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Points of Order

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 5 November 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Guardian newspaper has constantly denied sending details of UK intelligence agents overseas, particularly to The New York Times, and yet, this weekend, The New York Times published highly specific information regarding UK intelligence teams operating in the middle east. Is it in order, Mr Speaker, for a national newspaper constantly to refuse to answer questions from the House and to threaten the security of our constituents in that way?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman both for the fact of his point of order and for notice of his intention to raise it with me. However, the issue he has raised, though of seminal importance, is not an issue of procedure with which the Chair can deal. The hon. Gentleman is drawing attention to what he believes to be, and what I think I can probably best describe as, an equivocation by The Guardian. That is a matter he must pursue by other means. I know that he has already led a well attended debate on the subject in Westminster Hall. He may well wish to try to continue that debate by other means. He is well aware of the location of the Table Office in the House, and he is a dextrous user of parliamentary procedure. We will leave it there for today.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will keep it brief. The last time we had an opportunity to debate the badger culls linked to bovine tuberculosis was in an Opposition day debate on 5 October. In that debate, the evidence on which the House made its decisions included statements from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, in which he said:

“Evidence suggests that at least 70% of the badgers in the areas must be removed.”—[Official Report, 23 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 836.]

I further quote:

“It would be wrong to go ahead if those on the ground cannot be confident”—

Order. I recognise and respect the hon. Gentleman’s commitment to brevity but, unfortunately, his attempted point of order was not as brief as I would wish, especially as it was an attempted point of order rather than a genuine point of order. I would say to him, in so far as he is alerting me and the House to statements that he believes to have been in any way incorrect, erroneous or partial, that Ministers and all Members are responsible for the accuracy of their remarks in the Chamber. What we cannot have is the continuation of debate by the ruse of a bogus point of order. If I did not know the hon. Gentleman better, I would think that that was his game plan, but as I know him as well as I do, and know him to be a person of the highest moral probity, I feel sure that he had some other mission in mind. We will not continue the exchange now. He will deploy the resources of the Table Office to advance his purposes. We can leave it there for today.