Burrell case: MPs to question Queen's role

The Queen's immunity from being called as a witness in a criminal court is to be reviewed by Parliament after criticisms of the royal role in the collapse of the Paul Burrell trial. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, is to be questioned about the involvement of the monarch after the sudden acquittal of the former royal butler on Friday.

Senior government sources have revealed that Downing Street is "nervous" about the political fallout from last week's events. MPs will want to know what part the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, played in the decision to end the case.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) called a halt after asking his advice on Monday. Lord Goldsmith will want to know at a meeting this week with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir David Calvert-Smith, why Mr Burrell's evidence about speaking with the Queen was not investigated further.

The late intervention by the Queen, whose recollection of a 1998 conversation with Mr Burrell led to the abandonment of the trial, raised questions over whether it should have gone ahead in the first place. He was accused of stealing more than 300 items from Diana, Princess of Wales, the Prince of Wales and Prince William.

Lessons will need to be learnt before a second royal butler, Harold Brown, goes on trial next month charged with stealing the Princess's property.

The Liberal Democrats said the Royal Family should consider paying some of the costs of the £1.5m case, as questions continued over the roles played by police, prosecutors and the monarchy. The police have been strongly criticised after revelations that they misled the Prince of Wales and Prince William over the extent of the evidence they had against the butler.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, called for a statement in the Commons. "Either the Royal Family or the Spencer family, or both, might think it would be fair and reasonable to ... make a contribution to the costs of the trial. The trial mostly concerned their families and their interests," he said.

Despite the demands for action, Buckingham Palace has ruled out an internal inquiry. "What happened is extremely clear," a Palace source said, adding that the decision to prosecute had been made by the police and CPS.

The Commons Public Administration Committee is poised to extend its investigation into the constitutional powers of the Royal Family. Brian White, a member of the committee, said MPs would want to "shine a light" on the justification for the raft of obscure powers of the Queen under the Royal Prerogative.

"We are looking at the Queen's role in relation to appointments and there is no reason why we shouldn't also look at her immunity in court," he told The Independent. "Court cases collapsing happens to ordinary people up and down the country every week, but ordinary people don't all have the Queen to come to their rescue."

Lord Richard, a former Labour leader of the House of Lords, called on the committee to examine the Queen's Crown immunity. "It's been a problem since 1911, when it was decided you couldn't put the monarch in the witness box," he said.

Lord Morgan, the historian and chairman of a Fabian Society Commission on the future of the monarchy, told Radio 4's The Westminster Hour: "I would think we ought to regard this extraordinary case, which has aroused so much attention for its sheer absurdity, as a step towards a written constitution making the monarchy accountable."

The Labour MP Dennis Skinner said he was writing to Lord Irvine about the Queen's role because there had been a "clear-cut case of withholding vital information before and during the trial ... At the risk of finishing up in the Tower, I cannot see why people, however high and mighty, should be allowed to escape the full rigour of the law." Several other Labour MPs are expected to table parliamentary questions on the trial.

Lord Carlile, Mr Burrell's counsel, said there was no doubtthe Queen had acted properly, if belatedly.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas