He may be labour and I have never voted for him, but today I am glad to have him as my MP.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I shall not be giving way, because of the time constraints. I wish to kick off with some slightly controversial comments.
First, I challenge people to reflect on the fact that if this had happened in Moscow or Minsk, there would have been one hell of a row and the British ambassadors would have been making representations. Secondly, leaks are food and drink to me as a Back-Bench Member of Parliament, and I do not want to stop them coming to me—I do not say that in a flip way, because it is very important. My only flip point is to ask people to send me this information on rice paper, so that I can eat it before the police get it. I am open all hours to leaks.
This is a serious matter. We need to support and endorse the office of Speaker, and ensure that it is properly facilitated over the next 10 or 20 years, because as part of the increasingly political role of the Speaker—it is not party political, but it is political—he or she must safeguard the rights and interests of this House and, I believe, of our democracy. I urge hon. Members to read the Speaker’s document that has been handed round, because the protocols set out new modalities for dealing with what are the ancient rights and duties of the Speaker to protect our interest. I commend it to the House. Some aspects may be new, but the principle is that the Speaker is the safeguard in respect of two things—first, the rights and independence of the House of Commons, and second, the idea that Members are not above the law. When I criticised something that a colleague—he is no longer in his place—had said earlier, he said, “Well, what about paedophilia?” I said that if an hon. Member were guilty of a serious crime, such as pushing drugs or being a member of the Mafia, the Speaker could take cognisance of a legitimate representation made to him by law enforcement officers and would say, “Yes, of course you must proceed forthwith.” The role of the Speaker is to be a safeguard, and that is what we must ensure. Let us kill the lie now: no one is asking for special privileges for Members of Parliament. We want any bad Member to be prosecuted with vigour, but we need to safeguard people from arbitrary action by the executive arm of Government.
I remember people laughing at me when I protested when we did away with Sessional Orders. That was treated with levity by Members, but those Sessional Orders reaffirmed the point that people must not interfere with this place. I hope that the House returns to the proposals made in 1999 that people who give evidence to this House and its Committees should not be influenced or leaned on by anyone else and should tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as happens in the Congress of the United States.
The Bill of Rights, which too few Members have studied, makes it clear that this place has comity with the courts. That is a very important principle. What is more, the logical interpretation of article 9, which says that no court shall be able to look into the deliberations of this House, must extend to our documents. In 1689, Members of Parliament did not have the same volume of documents or technology as we have now. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson) said, we should think about putting that protection into statute.