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Points Of Order

Volume 170: debated on Wednesday 28 March 1990

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3.32 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am rising to ask whether you have received any notification from the Government as to whether they intend to make a statement today about the seizure of nuclear trigger devices at Heathrow airport. I am sure that everyone in the House, on both sides, will agree that this is a profoundly important matter, relating not only to national security but to the United Kingdom's relationship with the Government of Iraq. It is something on which it is necessary for the House to hear from the Government very urgently. I should be obliged if the Leader of the House, who is here, could arrange for a statement to be made later today.

The right hon. Gentleman has made his point. It is indeed a very serious matter. I am sure that what he has said will have been heard by the Leader of the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I invite you to make a statement on the following circumstances? Under Standing Order No. 128, a Select Committee governs the operation and compilation of the Register of Members' Interests. On the Order Paper today, there are 32 parliamentary questions tabled by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith). I have given the hon. Gentleman notice that I would raise the point of order. On the last occasion that similar questions were tabled, at a cost of well over £3,000 to the taxpayers, the hon. Member admitted that it had nothing to do with his constituency but that he had tabled the questions on behalf of Price Waterhouse who wanted the information to form a business plan.

This is an abuse of the House. May I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to deprecate the practice until the Select Committee on Members' Interests has had an opportunity to examine the matter? I recognise that it is the responsible Select Committee. I had hoped, in the past when I raised this matter, that the publicity would lead to an end of the abuse, but that has not been the case. It would be helpful if you could say whether you prefer that sort of questioning about outside interests when an hon. Member receives several thousand pounds a year in his private income. The questions should not be asked in order to reflect that interest.

The hon. Member is quite right to say that that is a matter for the Select Committee on Members' Interests, and I understand that that Committee is already looking into that practice.

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that it did not escape your notice that, at the start of Scottish Questions, there was only one Conservative Back Bencher in attendance. In the course of the hour, two other Scottish Back-Bench Conservative Members came into the Chamber, one of whom did not manage to remain until the end of Question Time. Will you convey to them that they have a constitutional responsibility to be here to question the Secretary of State for Scotland and they are not absolved from that by encouraging large numbers of English Members to communicate their wishes?

I like to see the Chamber full for Question Time, but hon. Members' other engagements are not a matter for me.

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether you observed the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) arriving late during Scottish Questions, asking her question and swanning out again? Would you consider that that is a good way to get a question called?

Yes, I know but I do not know why the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) arrived late or may have left early.

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), Mr. Speaker. In the past, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) used to do exactly the same with agriculture questions, and the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) has a research assistant who has been approaching all lady Members on the treatise that she is doing on the representation of women in Washington and in the House of Commons.

Statutory Instruments, &C


That the draft Industrial Training (Northern Ireland) Order 1990 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Fallon.]