Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 519: debated on Tuesday 23 November 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Of course, I commend your chairing. Given that we have just witnessed a U-turn on a U-turn, I am tempted to ask whether you might allow the Home Secretary to start again, but I fear that that might be ruled out of order.

On a more serious point, may I ask whether the Home Secretary contacted you today about the leak of her statement to the BBC? Did she explain why the statement was leaked to the BBC, and do you think it would be appropriate for her to explain to the House why the details of her statement were leaked to the BBC this morning?

I sometimes wonder whether these generous initial remarks are a ruse by Members to get me on their side, but I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I was not contacted by the Home Secretary about the matter to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but he makes his point with force and clarity. I am always concerned that the House should hear key announcements first. However, I would say that when different numbers are being bandied around that is sometimes a sign of a matter for debate rather than a point of order. However, I shall keep my eyes and ears focused firmly on these matters because the House must hear first.

After 13 years in opposition, as the right hon. Gentleman will discover, one sometimes makes these mistakes. The information that the BBC had was wrong and I am happy to say to the House that any information on the BBC first thing this morning was nothing to do with the Home Office.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary, and I am glad that we are not going to suffer an identity crisis for any length of time. I would simply say to the House that I think we will leave it there. We have had an exchange, concerns have been expressed and the Home Secretary has made her position clear.

The BBC may or may not have got the Home Secretary’s statement, but the smaller parties most certainly did not get a copy of it in advance. The Government have been pretty good at getting statements to us recently. Will you ensure that the smaller parties, such as the Labour party, get a copy of the statement in advance of its being given?

In so far as I could fully hear the hon. Gentleman—I apologise if I failed to hear him, but there was quite a lot of noise in the Chamber—I would simply reiterate that there are certain requirements of courtesy on Ministers. Generally speaking, the requirements are complied with and I know that it is always the intention of Ministers to do so. Generally speaking, that happens and if it did not in this case, that was a mistake.

The Home Secretary nods assent to that proposition. I hope that such a mistake will not happen again.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Having heard the Home Secretary’s remarks, I fully accept that it was not her or her Department who made this leak. I hear you saying two things from the Chair: first, that these leaks are undesirable and, secondly, that they are even more undesirable if people get the numbers wrong when they are doing the leaking.

The question of whether it was or was not a leak remains undetermined. All I can say is that I am Speaker of the House, but I am not Sherlock Holmes. Moreover, as usual, the right hon. Gentleman has used his ingenuity to put his point firmly on the record. If there are no further points of order, perhaps we can come to the ten-minute rule Bill, for which the promoter and some of his supporters have been eagerly waiting.