Power to subpoena?

Lord Tyler

Watching the Home Office Select Committee interrogate present and past Met Police Officers this week made me wonder whether the RSCPA should have been called in.  I felt that the ferocious MPs on the Committee were (understandably) trying to make up for their previous failure to get anywhere near the full horrendous habits of some of the Murdoch media.  They clearly now believe that News of the UnderWorld did have a very special relationship with the Police as well as with successive tenants of No 10.

However, in the cold light of dawn I am musing on the contrast between the tough investigations of Congressional Committees in Washington and the usual relatively cosy inquiries of our own Select Committees, in both Houses here. How did the Murdoch family members and minions manage to avoid requests to attend previously?  When both Houses next consider the powers of our Committees I hope we will reconsider whether we should have the equivalent of subpoena powers.  As I recall, the Commons Speaker can insist that any British citizen in apparent contempt of Parliament can be summoned to appear at the Bar of the House to explain and/or apologise.  In 1974, I persuaded the then Speaker to consider such a summons, when my Union threatened me for voting in Parliament  in a way that didn’t suit them.  On that occasion, they hurriedly backtracked.   Of course, as we should constantly remind ourselves, the Murdochs are not British citizens, despite the stranglehold they appear to have had over so many British Prime Ministers.  Perhaps Rebekah Brooks, who has no such get-out-of-Committee-free card, will find herself forced to appear on their behalf?

All this leads me to wonder whether the Lord Speaker should have similar powers to those enjoyed in Commons, to summon recalcitrant witnesses.  My principal US political adviser (my son-in-law) tells me that the Senate is far more effective than the House of Representatives in matters of this kind.  Perhaps that’s a useful lead for the reformed House of Lords to follow?  And should we employ more Joint Committees of Peers and MPs to work on special inquiries, rather than leave it all to the various Commons Departmental Committees, who (frankly) don’t have a great track record of success?

5 comments for “Power to subpoena?

  1. Lord Blagger
    14/07/2011 at 6:59 pm

    Burn the witches.

  2. Twm O'r Nant
    15/07/2011 at 11:27 am

    As I recall, the Commons Speaker can insist that any British citizen in apparent contempt of Parliament can be summoned to appear at the Bar of the House to explain and/or apologise. In 1974, I persuaded the then Speaker to consider such a summons

    But would he actually have done so, and would it not have been better to appear before the bar of the house?

    It is a summons difficult to avoid as I recall when summoned by the idiotic charwoman
    of the Education select committee, who had an
    entirely blunt axe to grind, and ground it.

    Having only a few weeks before been confronted by the corruption of parliament,
    ( a Tory posing as a Labour candidate in a Labour seat whilst still a member of the Tory party), I was unwise to succumb to threats even from near neighbours and close relatives if I did not attend.

    I should not have gone anywhere near, which was my own best judgement of the matter,of something which amounted to a calumnious and false allegation by the fool of a woman member for the East End, who had and still has a very high opinion of her own powers as a Law Lord.

    Enough said.

    Leave it as it is.

  3. Senex
    15/07/2011 at 7:43 pm

    Well you were vetted before you came to the house were you not? Why did they never have a relationship with the LDP? Ah! The Stars & Stripes, how they sparkle in your republican ayes.

  4. MilesJSD
    milesjsd
    16/07/2011 at 8:32 am

    Perhaps this is a part of a somewhat larger Need and Problem, namely the ‘ownership’ of information. knowledge, know-how, and how to legislate and practically-ensure its ‘sharing’.

    To illustrate, one Commonwealth country had a rule about ‘income’ such that if one found a pound coin in a public place and pocketed it, but failed to inform the Welfare-Allowances Authority, one could be cut off from Unemployment, Sickness, Pension, Single-Mother, Disability etcetera allowances.

    Similarly, if one has information that might be of Common Concern, surely one should be bound to submit that to some central-public- archive where it can be read by the Public or by successively classified levels thereof ?

    0833St16.JSDM.

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