Commons votes for inquiry into Falconer allegations

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Indy Politics

An inquiry has been launched by MPs into allegations that Lord Falconer, the country's most senior legal figure, tried to remove an official from her job after she gave evidence to a Commons committee.

They voted to refer the Lord Chancellor's decision to suspend a "whistleblower" to the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee amid claims that it breached parliamentary privilege, which protects witnesses who appear before MPs.

Judy Weleminsky, a board member of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) was assured she would be protected from a backlash before she gave evidence about failings in the service.

Yesterday Alan Beith, the chairman of the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee, called for an inquiry after the all-party committee produced a report saying that her suspension "might be regarded as a prima facie breach of privilege".

He told MPs: "Committees of this House seeking to carry out effective scrutiny depend on being able to assure witnesses that they can give evidence freely, without fear of penalty.

"It needs to be clearly understood in government departments, public bodies and elsewhere that this freedom, if it is found to be threatened, will be protected."

Peter Hain, the Leader of the Commons, said ministers would co-operate with the inquiry. He said: "The Government fully respects the privileges of this House. These privileges are crucial to the independence of parliament and the strength of our democracy.

"The Government regards any possible breach of privilege with the greatest seriousness and looks to the Committee of Standards and Privileges to establish whether a breach of privilege has taken place."