HC Deb 08 April 1974 vol 872 cc44-5
Mr. Rost

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for not having given you notice of this point of order, but I wonder whether I may have your guidance. On previous occasions in the House when matters have been raised which have been subject to some legal case or to some writ, you have very kindly given guidance to hon. Members as to what was and what was not in order. I may not have been alone today in feeling inhibited in discussing the matter at all, in case perhaps one was in risk of being in breach of the privileges of the House. I feel that this matter is relevant not just to the statement which we have had today but possibly to any future comment which right hon. or hon. Members may wish to make or may be invited to make, perhaps, on the media or in the House.

I wonder whether you, Mr. Speaker, will give a ruling whether you feel that this statement should have been made at all without the writs having first been withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that had I thought that there was anything improper in the statement I would have so ruled as it was being made. With regard to the sub judice rule, I think that there have been two reports of the Select Committee on Procedure. I think that the view was taken that when criminal proceedings are pending great caution should be exercised not to try the case in the House of Commons beforehand.

With regard to civil proceedings, there are, I think, other rules. But actions for defamation may conceivably be affected by proceedings in the House, and, therefore, I think that the Speaker, who is given a complete discretion, must watch the whole matter carefully.

I am absolutely satisfied that nothing which has happened today could possibly influence the outcome of any proceedings in a court.