Select Committees (Information) — 7 Jul 1998
[ Relevant documents: First Special Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1997-98, on Sierra Leone: Exchange of Correspondence with the Foreign Secretary, HC 760; Second Special Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1997-98, on Sierra Leone: Further Exchanges of Correspondence with the Foreign Secretary, HC 852. ]
I beg to move,
That this House considers that it is wrong in principle for the Executive to seek unilaterally to impose prior conditions on the release of information properly sought by a Select Committee in pursuit of the responsibilities given to it by the House.
The Times on 1 July put the issue well:
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
"reaffirms that, in accordance with the House's Resolution of 19th March 1997 and the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information (Second Edition, January 1997), Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament; recalls that the House approved on 18th May 1998 the Government's commitment to an urgent outside investigation and publication of a full report of the Sierra Leone arms investigation; believes that nothing should be done to prejudice the conduct of that inquiry by premature public disclosure of parts of the evidence; and notes that the Foreign Secretary remains ready to make available to the Foreign Affairs Committee, on a confidential basis, the telegrams it has requested.".
The compromise was proposed by the Chairman of the Committee and was available some 10 days ago. So the compromise was available days ago and the Foreign Affairs Committee refused to take it on.
The Select Committee thereby admitted in 1978 that there was an argument for confidentiality.
I said that I wanted the Legg report to be published long before the recess so that we could have the Foreign Secretary in front of us to be cross-examined on the report's findings. My view is that we should have a statement from the Dispatch Box--presumably on the day the report is published--followed by a meeting of the Select Committee at which the Foreign Secretary is cross-examined, followed by a full day's debate. Members could then have, in preparation for that debate, the Legg report and the Foreign Affairs Committee's special report on the evidence session with the Foreign Secretary. That is the way I should like things to proceed. I suspect that they will not proceed in that way.
The Leader of the House well knows that, for some weeks now, we have been requesting a debate, so that the House's views could indeed be ascertained. I regret that she did not feel able to find the time. It was only because she did not feel able to do so that we, for the House as a whole, decided to devote this Opposition day to this subject. Although there are some hon. Members who have regretted that, I do not think that there are many because, coming through all the speeches, although there have been differences of emphasis and degree, have been two strong points. First, there is a desire on both sides of the House to see the Select Committee system work. Secondly, there is a recognition that the debate has achieved something.
Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:--
The House divided: Ayes 173, Noes 339.
Votes by party, red entries are votes against the majority for that party.
What is Tell? '+1 tell' means that in addition one member of that party was a teller for that division lobby.
What are Boths? An MP can vote both aye and no in the same division. The boths page explains this.
What is Turnout? This is measured against the total membership of the party at the time of the vote.
|Party||Majority (No)||Minority (Aye)||Both||Turnout|
|Con||0||133 (+2 tell)||0||83.3%|
|Lab||339 (+2 tell)||0||0||81.6%|