Chris Bryant (Rhondda, Labour)
Yes, but Committees have quite often been rather tentative about using those powers. I remember discussing this with the hon. Lady in the Library, and she was uncertain whether that power existed—and I kept on telling her, “Yes, it does exist. It can be used. All we have to do is make sure that the Clerk of the House uses the proper processes.” It is important to remember that we have these powers and that they need to be used more effectively. For instance, it seems extraordinary that no member of the Murdoch family had ever given evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee until the day on which Mr Rupert Murdoch and Mr James Murdoch were summoned last summer. I am sure that that was not because Committees did not want to interview the most important significant player in the British media landscape in this country.
As well as using such powers more effectively, we need to decide for ourselves that we have these powers. I know that there are those who say that we are not a High Court of Parliament anymore; that we are not a court. They say that we are not able to provide a fair tribunal, as the Human Rights Act or, for that matter, the European convention on human rights, might determine. So would it be possible for the House of Commons to make a determination in relation to any individual, for instance requiring that individual to be arrested and brought to the House? Some people think that the very idea of bringing someone to the Bar of the House is anachronistic.
We must have some powers to be able to do our job properly. We must be able to summon witnesses, and if they do not want to come here—as happened with the Maxwell brothers, and seemed at one point to be going to happen with the Murdochs—we must be able to send the Serjeant at Arms to summon and, if necessary, arrest them and bring them to Parliament. We need to be able to arrest. Most Members will not have been here on the occasion when the Chamber was invaded, but the Serjeant at Arms has to be able to arrest. It is quite a simple power.