HC Deb 21 April 1999 vol 329 c909 3.30 pm
Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek your guidance. On Monday, the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon)—to whom I have written, informing her that I intended to raise this point—disclosed to the House during the debate that she had visited Serbia the previous weekend. She did not, however, disclose that The Mirror newspaper had paid for that visit. Will you advise the House whether, in those circumstances, a Member is required to disclose such facts and whether the hon. Lady should have made them clear on Monday?

Madam Speaker

It is incumbent on a Member to disclose such facts when making a speech, but we have had procedures in this House for some time whereby, if there is a misdemeanour of that nature, any hon. Member may refer the matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to do so, he is certainly at liberty to take that course of action.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I made it absolutely clear that The Mirror was paying part of my expenses for the visit, and the information is being sent to the Register of Members' Interests. I did not initiate the debate, so I did not think that that was necessary.

Madam Speaker

It is usual when taking part in a debate, if there has been some financial interest, for the Member to make that clear at the beginning; then we all know exactly where we stand. There is nothing wrong with that. An interest should be made clear at the beginning of a debate.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. As one who went to Baghdad in controversial circumstances in 1994, I remind the House that the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Hurd of Westwell, had the generosity to say, first, that he did not criticise me for going and, secondly, that other people should not criticise me for going. These are rather different times, perhaps; Lord Hurd might have been right.

Madam Speaker

I think the House will have heard the Prime Minister quite clearly say that he has no criticism of the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) or of any other Member of the House for taking whatever action they think is right. We are all free to take what action we think is right at the time.