Impotents Ignored

This comes as a follow-up to this post:

MPs have threatened to issue Mark Zuckerberg with a formal summons to appear in front of parliament when he next enters the UK, unless he voluntarily agrees to answer questions about the activities of his social network and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Damian Collins, the chair of the parliamentary committee that is investigating online disinformation, said he was unhappy with the information the company had provided and wanted to hear evidence from the Facebook chief executive before parliament went into recess on 24 May.

This would be the Damian Collins who was elected by 32,000 people in the constituency of Folkestone and Hythe. Commenter Ottokring had this to say about him:

D Collins is my local MP and is an utter c*nt.

Right.

“It is worth noting that, while Mr Zuckerberg does not normally come under the jurisdiction of the UK parliament, he will do so the next time he enters the country,” Collins wrote in a public letter to Facebook. “We hope that he will respond positively to our request, but, if not, the committee will resolve to issue a formal summons for him to appear when he is next in the UK.”

What are they going to do, wait for him at Heathrow arrivals? Could they come across as any more impotent if they tried?

The digital, culture, media, and sport committee has repeatedly invited Zuckerberg to give evidence but Facebook has sent more junior executives to answer questions from MPs.

Which is what this is all about: MPs believe they are important enough that none other than the CEO should appear before them to answer questions.

Facebook declined to comment on the possibility of a formal summons. In theory, Zuckerberg could be found in contempt of parliament if he refuses one.

When Rupert Murdoch and his son James resisted appearing in front of a select committee in 2011, it was speculated that potential punishments could include “fines and imprisonment”.

In reality it is likely that, at worst, the punishment for ignoring such a summons would include an arcane process resulting in little more than a formal warning from the House of Commons.

At which point Zuckerberg starts sharing MPs’ Facebook Messenger histories.

MPs have debated making it a criminal offence for potential witnesses to ignore formal summons to select committees, following attempts by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley to avoid answering questions.

I expect this debate ended rapidly when someone asked: “Can Iraqi MPs summon Tony Blair?”

“It’s a hard job for parliament to make a foreign national come,” said White. “What’s the Serjeant at Arms going to do? Patrol all the ports and airports to see if he’s coming in?”

Precisely. This is empty posturing, but that’s what the government does best these days, isn’t it?

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9 thoughts on “Impotents Ignored

  1. Well technically, if a majority of MPs wanted it, and the government would provide the time, Parliament could pass a law requiring him to come (such individual-specific laws, while not common nowadays, are not unheard-of).

    And in that Act they could specify whatever punishment they wanted if he didn’t (subject to the Human Rights Act, so they probably couldn’t execute him, but they could certainly throw him in gaol).

    But that’s only right, because Parliament, acting as a whole, is the supreme authority.

    However this is about MPs who are on a Parliamentary committee. And those, quite rightly, are pretty impotent beasts, because they are mainly there to be talking-shops.

    Some MPs don’t seem to get the distinction between Parliament and themselves individually, and think that because they are MPs they should have some kind of power. No: Parliament has the power, when it votes, to do pretty much anything with the law. An individual MP, or even a bunch of MPs on a committee, is basically just a private citizen.

    That’s how it has worked for quite a long time, so there seems no need to change it now.

  2. (such individual-specific laws, while not common nowadays, are not unheard-of).

    That comes remarkably close to a Bill of Attainder. Of which none have been passed in the UK since 1820, according to Wikipedia.

    However, the EU has in fact imposed what is effectively a BoA on a British legal person, Bowland Dairy Products, back in 2006: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32006D0694 prohibiting them from putting their product on the market in the EU member states…

  3. What a ridiculous Kabuki. Zuck is already doing everything in his power to ensure that Facebook can’t be used to support an anti-establishment cause like Brexit ever again.

  4. I have no time for the little farsebook creep. But if some jack in office wants to use his Kangaroo court (as many do) he’s right to stay away.

  5. @S
    MPs could indeed introduce legislation to force anyone they want to testify. However, unless he comes here on holiday, or we feel like invading the US to arrest him, it’s not going to do them much good – he can still just sit and thumb his nose at them.

    They could of course take action against Facebook if he won’t turn up – however even there MPs options are limited – if he played hardball and threatened to just turn UK Facebook off rather than comply, the general public will turn on the government instantly.

  6. Parliament has the power, when it votes, to do pretty much anything with the law.

    That is, as they say in the colonies, the buried lede.

    That’s how it has worked for quite a long time, so there seems no need to change it now.

    Well, thirteen of Britain’s former colonies disagreed rather strongly with that a while back, as I recall.

    Personally, I find it beyond ludicrous that Parliament or Congress wastes time and money subpeona-ing private citizens over what are essentially private civil law matters. Like steroids in baseball, this is a non-issue.

  7. What would really be LOLs is if he came over and did a Howard Hughes on them. That would be something to see. However Zuckerberg is no HH so it ain’t gonna happen.

  8. I have no time for the little farsebook creep.

    I know, I feel all grubby defending him like this.

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