Skip to main content

Fight World Poverty (Lobby)

Volume 84: debated on Tuesday 22 October 1985

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

5.7 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise with you a matter which I believe touches in no small part on the rights and exercise of discretion of all members of the House?

During the recess I, like many other colleagues, was approached by "Fight World Poverty" which sought to arrange a meeting with my constituents. I, and other hon. Members, met lobbies from our own constituencies today and arranged directly our own interview rooms for that purpose. I make no objection to any lobby, least of all this, desiring to put forward its point of view, but I am concerned, in this initial invitation, that this particular lobby said that the office of the Serjeant at Arms had asked it to administer bookings of interview rooms and the Grand Committee Room on behalf of hon. Members. Whilst not wishing to overstate this, I suggest that there is a difficulty in terms of precedent which may arise if we allow any outside lobby group, however worthy its objective, to take over the booking of rooms here, which should be the sole responsibility of Members of Parliament.

I was additionally concerned when I went down to the interview rooms this afternoon to find outside, seated behind a table, an organiser who asked what she could do for me and indicating to which room I should go to meet my constituents, when I had booked a room directly. I inquired of her whether our own attendant for the interview rooms was not sufficient but she advised me that she had taken over for today.

As we are charged with responsibility for the security of people who come to the House as our guests and visitors, and as it is for hon. Members to decide whether to meet people, when they do so and whom they meet, we should zealously guard our right to book our own committee rooms. After all, worthy as the objectives of any lobby may be, we may have pressing individual cases raised by our constituents which in our judgment take precedence over the wider objectives of any lobby, and it would be a shame if Committee Rooms in which to meet them were pre-empted because this responsibility had been handed over to any other lobby.

I ask you if you will be good enough to look into this.

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. I confirm that it is the prerogative of hon. Members to book rooms. I understand that the booking took place because the organisers of that lobby came to the Serjeant at Arms' office during the recess, and it was considered that this was the most orderly way of dealing with the matter. However, it is not a precedent that will be followed in future, and I shall certainly look into it.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With regard to what my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson) has just said and the comments that you made, Mr. Speaker, about the fact that the organisation asked for the rooms during the recess, surely Members of Parliament who wished to obtain Committee Rooms for parliamentary business immediately after the recess was concluded were placed in an unfortunate position, as I was. Two weeks before the recess was over, I endeavoured to book a Committee Room, but could not even get an interview room in Norman Shaw. Every single Committee Room in the House and interview room in any of the buildings in the Palace of Westminster had been booked by that organisation. I confirm what my hon. Friend said, that the organisation said that it was responsible for the bookings of those rooms. I am glad that you are taking up the matter. Mr. Speaker.

It was not my information that the organisation had booked all the Committee Rooms. I understood that it had been allowed to book W interview rooms off Westminster Hall. However, I repeat that I shall look into the matter.