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Points of Order

Volume 506: debated on Monday 1 March 2010

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport made an accusation that I took orders from Sky and Murdoch. That is a most extraordinary accusation. I have been in Parliament for five years, and I have never taken orders from anybody. I would have hoped that the Secretary of State would apologise, but he did not take the opportunity to do so. Can you suggest how I pursue an apology, Mr. Speaker?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He has placed his views and concerns very firmly on the record, and I listened carefully to what was said. Although I was mindful of our prohibition on imputing false motives, I think that in this case it was a matter of taste rather than of order.

The Secretary of State is here. If he wishes to respond—[Interruption.] Order. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to respond, he is free to do so—[Interruption]—but he is under no obligation to do so.

The Secretary of State does not wish to apologise. So be it. [Interruption.] Order. The House is getting a little over-excited. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) is getting very worked up, and I am quite worried about him. I do not want his health to suffer by him getting overly worked-up—that would be bad for The Wrekin, bad for the House and bad for the nation. We do not want that to happen, so we will move on to the next point of order, which comes from Dr. Spink.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many hon. Members will have to fight an election soon in which tainted Ashcroft money has been used, perhaps unfairly, to buy votes against them. Are you aware of any opportunity for the House to debate that very worrying matter, which hits at the very heart of our democracy and the concept of fair play?

The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of the House, and he knows that the scheduling of business, the timetabling of debate and the question of which debates take place are not matters for me. He is a perspicacious fellow, and he knows that he can of course raise the matter at business questions if he wishes to do so. As for the issue being debated, although what we have just heard certainly did not represent a full-scale debate, the hon. Gentleman has left his constituents in no doubt about his views on this important matter.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last Tuesday you made an important statement about new rules for petitions, beginning today. I will have the honour later this evening to present the first such petition, organised by Cassian Horowitz on behalf of hundreds of staff against the closure of Bellamy’s bar. In your statement, you said:

“The right to petition Parliament is one of our oldest and most cherished…traditions. The changes…will refresh and improve an important democratic mechanism.”—[Official Report, 23 February 2010; Vol. 506, c. 163.]

It has been drawn to my attention, however, that the departmental Communications Officer of the Department of Facilities sent an e-mail to staff on Friday saying that they should express their views through their line manager—and, by implication, not sign the petition. Please, Mr. Speaker, will you confirm that the democratic right to petition Parliament extends to all the staff working in Parliament, and that they are free to sign the petition without fear of victimisation?

This is not a proper matter to be aired extensively on the Floor of the House. I will make inquiries, but what I will say to the hon. Gentleman—I do not think that he has ever accused me of ducking a matter, and I do not wish to give him the opportunity to do so on this occasion—is that he has made his point extremely forcefully—[Interruption.] Order. I stand by what I said about the right to petition. I will look further into this matter and the very particular charge—or criticism—that he makes, but it is perfectly proper that he should air his concern. Now is not the time for a general debate about it on the Floor of the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I remind you that the very first recorded petition to Parliament came from my constituency? It was dropped from a horse and found on Salisbury plain. It was eventually brought to the House of Commons, where it was considered by the House—and burnt.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is in his 27th year as a Member of the House. He will therefore know that what he has just said is most certainly not a point of order, but it would be widely regarded as a point of enlightenment, and we are grateful to him.

Bills Presented

Bilingual Juries (Wales)

Presentation (Standing Order No. 57)

Hywel Williams presented a Bill to amend section 10 of the Juries Act 1974 to provide that in certain cases all members of a jury be bilingual in Welsh and English; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 April, and to be printed (Bill 75).

Registration of Births and Deaths (Welsh Language)

Presentation (Standing Order No. 57)

Hywel Williams presented a Bill to make provision about the registration of births and deaths where particulars are given in Welsh and English; to permit certificates of particulars of entries of registers of births and deaths to be in Welsh or English only in such circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 April, and to be printed (Bill 76).

Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (Amendment)

Presentation (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr. Andrew Dismore presented a Bill to amend the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 March, and to be printed (Bill 77).