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Points of Order

Volume 527: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Vicky Haigh, a horse trainer and former jockey, was the subject of an attempt by Doncaster council to imprison her for speaking at a meeting in Parliament. There was discussion earlier today as to whether that case was sub judice. An application was made to the court, a copy of which I have provided to your office. Additionally, I have provided to your office a copy of the court order in which it was deemed that she would not be jailed. I assume, therefore, that the case is not sub judice, in accordance with sub-paragraph (b)(ii) of the relevant resolution:

“Any application made in or for the purposes of any civil proceedings shall be treated as a distinct proceeding.”

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his attempted point of order and for notice that he was to raise the matter this afternoon. I do not intend to have a discussion on the Floor of the House, notwithstanding what he said about documents that have been deposited, on whether a particular case is or is not sub judice. One of my duties is to uphold the resolution of the House with respect to sub judice issues. As far as this particular matter is concerned, I am perfectly prepared to discuss it privately with the hon. Gentleman. I will not take any further points of order on this matter today, and I feel sure that he will take his cue from the clear response that I have given.

The hon. Gentleman may have a separate point of order, but it is a bit greedy to have two in one go. We will have someone else first so that he can save his vocal cords and we will revert to him in due course.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you had notice from the Secretary of State for Defence that he will come to the House to make a statement on the decision to refuse the invitation of Belfast city council for a homecoming parade for the men and women of the Royal Irish Regiment and the Irish Guards, who have recently completed tours of duty in Afghanistan? That decision has been greeted with incredulity and anger across Northern Ireland. Given that there was a parade the last time they returned and tens of thousands of people turned out in the streets of the capital city of Northern Ireland, which the troops appreciated greatly, surely the Secretary of State owes it to this House to come and at least explain the decision, if not to announce its reversal and allow these brave men and women their moment of appreciation in the capital city of Northern Ireland.

I fully understand the strength of feeling of the right hon. Gentleman, and I know that the House will respect the sincerity and experience with which he registered his concerns. I hope that he, as an experienced parliamentarian, will readily understand that I cannot join the argument. However, he has put his point forcefully on the record in the presence of Ministers. In particular, it has been heard with courtesy by the Deputy Leader of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to pursue the matter in other ways, he can. I have not as yet had any indication that a Minister wishes to make a statement on the subject.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This afternoon in Health questions, the Health Secretary told the House that waiting times were stable in the NHS. In fact, for the first time in three years more than one in 10 in-patients are waiting more than 18 weeks for their hospital treatment; the proportion of people waiting more than four hours for emergency treatment is the highest for six years; and the number of people waiting for diagnostic tests for more than six weeks has doubled. Those are the Government’s figures, confirmed recently by the independent King’s Fund. Can the House, through you, Mr Speaker, ensure that the Health Secretary sets the record straight and, in future, gives a full and accurate account of the changes in waiting times that we have seen over the past year?

What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is as follows. First, Ministers are responsible for the content, including the accuracy, of the answers that they give and the statements that they make to the House. Secondly, I hope he will understand when I say that I cannot get involved in the question of the quality of an answer. Thirdly, I think it would be well beyond the limited powers and capacities of the Chair to join an almost theological debate about what constitutes stability, in respect of either the health service or any other feature of our national life. However, the shadow Health Secretary has put his point on the record.

On a second point of order, Mr Speaker, of which I also gave notice, I wish to make another point about sub judice. There is a tendency for people to issue injunctions on the basis of a claim that they intend to issue proceedings, but then not actually issue those proceedings. One such case is AMM, in which no proceedings have been issued. One would therefore presume that such a case never becomes sub judice.

The ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman is almost boundless, and that fact will not have gone unnoticed in any part of the House. However, the initial observations that he made demonstrate to me that the second issue that he has raised is also one for consideration at our private meeting, which I feel sure he is eagerly awaiting.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will know that during the parliamentary recess over Easter, a number of Members wished to see the recall of Parliament in order to debate Libya more fully. Indeed, that was borne testament by the number of contributions following the statement this afternoon. Is there a way that is in order to thank you for extending the statement by almost half an hour to enable all Members to get in?

Well, there is, because the hon. Gentleman has just proved that there is and done it. We are grateful to him for his point.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Over the Easter break—an unfortunate term, perhaps—News International confessed to the fact that there had been a very significant degree of criminality at the News of the World, in direct contradiction to the evidence that it had provided to two Select Committees of this House. In other words, it had misled the House. In addition, Rebekah Brooks, who on 11 March 2003—I can see that the Clerk is worrying, Mr Speaker. I am not—

Order. What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that it is clear to me that he is raising a matter of privilege. That is certainly my very clear understanding of what he has said—it is about privilege and the breach or invasion thereof. It seems to me, therefore, obviously a matter that should be pursued with me in writing in the first instance. I readily expect and almost invite the hon. Gentleman to take that course if he so wishes.

I am grateful to you for your generosity, Mr Speaker.

In addition, Rebekah Brooks, who in March 2003 said that she had paid police officers for information, wrote to the Home Affairs Committee only a couple of weeks ago to say that what she really meant was that other newspapers had done so. That is a blatant lie. Before I write to you about standards and privileges, Mr Speaker, may I ask whether you have had any apology from News International? The House should no longer put up with being lied to.

I am not aware that the House has received any apology, and I certainly have not. Notwithstanding the intellectual and political ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman, his second set of observations merely confirm the truth and wisdom of what I said in my first answer, which is that he should pursue these matters with me in writing in the first instance. He and other Members know that on this matter, as on others, I am very receptive to hearing what the House has to say. These matters should be aired, but they must be aired in the appropriate forum and at the appropriate time.

If there are no further points of order—the creative juices of the House are always on display when we have had a long recess—we will move on.