BUSINESS QUESTION – MPs' CASEWORK & JUDGES – 12 February 2009
Dr Julian Lewis: May we have what I stress must be a general statement by the Leader of the House on the relationship between parliamentary privilege, parliamentary accountability and the separation of the powers that are due to politicians and those that are due to the judiciary? We understand that, not content with previously having ruled that MPs' home addresses should be published regardless of security concerns, while jealously guarding the privacy and security of their own home addresses, judges in courts might now second-guess constituency cases. Given that even the most assiduous of MPs will always have a few constituents who will not accept that nothing more can be done for them, how appropriate is it that judges should second-guess our work? We are responsible to our electors for what we do and do not achieve on their behalf.
[The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his continuing work on Members' home addresses. I hope that there will be agreement on that soon, so that electors can be satisfied that they know whereabouts candidates live without necessarily knowing the actual number of their flat or their street address, if the candidate does not want that known. He has done the whole House a service on that issue.
We are accountable to the courts in respect of criminal and contract law. If we breach a contract, we can expect to be taken before the courts, and we are accountable as employers under employment law. However, a duty of care to our constituents is set out in the code for Members to which we all subscribe. For that, we are accountable not to the courts but to our constituents at the general election. The courts can get on with criminal, contract and employment law, but when it comes to our duty to our constituents, we have to subject ourselves to the court of public opinion at general elections.]