Parliamentary Standards

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): As a former Leader of the House of Commons, I yield to no one in wanting to protect parliamentary privilege and the independence of the House from external interference, but the truth is that the public think there is one rule for them and another for us. That is an intolerable position for us to find ourselves in, and we have to do something about it. There must be a solution that protects parliamentary privilege and the continuing integrity of the work of the Standards Committee while allowing external regulation of this sort of complaint. Otherwise, frankly, we are not going to be in a credible position.

Mr Lansley: The right hon. Gentleman will understand that, while it is clear from past court cases that the expenses system does not constitute parliamentary proceedings, and that parliamentary privilege does not extend to them, other aspects of the regulation of Members’ conduct clearly do. An important practical consideration is that, if the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards did not report to the Standards Committee as a Select Committee of the House and was instead established as an entirely separate and independent entity, parliamentary privilege would not extend to her investigations. That would make it much more difficult to proceed with those investigations and to get them completed, because they would be subject to legal and procedural challenge. The Commissioner has the power to undertake all the investigations required.