Since becoming Speaker John Bercow has (rightly) made a big deal about the Government not making policy announcements to the media before they had been made to the Commons. But yesterday Mr Bercow – or those close to him – appeared to break his own rule. Simon Burns MP spotted the inconsistency and raised the issue in a point of order with the Deputy Speaker, Sir Alan Haselhurst:
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice and help. Since he became Speaker, Mr. Speaker has on a number of occasions deprecated to the House the habit of giving information on policy to the media before it is announced in the House. That is right. I am sure that Mr. Speaker is as concerned as I am about the fact that his statement today was a significant story on the BBC news website half an hour before he made it. That suggests that it was leaked to the BBC. I was wondering whether Mr. Speaker would like to carry out an inquiry to try to find out how the statement was leaked and given to the corporation prior to its being made in the House.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman could not possibly expect me to comment. Mr. Speaker will take note of what the hon. Gentleman has put on the record, but I could not possibly begin to opine about what may have occurred. I should just add that the fact that Mr. Speaker was going to make a statement was certainly in the public arena, in the sense that it was displayed on the annunciators in the House. I know no more than that.
Mr. Burns: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assure you that although the fact that Mr. Speaker was to make a statement was on the monitors, in no shape or form was it clear what the statement would be about. The other point is that if the Government have to bring statements here first rather than leaking them, no one—whether it is the Government or any other body with advance notice—should leak Mr. Speaker’s statements to the media.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I cannot speculate about that. I say again to the hon. Gentleman that he has put his concerns on the record. If something injudicious or accidental has occurred, there will no doubt be opportunity for further comment. The issue is hardly more urgent than that.