4.68 The privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament
places a corresponding duty on members to use the freedom responsibly.
This is the basis of the sub judice rule. Under the rule
both Houses abstain from discussing the merits of disputes about
to be tried and decided in the courts of law.
4.69 The Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege
recommended that the two Houses should adopt a resolution on sub
judice set out in the committee's report.
The House of Lords did this on 11 May 2000. The resolution is
"That, subject to the discretion of the Lord
and to the right of the House to legislate on any matter or to
discuss any delegated legislation, the House in all its proceedings
(including proceedings of committees of the House) shall apply
the following rules on matters sub judice:
(1) Cases in which proceedings are active in United
Kingdom courts shall not be referred to in any motion, debate
(a) (i) Criminal
proceedings are active when a charge has been made or a summons
to appear has been issued, or, in Scotland, a warrant to cite
has been granted.
(ii) Criminal proceedings cease to be active
when they are concluded by a verdict and sentence or discontinuance,
or, in cases dealt with by courts martial, after the conclusion
of the mandatory post-trial review.
(b) (i) Civil proceedings are active when
arrangements for the hearing, such as setting down a case for
trial, have been made, until the proceedings are ended by judgment
(ii) Any application made in or for the
purposes of any civil proceedings shall be treated as a distinct
(c) Appellate proceedings, whether criminal or
civil, are active from the time when they are commenced by application
for leave to appeal or by notice of appeal until ended by judgment
But where a ministerial decision is in question,
or in the opinion of the Lord Speaker a case concerns issues of
national importance such as the economy, public order or the essential
services, reference to the issues or the case may be made in motions,
debates or questions.
(2) Specific matters which the House has expressly
referred to any judicial body for decision and report shall not
be referred to in any motion, debate or question, from the time
when the Resolution of the House is passed, until the report is
laid before the House.
(3) For the purposes of this Resolution
4.70 The House has agreed that the practice governing
motions and questions relating to matters sub judice should
be similar in both Houses of Parliament.
It is desirable that each House should be in the same position
to debate a sub judice matter when the circumstances warrant
4.71 The rules governing sub judice do
not apply to bills, Measures or delegated legislation or to proceedings
on them. Nor do they apply to matters being considered by departmental
inquiries and the like; but it is recognised that Parliament should
not generally intervene in matters where the decision has been
delegated to others by Parliament itself.
4.72 A case is deemed to be sub judice
from the moment a petition for leave to appeal is presented to
the House of Lords.
4.73 The Lord Speaker must be given at least
24 hours' notice of any proposal to refer to a matter which is
sub judice. The exercise of the Speaker's discretion may
not be challenged in the House.
155 HL Paper 43-I (1998-99), para 202. Back
Procedure 2nd Rpt 2006-07. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1963-64. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1989-90. Back
Procedure 1st Rpt 1994-95, Report of the Select Committee on the
Speakership of the House of Lords, HL Paper 92 2005-06. Back