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Defence Sub-Committee

Volume 981: debated on Tuesday 18 March 1980

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A report appeared in the newspapers today stating that the Clerk to a Select Committee had been transferred and demoted due—according to the report—to pressure from officials at the Ministry of Defence. If the report is accurate it is surely a matter of considerable concern to this House. Are senior Ministry officials able, because they dislike the attitude of a Clerk in carrying out his duties on behalf of a Committee and of the House, to say that they think that such a Clerk should be transferred to other work?

If there is any truth in the allegations in the press I hope that an investigation will take place. If the report is found to be true it is to be hoped that the Clerk concerned—a servant of this House—will be restored to his previous senior position and that his future will in no way be prejudiced when it comes to promotion. I believe that this is a very serious matter, which should be investigated.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was good enough to give me notice this morning that he would seek to raise this matter. If there were any intereference by a Minister of the Crown with a Clerk doing his duty in this House it would, of course, be a serious business. The assigning of clerks to the various Select Committees does not fall within my remit. It falls within that of the Clerk of the House. Of course I shall look into this matter and I shall write to the hon. Member. I believe that we had better leave it there for the moment.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you make your statement to the House? Many of us who read the report wish your comments to be made to the House after you have deliberated.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It would be for the benefit of the House if you made it clear that the responsibility for the disposition of the Clerks has nothing to do with the Government but is to do with the management of the House.

That is true. I thought that I had made it clear that the disposition of Clerks is the responsibility of the Clerk of the House. I do not wish to go further, other than to say that I do not mind making to the House the statement that I should have made to the hon. Member for Walsall, North. However, I believe that many of his fears will prove to be unfounded. I did not intend to go as far as that, but I shall make the statement to the House.