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House of Commons Background Paper: Disciplinary and Penal Powers of the House of Commons

Published Tuesday, November 27, 2012

This Note provides information on rules covering disciplinary and penal powers of the House of Commons.

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"To the end that all the Debates in this House should be grave and orderly, as becomes so great an Assembly; and that all Interruptions should be prevented; Be it Ordered and Declared, That no Member of this House do presume to make any Noise or Disturbance, whilst any Member shall be orderly debating, or whilst any Bill, Order or other Matter, shall be in reading or opening: And, in case of such Noise or Disturbance, that Mr Speaker do call upon the Member, by Name, making such Disturbance: And that every such Person shall incur the Displeasure and Censure of the House."

Commons Journal 22 January 1693

The right of House of Commons to discipline offenders has been established by precedent and accepted by the courts. The Commons’ power to commit offenders was exercised frequently until the end of the nineteenth century and repeatedly recognised by the courts. The Commons' ultimate power of discipline over one of its own Members is expulsion, thereby creating a vacancy and subsequent by-election in that Member's constituency. This power has not been exercised for decades. The House also has various powers, albeit rarely used nowadays, to punish strangers (i.e. non-Members) who offend it in some way. For authoritative guidance, see Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice (24th ed 2011).

Standard Note 2430 Members suspended from the House of Commons lists MPs who have been suspended from the chamber since the second world war.

Commons Briefing papers SN06487

Author: Oonagh Gay

Topics: House of Commons, Members of Parliament, Parliament

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