on Sunday carried an article about my role, and said: Norman Hogg 'Stormin' was last seen hiding behind a piece of arcane Commons protocol. Unfortunately the children of Dunblane had no such protection". He claims that as Chair of the Committee dealing with the Bill it would be bad form for him to vote. Manners maketh the man, in this case not much of one. As you will know, Madam Speaker, it is the practice of the Chairmen's Panel to take no part in the proceedings of a Bill on the Floor of the House after being advised of their appointment as Chairmen. It is a convention of the House, and it is designed to reinforce the impartiality of the Chair in applying our Standing Orders. Along with the hon. Member for Moorlands I sought to do exactly that.

I took time to explain to those Dunblane parents whom I met my function and responsibilities in the passage of the measure. I regret that the accredited journalists of Scotland on Sunday in this House did not explain the position to their editor—far from being arcane, it is well known. I should be grateful if you would confirm that I acted in accordance with practice, precedent and convention, and thus properly discharged my duties and responsibilities to the House.

Madam Speaker

I certainly confirm most strongly that the hon. Gentleman acted entirely properly in not voting on the Second Reading of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill. As he said, he acted in accordance with the rules of the Chairmen's Panel and the conventions of the House, which exist to create the conditions that allow Chairmen of Standing Committees to apply our Standing Orders property and impartially. I believe that he is deserving of a public apology from the editor concerned, and I hope that one will come his way before long.

Sir Donald Thompson (Calder Valley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have a constituent who is in some distress. He is 28 years old. He has written to every hon. Member. On Saturday morning, his mother brought a sheaf of letters to my advice surgery, which were remarkable in their kindness. May I thank the whole House, and those right hon. and hon. Members on both sides?

Madam Speaker

I can give no response to that point of order, but I am grateful to the hon. Members who acted in that way.