John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, February 07, 2010
  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.
 
Comments:
John, been pondering this whole matter as David Chaytor was my MP.

Any Person in the EU who is charged with a criminal offence will be entitled to Legal advice and representation at the expense of the public purse.

Would this still enable the 3 MP's and 1 Peer to claim for legal aid as I believe its there right to do this.

If this is the case and the Lawyers for the Labour party and Cons, would they screw the already over stretched legal aid system.

I can see these 4 trials costing millions of punds in any case.

Would the prosecution of the already disgraced MP's be of any benefit to the UK Tax Payer, I cannot see that it would, it is not just finding the MPs guilty, there still is the hidden costs the Tax payer would face, like the Probation service, CPs and any other testement that would be required. I think its all first offences for the MP's as such,checks and balances would be made.

what ever happens in Westminister Mags in the next few weeks will obviously be adjourned and sent to A higher court for determination.

This will take weeks of planning, all the while costing millions in over charged lawyers fees.

Just confused John, as you know, I know the courts all too well, I am just looking at this from my point of view, and think deep down I cannot see any benefit of charging let alone expecting these MP's to go to Jail. Yes they got their hands caught in the Till and they must face the punishment but look at the way I see it.

A benefit Cheat might just get a fine, ordered to pay the money back, rarely do they go to Jail, I cannot see any difference with that to what the MP's have done. The Tax payer and the Voter was still Screwed.

I am not defending the Mp's, far from it, Just thinking Logical.
 
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