Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Parliamentary Privilege and the expenses claims - Supreme Court judgment

The Supreme Court has issued judgment in the Parliamentary "Expenses Claims" case - see here.  A press summary is available - here.  For the earlier Law and Lawyers posts on this see here.  The Supreme Court has clarified that it is for the courts to determine what is a "proceeding in Parliament" when interpreting Article IX of the Bill of Rights.  Nevertheless, the court would pay careful regard to views expressed in Parliament.

Contrary to some views expressed in the media, the men were never claiming that they were somehow "above the law."  Rather, they argued that a special aspect of the law offered them a defence in to a criminal charge.  Neverthless, it is a pity that Parliament has not taken opportunities to reform the law in this area and that such costly proceedings have occurred.  In 1999, Parliament published "Parliamentary Privilege - First Report."  This contains a detailed discussion of Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689.  The report also made a number of recommendations which do not seem to have been actioned.  They included a call for Parliament to clarify the scope of the prohibition in Article IX and that the term "proceeding in Parliament" should be defined as was the case, since 1987, in Australia.

A separate line of argument that the claims were within Parliament's "exclusive jurisdiction" was also rejected.

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