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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Is it wise to threaten Parliament?

This morning's Telegraph carries the extraordinary claim that MPs and peers have been warned that they face “diplomatic repercussions” unless they remove a document detailing aspects of one of Britain’s last remaining super-injunctions from the Parliamentary record.

They say that Archerfield Partners, a firm of solicitors acting for the ex-wife of an unnamed Asian head of state, has made a series of threats against the joint Parliamentary Committee on Privacy and Injunctions, made up of 26 MPs and peers.

The report says that the firm has asked the MPs and peers to take down a submission from the committee’s website “as a matter of extreme urgency” and warned that its continued publication on the committee’s website would have diplomatic repercussions:

The 13-page submission from Channel Islands businessman Mark Burby claimed he had been gagged by the “ex-spouse of an Asian head of state” in a super-injunction in 2009.

He said the “Asian head of state” was a “substantial” backer of al-Qaeda, and had advance warning of the suicide bombings on London’s transport system in 2005.

Mr Burby alleged the unnamed ex–spouse, whom he described as one of the wealthiest women in the world, had a sexual relationship “with one of her two solicitors”, as well as two other men, one of which resulted in her having an abortion.

The document is still available on the Parliamentary website and can be widely read. Given that the committee were told earlier this year by Ken Clarke, the Lord Chancellor, that super-injunctions “are now being granted only for very short periods” and “you cannot have just long-running secret litigation”, that position is unlikely to change.

Clearly, MPs need to exercise their discretion in using their privileges but it ill-behoves any firm of solicitors to threaten a national Parliament in this way. In my view continuing defiance of the injunction is now the only way forward. I am just grateful that Parliamentary privilege exists so that my elected representatives can continue to speak out on my behalf without fear of these sort of threats.
So what about this Peter, or is another issue you are goign to shy away from?

It is off-topic but my view is that a backbench member has the right to express his or her view and just because it is unpalatable to some, that does not justify disciplinary action.
As to your comment about disciplinary action, this Lib Dem politician was previously disciplined by her party:

"Baroness Tonge, who was sacked as the Lib Dem children's spokeswoman in the Commons when she suggested she could consider becoming a suicide bomber in 2004."

Are you saying these early statements also did not justify disciplinary action?

So if this Lib Dem peer said the same thing about Wales - that would be OK with you then?
Clearly she was a frontbench spokesperson then so it was appropriate to make it clear that she was not speaking on behalf of the party by sacking her. In this case she is a backbencher and entitled to express her own views. We live in a democracy. I can disagree with her but that does not take away her right to say what she thinks.
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