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by Margaret Taylor
29 November 2022
John Nicolson faces Commons suspension over spat with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle

John Nicolson faces Commons suspension over spat with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle

SNP MP John Nicolson faces potential suspension from parliament after making public the contents of a private correspondence between him and Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle.

Last week Hoyle reacted angrily after Nicolson, who represents Ochil and South Perthshire, posted a video on Twitter detailing their interaction into whether former culture secretary Nadine Dorries should be referred to the parliamentary privileges committee over remarks she had made about Channel 4.

Hoyle made a statement in the chamber following last week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, accusing Nicolson of giving a “partial and biased account” of his letter and calling his integrity as an impartial Speaker into question. The video, which was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, led to an angry backlash against the Speaker.

“Printing the letter but only half the letter is not integrity – in fact, far from it,” Hoyle said.

“It misled the people of this country, it certainly put me in a bad light with the people of this country, and I don’t expect that to happen.”

Though Nicolson said he wanted to “put on record that I deplore social media pile-ons against you or indeed anyone else”, Hoyle told him that “if that was an apology I don’t think it was very good”.

Following an intervention from Tory MP David Davis, Hoyle allowed a debate on Nicolson’s conduct to take place in parliament today.

During the debate Davis said the response from Nicolson should have been to “accept the seriousness of his actions, apologise properly to the house and delete the offending tweets”.

He said that, instead, Nicolson had stood his ground and “deliberately misled the country”, meaning he should be referred to the privileges committee for investigation.

MPs voted by 371 to 16 to refer Nicolson to the seven-member committee, which is responsible for investigating potential contempt of parliament cases. Its powers include being able to suspend or expel members it finds to be in contempt.

Speaking in parliament today, Nicolson said his video regarding the letter “offered no comment about the Speaker, nor did I criticise him”, adding that he had had no intention of summarising Hoyle incorrectly.

He added that he did not consider he had “broken any confidence or betrayed any trust” but said he could not prove his position because to do so would require him to release the Speaker’s letter in full, something he is now prevented from doing.

The correspondence between the pair related to a decision not to refer Dorries to the privileges committee over comments she made to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee about “paid actors” appearing on Channel 4 show Tower Block of Commons – something the broadcaster and production company investigated but found no evidence of.

Last month, the committee – which Nicolson is a member of – said that Dorries should have corrected the record “for the integrity of parliamentary scrutiny”, with Nicolson forwarding a copy of its report to the Speaker.

Hoyle told Nicolson he could not take any action against the former culture secretary because the committee had made no recommendation that any be taken.

In the video he posted to Twitter Nicolson said the Speaker had “decided to take no further action and not to refer Nadine Doris to the privileges committee”.

“In other words, she'll suffer no consequences for what she's done,” he continued. “And I thought you should know.”

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