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Points of Order

Volume 585: debated on Thursday 4 September 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following our exchange of pleasantries in points of order yesterday, a number of members of the panel have said to me that Saxton Bampfylde was prevented from coming and speaking to the panel and giving information about Carol Mills. I wonder whether, under those circumstances, you might wish to put the record straight so that the House is not misled. May I ask a further question? Would you be prepared to lift any threat of litigation on Saxton Bampfylde with regard to its confidentiality agreement to enable it to speak freely about this subject publicly?

In respect of the second point, that is not something to which I have given any thought, and it is a point upon which it would be prudent and sensible to take advice. In respect of the first point that the hon. Gentleman raised, let me reiterate to him that I believe him to be incorrect. The panel, of which I was chair, was briefed about all the applicants for the post of Clerk and chief executive. He is quite wrong to say that there was prevention of Saxton Bampfylde giving information to the panel. The panel made a judgment on the material with which it was provided, including a piece of information that was provided to it on the occasion of the second set of interviews. The panel made its own judgment on the basis of that information and saw no need for a meeting, as, I think, the hon. Gentleman has in mind. There is no question of prevention. The panel made its own judgment and that was perfectly proper.

I reiterate to the hon. Gentleman, who was courteous enough to raise another point with me yesterday, what I said in response to him then: namely, that the individual whose name he bandies around in the House—Carol Mills—was indeed on the original list of proposed interviewees. He put it to me that she had not been. I told him that she had been. I have one slight advantage of him in this matter, which is that I was there and I do know, whereas he was not there and he does not. We will leave it there.

No, no. There is nothing further to that point of order. [Interruption.] Order. I simply say, with all due courtesy to the hon. Gentleman, who I am sure is sensitive to the interests and wishes of the House as a whole and to its desire to get on with Back-Bench business, that he has raised his point of order, that I have answered it and that there is nothing further to it. Whatever he thinks, I hope that he will be prepared to observe the normal courtesies that obtain in the House of Commons. That is the end of the matter for today.

From that of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) about the head-hunters? Yes, it is.

Mr Speaker, given your knowledge, which you have just explained to my hon. Friend, would you be kind enough to tell the House why you and/or the Commission felt that, unlike for the previous two panels that considered a Clerk of the House, the Deputy Speaker—the Chairman of Ways and Means—should not be on the panel but should be replaced by another right hon. Member who, in their role as the Chair of a Select Committee that governs the scrutiny of finance, had a potential conflict of interest?

I am very happy to answer the right hon. Gentleman, and I am extremely grateful to him for raising this point. There are two responses to him. The first is that in the selection of panels that make judgments of this kind, it is perfectly normal practice to vary the membership from one instance to another. There is nothing disorderly, irregular or particularly surprising about that, and I am sorry if he thinks that there is.

Secondly, I say to the right hon. Gentleman, whom I recall raising the point before about an alleged or perceived conflict of interest in respect of the right hon. Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge) on account of her chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee, that I thought when he raised the point before it was a poor point, and it has not improved with time. There is no conflict of interest at all. I also say to the right hon. Gentleman, who I am sure would wish to be consistent in what I will describe as his thesis, that if he wishes to pursue that line of argument, which I believe to be erroneous, he would presumably apply it also to the Chair of the Finance and Services Committee, the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso), in front of whose Committee the Clerk can periodically appear. He did not make that point about the right hon. Gentleman—rightly, because he would have been wrong to do so, and he is similarly wrong to keep making that point in respect of the right hon. Member for Barking.

I think the House will agree that I have set out the matters with crystal clarity, and I have done so a number of times. I would hope that, having had the point made to them a number of times, people would see it and acknowledge its veracity.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that modest pauses seem to be the order of the day, may we have a modest pause in bogus points of order made not, as is usually the case—[Interruption.] I did not heckle my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), and I will thank him not to heckle me—[Interruption.]

Order. I simply say to the hon. Member for Lichfield: try showing some basic courtesy and manners of a kind that people who attend to our proceedings would wish to hear. He made his point, and it was decisively dealt with by the Chair. I hope he will afford the courtesy to the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) to raise his point of order without interruption.

Inasmuch as people who raise bogus points of order seek to shout me down, I shall just continue to make my points that much more clearly.

A modest pause in bogus points of order would be appreciated, given that they are emanating not from people who seem concerned about the wider issue but from people who are rather more concerned to damage the particular occupant of the Chair on any issue that takes their fancy.

May I instead, within the rules of order, ask whether it is possible to set on the record my pleasure, and I hope that of the whole House, at the announcement on the parliamentary website that our late and much missed friend Paul Goggins is to have a memorial prize instituted in his name by the all-party group on poverty and the Webb Memorial Trust? I hope that hon. Members will alert their constituents to this fine memorial to a very fine individual, who is much missed by all of us.

I thank the hon. Gentleman in particular for what he has just said about the late Paul Goggins, which I think will command universal assent in the House. He was a remarkable man who pursued his politics on the basis of the issues, not on the basis of personalities.