Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Lord Lilley:

    My Lords, I am relieved that the committee did not follow the other place by excluding Members on the basis of allegations alone. That has led to palpable injustices—for example, Andrew Rosindell and his constituents; he was excluded for two years because of malicious allegations that nobody who knew him could possibly have given credence to and which were subsequently rejected.

    But I am worried that even the proposal the committee does make undermines the sacred principle of innocent unless and until proven guilty, which Parliament ought to uphold more emphatically than everybody else. The report specifically undermines that principle by justifying exclusion on the basis that a charge means that

    “the prosecuting authorities must be satisfied that there is a realistic prospect of conviction”.

    In other words, we should assume that anyone charged is probably guilty, not innocent. Secondly, the proposal justifies a precautionary exclusion by invoking that,

    “the duty of care towards those on the parliamentary estate, including school parties,”— ignoring that they are always accompanied by adults—

    “should be paramount”.

    Paramount means it takes precedence over the presumption of innocence or it means nothing.

    Why should noble Lords, or those who serve us, have more protection than the general public? The courts have the power to hold on remand people charged with serious offences that make them, in the opinion of the court, a potential threat to the public. Why should we second-guess the courts or give ourselves a higher degree of protection than the friends, neighbours and acquaintances of noble Lords elsewhere?

    Finally, this is a solution looking for a problem. As far as I know, no noble Lord charged with an offence has ever molested anyone on the Parliamentary Estate, least of all the school parties invoked to defend this proposal. I hope the committee will think again and put the presumption of innocence first and foremost.