§ Baroness Nicol
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have to establish a review of parliamentary privilege.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard)
The Government believe that, in the context of their initiative to modernise Parliament, the time is now ripe for a general review of parliamentary privilege. Various aspects of the relationship between Parliament and the courts have given rise to difficulties in recent years, and the boundaries between them have been redrawn without any fundamental reappraisal of the kind of legal immunities which Parliament and its Members ought to enjoy at the end of the twentieth century.
The need for a review has become more pressing with today's announcement by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary of proposals for taking forward a general reform of the corruption statutes, which will include clarifying the law relating to bribery of Members of Parliament, as recommended by the Nolan Committee. The implications for parliamentary privilege, which would clearly be considerable, would need to be considered carefully in advance of the introduction of legislation.
Since this is a matter for Parliament and one which affects both Houses, the Government believe that such a review could be undertaken most appropriately by a Joint Committee. Consultations are taking place about setting up the committee and about the terms of reference it might have.
The Government hope that it might be possible to complete this review by early next year.