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Points Of Order

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 8 December 1987

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

5.7 pm

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Yesterday, in a series of exchanges with Mr. Speaker, concerning the injunction obtained against the BBC by the Government to prevent production of a programme on the secret service, several hon. Members raised the point that the injunction prevented the BBC and other news media from reporting some of the proceedings of the House. It could also affect the circulation of Hansard. In columns 26 and 27 of the Official Report of 7 December, Mr. Speaker undertook to reflect on this matter and report to the House.

Although Mr. Speaker is not in the Chair, perhaps you, Madam Deputy Speaker, could tell us what action Mr. Speaker proposes to protect the integrity and the right of the House to discuss what it wishes—and also, perhaps more importantly, the right of every person in this country to know freely and without hindrance from the courts what is discussed in the House. If this injunction is to persist, there will be an infringement of the liberty of Parliament by the courts. Parliament is meant to be the supreme body in this country and should not be hindered in this way by the courts.

That is a long point of order. The hon. Gentleman will have reflected upon the exchanges which took place yesterday between hon. Members and Mr. Speaker. I shall convey to Mr. Speaker the hon. Gentleman's point of order.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I raised a point of order on a similar subject yesterday. We are just about to move into the debate on the Adjournment for the Christmas recess and you are occupying the Chair. If an hon. Member caught your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, and raised the subject of the programme "My Country, Right or Wrong", which is now subject to the injunction, I hope that you will give an assurance that the BBC is free to broadcast that speech on "Yesterday in Parliament," if it so wishes.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to what Mr. Speaker said yesterday. The hon. Gentleman is raising hypothetical issues. We should wait until that time comes and I shall deal with them at that stage. We should now move on to the Adjournment motion and see what happens during that debate.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wish to raise a brief point of order which relates to those raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). Today's edition of The Independent states that the Conservative Back-Bench defence committee apparently intends to hold what the hon. and learned Member for Colchester, North (Sir A. Buck) has described as an in-depth investigation of the secret service. I have no complaints about that—it may be very useful—but it seems to be a case of the BBC not being allowed to go ahead with its programme, for reasons explained by the Attorney-General on Friday, while Conservative Members are allowed without any difficulty to hold an in-depth investigation of the security services. If the programme had gone ahead and there had been no injunction, a former senior official of MI5 was due to address the committee tomorrow as part of the investigation.

The hon. Gentleman is a longstanding Member of the House and he must be aware that this is not a matter within the competence of the Chair.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Surely a more fundamental principle is involved. The House has always had a reputation for saying, and a right to say, what it wants. No court or king has been allowed to interfere with the right of free speech in this place. The injunction infringes that right.

Part of that right is to say what one believes it is right to say and more importantly, to have what one says reported by the press, the Official Report or the media, be it television or radio, although proceedings in the House are not televised. Surely our rights as Members of Parliament are infringed when we are not allowed to say what we want to say because it cannot be reported. Surely we need an urgent ruling on this matter.

If the hon. Gentleman looks at yesterday's Official Report he will see that there was a full exchange in which Mr. Speaker gave his views. The matter must now rest there.