The SNP’s John Nicolson has been censured in a scathing report published by a House of Commons committee after a probe in his decision to reveal details of a letter from Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.
The row erupted in November 2022 after Sir Lindsay wrote Mr Nicolson, the MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, to explain his reasons for not referring former Tory culture secretary Nadine Dorries to the privileges committee.
Mr Nicolson had been angered by claims made by Ms Dorries that a Channel 4 documentary in which she featured used “paid actors” pretending to be people living on the breadline, contacting Sir Lindsay on the matter.
After receiving Sir Lindsay’s letter, Mr Nicolson, who was cleared of bullying Ms Dorries by email earlier this year, tweeted a video on November in which he said: “I sent a copy of the report to Mr Speaker, and he’s responded and I thought I should update you on what he said.
“He says that he’s considered my letter, but he’s decided to take no further action and not to refer Nadine Dorries to the Privileges Committee.
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“In other words, she’ll suffer no consequences for what she’s done. And I thought you should know.”
Sir Lindsay hit back, claiming Mr Nicolson had “seen fit to give a partial and biased account of my letter on Twitter”, had “misled the people of this country” and had “put me in a bad light with the people of this country”.
On November, Mr Nicolson was accused of a “clear breach” of parliamentary rules – and referred to the Committee for Privileges, with MPs voting to do so by 371 votes to 16.
In its report, published today, committee, chaired by Labour MP Harriet Harman, found there was an expectation “grounded in precedent and a past decision of the House” that correspondence with the Speaker on matters of privilege should remain confidential unless the Speaker directed otherwise.
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Mr Nicolson’s video had given “an erroneous impression” of what the Speaker had done and by failing to provide the reason for his decision had allowed “a misleading impression to be given that he had acted out of partiality towards Ms Dorries”, said the report.
It concluded: “We regard Mr Nicolson’s conduct as highly regrettable.
“The integrity of the Chair is important to our democracy and Members should not, by their actions or inaction, imply a lack of impartiality on the part of the Speaker when there are no reasonable grounds for supposing this.”
Mr Nicolson’s initial action in publishing the Speaker’s decision was “disruptive”, with his subsequent conduct in neglecting to correct the mistaken impression he had given, or to offer a proper apology to the Speaker in good time “nearly crossed the line into being a contempt”.
Regardless of Mr Nicolson’s belief that he was acting within his rights, the committee said he had shown “intransigence” in refusing to accept he had actually been at fault.
However, it said: “In view of his candour and co-operation with the Committee, and because when giving oral evidence he offered, through the medium of the Committee, an apology to the Speaker, we recommend that no further action be taken.”
The committee added: “We note that it was entirely appropriate for this matter to be referred to the Committee, and that by so doing the House has given us an opportunity to clarify some important issues.
“We have set out earlier in this report our recommendation that steps be taken to improve the communication to Members of the House’s expectations as to the circumstances in which private exchanges with the Speaker, particularly in relation to privilege, are to be regarded as confidential.”
Express.co.uk has contacted Mr Nicolson for comment.
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