Procedure Committee

Session 2003-03 No. 13  10 November 2004


Public Petitions, together with the Minutes of Proceedings relating to the Report, will be published as the Fifth Report of Session 2003-04, HC 1248, at 11.00 a.m. on Monday 15 November.

The Report arises from two recommendations relating to Public Petitions, made by the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons in its recent Report Connecting Parliament with the Public, concerning the role of select committees in relation to petitions, and the current rule that the top sheet should be hand-written.

There will be no advance copies and no press conference.  Copies of the Report will be placed in the Press Gallery at the time of publication and may be  purchased in The Stationery Office Bookshops or ordered from The Stationery Office by telephone (08457 023474). The Report will also be made available on these pages on the day of publication.


The Committee has decided to hold an inquiry into the sub judice rule, currently set out in a Resolution of the House of Commons on 15 November 2001.  Among the subjects which the Committee expects to consider are:

•What is the purpose of the rule: preventing prejudicing of court proceedings, or comity between courts and Parliament (keeping out of each other's areas of responsibility)?

•If the rule is to prevent prejudice: is there a distinction between jury and non-jury proceedings?

•Should the rule be stricter than that applying elsewhere, e.g. to newspapers?

•How closely does the matter have to relate to a case to fall within the rule?

•Is the 'cases … shall not be referred to' provision too restrictive? Would it be justifiable to refer to a case in terms of how long it is taking, rather than on its merits?

•Should coroners' courts be excluded, on the basis of nobody being on trial, and proceedings often being protracted?

The Committee plans to take oral evidence and would welcome written evidence on any of the individual topics listed or other issues falling within the general scope of the inquiry.

The Rule, which restricts mention of active court cases in debates, etc., in the House, was last altered following a report by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege in 1999.

Written evidence may be e-mailed, preferably in Word format, to or posted to the Clerk of the Committee, Simon Patrick, at the Journal Office, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.  It would be helpful if such evidence could arrive by Friday 10 December.

A guide for those planning to give oral or written evidence to select committees is available from the Clerk or on these pages at:


On Monday 8 November 2004, Mr Peter Atkinson (Con, Hexham) was discharged from the Committee, and Mr John Bercow (Con, Buckingham) added.