Hearing of counsel

15.36Persons accused of breaches of the privileges or of other contempts of either House1 have generally not been allowed to be represented by counsel except in a few cases.2 However, they have been permitted to be accompanied by an adviser. Where a person has been allowed to make their defence by counsel, counsel have sometimes been heard in support of the charge;3 and where a complaint of an alleged breach of privilege was referred to the Committee of Privileges, counsel were allowed, by leave of the House, to examine witnesses before the committee on behalf of both the Member who had made the complaint and the parties complained of.4


  1. 1. 2 Cav Deb 428, 431.
  2. 2. CJ (1750–54) 27; ibid (1766–68) 625; ibid (1770–72) 275, 279, 280. In the last case, the hearing was limited to ‘such points as do not controvert the privileges of the House’ (ibid (1770–72) 275, 280). For discussion of this, see Committee for Privileges and Conduct, Second Report of Session 2017–19, The conduct of Lord Lester of Herne Hill, HL 220 and Third Report of Session 2017–19, Further report on the conduct of Lord Lester of Herne Hill, HL 252.
  3. 3. CJ (1750–54) 27; ibid (1766–68) 625.
  4. 4. CJ (1766–68) 540. The House has given leave for the Committee of Public Accounts to hear counsel in their investigation of the truthfulness of witnesses before them, ibid (1967–68) 150 (see HC 192 (1967–68)). See also para 38.38.