Joint Committee on The Draft Corruption Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 340-347)


21 MAY 2003

  Q340  Lord Waddington: As long as you have got some formulation which brings in the guilty mind, whether you call it dishonesty or breach of duty, then it is a non-problem.

  Professor Sir William McKay: The guilty mind would very much be part of, or consistent with, the solution that I am suggesting.

  Chairman: Are there any more questions on the Declaration of Interests?

  Q341  Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: It is a bit of a cloud-cuckoo land, is it not, because as far as I know the register is, in fact, a public document? Am I not right? I look to the existing Members of the House of Commons but I think the Register of Interests is free and open to the press to quote at any time, is it not?

  Professor Sir William McKay: To the press, yes.

  Q342  Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: If that is so it is a strange world if it is open to the public and everybody knows what it is in it but the only people who cannot be told are the courts and it might have a relevance.

  Professor Sir William McKay: That is the kind of inverse of the sub judice rule. The sub judice rule bites on the House but not on the press because of the damage the House can do to a case. I cannot see how you can say that the Register of Interests is not a proceeding in Parliament.

  Q343  Lord Carlisle of Bucklow: No.

  Professor Sir William McKay: But if it is a proceeding in Parliament, as you say, my Lord, it is there, it is a fact or not, and the courts can perfectly readily take account of it. Even if we have to invent some machinery to get it in front of them, as we used to have machinery to get Hansard in front of the courts by petition.

  Q344  Vera Baird: Could Hansard be used in evidence to show that the Member of Parliament was there, ie perhaps an alibi?

  Professor Sir William McKay: I have no knowledge of any such case. I am pleased to say before I retired I did not have to answer the question. One's instinct is yes, of course, the Member who is accused of burglary was that night speaking in the House of Commons. That must be right.

  Q345  Baroness Whitaker: The clerks whom you have quoted I think were just in Australia. I just wondered if your clerk discourse included the Clerk of the Parliament of South Africa because they have a new Corruption Act, although we have not seen it, and perhaps they have dealt with this problem in some way.

  Professor Sir William McKay: I plead ignorance, I am sorry. I have not had that much active contact with the South Africans on this aspect.

  Q346  Chairman: Can I just ask a different question. How does the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards fit into this? How would he fit in if Article 9 went? If in the course of a hearing of misconduct by a Member corruption raises its head, what does he do about it? Does he refer it to the police or does he investigate it?

  Professor Sir William McKay: I think the answer, and the Committee will wish to confirm this, was given by Sir Gordon Downey who said that if he came across something criminal he would report it to the committee and the police, and the committee would not proceed if there was some criminal charge potentially to be brought.

  Q347  Chairman: An allegation of corruption would be criminal, so he would not investigate it?

  Professor Sir William McKay: He would put the brake on.

  Chairman: Thank you. Would any of my colleagues like to follow that up? Sir William, we are very grateful to you. With your unrivalled experience of the Commons and various matters it has been very, very helpful to have you here. Thank you very much.

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