Parliamentary Privilege First Report


Memorandum by the Bill of Rights Appreciation Society

SUBMISSION TO JOINT COMMITTEE ON PARLIAMENTARY PRIVILEGE

  The lawful basis for the right of Parliamentary privilege is given under Article Nine of the Declaration and Bill of Rights 1689, a core constitutional statute, still fully operative. As you will be aware, the Bill of Rights was enacted to reaffirm the rights, customs and ancient laws of England, which had become "lately endangered." One of our very basic rights, enjoyed in perpetuity, is the presumption of innocence. This principle is clearly reinforced by Article Twelve of the Bill of Rights, wherein is stated . . . "That all Grants and Promises of Fines and Forfeitures before conviction are illegal and void."

  Since the Committee is discussing Members' rights and freedoms, it is right to consider that my guaranteed rights under the unimpeachable Bill of Rights, and those of many tens of thousands of Her Majesty's loyal subjects, have been "lately endangered" and denied. Those amongst us who legally indulged in the sport of target pistol shooting have seen their property forcibly removed from them in what was effectively an exercise in collective guilt for the crimes of Thomas Hamilton. During debates within the House of Commons on the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, George Robertson MP revealed the name and address of a Mr David Proctor, of Elstree, a shooter from whom Robertson had received correspondence. He thereby endangered Mr Proctor and his family, who were subjected to a hate campaign. Although a flagrant and serious misuse of Parliamentary privilege, Robertson was protected by Article Nine of the Bill of Rights.

  Members of both Houses are required by their oath of allegiance to have due respect for the Law, as it applies to all. Our investigations have revealed an ignorance of the existence of the Bill of Rights 1689. It nevertheless remains a Statute in Force, embodying a clear set of principles which were not intended to be eroded by subsequent lawmaking. I therefore entreat this Committee, in the interests of justice and democracy, to seek the means to restore the Rule of Law by the repealing of laws which are unconstitutional and retrospective, as are the Firearms Acts. The presumption of innocence must be restored to those subjectswho, although not guilty of any crime, have had their lawfully held property forcibly removed from them before conviction, in direct conflict with Article Twelve, and whose right to arms for defence, under Article Seven of the Bill of Rights is also denied them.

  Here in England, we have an inherited Crown, inherited Peerage, and a House of Commons and a people inheriting privileges, franchises and liberties from a long line of ancestors. In short, rights and freedoms which belong to us all. Long may it remain so, but only if the rights accorded to Her Majesty's subjects in Law are as sacrosant as those given under the same statute to Her Majesty's Government.

3 March 1998


 
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Prepared 9 April 1999