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Points Of Order

Volume 160: debated on Monday 13 November 1989

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3.54 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am looking for your assistance. At a time when the Berlin wall is being reduced to rubble, the iron curtain is melting before our eyes and the most momentous events for over 40 years are taking place in our continent, it appears that the Opposition believe that the most important action for the House to take is to debate events in Cambodia. Every newspaper and television channel in this country is debating these momentous events, yet we——

The point of order for you, Mr. Speaker, is that we in this democratic assembly in the United Kingdom are being asked by the Opposition to debate events in Cambodia when the European Commission and everybody else in this country are debating the momentous events in eastern Europe, central Europe and our continent. I call upon you, Mr. Speaker, as a representative of this House, to use what influence you have to ensure that we debate the real and important issues which face the future of our continent and our country rather than faraway issues of half a continent away.

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. I fully appreciate what he has said about the great importance of these events. There will, perhaps, be an opportunity to dwell on them in next Wednesday's debate on developments in the European Community.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to put this on record firmly and squarely, because what has just been said is a disgrace to your office. Would you confirm that, while the map of Europe is being redrawn this weekend—I concur wholly with what was said earlier by the representative of the Liberal party, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston)—nevertheless, it is open to the Government to move to suspend the debate between 7 and 10 pm tonight? Therefore, instead of debating £500,000 of ratepayers' money which is to be spent on a road race Bill, we could debate the momentous events in eastern Europe.

Order. That is a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means who put it down.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on events which took place over the weekend. You may well have read a series of newspaper articles involving the brother of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)——

Order. I hope that in this Chamber we do not need to involve individuals in arguments of that kind. This is unworthy of the hon. Gentleman.

I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, are mistaken. I was going on to say that I thought that those articles were full of unworthy innuendoes towards the hon. Member for Bolsover. In order to clear his name, I sought your guidance as to whether the articles constituted a breach of privilege and should be referred to the Select Committee.

If the hon. Gentleman alleges that, he should write to me in the usual way.

Further to my point of order of Friday morning, Mr. Speaker, I wish to seek your guidance. As the champion of the rights of Back Benchers, for which you are justifiably revered, could you advise the House how it was possible for discussions to take place on the private business of this House—the Isle of Wight Bill—on the Adjournment of the House without involving me? The Social and Liberal Democrats were not present throughout the whole of that debate, despite the fact that they control the Isle of Wight county council. Could you say whether, if they had been present, they would have been entitled, as a minority party, to participate in the negotiations, and possibly have saved the Bill?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Order. I am not in any way responsible for what may go on in private discussions outside the Chamber. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern that a large number of private Bills are currently held up. In procedural terms, nothing out of order has taken place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you confirm that a perfectly good report by the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure is before the House and that, if the House implemented it quickly, many problems to do with private business could be resolved?

I can confirm that. I also heard—I hope the hon. Gentleman and the House heard it too—the Leader of the House say at business questions last Thursday that he intended to look into the matter urgently and would seek to deal with it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the guardian of the liberties and privileges of the House, you have often made it clear that it is precisely because those privileges have been so long fought for that they should be used rarely and for good reason. I was therefore delighted by what you said earlier this afternoon, and I take it that when hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), try to smear people outside the House under the power of privilege, you will call them up short. The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) made was fair——

Order. I do not think that the reputation of the House is in any way enhanced by drawing attention to matters of that kind.