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Points of Order

Volume 487: debated on Monday 9 February 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Home Office questions this afternoon, the Home Secretary criticised Professor David Nutt, a distinguished scientist and an independent adviser to the Government—as established in statute—who writes about his areas of expertise in academic journals. Is it in order for the Home Secretary to criticise him here, where he cannot answer back, for views that he has expressed in scientific publications? If so, what is the future of academic freedom or independent scientific advice if the Home Secretary can demand that scientists apologise for their published academic findings and views?

The hon. Gentleman has asked me whether the Home Secretary is entitled to criticise an academic—or any other person, for that matter. Of course she can. It is a parliamentary privilege that we all have. The Home Secretary is a Member of Parliament, and therefore she is entitled to do that.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was reported in The Sunday Telegraph that you had ruled, on grounds of privilege, that foreign trips funded by the British Council should not be subject to freedom of information requests. Could you confirm that that is in fact the case, and could you possibly furnish us with reasons for the ruling?

I do not give reasons for that particular procedure, and I have nothing to say on the matter on the Floor of the House.