Contempt and select committees

02 May 2012

The Clerk of the House of Commons has prepared a note on contempt and select committees

Contempt and select committees

In its 11th Report published on 1 May 2012, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee announced its intention to table a motion inviting the House of Commons to endorse its Report's conclusions about misleading evidence.

As the Committee notes, it is for the House to decide whether a contempt has been committed and, if so, what punishment should be imposed.

The process for raising a complaint of breach of privilege or contempt is as follows (details in Erskine May chapter 16).

  • A Member writes to the Speaker asking for a specific matter to be given precedence.
  • The Speaker announces in the House that he has agreed that the Member may raise that specific matter, and the day on which he will give the matter precedence.
  • The Member then tables a Motion on the Order Paper for that future day, as the first item of substantive business after Questions and Statements.

Such Motions usually take the form of a reference to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, which reports its conclusions to the House in a published Report with any recommendations for further action. But Motions may be tabled in other terms as well and, subject to the Chair's selection of amendments for debate and decision, may be amended by the House.

As stated in the recent Green Paper on Parliamentary Privilege, the House's power to punish non-Members for contempt is untested in recent times.

Further information

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