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Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Are you able to confirm that it is still the practice in the House that if an hon. Member on either side believes that he has been misreported in the Official Report, he is entitled to ask the Editor for a correction, and that if the Prime Minister believes that the Hansard reporter, in all innocence, heard the word "Bill" when he was meant to hear the words "White Paper", it is open to him to ask the Editor to correct the record?

Madam Speaker: I have to concern myself with the principle. If any hon. Member believes that he has been misreported, of course it is up to him to take it up with the Editor of Hansard.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During Prime Minister's questions today, reference was made to the atrocious murder of a police officer in Northern Ireland at the weekend. It may not be within your knowledge that a number of persons have already been charged with that murder. Was it in order that that matter should be raised on the Floor of the House today?

Madam Speaker: Had it not been in order, I would have stopped the hon. Lady proceeding. I believe that the point that she made was perfectly in order.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During questions today, the shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster asked two supplementary questions on a single question on the Order Paper. I have not seen that happen once in my 18 years in the House. It has happened in Prime Minister's questions, and perhaps even on one occasion in Deputy Prime Minister's questions under the previous Government. Did we see a procedural change introduced today?

Madam Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has not seen a procedural change. The right hon. Gentleman was entirely correct in putting two questions if he wished to do so. He decided to ask two supplementary questions under one question, and that was perfectly in order. He can ask two questions and no more. It is up to me as Speaker to determine whom I call and when.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will undoubtedly have seen on the tapes a report from the Foreign Secretary to the effect that international military intervention in Sierra Leone has not been ruled out. That is a clear implication that international military intervention may take place. May I ask you whether you have had any request for a statement on such a matter? If not, is it not right that the House should be informed before the Foreign Secretary makes such statements, which might involve British military forces?

Madam Speaker: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly accurate. Statements of such a nature should be made to the House in the first place.

4 Jun 1997 : Column 396

In answer to his first question, I was not aware of what he has obviously seen on the tapes. I was not informed that a statement would be forthcoming. Of course, there is always the opportunity to raise such an issue by private notice question and I would certainly consider any such request with all seriousness.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you confirm that when we are elected to the House our families are not elected with us? Will you condemn the deplorable trend now followed by the Opposition of mentioning hon. Members' families, insulting them and personalising the debate?

Madam Speaker: I have always totally disapproved of Members' families being abused or cited across the Floor of the House. As long-standing Members know very well, we are elected; we take the brunt; we are answerable, and not any of our families.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I ask you to inquire whether it might be possible for the Prime Minister to make shorter responses to questions? Each one of his replies today turned into a mini-Adjournment Debate. That diminishes the opportunities available to those hon. Members on both sides of the House who wish to question the right hon. Gentleman more closely.

Madam Speaker: I am very pleased to inform the House that in this new Session I am watching closely all questions and answers. Every day, the questions are much too long, as are the answers. I keep records and I shall take firm action when I have a full account and all the relevant Departments have been able to answer.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Lest the House may have been misinformed during an exchange at Prime Minister's Question Time, will you advise the Prime Minister that when Northern Ireland's Parliament was set up, the number of Members returned to the House was reduced from some 30 to 12? That is pertinent to the ensuing debates.

Madam Speaker: It is barely a point of order, but it is a point of information.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead): Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon)--

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that once a point of order has been responded to, there can be no further points of order on it. If the hon. Gentleman has a fresh point of order, I will listen to it. Perhaps he can think about that, and, if he has, I will come back to him.

Sir Archie Hamilton (Epsom and Ewell): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Do you share my concern about reports that the new political appointees installed at Downing street have not had security clearance? Has the Prime Minister given any indication that he will make

4 Jun 1997 : Column 397

a statement to the House to say whether those people have had access to classified information before they were cleared for security purposes?

Madam Speaker: That is not a point of order for me. I have not been told that the Prime Minister or any other Minister is seeking to make a statement on that matter.

Now, Mr. Cohen, do you have a new point of order, fresh in your mind?

Mr. Cohen: On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On the exercise of your powers in relation to questions, should a question apparently contain an insult to a Member's spouse or partner, would you be prepared to intervene to stop that question being asked and reprimand the hon. Member who made such an insult?

Madam Speaker: I have done so on many occasions, but I regard it as important that hon. Members are adult. They should not abuse the family members of those who are elected to the House.

Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Will you study Hansard on the Loyal Address debate and compare what the Prime Minister said then with what he said in the Chamber today in answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition? If it is apparent to you that there are some glaring inconsistencies between promises made by the Prime Minister during the Loyal Address debate and what he said today, will you consider issuing an instruction to the Prime Minister from the Chair similar to the one issued to senior Ministers that Prime Ministers, as well, should not make policy on the hoof?

Madam Speaker: All right hon. and hon. Members who speak in the House are responsible for their own comments and, providing that they are within our parliamentary guidelines, they are not the responsibility of the Speaker.

4 Jun 1997 : Column 398

Orders of the Day

Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill

Considered in Committee [Progress, 3 June].

[Mr. Michael Lord in the Chair]

Clause 1

Referendum in Scotland


Amendment proposed [3 June]: No. 87, in page 1, line 6, to leave out the words
'and tax varying powers of a Scottish Parliament'

and to insert the words


3.39 pm

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Lord): I remind the Committee that we are also discussing the following amendments: No. 111, in page 1, line 6, leave out 'tax-varying'.

No. 145, in page 1, line 7, leave out 'varying' and insert 'raising'.

No. 112, in page 1, line 7, leave out 'Parliament' and insert 'Assembly'.

No. 88, in page 1, line 9, leave out 'papers' and insert 'paper'.

No. 203, in page 1, line 10, leave out '1' and insert


'(Referendum in Scotland (No. 2)).

No. 200, in page 1, line 22, leave out from 'certify' to second 'the'.

No. 89, in page 1, line 22, leave out


'for each of the two forms of ballot paper.'.

No. 90, in page 1, line 25, leave out


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