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Points Of Order

Volume 171: debated on Wednesday 25 April 1990

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3.33 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A motion on the community charge appears on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the Opposition for debate today. In line 4, the House is invited to deplore the allegedly "partisan way in which" community capping has been applied. As the authorities that have been capped have been granted leave for judicial review by the courts, may I invite you, Mr. Speaker, in view of the long-established conventions about the sub judice rule in the House, to deliberate and, if necessary, to rule on whether it is appropriate for the House to debate the partisan way in which it has been drafted and whether the motion is in order?

This matter was raised with me yesterday just after questions. The case has not yet been set down and the matter is not yet sub judice.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you have received any request from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or any of the finance Ministers to make a statement today about the disastrous trade deficit figure of £2·2 billion, which is more than 50 per cent. higher than the amount expected by the Government and City sources? You will recall that, on a number of occasions when the figures have been announced, the Chancellor or one of his deputies has come to the House and been questioned. Someone must stop the run on the pound—

I should like to raise a point of order, of which I have given you notice, Mr. Speaker. We have learnt that the Liberal county council on the Isle of Wight is one of the top 10 overspending councils in the country, that the Liberal local income tax would be more than £900 per taxpayer, and that the Labour party has admitted that it would not replace the community charge for at least two years, so it is clear that the community charge is here to stay.

The local Labour party is advertising a petition that is to be presented to me. I believe that, as community charge officers can use any source of information, hon. Members would be obliged if you would rule, Sir, on whether such a petition would be subject to parliamentary privilege.

Many Members of Parliament come to the Isle of Wight, even retired Members, from the other parties. Some of them have pledged that they will not pay the community charge. I would not want to be put in the invidious position where a community charge officer could demand that he see the petition and discover that Labour Members of Parliament on the Isle of Wight had signed it and refused to pay the community charge. In that circumstance, my constituents might feel that I had been less than even-handed in my treatment of the petition.

The hon. Member gave me notice of his point of order. I judge the matter to be hypothetical at the moment. I do not know what sort of petition it will be, but if it is a petition to the House, once it has been presented it is in the possession of the House and will not be available for inspection by non-Members.

Further to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan), Mr. Speaker. I am not questioning your ruling. However, the Broadcasting Bill will give a privileged position to Rupert Murdoch and Sky Television. As I understand it, your argument is that the Bill's provisions would apply to all people in the same position. However, the cost of setting up satellite television is so high that, in effect, Rupert Murdoch is in a privileged position. Given that fact and the representations that have been made, and accepting your non-hybridity ruling, I ask you seriously to consider the amendments that are tabled on this issue and to give them preference in the selection process.

I shall certainly give careful consideration to that point. However, I must first see the amendments on this subject after they have been tabled.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you well know, I rarely raise points of order, but I have been driven to do so, mainly because of planted Question 14, which allowed the rag, tag and bobtails on the Conservative Back Benches to do their pantomime act of saying, "Labour, Labour, Labour." My local authority was named and we do not have the opportunity to challenge the Minister's figures or claims. People should bear in mind that some houses are empty because of Government grants for refurbishment, and so on. Why cannot we have the right to reply?

The hon. Member has the right. If he seeks to take part in today's debate, he will be able to do just that. We have a busy day ahead of us, but I will take Mr. Gow.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you reconsider the ruling that you gave a moment ago in response to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Mr. Rost)? The House is aware that yesterday an application was made to the High Court by certain county councils which have been capped and that yesterday the High Court gave permission for a judicial review to proceed. In those circumstances, and as the proceedings have been begun and upheld in the preliminary stage, is not the matter sub judice, whether or not that affects what will happen?

The hon. Member is a distinguished lawyer. I am not a lawyer, but I have looked into the matter with particular and special care to make certain that I have got it right. I am satisfied that the case has not yet been set down and that, therefore, is not sub judice.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have read carefully the motion for debate this afternoon presented by Her Majesty's Opposition. Of course, we are all aware that it is an important debate. Having read the motion, I wonder whether the whole motion appears on the Order Paper. I refer you to line 8, which says:

"and bring forward a fairer system of local government finance so that … "
I believe that there may be a line or two missing after that because the motion makes no reference to what type of fairer local government taxation the Opposition propose. It makes no reference to a roof tax or local income tax. One would have thought that an Opposition motion would have mentioned that. Will you confirm that the full motion appears on the Order Paper; or has an error been made by the printers?

No error has been made. We had better get on with the debate because we may hear about that very matter.