John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, criticised David Cameron today for failing to provide details of a secret tranche of emails between the Prime Minister and Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive.
Downing Street has repeatedly refused to give more information about the exchanges, which were not disclosed to the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
Mr Cameron sidestepped the subject in the Commons last week and refused to answer five parliamentary questions about it from Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant. He adopted the same approach in a response to a letter from Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader.
Raising a point of order in the Commons, Mr Bryant protested about the stonewalling tactics and condemned the Prime Minister for suffering a “hissy fit” when asked about the communications.
He received backing from the Speaker, who told him questions “should receive a substantive answer”. Mr Bercow also pointed to parliamentary rules which specify that ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and only hold back information when disclosure would not be in the public interest.
The Speaker said Mr Bryant had been advised how to pursue the subject and promised to study future developments.
The Labour MP said: “It is an important principle of this House that ministers have to reply to MPs. They can’t have hissy fits and decide who they are going to reply to and who they are not reply to. Every single MP has to be answered properly and fully.”
The Prime Minister decided not to release the emails – which also include contacts with Andy Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World – after receiving legal advice that they were not relevant to Lord Justice Leveson’s investigation.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We complied exactly with what we have been asked to do. I don’t think there is anyone who has suggested we haven’t.”
Ms Brooks is awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to hack phones and perverting the course of justice. She denies the charges. Mr Coulson also faces charges of conspiring to hack phones and perjury. He denies any knowledge of phone-hacking.Reuse content