Andy McSmith's Diary: Parliamentary privilege and the police force that broke the law

 

Home Secretary Theresa May’s announcement of a public inquiry into undercover operations is not the only embarrassment the police suffered today. Sussex Police has been rebuked for committing a contempt of Parliament.

The case involved the Tory MP and former education minister, Tim Loughton, who has a habit of getting into ferocious arguments. One voter in his East Worthing and Shoreham constituency annoyed him so much that Mr Loughton took the curious step of announcing, in Parliament, that he intended to “sack” this constituent. To make sure the man understood that Mr Loughton no longer considered himself to be his local MP, he sent him a copy of the day’s Hansard, with an unsigned compliments slip.

This was one of a series of raging arguments involving characters in and around Worthing, which so exasperated Sussex Police that the force issued warning notices, called PINs, to all concerned, including the MP.

MPs are not above the law, as the expenses scandal proved, but it is a long- established law that MPs cannot be prosecuted, or threatened with prosecution, for anything said in Parliament, no matter how off beam. That protection also applies to the words in official parliamentary papers such as Hansard. Therefore, by issuing Mr Loughton with a PIN, Sussex Police unknowingly broke the law.

Unreceived pronunciation

Hansard, being Parliament’s official record, has rules it must follow. When an MP talks drunken gibberish, for example, Hansard writers have to make his speech read as clearly as if he had been stone cold sober. Today’s Hansard contained a rare example of the opposite problem: an intelligible exchange which reads like nonsense:

“Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): I call Nia Griffith.

Nia Griffith: I am sorry, Mr Bone, but it is pronounced Nia.

Mr Peter Bone: Nia. I am sorry.”

A phonetics footnote would have helped.

Lip service to women?

International Women’s Day was the dominant theme of Parliament’s agenda, as three ministers – Justine Greening, Maria Miller and Lynne Featherstone – set off to New York to take part in the 58th Commission on the Status of Women. A debate in the Commons chamber, another in the Westminster Hall annexe, and the whole of today’s business in the House of Lords focused on women’s issues. The Commons Leader, Andrew Lansley, told MPs that he was “delighted” that the cause was receiving so much parliamentary attention.

It was a bit unfortunate that as he spoke, the thin ranks of Tory MPs behind him consisted exclusively of men in dark suits.

Quick currency conversion

“Why am I the only politician looking to provide solutions? No one is holding the council to account,” Paul Uppal, Tory MP for Wolverhampton South West, exclaimed in anguish as he laid out examples he had uncovered of lavish expenditure by Wolverhampton Council on a local BBC radio programme. “They spent £70,000 on a luxury five-star hotel in India, £100,000 at a Park Plaza, £1,500 at a Pizza Hut and nearly five grand in cash withdrawals, £140,000 on alcoholic beverages,” he protested, confronting the Labour MP Pat McFadden with the evidence.

But his evidence, Mr McFadden pointed out, was out by a factor of 100, because all the figures quoted were in rupees – worth just under 1p, at the current exchange rate.

Mr Uppal told the local Express and Star that his mistake was the council’s fault, because it had used pound signs when the figures were entered in its database.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Day In a Page

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride