Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege
INVITATION TO SUBMIT EVIDENCE
The House of Lords and the House of Commons
have established a joint committee of the two Houses to review
parliamentary privilege. The Joint Committee consists of 12 members.
Parliamentary privilege consists of those rights
and immunities which the two Houses and their members must have
in order to carry out their work properly. It includes the right
to speak freely and without fear in Parliament, and the right
of each House to regulate its own affairs free from outside interference,
including the courts. Parliamentary privilege is not a licence
for members of Parliament to behave in ways which are unacceptable
to society at large. It has its roots deep in history, and as
it has developed over the centuries it has in some respects become
obscure and uncertain. It is full of technicalities. The Joint
Committee will be looking at ways to clarify the whole subject
and make it better understood both in Parliament and outside.
The Joint Committee will be investigating:
what is the purpose and scope of
what uncertainties are there at present
in the application of parliamentary privilege?
should the scope and application
of parliamentary privilege be modified to meet present day needs:
what are the essential protections each House needs for the proper
conduct of parliamentary business as we move towards the 21st
what are the merits of having the
necessary protections of the two Houses codified, either comprehensively
or in part, in legislation or in a new set of Resolutions of each
is there a more modern and better
phrase to replace "parliamentary privilege"?
what are the issues arising out of
Article 9 of the Bill of Rights (1688) and freedom of speech?
what remedies should there be for
citizens wronged by words or actions in Parliament?
what is the scope of the phrase (used
in the Bill of Rights) "proceedings in Parliament":
what aspects of parliamentary activity (in addition to freedom
of speech) should be treated as "proceedings in Parliament"?
what issues arise from the exclusive
jurisdiction of the two Houses over their members and internal
what issues arise from Members' freedom
from arrest and molestation and protection from outside interference?
what response should Parliament make
to the announcement by the Government that it intends to legislate
on corruption? Should the improper influencing or bribery or attempted
bribery of Members of either House be subject to the criminal
law and the jurisdiction of the courts? If so, are safeguards
necessary to protect Members' freedom of speech? The Joint Committee
wishes to make an early report on the improper influencing or
bribery of Members.
section 13 of the Defamation Act
1996: to what extent (if any) should proceedings in Parliament
be subject to the scrutiny of the courts in actions for defamation?
what in modern circumstances should
constitute contempt of the House: should those actions which either
House may treat as a contempt be codified either by Resolution
or in Standing Orders or even in legislation?
the powers of each House to punish
those who have committed contempts of the House; whether the penalties
for contempt of the two Houses need to be modified and updated
(for example, should the Commons have the same power as the Lords
to impose fines on non-Members, and should the two Houses have
power to award damages?);
what are the implications for parliamentary
any other relevant issues;
and the lessons which can be drawn
at Westminster from the experience of other countries with similar
The Joint Committee welcomes written submissions
from anyone who wishes to comment on all or any of these points.
Submissions should be made not later than 13 January 1998 and
sent to the Clerk of the Journals, House of Lords, London SW1A
25 November 1997