Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Points of Order

3.30 pm

Mrs. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On 3 and 11 August last year, proposals were put to Bradford local authority's emergency planning officer that 1 million people in Yorkshire should be evacuated. Have you received any communication to that effect from the Secretary of State responsible or from Bradford council, because it is immensely serious that 1 million people in that part of the world should have to move house?

Madam Speaker: I have had no communication, either last August or at any other time, on that matter. It is a matter that would not concern me as Speaker of the House, although I understand that it may concern the hon. Lady, who represents an area in Yorkshire.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Madam Speaker, which relates directly to you. I have been reading the European Commission's directive on the 48-hour week, and it seems to me that, without special dispensation from the European Court, you will not be entitled to do your job for us in the House, because you are required by the House to be on duty for far more than 48 hours a week. I wonder whether you will also read that directive and realise that perhaps you will have to go into job sharing.

Madam Speaker: I wonder who would determine who would share my job. I shall certainly read the directive, but as I have worked for more than 48 hours a week for the past 25 years, it would not be anything new for me to continue to do so.

Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford, South): Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mrs. Jackson). In the light of the information yesterday about Yorkshire Water's plan to evacuate 1 million people, should not a Minister come to

19 Mar 1996 : Column 174

the House and make a statement, because the consequences of evacuating 1 million people would be dire?

Madam Speaker: I have not been informed that a Minister seeks to make a statement on that matter, but there are always opportunities for Back-Bench Members to raise these matters, particularly on Wednesday mornings, and, of course, in the evening, in Adjournment debates.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) rose--

Mr. Ian Bruce rose--

Madam Speaker: The hon. Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce) has already had one. He cannot have a further point of order.

Mrs. Mahon: I am sure that it was a mistake, but, during Prime Minister's Question Time, the Prime Minister answered a question on the number of disconnections that have been made since the privatisation of the electricity industry. The fact is that there have been many more disconnections, because of the increase in prepayment meters and the fact that people now disconnect themselves because of the huge growth in poverty. I am sure that he did not mean to mislead the House, but those are the facts.

Madam Speaker: That may be a matter of interest to some hon. Members, but it is certainly not a point of order for the Chair.

Mr. Bruce rose--

Madam Speaker: I have already allowed the hon. Member to raise one point of order. It was a most interesting one and I have promised to read anEC directive, which will be enormously painful for me.

Mr. Bruce: On a point of information, then, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should come to my office if he wishes to take the matter further. The hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) is waiting to present a ten-minute Bill.

19 Mar 1996 : Column 175

Representation of the People (Amendment)

3.34 pm

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton): I beg to move,

I am grateful for this opportunity to seek the leave of the House to introduce this measure. Against the background of the great concern that Members of Parliament should act with probity at all times and that the working of the House should be beyond reproach,we have taken a number of decisions to bring about change. However, there is one area which falls beyond the scope of our new regulations on standards and interests and which we need to address. That is the payment of money to individuals seeking election to this place directly to assist them with their careers.

There are occasions when philanthropic or otherwise paternalistic assistance is to be encouraged. Equally,I have no problem with the sponsorship of candidates by trade unions and other bodies, provided that it is properly declared, and a candidate does not sacrifice his or her integrity or right to speak and vote without hindrance. However, what does concern me is a recent practice by which potential candidates are paid money on the basis that they will promote certain views and exercise their influence in this place to further the interests of those who pay them. That is an abuse of the House, and a corruption of the institution of Parliament.

On this occasion, I point the finger of accusation directly at EMILY and those behind that organisation. EMILY is an acronym for "Early Money is Like Yeast"--which makes dough rise--and it involves the payment of money directly to candidates--and for their training and expenses--who support the Labour party and are pro-abortion.

More specifically, Emily's List leaflets state:

That 1992 manifesto commitment was to increase access to abortion so that it was

This move financially to assist women candidates, we were told by The Scotsman of 4 February 1995, involved payments of £1,000 to candidates, coupled with an additional £650-worth of training. The same article tells us that a number of Opposition women Members, including several who are on the Front Bench, were founding members of the organisation, and it is widely held that tacit support and possibly preferential treatment is given to Emily's List women during the Labour party's candidate selection process.

What concerns me and should concern the House is not that there are those who are willing to assist women Labour party candidates, but that there are those seeking election to the House who believe that it is acceptable effectively to sell their souls in this way to achieve selection, and ultimately election.

Many hon. Members in all parts of the House hold views that differ widely from mine on the issue of abortion and the sanctity of human life at its most

19 Mar 1996 : Column 176

vulnerable. I do not share their views, but I have no reason whatever to doubt the honesty and integrity with which they are held. I am sure that many hon. Members who take such a pro-abortion stance will endorse my condemnation of a practice that effectively denies women candidates in the Labour party access to preferential advancement unless they will sacrifice their principles. Surely that cannot be right, and must be stopped. Would we tolerate the Ford Motor Company being able to pay candidates who gave a commitment to vote for the abolition of vehicle excise duty?

Lest there be any doubt that I am other than accurately reporting the position, let me quote from a letter, published in the Brentford, Chiswick and Isleworth Times, from Ann Ward, a committee member of Emily's List:

Anyone has the right to ask candidates how they would vote on any subject, and I encourage them to do so, but to pay money to people who give a commitment to vote a certain way is different. In passing, I record in particular my concern that a major retailer such as Tesco has allowed its name to become tarnished by being associated with the sponsorship of events for that organisation.

Furthermore, there can be no suggestion that EMILY is operating without the tacit support and endorsement of the Labour party. The April 1994 edition of EMILY News tells us that all Labour party regional women's committees are invited to send members to the Emily's List UK selection committee, and that other parts of the party are also invited to nominate members, including the parliamentary Labour women's committee and Labour Members of the European Parliament.

The defence to the accusation of "vote purchasing" usually deployed by Emily's List--for example, when challenged on radio by my good friend the hon. Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink), who has done such stalwart work in exposing this hypocrisy, humbug and corruption--is that it cannot hold a member, once selected, to a commitment given in return for cash. What a bizarre defence that is--my contract to corrupt Parliament is no ground for concern, because I find that I cannot necessarily enforce it.

The first report of the Nolan committee on standards in public life, which quoted from the 1947 declaration of the House, observed:

Paragraph 50 of the same report states that it would be unsatisfactory and possibly a contempt of Parliament if a Member

All existing Members are honourable. I seek the leave of the House to continue that tradition by amending the Representation of People Acts to require candidates receiving financial support from Emily's List to declare

19 Mar 1996 : Column 177

that fact in their election address or on the ballot paper, so that, before deciding how to vote, the public will know that candidates have already sold their soul.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mrs. Ann Winterton, Mrs. Marion Roe, Rev. Martin Smyth, Mr. David Evennett, Mr. Vivian Bendall, Mr. Julian Brazier, Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock, Mr. Nicholas Winterton and Dame Jill Knight.

Next Section

IndexHome Page