On the evening of 10 May, Political Scrapbook revealed the length of David Laws’ suspension from the Commons some twelve hours before the mainstream media.

This evening, two weeks after Laws completed his 7-day enforced holiday, we received a letter from the Committee on Standards and Privileges asking for details of “the background to the reporting of this story”, including information related to the identity of our source(s).

Their letter and our response are reproduced below:

When it comes to dealing with our sources, Political Scrapbook operates under the White (1973) and Astley (1987) principles: we’re never going to give you up.

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  1. @M’learned friend: Areas covered by contempt are so vague that they’re planning a Privileges Bill.

    The committee looks forward to publication by the Government of a draft Privileges Bill in the present Session of Parliament. It proposes that the draft Bill should include a definition of what is meant by ‘contempt of Parliament’ and that the Bill should codify Parliament’s powers to impose sanctions, including a power for the House of Commons to fine.


    But in relation to the specific link you provided, did you read this section?

    When a leaked document comes into the possession of the media, their first instinct is to publish. But the media also have a duty not to undermine the effective functioning of Parliament. Leaks of draft reports or unreported evidence can have a disruptive effect on the work of a select committee, and in some circumstances the House itself. The primary responsibility, and therefore the more serious contempt, rests upon the person who leaked the document. But this does not absolve the newspaper or broadcaster from a duty to act responsibly. The circumstances of each case will vary. The media are not, and should not be, exempt from punishment for contempt when publication substantially interferes with the work of a House or one of its committees.

    Are you saying that publishing the penalty for Laws “substantially interfere[d] with the work of a House or one of its committees”?

  2. Bloke from Kent says:

    ‘.. that you feel able to provide…’

    ‘…it would be helpful to know’

    This was nothing more than a courteous going through the form; both the letter and the response were exactly as they should be.

    the question of contempt does not arise.

  3. craig weatherhill says:

    So many people are in complete contempt of parliament that there aren’t enough courthouses to fit ’em all in. Silly threat, but the pompous and self-important do so enjoy to deliver a good threat.

  4. @M’learned friend: You don’t seem to be very learned, if you don’t mind my saying so. Who said we broke an embargo?

    @Craig: Absolutely correct — aren’t our prisons crowded enough as it is?

    We’re not going to white collar resort prison … we’re going to federal “pound me in the ass” prison! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPcql4FuCK0

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