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Bill Cash MP
for Stone

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It's not about Parliament - it's about the people: Constituents' confidentiality is at stake

 An article by Bill Cash published in The Times on 08/12/2008

 
The Green affair is not just about Speaker Lenthall and Charles I and what happened in 1642. I am angry because it is about the confidentiality of my constituents' correspondence and matters of national interest in 2008. MPs individually are not above the law, but Parliament encapsulates the law on behalf of the voters. This must be protected.
 
The debate today following the Speaker's statement is a sideshow. It will not resolve the fundamental issue. This is that the House of Commons has been invaded by the Metropolitan Police and that Damian Green's office in the House of Commons has been raided, as has the custom and law and privilege of the House of Commons - in particular, freedom of speech. This is there to protect the people of this country, our constituents, and the information they provide to us for redress of grievance. This has been violated while Parliament was not even sitting. At least Charles I had the guts to confront Parliament itself.
 
I have made a complaint to the Speaker, irrespective of the debate today, calling for the actions of the Metropolitan Police and all those concerned to be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges under the standing orders of the House. The debate today does not affect these standing orders and the impression must not be given that it has done so.
 
The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 cannot override Parliament and any consent to entry can only be by the House of Commons as a whole. In 1938, in the Duncan Sandys case, the House of Commons ruled that he was entitled to reveal even Official Secrets and to receive that information, in contrast with the merely embarrassing facts revealed by Damian Green. On Saturday, I clearly understood from my constituents that they would regard it as an outrage if the confidential information they had given me could be gathered up in a police raid on my office in Westminster.
 
The courts decided in 1993 that “it is for the courts to decide whether a privilege exists and for the House to decide whether such privilege has been infringed”. This should be the High Court, not merely magistrates or circuit judges as at present. As regards Parliament, it should not be the Speaker, the Serjeant-at-Arms or anyone else - only the House of Commons as a whole. This is why the House should not divide today on political lines. There are those who think that the word “privilege” is out of date. They could not be more wrong and they underestimate people up and down the country, like my constituents, understanding what is at stake. It is their correspondence and their information; it is their democracy and it is their Parliament. After all, Damian Green is hardly Guy Fawkes.

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