Other indignities offered to either House

15.11Other acts, besides words spoken or writings published reflecting upon either House or its proceedings which, though they do not tend directly to obstruct or impede either House in the performance of its functions, yet have a tendency to produce this result indirectly by bringing such House into odium, contempt or ridicule or by lowering its authority, may constitute contempts.

For example, serving or executing civil or criminal process within the precincts of either House while the House is sitting without obtaining the leave of the House is a contempt,1 as is disorderly conduct within the precincts of either House while the House is sitting.2 However, where such misconduct has led to criminal proceedings against the individual or individuals concerned the House has not pursued the matter as a contempt. This was the case when hunt protestors invaded the Commons Chamber but were handed over to the police.3 The House of Commons has considered the sending of a letter to the Speaker in very indecent and insolent terms in connection with the execution of a warrant issued by the Speaker to be a contempt,4 and counterfeiting or altering an order or warrant,5 or slighting an order of either House6 has been similarly condemned. Another example is representing oneself to be a parliamentary agent (see para 43.17 ) without possessing the necessary qualifications.7

The crowned portcullis has for many years been used as the emblem of the House of Commons. In 1997, its use by the House was formally authorised by licence granted by Her Majesty. The Speaker has indicated that it is important for the dignity of the House that the emblem should not be used where its authentication of a connection with the House is inappropriate or where there is a risk that its use might be wrongly regarded or represented as having the authority of the House.8


  1. 1. Report of the Committee of Privileges, HC 31 (1945–46) and CJ (1945–46) 198, and First Report of the Committee, HC 144 (1972–73). See also Report of the Select Committee on the attempted service of a summons on Mr Sheehy, CJ (1888) 503 and Parl Deb (1888) 332, cc 102–24; Report of the Committee of Privileges, HC 244 (1950–51) and CJ (1950–51) 319; Second Report from the Committee, HC 221 (1969–70); Home Affairs Committee, First Special Report, HC 107 (1993–94); Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, HL 43-I, HC 214-I (1998–99) paras 334–35 (see also LJ (1685–91) 298, 301; and Parl Deb (1827) 17, c 34).
  2. 2. CJ (1547–1628) 259, 260; ed D H Willson Parliamentary Diary of Robert Bowyer (1931), p 8; CJ (1646–48) 232; ibid (1651–59) 410; ibid (1722–27) 185; ibid (1761–64) 843; and see Report from the Committee of Privileges, HC 36 (1946–47) and CJ (1946–47) 91.
  3. 3. The incident occurred on 15 September 2004; see HC Deb (15 September 2004) 424, c 1337; and Speaker's Statement, ibid c 1423.
  4. 4. CJ (1810) 260, 273.
  5. 5. LJ (1660–66) 91; CJ (1806–07) 288, 296.
  6. 6. LJ (1660–66) 131.
  7. 7. HC Deb (1948–49) 464, c 1665.
  8. 8. Authorisation has been given for display of the emblem on official stationery and publications, on furniture and furnishings used within the Palace of Westminster and certain other goods (HC Deb (1996–97) 288, c 21. See also ibid (1980–81) 3, c 789, and ibid (1993–94) 236, c 632). Its use has also been authorised on the Order of Service for the memorial service of a former Cabinet Minister.