The Supreme Court in the UK has dismissed an appeal by several Members of Parliament relating to expenses paid to them whilst serving in Parliament either as MPs or Lords.
David Chaytor (former Labour MP for Bury North), Elliot Morley (former Labour MP for Scunthorpe) and Jim Devine (former Labour MP for Livingston) and Lord Hanningfield (Paul White, Baron Hanningfield) stand accused of false accounting charges, contrary to section 17(1)(b) of the Theft Act 1968.
The substance of the appeal related to Parliamentary privilege.
The claim to privilege has two bases. The first is Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689, which provides: That the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament. The second is described alternatively as the “exclusive cognisance” or “exclusive jurisdiction” of Parliament and refers to the right of each House to manage its own affairs without interference from the other or from outside Parliament. It is a privilege which is wider than, and embraces, Article 9.
The judges reasoned that the scrutiny of expenses claims would not inhibit freedom of speech or debate or impact adversely upon the core business of Parliament and as such would not contravene the intended purpose of Parliamentary privilege.