Power to summons

Lord Norton

I would just add a few words to what Lord Tyler has written about the power to subpoena witnesses.  I was asked yesterday by a journalist whether a select committee had the power to require someone who was not a UK citizen to appear before it.   I pointed out that select committees in the Commons  are normally vested with the power to ‘send for persons, papers and records’.  The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, like other departmental select committees, has this power.  This means they can summons to attend anyone within the jurisdiction of Parliament, in other words within the UK.   There are certain exceptions, but  nationality by itself is not relevant in this context.  The only foreign nationals who cannot be required to attend are people such as ambassadors.  

Anyone failing to comply with a summons can be reported by the committee in a special report to the House.  The House can then determine whether failure to comply with the summons is a contempt of the House.  If it so decides, it can punish those guilty of contempt, including by fining or even imprisoning them.

When Rupert and James Murdoch failed to accept the invitation of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee to give evidence to it next week, it exercised its power to issue a summons.  Both have complied with that summons and will now be appearing before the committee on Tuesday.

8 comments for “Power to summons

  1. Twm O'r Nant
    15/07/2011 at 1:34 pm

    The Speaker of parliament would scarcely dare to call either Murdoch to the Bar of the House would he now?

    And a fine and/or in lieu of imprisonment to such people is laughable.

    In my own experience in the 1990s the corruption of parliament was obvious to me in the way that miscreant newly elected member, and his sleeping partner, but equally active parliamentary member, corrupted the select committee procedure to silence me, by sitting on it when I was summoned.

    Who could possibly know the sleeping partner arrangements of criminally elected new Members of a completely different party, claiming to be somebody whom he was not, ME!?

    If the noble Lord Norton paid more attention to the human condition and a little bit less to the letter of the Law he would be a far more valuable member of a legislature, and hopefully, an abolished House of Lords.

    • maude elwes
      16/07/2011 at 4:15 pm

      Twm O’r Nant:

      Wow, the plot thickens, I had no idea.

      Can you reveal all? Put it up as a link. This is too important to be hidden.

      It’s time this entire Parliament was brought to account.

      And I agree, Murdoch is too fat city to be played like a trout. He has enough money to hire a good brief.

  2. Senex
    15/07/2011 at 8:03 pm

    What you are saying is that Parliament can act as a court of law if necessary? The Law Lords were removed in part to enforce a separation of powers. One could make the counter argument that Parliament should not have these powers when no indictable crime is in prospect? The matter of attendance should be voluntary given that the attendee has no formal ‘fifth amendment’ protection under our Bill of Rights.

    Before 1805 it was possible to escape the law by moving from one county to another or by moving from one part of the UK to another. The Writ of Subpoena Act 1805 stopped the practice.

    • maude elwes
      16/07/2011 at 4:27 pm


      On paper, maybe. In reality it’s a pipe dream.

      We need a clean sweep on company law and non domicile devotees.

  3. maude elwes
    16/07/2011 at 4:24 pm

    Why are people who have corporations or company’s in the UK but live outside it not under the same jurisdiction as our own citizens? If they are making money here and are within our domain, they should be open to the same law as the rest of us. Or, get out of the country and take their misdeeds elsewhere.

    This is all to do with tax avoidance or evasion. Off shore and off with it in their pockets as quickly as they can muster.

    Globalisation is the biggest con to the citizens of any country and it is time the whole charade was revealed and the culprits of this hucksterism brought to account. Now, not ten years from now.

    The last Labour government played this game to the hilt which is why Blair and co. are in the Judas money. This government are just as culpable, and given time, will be more so. Expose and be damned.

  4. ladytizzy
    16/07/2011 at 7:02 pm

    Given that Sir Gus O’Donnell is rewriting the code of conduct for civil servants, where are we at, in terms of the Osmotherly Rules* and his release of papers relating to his advice given to Mr Brown in March 2010 on phone-hacking?

    * http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-02671.pdf

  5. Twm O'r Nant
    17/07/2011 at 10:26 am

    A district council may use its financial muscle to summon a council tax payer/enforcement notice breaker to the magistrates court, giving it every appearance of a criminal charge, but non compliance with the summons would not incur/cause a warrant for arrest for failing to attend.

    I believe the powers of the parliamnetary constabulary are rather different from what they were ten years ago.

Comments are closed.