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Falkland Islands (Franks Report)

Volume 35: debated on Monday 17 January 1983

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12.14 am

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I, in the presence of the Leader of the House, ask for the protection of the House on a House of Commons issue? In the last few minutes it has become fairly common knowledge that tomorrow at 11 am and again at 2.45 pm, on the Prime Minister's instructions, Mr. Bernard Ingham will brief the press on what Downing Street believes to be important in the Franks report.

I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as one of many who gave evidence to the Franks committee, that hon. Members and many others who are concerned will not see the report until 3.30 pm, and that if anyone is to brief the press or the lobby on the Franks report it should be Lord Franks, not a representative of Downing Street. As I understand it, the report is not the property of Downing Street until it is delivered to the House.

I ask for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the sense that early tomorrow morning you raise the matter with Mr. Speaker. The motion that I have been able to table at the very last moment is
"That this House instructs the Prime Minister to ensure that no official will provide briefings for journalists on the Franks report before she has made her statement to the House."
I do this in no party political spirit, and least of all with any point of view on the Falklands campaign. It is a House of Commons matter and it deserves the attention of Mr. Speaker.

I shall put the observations of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) to Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the arrangements for tomorrow are not a matter for the Chair.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand your reticence about moving into these waters, but, as the Leader of the House is present, and as my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has made some relevant points, perhaps the Leader of the House would care to respond to what he said.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. John Biffen)

I shall respond by accepting at once the concluding comments of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell)—that the matter be put to Mr. Speaker. I think that that is the appropriate course.