Monday, 8 February 2010

Know Your Rights

Very quick post... I've basically been either too busy or too downright exhausted to blog; that's what three weeks of Bill committee and weekends of campaigning does to you. I don't think this should really have to be said, but seeing as if I don't say it, someone may well accuse me of believing otherwise....

Obviously when it comes to the prosecution of Members of Parliament, they should be treated on exactly the same basis as anyone else facing prosecution under the Theft Act, as AJ said at the weekend. Of course, parliamentary privilege has to be there to protect freedom of speech in parliament, otherwise we'd be landed with libel actions or injunctions left, right and centre, but it certainly shouldn't apply to criminal proceedings. I have no idea whether there is any legal basis for arguing otherwise, under the 1689 Bill of Rights, but I think it would be a travesty of justice if there was. Cameron is being his usual opportunistic self in trying to suggest that the Labour Party doesn't think so.

Incidentally, Cameron has also suggested that Gordon has been slow to act in suspending the three MPs from the party. That's how it works under the Labour Party constitution. If someone is charged with a criminal offence, they are placed under administrative suspension until the case is concluded. Disciplinary suspension is a different process, which can be used as an alternative to expulsion if wrongdoing is found; i.e. it's a response to proven wrongdoing, not just allegations of it. These rules apply across the board, so the MPs are being treated exactly the same as any local councillor would be. It would no doubt get all the right headlines if we were to expel them from the Party now, but it wouldn't be just to do so. (And note - these MPs have already been barred from standing at the next election, which is probably as close as the Party can and should get to expressing an opinion on their alleged actions without prejudging the outcome of their trial).

1 comment:

garryq said...

I replied to a tweet about this, saying the Labour Party has no desire to see the trial prejudiced by precipitate action. It seems I got it right, as Jack Straw has said the same thing. Pity Cameron is intent on muddying the waters.