UK Politics

Speaker to investigate leak claim

Image caption John Bercow said he "entirely" deprecated leaks

Commons Speaker John Bercow has promised to investigate claims that a statement on immigration was leaked to the media before MPs were informed.

Labour MP Chris Bryant accused ministers of "consistently leaking to the press".

He added that, in telling the media before MPs about its plans, the government could "laugh at this House".

Mr Bercow promised an inquiry to "decide what action needs to be taken".

In a statement to the Commons, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a consultation on introducing an annual cap on non-EU immigration and said that, as a first step, the number of skilled workers allowed into the UK from outside the EU is to be cut by 1,300 between now and April 2011.

'New pattern'

This was widely reported in the media beforehand.

Making a point of order, Mr Bryant said to the Speaker: "You said last week and you said five weeks ago that you wholly deprecated the practice of ministers announcing things to the press before announce them to this House."

He added: "There's no point getting elected to this House if you might as well have stayed at home and listened to the statement on the radio or television or read it in the newspapers...

"We know we have a government which is consistently leaking to the press."

Mr Bryant said it was important to act because "otherwise, ministers will laugh at this house".

In response, Mr Bercow said he did not know the details of Mr Bryant's claims, but told MPs: "I reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I entirely deprecate the practice of releasing to the media the content of ministerial statements before those statements have been made to the House."

He added: "I can confirm to the honourable gentleman [Mr Bryant] that I'm willing to look further into the precise details of this case, to decide what, if any, action needs to be taken.

"We need to establish a new pattern in this parliament, whereby this sort of thing doesn't happen and, if it does, action is taken."

Mr Bercow said he would report back to MPs with the findings of the inquiry.

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