HL Deb 27 November 1962 vol 244 cc1103-5

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider examining the law in order to eliminate any provisions which confer exceptional privileges upon Members of both Houses of Parliament.]


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lady for giving me this opportunity of confirming what indeed her Question clearly implies; namely, that the privileges of Members of this House are not unique but similar to privileges enjoyed by Members of another place. My Lords, the Government are considering this matter and I hope to be able to make a statement shortly.


My Lords, while I thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for what I consider to be an interim statement, may I ask whether he would not agree with me that, in view of the circumstances surrounding this case which prompted me to put down this Question, a full statement, when it comes to be given on these privileges, should be given in this House first?


My Lords, the privileges of either House are a matter for the House in question. I think it is very desirable that wherever possible there should be some kind of informal parallelism between the views which the two Houses take of their privileges. I should welcome any representations made to me by, for instance, the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Liberal Party. I know that this would be equally welcome in another place, through a similar channel. But we have not yet had any such conversations, and I should not wish to go further than I have gone this afternoon. The House will not expect me to comment upon the circumstances of any particular case.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Viscount. The sort of representation that the Leader would get through the usual channels has not been possible for us owing to a matter of time. We did not know until a few hours ago that the Question put to-day by the noble Baroness, Lady Summer-skill, would not be answered in full. I understand that the reason for its not being answered in full to-day is that there is to be a statement in another place. I daresay conversations through the usual channels will now proceed.


My Lords, is it not the case that a certain amount has already been done in the past unofficially to prevent privileges of the House from being a nuisance to the public? It is shown every day in those rather hideous and enormous badges that we wear on our motor cars in order to warn the police of the situation, and prevent situations of embarrassment arising to them and to the public.


My Lords, I hope we shall not have to wear badges in the streets or in the law courts.


My Lords, may we take it from what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has said that if an announcement is to be made, for example, in another place, a simultaneous announcement will be made in this House? May I put it to him that I hope very much that the answer to my noble friend's Question will be favourable. If it is not I should myself be disposed to take advice as to bringing in a Private Member's Bill to deal with the matter.


My Lords, I think the House can take it that there will be parallel statements in the two Houses, although of course I must be careful to guard the position that each House as a whole is guardian of its own respective privileges. I think the House may take it that what is done in another place will be done analogously in this House. I would rather not take the matter further this afternoon, but I am not altogether unsympathetic to the point of view which has been put forward.