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Points of Order

Volume 600: debated on Monday 12 October 2015

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I rise on a very serious matter indeed: to ask you whether you have had any request from the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) to seek your permission to make a personal statement apologising for the way in which he has so vilely traduced the late Lord Brittan, and further for him to have a chance to apologise to Lord Brittan’s dignified and courageous widow?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The short answer is that I have had no such request. It is incumbent on each Member to take responsibility for his or her statements within this House, and there is a wider obligation, of course, to comply with the expectations and requirements of the code of conduct that applies to all Members. However, the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) is signalling to me that he would like to respond to what has been said and it is right that he should have the opportunity to do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that right hon. and hon. Members feel aggrieved that Leon Brittan was interviewed by the police and that they are angry with my use of language, but I am sure that they would also agree that when anyone is accused of multiple sexual crimes by numerous completely unrelated sources, the police have a duty to investigate, no matter who it is. My letter was prompted by Jane’s concern that procedures were not followed. It is not for me to judge the validity of these claims, but I believe I was right to demand that the guidelines were adhered to. I also believe that very many victims in this country have been too terrified to speak out for too long. It is not all over just because a few famous people have gone to prison, and it has not all got out of hand just because people in high places are scared. The survivors of child abuse have been belittled and ridiculed for too long. That is the real scandal here.

Earlier, the Prime Minister said that I should examine my conscience. I think we all need to examine our consciences in this House. We have presided over a state of affairs in which children have been abused and then ignored, dismissed and then disdained. If anyone deserves an apology, it is them. [Interruption.]

Order. This is not an occasion for a debate on this matter, and to be fair I do not think any Member would expect such. The right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) has perfectly properly raised his point of order—I thank him for the terms in which he has done so—and the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) has responded, and we must now leave it there and proceed with our next item of parliamentary business.

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. If he seeks to raise a totally unrelated point of order—that is to say, not related to anything that we have just covered and on which I have given a definitive ruling—I will hear him, but I rather suspect from the prevarication that it is not totally unrelated.

Order. The hon. Gentleman will speak when I give him the opportunity and not before. If he has his opportunity, he had better not be a chancer and he had better not fluff it.

I hope, Mr Speaker, that you will give guidance to Members as to the proper means of raising legitimate concerns about public authorities, to ensure that matters that should properly be raised, which concern all Members of this House, are not handled in such a way as might appear to impinge on the independence of judicial and investigative processes.

The hon. Gentleman is kind—I have known him for years and he has always been kind—but he somewhat over-interprets my brief and my wisdom. It is not for the Chair in this House to counsel Members as to how to proceed in such matters. We have, as citizens, the same rights as everybody else. In respect of our membership of this House we have certain additional freedoms and privileges, which must be exercised with great care; we also have responsibilities, and I referenced those, as the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, with particular regard to the code of conduct. I know that the hon. Gentleman only ever seeks to be helpful, and I hope that he is either content or will at any rate today satisfy himself with my response. We will leave it there.