The defendants had been members of the Houses of Commons and of Lords. They faced charges of dishonesty in respect of their expenses claims. They now appealed a finding that they were not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament under parliamentary privilege, and could therefore be prosecuted iin the normal criminal courts.
Held: The appeals failed as to the principle of the question, but any court hearing the case would have to consider whether any item of evidence was used in breach.
Parliamentary privilege is the principle ‘that members of Parliament should be entitled as a matter of incontrovertible right to speak their minds with total freedom. Subject only to self imposed parliamentary ordinance, this is nothing more and nothing less than an absolute, uncircumscribed, and indeed cherished, entitlement.’ In particular ‘the privilege of individual members is concerned with what may be described as their involvement in the legislative process.’ Approved Constitutional reports had recommended that whilst parliamentary privilege remained essential, it should be kept restricted.
‘Submitting a claim for expenses has nothing to do with ‘the need to ensure the member’s entitlement to speak freely without fear’; nor does it involve the exercise of his or her ‘real’ or ‘essential’ functions or his or her ‘core activities’. It is true that a member may need to spend money and recover expenses or allowances in order to perform these functions, but that does not render the incurring and claiming of expenses or allowances a core or essential activity of Parliament: indeed the incurring and claiming of expenses would be, as we have already suggested, classic ancillary activities. If it were otherwise, a member travelling to and from Parliament might be thought to be immune from prosecution for dangerous driving, or evading payment for his rail ticket. In truth, it is impossible to see how subjecting dishonest claims for expenses to criminal investigation would offend against the rationale for parliamentary privilege, or obstruct any member of the House from performing his or her duties.’
Lord Judge LCJ, Neuberger MR LJ,
 EWCA Crim 1910,  WLR (D) 214,  2 Cr App Rep 34
Bill of Rights 1688 9
England and Wales
Cited – Rex v Eliot, Hollis and Valentine 1629
Proceedings were taken in the King’s Bench against three members of the House of Commons, who were charged with seditious speeches, contempt of the King (Charles I) in resisting the adjournment of the House and with conspiracy to keep the Speaker in . .
Cited – Jay v Topham 1684
The defendant was serjeant at arms to the House of Commons. Acting under orders from the House, for an alleged contempt of it, he arrested the plaintiff and others. The plaintiff now sued for false imprisonment.
Held: The court overruled the . .
Appeal from – Regina v Morley; Regina v Chaytor; Regina v Devine; Regina v Lord Hanningfield CC 11-Jun-2010
(Southwark Crown Court) The defendants faced charges of false accounting in connection with expense claims as members of parliament, three of the House of Commons and one of the Lords. Each claimed that the matter was covered by Parliamentary . .
Cited – Prebble v Television New Zealand Ltd PC 27-Jun-1994
(New Zealand) The plaintiff, an MP, pursued a defamation case. The defendant wished to argue for the truth of what was said, and sought to base his argument on things said in Parliament. The plaintiff responded that this would be a breach of . .
Cited – Jennings v Buchanan PC 14-Jul-2004
(New Zealand) (Attorney General of New Zealand intervening) The defendant MP had made a statement in Parliament which attracted parliamentary privilege. In a subsequent newspaper interview, he said ‘he did not resile from his claim’. He defended the . .
Cited – Sir Francis Burdett, Bart v The Right Hon Charles Abbot KBD 1811
Speaker’s Powers to Arrest House Members
To an action of trespass against the Speaker of the House of Commons for forcibly, and, with the assistance of armed soldiers, breaking into the messuage of the plaintiff (the outer door being shut and fastened,) and arresting him there, and taking . .
Cited – Wellesley v The Duke Of Beaufort; Mr Long Wellesley’s Case 28-Jul-1831
A member of Parliament asserted parliamentary immunity from the consequences of having abducted his child. Lord Brougham LC said: ‘how incumbent it is upon the courts of law to defend their high and sacred duty of guarding the lives, the liberties, . .
