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Points of Order

Volume 487: debated on Thursday 5 February 2009

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I refer to the Speaker’s statement earlier today. In it, he referred to the investigations that he had made since the point of order that my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (David Davis) raised about the police’s desire to look through e-mails sent between us. I find it extraordinary that, in a matter that concerns e-mails, which may be private, between two Members, the House authorities did not approach me to establish facts, but approached the Metropolitan police and took only their version of events as the basis for a Speaker’s statement.

In addition, and even more seriously, the House will wish to know that Mr. Speaker has declined my request for the Standards and Privileges Committee to look at material seized from my office to decide what is privileged. Instead, the Clerks of the House—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member and knows that that is not the appropriate way in which to question the Speaker’s statement. Clearly, I will ensure that his remarks are brought to Mr. Speaker’s attention.

Further to my point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is absurd that I can say things outside the House, but not inside—

Order. I have already made a ruling. It is open to the hon. Gentleman to write to Mr. Speaker in addition to the action that I shall take in ensuring that his comments are drawn to the Speaker’s attention.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Mr. Speaker’s statement was in response to my original point of order of last Monday, when I asked him to give a ruling about whether the communications of Members of Parliament other than my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green), wherever those communications reside—e-mails can reside on everybody’s computer or on several computers—should come within the protocol that Mr. Speaker had published in the previous week. It laid down that such applications would require both a warrant and an application to him prior to any action. I have to say that we have not had a response to that request.

I repeat what I said earlier—the remarks will be brought to the attention of Mr. Speaker. I have nothing to add to the statement that he has already made.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 15 December on behalf of my constituent, Mr. Raymond Hardy, who, like 30,000 others, had deposits with Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander in the Isle of Man. I have repeatedly chased up the Treasury for an answer. Yesterday, the Treasury e-mailed me, saying:

“We are unsure when a final reply would be sent to you, as we have several thousand outstanding cases to be signed by ministers or drafted by officials. I would like to sincerely apologise for the delay in replying, but HMT correspondence has almost trebled over the past few months, and we simply do not have enough staff to complete all cases in time.”

So, I and other Members have constituents who cannot meet their commitments because they cannot access moneys, which are supposed to be guaranteed, yet their Members of Parliament cannot get an answer from the Treasury. Please could you help in ensuring that the Treasury does something about it?

The hon. Gentleman has made his point. He knows that it is not a point of order for the Chair, but Ministers are present on the Treasury Bench and will have heard his comments.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In pursuance of previous points of order, and I do not want to get involved in the controversy about e-mails, could you, or the Speaker in due course, let us know the position on the inquiry—I hope that there will be a parliamentary inquiry—about the way in which the police came into the Palace of Westminster and took possession of the papers and equipment of the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green)? It is important to bear in mind that concern is not by any means confined to the Opposition. Many of us are very concerned, and said so on 3 December, that such entry took place without a search warrant. Leaving aside what various Select Committees are doing, it would be interesting to know whether it is possible for the House to conduct an inquiry into what occurred.

I can only add to and repeat my earlier comments. I will ensure that Mr. Speaker is aware of the matters that have been brought before me as points of order and of the feelings of hon. Members of all parties.

Further to that point of order. Two issues are now clear. First, as Mr. Speaker said, privilege—the protection that Members of Parliament enjoy—is a matter for the House. Secondly, it is clear from the conduct of the investigation that those carrying it out for the Metropolitan police are well aware of that because they appear to have been contacting the House and its servants to ascertain what might be privileged and what might not. Given that the decision ultimately falls to the House, is not it a strange state of affairs that the House is being denied the opportunity of getting the advice that it needs to make a reasonable decision? There has been no reference to the Standards and Privileges Committee, which has been set up for that express purpose. Could you please ensure that the Speaker is aware that the way in which the matter is developing gives rise to serious concern?

I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman—and, indeed, all right hon. and hon. Members in the Chamber this afternoon—that I will ensure that Mr. Speaker is made aware, as I have already said, of the comments and the feelings of Members across the House.

I do not know that there is anything further that I can add. I have already restated, on more than one occasion, that the comments of Members will be drawn to the attention of Mr. Speaker.

Thank you. I think that we all appreciate both what you have said and the delicacy of your position, Madam Deputy Speaker. The fact that you are going to talk to Mr. Speaker is something for which we are all grateful. When you talk to him, will you ask him whether he would be kind enough to consider making a statement on Monday to clarify a number of points? One of those points is that in the debate on 8 December he proposed that a committee be established, but because the motion that was put down was very different from his original proposal, the whole issue has run into the sand. It would be helpful to the whole House if Mr. Speaker could make an up-to-date statement, referring to the points made today and saying how he sees the way forward now.

May I repeat, once again, that the comments that have been made by hon. Members in the Chamber this afternoon will be relayed to Mr. Speaker? I am sure that it will then be up to him, at the time that he feels is appropriate, to make a response to the House.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am not going to refer in any way to the specific issues already raised, although I have repeatedly asked that the matter be referred to the Standards and Privileges Committee. Could you possibly have a word with Mr. Speaker and ask him to reconsider the decisions that have been taken, including those taken here, to close down opportunities for Members to make points of order in response to this specific issue?

Order. I repeat once again that I can give an assurance to all Members in this House that the strength of feeling and the comments that have been made will be relayed to Mr. Speaker.