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Points of Order

Volume 567: debated on Monday 2 September 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 29 August, during the debate on chemical weapons in Syria, the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway), who is not in his place, denied—

Order. Just before the hon. Gentleman proceeds, I must first seek his confirmation that he has made all reasonable efforts to ensure that the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway) is aware that this matter is being raised in relation to him in the Chamber this afternoon.

I can confirm that I spoke to the office of the hon. Member for Bradford West to advise him that I would raise this point of order.

During the debate on chemical weapons in Syria, the hon. Gentleman denied accusing Israel of supplying chemical weapons to al-Qaeda, and yet in the week before the debate, on Iranian-funded Press TV, he was clearly recorded accusing Israel. I would be grateful for a ruling on whether he has misled the House.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his reassurance that he made contact with the hon. Member for Bradford West, or his office, in advance of raising it. Let me just reiterate the factual—constitutional, if you will—position. All hon. and right hon. Members are responsible for what they say in this Chamber. If they make a mistake, it is their responsibility to correct it. The hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) is a sufficiently astute student of the procedures of the House to be aware of the many channels that are open to him to pursue the matter. I feel sure that he will be tenacious in pursuit of his opportunities. He will, I am sure, readily accept both that I have not heard the interview in question, and that it is not for the Speaker to adjudicate upon the factual accuracy of the content of Members’ speeches. I feel sure that he will pursue the matter in one or more of the ways I have outlined.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I clarify for the record that, in the Opposition day debate on 10 July, I did not intend to suggest that I regarded either Pat’s Petition or We Are Spartacus as extremist groups?

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The events of last week have created a historic constitutional precedent that future decisions on war and peace will be subject to the decision of the House. That has implications for other constitutional conventions, one such being the tradition that the Government do not reveal their legal advice in those matters. That is normally a very sensible convention, but if the Attorney-General is the adviser to the Government and to the House of Commons, that creates a problem in giving independent advice to the House. Can you, Mr Speaker, use your offices to resolve that problem, either by obtaining independent advice on future occasions, or by approaching the Government to change that convention?

The right hon. Gentleman raises an interesting constitutional point, which I readily accept is worthy of further reflection and consideration. My best advice to him is that, if he wishes to pursue the matter and for the House to have an opportunity to reach a judgment about it, he should, in the first instance, approach the Chair of the Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform with a view to that Committee undertaking a study of, and making recommendations in relation to, the issue. There should then be an opportunity for the House, before too long, to come a view about it. I hope that that is clear and helpful.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will have noticed that the Defence questions Order Paper was dominated by questions about the Trident successor and the Liberal Democrat-demanded alternatives review. Given that the delay to the main-gate decision cost this country £1.4 billion in extending the life of the existing submarines, is there any way in which I, within the rules of order, can set on the record that, present for those questions, were no more at any one time than two or three out of nearly 60 Liberal Democrat MPs?

The hon. Gentleman has, not for the first time, found his own salvation. I noticed during Question Time that, when he put his inquiry to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State, with his customary courtesy, and no world-weariness, observed that the hon. Gentleman had made his point before. I could have told the Secretary of State that the hon. Gentleman has, in my recollection, made the same point in relation to Trident, or a number of the same points, for the best part of the 30 years that I have known him. On most occasions, he has done so on a daily basis.