HC Deb 25 January 1977 vol 924 cc1195-7
Mr. Speaker

Yesterday the hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Lipton) raised a complaint of privilege in regard to an article published in the Sunday People on 23rd January. I have considered this matter carefully and I am satisfied that it is a proper case for me to allow a motion relating to it to have precedence over the Orders of the Day.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

In 1968, the Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege said that the House should be slow and reluctant to use its penal powers to stifle criticism or even abuse … however unjustified it may appear to be. In particular, the Committee thought the penal jurisdiction of the House should never be exercised in respect of complaints which appear to be of a trivial character or unworthy of the attention of the House. Those recommendations have never been acted upon, but in its first report this Session the Committee of Privileges asked that they should be referred to it for review in the light of the experience of the House since the earlier report. The Government have tabled the necessary motion to give effect to that request, but until the recommendations of the Committee are before the House and a decision is reached and in view of your ruling today, Mr. Speaker, I think it incumbent upon me, in accordance with precedent, to move. That the matter of the complaint be referred to the Committee of Privileges. Perhaps I could add, in conformity with the suggestion made by the Leader of the House in such circumstances, that I think that it would be in the interests of the House as a whole if there were no further debate on the subject now.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

The House would not wish to try to anticipate the conclusion of the Select Committee on the matter referred to it. However, in view of the Committee's last report, which arose out of a matter referred to it not long ago, it would be helpful if the House could make progress with what the Leader of the House has mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman has tabled a motion, but it is "below the line" and I hope that he will give us the opportunity of making progress at long last on a matter which is of some importance to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

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