asked the Minister of Agriculture what was the cost of the recent exterior decoration of his Department's premises at Northerwood House, Lyndhurst, Hampshire.
One thousand nine hundred and ninety-seven pounds.
As this decoration chiefly consisted in exterior painting with white paint, can he say how the Forestry Commission justifies this expenditure when no private owner can have any paint at all?
The second part of that Question, I would have thought, is a non-statement of fact—
What is a non-statement of fact?
I said, "was not a statement of fact"—the hon. Gentleman himself does a lot of that. In reply to the first part of the Question, this was a rather large valuable house presented to the Forestry Commission early in 1945, which had received no exterior decoration since 1939, and obviously needed to have something done.
The hon. Gentleman has said that I make a lot of non-statements of fact; what does he mean by that?Later—
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary accused me of making frequent statements which were not statements of fact. Is that the sort of remark which should be bandied across the Floor of the House, even in jest?
I do not know exactly to what the hon. Gentleman's answer was referring.
It is too frequently alleged in this House that people do not make statements of fact and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether that sort of thing should be allowed?
I certainly cannot stop what a Minister chooses to answer. Every person is responsible for what he states.
Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary responsible for that statement which he made, Mr. Speaker? Am I entitled to ask for an apology from the hon. Gentleman who accused me of making frequent statements which are not statements of fact? I maintain that I have a right to ask the Chair for its protection in this sort of case.
Really, I think that is going a little too far. What does "a statement not according to fact" mean? It means that the hon. Gentleman is mistaken—that is all. Surely, we can all be mistaken at some time or other.
With all respect, Mr. Speaker, I think you have got it wrong. In plain English the hon. Gentleman accused me of being a liar when, in fact, I made no statement of any sort whatever.
Nothing of the kind. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary never said that the hon. Gentleman was a liar. He merely said that a statement was not according to fact; that, therefore, the hon. Gentleman was mistaken.
But I made no statement whatever.
Then surely the matter does not arise.
As I had not said anything at all, Mr. Speaker, I think you should protect me from being called a liar.