HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 c42 4.53 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As some of us know only too well, you are, quite rightly, very stringent about your selection of subjects for private notice questions. My point of order, on one level, might seem a bit impertinent and cheeky in relation to the Chair, but it is not meant that way.

Before accepting a subject for a private notice question, should there not be some assurance by the hon. Member asking the question, if he is not the constituency Member, that, if he is going to criticise people and an institution, he has had the courtesy at least to attempt to contact them?

It was a bit odd that this afternoon's question should come from the hon. Member for Truro and St. Austell (Mr. Taylor). I wondered whether he had consulted his right hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan), because it became quite clear that he had not bothered to contact Dounreay. Do you, Madam Speaker, think that it is any part of the Speaker's duty to contact the institution involved before criticism is made, to determine whether an hon. Member has had the courtesy to hear the other side of the story before taking up the time of the House of Commons and causing great damage?

Madam Speaker

It is no duty of the Speaker to question the fact that an hon. Member, wherever he represents, has put a private notice question to me. My only concern is to ensure that it meets the criteria of urgency or emergency or, as in this case, whether I am able, by bringing a Minister to the Dispatch Box, to give what I thought the public needed in terms of reassurance. It was on that point that I determined to bring the Minister to the Dispatch Box. I have nothing further to say on that matter.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

There can be no further point of order. I have made it quite clear what the position of the Speaker is, and I have given a reason, which is unprecedented, but I thought that it was important that the people should be reassured about the situation. I believe that they have been reassured today, and that was my reason for bringing the Minister here.

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