Letter to the Chairman of the Committee
on Standards and Privileges from The Speaker
Last Wednesday Points of Order were raised with me
concerning the responsibilities of Members who receive leaked
copies of Select Committee Reports before publication. In particular
I was asked whether a Member in such a position should sit on
the document or report having received it; and whether reporting
a leaked document to the House amounted to a breach of privilege.
I undertook to reflect on these issues.
My view on what is or is not a breach of privilege
is of course simply advisory. Only the House can decide if a breach
of privilege or a contempt has occurred. The fundamental responsibility
of Members who find themselves in possession of leaked committee
papers must be to act in a way which does not impede the committee
in the discharge of its responsibilities to the House. I know
of no analogous instances, however, where the House has come to
a decision that would enable me to draw up guidance for general
application in such circumstances. It is nevertheless a matter
on which I believe Members would find it helpful to have a ruling
and I would be grateful if the Standards and Privileges Committee
would take it under consideration.
I am placing a copy of this letter in the Library
of the House.
1 March 1999