Martin condemns ministers on leaks

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Indy Politics

Michael Martin sought to make his first imprint as Speaker of the House of Commons yesterday when he condemned any advance leaking of government policy as "unacceptable discourtesy".

Michael Martin sought to make his first imprint as Speaker of the House of Commons yesterday when he condemned any advance leaking of government policy as "unacceptable discourtesy".

Mr Martin, who faced a difficult first week in his new post after the Conservatives complained that he lacked all-party backing, told MPs in a mini-statement that he would expect any minister concerned to apologise to MPs.

The comments followed an incident on Thursday when he said it appeared that "some broadly accurate advance information" about Ministry of Defence shipbuilding contracts was released to the media hours before being announced in a parliamentary debate.

Mr Martin said he had accepted the assurances of Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, that he was "confident" the information had not come from his department.

But the Speaker said he expected ministers to take steps to ensure that any organisations privy to information should not leak it, and called on Mr Hoon to investigate the leak.

The Speaker also told ministers they should think very carefully about announcing policy initiatives as part of debates instead of making official announcements to the House. Backbench MPs raised concerns that the practice, used to announce the defence shipbuilding contracts, left MPs unable to prepare questions on government policies.

Mr Martin repeated his advice of caution, but said the practice broke no rules and had been used many times by previous governments.

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