Cited – Stockdale v Hansard 1839
Bailii It is no defence in law to an action for publishing a libel, that defamatory matter is part of a order of the House of Commons, laid before the House, and thereupon became part of the proceedings of the . .
Cited – Federation of Tour Operators and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v HM Revenue and Customs and others Admn 4-Sep-2007
The claimants complained that the sudden doubling of Airport Passenger Duty was unlawful since it had not been possible to recover this from customers, and was in breach of the Convention.
Held: The claim failed. The cost to the applicants as . .
Cited – Toussaint v Attorney General of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines PC 16-Jul-2007
(Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) The claimant complained of the compulsory purchase of his land. He alleged that the compulsory purchase was discriminatory or illegitimate expropriation: an allegation of impropriety. He sought to base this on . .
Cited – Bradlaugh v Gossett 9-Feb-1884
Bradlaugh, though duly elected Member for a Borough, was refused by the Speaker to administer oath and was excluded from the House by the serjeant at arms. B challenged the action.
Held: The matter related to the internal management of the . .
Cited – Attorney-General of Ceylon v de Livera PC 1963
A member of the House of Representatives was offered 5,000 rupees for writing to the Minister of Lands and Development withdrawing an application previously made to the Minister to acquire an estate. The offeror was found guilty of offering a . .
Cited – Pickin v British Railways Board HL 30-Jan-1974
Courts Not to Investigate Parliament’s Actions
It was alleged that the respondent had misled Parliament to secure the passing of a private Act. The claimant said that the land taken from him under the Act was no longer required, and that he should be entitled to have it returned.
Held: . .
Cited – Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart HL 26-Nov-1992
Reference to Parliamentary Papers behind Statute
The inspector sought to tax the benefits in kind received by teachers at a private school in having their children educated at the school for free. Having agreed this was a taxable emolument, it was argued as to whether the taxable benefit was the . .
Cited – Church of Scientology of California v Johnson-Smith QBD 1971
The plaintiff church sued the defendant, a Member of Parliament, for remarks made by the defendant in a television programme. He pleaded fair comment and the plaintiff replied with a plea of malice, relying on statements made in Parliament. The . .
Cited – Sharma v Brown-Antoine, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions and others PC 30-Nov-2006
(Trinidad and Tobago) Complaint was made as to a decision to begin professional discliplinary proceedings against a senior member of the judiciary.
Held: Although a decision to prosecute was in principle susceptible to judicial review on the . .
Cited – Hamilton v Al Fayed HL 23-Mar-2000
The claimant MP sued the defendant in defamation after he had alleged that the MP had corruptly solicited and received payments and benefits in kind as a reward for parliamentary services rendered.
Held: Parliament has protected by privilege . .
Cited – Regina v Greenaway CC 25-Jun-1992
(Central Criminal Court) The defendant Member of Parliament had faced charges of accepting bribes in return for advancing the interests of a commercial company.
Held: The charges were dismissed on the request of the prosecution after a . .
Cited – Regina v Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Ex Parte Al-Fayed CA 5-Nov-1997
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards had published a report relating to a complaint by the applicant against a Member of Parliament.
Held: The applicant sought permission to challenge this by judicial review. The applicant’s appeal . .
Cited – McGuinness, Re Application for Judicial Review QBNI 3-Oct-1997
The claimant was an MP from Northern Ireland. As an MP he had been required to swear allegiance to the Crown, but he had refused to do so for his belief in an independent Ireland. He challenged the decision of the Speaker of the House to refuse him . .
Appeal from – Chaytor and Others, Regina v SC 1-Dec-2010
The defendants faced trial on charges of false accounting in connection in different ways with their expenses claims whilst serving as members of the House of Commons. They appealed against rejection of their assertion that the court had no . .
Cited – Kimathi and Others v Foreign and Commonwealth Office QBD 20-Dec-2017
Parliamentary privilege The claimants sought to have admitted as evidence extracts from Hansard in support of their claim for damages arising from historic claims.
Held: The court set out the authorities and made orders as to each element. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 November 2021; Ref: scu.421214