John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Thursday, February 25, 2010
  The Swan and Freedom of Speech
The link is to the report of the Standards and Privileges Committee of today's date which finds Withers are indeed guilty of contempt of parliament.

Hopefully the development at The Swan will now progress.

Quoting from the conclusion:
26. The evidence in this case is very clear and in our view the conclusion is no less clear. We conclude that Withers LLP were in contempt of the House when on 4 August 2009 they threatened Mr Hemming with legal proceedings in respect of statements he had made outside the House concerning their client's behaviour, were he to repeat those statements in the House. The contempt was repeated and compounded on subsequent dates, notably on 11 August. An opportunity in October to withdraw was not taken by Withers LLP; and the contempt was denied by them even once the matter had been placed before the House. We are surprised that a firm of the standing of Withers LLP should have taken so long to understand the scope of Parliamentary privilege. It was only when they sought advice from Counsel that Withers LLP accepted they had erred and they apologised unreservedly to the House and to Mr Hemming.

27. It has long been accepted that the House should assert its privileges sparingly. In the light of the apology the House has received, we make no recommendation for further action on the matter referred to us.


My statement is:
It is the job of MPs to speak up for their constituents. Our Libel Laws now prevent people from telling the truth about people who have expensive lawyers. Parliament today has stood up for freedom of speech. We also need to change the law on libel costs so that people do not face ruinous legal costs for telling the truth.

The people who have been suffering from the legal row over the Swan are the residents of Yardley. To me they are the people who come first.
 
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