Unparliamentary Expressions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1984.

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East 12:00 am, 6th June 1984

I shall deal with this matter first. I would not wish there to be any misunderstanding in the House about my ruling yesterday. The basic guidance on which the House relies in considering unparliamentary expressions is set out in "Erskine May" on page 432, which states: Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language. Parliamentary language is never more desirable than when a Member is canvassing the opinions and conduct of his opponents in debate. Whether a word should be regarded as unparliamentary depends on the context in which it is used. Context is all-important. "Context" means how the word is said, the circumstances in which it is said and when it is said.

In the context yesterday I am satisfied that the use of the word Fascist was intended to give offence to a Member and amounted to a reflection on his honour.

I am not, of course, ruling that the word Fascist can never be used in debate. On this day, of all days, the anniversary of the day on which many of our fellow countrymen died to ensure that this country remained free from Fascism, we should refrain from using that word to attack each other. I remind the House that we are all honourable Members, and we should debate with each other in that spirit.