HC Deb 04 March 2004 vol 418 cc1069-70 1.27 pm
Mr. Ivan Henderson (Harwich) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice. I ask for your guidance and advice to Members of this House regarding parliamentary protocol in the case of Members asking questions in this House on behalf of constituents of other Members when contacted by them. The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) recently visited my constituency, met a group of my constituents and returned to the House and asked several questions about my primary care trust, right down to localised issues regarding individual GP surgeries. I understood that if constituents contacted a Member representing another constituency, the issues would be referred back to the relevant Member of Parliament to raise them on behalf of his constituents. Can you, Mr. Speaker, make a ruling or give us guidance for the future on how to deal with issues regarding other Members' constituents?

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will answer the point of order. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. There is a well understood convention in the House that unless otherwise agreed between the Members concerned the interests of electors should be represented only by the constituency Member. It is not possible, however, for me as Speaker to ensure that this convention is enforced at all times. It is best to leave it to the good sense of Members to work out any problems between them. I hope that this is of help to the hon. Gentleman.

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con)

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. During the years of Labour Opposition, their spokesmen asked a series of questions, sometimes generally and sometimes on individual health authorities covering constituencies. I hope that the convention of this House will remain that Opposition spokesmen for health may ask questions on health anywhere in the country. If we do not keep that, the limits on Opposition spokesmen would be greater than they were when the Labour party was in Opposition.

Mr. Speaker

That is different from the situation that the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Henderson) put to me. I see no problem in what the hon. Gentleman raises.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night, we held an important debate on the protection of vulnerable children, during which the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) was asked about Conservative expenditure and insisted, at column 972, that the Conservatives would match all Government expenditure in the areas of education and health. However, the shadow Chancellor has said that the Conservatives intend to match expenditure on health and schools, which is very different. Is it not essential, Mr. Speaker, that hon. Members and people who listen to our proceedings be given accurate information?

Mr. Speaker

I am not allowed to take part in the debates of the House, even the day after.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your help and advice, as you are a defender of Members' interests and, like me, seek to give the best possible service to your constituents. Whenever possible, I try to answer all my mail on the day I receive it, but Ministers are increasingly in the habit of predating mail sent to me—sometimes by as much as 14 days before. This morning, I received a letter from the Department of Trade and Industry dated 24 February. As my constituents may think that I, rather than Ministers, have my eye off the ball, will you draw Ministers' attention to the fact that they should not predate mail sent to Members so that we can give our constituents the service they deserve?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the Ministers concerned will read Hansard and note the hon. Gentleman's concern.

Mr. Heald

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that when the statement about new proposals for a supreme court was made, the impression was given that the judges had been consulted and that all was well. However, you will know that the noble and learned Lord Woolf gave a speech in which he made it extremely clear that he is very unhappy about those proposals. Given those circumstances, Mr. Speaker, have you received a request from a Minister to come to this place to make a statement explaining why those two impressions are so different?

Mr. Speaker

The Bill is before the other place and it is a matter for debate in that House.