Letter: Commons privilege

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The Independent Culture
Commons privilege

Sir: The news (report, 20 April) that the Speaker of the House of Commons has refused to make the decision to restore the Newark seat to the duly elected MP after the Court of Appeal had quashed her earlier conviction, but has instead referred it to the High Court, is greatly regrettable.

In an ordinary court of law, there has been guidance by the Court of Appeal as regards the giving and taking of expert advice; but in matters relating to the Houses of Parliament, each House is "its own master" and no court in the land could challenge these prerogatives or conventions.

I am sure that the late Lord Chief Justice Edward Coke would turn in his grave to learn from whatever place he is dwelling now that the current Speaker of the Commons has refused to exercise her authority in the conduct of the business of the House. In the early 17th century he wrote in his Institutes (4th volume, p36): "Of the power and jurisdiction of Parliament, for making laws in proceedings by Bill, it is so transcendent and absolute, as it cannot be confined either for causes or persons within any bounds."

The case of Fiona Jones at the present time is purely a procedural matter for the House of Commons alone.