Opinion Number. 185

Subject

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES WHETHER WITNESSES BEFORE SELECT COMMITTEE ARE PROTECTED

Date

The Chairman, Select Committee of the House of Representatives on Electoral Act Administration:

The Chairman of the Select Committee of the House of Representatives on Electoral Act Administration asks my opinion on the following question:

What protection can be offered to witnesses in respect of anything that may be said by them before a select committee of the House of Representatives?

I am of opinion as follows:

  1. That no action of slander will lie against the witness for anything said in evidence by him before the Select Committee: Goffin v. Donnelly 6 Q.B.D. 307.
  2. That it would be a breach of privilege for any private person to abuse insult dismiss call to account or censure any person for anything said by him in evidence before a Select Committee (Standing Order 368). The offender is liable to be called before the House, and to suffer such penalty as the House thinks fit: May, 10th edn, pp. 122-191126.

If the Committee is faced with any specific difficulty, not covered by these answers, and will state it definitely, I shall be happy to give it any assistance in my power.

[Vol. 4, p. 266]