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Points of Order

Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 11 December 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In a named day question on 5 December this year, I asked the Attorney-General how many libel settlements, and of what value, the Crown Prosecution Service had made in each year between 2007 and 2012. I was given the answer that the CPS had made no libel settlements in that period. Unfortunately, in May 2008, in a case adjudicated by Master Eyre between Hardcash Productions and the Director of Public Prosecutions and the chief constable of West Midlands police, there was a settlement of £50,000 between the two defendants. I am certain, because I know him well, that there is nobody less likely to mislead the House than the Attorney-General. Therefore, he must be depending upon information given to him by the Crown Prosecution Service. If this House cannot depend on the organisation that is supposedly committed to promoting justice in this country to give us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, what can you do to defend us?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. In the first instance, I can ask the Attorney-General to respond, and we will see what happens.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) for indicating to me a short time ago that he wished to make that important point. At the moment, I am not in a position to answer his question. He is absolutely right that the answer I gave him was based on information provided to me by the Crown Prosecution Service. He has given me some information that gives rise to a question as to whether that is accurate. I take that very seriously and the matter is being looked into urgently. When I have an answer, I will of course ensure that it is not only supplied to him, but made available to the House.

I hope that satisfies the right hon. Gentleman for today. I thank him for raising this important matter, which really is a public service. I am sure that clarity will be established, and hopefully very soon.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall that recently I have twice raised the issue of the response, or lack thereof, to my correspondence from the Minister for Immigration. Following the point of order I raised last Monday, on which you ruled, and about which I remind the House, I have continued to receive letters signed not by the Minister for Immigration, but by Lord Taylor of Holbeach, against whom I have no resentment whatsoever. That continued until yesterday, so I asked my secretary to telephone the office of the Minister for Immigration to say that if I continued to receive letters that were not signed by him by Friday of this week, I would raise the matter on the Floor of the House. However, when my secretary made that call, the lady who answered said—I quote from my secretary’s note—that

“this was noted but that it would not make any difference and that Lord Taylor will still be replying, as he does to other Members of Parliament.”

I regard that response as a serious discourtesy from a civil servant to a Member of Parliament in any case.

Mr Speaker, when you responded to my point of order last week, you said:

“It should not be a matter of any controversy from now on. I hope that the Home Secretary can pass on the message to the Minister for Immigration and that the Minister for Immigration will behave in a seemly manner both towards the right hon. Gentleman and towards other Members.”—[Official Report, 2 December 2013; Vol. 571, c. 658.]

I should add that two Cabinet Ministers have told me that as a rule they always reply in person to letters from Privy Counsellors. In view of the fact that what you described as a “seemly manner” is not being observed by the Minister for Immigration, I ask you to rule on the matter. Furthermore, with your permission, if I receive any more letters from Lord Taylor, I will send them to you.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House wishes to say anything now—or he and I can discuss the matter.

The right hon. Gentleman is shaking his head. Perhaps we will have a conversation afterwards; I think that that in itself would be perfectly seemly.

May I say for the avoidance of doubt, so that nobody thinks that I am sitting on the fence on this matter, which I most certainly have not done, that I think the concern expressed by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) is a reasonable one, and reasonable people should respond to it in a reasonable way, which, as far as I am concerned, means that he should get what he has reasonably requested. I am not sure whether something in the system is causing the problem or whether an individual is being obstinate, but it is not necessary. I think that the right hon. Gentleman, who has served in the House without interruption for 43 years and coming up to six months, should be treated with courtesy. He has not been, and I am sorry about that and hope we can put the matter right. I really do not want this matter to have continually to be raised on the Floor of the House. The reputation of the Department is at stake, and the Department must, frankly, raise its game. The Leader of the House and I can talk about it afterwards.