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Points of Order

Volume 485: debated on Wednesday 17 December 2008

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You responded yesterday to the letter written to you last week, signed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and me. In that letter, we asked you to give precedence to our complaint of breach of privilege in respect of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). You have declined that request, which means the House does not have the opportunity to consider whether the matter should be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether you will be prepared to give the House this afternoon your reasons for declining that request?

No. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows well that I do not give my reasons. I have declined the invitation from him and his parliamentary colleagues, but I do not give reasons.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I right in saying that nothing you said in your statement earlier today implies that the entry and search in the precincts of the House by the Metropolitan police was lawful, as asserted by them, or that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 overrides article 9 of the Bill of Rights, which protects our constituents’ confidential information, the national interest and freedom of speech in this House? To help to get to the bottom of all this and to protect those rights, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to insist on the production of the Johnston report and that it be placed in the Library of the House. In order to avoid confusion on the question of criminal proceedings, will you be kind enough to do that?

The hon. Gentleman knows that last night I explained to him that I only got word of this matter when I came downstairs. I promised to come back to him and to the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Bacon). That I have done, through a statement that I made less than an hour ago. I have made my position clear, and I cannot expand on that.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a separate point, but it is linked to both of your statements, which I heard and for which I am grateful, and to the points of order raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash). You have made the position clear about the Committee and about giving your permission for a motion on standards and privileges, but there is the remaining ring-fenced issue of the report to consider. I understand that the report, which the Met police commissioned from another police force, the British Transport police, has either been completed or is in draft and is about to be completed. Irrespective of procedures that have been decided on by two of our Select Committees or that may happen later in this House, may we ask you whether you would be willing at least to request before we break for the Christmas recess that the British Transport police chief constable or the acting commissioner of the Met police furnish us with that report, so that all those in this House who have jobs to do to inquire into what happened when the office of the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) was invaded by the police can have the facts, as discovered and assessed by the chief constable of the British Transport police?

This is not a matter before the House; this is a report that has gone from one chief constable to another. There is nothing to prevent the hon. Gentleman from requesting—

The hon. Gentleman does well on his own, without seeking assistance from me. I have set out what he should do. If he or any other hon. Member wants that report, they should ask the chief constable to produce it.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your ruling in respect of the Standards and Privileges Committee is, of course, entirely in accordance with the practice of the House; you have declined the request and, under your practices, you do not give your reasons. But I am sure you appreciate that it leaves us in an unusual situation, because there is a complaint, essentially, of a breach of privilege relating to the police entering these premises and the office of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green). The Government have tried to set up one Committee of the House, which they have not, so far, been able to establish, and several Select Committees are inquiring into the matter, but the Standards and Privileges Committee is not empowered to discuss a rather serious matter of privilege. I wonder whether you would perhaps consider whether we should examine our practices and think of some other route by which the obvious Committee to consider this might, of its own volition, decide to conduct an investigation. It seems to me that the House is looking into this matter by every conceivable route apart from the obvious one, for which the Standards and Privileges Committee exists.

There is nothing to stop the right hon. and learned Gentleman raising that matter with the Procedure Committee, because it is the one that would look at the points he raises. Let us cast our minds back to the situation on 3 December. I made a statement and the House then made a decision on the Monday following. I stated that I wanted a Committee to investigate the matter and to look into all the circumstances, but then the House came along and made a decision. I know the arguments about the fact that there was a small majority, but there have been smaller majorities in this House. But I serve the House and the House has made a decision—I am bound by that decision, as long as the criminal proceedings go on.