Parliamentary Privilege and the Owen Paterson Affair

Friday, 05 November 2021 | David Janes

The elephant in the room concerning the Owen Paterson tribulations, which appears to have been barely mentioned, is surely the thorny issue of Parliamentary Privilege.

The powers of Kathryn Stone OBE, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, derive from Parliament (see Rule 19 of the Code of Conduct, 1st August 2018, HC1471, Rule 18 of Code HC1076).

Thus, although the Commissioner performs both an investigative and quasi-judicial function, her process is  not amenable to judicial review or other appeal to the Courts (see Al Fayed v Parliamentary Commisioner for Standards 1997EWCA ).  This is in sharp contradistinction to investigative and/or quasi-judicial functions performed by all other public figures (outside of the cloak of Parliamentary Privilege).

Any new or amended procedure  introduced into investigations and process carried out by the Commissioner,  will actually have no bearing on this lack of redress or appeal to the Courts, unless the scope and ambit of Parliamentary Privilege itself is remodelled so as to exclude such investigations.

Without this safeguard, the rights and protections of any Member of Parliament (regardless of his political belief or party) are curtailed and he or she may be subject to an investigation and decision in respect of alleged wrongdoing, without redress to the Court and hence without ultimate protections of his or her rights as enshrined under the Human Rights Act and the Access to Justice afforded to all other citizens whose reputation is subject to condemnation by a public officer.

It is submitted that whatever one’s political beliefs or creed, this situation should be remedied, in fairness to all concerned.

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