HC Deb 21 April 1988 vol 131 cc1004-6

4.7 pm

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday I raised with you the question of the rights of a Member to use our internal House systems for communicating information on the closure of a brewery while acting for that company. Your reply, Mr. Speaker, is contained in yesterday's Hansard and it reads: Provided that that hon. Member has declared his interest in the Register of Members' Interests, it would be in order for him to put a letter on the board."—[Official Report, 20 April 1988; Vol. 131, c. 832.] You then went on to refer me to the Select Committee on Members' Interests. Yesterday I did not prolong the matter, but I say now that I am a member of that Committee and can say that it is not within the responsibility of that Committee to deal with this matter.

In so far as you have said that it would be in order for that hon. Member to put a letter on the board, thereby using one of our internal House systems, may I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that this has implications in many other areas? For a start, does it now mean that an hon. Member acting for a company can use our telephones, our non-imprint stationery, our photocopying facilities, our internal message board and, indeed, our office accommodation?

In the light of your ruling yesterday, Mr. Speaker, many facilities may well be used by persons acting for organisations and companies outside the House. While I do not think that it is possible for you to rule today on this matter, I would be grateful if you would reconsider your ruling so as to reassure hon. Members that none of the facilities that I have described in my point of order can be used by people who receive money from outside the House for carrying out what they believe to he their duties.

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that there is any reason at all for me to reflect on the ruling. I am sorry if I left the hon. Gentleman in any doubt about the matter yesterday. It would be quite out of order for any hon. Member to use the facilities or the stationery of the House for commercial purposes. The hon. Gentleman asked about putting letters on the board. The rule is that up to six letters may be put on the board by hon. Members.

Mr. Campbell-Savours


Mr. Speaker

I do not think that I can add anything to what I have said.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand the ruling that up to six letters may be placed on the board, but they must relate to the activities of an hon. Member carrying out his public duties. I am talking about correspondence which in this case is in the name of the Scottish and Newcastle Brewery, and which was put on the board by a Conservative Member for a Kent constituency. I believe that that was in breach of the spirit or, indeed, a direct breach of the rules with which we are all required to comply.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman could certainly draw that to the attention of the Select Committee. I have no responsibility. Any hon. Member many put up to six letters on the board. I have no knowledge of the letter about which the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) speaks, but the hon. Gentleman who put it there may well have had a covering note with it.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have a very heavy day ahead of us.

Mr. Skinner

I know, yes.

You, Mr. Speaker, will recall that many years ago—in 1974, I believe, between the two elections—there was a public outcry, certainly by the Tory press, when it was discovered that a relative of Harold Wilson, the then Prime Minister, had from time to time been using an office in the House of Commons for purposes that, I suppose, were not all that dissimilar from those described by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). Because he was a Labour Prime Minister and the Tory press, particularly the Daily Mail and one or two other newspapers, went to town, Tory Members raised the issue and the result was that my right hon. Friend at that time had to deal with the matter and presumably that was the end of it.

If it was right for a Labour Member to have to take appropriate action, it appears to me that what is good for one should be good for the other. A few years have elapsed, but I reckon that you would do well, Mr. Speaker, to look back at that period and to check what occurred. If my hon. Friend's suggestion is in any way in line with what occurred then, you might find it necessary to take appropriate action.

Mr. Speaker

I again suggest that, if that were to happen, the hon. Gentleman should draw it to the attention of the Select Committee concerned.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

But we have rules.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

On a point of order. Yesterday we had an important debate on an important subject which all of us believe is something that will reflect for a long time.

I hesitate to raise this point of order, but, at the same time, I would be neglectful of my responsibilities to myself and others if I did not.

It is only a short time ago that you, Mr. Speaker, made a ruling that, unless hon. Members presented themselves in the Chamber properly attired, you would be blind to their presence when it came to selecting speakers. Those little things all amount to the type of trouble that we had in the House and the debate that has ensued.

Today, an Opposition Member once again came scruffily into the Chamber without wearing a collar and tie, yet he was called. If, Sir, you do not abide by your own rulings, how can we ultimately expect the respect and dignity afforded to the Chamber to be maintained? Would you kindly repeat your ruling of just a few months ago, that unless Members behave and dress properly, you will not call them?

Mr. Speaker

I do not recollect having said that at all. I said that the standards in the House are important. I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the debate last night which I hope will be a watershed in terms of the future. It was perhaps one of the best debates that we have had in the House for many a year and anyone who was present, as most hon. Members were, will share that view.

In view of my background, I am perhaps the last person to pronounce upon the dress of Members, but the House will not be surprised to hear me say that standards of dress are very important.