New Forest East


Dr Julian Lewis rose –

[Mr Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman is a specialist delicacy to whom I will come in due course.]

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Dr Lewis: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I, with my customary delicacy, seek to return to a problem being encountered by the Defence Committee in its bid to examine the worrying plans of the BBC to close Caversham Park and make severe cuts in the BBC Monitoring service? We have been trying to get a relevant ​Minister from either the Cabinet Office or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to appear before the Committee and answer key questions on this matter, which is of direct relevance to defence and defence capability in terms of open source information. Is there anything I can do on the Floor of this House within the rules of order to try to add to the moral pressure I am trying to exert on one or other of those Ministers to do their job and appear before our Committee?

[Mr Speaker: The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that there is and he has identified it, namely to raise in eloquent terms a point of order drawing attention to the failure thus far of a Minister to appear, or apparently to agree to appear, and to register the dissatisfaction presumably both of the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity as Chairman of the Defence Committee and presumably of other members of the Committee at that failure or refusal. The question of whether a Minister appears before the Committee is not in the first instance – and arguably not in the last – a matter for the Chair. However, I have known the right hon. Gentleman now for 33 years, and I am bound to say that if Ministers think they can just ignore his protestations, frankly they do not know him as well as I do. It would be a lot better if they just gave up the unequal struggle and fielded one of these characters – preferably, sooner rather than later – because unless they do, they will not hear the end of the matter.]