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Parliament and Congress: Representation and Scrutiny in the Twenty-First Century$
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William McKay and Charles W. Johnson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273621

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273621.001.0001

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Privilege and Contempt

Privilege and Contempt

(p.478) 10 Privilege and Contempt
Parliament and Congress: Representation and Scrutiny in the Twenty-First Century

William McKay

Charles W. Johnson

Oxford University Press

Privilege allows parliamentarians to perform their public duties without interference. The Commons uses its powers only when absolutely necessary for its defence. Freedom of speech protects Members and others against being accountable at law for things said in ‘proceedings in Parliament’, a term not comprehending everything said in Parliament or done by a Member as such. The phrase is susceptible of interpretation in court. Contempt, which protects against obstruction, is vague and needs definition. This also describes Congress and its Members. Further, ‘Privilege’ there connotes assertions of some House and individual prerogatives which supersede ordinary business. The term does not describe merely business conducted pursuant to constitutional legislative enumeration. ‘Privileged business’ means business priorities under standing rules, outranked by ‘questions of privilege’ of more immediate institutional concern. Specific civil or criminal contempts are litigated in court. Impeachments as remedies for removal of executive or judicial officials involve unique procedural prerogatives.

Keywords:   business, constitutional prerogatives, contempt, impeachment, proceedings in Parliament, privilege

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