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Points Of Order

Volume 401: debated on Thursday 20 March 2003

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2.41 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I received today Mr. Speaker's reply in respect of the publication of the legal basis for the war with Iraq. The Deputy Prime Minister made another statement, from which two connected matters arise. One of those matters was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis), the shadow Deputy Prime Minister, and the other by my hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois). Both points clearly fit with the advice that I received today from Mr. Speaker, which is based on the contents of page 359 of "Erskine May".

Another procedural matter, however, arises in connection with the role of the Attorney-General, who is not a Member of this House. It has to do with whether he intends to take out an injunction to restrain the anticipated breach of the law as set out in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. If the Attorney-General wished, he could make a statement on the matter in another place, with the Solicitor-General concurring in this House. Do you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, think that that procedure should be followed, as has happened before?

The matter has certainly been aired today. I think that the advice already given to the hon. Gentleman is that, if the Attorney-General gives advice to the Government, it is at the Government's discretion as to whether that advice is shared more widely.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although it was remiss of me not to welcome the acting Leader of the House to his place today, will he take this opportunity to correct something that arose because he was incorrectly prompted? I assure him that I have spoken with the full authority of my party on every occasion the issue of having the Northern Ireland Grand Committee meet in Northern Ireland has come up.

The hon. Gentleman has made his point. It is not a matter on which the Chair can rule, but the Minister will have heard what has been said.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have noted that the Carriage Gates entrance to the House of Commons has been closed for a number of hours, owing to the demonstration outside. That is a clear breach of the Sessional Orders, which the House passes at the beginning of each Session. I appreciate that the police and security officers have a difficult job, but demonstrations will clearly take place for many weeks and months, as the war continues in Iraq. It is essential that right of access be maintained. Will you and Mr. Speaker gain assurances from the police that the Sessional Orders will be maintained?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I right to interpret the Sessional Orders as a means of guaranteeing the liberties of Parliament? Associated with those liberties would be the liberties of the people▀×which include the right to free demonstration without the intervention and interference of some misguided right hon. and hon. Members.

In relation to the latter point, the maintenance of public order is a matter that should concern everyone. Mr. Speaker takes it very seriously, and I understand that there is contact at the present time between the Serjeant at Arms and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. However, I have received information since I have been in the Chair that the Carriage Gates are now open again. Therefore the tag currently running on the monitors may not be up to date, any more than its original spelling was correct.