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Points of Order

Volume 517: debated on Tuesday 26 October 2010

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not expect an answer to this point of order today, but I wonder whether you can seek clarification through Mr Speaker regarding the release of Government statements to the Liberal Democrats prior to their being made in the House. Members on the Liberal Democrat Benches have no higher status than Back Benchers on the Opposition Benches. The last time I looked, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) was the transport spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, and he is now sitting on the Government Benches as the Under-Secretary of State for Transport. I would like to know whether what has happened is common practice. Has it happened before, exactly what can we expect in the future, and will Mr Speaker look into it?

That is not really a point of order for me in the Chair. However, the hon. Gentleman has got his point on the record, and I understand that the Secretary of State wants to be helpful to him.

I, too, heard a reference to a copy of my statement having been received by one of my hon. Friends. I suspect that they were referring to the list, which was placed in the Vote Office a few moments before. As far as I am aware, no copies of the statement were distributed before I rose to speak.

Well, this is a matter that Mr Speaker can look at, and he can read the comments that have been made on the record. I do not know the answer at the present time, but I am grateful to the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) for bringing the matter to my attention.

I call Bob Ainsworth.

I would ask that the Speaker look into this matter. It became pretty apparent that Back Benchers were not being treated equally. There are, it seems, pretend, shadow Liberal Democrat Ministers in the House, but they should surely not be given privileges over other Back Benchers. I would have thought that it was a matter for the Speaker to see whether Members were being treated with some kind of fairness and equality.

I have given my answer in response to that point of order. The Secretary of State has been helpful by pointing out that, as far as he is concerned, what the right hon. Gentleman has described should not have happened, and there are no special arrangements. Mr Speaker will be able to look at the points that have been raised and decide whether this is a matter that he needs to address. I think that that is all that we can deal with at this point.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I want to raise a matter that relates to the rights of hon. Members of this House. Thursday next week will be the 15th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Prime Minister of Israel. I sought to table an early-day motion commemorating the event, and took it to the Table Office. Its heading was “Yitzhak Rabin, Assassinated Peacemaker”. That he was assassinated is incontrovertible, as his murderer is serving a prison sentence for killing him. That he was a peacemaker is incontrovertible as he was awarded the Nobel peace prize the year before he was assassinated. Yet the Table Office sought to get me to remove the words “Assassinated Peacemaker” from the title and, when I demurred, said that it would need to be discussed. I heard nothing further from the Table Office and, that being so, assumed that the early-day motion would be on the Order Paper today. It was not. When I inquired about it, I was told that nothing whatever had been done about it. I have studied “Erskine May”, and there is nothing whatever in it that gives the Table Office the power to amend or change the title of an early-day motion in that way. The rights of hon. Members are at stake, because if we cannot say what is true and incontrovertible in an early-day motion without it being liable to being amended, then where are we, Madam Deputy Speaker? I seek to be allowed to table my early-day motion, with its title, in the way that I drafted it.

I am grateful that the right hon. Gentleman has raised this point of order with me. I am not able to respond immediately, but I hope that he will agree that I can look into the matter—it might be a matter that Mr Speaker will want to consider directly—and that we come back to him as quickly as possible.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank you for that, but when you say “as quickly as possible”, how quickly is that? The Table Office did not come back to me at all. The anniversary is next week, and the motion has already been delayed. It is not a matter of amour propre on my part that the House of Commons can commemorate the assassination of a great man.

I have given the right hon. Gentleman my word that I will look into the matter. I am currently on duty in the Chair, and will remain here for a little longer. As soon as I leave the Chair, I will start inquiring into the points that he has made and get back to him as quickly as I possibly can. Perhaps we can now move on, as we have a ten-minute rule Bill.