On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the Leader of the House indicated to you that before the House is prorogued on Wednesday a statement will be made on the allegation made in this House last Thursday by the hon. and learned Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Waddington) — the Minister of State, Home Office — that some hon. Members are abusing their right to make representations in cases? The hon. and learned Gentleman, referring to the system of making representations, went on to claim that "some hon. Members are abusing—I am not afraid to use that word — that system." — [Official Report, 24 October 1985; Vol. 84, c. 420.]The allegations involve grave issues that touch on the honour and integrity of hon. Members, and it is incumbent on the Minister either to substantiate his allegations or to resign his office. You, Mr. Speaker, are the guardian of the honour and integrity of the House of Commons, and I put it to you that the House should not be prorogued until the matter has been cleared up.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that last Thursday, in answer to a question from me, the Minister implied that some Opposition Members were abusing their right to make representations? I am certain that he had me in mind because we have corresponded on this matter. I utterly refute any such suggestion. The Minister does not like the legal advice that I give my constituents, but it is absolutely within the law.I sincerely ask you, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that time is made available for the hon. and learned Gentleman to be forced to name the people he has in mind, to give details of his allegations and to give us a chance to answer them.
Is it on the same point of order?
It is similar, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that outside this House many people are extremely concerned about the Minister's statement? Indeed, many migrant families are frightened of the implications. This goes with the Minister's curious decision last May to impose visa restrictions on people from Sri Lanka. He now appears to be trying to restrict further the rights of hon. Members by referring to individual Members of Parliament. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), I am quite sure that I am one of the hon. Members that the hon. and learned Gentleman had in mind because of the nature of my constituency and the fear among many migrant families. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, you ought to do your best to find a way in which this crucial matter can be debated before the House is prorogued on Wednesday.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many of us are being asked—I certainly am—whether we are the hon. Members about whom the Minister made that contemptuous reference. Unless the hon. and learned Gentleman comes before the House, we have no way of clearing our names. Many of us are, in good faith, giving advice to our constituents on the legal position, and if we are constrained from doing so because of what the Minister has said that puts us in a very difficult position. We have the right to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that there is an opportunity for us to clear our names.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I can be helpful by saying that the hon. Members concerned would clearly know who they were if they consulted their records. Many hon. Members are putting forward genuine visit applications to the Home Office and are saying, "I know this family", "It is a genuine visit", and so on. Why, then, are dozens of those families living at the same address?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I add my voice in a personal plea? I am the hon. Member with possibly more cases of this sort than any other. In fact, it has become quite a joke with the Minister's office, and I have been asked, "Which one is it this time, Mr. Pavitt?" We are therefore placed in an extremely unfortunate position unless we are able to go to our constituents and meet our community relations councils with a very clear statement that it is not us to whom the Minister is referring.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If my hon. and learned Friend is to be asked to take the matter further, will he consider any cases which may have come to his attention of people who have approached one Member of Parliament and, when they have failed to get what they regarded as satisfaction, have subsequently gone to another Member of Parliament in whose constituency they are not involved so that they may get a more sympathetic and helpful hearing? Will he consider such cases before he comes to the House?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since I was the Member to whom the ill-judged observation was originally made—and since I do not want to be left out of the action—may I reiterate the demand that the Minister should come to the Dispatch Box and name names if he wishes to do so? Those of us with lots of immigration cases to handle —there are easier things to do—are entitled to defend our record in that we always work within the law.
Order. The House will understand that none of this is a matter for me. Every hon. Member and every Minister must take responsibility for his own statements, whether from the Back Benches or from the Front Benches.
