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Parliamentary Privilege

Volume 542: debated on Thursday 22 March 2012

1. What plans he has for consultation with hon. Members on the Government’s proposal for a draft Bill on parliamentary privilege. (101327)

Which particular aspect of the current system of privilege does the Minister feel is in most need of reform and why?

I am going to have to say to the hon. Gentleman that he will need to read the paper that we are producing, because it will, I hope, be a comprehensive survey of everything that relates to privilege and ask some pertinent questions about whether reform is necessary and whether it would be helpful to Members of this House in going about their business. He will have to be patient and wait for the paper, which we hope to publish before the end of the Session.

I hope that whatever the Government produce will indeed be a “green” paper, because there is one key issue that has to be resolved before we move any further, and that is: should we be putting anything about parliamentary privilege into statute? The danger is that the courts would then choose to interpret our actions and proceedings in this House, which would rather undermine the Glorious Revolution.

For once, I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Green Paper will ask the specific question whether the case has been made for legislation. We have approached this issue with an open mind, and we want to seek the views of both Houses on whether legislating further on parliamentary privilege is either necessary or desirable.