HC Deb 23 July 2002 vol 389 cc885-6 5.42 pm
Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you will be aware of the correspondence between the Speaker and me on Rhondda Cynon Taff county borough council's practice of circulating letters to councillors that I had written confidentially on behalf of my constituents and addressed directly to council officers. I am grateful to the Speaker for his robust written correspondence with me on the matter but for further clarification can I check whether you feel that that practice is right and proper? It is a clear breach of the confidentiality that a Member of Parliament should be able to expect in relation to correspondence on behalf of his constituents. Do you hope that the chief executive of Rhondda Cynon Taff will ensure that that practice will end as soon as possible?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his intention to raise the point of order this afternoon. Mr. Speaker has asked me to say that constituents who approach their Member of Parliament are entitled to expect that the issues raised will be dealt with in a confidential manner. Where the Member considers it appropriate to refer the issue to a local government officer, it is Mr. Speaker's view that the correspondence should remain confidential between the constituent, the Member and the local government officer to whom the case has been referred, unless specific permission to make it available to other parties has been granted by the constituent. I hope that that makes the position clear to the hon. Gentleman and to the House.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have just come from another place, where I was observing proceedings on the Education Bill from behind the Bar. I was surprised to hear in a response given by the Minister, Baroness Ashton, reference to a written answer supposedly given to me following a question that I tabled on Thursday—I have not yet received the answer to that question.

I make no complaint about Baroness Ashton, who gave a courteous apology in another place for the breach of courtesy, but I want to raise with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, what I think is a gross breach of courtesy. Members in another place were given information contained in a written answer for my attention before that information had been provided to me.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will understand that I am not in a position to give him an instant answer to that point. I am sure, however, that Mr. Speaker will examine the matter, and I hope that, if an omission has taken place, it can be put right as soon as possible.