The House has agreed that the Speaker should make a statement at the beginning of each Session about the duties and responsibilities of hon. Members. May I begin by reminding Members of the House’s code of conduct, which we recently agreed to in a revised form? All Members are under a duty to observe it in letter and in spirit. Members are answerable for their conduct in this place, not just to the House but to the public.
Our ancient privileges allow us to conduct our debate without fear of outside interference. Parliamentary privilege underpins proper democratic debate and scrutiny. It will be under renewed scrutiny over the next few months, with the Government’s consultation on the subject. In particular, we enjoy freedom of speech in Committee proceedings and in debate. Freedom of speech in debate is at the very heart of what we do here for our constituents, and it allows us to conduct our business without fear of outside interference. But it is a freedom that we need to exercise responsibly in the public interest and taking into account the interests of others outside this House.
It is also important that our constituents feel free to come to us no matter what the circumstances, and that they suffer no disadvantage as a result. Each hon. Member is here to represent the views of his or her constituents and to participate in the process of parliamentary democracy. We should ensure that every Member is heard courteously, regardless of the views that he or she is expressing. I and my Deputies seek to ensure that as many Members as possible can participate in our proceedings. That ambition will be greatly aided by brevity in questions, speeches and interventions by all hon. Members.
Every member of the public has a right to expect that his or her Member of Parliament will behave with civility, in the best traditions of fairness, with the highest level of probity and with integrity. We are also under an obligation to try to explain to our constituents how Parliament works. In this mission we are ably assisted by the staff of the House. House staff, who are vital in supporting the work of this House and who do so with dedication and courtesy, are likewise entitled to be treated with dignity, courtesy and respect.
Finally, I should like also to remind all hon. Members that the security of this building and those who work and visit here depends upon all of us. Please be vigilant and tell the Serjeant at Arms about any concerns you have on the subject. Wear your photo identity pass while you are on the parliamentary estate—this is particularly important over the next 24 hours, as there will be a number of police officers on duty, covering for absent security officers, who cannot be expected to recognise Members. Remember that you are responsible for the behaviour of your visitors and for ensuring that they are escorted in non-public areas of the estate.
Before moving to the first business of the new Session, I would like to express my very best wishes to all hon. Members and staff for the 2012-13 Session of Parliament.
A Bill for the more effectual preventing Clandestine Outlawries was read the First time, and ordered to be read a Second time.