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Points Of Order

Volume 173: debated on Tuesday 5 June 1990

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4.35 pm

On a point of order, for you, Mr. Speaker. So far as I am aware, no Frenchman has ever died as a result of the privilege of eating delicious British beef. However, many of our fellow countrymen have died or been maimed as a result of driving round in their second-rate, badly assembled and unsafe vehicles. Could you, as the champion of this House, tell us what rights the House has to enforce the European ruling that the French should not obstruct the movement of British beef? Alternatively, what powers does the House have to prevent the flood of European second-rate shambolic imports into this country? If we have no powers, could you—

Order. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I am afraid that I have no such powers. I wish that I had.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When hon. Members make speeches on a subject in which they might have an interest, it is expected that they declare that interest. In the past several months, incidents have arisen of Ministers making speeches about privatisation and then going on to get jobs in various concerns. I refer to the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who took part in the privatisation of British Telecom and—

Let me finish. Then there was the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who took a job with the National Freight Consortium. Then there was the last one—

Order. I am not remotely responsible for any jobs that right hon. Members might take.

The hon. Gentleman is taking a long time to do it. He must raise a point of order on a matter for which I have responsibility. I have no responsibility for granting these jobs.

In the last case, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) went to a job in British Gas. I propose that, in the future, as a matter of order, when Ministers make statements about privatisation plans, they declare their interest in taking jobs later on.

The hon. Gentleman has abused the process of raising points of order. This has nothing to do with me.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The sad demise of the Social Democratic party over the weekend brings to light—

Order. That is not a matter for me, either. We have an important debate ahead and I shall have to propose a 10-minute limit on speeches. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not wish to keep any of his colleagues from making a speech in that debate.

Of course it is; otherwise I would not have raised it.

In a moment, assuming that we can make progress, the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) will move a ten-minute Bill. I congratulate him on being fortunate enough to be able to use this valuable procedural move to raise an important issue. The point of order for you is this, Mr. Speaker. A week or so ago, the hon. Members for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) and for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) combined, in a stand-up, jokey fashion, to abuse the ten-minute Bill procedure. As you know, Back-Benchers treat these Bills seriously. I have managed to steer one towards the statute book, and it will be discussed on Report soon. That shows that it is possible to use this procedure to enact a measure.

I am concerned that we may be about to have a repeat of that exercise of a week ago, in which one Conservative Member will move the Bill, not intent on carrying it any further, and another Conservative Member will speak after him. Together, they will make a few puerile jokes and then the Bill will be dropped. I do not begrudge any hon. Member the use of any device that is available to raise issues, but I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to make it clear that you are not prepared to see the ten-minute Bill procedure abused by hon. Members to such an extent that the Procedure Committee may decide to take it away from us.

If the hon. Gentleman is alleging that, he should draw it to the attention of the Procedure Committee. However, what happened on that day was in order. The hon. Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) rose to oppose the Bill, and that is within our procedures. It is up to the House to decide whether this type of debate—which takes time out of important debates that follow—is worth while. We have such a debate today. As I have said, I shall have to impose a 10-minute limit on speeches—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Apart from the fact that it ill behoves the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) to condemn anyone else for frivolity in the Chamber, I wish to raise the important question of individual Members' rights. I know that you, Mr. Speaker, are most solicitous about protecting the rights of individual Back Benchers, both in the House and when they visit other places.

With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, and especially because of your relationships with other Parliaments around the world, will you look into the inability of the hon. Members for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) to visit the Chinese People's Republic? As you know, M r. Speaker, they were offloaded from a bus at Macau on the grounds that they were too left-wing to be allowed into the people's Communist republic. Will you tell your counterpart in the Chinese People's Assembly that if we, as an open democracy, must put up with mad left wingers in our country—

Order. That has absolutely nothing to do with me. Although I hope at some time to meet my Chinese counterpart, I do not think I shall raise that matter with him.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Lothian health board is in crisis because of financial malpractice and underfunding. There is also evidence of corruption involving the "Hibs" football club from Edinburgh. Many people are concerned about the takeover bid by the Tory spiv Wallace Mercer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ohl—yes, a Tory spiv.

Although the two cases are different, we need the Scottish Law Officers here to explain their legal aspects. We have had that opportunity before, but now it is being denied. What can we do about it? Can we summon the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General for Scotland? We require them; they should be here.

As an hon. Member with a football club in his constituency—the Crystal Palace club—I have some sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman has said; however, I cannot help him.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise a point relating to what you said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, (Mr. Skinner)—that you had no responsibility for circumstances in which Ministers who propose legislation and vote for it subsequently become financially involved in the companies that the legislation is designed to create?

Select Committee reports in 1974–75 set out a number of criteria that hon. Members must follow, and it is part of your responsibility, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that hon. Members follow those rules. One of the rules clearly says that hon. Members must declare an interest when they directly have one, or might be thought to have one. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will set an example to the House and call on Ministers to declare any intention of gaining financial well-being. Some hon. Members think that the current standards of behaviour, and the financial malpractice in the House, are beginning to recall the venal practices of the 18th-century Parliaments.

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to divine what may happen in the future. I could not possibly be expected to make such judgment about what any hon. Members, whether from the Front Benches or the Back Benches, might do in the future. I am concerned with order in the Chamber today.