HC Deb 05 February 1985 vol 72 cc841-2

Mr. Speaker has authorised the publication of the following letter to Mr. Tam Dalyell, pursuant to the procedure laid down in Mr. Speaker's statement on 5 November 1981—[Official Report, c. 113]. I undertook to write to you about the point of order you raised on Monday in which you drew attention to the comments reported in The Times of that day by Lord Hill-Norton on two cases of current litigation. The first of these was the Ponting case. I ruled last week that this case, currently being tried at the Old Bailey, is sub judice. That ruling included the issues of jury vetting and in camera hearings. As I said then, for the House to discuss any facet of the security aspects of this case could be prejudicial to the conduct of the trial. The sub judice rule remains in force until the verdict and sentence have been announced. If an appeal is lodged, the rule comes into force again until the appeal has been decided. In the other case to which your referred on Monday, Thornycroft Giles v. British Shipbuilders, I am informed that there have been preliminary proceedings involving disputes before a court over the discovery of documents in which the Government have been involved. These proceedings are to be resumed at a later date so that they too must fall under the sub judice rule. Of course it remains open to any hon. Member to pursue general points about jury vetting and in camera hearings in any parliamentary way open to him, provided that no reference is made to a case which is sub judice. I understand you and other Members are already using the available procedures in this sense. I have of course no responsibility for anything that Lord Hill-Norton says, and no Point of Order for me can arise out of his alleged statements. But I do have a responsibility to uphold the rules which the House of Commons has itself agreed. One of the most important of these rules is that we should say nothing in this place which might prejudice a fair trial of persons before the courts, or give the appearance that Parliament is seeking to influence the administration of justice.