Freedom of Speech, Privilege and Expenses
There is a lot of confusion in the media about the attempt by those being prosecuted for Fraud to claim that the expeneses regime falls within Article IX of the Bill of Rights.
It is important that MPs are allowed to speak freely in the Houses of Parliament about issues. What you do not want is people being tied up in legal proceedings and unable to speak the truth about the problems faced by their constituents.
I have provided considerable information to the Standards and Privileges committee in part based upon work done by an Irish Barrister Kieron Wood. This submission is privileged and as such I cannot publish it at the moment. It will, however, be published later.
Whether something falls within the ambit of Article IX of the Bill of Rights is determined both by the courts and also by parliament. This is the principle of comity.
It is quite clear that this does not include the salary and expenses of a Member of Parliament. If it did, then there would be no tax. Furthermore legislation has made specific reference to the second home expenses of MPs. That indicates that parliament has legislated to ensure that the treatment of MPs expenses and salary is the same as for any other role.
The Labour Party's solicitors may intend to try this out as a defence, but it can easily be knocked out by the CPS. There is a mass of precedent that justifies this as well as various statutes in place.
The underlying test for contempt of parliament is whether something outside parliament has the effect of preventing parliament doing its job. I cannot see anyone arguing the ludicrous case that it is necessary for MPs to fiddle expenses so that they can do their job.