Parliamentary Privileges Report

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100 - 104)



  100. I was on the Standards and Privileges Committee, as you know, and it is Dale Campbell-Savours who has been arguing there but it was taken out when the resolution went to the House and there was no provision made for a Sub-Committee.
  (Sir Donald Limon) I do not think that is the case, Mr Williams. I think the power to set up Sub-Committees was given to the Committee. It chose not to use it. That is the fact.
  (Mr McKay) One of the principal differences in the protection of persons before the Standards and Privileges Committee in the Commons is that it is not the practice to allow counsel.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden

  101. But you can have a lawyer sitting beside you?
  (Mr McKay) Yes.


  102. Are the penal powers of the two Houses, in your view, appropriate or adequate today?
  (Sir Donald Limon) I do not think they are really, no.

  103. In what respects are they not appropriate or adequate today?
  (Sir Donald Limon) I think that the ability to fine is something which should be again considered. I think—Mr McKay will correct me if I am wrong—if the House decided to fine a Member, if the power is still there—it is a very long time indeed since it was used, as we all know—it would be rather a shock to the world if we started to use it again, but I think it is something which should be considered. After all, in the days when it was used I do not think Members were actually paid a salary, as they now are, and there are certain sanctions. We saw a parallel to that. If a Member is suspended from service to the House he does lose his salary and that in a sense is a fine, but I think a straight fine might be a more acceptable way of dealing with these matters. Whether it would be acceptable outside I am not quite so sure, but I think to rule out fines would be a mistake.
  (Mr McKay) But I think the parallel must be made between the kind of sanctions which the Houses possess and the quality of the process to which they subject those upon whom the sanctions are visited.

  104. The last thing I would like to mention to you concerns nomenclature. The phrase "parliamentary privilege" is apt inevitably to create the wrong impression. Do you have any suggestions for a succinct better alternative?
  (Sir Donald Limon) We have not any suggestions today but I think my colleagues I am leaving behind will have to think about that one. I agree entirely with you that the word "privileges" is particularly difficult in this day and age. I do not think "contempt" is all that much better but it is better than "privileges". Perhaps somebody can think of something. I do not believe any of our Commonwealth colleagues have actually attempted an answer to that particular question.
  (Mr McKay) And the Committee on Privilege in 1966-67 tried but it did not take.

  Chairman: Unless any of the other Members have any further questions, I would like to thank you again for your attendance and say how much we look forward to receiving your joint memorandum, which has been discussed, in due course. Thank you.

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Prepared 9 April 1999