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Point of Order

Volume 560: debated on Wednesday 13 March 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you inform the House about whether you have been notified of any problems with the Government’s online petition system? There have been a number of what No. 10 has described as “glitches” in the registration of signatures relating to the Shrewsbury 24 e-petition. Will you advise us about how people using their democratic right to secure a debate in this House can register their support for the campaign spearheaded by Ricky Tomlinson who, along with five of his colleagues, was jailed and who has long campaigned for the clearance of all the names of the 24?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his attempted point of order. The short answer is that I have been informed of problems only by the hon. Gentleman through his point of order. The matter is a responsibility not for the Chair, but for Ministers. If there are glitches, it is for Ministers to answer the hon. Gentleman. I trust that he will pursue the matter through them.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Some months ago, a number of Members joined the Shrewsbury pickets to submit their application for an investigation into their case by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. That review commission’s work can be completed only with full access to Government documents. Within weeks, the Government took a decision to extend the 30-year rule on these documents, thus taking it beyond the lifetime of most of the pickets. I am writing to the Prime Minister to get him to intervene to secure justice by releasing those papers. If we do not receive a positive response from the Prime Minister—this is an urgent matter because of the old age of many of the pickets—would you consider a request for an urgent question in the coming weeks?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is an ingenious as well as an extremely assiduous Member. I note what he says, but I hope he will understand and not take it in any sense as a put down if I say that I am not going to entertain a hypothetical question. As the late Lord Whitelaw was wont to say, I am inclined to say that on the whole it is advisable to cross bridges only when we come to them. I feel sure that the hon. Gentleman will use the resources of the Order Paper and other mechanisms of debate to pursue his concerns.