Point Of Order – Referendum

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As both a former Leader of the House and a former Welsh Minister who led the referendum campaign in Wales in 1997, I can express some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s view. It seems to me paradoxical, to say the least, that Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, can make statements about the future of the United Kingdom outside the House, but cannot make such statements inside the House. As I understand it, the purdah applies to Government resources, and would prevent, for example, the sudden issue of a Government White Paper or a leaflet during the purdah period, but does not prevent the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow, or the Deputy Prime Minister at any time, from making a statement to the House. I therefore strongly endorse your interpretation of the point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said, not least because, as he reminded the House, he has done so on the back of considerable experience of leading the House and, previously, of leadership responsibilities in Wales. My understanding is his understanding, and it is also the understanding of the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope). In any case, in so far as purdah is an applicable concept in this regard, it applies to what is said outside the House as well as what is said inside the House. There does seem to be a slightly paradoxical notion that it is okay to say something outside the House, but not okay to say it inside the House. The issue, it seems to me, is whether the basic convention is being adhered to or not: whether what is being said is a proper thing to be said. If it is a proper thing to be said, it is perfectly proper for it to be said in this House.