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 an MP against action for defamation arising from his parliamentary activities. A defendant in an action for defamation by an MP might wish to challenge statements made to Parliament, and if he was unfairly prejudiced by the inability to do so, the action could be stayed. The Act allowed an MP complainant to waive privilege. It was not limited to situations where the defence might constitute an attack on Parliament itself, and included an attack on evidence given to a Parliamentary committee.
Lord Browne-Wilkinson said: ‘It is in my judgment firmly established that courts are precluded from entertaining in any proceedings (whatever the issue which may be at stake in those proceedings) evidence, questioning or submissions designed to show that a witness in parliamentary proceedings deliberately misled Parliament. To mislead Parliament is itself a breach of the code of parliamentary behaviour and liable to be disciplined by Parliament.’


Lord Browne-Wilkinson


Times 28-Mar-2000, Gazette 06-Apr-2000, [2000] 2 All ER 224, [2000] UKHL 18, [2001] 1 AC 395


House of Lords, House of Lords, House of Lords, Bailii


Defamation Act 1996 13, Bill of Rights 1869 9


England and Wales


CitedPrebble 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 . .
CitedChurch 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 . .
CitedRegina 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 . .
CitedPickin 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: . .
Appeal fromHamilton v Al Fayed CA 26-Mar-1999
A member of Parliament was able to proceed with an action for defamation in respect of matters of which he had been criticised by the appropriate committee in Parliament. The trial would not impeach Parliament though retrying the issues. Lord Woolf . .

Cited by:

CitedJennings 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 . .
CitedWeir and others v Secretary of State for Transport and Another ChD 14-Oct-2005
The claimants were shareholders in Railtrack. They complained that the respondent had abused his position to place the company into receivership so as to avoid paying them compensation on a repurchase of the shares. Mr Byers was accused of ‘targeted . .
CitedOffice of Government Commerce v Information Commissioner and Another Admn 11-Apr-2008
The Office appealed against decisions ordering it to release information about the gateway reviews for the proposed identity card system, claiming a qualified exemption from disclosure under the 2000 Act.
Held: The decision was set aside for . .
CitedChaytor and Others, Regina v CACD 30-Jul-2010
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 . .
CitedMakudi v Baron Triesman of Tottenham In London Borough of Haringey QBD 1-Feb-2013
The claimant, former chairman of the Thailand Football Association, claimed in defamation against the defendant who had been chairman of the English Football Association. The defendant asked the court to strike out the claim, saying that some of the . .
CitedShergill and Others v Khaira and Others SC 11-Jun-2014
The parties disputed the trusts upon which three Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) were held. The Court of Appeal had held that the issues underlying the dispute were to be found in matters of the faith of the Sikh parties, and had ordered a permanent stay. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Constitutional, Defamation

Updated: 09 September 2022; Ref: scu.159052