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7 Mar 2002 : Column 521




Mr. Paul Boateng accordingly presented a Bill to apply certain sums out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the years ending on 31st March 2001 and 2002: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 8 March, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 65].

John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope not to delay the House too long. My point of order is further to that which was raised last night by the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait), to whom I have given notice of my intention of raising this matter tonight. I do not question the ruling given by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which I believe was wholly appropriate to the narrow point that the hon. Lady raised, but the matter has wider implications concerning the jurisdiction of the courts and the rights and privileges of hon. Members.

The hon. Lady referred to an injunction that prevented local newspapers from identifying an individual and a hospital, but she went on to identify that hospital, which was formerly situated in my constituency and is now located in that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), and is the main district general hospital serving his constituency and mine, and Eltham. As far as I can ascertain, the hon. Lady made no attempt to give prior notice to my right hon. Friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) or I of her intention to raise the issue. I believe that that was a discourtesy.

A newspaper carried a story in all its 12 editions, rather than only the local and Greenwich and Woolwich editions, because as it said,

I make no comment on the wisdom or otherwise of the injunction or of the trust in seeking it, but the identification of the hospital on the Floor of the House has clearly breached the injunction, as local and national newspapers may now publish what the hon. Lady said and the name of the hospital.

I recognise the importance of the right of MPs to freedom of speech and the importance of parliamentary privilege, and I recognise and support the intentions of

7 Mar 2002 : Column 522

article 9 of the Bill of Rights, but that should be seen in the light of rules surrounding sub judice matters and the courts. Although this issue is not technically sub judice because the courts have already made a decision, there is an important principle that courts should not seek to prevent Members from expressing their views, but that neither should Members subvert decisions of the courts.

I would not expect a substantive answer tonight, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as I am aware that there is currently a case before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, but I should be grateful if you could give the matter your careful consideration and advise hon. Members accordingly on the use or abuse of privilege in this context.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin) for giving me notice that he would be raising that point of order. I can in fact give him a fairly definitive answer in terms that may not be wholly unexpected. As the hon. Gentleman recognises, hon. Members enjoy freedom of speech in this House, and I can therefore advise him that nothing disorderly has occurred. However, it is always hoped that hon. Members will be mindful of the consequences of remarks that they make about such cases.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Town and Country Planning

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),


Question agreed to.


New Park Campsite

7.7 pm

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): The villagers of Brockenhurst in the New Forest, East constituency are overwhelmingly against the principle of the creation of a campsite at New Park, Brockenhurst. Under the auspices of the parish council, no fewer than 1,719 out of 2,652 people on the electoral roll have signed this petition. Ninety-five per cent. of those contacted signed it and

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65 per cent. of the electorate as a whole have therefore expressed support for the petition of residents of Brockenhurst, which states:

To lie upon the Table.

Secondary School, Sittingbourne

7.8 pm

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): The petition of the residents of Sittingbourne declares:

To lie upon the Table.

Dronfield School

7.9 pm

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): The petition that I am presenting seeks to put in place arrangements to turn the split-site school at Dronfield, where my own children went to school, into a single-site school, because the Gosforth site building is dropping to bits and was recently closed due to wind and rain. The petition of residents of Dronfield and district, which I support as the rational alternative, declares:

To lie upon the Table.

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