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Damian Green Former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell has tabled an Early Day Motion on Damian Green. It has been signed by Michael Howard, Bill Cash, Peter Bottomley, Bernard Jenkin and David Davis.

Herewith the text of EDM 1307:

"That this House notes the statement of the Director of Public Prosecutions on 16 April 2009 announcing his decision that no charges would be brought against the hon. Member for Ashford in relation to the documents leaked and stating that, `Mr Green's purpose in using the documents was apparently to hold the Government to account'; and calls for the House to be given the opportunity to debate a motion to refer the matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges."

Update: Alan Duncan and Bernard Jenkin both raised this matter at Business Questions today – and got a rise out of Harriet Harman.

Mr Duncan said:

"Most of us in the House will be pleased that the case of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) has now been satisfactorily resolved. Even though the issue became rather heated, surely we should now stand back and study the implications of what happened. May I therefore ask the Leader of the House to reflect on early-day motion 1307?

Will the Leader of the House support the motion that was originally tabled on the Order Paper before the Easter recess to ensure that the House can refer this matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges as soon as possible? Now is the best time to learn the lessons of this affair so that all the confusion can be cleared up for the future. It is no good her saying that the Attorney-General’s opinion was that there was no confusion, because there was. There is a perfectly good process available to us, and we should invoke it; will she confirm that she will co-operate in doing so?"

The Leader of the House of Commons replied:

"Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman asked about the arrest of the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) and the issues of parliamentary privilege that arose from it. The House has already made a resolution to refer the matter to a Committee of the Speaker, and I do not think that it would be a good idea to set up a twin-track approach. All the issues about entry on to the premises of Parliament, the searching of parliamentary offices and constituency correspondence and what is, or should be, available to the court can be considered by the Speaker’s Committee, which the House agreed should start its work after the criminal proceedings had come to a conclusion. I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should set up a twin-track approach and a separate inquiry into the same issues via the Standards and Privileges Committee.

Alan Duncan: Different issues.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman says that, but he would need to explain why the Speaker’s Committee could not consider the issues that he is concerned about and believes need to be looked into. I am obviously keen for the House to be able to have all the issues that it wants resolved looked into, and I have no vested interest in the House not looking into them and coming to a satisfactory conclusion. I just do not want there to be a twin-track proposal or for us to undermine a resolution that the House has already made at your request, Mr. Speaker, that there should be a Speaker’s Committee to look into the matter."

Mr Jenkin weighed in powerfully:

"May I return the attention of the right hon. and learned Lady to early-day motion 1307?

The motion seeks to refer the issue of the arrest of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, and it is sponsored by three very senior Members of this House from all parties, notably the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell), my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) and the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), among others. The remit of the resolution passed on 8 December makes no reference whatever to the issue of privilege. It also insists that there should be a Government majority on the Committee in question, which is not in the spirit of the way in which the Committee on Standards and Privileges operates. The Leader of the House is now the only apparent obstruction to following the procedure set out on pages 167 and 168 of “Erskine May”—namely, to refer the matter to the Committee on Standards and Privileges in the normal way. Why is she obstructing the House in that way? Is she really comfortable with being so obstructive on a purely partisan basis, when she should be representing the interests of the whole House?

Ms Harman: I object to what the hon. Gentleman says. I am happy for all these issues to be looked into. If there is strength of feeling about them, senior Members need to get together to look into all these issues, to reassure the House that they have all been examined and to produce with their analysis of what went on and their proposals for changes, if any are needed. I am perfectly behind the idea that that should happen.

The House decided, at the request of the Speaker, that a Speaker’s Committee would be the way forward, and the resolution says that that Committee will be able to make recommendations for the future. I could say, “I don’t care how many Committees look at it. As many Committees as want to look at it should be able to do so.” As there is so much complaint about the issue, I will look at the matter again.

This is not about being obstructive. The idea that the House first responds to a request from the Speaker to set up a Speaker’s Committee and, shortly afterwards, before the Speaker’s Committee has even started its work, asks the Standards and Privileges Committee to look at it—[Interruption.] They could be technically defined as different issues, but there is no reason why the Speaker’s Committee should not look at all the questions about privilege that Members are asking for the Committee on Standards and Privileges to look at. However, as people are complaining so much, I will have another look at it, and I might do something ill judged and unwise and set up a twin-track process. Then, when there is duplication and overlap, I will say, “I told you so.”"

We'll see what we see!

Tom Greeves

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