SNP MP to face probe after sharing Speaker’s correspondence on social media
An SNP MP will face a probe by the Commons watchdog after he shared correspondence with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on social media.
Conservative former Cabinet minister David Davis claimed the actions of John Nicolson, who shared the Commons Speaker’s correspondence on Twitter, constitutes a “clear breach” of parliamentary rules.
Sir Lindsay had earlier called on Ochil and South Perthshire MP Mr Nicolson to apologise for posting part of a letter relating to his decision on referring Conservative former culture secretary Nadine Dorries to the Privileges Committee.
Now Mr Nicolson has now been referred to the same committee, following a vote by MPs.
Mr Davis told the Commons: “It’s vital for members to protect the integrity, the impartiality and apolitical nature of the Speaker’s office.”
He added: “Nowhere in his (Mr Nicolson’s) filmed statement did he tell his followers that Mr Speaker was following normal precedent or normal procedure by accepting the will of the DCMS Committee.”
Mr Davis went on: “All of us in this House have a duty to uphold its rules and institutions, but by knowingly breaching the confidentiality of the Speaker’s correspondence he’s done the opposite of that. This is a clear breach of our rules.”
Mr Davis’s motion on the order paper stated that “the matter of the actions and subsequent conduct of the hon Member for Ochil and South Perthshire in relation to correspondence from the Speaker on a matter of privilege be referred to the Committee of Privileges”.
The Commons backed the motion by 371 to 16, majority 355.
All 16 MPs who voted against the motion were SNP Members.
According to the division lists, no vote was recorded for the remaining SNP MPs, including Mr Nicolson himself.
Mr Nicolson told the Commons he was sorry that he had upset Sir Lindsay.
Speaking with a hoarse voice, he said: “On the one hand I am deeply sorry that the Speaker is upset. I don’t conduct politics in a way – for those who know me – that ever aims to be offensive and I am truly sorry that the Speaker is upset, and I am truly sorry that I have upset the Speaker.
“But it would be disingenuous of me to say that I knowingly revealed this. I could not have been more open by going on camera and discussing this. I clearly wasn’t trying to hide it.”
Mr Nicolson, a former journalist, added: “People in my former profession, and this profession, who want to pass things into the public domain in a sleekit or surreptitious way, they pass it to journalists, I didn’t do that. I stood up and I talked about the letter without revealing in detail its contents, but summarising it.”
After being urged by other MPs to “put the spade down”, he added: “I hope the House concludes that there was no malicious intent in anything that I did and I apologise to the Speaker for breaching a House rule.
“Given the all-party nature of the committee report, I sought no party political advantage and I hope that Members here today will seek no party political advantage. My only motivation was to do what I always try to do and that is to engage with debate and to communicate my work here with constituents and with journalists as openly and fairly as I can.”
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt urged MPs to back the motion, telling the House: “I don’t think that his arguments that he was not aware of what the right course of action should have been or what the appropriate response to journalist inquiries should have been – which was to state that any such correspondence would have been confidential – is a reason for not bringing this motion forward.
“I sincerely had hoped that he would have made an apology.”
Intervening, Mr Nicolson said: “I think there is a misunderstanding there. I did quite clearly say that I was apologising to the Speaker. I was unaware of this convention. I wish to cause him no hurt and apologise. I am repeating that now.”