HC Deb 15 February 1989 vol 147 cc327-8 4.17 pm
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have informed me that you have disallowed two questions of mine about the responsibilities of certain public servants who have recently been present in the parliamentary precincts. In doing so, you cited the rule about secrecy set out on page 343 of "Erskine May". Would you be kind enough to confirm that that is so, and give the House any further information that may be helpful?

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) for giving me notice of his point of order. As the House appreciates, when I have to apply the secrecy rule to a question or to questions, I am in difficulty if I am asked to amplify my ruling in any substantial way. Suffice it to say that, having examined the hon. Gentleman's questions with great care, and having taken advice, I am in no doubt that his questions relate to matters that are themselves secret. Therefore, they fall within the ambit of the rule set out on page 343 of "Erskine May", which states that there are certain matters, of their nature secret, relating to the secret services and to security, and questions on these matters are not in order. I can add nothing more.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are there really unauthorised and unaccredited MI5 spies in the Box whose names are in my hon. Friend's possession? If so, what access have they to the rest of the building?

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many would consider it a matter of great disquiet that you have sought to rule out questions relating to the security services, which apparently means that we cannot even ask what security action has been taken for the surveillance of Members of Parliament. I should have thought that the point at issue would be that the House ought to be immune to surveillance by the security services, as should Members of Parliament, just as the Prime Minister claims that we are immune from telephone surveillance by the security services.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not an abuse of the House that the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Government's business managers have today taken up 47 minutes of the time allocated for a time-limited debate—although we realise that that will be embarrassing for the Government? Is it not a further abuse that we have had to hear from the Secretary of State that he got it so wrong a year ago when he guillotined the debate on the measure that he has been talking about that he will now have to amend that Act?

What can you, Mr. Speaker, do to protect us? Is there any way in which we can have the time back, or must we face the abuse of not only having a guillotine, but having the guillotine time that is supposed to be available taken up by the Government?

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am not responsible for what statements are made. That is patently a matter that should be taken up through the usual channels. I do not disagree, however, with the right hon. Gentleman's point that on a timetable day time has been taken up. That is why I have had to restrict the number of questions on the statement.

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