Speaker of House of Commons demands apology from Veolia

Speaking in the House of Commons

The Speaker of the House of Commons has demanded an apology from Veolia as a result of the company providing incorrect information to Charles Walker on the number of HGV movements a day that would result from the Ratty's Lane incinerator. The company had said they proposed 212 HGV movements a day but in fact it will be 268 HGV movements a day.

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I apologise to you and the House for inadvertently misleading it during my Adjournment debate last Thursday on the Ratty’s Lane incinerator? I said that in 2012 Hertfordshire County Council objected to 46 of Veolia’s HGV movements a day, and that the company was now proposing 212 HGV movements a day. That figure was provided to me by Veolia on 4 March 2016, but I have since discovered that the actual number is 268 HGV movements a day. [Interruption.] Nothing Veolia tells me turns out to be the reality of the situation, but I owe it to this House to do my homework more thoroughly, so may I apologise to you again, Mr Speaker, for misleading this House and to my esteemed colleagues in this place, who indicate that they share my sense of outrage?

Mr Speaker

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He is certainly a witty wag. I would add that, as far as Veolia is concerned, the hon. ​Gentleman is a formidable foe. I rather imagine the company is discovering that now, if it did not know it before.

Sir Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As you will appreciate, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) was put in a most unfortunate situation because he was given duff information that he used in good faith. It then turned out that the incorrect information he gave was an underestimate of the severe impact those journeys were going to have on his constituents and local community. Could you advise us, Mr Speaker, of any satisfactory way, notwithstanding my hon. Friend’s generous apology to the House, for the perpetrators of this disinformation to be called to this place to explain why they embarrassed my hon. Friend in a way that led to misleading figures being given in a debate, which had an effect on the views of other hon. Members listening to the debate?

Mr Speaker

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that point of order. Summoning someone to the Bar of the House is rarely used as a disciplinary device and is an extremely serious matter. I would have to reflect very carefully on whether it would be appropriate in this case. Even if it were not, I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree with me, and I think other hon. Members would agree, that in the circumstances the least we all might expect is for an apology to be proffered by the company. There is no shame in making a mistake, but there certainly is in failing to recognise the fact that one has done so and failing to apologise for having done so. I will wait to see whether we receive an apology. If I receive any such apology, the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to hear of it.

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