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Points Of Order

Volume 122: debated on Tuesday 10 November 1987

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8.9 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), to impugn the honour of the Prime Minister and Conservative Members who supported the Bill? Is it not cant and hypocrisy of the highest order when we all know that the reason why Labour Members opposed the Bill is that the Labour party is in the pocket of the Transport and General Workers Union and—[interruption.]

Order. Some pretty nasty things have been said about the Bill. Let us leave it at that.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The 30,000 pieces of silver having been satisfactorily earned, I should like to draw your attention to an item on the tapes this evening under the heading :

"Labour Chief Whip Quizzed on 'Tea Room Punch-up'." [Interruption.]

Is it in order for, as I read from the tapes, the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), whom I should have great difficulty identifying among the serried ranks on the Conservative Benches, to produce an item of news for public dissemination on the tapes, on the basis of an alleged incident which, I understand, has no substance in fact? I am a relatively new Member of the House, but I am old enough in life to despise McCarthyism, and the principle of McCarthyism is that one spreads a smear and then challenges others to deny it——

Order. I do not think that the point of order that has been put to me has anything to do with me, but carry on.

If the tactic of Conservative Members is to impugn the honour of the Opposition by smear without a scintilla of evidence and then challenge others to deny it, the principles of free communications and free movement in the House are under severe challenge.

It is claimed in the communication on the wires that one of the 50 Scottish Labour Members of the House was involved in a punch-up. Within that claim there is guilt by association. Is it in order for individual Members to seek to create publicity by smear, to disseminate lies and fabrications about events that did not take place, in order to gain cheap publicity and diversion? I suggest—[Interruption.]

Order. I do not know anything about that incident. The hon. Gentleman showed me that extract from the tapes. I am not responsible for anything that may or may not happen outside the Chamber of the House. I have no knowledge of it at all, and it is not a matter of order anyway.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. A few moments ago the hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) made two allegations against Labour Members. It is one thing for any of us in the House to be accused of hypocrisy. I am not sure whether it is parliamentary, but I shall leave that to you, Mr. Speaker. However, I must say, as a member of the National Union of Railwaymen, that for any member of the NUR to be accused of being in the pockets of the TGWU is little short of scandalous; I hope that you will ensure, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that disgraceful allegation.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. That statement should be withdrawn. As you know, Mr. Speaker. I was here all last night and I do not believe that it is possible for there to be a row in the House and me not know about it. It is the only place I go apart from here, and I never saw any altercations. I saw somebody hippity-hoppiting along, but that is another story. It has obviously been a fabrication from start to finish. However, I have another point of order that is also serious.

Last night we were trying to save those birds on the salt marshes of Felixstowe. We were supporting the Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the rest. While Conservative Members were trying to make money out Felixstowe, we were trying to save the redshanks, the greenshanks, the ringed plover and the Brent geese. To help us with our researches, along with my right hon. Friend. the Chief Whip, we were using the "Book of Birds", a valuable book that might be needed in future, and it has gone missing. Now that is serious. When we clean these Benches we must look for the book. It does not belong to me. My hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) got it, but I think he got it from somebody else. That is the matter to concentrate on today.

If it is a point of order, it is more likely to be for the Leader of the House than for me.

It is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker.

It is not my style to raise matters of frivolity. I have listened attentively to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I know we all have good fun in this place. [Interruption.] I am not going to rise to that. This is a matter involving procedures outside the Chamber. I know from my relatively long experience of this place that there are certain matters of etiquette in regard to behaviour in the House and outside, which revolve around good manners of all hon. Members.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) has made assertions about behaviour in the Tea Room. I recognise that that is not within your province, Mr. Speaker, but I appeal through you, to the usual channels, which I know you do not recognise, to examine what has been said. I respectfully ask you to reflect on what has been said, and through your good offices to put a stop to this type of klyping, as we say in Scotland, because all sides can play this game, but if that happens it will be to the detriment of good behaviour and understanding among hon. Members.

Perhaps I can bring this matter to some form of conclusion by saying that I am concerned about the reputation of the House and hon. Members. It is important for us to set a good example in the Chamber. We resolve our disagreements by argument, but we should never resolve them by any other form of anger or fisticuffs elsewhere. I hope that private conversations or what happens in or around this building should never go outside this community.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In reply to the earlier point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), you rightly said that you did not believe it right that hon. Members should tell stories of events that went on in the Tea Room. It must be made clear to you and the House that this is not a story about something that happened in the Tea Room; it is a complete and utter fabrication. It is a lie. There is no truth whatever in the story. Whether we like it or not, there are specific Scottish media and press and that is exactly the sort of story that they will pick up. Because no names are mentioned, the honour of every Scottish Member is being impugned by another hon. Member. I know that you do not have responsibility for that, but perhaps you should make an appeal to the hon. Gentleman, who has impugned the character of every Scottish Member, to come to the House and make a full apology.

I say again that I am aware of the standards that we should maintain in this place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

I ask this because I know that what you have just said is true and that you are aware of the position of the House and hon. Members. Would it not be in order for you to arrange for the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) to make a personal statement to the House? There is a procedure for that. Fifty Scottish Labour Members are extremely worried about this, and that is a large proportion of hon. Members of the House. Surely it is in order for you and within your power, Mr. Speaker, to get that man to the Bar of the House to tell the truth. He has no information. He has made statements based on total fabrication. He is casting slurs upon 50 hon. Members. If you do not have the power to bring that man to the House to make a personal statement, it will be a sad state of affairs.

The whole House knows that I am responsible for what goes on in the Chamber. It cannot possibly be right for the Speaker to be responsible for what goes on in private rooms in this place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that there are two sides in the press report, not just the Scottish side. Therefore, the matter concerns the whole House. If that man is proved to have lied and the matter gets into the press, as it will tomorrow, the House needs an apology from him. Therefore, is it in order for you to demand that, if he is proved to have lied to get publicity, he comes to the House to apologise?

Again, I have to say that many things will be said in private rooms, such as dining rooms, in this place. I cannot be held responsible for comments that are made outside the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman will doubtless have heard what has been said about the matter. If he is a man of honour, I am sure that he will take the appropriate action himself.