In the 17th century, England had a problem with laws on sedition. MPs could not speak freely about the king’s policies for fear of judges. To solve that problem, we adopted a special guard against tyranny: “parliamentary privilege”. Now, John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, has invoked it to stop Newsnight getting information about the behaviour of the MP Keith Vaz.
Readers may recall that we have reported extensively on how Mr Vaz’s behaviour on committee trips abroad, paid for by the taxpayer, were the scene for some allegations of not following the rules of the House and bullying towards staff.
Mr Vaz denies all such actions. But we wished to see what documentation existed from the administration of these trips. We cannot.
This is because Mr Bercow has personally intervened and gone out of his way to bar Newsnight from asking the Information Commissioner or a judge to review the decision. We will not be able to overturn this decision, as journalists fought through the courts to get to see MPs’ expenses.
John Bercow used his special powers as Commons Speaker to ‘cover up claims of bullying’ by Labour MP Keith Vaz
- Bercow blocked Freedom of Information request that was submitted by the BBC
- Tory MP pointed to the alleged bully intervening to protect another alleged bully
- Mr Vaz being investigated to find if he broke the rules by paying male prostitutes
John Bercow has used his official powers to hush up information about the behaviour of disgraced Labour MP Keith Vaz.
The Commons Speaker used parliamentary privilege to block a freedom of information request from the BBC.
The corporation’s journalists were trying to find out information about Mr Vaz’s behaviour on official trips abroad, during which he was accused of breaking parliamentary rules and bullying staff.
John Bercow rule blocks questions over Keith Vaz ‘bullying’
Journalists will be prevented from investigating bullying claims against Keith Vaz after the Commons Speaker invoked ancient parliamentary rules.
John Bercow declared that the same privilege that allows MPs and peers to speak freely in parliament should apply to documentation relating to official trips abroad made by the Labour MP.
The exemption to the freedom of information laws that were used cannot be appealed against because it would require a judge to review the decisions of the Commons Speaker, which are themselves covered by privilege. Mr Vaz, 61, was accused this year of having bullied a clerk who believed that he was not following rules on a trip as chairman of the home affairs select committee. Mr Vaz denied the claims. When the BBC’s Newsnight applied under freedom of information laws for papers relating to Mr Vaz’s trips abroad, Mr Bercow issued his veto.
Bercow Uses Personal Veto to Block Vaz Investigation
John Bercow has personally stepped in to stop a BBC investigation getting information about the behaviour of Keith Vaz. BBC Newsnight applied under the Freedom of Information Act to see papers relating to Vaz’s trips abroad, after clerks had raised concerns that he was not following parliamentary rules. In August the same programme revealed how Vaz himself had bullied former Commons clerk Jenny McCullough after she questioned his foreign trip expenses.
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