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Points of Order

Volume 542: debated on Monday 19 March 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that, last Thursday, a document—Cabinet papers from 1989 on the Hillsborough disaster—was leaked to the BBC. Many believe that the leak could only have come from a senior politician or a senior civil servant, or that the BBC itself must have had access to this sensitive documentation. There have also been suggestions that there may well be further leaks on a “drip, drip” basis, which will undermine the work of the Hillsborough independent panel. Given the urgency—

Order. I intend no discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman. What I am seeking to establish is: what is the point of order for the Chair? That is the question.

Given the urgency of the situation, Mr Speaker, perhaps you can offer me guidance on the most appropriate parliamentary mechanism to ensure that as many Members as possible have the opportunity, and sufficient time, to debate the intricacies of such a complex issue.

There are a number of answers to the hon. Gentleman’s point of order. First, I do not give procedural advice to Members from the Chair. Secondly—as one wag has just observed from a sedentary position—it is open to the hon. Gentleman to consult the Standing Orders, and he could probably do so to his advantage. Thirdly, my genuine and constructive advice to the hon. Gentleman is that he should consult the Table Office about the variety of parliamentary devices that could be available to him, and could enable him further and better to pursue the matter.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Given the serious allegations that were made in the revelations referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), should a Minister not come to the House and explain that those allegations against the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough are themselves scandalous?

I understand the very great strength of feeling on this matter, but I have ruled on the point of order. I respect the seniority and service of the right hon. Gentleman.

I do not intend to respond to the point made by the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth), but I think it would benefit the House if I made it clear that a leak inquiry has been initiated by the Cabinet Office. I share the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) in his point of order about the impact that a leak of this sort will have on what is a very sensitive matter in the context of ensuring that the full information is put together by the Hillsborough panel, and I believe that the information in any documents should be shown to the families first and should not be leaked to the press in any form. I repeat that the Cabinet Office is undertaking a leak inquiry.

That was both helpful and courteous of the Home Secretary, and the House is immensely grateful to her.