Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Eighth Report


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

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