HC Deb 10 June 1998 vol 313 cc1077-8 3.31 pm
Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to raise the issue of resources for the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, especially in relation to the burden that has been placed on it by the Paymaster General's affairs.

You will know, Madam Speaker, that the commissioner has already completed one investigation into the Paymaster General's offshore Orion trust and its dealings in the shares of Coventry City football club. There are two further investigations: one into his undeclared directorship of Swiss EDM Ltd., and one into his apparently undeclared directorships of three companies in the Robert Maxwell empire. To those three investigations has been added today a fourth complaint about two Italian property companies that are owned by the Paymaster General and of which he has been a director. It is clear that that level of activity was not envisaged when Sir Gordon Downey's office was set up. I raise this point of order to ensure that sufficient resources are available to the commissioner to enable him to carry out his investigations thoroughly and with expedition. The investigations that are already under way have so far taken three months—

Madam Speaker

Order. I regret having to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but, for a number of days, I have taken points of order that have become speeches, and I am not prepared to listen to long speeches any more. I think that I have the gist of the issue that the right hon. Gentleman raises. The matter is for the Committee on Standards and Privileges. It has always been clear that it is open to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to seek additional resources when, in his judgment, that is necessary to enable him to carry out his duties. If he needs more resources, all that he has to do is to apply to me, and I shall see that he has the resources to carry out his job correctly.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not the custom in the House that when individual Members are to be named by others they should be given written notification?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Lady is quite correct. May I inquire whether the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) gave the Minister notice?

Mr. Maude

I did not, Madam Speaker. [Interruption.] If I should have done so I apologise.

Madam Speaker

Let me make it quite clear that all Members—Front Benchers, Ministers, whoever they are—must notify an hon. Member when they intend to refer to him or her. Thank you, Mrs. Dunwoody, for reminding me of that.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On Monday, the Government announced that they were to cap Derbyshire county council. They also said in the press announcement that a Committee would meet on Thursday—tomorrow—to consider the matter.

The Committee of Selection has not yet appointed any Members to that Committee, because it has not met. Indeed, the capping order was not included on the Committee of Selection's original agenda. The Committee of Selection is not due to meet until this afternoon. That means that any Members appointed by it will not be notified of their appointment until tomorrow morning, when the Committee considering the capping order is due to meet.

As a result of the Deputy Prime Minister's statement, I have tabled some written questions which will be important to facilitating the debate. Unfortunately, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has not yet answered them. Is that really fair? Does the Government's taking of such a measure in Committee in the same week as the measure is announced allow for scrutiny? This is the first time in memory and on record that capping matters have not been debated on the Floor of the House.

Madam Speaker

I was very pleased to be able to call the hon. Gentleman during Prime Minister's Question Time this afternoon, when he was quite rightly able to raise matters that concern his area. He may seek to catch my eye tomorrow to put a question to the Leader of the House when she answers questions on the progress of parliamentary business. I understand that no Standing Orders have been breached by what he has described, although I have some sympathy for him. He may, of course, wish to pursue the matter through the usual channels—of which he is himself a member, I believe.