Does he stand by his statement to the House on Thursday, 24 August last year: “I expect the public to believe the findings of the Ingram report”; if so, why?
Yes, the Minister stands by his full statement to the House on Thursday, 24 August last year, which was: “I expect the public to believe the findings of the Ingram report, which was quite clear on that matter.”
Is it correct that the Minister told Parliament in answer to a question on 24 August last year: “The Ingram report makes clear that Mr Field may have committed some errors of judgment … The Prime Minister concurs with that view and so do I.”; if so, given the recent High Court judgment, does he still concur with that view, or has he changed his mind?
Is it correct that the Minister confirmed to Parliament, in answer to a question on 28 February this year, that he had reviewed the immigration matters contained in the Ingram report, which he said “… I have read on a number of occasions,”; if so, precisely what steps has he taken to further review those immigration matters, given that the High Court judgment states: “Several witnesses now say they gave false evidence to the Ingram inquiry at the respondent’s request.”?
In my view, those matters have been thoroughly traversed, not just in the Ingram report but also before Parliament. The matters that the member is alluding to are now in the hands of the police, and that is the appropriate response.
Is it correct that the High Court judgment of Justice Randerson brings into question some of the conclusions of the Ingram report; if so, does the Minister still claim that the former Associate Minister, Damien O’Connor, was not told by his private secretary of the information she had on Taito Phillip Field’s involvement with the Thai tiler in Samoa, when she gave four conflicting statements to the Ingram inquiry, and Ingram found “real uncertainty results from the available evidence as to when Mr O’Connor became aware of the allegations in relation to Mr Field.”?
As the Minister has replied to similar questions from the member on a number of occasions, that specific matter has been thoroughly traversed in the Ingram report, and in his view the conclusions that Mr Ingram was able to reach stand.
If the Minister has reviewed the immigration matters contained in the Ingram report—he claims to have read it on a number of occasions—is the claim in this House by his Labour colleague Russell Fairbrother: “This is a report that Mr Field can wave around as a tribute to his integrity …” consistent with the findings of his review?
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister has no responsibility for what Mr Fairbrother said on this matter. I think, more generally speaking—and I have been listening very carefully—that one has to be extraordinarily careful with a question line that is, first, coming perilously close to asking a Minister to comment on a judge’s decision, particularly when notice has been given that the decision may be appealed, and, secondly, perilously close to putting Mr Field on trial, which is not the function of this House.
I think that is a spurious point of order, Madam Speaker. If you rule that that question was out of order, then you would certainly have to rule that the questions asked by Mr Peters earlier on about events 10 years ago were out of order. You let those questions go, so it would seem that this question would have to get through, as well. In respect of the other matters, Dr Cullen is simply trying to scare members of Parliament from asking questions that they are legitimately able to ask. It is not a matter of a trial of Mr Field, or of questioning the judgment of the High Court; it is a matter of asking Ministers about statements they made to this House on this matter over a period of 12 months. Dr Cullen should not try to stop Parliament from addressing those issues.
I do not stop Parliament from doing its legitimate role, but I will certainly intervene if there is any suggestion that this House will get into commenting on judicial decisions, particularly in the circumstance we are in at the moment where Mr Field has indicated that he intends to appeal that decision, and therefore we might be affecting the outcome of that appeal. Also, we are in a position where, willingly or not, we are starting to get into areas where it is possible that we may affect Mr Field’s trial. As he rightly questioned the other day, he has a right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Furthermore, Madam Speaker, the member’s first point is utterly wrong. The fact that objection was not taken to something said previously is no reason for you to rule out objection being taken to something said currently.
I take exception to the reflection on my character in terms of the line of questioning that we have heard this afternoon, and I support the point of order that has been put forward. Also, on the assertion about the Ingram report and the question of an error of judgment, I want to say that there is nothing in the Ingram report that suggests an error of judgment. Regardless of whether the gentleman, or anybody else, wants to say that in the House, and to try to put that that is part of the Ingram report, it is actually inaccurate. I support the point of order that has been raised by Dr Cullen. Also, I would like to say that I object to this line of questioning. It is a reflection on my person, and I would ask the member to withdraw and apologise, as well.
Could I just point out the substance of my question. The Minister has claimed in this House on at least four occasions previously that he has reviewed the immigration matters contained in the Ingram report. I am now asking whether, having done that, his findings in that review are consistent with a statement made by a Labour member of Parliament in this House.
I come back to the point I originally raised: the Minister has no responsibility for statements made by members of Parliament, whether they are Labour members or any other member. He is responsible only for statements made by the Minister previously.
I thank members. I think this is a serious matter. I have been listening very closely to the questions and the answers, and I am going to take them under consideration as to what rulings should be made in the future on matters that are before the court and are under appeal. In the matter at the particular moment, however, I think that if the member does confine his questions to the ministerial responsibility, then those questions will be fine. I am not clear precisely what the statement was that Mr Field sought to be withdrawn and apologised for, because at the moment the questioning is not directly related to the member. It is related to the Minister and matters relating to the Minister’s responsibility. So I do not think it is appropriate at this moment that the member should be asked to withdraw and apologise.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The concern I have is the line of questioning we have had for 2 years now, and the repetition of those questions. Some of the language that is being used is a reflection on my person, which is against the Standing Orders. That is the concern I have. I also want clarification from you, Madam Speaker, about the number of times a question can be asked in this House over a very long period of time—the repetition of those questions. Perhaps you could clarify that.
Members are entitled to be as repetitious as they like. As long as they comply with the Standing Orders, they are perfectly within their rights to ask those questions. But it is the more general question that I wish to consider, I think. It is difficult for members when matters are before the courts and, at the same time, there is ministerial responsibility.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is a good idea for you to take this matter under consideration, but it is our understanding that it is not, in fact, before the court. A decision has been made, and there has been an expression of an intention to appeal, but that has not actually occurred, and the police have not yet laid charges. We just want to be sure that, as part of your consideration, the facts of the matter about the legal process are quite clear.
I am aware of that. I know that no charges have been laid, and I know there has been speculation about an appeal, but it is certainly true that the matter is current, is relevant, and is not 10 years old.
If the Minister has reviewed the immigration matters contained in the Ingram report—and he claims to have read it on a number of occasions—is the claim in this House by his Labour colleague Russell Fairbrother: This is a report that Mr Field can wave around as a tribute to his integrity,” consistent with the findings of his review?