Personal statements (including resignation statements)
19.24The House is usually indulgent with regard to personal statements, and will permit personal explanations to be made without any question being before the House provided that the Speaker has been informed of what the Member proposes to say,1 and has given leave.2 Because the practice of the House is not to permit such statements to be subject to intervention or debate, the precise contents of the proposed statement are submitted in advance to the Speaker to ensure that they are appropriate. Where the Independent Expert Panel requires an apology to be given by means of a personal statement, the text of the statement will also be agreed with the Chair of the Panel.2A The Member granted the privilege of making such a statement may not therefore depart from the agreed text.3 The statement is made in the order indicated at para 19.2 before the commencement of public business4 and there should be no debate or any other comment on it;5 but if another Member is involved in the personal statement, that Member is generally allowed to give their own view of the matter and to say whether they accept it or not.6 Personal statements may not be made when the House is in Committee.7 The indulgence of a personal statement is granted with caution since it may lead to irregular debates.8 General arguments or observations beyond the fair bounds of explanation or too distinct a reference to previous debates are out of order;9 though a Member has been permitted by the Speaker to make, at a subsequent sitting, a statement regarding alleged misrepresentation in debate10 or in a question to a Minister.11 A personal statement has been allowed by a Member on their reasons for applying for the Manor of Northstead.12 In modern practice, a common use of personal statements has been pursuant to a conclusion by the Standards Committee that a Member should apologise to the House in this way following an inquiry by that Committee.13 The Independent Expert Panel and the Commissioner can also require a Member to apologise to the House in this way for breaches of the bullying and harassment or sexual misconduct policies.13A
The Speaker has made personal statements.14 On 22 March 1948, the Chairman of Ways and Means made a personal statement and the House appointed a select committee to inquire into it the next day.15 On 11 September 2013, a Deputy Speaker made a personal statement on his resignation from that office.16
Explanation by a Member of the circumstances which have caused their resignation of an office in the Government may also be made as a form of personal statement immediately before the commencement of public business.17 The requirement for the Speaker to have advance knowledge of what the Member is to say, and to give leave, is not required from a former Minister wishing to explain the circumstances of their resignation.18 Though debate must not arise upon such explanation, statements on behalf of the Government pertinent to a resignation statement have been permitted. The Speaker likewise has no control over statements made by Ministers in a ministerial, as opposed to a personal, capacity, even if they are concerned with matters which might appropriately have been dealt with by means of a personal statement.
Although personal statements are usually taken after other statements and the other items indicated above, on occasion they have been taken immediately after oral questions.19 The Speaker has complete discretion over whether to allow any Member to make a personal statement.
- 1. HC Deb (1960–61) 629, c 368; ibid (1968–69) 777, c 1584.
- 2. HC Deb (1946–47) 431, c 2191; ibid (1974–75) 898, cc 46–52; and see ibid (1995–96) 269, cc 409–10, 541–42.
- 2A. Letter from the Speaker to the Chair of the Independent Expert Panel, 19 April 2021.
- 3. HC Deb (1974–75) 898, c 47; ibid (1987–88) 131, cc 679–81.
- 4. Parl Deb (1905) 146, c 302; HC Deb (1912) 45, cc 1486, 1532; ibid (1997–98) 319, c 952. In 1947, a Member made a personal statement relative to a matter then before the Committee of Privileges; he was directed to withdraw, and his statement was referred to the Committee of Privileges on a motion by the Leader of the House: CJ (1946–67) 354; HC Deb (1946–47) 441, cc 991–96. For the case of a personal statement which was subsequently admitted not to be true, see HC Deb (1962–63) 674, cc 809–10; ibid 679, c 655; CJ (1962–63) 246. For the case of a personal statement withdrawing allegations which were subsequently found to be justified and a resolution of the House thereon, see HC Deb (1962–63) 681, c 682; CJ (1962–63) 288. For the case of a personal statement of apology for an unparliamentary comment which was not attributed to the Member in the Official Report, see HC Deb (1999–2000) 346, c 520. For a personal statement of apology by a private Member for misleading the Speaker and the House which was taken before Business Questions, see HC Deb (11 May 2006) 446, c 505.
- 5. HC Deb (1994–95) 254, c 1010. In 1915, a Minister at the close of a personal statement moved the adjournment of the House in order to afford an opportunity for debate: CJ (1914–16) 296; HC Deb (1915) 76, c 549. A similar course was followed when at the close of a personal statement a Whip moved a motion to approve a report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, ibid (2001–02) 373, c 884.
- 6. HC Deb (1954–55) 535, cc 2609–10; ibid (1968–69) 777, c 1584; ibid (2001–02) 381, c 450.
- 7. HC Deb (1964–65) 713, c 241.
- 8. Parl Deb (1859) 153, cc 334–36; ibid (1864) 174, cc 1203–18; ibid (1865) 178, cc 372–78; ibid (1882) 269, cc 106–32; ibid (1968–69) 784, c 239.
- 9. Parl Deb (1864) 173, cc 1911–14.
- 10. Parl Deb (1846) 87, c 480; HC Deb (1911) 21, c 1066.
- 11. HC Deb (1912) 45, c 1532.
- 12. HC Deb (1981–82) 23, c 38. In 1977, when the report from a select committee appointed to consider the conduct of certain Members was considered, two of the Members, according to custom, addressed the House first, after which they withdrew from the Chamber, HC Deb (1976–77) 936, cc 332–43; ibid 935, cc 2047–48; CJ (1976–77) 448. The third Member, having applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, had made a statement on an earlier occasion. Subsequently, three separate motions, each relating to the conduct of a Member, were moved, and the two Members were permitted to return to the Chamber.
- 13. For example, HC Deb (1998–99) 335, c 23; ibid (2000–01) 365, c 1118; ibid (2001–02) 373, c 884; ibid (2002–03) 399, c 1073; ibid (2002–03) 409, c 473; ibid (29 October 2009) 498, c 455; ibid (11 November 2013) 570, c 661; ibid (29 January 2010) 504, c 1044 (a personal statement made on a Friday at 11.00 am); ibid (3 April 2014) 578, c 1033; it is up to the Standards Committee to propose the method by which any apology to the House should be given, and in many cases it does not require a personal statement.
- 13A. For example, HC Deb (14 June 2021) 21.
- 14. HC Deb (1947–48) 445, cc 1205–6; ibid (1964–65) 713, c 1033; ibid (1966–67) 728, c 1570; ibid (1969–70) 796, c 1405; ibid (2001–02) 373, c 753; ibid (19 May 2009) 492, c 1323.
- 15. HC Deb (1947–48) 448, cc 2584–86.
- 16. HC Deb (11 September 2013) 567, cc 979–80.
- 17. HC Deb (1990–91) 180, cc 461–465; ibid (1992–93) 212, cc 139–41; ibid (1992–93) 226, cc 281–85; ibid (1992–93) 227, cc 825–31; ibid (2002–03) 405, cc 36–39; ibid (2003–04) 419, cc 1753–54. On 17 March 2003, however, the Speaker permitted such a statement after two ministerial statements which were made after the second reading of a bill, ibid (2002–03) 401, cc 726–28.
- 18. HC Deb (1974–75) 893, c 670; ibid (1974) 872, cc 33, 41–42. Objection has, however, been taken to a Minister correcting a previous ministerial statement by means of a personal explanation, ibid (1962–63) 681, c 338; and see ibid (1995–96) 269, cc 409–10, 541–42.
- 19. HC Deb (19 July 2018) 645, c 589.