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Category: House of Commons

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Minister accused of ‘betraying promise’ to reduce FOBT stakes

Tory MPs and Labour press government on delay to fixed-odds betting terminals capThe government is facing significant pressure from Conservative MPs over its decision to delay implementing a planned reduction in the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting …

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Another line in the David Beckham tattoo saga | Brief letters

Michael Martin | Sajid Javid’s pose | Crossword clue | David Beckham’s tattoo | SpellcheckerYou report that Lord Martin (Obituary, 30 April) was the last Speaker of the House of Commons to resign “since Sir John Trevor in 1695”. This is, to put it kind…

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Classification controversy marks terrible coming of age for Paralympic sport

The growth of Paralympic sport into an elite and lucrative competition means allegations of corruption and foul play have also increasedA couple of decades ago very few people paid attention to Paralympic sport. It was patronisingly considered by some …

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Footballer whose hero is Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

Eniola Aluko is a striker with 102 England caps – and now also a whistleblower – who had to turn to the law to make a livingEniola Aluko has been trailblazing since she was in primary school, first for her brother Sone who became an international footb…

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Football fans becoming more accepting of homosexuality, MPs told

Experts tell select committee homophobia inquiry there would likely be no backlash now if a football player came out as gay

Football fans have started to become more accepting of homosexuality, MPs investigating reports of homophobia in sport have been told.

The inquiry by the culture, media and sport select committee, set up partly in response to public debate over comments made by the boxers Tyson Fury and Manny Pacquiao, was told on Wednesday that football supporters have begun to accept “a wider societal shift in the acceptance of sexuality”.

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England ready to host 2022 World Cup in place of Qatar, culture secretary says

John Whittingdale conceded it is ‘very unlikely’ a European country would be chosen, as he called for major change within Fifa after Sepp Blatter resignation

England would be ready to host the 2022 World Cup if it was taken away from Qatar, the culture secretary has told MPs, while conceding it was a very unlikely prospect.

Answering ministerial questions in the Commons, John Whittingdale called for major change within Fifa following the decision of Sepp Blatter to step down as president, amid growing allegations about corruption within world football’s governing body and questions over the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 event to the Gulf state.

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Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley called to Westminster over employee treatment

Scottish affairs committee investigating how 200 staff at Ayrshire warehouse lost jobs when administrators called in plus use of zero-hours contracts Continue reading…

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Tory MP mistakes stop and search campaigner for Mario Balotelli

Conservative Party MP Guy Opperman tweeted claiming to have seen the Liverpool striker in the Commons public gallery Continue reading…

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Record number of MPs run in London Marathon

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls knocks 17 minutes off personal best but first place in parliamentary race goes to Tory Alun Cairns Continue reading…

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Lord Triesman cannot be sued for libel by Thai official, court of appeal rules

Judgment expands freedom of expression beyond conventional limits of parliament and avoids ‘chilling effect’ on free speech

Lord Triesman, the former chairman of the Football Association, cannot be sued for libel by a Thai official, the appeal court has ruled, in a judgment that significantly expands freedom of expression beyond the traditional limits of parliament.

The unanimous decision by three senior judges relies on the ancient immunity granted to speakers under article 9 of the bill of rights 1689, which protects MPs and peers’ proceedings from being “questioned in any court or place outside of parliament”.

The Thai official, Dato Worwawi Makudi, the head of Thailand’s football federation, had attempted to sue Triesman for defamation following the peer’s appearance before the culture, media and sport select committee in May 2011.

The lawsuit, if allowed to continue, would have created a “substantial chilling effect” on free speech in parliament and affected the ability of witnesses to give evidence to select committees, lawyers for John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, had warned judges in a 10-page submission during the case.

Triesman alleged that Makudi had demanded the television rights to a proposed Thailand-England friendly in exchange for supporting England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Makudi told reporters the accusations were “not true and groundless”, saying he had to speak out “because my reputation has been tarnished and it defames my family”.

Triesman’s comments led to the Dingemans inquiry being set up by the FA, to which Triesman gave evidence later the same month. In those hearings Triesman, a Labour peer, referred back to his evidence given to the select committee but did not repeat or expand on the allegations.

Delivering judgment on Wednesday, the court of appeal acknowledged that the central question was whether subsequent references outside parliament were protected from Makudi’s libel claim by the force of article 9 of the bill of rights. Article 9 states that “the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside of parliament”.

Lord Justice Laws said: “Not all such repetitions are the gratuitous choice of the Speaker. There will be occasions when it will be in the public interest that he should repeat or refer to his earlier utterance in parliament.

“And it may be a public interest which he ought reasonably to serve, because of his knowledge or expertise as a parliamentarian, or an expectation or promise (arising from what he had said in parliament) that he would do so. In those circumstances it is by no means obvious that his later speech should lack the protection of article 9.

“I accept … that there may be instances where the protection of article 9 indeed extends to extra-parliamentary speech.” Protection, he suggested, should be given where comments are made for “a public interest in repetition of the parliamentary utterance which the speaker ought reasonably to serve” and where there is a connection between the occasions of “his speaking in and then out of parliament … is reasonably foreseeable at the time of the first and his purpose in speaking on both occasions is the same or very closely related”.

Each occasion would have to be considered individually, he added. “The notion of public interest is not, I acknowledge, sharp-edged. Nor is the category of cases in which a member of parliament or witness ought reasonably to serve such a public interest. As always, the common law will proceed case by case.”

Referring to Triesman’s appearance at the inquiry, Laws said: “There was plainly a public interest in Mr Dingemans’s inquiry, which would be served by the respondent’s contribution. Equally plainly, there was a close nexus between his evidence to the [select committee] and his interview with Mr Dingemans.

