Parliamentary Privilege Minutes of Evidence

Letter from the Chairman to the Lord Chief Justice

  Thank you very much indeed for your memorandum of 2 February 1998 and your helpfully full observations in advance of the meeting of 17 February 1998.

  I hesitate to add to the lengthy shopping list I have already given you, but there is one further point on which your assistance would be welcome at the meeting. It is this. Increasingly one or other of the Houses, through their corporate officers (see the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, sections 1 and 2) and in other ways as well, enter into contracts, for example, for building and repair works. In addition, officials and staff are employed under contracts of employment, and disputes do arise regarding wrongful or unfair dismissal. Disputes can also arise following accidents to persons working in or visiting the Palace of Westminster. When disputes arise and litigation ensues, questions may and do arise regarding the discoverability of relevant documents, which may be the minutes of a committee or sub-committee of one of the Houses. Similarly, questions may arise concerning oral evidence on what happened at a meeting of a committee or sub-committee.

  Plainly it would seem unsatisfactory for these sorts of litigation not to be attended by the usual evidential consequences, even though this would involve incursion into the general immunity afforded by article IX. Do you agree? Where, and on what principle, do you think the boundary line should be drawn in this regard?

  Please feel under no obligation to respond to this further letter before the meeting of 17 February.

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