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Full details and analysis of Carter Ruck’s new attempt to gag Parliament

October 15, 2009 3 Comments

Having failed to stop the Guardian reporting an MP asking a question about Trafigura and the injunction concerning the Minton report, Carter Ruck is making a second attempt to gag Parliament. The firm has written a 3-page letter to the speaker of the House of Commons - in the middle of which are these two paragraphs (my emphasis):

Until that resolution [of the matter referred to in the injunction], it is not appropriate to comment on the Order [the injunction], other than to make it clear that we and our clients are in no doubt that it was entirely appropriate for us to seek the injunctive relief in question ...

Clearly the question of whether this matter is sub judice is entirely a matter for your [the speaker's] discretion, although we would observe that we believe the proceedings to have been and to remain "Active" within the definition of House Resolution CJ (2001-02) 194-195 of 15 November 2001 in that arrangements have been made for the hearing of an application before the Court.

The resolution being referred to says this (my emphasis):

Matters sub judice

Resolution of 15th November 2001

Resolved, That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, 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 or question.

(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 or discontinuance.

So although they don't spell it out in their letter, they have basically written to the speaker to suggest that this matter is sub judice and should not therefore be discussed in Parliament.

In the same letter, Carter Ruck also say this:

... there has never been any question of Trafigura applying for an injunction that had as its purpose the prevention of publication of any matter arising in Parliament.

No. But they have written a letter suggesting MPs don't discuss the matter in hand - so there wouldn't be any need for an injunction preventing reporting them, as it wouldn't have been discussed.

Fortunately, the resolution says that it is subject to the discretion of the Chair.

Let's hope the speaker uses his discretion wisely.

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