Parliamentary Privelege Changes To Be Introduced By The Spring, Ministers Say

Proposed changes to the operation of parliamentary privilege are to be set out in a Green Paper before the end of the parliamentary session, the Government has announced.

The consultation document will be published alongside a draft Bill on parliamentary privilege.

In a written ministerial statement Deputy Leader of the House of Commons David Heath said: "In the Green Paper, the Government will consult on the desirability of certain changes that could be made to the operation of parliamentary privilege.

"In that Green Paper, we intend to set out the Government's thinking on each of the principal areas where it has previously been suggested that reform is necessary or desirable.

"Where we believe there is a case to be made for legislative change, this thinking will be supported by clauses in the draft Bill."

Mr Heath said that in line with the commitment in the Coalition Agreement, the Government was considering whether there were potential obstacles that ought to be removed to the prosecution of members of either House for ordinary criminal acts.

The Green Paper will include discussion on whether legislation is necessary or desirable to ensure that the powers of Select Committees can be satisfactorily enforced.

It will also look at whether a statutory definition of proceedings in Parliament is needed and whether there should be changes to the law on reporting of parliamentary proceedings in the media.

Mr Heath said the Government would not be proposing to constrain by legislation the ability of politicians to name in proceedings in Parliament individuals who are the subject of anonymity injunctions made by the courts.

He added the Government believed it would be appropriate for the Green Paper to be considered and for the draft Bill to be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee, and would be holding "early discussions" in both Houses about the establishment of and timetable for such a committee.