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Points of Order

Volume 663: debated on Thursday 11 July 2019

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. From documents lodged in a Barcelona tribunal by the Spanish Government, it appears that Members of this House from the Conservative party, the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru have been the subject of covert surveillance by agents of that Government in respect of their activities as members of the all-party parliamentary group on Catalonia.

Reference is made to meetings of the APPG, including one addressed by Josep Costa, the Deputy Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, who on that occasion also met the Chairman of Ways and Means. The APPG meeting was a public event and there was no need for participants, even those from the Spanish Government, to hide their identities. Reference is also made to Elin Jones, Llywydd of the Welsh Assembly, to the First Minister of Scotland, and to many others, including our own Speaker, who, in responding to my point of order on 13 February about the imprisonment of Carme Forcadal, the Speaker of the Catalan Parliament, gave me a very favourable response.

The reference in the document is summed up by the headline this morning, “El speaker no es imparcial”. That was the Spanish Government’s opinion of our Speaker. For today, however, I seek your support, Madam Deputy Speaker, in confirming that the principles of openness and free debate are the bedrock of the workings of our House and its APPGs, and that “spying” by a supposedly friendly country—for that is what this is—has no place here.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very serious point of order. Of course, I confirm that the principles of openness, honesty etc. are the bedrock of how our democracy works and must be respected at all times. I cannot take responsibility from the Chair here in the Chamber this morning for matters that occur in Catalonia, but I take very seriously the points the hon. Gentleman has made. I would suggest perhaps that he ought to make his points in writing to Mr Speaker, so that Mr Speaker can give this matter his proper, full consideration, rather than just momentary consideration here in the Chamber. That is what it deserves.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. That point was very important. Do you agree that Mr Speaker could perhaps make the point to the European Union that it is banning elected Members of the European Parliament from Catalonia, as reported in The Guardian? I am sure that the SNP and Plaid Cymru will want Mr Speaker to raise that issue with the European Union.

I understand that the hon. Gentleman makes a further and important point of order, but when allegations are made I cannot comment on them from the Chair. I do not know whether they are true or not, but if these allegations have any substance, I am quite sure that Mr Speaker will want to know about them. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman brings them to his attention. It is a matter of great importance that any elected representative from anywhere in the United Kingdom should be heard, wherever they are elected to.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will have heard in business questions that I asked the Leader of the House urgently to facilitate a statement from the Ministry of Defence about its policy on intelligence sharing when that intelligence is derived from or could lead to torture. The reason for that was that the policy was found to be almost certainly illegal. This week, the Defence Secretary told us that the policy has been reviewed and changed. Members of the House do not know what it has been changed to.

The issue was the subject of an urgent question some weeks ago from the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), and rightly so. Given that the rules and laws surrounding torture, both domestic and international, underpin the rules of engagement of the British armed forces and that such an important change in Government has occurred without Parliament even being told, would you expect, Madam Deputy Speaker, that a Minister should make a statement and should do so urgently?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, which again is an important point. I recall the urgent question brought to the House by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and how seriously the matter was taken by the House and by Ministers. The hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) will know, of course, that if there is a significant change in Government policy, there is a duty on Her Majesty’s Ministers to come to the House and inform it of that change.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will also know that if a Minister has not volunteered to come to the Dispatch Box, the mechanism by which he can require them to is to submit to Mr Speaker an application for an urgent question. I am quite sure that he will do so and that Mr Speaker will consider it with gravity.

We come now to the Backbench Business debate on 20 years of devolution—goodness me, is it really that long?