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Senior MPs pondering over bringing in powers which could criminalize lying or misleading a parliamentary committee

Date: (23 July 2012)    |    

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After Bob Diamond, Chief Executive of Barclay’s none too impressive testimony before the treasury select committee, members accused him of being calculative and deliberately misleading the Parliament.

Following the testimony the senior MPs have been discussing to bring in new powers which would make lying or misleading MPs during parliamentary committees a criminal offence.

It also follows a report which accused three former News International executives, Les Hinton, former editor of the News of the World Colin Myler and ex-legal boss Tom Crone, of misleading a House of Commons inquiry into the phone hacking at the News of the World.

The House of Commons and the House of Lords have used powers to imprison those in contempt between 1810 and 1880 there are 80 recorded cases.

But in recent years, the powers have never been used and senior MPs were keen to consider whether prosecution could become a possibility in the future.

Power to impose fines and calling miscreants before them was there with the Parliament but the last time any such thing happened was in 1666.

The power which are used in the U.S on those who are found in contempt of a Senate or House Committee can be reported to the U.S Attorney for the District of Columbia for Grand Jury investigation.

It is believed certain committee members involved in the News International, Barclays and G4S inquiries were keen to follow this lead.

However, Roger Rogers, Clerk to the House of Commons, said it could be a cause for embarrassment. The Independent had seen a report by Mr Rogers which says there was a possibility that the court might find the committee had not acted fairly and throw the case out which could be an awkward situation.

Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the Public Administration Committee, said he preferred to find a way which would not involve the courts.

He said a better option could be MPs censuring an individual, for example stating they could be barred from holding public office.

He added that PAC would like to avoid judicial involvement in Parliamentary affairs if at all possible and by not letting an individual to hold public office could be one way of doing that.