Well, yes he can, on the face of it.
Andrew Bridgen has threatened Matt Hancock with legal action after the former Health Secretary and I’m A Celebrity contestant accused him of using anti-Semitic language:
It is true that Hancock is protected from a lawsuit based on what he said in the Commons Chamber by Absolute Privilege – an exemption from the law that allows MPs to denounce dodginess committed by the powerful without fear of vexatious lawsuits against them.
Hancock made the same claim on Twitter, using no different words – but he may be sued by Andrew Bridgen for this – as I understand it – because tweets are not protected by Parliamentary Privilege.
It doesn’t matter whether the tweet was, almost word for word, what was said in Parliament.
As it happens, though, it is true that Parliamentary Privilege was successfully used to make allegations about the Teesside Free Port:
An MP has called on the Prime Minister to launch an inquiry into the transfer of publicly owned shares in the Teesworks site to private ownership in what he calls “crony contracts”.
At Prime Ministers’ Questions today (Wednesday January 11), Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham told Rishi Sunak that “taxpayers are set to lose tens of millions of pounds” as a result of the transfer of public assets to two Teesside businessmen.
But Simon Clarke and Jacob Young, two neighbouring North East Conservative MPs, accused Mr Cunningham of using parliamentary privilege to make a series of “damaging insinuations”
Here are the “insinuations”:
I also reiterated the need for a thorough investigation into crustacean die-offs.
Seems he only heard part of the question… pic.twitter.com/vMqYheV7ZR
— Alex Cunningham MP (@ACunninghamMP) January 11, 2023
In a statement to The Northern Echo, Ben Houchen disputed Alex Cunningham’s claims, saying: “The Joint Venture Partnership Alex refers to, which it should be said was signed off by all local authorities, including Labour led Stockton Council, has been instrumental in unlocking the site which without them would still be sat empty costing the taxpayer at least £20m a year to keep safe.
“From the devastation seven years ago to the transformation that we promised and are delivering now is incredible.
If there is anything in the Teesside allegations, then we may have Bridgen and Hancock to thank for drawing them to our attention.
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