Read in Full: Lord Pannick’s Damning Privileges Committee Opinion mdi-fullscreen

Lord Pannick’s just had all 22 pages of his legal advice on the Privileges Committee published by the Cabinet Office. While Guido’s flicking through it, you don’t have to get past paragraph three for some explosive opinions. Pannick writes that, were decisions by the Committee able to be subjected to judicial review, he believes a court would declare Harman’s approach to be “unlawful“. Pannick says there are six “important areas where the Committee is proposing to adopt a fundamentally flawed approach”:

  1. Harman’s committee has failed to understand that in order to prove contempt of the House, it is necessary to establish that he intended to mislead.
  2. For an allegation of contempt to be established, it would need to be persuaded that the allegation is made out to a high degree of probability; that it is significantly more likely to be true than not to be true.
  3. The Committee is proposing to apply an unfair procedure in that it says it may well not tell Boris the identity of witnesses whose evidence may be used.
  4. The Committee has failed to recognise that a fair procedure requires that before Boris gives evidence, he should be told the detail of the case against him – charges and evidence.
  5. Fair procedure requires that Boris should be able to be represented at a hearing before the Committee by his counsel.
  6. Fair procedure also requires that Boris should be able, through his counsel, to cross-examine any witness whose evidence is relied on to establish a contempt of the House.

Pannick warns in paragraph 44 that the effect of a ruling against Boris by the committee would make Ministers “less willing to try to be helpful in answering comments and questions during debate if they know that inadvertent mistakes which mislead the House amount to a contempt.”

“Ministers would be far more likely to respond: “I will write to the Hon. Member”. Such a development would impede the effective conduct of the business of the House.”

He continues in paragraph 45 that the Committee’s “novel approach” would threaten the very concept of Parliamentary privilege and “fetter the rights and liberties of Parliament”.

Read the opinion in full:

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