HC Deb 25 February 1987 vol 111 cc285-6 4.23 pm
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I refer you to your order of 22 January preventing me and other colleagues in the House from viewing the Zircon film which was the subject of a court injunction. You will be aware that you specifically stated that you made your ruling in order that the injunction should be observed within our precincts.

This morning, Her Majesty's Government did not defend an application by Mr. Campbell in the High Court for the injunction to be withdrawn. Accordingly, it no longer exists. The Government have been unable to find any basis for a prosecution arising from the film. They face the prospect of a substantial claim for damages from the BBC, which has obtained a legal opinion from the dean of the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland that the raid of the Glasgow office was almost certainly unlawful, and have been unable to find a legal basis to defend the action for withdrawal of the injunction.

It would be inappropriate for me to invite you, Mr. Speaker, to reconcile last month's campaign to muzzle the press with this month's climb-down by the Government, but it would be entirely appropriate for me—

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

The hon. Gentleman is making a political speech. He should keep to the point of order.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a very important matter which is being addressed to me.

Mr. Cook

I think that you will agree, Sir, that in all these matters I have shown respect for the Chair.

I think that it would be appropriate for me to ask you to reconsider your ruling, which was clearly given on the basis that an injunction was in force. Now that that injunction is no longer in force, hon. Members may see in the House a film which many of our constituents have already seen in some of the largest cities in the land.

Mr. Speaker

As the House knows, on 27 January I made the following statement: I can confirm that, if the House decides to refer the matter"— my order of 22 January— to the Committee of Privileges, my instructions…will remain in force until the House itself can make a decision following the report of the Committee of Privileges, so long, that is, as the present injunction remains in force."—[Official Report, 27 January 1987; Vol. 109, c. 273.] I have now been informed, as the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has said, that the injunction is no longer in force and, accordingly, my order of 22 January ceases to have effect as from now.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the House will welcome your statement not only because it so promptly and exactly fits what you promised the House on 27 January but because of the increasing absurdity felt by right hon. and hon. Members at finding themselves in the position where a film has been banned from being shown in the precincts of the House while it has been freely available to audiences in Cardiff, London, Glasgow, Coventry and elsewhere.

However, Mr. Speaker, given the most urgent promptings of Ministers to you directly, and later in the form of a motion before the House, that this film should be banned, surely it is right that, now that the policy has been totally reversed within 28 days, we should have an explanation by a responsible Minister as to why the Government dropped the injunction proceedings. I should like to know whether you, Sir, have been informed by any Minister of the Government's intention to make a statement and, if not, why not.

Mr. Speaker

I heard only today that the injunction had been dropped. I have been given no indication that there will be a statement.