Chaytor

16.26A detailed exploration of the law relating to privilege was provided by the Supreme Court in 2010 in R v Chaytor.1 The defendants, three former Members of Parliament and a peer, had been committed for trial on charges of false accounting for the purposes of making fraudulent parliamentary expense claims. They argued that the Crown Court had no jurisdiction to try the cases as to do so would have infringed parliamentary privilege, as the administration's payment of parliamentary expenses was necessary to enable parliamentarians to carry out their functions and could consequently be considered to be within the definition of parliamentary proceedings in article IX. The Supreme Court rejected this argument. In doing so, the opportunity was taken to restate a number of more fundamental principles that determine the scope of privilege. The extent of parliamentary privilege is ultimately a matter of law which was for the courts to determine, paying due regard to the views of Parliament. Only activities which had a sufficiently close relationship with core or essential parliamentary business could fall within this definition. Due regard in considering this connection should be given to the adverse impact on the core business of Parliament if activities were not to enjoy privilege. Administrative tasks such as the processing of expenses fall outside of this definition and no adverse impact on the core business of Parliament is discernible by such a decision. Parliament has never challenged the application of the criminal law to acts which occur within its precincts and does not assert exclusive jurisdiction to deal with criminal conduct. Although it was recognised that circumstances might arise in the course of a criminal investigation where privilege may preclude areas of inquiry, this was not such a case. There was consequently no bar to the defendants being committed to the Crown Court for trial.

Footnotes

  1. 1. R v Chaytor (David) [2010] UKSC 52, [2011] 1 AC 684, [2011] 1 All ER 805; for the application of statute law to Parliament, see para 11.17 above.