• In the case of Hamilton v Al Fayed [2001] 1 ac 395, it was found that, in special cases, Parliament can allow Members of Parliament to waive their parliamentary privilege and protection.
  • The waiver allowed the questioning of parliamentary proceedings for the defamation action without it necessarily infringing the autonomy of Parliament.

Facts of the Case

  • C, a Member of Parliament, was accused by D for accepting cash for asking questions in Parliament for which C ended up losing his seat in Parliament.
  • The allegation against C was investigated and were found to be true.
  • A report was created on this allegation by The Committee on Standards and Privileges in which it was neither accepted nor rejected that C was at fault. This report was accepted by a resolution of the House of Commons.
  • C brought a libel action against D after C waived parliamentary privilege under section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996.
  • D asserted that this was an abuse of process or an infringement on parliamentary privilege and sought to have the action either struck out or stayed.


  • Could the defamation action be in potential breach of parliamentary privilege?

Held by the House of Lords:

  • The House of Lords denied the stay action, but found that if it wasn’t for section 13 of the Defamation Act 1996, the court would’ve decided to stay the action due to the interference with Parliamentary privilege. The Act, however, provided the requisite answer.

Lord Browne-Wilkinson

  • The courts are refrained from using evidence from examining proceedings that took place in Parliament. His Lordship recognised the unfairness of this given that D would be limited in justifying his statements without utilising the evidence from Parliamentary proceedings.
  • “In Prebble’s case it was stated that section 16(3) contains the true principles to be applied, a view shared by the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege (HLP 43-1) (1998-1999) which recommended a statutory provision confirming “as a general principle” the traditional view of article 9, i.e that it is a blanket prohibition on the examination of parliamentary proceedings in court. “The prohibition applies whether or not legal liability would arise”: p 28, para 85.”