Since Parliamentary Privilege No Longer Exists…

Cranmer sums up the situation over Damian Green very well:

The charge against Damian Green is one of ‘aiding and abetting misconduct in public office’. It is alleged that he received information from a Home Office whistle-blower on the parlous state of affairs within the department, especially pertaining to immigration.

This is a politically-motivated arrest, and it beggars belief that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Secretary knew of it in advance. Is not whistle-blowing on government incompetence manifestly in the public interest? Since when has being in receipt of leaked information been an act of terrorism?

Or is it simply that being in receipt of information which may damage this Labour Government is a de facto act of terrorism?

It is axiomatic that there is freedom of speech in Parliament. The proceedings of parliament cannot be questioned in a court of law or any other body outside of parliament itself.

Perhaps it is time for David Cameron to grab the Mace in the House of Commons, and remind Labour of the limits of its power and where that power truly resides. Parliament is sovereign because Parliament belongs to the people. Parliamentarians are thereby granted privileges and additional liberties which, it has been found by experience, are necessary for holding the Executive to account.

Hundreds of MPs receive leaked information; it is intrinsic to the art of politics. Indeed, the recipients are various media journalist far more frequently than MPs. Are they all now going to insist on some sort of immunity before receiving their brown envelopes?

And again:

It is reported that Michael Martin MP, Speaker of the House of Commons and guardian of its traditions and liberties, personally sanctioned the police raid on Damian Green’s parliamentary office.

Whatever the Prime Minister, Home Secretary of Home Office ministers may be saying, it is inconceivable that anti-terror police would have arrested a member of the Shadow Cabinet without the fore-knowledge of Ministers of the Crown. If they did, they have presumed an authority over Parliament, and rolled back the constitutional clock to the era of Cromwell.

To hold Her Majesty’s Government to account is the very raison d’être of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. It is the role of the Speaker to not only facilitate this, but to defend it against external interference and presumed authority.

When King Charles I entered the House in order to search for and arrest five members for high treason, he was met by Speaker Lenthall. The Speaker did not grant the King permission to search the office of the five or betray them to the the investigating authority. When asked where these members were, Speaker Lenthall replied: "May it please your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak in this place but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here."

Speaker Martin’s eyes are misted and his tongue is forked. And he certainly does not serve the interests of the House.

May I suggest that this Wednesday, David Cameron takes the following course of action, seeing as there is (conveniently) no Prime Minister’s Question Time.

On returning to the Commons after the Queen’s Speech

Cameron : Mr Speaker, Point of Information. Can the Prime Minister confirm whether there has been any request to the Metropolitan Police to investigate the leaks last week from the Treasury of substantial content from the PBR, and in particular whether any Government Ministers are likely to be arrested on suspicion of "aiding and abetting misconduct in public office"? Yes or no?

Brown : Usual non-answer to simple yes or no question

Cameron :  Mr Speaker, a further Point of Information. Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether he or the Leader of the House will be asking the Speaker of this House to explain why he allowed members of the Metropolitan Police anti-terrorism branch to raid the Parliamentary Offices of a member of this House, despite such a raid being in clear contravention of the established practice of this House for over 350 years to carry out its work free of the attempt of any external authority to impinge upon that practice? Yes or No?

Brown : Usual non-answer to simple yes or no question

Cameron : Let me give the Prime Minister one more chance to give a clear and simple yes or no to either of the questions I’ve just asked.

Brown : Usual non-answer to simple yes or no question

Cameron : Fine. Mr Speaker, given that the Prime Minister refuses to answer the simplest of questions, and since as one of the leading members of this House he feels unable to defend his colleagues against an invasion of their Parliamentary rights, there seems little point in carrying on this charade. Good day to you.

The entire opposition front bench stands up and walks out of the Chamber

That, my friends, would seriously put the cat amongst the pigeons.

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  • Si

    Brown is denying any ministerial knowledge. Either way it looks bad – either the Met don’t talk to the Government (as BoJo, Cameron, the Speaker, etc were all informed) or Brown is lying.

    As it was a home office investigation, it strikes me as very odd that even the Home Secretary wasn’t told. Is it the case that Sir Humpy et al have had the wool over Smith’s eyes for the 15 months or whatever that she has been Home Secretary? Michael Howard and Ken Clarke have said that if they were still Home Secretary, they would have been told.

    Brown’s denials just lead to more questions…

    As for PMQ – Cameron can mention something about the non-answers making it seem that the PM feels that he is above questioning, above opposition, which would set the tiger among the pidgeons!

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Actually, I’ve just checked and PMQs isn’t happening on Wednesday. I have adjusted my scenario accordingly.

  • Robert Simpson

    As I understand it, MPs do not have and never have had immunity from criminal proceedings (as opposed to civil ones) as part of their parliamentary privilege. Moreover, I am not keen on the idea of ‘sovereignty’ per se, no matter where vested (as far as earthly institutions are concerned, of course): I no more want parliament to take away my rights etc. than I would want the monarch to, or for that matter a referendum of the people.  However, all that said, I agree the whole affair is extraordinary, and somewhat worrying. You would expect that the government would have had the nous to cover their own backs (if nothing else) better than this and I wonder whether they really have been caught on the hop by police chiefs and/or civil servants. But before I start slinging condemnations right left and centre (particularly at people I dislike anyway – the temptation is just too great, and besides it reminds me too much of the way the Commons behaves)  I would want to find out what really happened – something that usually takes a while to come out in cases such as these.

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