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Points Of Order

Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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3.31 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order of which I have given you notice. When matters concerning Members and business interests have been raised with you in the past, you have suggested that representations should be made to the Committee of Selection. I ask you to consider whether such advice is any longer sound as only two members of the Committee of Selection do not hold outside business interests. Indeed, the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) holds seven directorships, five consultancies, including a consultancy with Alcrafield Ltd.—

Order. All Members' interests are registered. I do not think it is necessary for the hon. Gentleman to read them out.

May I ask two specific questions? To whom can Members make representations urging that members of the Committee of Selection should be required not to hold outside business interests? Secondly, do you not agree, Mr. Speaker, that until such a requirement is introduced, suspicion that commercial interests exert influence in the House, including the selection of Members to Standing Committees, will remain? Will you also understand that concern will continue—[Interruption.]

Order. The point of order is to me. I want the hon. Gentleman to come to the point.

I wanted to make clear that I had given notice to the hon. Member concerned.

I have asked you two specific questions, Mr. Speaker. I wish to remind you and the House that this will remain of concern to hon. Members and to the public until we take effective action to ensure that private business interests do not exert influence in the House or on the selection of Members to Standing Committees. I ask you to reflect again—

Order. The hon. Gentleman gave me notice of his question. I am ready with an answer straightaway. He is surely not suggesting that Mr. Speaker should be responsible for nominating Members to Select Committees. If the hon. Gentleman has any complaint to make, the Select Committee on Members' Interests exists to deal with complaints of that kind. The hon. Gentleman should direct his complaints to that Committee, not to me.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If this sort of matter is worthy of further consideration, which I gather you doubt—and I share your doubt — will you assure the House that consideration will also be given, for example, to trade union sponsorship of Labour Members of Parliament and the influence that that has on their voting behaviour?

Many hon. Members have a background of some kind or other in business or industry. Those interests are required to be registered. If hon. Members have complaints about individual Members, they should take them up with the Select Committee concerned.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that in recent times extradition orders have failed to be enacted because of bad drafting. I could not give you notice of my question, Mr. Speaker, but it has become common knowledge that the train robber, Ronald Biggs, who has 28 years still to serve of a sentence given in a British court—

Order. Amongst my many responsibilities I have no responsibility for train robbers. I do not think that I can help.

I think not. I have heard the hon. Gentleman's point of order, and I cannot help him further.

I will hear the hon. Gentleman's point of order, provided that it does not go back to what he said the other day.

Order. I heard the hon. Gentleman's point of order on the same subject the other day. I have nothing further to add to what I said then or now.

I want to raise the question of Privy Councillor terms and how they relate to our proceedings. As I understand it, Privy Councillors are not necessarily members of Government—indeed, they include Opposition Members. Yesterday, at a press conference, Mr. Bernard Ingham was able to give a briefing to journalists in Downing street, drawing on information that was given to the Prime Minister on Privy Councillor terms when she was Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Lady was able to acquire that information because she had been selected as a member of the Opposition, not as a member of Government, for appointment as a Privy Councillor. Would you, Mr. Speaker, deprecate a practice whereby—

Order. I have heard enough. I do not have any responsibility for press officers in Downing street, either.

Statutory Instruments, &C

Order. With the permission of the House I shall put together the two motions relating to the statutory instruments.

Ordered,

That the draft Grants by Local Housing Authorities (Appropriate Percentage and Exchequer Contributions) Order 1987 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
That the Black Country Development Corporation (Area and Constitution) Order 1987 he referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. — [Mr. Lightbown]