HC Deb 03 May 1972 vol 836 cc392-4
Mr. Speaker

At the end of Questions yesterday I was asked to consider the question of Mr. Eric Camp and the matter of an order of a court preventing any citizen from having, in effect, access to this House. Mr. Camp's case is before a court and I have no hesitation, in the general interest and in his particular interest, in invoking thesub judicerule.

As to the validity of a condition imposed by a court when granting bail which, in effect, prevents the person charged from having access to this House, and as to interference with what is called the right of access to this House, there is, in my view, no such general right of access. Sessional Orders impose a duty on the Commissioner of Police so far as Members of this House are concerned.

It is obviously sensible and convenient that everyone with any responsibility should do his best to ensure that con stituents and others are able to come here to talk to hon. Members. The Services Committee has considered this matter. But, in my view, there is no such right of access, the infringement of which involves privilege. That is my view, firmly held, but I may be wrong, and I would welcome consideration of the matter, when convenient, by the appropriate Select Committee.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Thank you for your ruling, Mr. Speaker, on the point which my hon. Friends and I raised yesterday. While immediately accepting your ruling, may I put this to you in support of your concluding words?

While it is true that there has never been an order of the House giving freedom of access, there has been a growing feeling on both sides of the House about the right of those who come to this building to see Members—which may not have been the case in the matter referred to yesterday. Indeed, successive Leaders of the House and Chief Whips of both parties have gone to a great deal of trouble to help facilitate access, as have the officials of the House.

Is it not therefore right, as you have suggested, Mr. Speaker, that this matter should be considered by the appropriate Select Committee—I do not know whether that Committee should be the Select Committee on Procedure; it would be probably treating the matter too heavily to send it to the Committee of Privileges—in order to ensure that the general wish of the House about freedom of access for constituents and others is upheld so that, if necessary, the House can pass a Motion on this question?

Mr. Speaker

The Services Committee considered this matter and made a report on it.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robert Carr)

It is a matter of deciding the appropriate form in which the question should be considered. I will give that matter consideration.

Mr. Stallard

I am very grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for the detailed consideration which you obviously gave to the point which I raised yesterday. I should like to give detailed consideration to your reply before going further. However, I took your advice and spent a fascinating hour considering the case of Mr. Bellingham, who shot Prime Minister Perceval in the Lobby of the House in 1812. But, in all honesty and with due respect, I could hardly link it with the case of Mr. Camp, who was simply on hunger strike outside the carriage gates at Westminster. I shall try again to see the relevance of the Bellingham case. Perhaps I would have joined in the protests about the haste with which Mr. Bellingham was despatched, but I could not see the relevance of his case to the matter I raised.

Mr. Speaker

It has a direct bearing on what is claimed as a right of access to this House by anyone. If there were a right of access to the Lobby of the House to do, not necessarily to a Prime Minister but to a leader of a political party, what Mr. Bellingham did, I doubt whether it is what the House would want.