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Points Of Order

Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 3 March 1992

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4.56 pm

Before I take a point of order, in the presence of the Welsh Members of Parliament, may I repeat how much I enjoyed my visit to Wales last weekend as Speaker of the United Kingdom Parliament.

I am glad that you enjoyed your visit to Wales, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that you will come in your retirement and when you are in the other place. You are welcome to Ogmore at any time.

My point of order concerns page 2217 of the Order Paper. Could you make inquiries on behalf of the House to find out whether the computer is out of order? In past discussions, you have ruled that this is a United Kingdom Parliament and that all Members are entitled to put questions to the Secretary of State for Wales. You will notice that six questions on the Order Paper were put down by Conservative Members, who were not elected to Welsh parliamentary seats. I am not making great play of that, because we have had discussions and correspondence and we accept your ruling on all issues, especially on this one.

However, I am concerned that, if the computer has not gone wrong, it is passing strange that three Conservative Members who are not elected in Wales could come first, second and third in the ballot, while I came fourth and another Conservative came fifth. I wonder whether inquiries could be made to find out if the computer is working properly.

The best advice that I can give the hon. Member is to watch the computer at work. I assure him that no human hand comes into it at all. I am afraid that it is purely a matter of luck.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday afternoon, a parliamentary colleague passed to me some sheets of paper—six different stereotyped sheets. They have the heading of "The Hornchurch Labour Party" and were found beside a House of Commons photocopier. The letters appeal for assistance—I can see why that might be necessary in Hornchurch. None the less, would you confirm that that is an improper use of House of Commons equipment, which was possibly added to by use of the free mail service, for all we know, and that it is a scandalous waste of taxpayers' money for items that can and should be borne only by the parties themselves?

Could you please consider bringing to the attention of all Members and their staff their responsibilities in this matter? It is grotesquely unfair that taxpayers should pay for party political publicity.

Order. There can be nothing further to it. That matter is raised frequently, as the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) well knows. He should draw it to the attention of the Serjeant at Arms. Then an investigation will take place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I thought that I had pointed out the other day, for the benefit of Conservative Members, that there are usual channels to take up such complaints. I am prepared to do exactly that.

I have boxed under the Marquess of Queensbury rules, and I have been in a few street fights in my time—that is why I have a face like this. Any type of combat suits me. If the Tories want to bring that type of case to the Floor of the House on points of order I am prepared to do so. When I look around the House, I see one Conservative Member who has been the subject of complaint. I have already given a complaint about the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Fallon) to the Serjeant at Arms. The Financial Secretary had to pay for 4,552 pre-paid envelopes because he abused the system. If Conservatives want to do this, I am prepared to do it every day on points of order.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask, through you, whether the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire), who raised that shabby and sanctimonious point of order, had the graciousness and courtesy to inform the hon. Member involved that he intended to raise the matter of the Floor of the House?

I think that the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) is the Member concerned.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I clarify the matter, because it is clear that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) did not understand? The offence was not committed by an hon. Member from the Labour party, but by a Labour parliamentary candidate. I am drawing attention to the fact that the abuse, which may or may not have taken place, was committed not by an hon. Member, but by someone who does not work in the Chamber and, as far as I know, does not work in the House.

I said earlier, take it to the Serjeant at Arms, but I agree with the Opposition deputy Chief Whip that such matters are best dealt with through the usual channels.