I rise in the hope that what I say may be of assistance to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House.Immediately before coming to the House, I wrote to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) a long letter setting out the various abuses which have been occurring—and I note that a number of hon. Members are vying for the honour of being involved. I want to make it plain that I would not be cataloguing the abuses if I were not able to name names. I am by no means sure how I should proceed if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to press me on names. We are talking about correspondence between my private office and hon. Members which the writers never intended should be published. I am happy to discuss the matter with the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes to press further the request for names, but perhaps he and other hon. Members would like to read my summary of what has been occurring, and to consider how to proceed and whether it is necessary to raise the matter with you again.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is not a matter between the hon. and learned Gentleman and me; it is between the hon. and learned Gentleman and the House of Commons. When the hon. and learned Gentleman made his allegations last Thursday, he spoke about "some hon. Members". It is unacceptable to me, and were it acceptable to me it would not be acceptable to the House, that the matter should be settled by some kind of private fix between the Minister and me. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made allegations to the House about unnamed Members of Parliament.I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that it will not do for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that he is faced with certain procedural problems. More than 96 hours have gone by since he made his allegations. It was on Friday morning on the radio that he said that he was ready, if asked in the House of Commons, to name names. A motion went down to that effect in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition Members on Friday afternoon. If the hon. and learned Gentleman is now saying that he has not had time to deal with the procedural matters, all I can say is that he is trying to bottle out in some other way. Therefore, I make it clear—and we ask for your assistance on this matter, Mr. Speaker—that whatever letter the hon. and learned Gentleman sends to me will not satisfy the House of Commons as a whole. It is to the House of Commons that the hon. and learned Gentleman ought to be made to answer between now and Prorogation.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am prepared to take advice. I should be happy to take advice from you, Mr. Speaker. There is no mystery about this. Of course I would not have been able to make the allegations, and I would not have dreamt of making any allegations, had I not been in a position to identify particular cases of abuse. I repeat what I said before: I am happy to take advice from anyone on this, but we should all think about what is the right way to proceed in a matter like this.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not clear that the hon. and learned Gentleman should have taken advice before he made those allegations? Is it not the duty of everyone in the House, especially you, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that we preserve the reputation of the House?Is it not a serious matter when a Minister of the Crown makes statements alleging abuse of power by hon. Members? Should not the Minister be answerable to the House if the hon. Members are actually giving advice within the law laid down by the Government and carrying out their function of giving the best advice that they possibly can to their constituents on the basis of the existing law? Would not the honourable and correct course for the hon. and learned Gentleman be for him at least to make a statement about what he thinks the offences and abuses are and to go further and name the hon. Members who he thinks are responsible and face questioning in the House?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister clearly made the implication that some of us might be embarrassed by the publication of letters that we had never thought would be published. The Minister has my total permission to publish any letter that I have written to him on any immigration case.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I have an assurance from you that it is right and proper for my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office to seek advice from hon. Members who have written letters in confidence to him about constituents before names are released? Surely my hon. and learned Friend is doing just that. I cannot see what the fuss is about.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not evident that the matter cannot be properly dealt with on a point of order? It is impossible on points of order to continue to put questions to the Minister, and many hon. Members in different parts of the House have every right to put questions. Surely the right way for us to proceed is to follow the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman). The Minister responsible should come to the House; and, in the light of the way in which the Minister of State has dealt with the matter, I suggest that the only proper course is for the Home Secretary to come to the House and make a statement on the matter.
That is a typically wise suggestion. I think that we should leave the matter there.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Order. No; I am taking a different point of order.
On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. Against the background of circumstances of which you had knowledge this morning, may I put it to you that you may be at a disadvantage in not knowing that the last two RAF personnel defendants have been acquitted at the Old Bailey. Therefore, does it not behove either the Secretary of State for Defence or the Attorney-General to come to the House to explain the background of that £4·5 million, 119-day trial, which is a matter of considerable public concern?
I was not aware of that information, but the Leader of the House is present and I am sure that he will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
I will take one more point of order, but I think that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) has already made the wisest suggestion.
Yes, but this matter regarding hon. Members mentioning unnamed other hon. Members is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker. I should like you to take into account what has happened in the past.When my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said outside the House several years ago that there were certain hon. Members for hire, he was taken before the Privileges Committee. That was a matter for you. When my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) was the hon. Member for Colne Valley in the 1960s and said that certain hon. Members were drunk, he had to go before the Privileges Committee, because he was not prepared to name specific hon. Members. On this occasion, not a Back Bencher, but a Minister of the Crown has said, in the same sort of context, exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw said about some other hon. Members and without naming them. Therefore, I suggest that that is a matter for the Privileges Committee. In both previous cases, the hon. Members concerned had to go before the Privileges Committee and finally withdraw their allegations. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that, contrary to the advice that you have already been given, this is a matter for the Privileges Committee and the Minister should be sent before it to name the hon. Members or withdraw the allegations.
Order. I do not think the hon. Gentleman can know what advice I was given. If he is alleging a matter of privilege, he should write to me and put the case in the usual way. That is the rule, and he knows it.