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Points Of Order

Volume 171: debated on Tuesday 1 May 1990

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5.37 pm

On a point of order, M r. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury for interrupting the proceedings, but I am raising an extremely urgent matter on which we need a statement from a responsible Minister.

I have just been informed that Mr. Peter Mitchell, among others at Walter Somers, has been arrested and was initially denied access to his solicitor, who was procured only through the good intervention of his wife. I should like a Minister to make a statement on how this has occurred, as I have evidence which has been tested by a former Attorney-General and which stands up in court. I am very happy to go to court should they be charged. As they have not been charged so far, I understand that the matter is not sub judice and therefore it is proper and meet to have a statement before the close of business today.

Order. Let me deal with one point of order at a time. I have received no request for permission to make a statement. Of course, the matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised are not directly for the Chair, but doubtless what has been said will have been heard. Certainly the Chair will take account of the hon. Gentleman's point about the application of the sub judice rule should these matters be referred to in subsequent exchanges.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you probably know, the case also affects my constituency. I understand that between Somers and Forgemasters 14 people are now being questioned, three are under arrest and six further executives at Forgemasters are at police stations giving statements. I concur with the request for an urgent statement in the House as the case is having a tremendous effect on both companies and we want to get the matter clear. The Government have a series of questions and a letter that I sent to the Prime Minister because I have had over the phone clearance on those contracts on which those people are now being questioned and which were cleared by the Department of Trade and Industry.

I cannot usefully add to what said in reply to the earlier point of order.

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller), Mr. Deputy Speaker. We have now reached a point where one British subject is languishing in a Greek prison and other respectable people are in the hands of the police or the Revenue. If the House is not about justice for individuals, it is about nothing. It is time that the Government made a proper and prepared statement about the matter. There is no justice if people can be made scapegoats for other people's inefficiencies or injustice.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we are to have a statement, and whoever makes it, could we have a Defence Minister present to explain the role of the secretariat of the Defence Export Services Organisation in the matter? That has considerable relevance to the legal proceedings that have taken place.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As you will know, the excellent long-established and highly regarded firm to which my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller) referred is in my constituency. The moment that I heard about these difficulties, I tried to obtain information from several Government Departments. I have been given no help whatever. Surely one is entitled to receive an answer from a Minister. Ministers should not hide behind civil servants.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am surprised that the Chair has not taken some action before now. I concur with the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sir H. Miller) about this affair. I suggest that the Chair seriously considers bringing the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the Bar of the House. Let us deal with the matter.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not usual, when the Chair is faced with problems such as this in the course of the day's business, for the Leader of the House to be on hand to intervene and perhaps to avoid the Chair becoming involved in matters that cannot be dealt with easily under Standing Orders? As several Conservative Members have raised legitimate points, has there not been sufficient time to send a message to the Leader of the House that a matter of genuine concern has been raised on which he should come before the House?

This is a serious matter about which hon. Members are deeply worried. Undoubtedly what has been said in the Chamber will be communicated to the Leader of the House. I repeat that I have not yet received any request for permission to make a statement.