HC Deb 15 July 2004 vol 423 c1579 2.18 pm
Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to raise the use of the word "shifty". On 1 February 1994, I was called to account by Madam Speaker for good-humouredly but mistakenly using the word "shifty" in relation to the late Donald Dewar—a less shifty man one could not hope to find. She made it clear that if the word was used in relation to an individual rather than their policies she would take the matter seriously and demand a retraction. I would be grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you or Mr. Speaker looked at Hansard, because I distinctly heard the Leader of the House use the word "shifty" in relation to my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition. If he falls foul of that ruling, he should come to the House and apologise as I was rightly required to do.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

I did in fact hear what was said by the Leader of the House. As I understand it, the epithet was attached to the word "opportunism" as opposed to being directly attached to a person. There is a fine distinction to be made between those two things: if an hon. Member is attacked directly with a derogatory word, we deprecate that. This applies to Front Benchers and to all Members of the House: we are enjoined to use moderate language at all times. I do not believe that it lifts our standing in the eyes of the electorate when language is used that, on reflection, is agreed not to be the most suitable for the occasion.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During business questions, the Leader of the House had the opportunity to say that there would be condemnation in all parts of the House of the thuggery, vicious remarks and incitement to racial hatred of the British National party, and that it was the duty of all parties to fight that behaviour. On behalf of the Opposition, I want to make it clear that we contest seats against the BNP everywhere in the country and we passionately disagree with its views. In all parts of the House, we hate its creed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand why the hon. Gentleman wished to place that on the record, but he will know that it does not require a ruling from the Chair.