“The prospect that he might be called on to repeat his allegations was not only reasonably foreseeable but actually foreseen: he undertook, in effect, to do so … In my judgment, article 9 prohibits an examination in this action of the respondent’s assertions to Mr Dingemans.”

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Commons Speaker writes to appeal court over Lord Triesman libel case

John Bercow tells MPs implications of case brought against former Fifa chairman ‘give me cause for grave concern’

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has taken the constitutionally unusual step of writing to the court of appeal about a forthcoming libel case involving the former Football Association chairman Lord Triesman.

The letter raises the political stakes surrounding a resurrected defamation claim, involving bribery allegations at Fifa. MPs fear it could undermine the long-established parliamentary privilege of free speech.

The court of appeal is due to hear an application by Dato Worawi Makudi, the head of Thailand’s football federation, to reinstate a defamation claim against Triesman, former chairman of the Football Association, later this month.

The danger of a constitutional clash between courts and parliament has been flagged up the prominent conservative MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee. The libel allegation stems from Triesman’s appearance before the committee two years ago.

“During his evidence, under parliamentary privilege, Lord Triesman made specific accusations of corruption against four named members of Fifa’s executive committee,” Whittingdale said on the floor of the Commons this week.

“In the subsequent review conducted by the Football Association, Lord Triesman was careful to say in answer to questions from James Dingemans QC, who was conducting the review, that he invited him to rely on the evidence that he had given to the select committee, and that he did not wish to add to it.”

Whittingdale said: “If witnesses to select committees cannot be confident that their evidence is covered by absolute privilege, and that if they do not repeat the allegations outside parliament they are fully protected against legal action, that will severely damage the ability of select committees to obtain the information that they require.”

Parliamentary privilege is the long-established legal immunity against being sued for libel, contempt of court or other offences that enables MPs and peers to speak openly during debates and in committees at Westminster. It also extends to witnesses giving evidence before committees.

Following Triesman’s appearance in 2011, Makudi told reporters that the accusations were “not true and groundless”, saying he had to speak out “because my reputation has been tarnished and it defames my family”.

In January this year, Mr Justice Tugendhat dismissed the libel claim brought by Makudi on the grounds that Triesman at all times had the protection of qualified parliamentary privilege and was not acting out of malice.

In June, however, lawyers for Makudi succeeded in persuading Lord Justice Maurice Kay to hold a renewed application for permission to appeal. That hearing is now scheduled to be heard by three appeal court judges later this month and could, if successful, lead on to a full hearing of the libel claim.

Replying to Whittingdale on Monday, Bercow told the Commons: “I have followed these matters very closely, and the possible implications give me cause for grave concern.”

He said that “the matter is awaiting determination by the court of appeal, so I will not of course comment on the substance of the case; but I will say … that I consider these matters to be of such importance for the house and for its members, and to the protection of free speech in our proceedings, that written submissions have been made to the court on my behalf by Speaker’s counsel.”

Lawyers for Makudi did not comment.

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Football libel case could undermine parliamentary privilege, says MP

Thai football official is pursuing claim against ex-FA chairman Lord Triesman over comments made to select committee

A resurrected libel case involving bribery allegations at Fifa, football’s world governing body, threatens to undermine the ability of MPs, peers and select committee witnesses to speak freely in parliament, a prominent MP has said.

Next month the court of appeal will hear an application by Dato Warowi Makudi, the head of Thailand’s football federation, to reinstate a defamation claim against Lord Triesman, former chairman of the Football Association.

The long-running dispute between the two officials turns upon whether Triesman, a Labour peer, is protected by parliamentary privilege for comments to the culture, media and sport select committee in May 2011.

It may now develop into a constitutional clash between courts and parliament. John Whittingdale, chairman of the committee, said he was “very concerned” about witnesses being sued for libel on the grounds of evidence they gave to MPs under the guarantee of parliamentary privilege.

Parliamentary privilege is the long-established legal immunity against being sued for libel, contempt of court or other offences that enables MPs and peers to speak openly during debates and in committees at Westminster. It also extends to witnesses giving evidence before committees.

Appearing before the culture, media and sport committee two years ago, Triesman alleged that Makudi demanded the television rights to a proposed Thailand-England friendly in exchange for supporting England’s bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Makudi subsequently told reporters that the accusations were “not true and groundless”, saying he had to speak out “because my reputation has been tarnished and it defames my family”.

His comments generated a storm of publicity. An inquiry was set up by the FA into the claims and Triesman gave evidence to that hearing, outside parliament, later the same month. In those hearings Triesman referred back to his evidence given to the select committee and did not repeat or expand on the allegations.

In January this year Mr Justice Tugendhat dismissed Makudi’s libel claim on the grounds that Triesman at all times had the protection of qualified {parliamentary} privilege and was not acting out of malice.

In June, however, lawyers for Makudi succeeded in persuading Lord Justice Maurice Kay to hold a renewed application for permission to appeal. That hearing is now scheduled to be heard by three appeal court judges in late November and could, if successful, lead on to a full hearing of the libel claim.

In his decision, the judge referred back to the 1689 Bill of Rights. He observed: “It seems to me that it is arguable that there is sufficient of a grey area here to justify permission to appeal, because I do not think it can be said that the prospect of success was merely fanciful.”

Whittingdale, the Conservative MP for Maldon, said: “I’m very concerned that witnesses who give evidence to my select committee with my assurance that the evidence would be received under privilege should now face a libel action which appears to fly in the face historically guaranteed [freedoms].”

Lawyers for Makudi declined to comment on the case. Lord Triesman did not respond to requests for comment.

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