HC Deb 12 December 1996 vol 287 c427 4.47 pm
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall the exchanges that took place earlier this afternoon on the statement on what has become known as the Welsh budget. At the outset of the statement, I mentioned the leak that took place earlier this week which led to accurate and comprehensive details of the statement appearing in the Western Mail on Tuesday. This is a matter of great concern to Welsh Members of Parliament because, at last week's meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee, we pressed the Secretary of State for the very information that appeared on Tuesday morning, and he refused to give it.

I was very grateful that the Secretary of State condemned the leak, and that he undertook to hold an inquiry, but I should like to ask you two questions. First, will you give your views on this matter, and say whether it would be appropriate for the Secretary of State to make a statement to the House on the conclusion of his inquiry, so that we can test whether it has been as full and as thorough as we would expect it to be? Secondly, what steps can you take to ensure that the inquiry is as full and as comprehensive as it should be?

The point that concerns me is that Welsh Members have been treated very discourteously, if not contemptuously, by someone in the Secretary of State's office, and I should like to be assured that the inquiry will examine not only the role that civil servants may have played in the matter, but whether Ministers have been responsible for leaking information—or whether it is the strange political animal that we have come to know as a political adviser. Will you advise me what steps you can take to ensure the fullest inquiry?

Madam Speaker

I noted the hon. Gentleman's comments when he drew this matter to the attention of the House earlier today. I am very concerned by what I heard at that time and by what I read in a newspaper yesterday. Our clear convention is that important statements must be made first to this House, and I deprecate it most strongly when the substance of a statement is revealed in the media before presentation to the House. I join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming the comments made by the Secretary of State today when he said that he would have this matter investigated to see how the situation arose. It is, of course, for the Secretary of State to determine whether he will seek to make a statement to the House, but I should have thought that, in the circumstances, he might keep the hon. Gentleman informed of his inquiries.