Parliamentary privilege and the Bill of Rights 1688
Produced in partnership with Carl Gardner of Head of Legal
Parliamentary privilege and the Bill of Rights 1688

The following Public Law guidance note Produced in partnership with Carl Gardner of Head of Legal provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Parliamentary privilege and the Bill of Rights 1688
  • Exclusive cognisance
  • Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688
  • Freedom of speech
  • Proceedings in parliament
  • Impeaching or questioning

Arguably the most significant of these ‘statutory’ aspects of Parliamentary privilege is freedom of speech in Parliament, which is protected by Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688.

Exclusive cognisance

Arguably Parliament’s key privilege is its exclusive jurisdiction to regulate, and judge the lawfulness of, its own procedures.

Blackstone wrote in the 18th century that

The whole of the law and custom of Parliament has its original from this one maxim, 'that whatever matter arises concerning either House of Parliament ought to be examined, discussed, and adjudged in that House to which it relates, and not elsewhere'. Blackstone, Commentaries (17th ed. (1830)), volume 1, page 163

In R v Chaytor Lord Phillips said that the phrase 'exclusive cognisance':

describes areas where the courts have ruled that any issues should be left to be resolved by Parliament rather than determined judicially. Exclusive cognisance refers not simply to Parliament, but to the exclusive right of each House to manage its own affairs without interference from the other or from outside Parliament. The boundaries of exclusive cognisance result from accord between the two Houses and the courts as to what falls within the exclusive province of the former. Unlike the absolute privilege imposed by article 9, exclusive cognisance can be waived or relinquished by Parliament.

In that case, three MPs and one Lord were charged with false