Incidental criticism of conduct of certain persons not permitted

21.23As indicated at para 20.10, unless the discussion is based upon a substantive motion, drawn in proper terms, reflections must not be cast in debate upon the conduct of the Sovereign, the heir to the throne, or other members of the royal family.1 The same principle applies to the Lord Chancellor,2 the Governor-General of an independent territory,3 and judges of the superior courts of the United Kingdom4 (including persons holding the position of a judge, such as circuit judges and their deputies, as well as recorders).5

The principle applies equally to Members of either House of Parliament,6 and particularly to Members in their capacity as office holders in the House of Commons including the Speaker,7 the Chairman of Ways and Means,8 and other members of the Panel of Chairs.9 Conduct in the case of a Member includes conduct outside the Chamber.10 The following paragraphs discuss the kind of language used in respect of other Members that may engage the principle.

Footnotes

  1. 1. Parl Deb (1887) 312, c 1061; HC Deb (1969–70) 791, c 195; ibid (1971–72) 831, c 436; ibid (1977–78) 946, c 1728; ibid (17 March 2011) 525, cc 155–57WH (where it was out of order for a Member to raise the conduct of a member of the royal family on a motion to adjourn the sitting).
  2. 2. Parl Deb (1898) 56, c 859; ibid (1899) 75, c 890; ex-Lord Chancellor, ibid (1906) 167, c 1367.
  3. 3. HC Deb (1910) 15, c 894.
  4. 4. Parl Deb (1901) 96, c 306; HC Deb (1911) 30, c 1170; ibid (1912) 41, c 2779. Reflections against judges generally are equally out of order, ibid (1911) 26, c 1082; ibid (1917) 91, cc 664, 667. The Speaker has also intimated that the same rule should be applied to the case of judges in dependent territories, ibid (1912) 40, c 622; ibid (1955–56) 557, cc 921–29. The rule also applied to Tribunals of Inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 now repealed, ibid (1971–72) 833, cc 1239–66. On 4 December 1973, the Speaker ruled that it can be argued that a judge has made a mistake, that he was wrong, and the reasons for those contentions can be given, within certain limits; but reflections on a judge's character or motives cannot be made except on a motion, nor can any charge of a personal nature be made except on a motion (see also ibid (1987–88) 118, c 641). Any suggestion that a judge should be dismissed can be made only on a motion, ibid (1973–74) 865, cc 1092, 1144, 1199. See also ibid (1982–83) 34, cc 285–86.
  5. 5. Parl Deb (1887) 312, c 1110; ibid (1887) 320, cc 1024, 1031; ibid (1906) 164, c 1572; HC Deb (1951–52) 493, cc 591–93. The Speaker has also ruled out of order language disrespectful to persons administering justice, such as resident magistrates in Ireland, ibid (1902) 103, c 462; and criticism of sentences imposed by magistrates, ibid (1926) 196, c 2498, including justices of the peace, ibid (1926) 200, c 855. The Speaker has held that Masters of the Supreme Court do not fall within this category, ibid (1985–86) 103, c 1103.
  6. 6. A peer, HC Deb (1914) 60, c 279; ibid (1977–78) 941, cc 511–12; ibid (1977–78) 952, cc 29–30; ibid (1985–86) 98, c 797; ibid (1991–92) 200, cc 995, 1071; ibid (31 March 2009) 490, c 797; ibid (4 March 2010) 506, c 1023; ibid (13 April 2016) 608, c 396; a Member, ibid (1964–65) 714, cc 241–46; ibid (1986–87) 114, cc 164–72; ibid (2002–03) 412, cc 808–9; ibid (20 March 2017) 623, c 640; a Minister, ibid (1920) 131, c 1205; ibid (13 June 2012) 546, cc 345–46; ibid (28 October 2014) 587, c 179. See Speaker's ruling, that the explicit statement of the Prime Minister must be accepted, Parl Deb (1883) 280, c 116. Personal criticism of a Minister amounting to a concerted implication of no confidence should not be made except on a substantive motion, HC Deb (2002–03) 408, c 542; ibid (2002–03) 412, cc 808–9. Privy Counsellors are not protected by this rule, ibid (1933) 277, cc 1222–26.
  7. 7. CJ (1884–85) 78; Parl Deb (1887) 311, c 954; ibid (1887) 313, cc 371, 472; ibid (1902) 107, c 1020; ibid (1905) 142, c 1507; HC Deb (1924–25) 184, cc 1390, 1591; ibid (1951–52) 500, c 397; ibid (1976–77) 922, cc 225–26; ibid (1981–82) 16, c 751.
  8. 8. Parl Deb (1886) 302, c 1710; ibid (1901) 95, cols 234–35; HC Deb (1917) 100, c 1892; ibid (1966–67) 731, c 441; ibid (1976–77) 926, cc 655–60; ibid (1992–93) 223, cc 325–79.
  9. 9. HC Deb (1924) 170, c 2769; ibid (1924) 173, cc 1348–50. Discussion of the conduct of the chairman of a joint committee on a bill has been ruled out of order in committee on the re-committed bill, ibid (1902) 111, cc 19, 27, 707; ibid (1908) 196, cc 363, 568.
  10. 10. HC Deb (24 March 2017) 525, c 1131.