HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc21-3
David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. Would it not be appropriate for the Solicitor-General to make a statement to the House about the case that collapsed last Friday? It is my view, shared by a number of colleagues, that there are relevant questions for Parliament to ask: why the case was started in the first place, why it collapsed and in what circumstances, and about all the costs involved. In all the circumstances, I should have hoped that the Solicitor-General would make a statement. I understand that the Prime Minister has answered questions outside Parliament. I do not criticise him for that, as he had a press conference. I hope, therefore, that the Solicitor-General will come to the House, if not today, then on Tuesday, to answer these relevant questions.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that the case of Paul Burrell has collapsed, in view of the fact that the case should not have proceeded to court if certain people had opened their mouth a lot sooner—I refer to members of the royal family—and in view of the fact that it will cost £1.5 million, should not the Queen have to foot the bill?

Mr. Speaker

In answer to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), that is not a matter for me. On the point of order from the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick), the Solicitor-General is a Minister of the Crown, and she can choose to come to the House and make a statement if she so wishes.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are about to move joyfully on to the Adoption and Children Bill. When that Bill was introduced to the House about a year ago, the Secretary of State for Health stated on the front of the Bill that it was compatible with the European convention on human rights. That Bill made no attempt to change the status of people eligible to adopt. Last week, the Joint Committee on Human Rights produced a report on the Bill that is coming back from the Lords today in its amended form, which we are about to debate. That amended Bill returns the Bill to its original form—that is, the status quo of people eligible to adopt. However, the report states that the Bill is now incompatible with the European convention on human rights. The Secretary of State and the Joint Committee cannot both be right. That casts a legal doubt on the compatibility of the Bill. Do you have a ruling on the subject, before we get into the nitty-gritty of the clauses that we shall be debating?

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance. Since the Joint Committee first considered the Bill as presented by the Secretary of State to the House on Second Reading, there has been a case in South Africa and there has also been European Court jurisprudence in the Frette case, which was considered by the Joint Committee and which related to articles 8 and 14. If, following that jurisprudence, the Government now agree with the Joint Committee that the Bill in its current form is incompatible, is it not appropriate that there should be a Government amendment on the amendment paper making it compatible with the Human Rights Act, rather than the amendment before us, which is right and proper but relies on Back-Bench Members and Opposition parties to put the Bill in a human rights-compatible form?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) for giving me notice of his point of order. The House is indebted to him for drawing attention to this apparent conflict of opinion, but it is a matter for a debate and not one that I can resolve or rule on.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Defence questions, the Secretary of State referred to use of the royal prerogative for the call-out of reservists. Indeed, it might be used for military action as well. That has serious constitutional implications on which I ask you to reflect, especially with regard to whether we could have a debate on using the royal prerogative.

Mr. Speaker

It is not for the Speaker to worry about that.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In answer to the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), the Secretary of State for Defence used the words "well-established procedure". May I, through you, ask the Clerks to identify that well-established procedure, because I suspect that it was used but once, at the time of the Korean war, by Herbert Morrison in trying to manipulate his colleagues? Could some research be done on the matter, because some of us think—[Interruption.] I did not refer to his grandson; I referred to Herbert Morrison. The sins of a grandfather should not be inflicted on a grandson. Perhaps the Clerks Department could do some research and find out what the well-established procedures actually are in relation to the royal prerogative and reservists.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me answer the Father of the House. I have noticed that he is a regular at getting advice from the Clerk of the House, so rather than me asking the Clerk for advice to give to him, perhaps he can go himself.

Mr. Gummer

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the hon. Gentleman is right in what he just said, I hope that the Chair will reflect—although no doubt it cannot rule on this point—on the fact that it would make the whole of the answer that the Secretary of State gave to me totally otiose.

Mr. Speaker

We now come to the main business.

    1. c23
    2. Consideration of Lords Amendments 116 words
    3. c23
    4. Subsequent stages 46 words
Back to