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The Strauss case

[1958] 21 MLR 485

Case summary last updated at 06/02/2020 10:43 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case The Strauss case

An MP sent a letter to a minister, passed onto head of British Electricity (BE), that made allegations against the company. The company responded with a letter threatening libel. The House of Commons Committee of Privileges said that the letter from Strauss was a “proceeding in parliament (as Bill of Rights requires) the letter from BE was a breach of 1689 Bill of rights s.9 and that it would take action against the company. The Privy Council upheld this, since the letter was sent under protection of parliamentary privilege. Denning objected saying that the 1770 Parliamentary Privilege Act entitles anyone to bring an action and no action against an MP shall be impeached, stayed or delayed under colour or pretence of any privilege. The Privy Council interpreted “any” narrowly, excluding privileges given under the Bill of Rights. Denning says that the meaning of “any” means “all”. He also argues that the HC are not entitled to decide that a breach of privilege occurred (it is the courts’ decision) and if the MP had been sued for libel he could have protested privilege to the courts who would have made the decision. HL avoided answering question of whether the letter was a “proceeding in parliament”. 

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