Heathcoat-Amory's "sin" was to have wandered up to the Speaker's clerk and gently express disappointment that he had not been called in the Control Orders debate or in the previous deay's discussion about nuclear power (Heathcoat-Amory, as a former Energy Minister, would have been a voice worth hearing on that). MPs often wander up to speak to the Speaker's secretary in that manner. Michael Martin's furious reaction was embarrassing. Heathcoat-Amory may be the sort of upper-class Tory Martin hates but he is an intelligent, authoritative man. He is also, after the tragic death of a son, regarded with wide sympathy on all sides of the Commons. What on earth is wrong with Michael Martin at the moment? This is what Hansard recorded...
Mr. Speaker: Order. Leave the Secretary alone. The right hon. Member for
Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) was not pleased about not being called. There is
other business, including Back-Bench business. Do not complain if you do not get
called, because you do well.
And this is how Quentin Letts reported the incident in the Mail's Parliamentary Sketch today...
The statement ended with a few MPs still trying to intervene. Among them was
David Heathcoat-Amory (Con, Wells), a Privy Counsellor. It would have been good
to have heard from Mr Heathcoat-Amory because he is an expert on, among other
things, European human rights law. Mr Heathcoat-Amory wandered over to the
Speaker's clerk, a tailcoated figure who stands beside Gorbals. I could not hear
exactly what he was saying but it looked, from 20ft almost directly above, to be
a polite expression of sorrow that he had not been called to speak. Amory,
a former energy minister, was also ignored by the Chair during a debate on
nuclear energy on Wednesday. Maybe Gorbals can't bear the fact that he is an
English aristocrat. The old fool saw Mr Heathcoat-Amory's conversation with his
clerk as a challenge to his authority (such as it is). He leapt up and
shouted: "Order! Order!" He now started to jab his left index finger repeatedly
at Mr Heathcoat-Amory, shrieking: "Do not complain if yer doon't get called! Cos
you do well!" The Chamber fell silent, embarrassed. Mr Heathcoat-Amory, who
has friends on all sides of Westminster, quietly withdrew from the Chamber,
bewildered and hurt. I hear that Sir Ming Campbell, the LibDem leader, is being
urged to make a formal complaint about the Chair's recent handling of some
debates. This Speaker now has many enemies. Perhaps it would be a good idea for
everyone concerned if Ming was simply given the Speakership.