Parliamentary privilege is the collection of rights and immunities held by members of parliament while they are engaged in parliamentary duties. These rights allow parliamentarians to operate without fear of legal repercussions, and protect them from obstruction while performing their parliamentary roles. The most important of these privileges are:
- Freedom of Speech: This privilege allows members of parliament to speak freely, without fear of legal action, while they are in the chamber, committee meetings or when they are speaking on behalf of their constituents.
- Freedom from Arrest: Members of parliament cannot be arrested in civil matters while they are travelling to and from parliament, or while they are attending a session of parliament. This privilege is necessary because it allows MPs to participate in debates without fear of being arrested.
- Right to Access Documents: MPs have the right to access any documents that are necessary for them to fulfill their parliamentary duties. This includes official government documents and private documents held by citizens or organizations.
- Right to Receive Information: MPs have the right to receive information from any source, including government departments and private organizations, in order to carry out their parliamentary duties.
Overall, Parliamentary privilege is a set of rights and immunities that allow members of parliament to perform their duties without fear of legal repercussions. These privileges are necessary to ensure that MPs can participate in debates and access information without fear of obstruction or arrest.
Example of Parliamentary privilege
Parliamentary privilege is an important concept in the British system of governance and is defined as the special rights and immunities granted to members of parliament while they are engaged in parliamentary duties. Examples of these privileges include freedom of speech, freedom from arrest, the right to access documents and the right to receive information. These privileges are necessary to ensure that MPs can perform their duties without fear of legal repercussions, and to protect them from obstruction while performing their parliamentary roles.
When to use Parliamentary privilege
Parliamentary privilege should only be used when members of parliament are performing their official duties. This includes activities such as attending committee meetings, making speeches in the chamber, and accessing documents or information to fulfill their parliamentary roles. MPs should not use parliamentary privilege to protect themselves from criminal or civil action while they are outside of their official duties.
Types of Parliamentary privilege
Parliamentary privilege can be divided into two categories: absolute privilege and qualified privilege.
- Absolute Privilege: Absolute privilege is the highest form of privilege and it protects MPs from any legal action in relation to their parliamentary duties. This includes defamation, contempt and breach of confidence.
- Qualified Privilege: Qualified privilege is a lesser form of privilege and it protects MPs from legal action related to their parliamentary duties, however it is not as comprehensive as absolute privilege. This includes protection from libel and slander.
Advantages of Parliamentary privilege
Parliamentary privilege has many advantages for members of parliament, as it allows them to perform their duties without fear of legal repercussions. These advantages include:
- Protection from Legal Action: Parliamentary privilege protects MPs from any legal action that might be taken against them for their actions in the chamber or when they are representing their constituents.
- Ability to Speak Freely: MPs have the right to speak freely in the chamber, in committee meetings, and when they are representing their constituents. This allows MPs to discuss difficult or controversial topics without fear of legal action.
- Access to Information: Parliamentary privilege grants MPs the right to access any information they need in order to fulfill their parliamentary duties. This includes information held by government departments and private organizations.
Limitations of Parliamentary privilege
Despite the important role that Parliamentary privilege plays in protecting the rights of MPs, there are some limitations that must be taken into account. These limitations include:
- Breach of Confidence: MPs must not use the privilege of parliamentary speech to breach any confidences that have been entrusted to them by constituents or organizations.
- Abuse of Power: MPs must not use their parliamentary privilege to gain an unfair advantage or to abuse their power.
- Conflict of Interest: MPs must not use their parliamentary privilege to further their own interests or those of their political party.
In addition to the privileges outlined above, there are also a number of other approaches related to Parliamentary privilege that are used to protect MPs. These include:
- Parliamentary Immunity: This is a form of legal immunity that is granted to MPs in order to protect them from legal action resulting from any statements they make in the course of their parliamentary duties.
- Parliamentary Privilege of Evidence: This is a privilege that allows MPs to present evidence in a court of law without fear of being cross-examined or questioned by the opposing party.
- Parliamentary Privilege of Inquiry: This is a privilege that allows MPs to investigate matters of public interest without fear of legal action.
Overall, these additional approaches provide further protection for members of parliament while they are carrying out their parliamentary duties. These privileges allow MPs to investigate and present evidence without fear of legal repercussions, and help ensure that they can exercise their right to freedom of speech without fear of legal action.
- Wittke, C. F. (1921). The History of English Parliamentary Privilege (No. 6). Ohio state university.