‘Court or place out of Parliament’
13.13The 1999 Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege recommended that ‘place’ should be defined by statute to refer to any tribunal having power to examine witnesses on oath and expressed the view that it would include a tribunal appointed under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 but not a non-statutory inquiry even if led by a judge.1 The 1921 Act was repealed by the Inquiries Act 2005. The question of whether inquiries under that Act would constitute a ‘place’ has not yet been judicially considered.2
In 2003, members of the Foreign Affairs Committee gave evidence voluntarily to a non-statutory inquiry set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of a government scientist, who had not long previously appeared before the committee as a witness.3
- 1. Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, First Report of Session 1998–99, Parliamentary Privilege: Volume I – Report & Proceedings, HL 43-I, HC 214-I paras 91–96 and Volume II – Minutes of Evidence, HL 43-III, HC 214-III (1998–99) p 178. The proposed definition of ‘place’ is similar to that in the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987 of Australia. The example of such an inquiry cited by the Joint Committee was the Inquiry into the export of Defence Equipment and Dual-use Goods to Iraq and related Prosecutions led by Sir Richard Scott, HC 115 (1995–96).
- 2. By virtue of s 17(2) of the 2005 Act the Chairman of an inquiry has the power to administer an oath.
- 3. Report of the Inquiry into the Death of Dr David Kelly, HC 247 (2003–04), para 460.