A Labour MP has been accused of misusing his parliamentary privilege by a law firm representing the mining giant ENRC.
In a debate in the House of Commons on 23 May, Eric Joyce MP referred to a client of ENRC (Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation) as a ‘shady middle man”.
According to Joyce, on Wednesday morning – the day he was scheduled to ask the Prime Minister a question in Parliament about ENRC – the West End law firm Mischon de Reya sent him a letter referring to the comments he made on 23 May.
Addressing the Speaker of the House John Bercow on Wednesday, Joyce said: ‘Essentially, it accuses me of a misuse of parliamentary privilege and I ask for your advice on what, if anything, I should do next.”
Joyce insisted his comments on 23 May were ‘true and justifiable… it is a use of parliamentary privilege rather than a misuse”.
‘The letter appears to be an attempt to constrain a Member of Parliament from expressing his views clearly and fairly in this House,’he added.
Bercow replied: ‘My response is twofold. First, if he wishes to make a complaint about the attempted denial of his parliamentary privilege by the firm of lawyers to which he refers, he needs to write to me and I will consider that complaint in accordance with the normal procedure.
‘Secondly, I recall clearly that I was in the chair for that adjournment debate on 23 May. If he had been out of order, I would have said so. I did not, because he was not.”
Mishcon de Reya declined to comment.
The use of parliamentary privilege has been in the spotlight since several members have used it to reveal the identity of high-profile figures that have been granted privacy injunctions.
In May, Lib Dem MP John Hemming identified Ryan Giggs as the Premiership star at the centre of an injunction row, four days after Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott exposed former RBS banker Fred Goodwin’s privacy gag in the House of Lords.