Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 16 DECEMBER 1997
MR W R MCKAY
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
(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,
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 thinkMr
McKay will correct me if I am wrongif the House decided
to fine a Member, if the power is still thereit is a very
long time indeed since it was used, as we all knowit 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
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