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Question Of Privilege

Volume 934: debated on Wednesday 29 June 1977

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I wish to raise briefly a matter that relates to a question of privilege which arose from an article in today's Daily Mail which sets out the recommendations of an all-party Select Committee on the Tote and betting shops. It is reported that the findings of this Committee have been endorsed by the Cabinet and supported by senior Tory Members, but hon. Members have not yet seen that report.

I am well aware of the ruling given in 1948 by one of your predecessors, Mr. Speaker, which stated that once a report has been presented to the Clerk of the House it was deemed to have been sent to the printers. Your predecessors have ruled that once a report has gone to the printers it is taken to have been laid before the House and therefore in this case a breach of privilege may be said not to exist, even though no hon. Member knows what the report contains.

Notwithstanding the time that has elapsed since the 1948 ruling, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider whether it is still undesirable that the report of a Select Committee should be publicised before hon. Members have had a chance of reading the report. I ask you to state that you regret very much that this has happened and that you support the view that the Select Committee's report should not have been disclosed to the Press.

The article in question today may not be a breach of privilege, but you may say, Mr. Speaker, that it calls for your displeasure. Even if today's article is not a matter of privilege, I should still like to know whether it calls for your displeasure.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Gentleman will bring the papers forward I shall give this matter the consideration that he expects me to give it. I shall give my answer tomorrow.

Copy in newspaper handed in.