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Northumberland MP questions Chancellor’s courtesy

George Osborne at Lindisfarne Castle with house steward Nick Lewis and Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan.  Picture by Jane Coltman
George Osborne at Lindisfarne Castle with house steward Nick Lewis and Tory candidate Anne-Marie Trevelyan. Picture by Jane Coltman

Chancellor George Osborne’s appearance in north Northumberland last week led to what some might describe as a ticking-off in the House of Commons.

Mr Osborne said he ‘wasn’t disappointed’ following his visit to Holy Island, having always wanted to visit.

However, on Monday, Sir Alan Beith MP raised as a point of order the fact that the Chancellor only notified him that he was to be in the area at 9.17pm the night before.

He said: “I seek your help, Mr Speaker. I received an email from the Chancellor of the Exchequer engagingly entitled Constituency courtesy, which told me that he was proposing to visit my constituency on the following day — Friday — as indeed he duly did. However, this e-mail was sent at 9.17 pm on Thursday night, when I received it. That seems to stretch the concept of courtesy rather a long way.

“Could we not introduce some sort of training course or refresher course that we can send Ministers and their advisers on so that they have a full understanding of what these courtesies are?”

The Speaker of the House responded: “I am bound to say that I think Members would benefit from such a course. I have known the right hon. Gentleman long enough to know that, perhaps unlike a number of colleagues in all parties, his own included, he himself would never be guilty of a discourtesy because he is among the most courteous Members of the House.

“I think that people ought to observe the spirit and not just the letter of the convention. Many people will feel that it is a discourtesy for him to be notified at such a late stage. I leave colleagues to consider whether that is worthy of somebody who occupies any ministerial office, notably, in this case, the occupant of the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that people ought to rise to the level of events, if I can put it that way.”