Debates between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Mackay of Clashfern during the 2017-2019 Parliament

Privileges and Conduct

Debate between Baroness D'Souza and Lord Mackay of Clashfern
Thursday 15th November 2018

(5 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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Not at all. I am saying that the process is perfectly fair. The commissioner gave the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the complainant exactly the same balance. I do not accept for a moment that this House has approved unfair rules and only discovered that today. These rules have been in position for a long time, and you have to bear in mind that the complainant made a complaint on the basis of these rules. As far as I can see, there is nothing unfair about the rules, so long as both sides get the full account of what the other side has said. In my opinion, that is natural justice: that you have the full account before you. Natural justice would not allow, for example, supplementary evidence to be taken by the commissioner without it being shown to the noble Lord, Lord Lester. As far as I know, there is no complaint to suggest that he was not shown every piece of paper that the commissioner had. He was given his opportunity to explain.

The process then requires the commissioner to make up her mind and submit her report to the Committee for Privileges. The committee’s only responsibility is to decide whether it accepts the report. As far as I can see, nothing has been suggested about the facts of the matter on which she reported which can be shown to be wrong. In the recondite speeches we have heard on the subject of procedure—

Baroness D'Souza Portrait Baroness D'Souza (CB)
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My Lords, I intervene briefly to ask the noble and learned Lord to tell us whether the committee was obliged to hear this case, even though it occurred 11 years earlier. Was that a choice it had, or was it obliged to?

Lord Mackay of Clashfern Portrait Lord Mackay of Clashfern
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I said it was obliged to obey the rules laid down by this House for the conduct of these proceedings. It was 11 years ago, but the rules have been subject to review by the sub-committee ever since. They are still the rules, and they were the rules when the lady came along. We must give that fact a fair hearing on the side of the lady. She came to this place complaining on the basis of the procedure laid down in our rules, and these rules were completely obeyed. No one has submitted that the commissioner did not know what she was doing or had not obeyed the rules: she obeyed the rules as she had them. The idea that she could have employed someone to cross-examine the complainant does not have any support in the rules whatever. She had no authority under the rules to ask someone to cross-examine the complainant.