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House Of Commons (Jurisdiction)

Volume 84: debated on Wednesday 23 October 1985

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3.43 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It concerns the interpretation of the proper jurisdiction of this House. I refer to the motion on the Order Paper for debate this afternoon, the crisis in southern Africa, which seeks to conceal the discussion of issues for which Her Majesty's Government bear no obvious or formal responsibility by reference to Britain's isolation in three organisations—the Commonwealth, the European Community and the United Nations.

The position relating to the Commonwealth is set out clearly in "Erskine May", which says that the authority of Parliament over all matters and persons within its jurisdiction, formerly unlimited, has now been severely limited in two respects: first, by the Statute of Westminster 1981 and, secondly, by the European Communities Act 1972.

"Erskine May" is quite specific about the Statute of Westminster. It says:
"it is in accord with the established constitutional position that no law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any of the said Dominions as part of the law of that Dominion otherwise than at the request and with the consent of that Dominion."
There are two interesting statements on the European Community position. On 10 March 1983, in answer to a question by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said:
"the European Parliament has no business to discuss the internal political affairs of a member state."
Later he said:
"we are not prepared to allow the European Parliament to interfere in the affairs of Northern Ireland, or the internal affairs of another country."—[Official Report, 10 March 1983; Vol. 38, c. 937–38.]
That remains our position.

On 13 December 1983 the Prime Minister——

Order. The hon. Gentleman is making a speech rather than making a point of order. Will he put his point of order to me?

Order. The hon. Gentleman has given me the reference. Will he make his point of order?

My point of order is that the House has no jurisdiction over a country the independence of which was firmly and clearly established in 1910 and reaffirmed by the Statute of Westminster, and which left the Commonwealth in 1961. It is perfectly clear from what the Government have said that they disapprove of legislatures interfering in the domestic affairs of other states. Finally, it is contrary to section 2 of the United Nations charter. It is also contrary to justice——

Order. I cannot answer the last part of the hon. Gentleman's point of order. However, I look at every motion on the Order Paper. I looked at this one, and it is perfectly in order for the House to discuss what is a matter of foreign policy.