HC Deb 07 December 2000 vol 359 cc133-4 12.10 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At the beginning of business questions, the Leader of the House suggested in her response to me that I had raised within the confines of that tool of Government, the Modernisation Committee, the fact that holidays and recesses should be announced so that Members could order their business. I must put on the record the fact that I have never raised that subject in the Select Committee. I raised it in business questions on 16 November, at columns 1069 and 1070, to ensure that Ministers could discharge their duties to the House before it rose for Christmas.

I also seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Is it correct under the rules of the House that matters debated within the confines of a Select Committee in closed session—whether they are true or not—should not be raised on the Floor of the House?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) apparently feels hurt and that she felt it necessary to raise the matter in a point of order from the Dispatch Box. I will look at the record. I am not sure whether I inadvertently misrepresented her. I was referring to remarks that she made in a debate on the Floor of the House on the report of the Modernisation Committee. I was not referring—perhaps my words were sufficiently unclear that it was not apparent—to anything that she might or might not have said in the Select Committee.

Mr. Speaker

I think that that should clarify the matter for the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning).

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

On a point order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that after the statement on the rural White Paper on Tuesday 28 November I raised a point of order about the fact that I had been contacted before the statement by a journalist who gave me detailed information about the content of the White Paper. You responded by saying that I would have to provide some clear evidence that the journalist was in fact in possession of the White Paper before it was presented to the House.—[Official Report, 28 November 2000; Vol. 357, c. 832.] At that, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) said that he would be able to supply you with an e-mail containing the relevant information, which he did.

I have now seen your reply to my hon. Friend, in which you state: I agree that the article contains an accurate account of some of the content of the Rural White Paper and I can understand how your suspicions were aroused that the P.A. had received an advance copy of the White Paper. I have, however, been given an assurance by the Department … that copies of the White Paper were not made available to the press … I conclude that the article … was a piece of intelligent speculation by a well-informed journalist. Will you reaffirm for the benefit of the House and reassure me that it is not simply that a Department must not give journalists advance sight of a White Paper, but that it must not give them advance knowledge of its contents before it has been made available to us in the House?

Mr. Speaker

That is the case. The content of any White Paper should not be given to anyone until it is put to the House. I would disapprove of giving someone sight of a White Paper or of any discussion of its content. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman.