HC Deb 14 February 1996 vol 271 cc1011-3 3.31 pm
Ms Harriet Harman (Peckham)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In Health questions yesterday I accused the Secretary of State of misleading the House. I unreservedly withdraw the term "misled" as unparliamentary, and I apologise to him and to you.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

I will take no further points of order on that matter. The hon. Lady has done the right thing, and I am obliged to her.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I apologise for not being here when my question was called, but something important has occurred relating to Question 6, in which I declared an interest. Despite having checked the form and confirmed with the Table Office that it showed that an interest had been declared, the letter "R" has not appeared next to the question. As you will know, I have several times mentioned the fact that Opposition Members sponsored by trade unions are not declaring that interest, but perhaps they are doing so and the "R" is not being printed.

Madam Speaker

I do not think that that is the case. On this occasion, the printers regret that there was a lapse, but I take the view that it is always prudent for hon. Members to check the text of their questions when they first appear on the Order Paper. It is a courtesy that hon. Members should be here to ask their questions.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have just noted that the Official Report covering the late-night Division on Monday on the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 records that two Labour Front-Bench spokesmen went through the No Lobby. I am concerned that it might be a mistake because, had they done so, they would be in breach of collective responsibility. They will have voted against the Maastricht treaty provisions and have no choice but to resign. Will you arrange for checks to be made to see whether the record is accurate?

Madam Speaker

It is none of the Speaker's business and, as far as I am concerned, the report is correct.

Mr. Stephen Timms (Newham, North-East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Newham general hospital last month issued a remarkable press release attacking the cuts that it was being forced to make as a result of reductions in Government funding. In that context, is it in order for the Secretary of State for Health to be claiming improvements in services at that hospital?

Madam Speaker

That is not a point of order. It is a question and the hon. Gentleman must find an opportunity to raise it in debate.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that during Question Time, an hon. Lady, whom I will not name, crossed in front of—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. I have informed the Whips on many occasions that Members should not enter the Chamber and cross the line of sight between a Minister and the Member whose question he is answering. Members who are sitting in the Chamber and know whose question the Minister is answering should be helpful to Members entering the Chamber by holding them back, as they could have on the occasion to which the hon. Member referred. I watched very carefully and, frankly, Members were not as helpful as they could have been.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In Health questions yesterday, the Secretary of State said that hospitals had opened extra beds. On checking, we found that they had not. How can we get the Secretary of State to explain that from the Dispatch Box?

Madam Speaker

That is not a point of order. As I explained to the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Timms), such questions are for political argument in debate. The hon. Lady may care to table questions on the matter or raise it at some stage on the Adjournment.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) did not tell you the whole story when he raised his point of order. The House should be informed. The hour-and-a-half debate on convergence criteria was taken up for the most part by the Conservative Euro-sceptics; the ones who are always blathering about the Common Market, but do very little about it. It is true that when the House divided at the end of the debate, two Labour Front-Bench spokesmen went into the No Lobby faster than me. The Euro-rebels were nowhere near. That is no surprise because Tory Governments took us into the Common Market, got us into the Single European Act and took us through the Maastricht treaty that Labour voted against. We were consistent on Monday night.