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Points Of Order

Volume 205: debated on Monday 9 March 1992

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4.7 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to seek your help and advice on a matter of security at one of the outbuildings that Members use in Dean's yard. Over the 15 years that I have been here there have been some excellent attendants and security guards, and I and others could get in and out of the outbuildings without any problem. About two months ago, however, somebody approved a piece of enormous expenditure and brought in a most sophisticated security system. The only snag is that it clearly was not made in Britain because it does not work. One of the problems is that it is not possible to get into the place. Once one has gained entry, it is often not possible to get out. I am especially concerned because somebody has spent a great deal of money on the system.

Over the weekend—in the past it was possible to get in by using a key —I was unable to gain entry to Dean's yard because my pass was rejected as being unsuitable, although it is an up-to-date pass. In the circumstances, one has to go to a phone box—I did so on Sunday afternoon—to call the security people. To give them credit, they came at great speed. However, as they had been called out half a dozen times that day, the man who opened the door was becoming rather tired of going backwards and forwards opening and closing it.

My understanding is that there is a further problem today—the door will not close. Therefore, despite all the sophisticated paraphernalia, the security is worse than it was previously. In the four or five days before the House rises, perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, would authorise the Serjeant at Arms to get rid of the system so that we can go back to the good old days.

I am aware that there has been some difficulty with that sophisticated entry and exit system. I shall ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, arising out of questions—

Order. It cannot arise out of questions or it would not be a matter for me.

Quite. It is a point of order arising out of questions, not a question arising out of Question Time. Is it in order to ask whether some exception could be made for answers when Ministers are so shocked and taken ill—as the Secretary of State for Transport was today by my suggestion that decisions should be based on rationality rather than prejudice—that they forget to answer the second part of a question? Could not some mechanism be found to ensure that Ministers write to hon. Members to answer their questions—which in my case was what proportion of the 60 per cent. of the Clyde port authority was non-management rather than management?

I cannot answer that question because I am not responsible for Ministers' answers. The hon. Gentleman should pursue the matter directly, possibly by letter, with the Secretary of State.

On a genuine point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? Has your office been approached today by the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) with a view to his coming to the House to make a personal statement to apologise for the way in which, over the past week or so, he has distorted Government figures—as highlighted by his embarrassment when he appeared on the Frost programme—on the number of people treated in the national health service?

I did not see that programme. Thank goodness, I am not responsible for what goes on in television studios.

On a genuine point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance on the question of privilege—

I checked "Erskine May" and noted that the proper procedure is to write to you, Mr. Speaker. However, may I seek your guidance prior to doing so? My point relates to the publication of a document that quotes from our proceedings in this House and from the Order Paper. The document refers to some hon. Members and contains information that is wholly untrue. The document has been published by the Conservative party—

It is to do with a document called "Who's Left?", published by the Conservative party—

Order. That is not a Select Committee report and not part of the proceedings of this House. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would ask his question of the Leader of the House. It is not a matter for me.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) in his point of order. We are in some difficulty because it has come to my attention that there is a rumour going around that there might be a general election. If that takes place quite soon, there will be no opportunity for us to cross-examine the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) on the figures that he has given to the public—

Order. I, too, have heard that rumour, but some other method must be found to raise the issue. What goes on in a television studio is not a matter for me.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are anxious to ease you into your retirement in a kindly way, Mr. Speaker, so you would not expect a bogus point of order on which to finish the day. I support my hon. Friend the Member for South Hams (Mr. Steen) in his point of order. Try not to tax yourself too hard this week, Mr. Speaker, as the Serjeant at Arms is on duty and has no doubt heard about the problems that we are encountering at Dean's yard. That will save you having to bring the matter to his attention.

I am not sure that I understand the significance of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I hope that he does not get locked in.