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Parliamentary Privilege

Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Government made a commitment in the programme for government to

“prevent the possible misuse of Parliamentary privilege by MPs accused of serious wrongdoing.”

In April 2012 the Government published a Green Paper that gave detailed consideration as to whether a change in the law is needed with regard to parliamentary privilege. The Green Paper focused on the following main areas:

freedom of speech and whether the protection of privilege should be disapplied in cases of alleged criminality;

exclusive cognisance and the desirability of a number of possible reforms in this area, for example codifying the two Houses’ enforceable powers; and

other privileges that do not fall under the two main headings of freedom of speech and exclusive cognisance such as the desirability of changes to the law on reporting of parliamentary proceedings.

These issues were scrutinised by a Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, whose subsequent report made a number of recommendations. The Government’s responses form part of the Command Paper on parliamentary privilege, which has been published today.

The Government are grateful to the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege for its detailed consideration of this issue; these are Parliament’s privileges and it is therefore right for Parliament to have a proper opportunity to reflect on their continuing purpose.

The Government continue to believe, and share the opinion of the Joint Committee, that there is no strong case for a comprehensive codification of privilege. However, as rightly recognised in the Joint Committee’s report, this does not mean that steps cannot be taken both by Parliament and by Government to clarify and improve the application of privilege where appropriate.

Further details of the Government’s response to the report of the Joint Committee are in the “Government’s Response to the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege” Command Paper (ref Cm 8771), laid before Parliament today.