Lying To Parliament May Become A Criminal Offence, Minister Suggests
Witnesses who lie to MPs while giving evidence to parliamentary committees may face criminal charges, the government has indicated.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, the deputy leader of the House David Heath acknowledged there were "legitimate concerns" about the powers of punishment available to committees.
He said a draft parliamentary privileges Bill would "look afresh whether the powers of the House are appropriate".
The Lib Dem minister was responding to a question from Labour's Chris Bryant. The Rhondda MP raised concerns that witnesses were getting away with lying to Parliament. "We now need a criminal offense of 'parliamentary perjury' when people lie to Parliament," he said.
Heath called on Bryant to be be "a little patient" as ministers were considering the matter.
Bryant has previously claimed that News International executives and Metropolitan police officers have repeatedly lied to MPs on the culture, media and sport committee.
Under current rules MPs do have the power to imprison or fine witnesses for misleads them, but the power is rarely used.
Unlike committee sessions in the United States, witnesses do not give evidence under oath. However the power does exist in Westminster, and in November the public accounts committee forced a senior civil servant to take an oath on a bible after they became convinced he was avoiding their questions.