Valerie responds to debate on Privileges report

On Tuesday 2 April 2019 I responded to the Deputy Leader of the House in a debate on the First Report from the Committee of Privileges.

I supported the motion, which was passed unanimously.

You can read my speech below:

I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for presenting the motion, and note that the Leader of the House is occupied with important matters elsewhere. I also thank the Committee of Privileges, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), for all its work in producing the report.

This is not the first Committee report on the conduct of Mr Dominic Cummings. On 5 June 2018, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a special report stating that it had first invited, then ordered Mr Cummings to give oral evidence as part of its inquiry into fake news, and that he had failed to comply with that order. On 7 June 2018, the House resolved that Mr Cummings should

“give an undertaking to the Committee, no later than 6pm on 11 June 2018, to appear before that Committee at a time on or before 20 June 2018.”—[Official Report, 7 June 2018; Vol. 642, c. 492.]

However, on 20 June 2018 the Chair of the DCMS Committee, the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), reported to the House that Mr Cummings had failed to comply with the order of 7 June. The Leader of the House tabled a motion on 28 June that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges, and the House supported it.

In the annex to the report, on page 11, the Committee of Privileges helpfully set out the procedure that it would follow in inviting Mr Cummings to provide the DCMS Committee with oral and written evidence, so he has benefited from due process. It made a number of recommendations, and accepted the view of the DCMS Committee that the evidence that it sought from Mr Cummings was relevant to its inquiry and that his refusal to attend constituted a significant interference with its work. The Committee of Privileges​ rejected Mr Cummings’s argument as to why he did not appear before the DCMS Committee. He had been offered a series of dates for a hearing, and had not supplied any evidence that suggested he was at significant risk of prosecution. The report states :

“The fact that a prospective witness takes a different view on policy or political issues from a select committee…does not constitute grounds to refuse to appear before that committee.”

Many of us who are members of Select Committees often hear evidence from all sides. It is the right of a Select Committee to do that, and to form a view based on the evidence.

The Committee of Privileges accepted the DCMS Committee’s view that in not giving it the evidence that it sought, Mr Cummings had committed a contempt both by his refusal to obey its order to attend and by his subsequent refusal to obey the House’s order of 7 June 2018. The report states:

“Attending the hearing and defending his position when called upon to do so would have been the right thing to do.”

The Committee recommends that the House should admonish Mr Cummings for his contempt, and that the admonishment should take the form of a resolution of the House. The resolution, if agreed to, should be communicated to Mr Cummings by the Clerk of the House.

I thank the Committee again for its work, and I support the motion.