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Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 12th February 2014.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary 1:32 pm, 12th February 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Home Secretary, in answer to my earlier question, said that it would not be the practice of the police to confirm whether or not surveillance had taken place. Chief Constable Mick Creedon did provide such information to the Select Committee on Home Affairs when allegations were raised about surveillance of the Lawrence family. May I therefore ask her, given the helpful way in which she has responded to all the comments on the statement today, to look further at the points that were made by my hon. Friend Steve Rotheram?

Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Secretary of State for the Home Department

If I may, Mr Speaker, I will provide clarification. I apologise if my language was loosely used earlier, as it should not have been. It is the accepted policy that we do not deny or confirm whether somebody has been subject to interception, which I understood was potentially part of the issue raised by Steve Rotheram, but I have noted the concern that has been raised in this House and I will take that matter away.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You were very helpful at the start of this statement in explaining the need not to prejudice the investigation or the inquest next month, when the legal proceedings start properly. Could you expand on that and provide further information? My concern is that the information I am being given and that some of my colleagues are being given suggests that this situation can only get worse: people thought it was bad enough with the report, but it will only worsen as information comes out. We do not want to prejudice those legal proceedings, but at the same time there may be a need for parliamentary scrutiny of or debate on issues that appear in and come out of the investigations and proceedings. Would it be possible for you to issue some clearer guidance—it could be written if you think that is appropriate—on what MPs can and cannot raise in the House?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his indication to me a few moments ago of his intention to raise it. The straightforward position is that once the inquest has formally opened, the matters of which it treats are then sub judice. In those circumstances, the Chair does have discretion to waive the sub judice rule, though it has to be said that no such judgment would be made lightly, for I have to be conscious of and respectful towards the resolution relating to sub judice that the House has itself passed. I am sorry if my reply today is not as informative as the hon. Gentleman would wish. However, I will keep abreast of events and I am well aware of the sensitive balance of considerations here as between the proper concern of Members with freedom of speech, on the one hand, and the crucial imperative of not prejudicing the conduct of the inquest, on the other. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and others will feel that I am very conscious of those balancing considerations and will attend to them keenly. If, at any stage, an hon. Member wishes to approach me for guidance as to the appropriateness or otherwise of what he or she might be minded to say, I would certainly always, guided by the Clerks, attempt to be helpful to Members.

Perhaps we can leave it there for today. It is always nice to be smiled at by Mr Skinner, who seems to be in a relatively cheery mood, whether with me, with Mr Campbell or with the House I do not know.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Labour, Bolsover

You had better not ask me what I was saying!