HC Deb 25 April 2001 vol 367 cc320-1 4.23 pm
Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise the falsification of a letter that was written by one of the most senior Officers of the House. A member of the public falsified the letter to support his wrongful allegations of misconduct and impropriety against me.

The Serjeant at Arms recently considered a complaint about letters that I had written on Commons notepaper to young people in my constituency. On 26 March, the hon. Member who had complained received a reply from the Assistant Serjeant at Arms. He passed it on to my political opponent, the prospective parliamentary Conservative candidate for Gravesham, Mr. Jacques Arnold, who was the original source of the complaint.

The reply exonerated me, but Mr. Arnold has now admitted to having removed a section of the letter from the Assistant Serjeant at Arms before circulating to the press a now fraudulent document, which still carried the letterhead and signature of the Assistant Serjeant at Arms. The passage that he removed stated: I do not see anything there inappropriate to House stationery. Mr. Arnold circulated the falsified letter to the press in a press release, the first line of which reads: The Serjeant at Arms of the House of Commons has found Chris Pond, M.P. for Gravesham, guilty of inappropriate use of House of Commons stationery. That incident raises serious questions about which I should like your guidance, Mr. Speaker. First, Mr. Arnold tried to compromise and use the office of the Serjeant at Arms to undermine the integrity of an hon. Member. What protection exists for Officers of the House, when one of the most senior parliamentary officials is misrepresented in this way? Secondly, does not it show contempt, especially by someone who hopes to become a Member of the House, to falsify for his own purposes letters issued on the Serjeant at Arms' notepaper?

Some may consider this a rather ham-fisted, if dishonest and deceitful, attempt at forgery by a Tory prospective parliamentary candidate. However, forgery for personal gain is generally considered a criminal offence. How does the House consider incidents of forgery for political gain, and what can Parliament do to make sure that this sort of practice does not continue elsewhere?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. There is no action that I can take in relation to the particular occurrence that has caused him concern. I can, however, make it clear that I strongly deprecate the manipulation of correspondence from Officers of the House in a way that misrepresents its contents.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course I appreciate what you have said, as I am sure the whole House—Certainly hon. Members on this side—Will have done. Cannot this matter be pursued any further? If the person concerned has—as he clearly has—done what my hon. Friend said he had, surely further action is required. At one time, if I may remind you, Sir, those who showed such contempt for the House were brought before the Bar of the House. My view is that this particular rather obnoxious person should be brought before the Bar of the House at your instructions.

Mr. Speaker

As I stated, the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Pond) gave me notice of his point of order. I have given him what I consider to be a proper reply and I have nothing to add.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you could answer a simple question. Has this gentleman personally apologised to the Serjeant at Arms' Office in the House of Commons?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter that I have any information on. [HON. MEMBERS: "He should."] Order.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If this person were brought to the Bar of the House, would not that be the nearest that he got to the House?

Mr. Speaker