Push for law to protect MP leaks

The Damian Green affair has provoked a push for new laws to protect MPs who leak information to the public.

Democratisation pressure group Unlock Democracy has published a draft bill protecting MPs from police investigation when receiving leaked information.

“Damian Green’s arrest was remarkable,” said Unlock Democracy director Peter Facey.

“It is crucial that parliament urgently debates the matter and clarifies the legal position.”

The group are now looking for an MP to adopt the proposals as a private members bill, which can be balloted for at parliament on December 11th.

The leaked information (accountability of government) bill excludes matters of national security from its remit, but it does set out procedures to be followed in such an instance.

The protection of MPs from investigation when receiving leaks had generally been considered safe under parliamentary privileges.

Several men who later became prime minister, including Gordon Brown and Winston Churchill, made good use of this convention during their parliamentary career.

“This is not about treating MPs as if they were above the law,” Mr Facey continued.

“It is about recognising their crucial role in holding the executive to account. If MPs cannot do that, parliament’s very legitimacy becomes open to question.”

The Damian Green affair has raised serious questions of constitutional importance since it broke last week.

Yesterday, home secretary Jacqui Smith was implicitly criticised by her predecessor John Reid for being overly placid in the face of police demands.