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Mr. Speaker, may I ask for your guidance on a matter which is, I think, of some public interest?
You will recall that last Monday you deprecated discussion by Members of the House of the conduct of the police in connection with the Podola case. It was, therefore, with considerable surprise that I read in at least two Sunday newspapers yesterday, under the heading, "Butler says police did good job" that the Home Secretary, having first recognised that this matter was sub judice, then went out of his way to comment on the action of the police, contrary—
As you will be aware, I tried to put a Private Notice Question today. For the reasons which I can appreciate, you ruled that that was unacceptable. I tried to table a Question for answer by the Home Secretary on Thursday, so that he might have an opportunity of dealing with this matter, and I was informed by the learned Clerk at the Table that that would not be possible. It seems to me that there must be some way in which the Home Secretary can be criticised for making comments of this kind which, you have said, would prejudice a fair trial. May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how one can do it?
It is quite true that on the last occasion when this matter came up, once I knew that a man had been charged, I deprecated any debate in this House upon it. A man has now been charged. He is, therefore, in the charge of and under the protection of the judiciary. It is for the defence, if it thinks that any statement made by anyone outside this House, be he a Member of Parliament or a member of the public, is prejudicial to the trial of the accused, to bring it to the notice of the judiciary, who have their own remedies for dealing with this matter.
The reason why in this House we deprecate and, in fact, do not allow discussion of a case which is sub judice is this: that hon. Members of this House speaking in this House are privileged against action by the courts. An accused man and the judiciary would have no protection against any hon. Member saying something in this House. But when anybody outside this House says something Which prejudices a trial it is for the judiciary to inflict what penalty it may see fit to impose. It is for that reason that this matter is outside our jurisdiction now.
Is it not the case that not only you yourself, Mr. Speaker, but the Leader of the House also said that this matter should not be discussed because all this was sub judice? Would it not be in order for the right hon. Gentleman to make a statement in the forthcoming debate saying that he did not intend to go any further than he had gone in the past? As things stand at present, he would appear to have made a comment on the conduct of the police.
That is not a matter for me. I am anxious only to help the House by making clear and stating the difference as between a statement outside this House and a statement inside it. It is simply because we are in a privileged position inside this House that we have always imposed upon ourselves a self-denying ordinance to behave as the public outside the House are compelled to behave by the courts.
Further to that point. Are we to understand that this matter, as was another matter last week concerning the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, when he answered outside the House something which he should have answered inside the House, is rather one of good taste than a breach of Parliamentary etiquette?