The opening of the second Impeachment trial of President Trump in the Senate today marks a new stage in the history of a procedure whose origins lie in medieval England.
Bellamy's, the refreshment rooms in the pre-1834 Palace of Westminster, occupied a distinctive place in the late Georgian and early Victorian political world, a place where different worlds collided.
Queen's consent - to be distinguished from Royal Assent - is one of the most obscure little pieces of parliamentary flummery. Its origin has been traced back to 1729: but it must be older than that.
The smoking room of the House of Commons has long intrigued commentators on and spectators of politics: one of the places where knots of members get together to weigh reputations, exchange gossip, spread discontent, foment revolts, hatch conspiracies.
The third of a series of blogs on parliamentary privilege and libel, this one deals with the notorious case of Stockdale v. Hansard
This is a series of three blogs about Parliament and Libel. The first, Privilege, Libel and the long road to Stockdale v. Hansard, Part I: from Strode’s Case to Article IX, dealt with the earliest encounters, in the seventeenth century, between parliamentarians and the court over the publication of material that the parliamentarians believed was… Continue reading Parliamentary Privilege and Libel, Part II: from Wilkes to 1835
In 1836 the House of Commons published a series of reports of the new prison inspectors appointed under an Act of Parliament passed the year before. Their shocked claim that a pornographic book had been discovered in Newgate jail set of a train of unintended consequences that led to a series of law suits that are collectively referred to as Stockdale v. Hansard, a Gilbertian political farce and the biggest crisis in the relationship between the courts and parliament in British history.
The current controversy over the extension of the house of commons emergency procedures is very much sui generis. The technology to enable parliament to debate and vote without most members being physically present is only a few years old and was of course not available when previous public health crises of this order occurred: the… Continue reading Zoom and the Technology of Parliamentary Debate
The Zircon Affair The Zircon affair concerned a BBC programme made in 1986 by the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell. It covered a secret defence project, an intelligence-gathering satellite named Zircon, and particularly the failure to submit it to parliamentary scrutiny. The BBC, under pressure from the government and its governors, decided not to screen it.… Continue reading The Zircon Affair, Parliament and the Courts
These days, the parliamentary privilege of free speech is regarded as deriving from the assertion in Article IX of the 1689 Bill of Rights that ‘Freedom of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament’. That it is considerably older than that is certain, but how old, very much not so.