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Use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct

[Full report: Fullreporttextintrusive.pdf]

Question of privilege regarding use of intrusive powers within the parliamentary precinct

Summary of recommendations

We recommend that the House adopt the Protocol for release of information from parliamentary information and security systems (page 14).

We recommend that the Government update the Cabinet Manual to reflect that where an inquiry is established under the Inquiries Act 2013, the exercise of powers in relation to members of Parliament and the parliamentary agencies will require recognition of parliamentary privilege; and develop some standard terms of reference for use in any inquiry where it appears that powers may be exercised in relation to members and the parliamentary agencies (page 16).

1 Introduction

On 11 July 2013 the Speaker ruled that a question of privilege arose from issues raised in a letter to him from Dr Russel Norman. The issues related to the exercise of intrusive powers against members, and the release of information from parliamentary information and security systems. The question consequently stood referred to this committee. The ruling is appended to this report.

The particular incident involved the release of information held on parliamentary information systems to the author of Inquiry into the unauthorised release of information relating to the GCSB compliance review report: The leak of the Kitteridge report. We were not asked to investigate this matter as a contempt of privilege. Nor were we asked to determine who was responsible for the release. Instead, we were tasked with examining the particular incident involving the release of information from parliamentary information and security systems that led to the question of privilege being referred, and the more general issue of appropriate principles for access to and release of information from parliamentary information and security systems.

In December 2013 we presented to the House our interim report on this question of privilege. Our interim report set out a summary of the facts surrounding the particular incident leading to the referral, which we ascertained following a request for submissions from interested parties and the hearing of oral evidence.

We also set out in our interim report key issues highlighted by the incident, which we signalled we would need to consider further when developing our guidance in this area.

The incident raised important questions about protecting the privileges and immunities of the House, including the freedom of speech of members, and the ability of Parliament to maintain control within its precincts.

We have now considered these issues further, and set out in this report the principles and protocol we recommend should apply to such requests for information from parliamentary information and security systems.

[Full report: Fullreporttextintrusive.pdf]

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