Courts and local authorities are “bullying” members of the public to prevent them speaking to MPs, it has been claimed.
Birmingham MP John Hemming (Lib Dem Yardley) urged Parliament to re-assert its ancient right to help people who believe they have been unfairly treated by the state.
And he said that Birmingham City Council was preventing him from speaking to one of his constituents.
He was giving evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry.
The investigation was prompted by a series of incidents which raised questions about the powers of Parliament, including:
*Mr Hemming using Parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs, the footballer who had taken out a “superinjunction” banning publication of information about his private life.
*Repeated claims by Mr Hemming that courts had ordered members of the public not to talk to him, effectively hindering his work as an MP.
*The decision of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, including at the time Black Country MP Tom Watson (Lab West Bromwich East), formally to summon Rupert and James Murdoch to give evidence, which raised questions about what sort of punishment could be imposed if they failed to comply.
Mr Hemming argues that Parliament is failing to enforce the Bill of Rights 1688, which states that “the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament”, and also states that one of the House’s roles is “for redress of all grievances”.
Constituents must be free to speak to MPs so they can deal with “grievances”, he said.
Speaking to the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, he said: “My biggest concern is that at times people are bullied into not talking to me about things, and it happens to other MPs as well. Pressure is put on people not to talk to their member of Parliament.”
He added: “In the past, if somebody was trying to petition the House and somebody else was trying to intimate them or arrest them, the House would treat it as a breach of Privilege.”
This meant that Parliament would take action, possibly extending to arresting the person responsible for the intimidation.
Mr Hemming added: “I’m concerned about one of my constituents who was in my view was wrongly imprisoned through the Court of Protection and also forcibly medicated. And the council would not allow me to speak to her.
“I’m trying to represent somebody who I think is being very badly treated. Birmingham city council is saying you can’t talk to her.”
He said he was also trying to help “a constituent of mine who was initially wrongly imprisoned for a criminal offence.
“He complained about the social workers and so they took legal action against him in the family courts. They got him to agree not to talk to me, on the threat that if he talked to me he’d have his child taken off him.”
Mr Hemming said that other MPs, including Nadine Dorries (Con Mid Bedfordshire) and Jim Dobbin (Lab Heywood and Middleton) had raised concerns with him about constituents of their own who had been prevented from talking to them.
The committee is considering whether Parliament needs to pass new laws setting out exactly what rights MPs have to speak freely without worrying about legal consequences.
At the moment, MPs can make statements in the Commons which might be considered slanderous or might breach court orders, without any fear of being sued. However, it is not always clear whether they have the same protection when they are speaking or writing to Ministers or constituents.
The inquiry is also considering whether the law should be changed to prevent MPs breaking court injunctions – as Mr Hemming apparently did when he named Ryan Giggs.
However, the Government has already said it is unlikely any change would be introduced.