§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise with you a point of order concerning the behaviour of the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold), of which I have given you notice. Indeed, I have given notice of it to the hon. Member.
I ask you whether it is in order for an hon. Member to write a letter on a matter relating to the immigration rules that libels another hon. Member. I refer to a letter which was sent in February by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden to a firm of solicitors, in which she enclosed a copy of a letter which the Minister of State, Home Office, the hon. and learned Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Waddington) sent to me. In that letter she appears to say that new regulations are being prepared, of which the House has no knowledge, by the Minister of State, Home Office.
The hon. Lady said in her letter:I wonder if you are aware thatthe Minister of Stateis working towards the introduction of new regulations which will prevent MPs such asmyselfexercising an open market in allowing people, such asMr. Xfrom coming into this country with illegal passports.The hon. Lady claimed that
about 20 Labour MPs … operated a system over the Christmas holiday period of inviting people to come to them on the completely wrong information that their own Member of Parliament is not available.The hon. Lady explained how she spent two days during the Christmas period not answering the phone—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman is putting a point of order to me, he must not recite from letters.
§ Mr. Corbyn
I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that it is important that I explain why I am putting the point. I shall be brief.
The final point in the hon. Lady's letter is:
I am sure you will appreciate that this does not endear the system to people, like myself, who work exceedingly hard on behalf of genuine cases, many of whom are resident and very supportive of the Conservative Party.First, Mr. Speaker, is it in order for an hon. Member to write libellous comments about another hon. Member and, indeed, about a group of hon. Members? Secondly, as the Member concerned is a Minister in the Government, she appears to have information, which is not available to the House, about the true purpose of the draft regulations which the Minister of State, Home Office has raised. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it would be in order for both the hon. Lady and the Minister of State to come to the House and make statements about the true nature of the regulations which the Home Office is trying to introduce.
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot be asked to adjudicate on letters which pass between hon. Members and their constituents. This is a matter between the hon. Lady and her constituent. If the hon. Gentleman is alleging that it is a breach of privilege, that is a different matter and he should write to me about it.
§ Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend has given me a copy of the letter. It goes a good deal wider 165 than the hon. Lady's disgraceful personal allegations against my hon. Friend. There are two points. First, there are allegations against a group of hon. Members. The hon. Lady said in her letter:It may well be that you"—that is, her correspondent—are not aware that there are about 20 Labour MPs who operated a system over the Christmas holiday period of inviting people to come to them on the completely wrong information that their own Member of Parliament is not available.That is a serious allegation against a group of hon. Members.
Secondly, the hon. Lady is a member of the Government and she refers in the letter to what she calls the Minister of State
working towards the introduction of new regulations which will prevent MPs … allowing people … into this country with illegal passports.The House knows of draft guidance, which the Government have communicated to a number of hon. Members, but the House knows nothing of new regulations. If the Government are contemplating new regulations — the hon. Lady is a member of the Government—it is essential that, apart from the hon. Lady coming and explaining herself to the House, the Minister of State or the Home Secretary comes here and says whether, behind the back of Parliament, they are working on new restrictive regulations.
§ Mr. Speaker
What the right hon. Member has said may be true, but it is not a matter of order. He must pursue it by other means. If he is alleging that contempt has taken place, he knows the action he should take. He should write to me about it.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think you should consider the matter, for the very good reason that several weeks ago, when it was first raised, the discussion was on whether the responsible Minister should at that time have made a personal statement about the attack on 23 Labour Members of Parliament. Because of his failure to do that, other Ministers are using those references in letters. The least that should take place now is that the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold) should come to the Dispatch Box and explain her conduct regarding not only the proposed new regulations but why the Government and their Ministers are carrying on the argument about those 20–odd Labour Members in the absence of an apology at the beginning from the responsible Minister.
§ Mr. Speaker
Again that may be so, but it is not a matter of order. There are many parliamentary ways in which the matter can be raised.