HC Deb 11 May 1995 vol 259 c908 4.41 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Because you have been so indulgent to me this afternoon, I feel almost embarrassed about raising a point of order, but not quite, because it is a matter of some substance. May I ask you to call, from the expert Clerks of the Table Office, for an account of the circumstances of what actually took place during the rejection of six questions to the Crown Office and one question to the Prime Minister relating to why photographs of timers rather than the timers themselves were shown to the Scottish police in relation to Lockerbie?

There is the gravest doubt as to whether evidence held by the Crown Office is authentic. For two hours this evening, there will be a film and a long discussion—I hasten to say to my colleagues that I am not party to the discussion, and probably rightly so—among serious people about what is after all the biggest crime against western civilians since 1945.

Will you, Madam Speaker, ask the Table Office whether the artful way in which the Government are bypassing Parliament by cleverly wording answers to reject legitimate questions is bringing us all into disrepute? I hold that it is a matter for you, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's comments about my indulgence. I do not often receive such compliments.

On behalf of the Table Office, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his earlier comments about the way that it handles his questions. The Table Office volunteered an explanation to me about why it was not able to accept the questions that the hon. Gentleman mentions. I know that he knows the answer. The Table Office is simply carrying out the rules and regulations of the House to see that our procedures and orders are upheld. The hon. Gentleman has raised such issues with me a number of times. I always look very carefully at the questions that he wishes to table and I know that he is helped enormously by the Table Office and, I hope, by my office as well.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to press your indulgence still further but you will remember that yesterday I raised with you the matter of the powers of Select Committees in relation to public interest immunity certificates. You were good enough to explain that the powers of Select Committees were not matters for you. Therefore, I have consulted the Clerks, and the guidance that I have been given is that, in their view, the powers of Select Committees to call for persons and papers includes the power to request Ministers who issue such certificates to attend a Committee to justify their action. From that, I assume that it is open to any Select Committee to exercise that power if it so wishes.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has understood the procedure perfectly accurately.