HC Deb 11 November 1998 vol 319 c371 3.32 pm
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will no doubt have seen the story in The Times today. I seek your guidance on whether it is in order for me to indulge in idle chatter on social occasions in the House with my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), who is a member of the Territorial Army.

Madam Speaker

I have not seen any comment in The Times. I, for one in the House, do not comment on newspaper reports, and that is a very wise stand to take.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) raises a matter that is of concern to a number of hon. Members, of whom I am one. According to fully verified reports, a circular has been issued to members of the Territorial Army saying that they must not, on pain of court martial, speak to Members of Parliament or to others about the changes to the TA that the Government are proposing. I am about to participate in Exercise Red Javelin, and I want to know whether I can speak to the paras.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)


Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman who is rising should say nothing. I understand that I have already received a letter from him on this matter, which concerns privilege, and I must deal with it on that basis.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I would welcome your guidance. On 21 October, I made a speech, at column 1199, relating to the steel industry in my constituency. I have with me a petition from Co-Steel Sheerness plc, which misrepresents my position, and I seek your guidance, with particular reference to "Erskine May", which says: On 22 April 1699 the Commons resolved, 'That the publishing the names of Members of this House and reflecting upon them, and misrepresenting their proceedings in Parliament, is a breach of the privilege of this House, and destructive of the freedom of Parliament'. Will you advise me on whether it is a matter of privilege?

Madam Speaker

Let me give some guidance to the hon. Gentleman, who is relatively new to the House. It may well be a matter of privilege and, if he will write to me, I will consider it on that basis.