Parliamentary Privilege

Lord Triesman, who is a Labour peer and formerly a Minister, was part of the team in the bid for England to host the World Cup, to be held in 2018. In 2011 when he appeared before the Commons Culture Committee he made allegations against some FIFA members.

The FA set up its own investigation after the publicity from his statements to the committee and a hearing was held on 20 May 2011 where he gave evidence to Mr Dingemans as part of this investigation further to the Defendants undertaking to the Commons committee.

Lord Triesman was very conscious when giving evidence that he did not lose the protection afforded to him by parliamentary privilege. He referred to his evidence but didn’t repeat it.

“My evidence in respect of this issue is set out in the transcript of the statement that I made to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee… I think that if I try to add to it I may stray into territory not covered by Parliamentary privilege.”

Mr Justice Tugendhat struck the claim out as he considered the publications had occurred on occasions of qualified privilege and there was no case in malice that could be put at trial without violating Article 9 of the Bill of Rights.

Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1689

“freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament”

This affords legal immunity to members for what they say or do in proceedings in Parliament. The immunity applies in any court or place out of Parliament.

The main basis of the Claimant’s appeal was that his claim did not violate Article 9 as its target was not anything stated in Parliament but what the Defendant said or referred to Mr Dingemans at the hearing.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Lord Triesman had spoken whilst being protected by “parliamentary privilege” and therefore could not be sued.

“Looking at the case in the round, in my judgment it possesses both of the characteristics which I have sought to describe.  There was plainly a public interest in Mr Dingemans’ enquiry, which would be served by Lord Triesman’s contribution.  Equally plainly, there was a very close nexus between his evidence to the CMSC and his interview with Mr Dingemans.  The prospect that he might be called on to repeat his allegations was not only reasonably foreseeable but actually foreseen; he undertook, in effect, to do so… For all these reasons, in my judgment Article 9 prohibits an examination in this action of the respondent’s assertions to Mr Dingemans.”

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