• In the case of R v Chaytor and Others [2010] UKSC 52, the court found that parliamentary privilege and its extent is ascertained by common law.
  • The court held that the expense claims of a Member of Parliament do not attract parliamentary privilege.

Facts of the Case

  • Ds, who were three former Members of Parliament, were on trial at the Crown Court for false accounting during their role as MPs.
  • Ds asserted that the principle of parliamentary privilege was relevant here and that, due to this principle, criminal charges could not be put against them. They also argued that expense claims fell under the definition of parliamentary proceedings.


  • Can criminal proceedings against Members of Parliament attract parliamentary privilege for the benefit of MPs?

Held by the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and held that criminal proceedings do not attract a Member of Parliament’s parliamentary privilege. 

Lord Phillips

  • It was found that the courts decide the scope of parliamentary privilege which the court will take a careful stance towards.
  • His Lordship also stressed that expense claims don’t attract parliamentary privilege given that its scrutiny by the court doesn’t impede with the freedom of speech or debate within Parliament. [48]
  • “Although the extent of parliamentary privilege is ultimately a matter for the court, it is one on which the court will pay careful regard to any views expressed in Parliament by either House or by bodies or individuals in a position to speak on the matter with authority.” [16]
  • “In considering whether actions outside the Houses and committees fall within parliamentary proceedings because of their connection to them, it is necessary to consider the nature of that connection and whether, if such actions do not enjoy privilege, this is likely to impact adversely on the core or essential business of Parliament.” [47]

Lord Clarke

  • Lord Clarke emphasises that the principle of parliamentary privilege is for Parliament as opposed to MPs in their individual form. It was also found that the courts in their previous dealings have never considered parliamentary privilege in cases like this before.
  • “It is to my mind plain from Lord Phillips’ analysis of this principle that it is a privilege which belongs to Parliament and not to individual members. This is I think clear from the fact that, unlike the privilege provided for in article 9 of the Bill of Rights, Parliament can waive or relinquish it. It seems to me to follow logically from that conclusion that it is for Parliament, and not the individual member to rely upon it.” [130]
  • Even if it were open to Parliament to rely upon the privilege in cases of this type, since Parliament has the right to waive or relinquish the right to do so, I do not think that an individual member could rely upon the privilege if Parliament has waived or relinquished the right in the particular case.” [131]