HC Deb 10 July 1979 vol 970 cc262-3
Mr. Speaker

I have a brief statement to make to the House.

At page 254 of Erskine May's " Parliamentary Practice " it is stated that: It is not in order for a Member to obtain or quote during a current sitting the record made for the Official Report of the remarks of any other Member; the Speaker, however, is not bound by this rule. This statement is supported by a ruling of my predecessor given on 25 April 1972.

On Thursday of last week an hon. Member was told by his colleagues that he had been criticised personally by another Member in a speech when he himself was out of the Chamber. He asked the Editor of Hansard to see the transcript of the speech concerned and the matter was referred to me. The situation was one which I am quite sure was not present in my predecessor's mind when he gave his ruling, which was made extempore.

When I considered the application from the hon. Member who was reported to have been attacked personally, it seemed to me quite clear that he should be given access to the passage of Hansard concerned. The House will appreciate that, although attack may be perfectly fair, a Member may wish to reply to it during the remainder of the debate; but unless he is in a position to know exactly what was said he cannot make an adequate reply.

I propose, therefore, to follow the same practice in future. Applications to see passages in other Member's speeches where it is claimed that a personal attack has been made should be referred, in the first instance, to the Editor of the Official Report who will, in turn, refer them to me and access to the passage concerned in any other Member's speech will be given only on my authority. I do not, of course, propose to relax the ruling of my predecessors in any other respect on this issue.

Mr. Tapsell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the invariable convention of the House were followed whereby an hon. Member who intended to attack another right hon. or hon. Member gave him written warning, surely this new ruling would not be necessary?

Mr. Speaker

That is so, but from time to time hon. Members become excited and say things they did not mean to say before they entered the Chamber.

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