Prorogation (Disclosure of Communications)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 9th September 2019.

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Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 6:35 pm, 9th September 2019

No, I will not give way.

There are significant figures who could have been chosen, such as the Cabinet Secretary, or learned counsel who advise the Government—Treasury counsel and people like that. I received a very unsatisfactory answer earlier when I asked what criteria Mr Grieve had applied for naming these people. Before this witch hunt atmosphere continues, would Opposition Members like to consider that they are talking about nine relatively junior members assisting the Government? There are two names that we know they would very much like to flush out, but can we just think of the impact on these people of having their private emails and phone messages to family and friends inspected?

Who is the omniscient person—this great fount of wisdom—who will judge whether those messages are pertinent to the motion. Before Members vote for the motion, I would like them to consider who that person will be. Who will be the chairman of the committee of public safety who will make those decisions?

Are those Members prepared to put their private communications on the record? I am sure that Keir Starmer has had many communications with senior members of the European Commission. Only this afternoon, Mr Guy Verhofstadt gave a great paean of praise to you, Mr Speaker—he is going to welcome you to the European Parliament—but I very much doubt that you will make available to us your private communications with him.

You asked me to be brief, Mr Speaker, and I will be. Could we please just recognise that this motion is invidious and unfair? It chooses nine names arbitrarily. If people were really on a fishing expedition, they could have gone wider and gone for more senior figures. Of course, the person they are really after is the Prime Minister, and he does come to this House, and there will be many opportunities to ask him the questions, because ultimately he is the one they should be after.