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There have been developments in parliamentary privilege since the last major review by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege report in 1999. There was renewed interest from the Government in legislation following suggestions that prosecuting former Members for alleged expenses abuse might involve issues of privilege. In the event, the Chaytor case found that parliamentary privilege was not engaged. More recently, the question of clarifying select committee powers has been raised, following the report from the Culture Media and Sport Committee on News International and Phone Hacking in May 2012.

The Government issued a green paper entitled Parliamentary Privilege on 26 April 2012, to begin a consultation on parliamentary privilege. The Paper included draft clauses on:

• removing the protection of Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689 from Members accused of various criminal offences;

• giving power to the House of Commons to allow lay members of House of Commons Standards Committee to vote in proceedings of the committee;

• amending the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840 to rebalance the burden of proof in favour of reporters;

• amending the same Act to provide unambiguous protection for broadcasts of proceedings whose broadcasting has been authorised in by the House together with a qualified protection for broadcasts of parliamentary proceedings not authorised by the House.

The paper stated that it would be right for Parliament to have a proper opportunity to reflect through the vehicle of a Joint Committee.

The Joint Committee was established on 9 January 2013 and its report was published on 3 July 2013. The report recommended against comprehensive codification of parliamentary privilege, but for clarification of the penal powers of both Houses and welcomed a change of heart by the Government on the recommendations to disapply privilege in respect of criminal prosecutions. The report also recommended reform of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1840 and legislation to excuse Members of either House from jury service. It decided against legislation to confer rights on non-voting members of the Commons Standards Committee. Finally, it called for a restoration in the House of Commons of the sessional orders preventing the obstruction of Members in the streets leading to the House.

For authoritative procedural advice on parliamentary privilege, Members should contact the Clerk of the Journals.

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