Parliamentary Privilege First Report

Annex B


 (a)   Definition of `Proceedings in Parliament' proposed by the Joint Committee on the Publication of Proceedings in Parliament, 1970[428]:

  1.  (1)  For the purpose of the defence of absolute privilege in an action or prosecution for defamation the expression "proceedings in Parliament" shall without prejudice to the generality thereof include:

    (a)  all things said done or written by a Member or by any Officer of either House of Parliament or by any person ordered or authorised to attend before such House, in or in the presence of such House and in the course of a sitting of such House, and for the purpose of the business being or about to be transacted, wherever such sitting may be held and whether or not it be held in the presence of strangers to such House: provided that for the purpose aforesaid the expression "House" shall be deemed to include any Committee sub-Committee or other group or body of Members or Members and Officers of either House of Parliament appointed by or with the authority of such House for the purpose of carrying out any of the functions of or of representing such House; and

    (b)  all things said done or written between Members or between Members and Officers of either House of Parliament or between Members and Ministers of the Crown for the purpose of enabling any Member or any such Officer to carry out his functions as such provided that publication thereof be not wider than is reasonably necessary for that purpose.

  (2)  In this section "Member" means a Member of either House of Parliament; and "Officer of either House of Parliament" means any person not being a Member whose duties require him from time to time to participate in proceedings in Parliament as herein defined.

  The 1970 Joint Committee offered two alternative additions to paragraphs (2) of their recommended definition:


    (I)  `and who should be in the opinion of the Court be entitled in the public interest to the same absolute privilege in relation to an action or prosecution for defamation as a Member'.


    (II)  `and who is a member of a class of person from time to time designated by the Lord Chancellor or by Mr Speaker for purposes of this section'.

  In alternative (I)—wrote the 1970 Joint Committee—the decision would be taken by the courts after hearing evidence as to the Officer's duties and argument as to what the public interest required; this was the position at common law in relation to the defence of absolute privilege when claimed by an officer of state. Alternative (II), by contrast, left to Parliament itself, acting through the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker, the judgement of what the public interest required. The 1970 Joint Committee noted the advantage that by this method litigation on the subject might be avoided, through there was room for argument over the definition of class of person.

  The 1970 Joint Committee expressed a preference for alternative (I); and their view was shared by the Faulks Committee in 1975. Two years later however the Committee of Privileges came out strongly in favour of alternative (II) in relation to proceedings of the House of Commons. They took the view that only the House should decide what it requires to be done as part of its proceedings, and therefore a certificate from the Speaker in respect of Officers of the Commons was the appropraite way to determine the matter.

 (b)   Definition of `Proceedings in Parliament' contained in s. 16(2) of the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 (Australia)

  `(2)  For the purposes of the provisions of article 9 of the Bill of Rights, 1688 as applying in relation to the Parliament, and for the purposes of this section, `proceedings in Parliament' means all words spoken and acts done in the course of, or for purposes of or incidental to, the transacting of the business of a House or of a Committee, and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes—

    (a)  the giving of evidence before a House or a Committee, and evidence so given;

    (b)  the presentations of submission of a document to a House or a committee;

    (c)  the preparation of a document for purposes of or incidental to the transacting of any such business; and

    (d)  the formulation, making or publication of a document, including a report, by or pursuant to an order of a House or a committee and the document so formulated, made or published'.

428   Second Report (1969-70) HL 109, HC 261, paragraphs 27-30. Back

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