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Environmental Audit

Volume 572: debated on Monday 16 December 2013


That Mrs Caroline Spelman be a member of the Environmental Audit Committee.—(Mr Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This afternoon you heard a point of order from the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) relating to me, and you expressly asked whether he had informed me of his intention to raise the point of order. I am afraid he did not inform me. He informed your office last Thursday. He informed the Clerks last Thursday. They had four days’ notice. As for me, moments before he got up to speak—literally moments before—someone in his office sent the following e-mail:

“Please accept this as notification that I intend you name you in the Commons Chamber.”

That was his mistake, not mine.

I had no idea whether this was meant to be on a point of order or in the debate this afternoon, or whether it was meant to be today or tomorrow, later on this month, next month, or whenever. Incidentally, I should say that I told the hon. Gentleman that I would raise this point of order tonight; I both sent him an e-mail and rang and spoke to somebody in his office to that effect. I note that he is not in his place now.

On 13 July 1994 the Chair ruled very clearly against my right hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr Hain) —my hon. Friend the Member for Neath as he then was—that Members cannot simply name other Members and say they have informed them by virtue of having sent some piece of paper somewhere very late in the day. That is a deliberate attempt to get round the common courtesies that should apply between one Member and another in this House. The Speaker then ruled that there should be ample warning.

I am afraid that the nod that you, Mr Speaker, received this afternoon from the hon. Member for Hendon was not the full story.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am familiar with the precedent to which he refers, when my predecessor but one, Speaker Boothroyd, ruled. The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that certain standards should obtain in this House. If a Member is to raise a matter relating to the conduct of another Member, there is an obligation to notify the Member about whom the complaint is to be made some reasonable time in advance of getting up to make the complaint. Simply to send an e-mail a few moments beforehand is way below the standard of behaviour. [Interruption.] With great respect to Members chuntering from a sedentary position, it has absolutely nothing to do with being thicker skinned or anything of the sort; it is a matter of parliamentary courtesy, and people who have been around in this place for a little while understand these matters. That is the situation and I hope we will not have to revisit it again because it is really very clear.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a simple point of order seeking information. I have just been talking to the Vote Office about the papers that accompany the ninth report of the 2013-14 Session from the House of Commons Transport Committee, “High Speed rail: on track?”, which is going to be the subject of our new procedures on Thursday. I asked for copies of the oral and written evidence, which are said to be available from the Committee’s website, and the officers told me that they are not available currently on the website, or for Members. I wonder whether you, Mr Speaker, can advise me on whether this is correct procedure and on how I can obtain copies of the oral and written evidence so that I can prepare for that statement on Thursday.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for that point of order. The fairest thing I can say to her is that I will look into the matter as I was not sighted on the issue, and it sounds to me as though the right hon. Lady has become so only very recently. I absolutely understand that she and others might seek some enlightenment before Thursday. It is perfectly reasonable that they should do so. Therefore, I will look into the matter, and as and when I have anything to report I will revert as necessary to her and/or the House. I hope that is helpful.