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Point of Order

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 18 March 2021

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. My point of order relates to the debate held by the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) on Tuesday evening on the Scottish civil service. In that debate, he used parliamentary privilege to make a number of points. Privilege obviously allows Members to say a number of things, but it remains important that, when these things are said, what Members say is accurate and correct.

The right hon. Member made three specific points that I would contest. First, he made reference to messages between specific members of SNP staff where Mr Salmond has claimed there was a conspiracy. It is my clear understanding that the Scottish Parliament Committee has received all the communications between the named members of staff because it has used the powers it has to get them, and the Committee has been widely reported as dismissing them as irrelevant and not showing any form of conspiracy.

Secondly, the right hon. Member made reference to a message from an individual in HR claiming interference by the First Minister’s chief of staff, and suggested that this showed the First Minister’s chief of staff had knowledge of complaints against Mr Salmond earlier than she had said. However, Rape Crisis Scotland yesterday issued a statement from the civil servant involved stating that this was

“fundamentally untrue and are being deliberately misrepresented”,

that they had not shared the details of the complaint, the complainer, or who was being complained about, and the chief of staff’s actions were in line with their wishes.

Finally, the right hon. Member claimed that civil servants had deliberately removed a document from the court. This is untrue. Let me quote the Scottish Government statement that was issued last night:

“The assertions made by David Davis are wrong—this document was not withheld, it was provided to the Court on 21 November 2018.”

All that was accidentally redacted was one email address, not a document, and this is clear in the published documents. The right hon. Member is right that the Scottish Parliament Committee needs to get to the truth of this matter in order that mistakes are not repeated and that women are not let down in the future, but clearly this will not happen if serious allegations are made without checking the veracity of them first.

In response to the Scottish Government’s comments last night, the right hon. Member appears to have taken to social media this morning to try to move the goalposts, but he has notably not sought to defend his earlier accusations. He claimed in a newspaper interview yesterday that he was very careful with what he said in the Chamber on Tuesday evening. However, it would appear that he was not quite careful enough. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your advice on what options are available to me and to the right hon. Member to ensure that the parliamentary record can be corrected.

I thank the hon. Member for his point of order and for giving the Chair advance notice of it. I know that he also gave the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) notice that he was going to make this point of order. I have listened carefully to what he has had to say, and I am sure that, in saying that, he believes some of the comments made by the right hon. Gentleman were untrue, but he is not saying that anybody has deliberately misled the House and I am grateful for an acknowledgement of that. It is not for me to comment on the accuracy of comments made by the right hon. Gentleman in that Adjournment debate or by the hon. Member in this point of order, but the Speaker has made it absolutely clear that if any Member needs to correct the record, they should do so at the earliest opportunity. The hon. Gentleman has put his points on record, and I think we should leave it there.