On 28 April, the Leader of the House, in answer to the hon. Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), attempted to smear the prospective Labour party police and crime commissioner candidate for Humberside, Keith Hunter. The hon. Member for Brigg and Goole asked:
“As we are talking about the dodgy behaviour of police and crime commissioner candidates, may I say to the Leader of the House that a number of folk standing for election next week are ex-coppers trading on their record as police officers? Does he agree that the Government ?should bring forward proposals to ensure that ex-police officers standing to be PCCs make their police service record available for public scrutiny?”
The Leader of the House replied:
“My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am aware of allegations about the Labour PCC candidate in Humberside. If the stories alleged about that candidate are true, he is unfit for public office, and it is a matter of public interest that the truth should be known before election day.”—[Official Report, 28 April 2016; Vol. 608, c. 1564-5.]
I wrote to the Leader of the House requiring him to either explain the deliberately damaging remarks and the precise basis for them, or to formerly withdraw them and apologise for the disgusting attempted smear. Mr Speaker, would you please advise me on what I can do, given that the Leader of the House is ignoring formal correspondence from elected Members, including formal correspondence from Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition, and deliberately misusing this place for divisive and nasty Tory party political campaigning?
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me advance notice of the thrust of it. The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that what is said in this place by any Member is the responsibility of that Member. It is not the responsibility of the Chair. Clearly, we should all think carefully before making accusations against individuals. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and doubtless this exchange will be relayed to the Leader of the House. The hon. Gentleman can seek to secure a written reply from the Leader of the House if he so wishes, but I cannot involve myself further. I will leave the hon. Gentleman to his own devices.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, there is a tradition of service in the House of Commons either to one’s constituents or to others, such as charities, and indeed, within the House, we serve on Committees. During the war, some Members did fire watching service over Westminster Hall. The reason for my point of order is that we learn today of the danger of war if the UK were to leave the EU. I wondered whether you, your staff or any Officers of the House had made provision for fire service or—I don’t know—missiles of defence, should war imminently break out upon our leaving the EU?
I confess that I have made no such preparations. I would not wish to be accused of tardiness or irresponsibility by the hon. Gentleman or any other Member, but I have been preoccupied with other duties in the House today, including in the Chair and listening to the hon. Gentleman’s mellifluous tones. I have embarked thus far on no such preparations, but I have a hunch that he was more interested in what he had to say to me than in anything I might have had to say to him.