European Communities Bill (Sub Judice Rule)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th May 1972.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West 12:00 am, 24th May 1972

I desire to raise with you, Mr. Speaker, a point of order of which I regret to say I have given you inadequate notice. However, I hope you will be good enough to consider it before the House next goes into Committee on the European Communities Bill and not to regard it as prejudiced should you leave the Chair this afternoon.

On 8th May the Court of Appeal decided to allow an appeal to itself in the case of McWhirter v. The Attorney-General. The appeal was accordingly immediately entered. The case turns upon the possibility of a conflict between legislation for the purposes of the European Communities Bill and certain Statutes, in particular the Bill of Rights. The Resolution of the House by which we are bound in the matter of the sub judice rule, the Resolution of 23rd July. 1963, expressly and at the outset reserves the right of the House to legislate on any matter", and it would be intolerable if the right of the House to proceed to change the law could be held up by the fact that there was an individual case falling under the existing law which was before or was coming before a court.

On the other hand I submit that where the matter for adjudication is itself the question of the right of this House to legislate or to legislate in a particular form, then that conflict between this House and the courts which the sub judice rule is designed to prevent does arise. I therefore submit to you, and ask you to give consideration to the proposition, that it is not in conflict with the Resolution of the House of July. 1963, that you should rule that proceedings upon the European Communities Bill are barred by the sub judice rule while this case is pending.

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not give me very long notice of his intention to raise this point and I am afraid that I have not had very much time to consider it. I will consider it. My provisional opinion is, as he has pointed out, that the sub judice rule specifically reserves the right of the House to legislate on any matter. If anything needs to be added to that ruling I will consider it and perhaps rule upon it later. As to my present feeling, it is that the House has a complete freedom to exercise the right to legislate and, therefore, to discuss any matter of legislation.