Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why Mr Speaker Was Wrong to Silence David Winnick

Further to my post earlier about the Speaker and his ruling on MPs' expenses and it being sub judice do have a look at this. It is Appendix 1, page 163 of Standing Orders of the House of Commons (or page 182 on THIS link). It demonstrates beyond all doubt that the Speaker has complete discretion to allow discussion of this matter in the House. See the bold text in the first line.

Sub judice Resolution, 2001

Resolved, That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to discuss any delegated legislation, the House in all its proceedings (including proceedings of committees of the House) shall apply the following rules on matters sub judice:

(1) Cases in which proceedings are active in United Kingdom courts shall not be referred to in any motion, debate or question.

(a)(i) Criminal proceedings are active when a charge has been made or a summons to appear has been issued, or, in Scotland, a warrant to cite has been granted.

(ii) Criminal proceedings cease to be active when they are concluded by verdict and sentence or discontinuance, or, in cases dealt with by courts martial, after the conclusion of the mandatory post-trial review.

(b)(i) Civil proceedings are active when arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment or discontinuance.

(ii) Any application made in or for the purposes of any civil proceedings shall be treated as a distinct proceeding.

(c) Appellate proceedings, whether criminal or civil, are active from the time when they are commenced by application for leave to appeal or by notice of appeal until ended by judgment or discontinuance.

But where a ministerial decision is in question, or in the opinion of the Chair a case concerns issues of national importance such as the economy, public order or the essential services, reference to the issues or the case may be made in motions, debates or questions.

(2) Specific matters which the House has expressly referred to any judicial body for decision and report shall not be referred to in any motion, debate or question, from the time when the Resolution of the House is passed until the report is laid before the House.

(3) For the purposes of this Resolution— (a) Matters before Coroners Courts or Fatal Accident Inquiries shall be treated as matters within paragraph (1)(a);

(b) 'Motion' includes a motion for leave to bring in a bill; and

(c) 'Question' includes a supplementary question.

15 November 2001

Over to you Mr Speaker.

9 comments:

Chris Paul said...

Speaker has discretion to allow it. But the inference is that the norm is not allowing it. So this is "speaker backs norm" isn't it?

Glyn H said...

Winnicks point was to ask whether this 'review' was over the exposing of MPs residence details, which the Speaker had claimed, or the wider information. Are not MP address's shown on election posters at Town Halls?

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

chris paul [11.42 PM] I don't think so. As I read it, the Speaker failed to exercise his discretion and proceeded under the mistaken belief that he had none. The distinction is significant in point of law.

Rex said...

Looks Like Gay Gordon and Gorbells Mick have got the english parliament all sewn up then.

Unsworth said...

That is precisely the point.

The Speaker has those discretionary powers and has refused an MP's question. He should, in the interests of Parliament as a whole, have allowed debate. What his decision means is that MPs are now entirely subject to the authority (and dubious rulings) of the Speaker and Parliament is subject to the Judiciary.

Winnick raised a point of order and asked for information. The Speaker refused to rule on the point or to provide that information, saying that this was a matter for Winnick establish by visiting the Court. In other words 'nothing to do with me, chum'. That is the customary defensive move by this useless and highly partisan Speaker.

Anonymous said...

I can't think of a more important matter than this subject, because it speaks to the refusal of MPs to use the powers that the unwritten British constitution has given them.
There is nothing MPs in Parliament cannot do. They have sovereignty and are absolutely supreme. MPs have been given everything.
But MPs allow shady politicians and their unelected hangers-on (I'm referring to Blair sitting on his sofa with Campbell, or Martin making crap decisions out of ignorance) to get away with murder by for example taking this country into an illegal war.
It is possible to believe that MPs have been seduced by the trough to behave like pigs and to let the country go to ruin.
When will MPs stand up and act in the public interest? Sending Blair to face justice in a war-crimes trial at the Hague would be a small step for a start. Once they begin they might even find they like behaving like men, and they would find that the country begins to respect them again.

Hitchenophile said...

My reading of this is different...it looks to me that Parliament has essentially agreed to abide by the rules of sub judice. However, being a sovereign body it recognises that it can choose to ignore those rules if it so pleases. But I suspect they'd need to have a bloody good reason for doing it otherwise it would be seen as a precedent for discussing any old court case and thus interfering in the independence of the judiciary.

There will be plenty of time to discuss this affair once the appeal fails (which it will). In the meantime, let's not get worked up about discussing it in parliament by threatening to break long-standing parliamentary conventions.

Chris Paul said...

The norm is not allowing such things. Trumpeter Langfried is wrong.

An MP address singular is shown on election posters but not all addresses.

The objection is levelled by redacting address information however legally the whole decision had to be appealled as the law being an ass had refused to consider such redaction and that formed part of the decision.

And incidentally this is the speaker as a role not any particular speaker doing this, ex officio.

Head of Legal said...

Those of you who think Michael Martin has applied an absolute rule uncontroversially, or that debating the appeal would somehow breach convention, have not read the resolution properly. In particular, you're missing this bit:

But where a ministerial decision is in question, or in the opinion of the Chair a case concerns issues of national importance such as the economy, public order or the essential services, reference to the issues or the case may be made in motions, debates or questions.

In order to support Martin's decision, you have to think that the decision to appeal, and the question of MPs expenses, is not a matter of national importance.