UK Politics

Speaker writes to court over Triesman Fifa libel case

Lord Triesman
Image caption Lord Triesman told a committee there had been "improper and unethical" behaviour by Fifa members

Libel action by a Fifa member over claims made during a Commons committee session threatens parliamentary free speech, Speaker John Bercow has warned.

Worawi Makudi is taking legal action over comments made in May 2011.

Former FA chairman Lord Triesman made the comments, about England's failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup.

Culture Committee chairman John Whittingdale said it would "severely damage" its work if witnesses were not confident they were legally protected.

Mr Whittingdale said that parliamentary privilege - which means MPs and witnesses can speak in Parliament without fear of being sued for libel - was a "fundamental principle enshrined within the bill of rights".

Raising the case in the Commons, he said Mr Makudi had had his defamation case struck out in January but had now been granted to leave to appeal by the Court of Appeal.

In response, Speaker John Bercow said the "possible implications give me cause for grave concern".

He said that he thought the case was so important for the House of Commons, MPs "and the protection of free speech... that written submissions have been made to the court on my behalf".

After the comments were made to the Commons Culture Committee by its former chairman Lord Triesman, the Football Association ordered James Dingemans QC to prepare a report on allegations.

His report was passed to Fifa, world football's governing body, which said it had found "no elements in this report which would prompt the opening of any ethics proceedings". Mr Makudi has denied any wrongdoing and Lord Triesman's allegations.

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