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Questions To Ministers

Volume 958: debated on Monday 20 November 1978

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will be within the recollection of the House that the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection quoted to the House the Hansard record. I am raising this point of order because I believe that all Members will regard the integrity of the Hansard record as being of prime importance —as I am sure you do, too, Mr. Speaker.

The Secretary of State said that my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mrs. Oppenheim), speaking from the Front Bench, accused him of making "lying" predictions about the rate of inflation. I was very surprised that any occupant of the Chair would have allowed such a statement to be made in the House. Therefore, I obtained the relevant copy of Hansard and I found that what it said was rather different from what the Secretary of State averred.

My hon. Friend was not referring to the right hon. Gentleman or to his period in office. She said:
"Do they think that the people of this country have forgotten this Government's lies about the rate of inflation before the last election"—[Official Report, 12th June 1978; Vol. 951, c. 633.]
In short, she was referring to a period before this Government were formed and before the right hon. Gentleman occupied his present station. I do not ask him for one moment to agree with my hon. Friend —that would be too much—but I do ask him to correct the record of what he attributed to her this afternoon.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I speak from memory but, of course, I looked up the quotation this morning. There is no doubt at all that included in the passage was a sentence which the hon. Member did not read out just now. That was the invitation from the hon. Lady to me to

"tell the truth for once."—[Official Report, 12th June, 1978; Vol. 951, c. 633.]
I do not know how that can be interpreted other than as a suggestion that on other occasions I lied.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you received a request from the Attorney-General to give a reply to Written Question No. 246 on the Order Paper, especially in view of public interest arising from the letter of the Director of Public Prosecutions to The Times on Saturday, dealing with immunity from prosecution for witnesses where the DPP indicated that the Attorney-General had handed over some of his statutory responsibilities to him?

I have received no request from the Attorney-General to give an oral reply to that Question.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise on the point of order which was raised earlier regarding the absence of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. We might have understood if the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had been in a European capital today, because we are accustomed to Ministers being absent for that reason. Since he is in the capital of an applicant country, could we have a statement from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury as to the circumstances in which Ministers, particularly those who answer Questions very infrequently in the House, give priority to absences abroad? In this case, the absence with the Spanish Government has been given priority over and above the duty of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to reply to Questions in this House.

Order. I hope that the House will not pursue this point of order. There is no valid point of order for me in it. Which Ministry answers is not my responsibility. I will not take any further points of order about the absence of the Minister today. Of course, there may be other points of order.

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a fact that in the recent courtesies of the House points of order are left until after the end of Question Time? Is that not your guidance to the House? Therefore, is it not an abuse of Back Benchers' time when time is taken from Questions by points of order which could have been taken at the end?

Order. In this case the blame is mine. I should have asked the hon. Member who first raised the point of order to wait until after Question Time. Many hon. Members feel, on the spur of the moment, that they must rise to a point of order. I should have requested them to wait. I shall do so in future.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you give some guidance to assist us? Some of our Euro-fanatics seem to be describing countries such as Spain as "non-European".

On another aspect of that other point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to strain your patience, but I came to the House specially to hear the answer to Question No. 40. It is a pleasure always to welcome the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if only for 10 minutes once or twice a year. Could we in future be advised beforehand if a Cabinet Minister has to be absent, so that we can adjust our own attendance accordingly?