HC Deb 17 June 1997 vol 296 c117 3.30 pm
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Earlier today, on Question 7, you allowed the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) to ask a question from the Dispatch Box. I understand that there is currently an element of confusion in the Tory party and I know that the right hon. Member might be suffering an identity crisis as to whether he is a Front or Back Bencher—perhaps his prospects depend on the outcome of the leadership contest. However, I do not think that there are any recent precedents—there may be some longer-standing ones—for a question such as that being put from the Dispatch Box. I do not think that it is a good practice, and I hope that you will not allow it in future.

Madam Speaker

There are many recent precedents for such an occurrence. I watched very carefully today. I am given the names of those on the Front Bench who are currently responsible for Question Time—there were four Members on the Front Bench and they were entitled to four questions, including the one asked by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), but they took only three. I have no complaints and I do not think that the House could have either.

Mr. Alan Clark (Kensington and Chelsea)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will have heard the Secretary of State for Scotland, in replying to my supplementary question to Question 7, stigmatise an assertion that I made as being fiction. I accept that that was a slip of the tongue, because we all accept that in this House we do not accuse each other of lying, but can it be put on the record that he said that the item in The Herald, which asserted that the cost of a job at the Hyundai factory in Fife would be £120,000, was a lie?

Madam Speaker

Ministers are responsible to themselves for the comments that they make, but I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman actually used those words. I tend to listen very carefully to what is said in such heated exchanges.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Some time ago, the Labour party issued rules of conduct to its Back Benchers on how they should conduct themselves in this House. It struck me that those rules actually stopped them from holding their own executive to account if it seemed that they were being critical of the Government. I saw you looking round for Labour Members standing during questions about expenditure on Scottish matters, so you will have noticed that no Labour Member stood on those questions. Will you look at those rules of conduct and perhaps send them to the Nolan committee, and so make sure that the Labour Whips have not gagged all Labour Members?

Madam Speaker

Those are party political matters in which I certainly have no intention of intervening, whether they involve the Labour party or any other party in the House. I have been in this Chair for just over five years now, and there were times when a previous Government had no Members of their own party standing and I was at a loss in terms of calling Members to speak. It is quid pro quo.