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House Of Lords (References)

Volume 462: debated on Monday 14 March 1949

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Mr. Speaker, I sent you a statement based on what was taking place in another place, and you were good enough to give, by letter, a reply which I am bound to accept, but I want to raise a point of Order based upon pages 143 and—

The hon. Gentleman cannot raise a point of Order which has been raised with me and which I have disallowed already. That is quite improper. The hon. Gentleman can raise a hypothetical case, but not the definite case which I have already disallowed. Therefore, it cannot be brought up as a point of Order.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In view of your Ruling, I raise a question upon a hypothetical case in this way—[Interruption.] We have been through all this before when they were nearly all on the side of Ribbentrop. May I proceed by saying that in my view this country's democratic rights are at stake in this issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "What issue?"] If hon. Members opposite had been listening to what I said, they would have heard that I had sent to Mr. Speaker a statement based upon what had taken place in another place. On this Mr. Speaker made a Ruling, and I must accept his Ruling.

The hon. Member says I made a Ruling but I have only followed what Erskine May says. It might save time and relieve the hon. Member if I read what is in Erskine May, because I think it governs the whole of the case. It says:

"The leading principle which appears to pervade all the proceedings between the Houses of Parliament"—
I understood that the hon. Member wanted to raise a matter referring to another place—
"is that there shall subsist a perfect equality between them, and that they shall be, in every respect totally independent one of the other. Hence it is that neither House can claim, much less exercise, any authority over a member of the other. Neither. House of Parliament can take upon itself to punish any breach of privilege or contempt offered to it by any member of the other House."
Those are the governing sentences; and, therefore, if the hon. Member wants to raise objection to what was said in another place, I cannot allow it, because I am absolutely bound by that Ruling. One may not raise here, except I suppose by some other form of procedure, anything debated in the other place, and certainly one cannot raise it as a matter of Order or as a matter of proceedings.

Will you be good enough, Mr. Speaker, to turn to pages 427 and 428? It is there stated:

"Allusions to Debates in the other House are out of Order."
"guards against recrimination and offensive language in the absence of the party assailed."
That brings us to this, that anything that it is desired to say in another place can be said. That is a dangerous precedent that was created last week, and we cannot reply in this House. We have always accepted your Ruling on that matter, and Erskine May throughout the ages supports that Ruling. If we raise the matter outside in the country, then the law of libel begins to apply. In view of this new situation, I would ask you whether you would reconsider the matter.

Further to that point of Order. May I, Mr. Speaker, ask your further Ruling upon a hypothetical case? If a noble Lord in another place, and upon a political issue, has made a statement which, if made in public, would be subject to the law of libel because it was prima facie defamatory of hon. Members of this House, are we bereft of remedy whereby to protect the good name and reputation of hon. Members so libelled?

Our Rules are quite definite. Hon. Members may not refer to a speech made in another place during the same Session. We are two independent bodies. Sometimes they may say things which we do not like, and we say things that they do not like. After all, that is our position, and there is no remedy here. The only remedy is outside.

Further to that point of Order. May I ask, Sir, whether the Rule to which you have referred is equally binding upon both Houses of Parliament? Suppose it were observed in this House and not in the other, would it be possible to make any kind of representation to see that the Rules are carried out with the same loyalty in another place as that with which they are carried out here?

I cannot say what the Rules of the other place are. I would like to have notice of that question.

As one whose good name is in question, I should like to seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. Suppose that in this House an hon. Member were to make vile, slanderous and utterly untrue statements about me or about my associates, would it not be possible to get the matter considered by a Select Committee? If vile, untrue and slanderous statements are made in another place about me and my associates, is there anything I can do about it? I have no representative in the other place. I am hoping one of these days to have a representative there. Is there anything I can do?

You were good enough, Mr. Speaker, to mention that there are two guiding principles which regulate the association of the two Houses; one is perfect equality and the other complete independence. I ask your Ruling as to whether you would ever allow in this House any mention by name of someone in another place by way of compliment or attack? If you would not, what possible protection have we in this House if we are attacked by name by members of another House?

It is perfectly clear that if hon. Members started to attack a member of another place by name, I should interfere. That certainly would be in accordance with our Rules.

Do I understand that a similar Ruling would be given in similar circumstances in another place?