Amendments made: 23, page 7, line 8, after 'evidence', insert
'of words spoken by, or any other conduct of, a Member of the House of Commons in proceedings in Parliament'.
Amendment 24, page 7, line 8, leave out 'a' and insert 'that'.— (Sir Stuart Bell.)
Question put, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.
The House divided: Ayes 247, Noes 250.
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On a point of order, Sir Alan. Notwithstanding the splendid outcome of that Division, which surely represents the passion of the House on this matter and is a serious affront to the Justice Secretary, I believe that it is a constitutional outrage that a clause described by the learned Clerk as possibly having
"a chilling effect on the freedom of speech of Members" has not had a moment's debate in this Chamber. If it was not for right hon. and hon. Members having voted against the clause by three votes, despite the Government Whips' attempts to stop them, we would not be able to debate it.
On a point of order, Sir Alan. I wonder whether I might give you notice that I am very happy that my amendment on Report, amendment 16, now falls, because it was an amendment to leave out clause 10. I hope that the Justice Secretary, rather than treating the situation as an affront, will take it as a recognition that the primary purpose of the Bill did not require clause 10, that we can set up the necessary body without it, and that he should now get on and do so to the general satisfaction of the House.
Further to that point of order, Sir Alan. I appreciate that we are about to embark on the Report stage of the Bill, but considerable consequences, in the form of consequential amendments, might flow from the disappearance of clause 10. We are about to embark on the process that will result in the Bill's leaving this House in about an hour and 20 minutes' time. Have you had any notice of a statement from the Secretary of State about how the Government wish to proceed with this legislation, in view of what has happened?
Further to that point of order, Sir Alan. It is fair to say that you have not had notice of such a statement, because we have only just learned of the decision of the House, by 250 votes to 247. Of course, I understand the concerns of the House. We will respect the decision. [Interruption.] The Opposition Chief Whip is supposed to be silent, as he knows—that is what he is paid for.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In 1993, Speaker Boothroyd gave a warning that, in respect of article IX of the Bill of Rights, the courts should not interfere in the proceedings of the House. New clause 7 deals with article IX of the Bill of Rights and new clause 8 deals with the supremacy of Parliament. They go to the very heart of how we are governed in this country. Some 40 Members of Parliament have signed the new clauses, which are, furthermore, in the name of the official Opposition. Against that background, may I ask for your ruling on how it can be that those two new clauses have not been selected for debate, as a result of which the House has been put in peril?
The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced Member and he knows that no explanation is given for the selection of amendments. I did not participate in the decision, and there is nothing that the Chair can say. It is customary for the selection to be made and for the House to accept the consequences. Whether there will be further opportunities in the course of proceedings on the Bill is another matter. I cannot go further than that.