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Points of Order

Volume 531: debated on Wednesday 20 July 2011

Order. We want to move on to the debate pretty speedily, I think, but I shall briefly attend to points of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During his statement, the Prime Minister said that Alastair Campbell had falsified Government documents. I am sure that many people would like to see the evidence for that. Will you ask the Prime Minister to arrange for it to be placed in the House of Commons Library?

The reason I will not is that the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, though very important to him and possibly to others, represents a continuation of the debate, and we must not use points of order for that purpose.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for a witness to refuse to answer a Select Committee question, as the noble Lord Macdonald did yesterday when I asked him how much he was being paid by News Corporation? Is it not in the public interest that he disclose that, given his role, as Director of Public Prosecutions, in limiting the police inquiry?

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman—this is the first I have heard of this—is that witnesses before Select Committees should seek to be as helpful as possible to Committees, and they have a general obligation to furnish Committees with answers to the best of their ability. I hope that answer is helpful to him.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister said earlier that The New York Times revelations contained no new information, but the police considered the information new enough to reopen their inquiries. Would he care to correct the record?

That, too, is a continuation of the debate, for which I remind the House there will be full opportunity in the debate that is about to follow.

So do I, Sir, so do I. In general, is it in order for any right hon. or hon. Member, Prime Minister or Back Bencher, to make a defamatory statement in the House?

Members should take responsibility for their own statements, and of course they should not make defamatory statements about other Members, but the right hon. Gentleman is raising his point of order in the abstract, so for me it becomes hypothetical. The Speaker, I think wisely, does not seek to respond to hypothetical questions.

Following your earlier remarks about reviewing security given the incident yesterday, Mr Speaker, will you ensure that the public continue to have the right to go to Select Committees, and that their right is not restricted?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The right to attend meetings in the way that he describes is a very long-established and precious freedom. I think it would be quite wrong for me to seek to constrain or circumscribe what an independent investigation can cover and recommend, but the point he makes is an important one. I have underlined its importance, and I think many people will share his point of view.