HC Deb 12 March 1984 vol 56 c31 3.58 pm
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On 9 March I tabled a question to the Prime Minister, pursuant to an answer that she had given on 6 March about civil servants who had accompanied her on her visit to Oman.

I am not raising this point of order in relation to the content of the right hon. Lady's reply; I understand that to do so would be out of order. My point is concerned with the accessibility of hon. Members to the reply. My question asked the Prime Minister if she will give the names of each civil servant by Department who accompanied her on her official visit to Oman in April 1981."—[Official Report, 9 March 1984; Vol. 55, c. 719–20.] In her reply the right hon. Lady identified four groups of civil servants, those from 10 Downing street, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, from the Ministry of Defence and from the Central Office of Information. She noted that those from 10 Downing street were: Mr. Ingham, Mr. Alexander, Mr. Lankester, Mr. Anson, Mr. Pike, Mr. Mitchell, Mrs. Dibblon, Mrs. Cummings and Mrs. Ailes. From the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, those who accompanied her were: Sir J. Graham, Mr. Humphrey, Mr. Barrett, Mr. Leigh, Mr. Dunbar Smith, Mr. Valentine, and Mr. Talbot. From the Ministry of Defence went Sir R. Ellis, whoever he might be, and from the Central Office of Information went a Mr. Ensoll.

Those names from individual Departments were included in a written reply sent to me by letter, not given in a written reply by way of a parliamentary answer. Indeed, the Prime Minister wrote to me last Friday saying: You asked me which Civil Servants accompanied me on my visit to the Middle East in 1981. That was the subject of my written question. It is not normally my practice, for obvious reasons of confidentiality, to list in the Official Report the names of individual members of staff, although the names of senior members of Downing street staff are listed in the main reference books. My point of order is simple. Is it a requirement of parliamentary practice that, when an hon. Member tables a question which requires an answer identifying civil servants, other hon. Members should be denied access to that information? Is it a requirement that such lists are provided in the form of a letter only to the individual asking the question? If that is the case, can you take steps to ensure that the information is made available in the Library?

Mr. Speaker

In my experience, that is frequently done. The House will know that I have no responsibility for what is contained in answers to questions. That is not a matter for me.