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Written evidence submitted by Counsel for Domestic Legislation

 

 

 

 

COUNSEL FOR DOMESTIC LEGISLATION

 

 

 

Committee of Privileges

 

 

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Draft Parliamentary Committees (Witnesses) Bill

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  1. I attach a revised version of the Parliamentary Committees (Witnesses) Bill to incorporate and reflect the suggestions and comments made in my notes of 26 October and 8 November.

 

  1. The draft provides for a statutory summons to be issued by the Speaker.  It is then an offence to fail without reasonable excuse to comply with the summons.

 

  1. All the due-process gatekeeping procedures will be set out in Standing Orders and other arrangements of the House, without requiring to be mentioned on the face of the Bill.

 

  1. I have expanded the previous reference to forum to specify cross-border venue as a specific example, to avoid confusion.

 

 

Daniel Greenberg CB

14 November 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parliamentary Committees (Witnesses) Bill – Criminal Offence Version (Revised)

 

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Create an offence of failure to comply with a summons issued by a House of Commons Select Committee.

 

BE IT ENACTED by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows: –

 

 

1            Failure to comply with summons

 

(1)    The Speaker of the House of Commons may issue a summons requiring an individual—

 

(a)    to attend a specified Committee of the House to answer questions;

 

(b)    to provide information or documents to a specified Committee of the House; or

 

(c)    both.

 

(2)    A summons under subsection (1) must—

 

(a)    state that it is issued under this section; and

 

(b)    explain the effect of this section.

 

(3)    It is an offence for an individual to fail without reasonable excuse to comply with a summons issued under this section.

 

(4)    An individual guilty of an offence under subsection (3) is liable on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, a fine or both.

 

(5)    Subsection (6) applies where a court is considering—

 

(a)    whether a person had a reasonable excuse for the purposes of subsection (3); or

 

(b)    what punishment to impose under that subsection.

 

(6)    The court—

 

(a)    may consider whether the summons was reasonable in the context of the Committee’s proceedings;

 

(b)    may consider the circumstances of the individual and the extent to which the individual engaged or tried to engage with the Committee (before or after the issue of the summons under this section); and

 


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(c)    may not consider any other aspect of the Committee’s proceedings (including, in particular, whether it should or should not be conducting a particular inquiry).

 

(7)    Rules of court may make provision about proceedings under this section; and rules may, in particular, include provision about:

 

(a)    timing of prosecutions; and

 

(b)    forum (including the appropriate venue where an individual or an alleged offence has connections with a particular part of the United Kingdom).

 

2            Commencement, transitional, extent and short title

 

(1)    This Act comes into force on the day on which it is passed.

 

(2)    An offence is not committed under section 1 in respect of a summons issued before the commencement of this Act.

 

(3)    This Act extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

 

(4)    This Act may be cited as the Parliamentary Committees (Witnesses) Act 2022.