§ Mr. Timothy Yeo (Suffolk, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter in which I believe that the interests of the House are being grossly abused. I refer to the procedure, which I understand is quite common, whereby Government Departments and other public bodies make official reports available to members of the press under embargo before those reports are available to Members of the House.
I was telephoned at about 10.45 am today by a journalist who wished to discuss the contents of the annual report of the Charity Commissioners, in which I have a particular interest. I had to explain that I had not seen the document, whereupon he quoted large chunks of it to me over the telephone. When I inquired at the Vote Office I was told that it was impossible for any Member of Parliament to see the report until 3.30 pm.
I appreciate the need to give the press a chance to prepare reports on documents of this kind, but I regard the procedure that I have described as grossly insulting to the House and an impediment to our carrying out the job for which we were elected. Knowing of your great interest in defending the interests of Members, and especially of Back Bench Members, Mr. Speaker, I appeal to you to bring the strongest possible pressure to bear on Ministers and others in authority to end this highly unsatisfactory and undemocratic arrangement.
§ Mr. Speaker
Is it the same point of order? Has the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) also been approached?
§ Mr. Speaker
In that case I will deal first with the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo).
The House knows of my very strong views on this matter. I hold strongly to the view that the House of Commons should always be told first. I understand the embargo system, but I believe that it is a matter of honour for the press not to divulge material before the embargo time has expired. Therefore, I shall look into the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman.