Parliamentary Privilege First Report

Memorandum by the Trade Union Side of the House of Commons Whitley Committee


  The Trade Union Side of the House of Commons Whitley Committee welcomes the chance of commenting on the issue of parliamentary privilege. Our comments are set out below and are written on behalf of the unionised staff of the House of Commons.


  The employment of persons by the House of Commons should be unambiguously outside the scope of privilege and of privileged status, so that they enjoy full protection under employment, health and safety etc legislation on no worse basis as any other employee.


  A member of staff acting reasonably in execution of his/her duty should have the same protection as a Member of Parliament. This is necessary to allow a proper service to members to be discharged. For example, a Library researcher briefing a Member on an alleged fraud, whether in connection with a Question, Motion or constituency case, should be protected from actions against her/him in respect of any oral or written briefing given; a clerk advising a Select Committee against an action resulting from anything supplied to the Committee. It would be useful to move from certain categories of staff having protection (ie Officers of the House, although we realise the courts would probably interpret "officer" already as meaning any staff member) to categories of activities that are protected whoever carries them out. These activities would have to be carried out in the service of the House and would have to be clearly defined.


  Members of staff should be included in any resolution about bribery of Members of Parliament. For example, it would be as much an offence to bribe a member of staff as a Member.


  We hope that the Joint Committee will find these comments helpful and would welcome the chance to meet members of the Committee to discuss them in greater detail, if necessary.

30 January 1998

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