A judge has ruled today that three former MPs and a member of the House of Lords could not claim parliamentary privilege to stop prosecutions for false accounting. All four deny the charges, which have been brought in relation to their expenses claims.
At a preparatory hearing at Southwark Crown Court, Mr Justice Saunders held that the Crown Court had jurisdiction to try the four defendants.

It was asserted by the defence, and accepted by the prosecution, that if the submission of expenses forms was covered by Parliamentary privilege, any examination by a Court of their accuracy would be prohibited.

Saunders J determined that the submission of forms was not part of the expenses schemes (and therefore did not fall within Parliament’s exclusive jurisdiction/art 9 of the Bill of Rights). Claiming expenses was an individual activity and it was not part of the member’s duty to claim them. To hold them outside the expenses schemes would not be an interference in the workings of Parliament nor an obstruction to the carrying out of Parliamentary business. Further, although the immunity provided by art 9 extended to incidental matters such as drafts of speeches and the necessary research, there was no persuasive authority to indicate that the submission of expenses forms fell directly within the ambit of art 9 as “proceedings in Parliament”.

Leave to appeal against this decision has been granted.

For judgment, please download: Southwark Crown Court Judgment.
See also Order (Reporting Restrictions) and Order (Notice to the Media).