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House of Commons Hansard
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23 March 2010
Volume 508

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have given you prior notice of it, and I have given prior notice to the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew), whom it concerns. There is, as you know, a planning application in my constituency for intensive dairy production at a place called Nocton. It has aroused intense feelings and opposition, part of which is founded on animal welfare considerations. The hon. Member for Carlisle tabled early-day motion 1037 which addresses the issue both in general and in particular, mentioning my constituency as the site, or at least that is the implication. He did not discuss this with me in advance; I am sure that he intended no discourtesy. I do not think that there is guidance on the matter, so I am looking only to guidance for the future.

May I suggest that in future, when an hon. Member tables an early-day motion which affects another Member’s constituency directly, the Member tabling the early-day motion should inform the other Member in advance, very much as he or she would if he or she were going to the other Member’s constituency? I do not for one moment challenge the hon. Gentleman’s right to table the early-day motion, but it would have been helpful and, I suggest, courteous for me to have been told in advance.

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I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for giving me advance notice of his point of order. Clearly, as he indicated in what he said, the matter is of specific relevance to his constituency. The House is well aware of the conventions about visiting other Members’ constituencies, and about mentioning each other in debate. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly observes, we do not have a practice on giving notice about tabling motions, but he has made his point very effectively. I know that others will thereby be conscious of the matter.

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rose—

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Order. The hon. Gentleman should be patient. His patience will be rewarded in due course.

The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) is in his place. He is not obliged to respond, but if he would like to do so, he is welcome.

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Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is a barrister, but I was hoping that you would find me innocent of the crime, Mr. Speaker. I did not mention the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I did not specifically mention his constituency. I referred to Lincolnshire; I did not know the site was in his constituency. The precedent that could be set is that if any hon. Member tabled a question about any constituency, he would have to tell the hon. Member concerned. I hope that you will find me innocent.

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What I would say to the hon. Member for Carlisle is that I have sought to respond to the point of order from the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) in measured terms, just as he spoke in measured terms, and so did the hon. Member for Carlisle. I do not view the matter, if I may say so, in terms either of guilt or of innocence. The situation that has arisen is quite specific, a repetition of which could occur. Rather than formulate a new rule or piece of guidance on the hoof, I would prefer to rely on the general good sense and natural courtesy of right hon. and hon. Members.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I tried to catch your eye before the Foreign Secretary had left. In his answer to me, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had specifically said, with reference to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), who the person to be expelled was. In fact, he did not. At 1.52 pm the BBC news site said that it was likely to be the London head of the Mossad secret service. I got more information from the 1.52 pm release from the BBC than I did from the Foreign Secretary at the Dispatch Box a few moments ago. May I ask that we are told first, in the House from the Dispatch Box, if somebody is to be expelled from the UK?

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I endorse what he and other right hon. and hon. Members have already said on the matter. In fairness, I think the Foreign Secretary, who is no longer in his place, made very clear his own belief and insistence that matters of public importance should first be disclosed or reported to the House, rather than to the media. It is fair to say—I will deal with the specific point that the hon. Gentleman made—that Ministers cannot be held responsible for what is speculated about in the media. If there is specific evidence—

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rose—

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Order. I will come to the hon. Gentleman, who is in a state of overweening excitement.

If there is specific evidence that something has been disclosed externally first, the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil) knows that I would regard that as an extremely serious matter. I do not think this is quite such a case. I note what he said; those on the Treasury Bench will also have noted what he said.

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Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I quote briefly from the BBC posting at 13.52, which has been referred to? It says:

“BBC Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen said the person to be expelled is likely to be the London head of Israel’s secret service, Mossad. Diplomatic sources stressed the British government has stopped short of accusing Israel of the murder.”

That is a fairly clear indication that that report was written as a result of conversations with someone connected with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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I still believe, if I may say so to the hon. Gentleman, that we are in the realms of speculation. We have not got a concrete finding. If I had not known him for 26 years and five months, I would think that he was trying to continue the debate, but as I have known him for 26 years and five months—

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Name the days.

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I cannot name the number of days, but as I have known the hon. Gentleman for 26 years and five months I know that he would not indulge in misbehaviour of that kind.

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Later today, under items 9 and 10 on the Order Paper, the House is due to vote without debate, under Standing Order No. 118(6), on two orders. They are local government structural changes to create unitary authorities in Exeter and Norwich. They were considered yesterday afternoon by a Delegated Legislation Committee, and yesterday evening in the other place. In the other place, an extraordinary thing occurred: on the Norwich order, a motion to regret and delay the matter was passed after a Division; and on the Exeter order, the Government accepted the motion put forward to delay its implementation without seeking to divide the House.

Given that there can be no debate, is it in order for this House to be asked to vote on those two orders when it is not now clear whether the Government intend to proceed with them, or to delay them in accordance with the stance that they adopted in the upper House? Could we at least ask that the Minister be brought to this House to explain the Government’s position before we vote on something that may turn out to be a false premise?

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The hon. Gentleman has raised his point of order with all the force and lucidity that one would expect from a practising barrister, but I fear that I am going to have to disappoint him somewhat when I say that what happens in another place is not a matter for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman vents his displeasure at the fact that the Government have tabled the matters upon which the House can vote but which will not be open to debate, but that is a matter for the Government and not for me. It may be that he is putting in a bid for an increase in the powers of the Speaker, but as things stand I have no such power.

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Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments drew to the attention of this House the fact that those orders might be of doubtful vires. How is it possible to get that on the record?

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The hon. Gentleman has just very pithily done so.

Bill Presented

Sustainability of Livestock Farming and Food Production (Strategy)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr. Peter Ainsworth, supported by Mr. John Gummer, Mr. David Amess, Alan Simpson, Dr. Nick Palmer and Andrew George, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to prepare and implement a strategy to improve the sustainability of livestock farming and the sustainability of the consumption of livestock produce; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 April, and to be printed (Bill 94).