Parliament's Privileges Select Committee is consulting on aspects of parliamentary privilege. This follows the case of Attorney-General and Gow v Leigh [2011] NZSC 106, where the Supreme Court ruled that information communicated to a Minster to help him answer a question in Question Time was not a parliamentary proceeding protected by absolute privilege in defamation proceedings (but would be protected by qualified privilege). The Committee is considering the implications of the ruling for the proper functioning of Parliament, and whether it may inhibit the flow of information to the House. The Committee is therefore seeking submissions addressing the following terms of reference:

  • whether the judgment affects the privilege of the House of exclusive control of its own proceedings;
  • the important constitutional relationship of mutual respect and restraint between the House of Representatives and the judiciary (comity);
  • whether the judgment affects or purports to affect the scope of Article 9 of the Bill of Rights, which protects freedom of speech and "proceedings in Parliament" from being questioned or impeached outside Parliament;
  • whether the judgment affects the ability of members, Ministers, the Clerk of the House, and their staff, departmental officials, and members of the public to participate appropriately in parliamentary proceedings, both in the House and its committees;
  • the appropriateness of applying the doctrine of necessity to parliamentary privilege and whether as a consequence the same test would apply to other privileges, including protections available in relation to judicial proceedings and other legal matters;
  • the desirability of possible legislative reform of the basis for the law of parliamentary privilege in New Zealand in the light of issues raised during the inquiry and in recent reports of the Privileges Committee;
  • whether the meaning of "proceedings in Parliament" should be defined in legislation; and
  • any other related matters.

Submissions are due on 29 October.