On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of your statement on Monday, I would be very grateful if you could clarify something, and that is the status of the letter that you sent to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Given that there is a pause and we cannot anticipate the outcome of that pause, what are you going to do, Mr Speaker, about that letter? Will you be withdrawing it until after the pause has been completed and decisions have flowed from that, or will it just float around in No. 10 until some relevant point?
I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The answer is very straightforward. It is not for me to withdraw a recommendation that was agreed by a panel, but as I made abundantly clear on Monday afternoon, in the presence of the right hon. Gentleman, I am seeking a modest pause in the recruitment process. I am not pressing that recommendation, and that point has been—or will be—conveyed to the Prime Minister with crystal clarity; and I am sure that that clarity is something, in a spirit of good will, public interest and the pursuit of consensus, that the right hon. Member for Chelmsford will warmly welcome.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why were the recruitment consultants Saxton Bampfylde prevented from telling the advisory panel, which you referred to, that the candidate Carol Mills was under two investigations by the Senate? And is it not the case that Saxton Bampfylde did not—I repeat: did not—originally recommend that Carol Mills be considered?
Unfortunately, but fairly predictably, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. He is wrong on both counts. I set out the position very clearly on Monday afternoon. It was my responsibility and privilege to respond, with courtesy and in detail, to points of order on that occasion. Sadly, it was a disadvantage to the House that the hon. Gentleman was not present at that time—
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week in his column in The Guardian, Andrew Sparrow stated that a source close to you, Mr Speaker, said that most Members of this House do not understand the role of the Clerk and that many MPs believe that the Clerk is just a man in a wig who sits at the Table in the Chamber—
Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat. It is not normal practice to expect the Speaker to comment on any and every media report. I did not see the report, I am not responsible for the report, and I do invite the hon. Gentleman and Members of the House as a whole to rise to the level of events. I think perhaps we can leave it there.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I simply put it to the House that there have been many questions, perfectly properly, on this matter, both on Monday and today, and those questions have been properly answered. There will be further opportunities—very properly so—for the House to debate this matter as and when it so wishes. Let us proceed in an orderly way.
Civil Partnership Act 2004 (Amendment) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Tim Loughton, supported by Mr Graham Brady, Mr Frank Field, Charles Hendry, Caroline Lucas, Charlotte Leslie, Greg Mulholland, Mr Rob Wilson, Craig Whittaker and Mark Durkan, presented a Bill to amend the Civil Partnership Act 2004 to provide that opposite sex couples may enter into a civil partnership; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 September, and to be printed (Bill 86).