André Vella

The Limits of Parliamentary Privilege: Transparency and Accountability

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Holden Bates and Dr Peter Kerr

Parliamentarians, conceived as the guardians of the societies they were elected to represent, need the privilege of protected speech to properly conduct legitimate oversight on the other branches of the state, especially the executive. Without parliamentary immunity, parliamentarians would be unable to freely accomplish this very important function due the fear of potential legal retribution. On the other hand, parliamentarians may intentionally slander and defame private citizens who neither enjoy the privilege of legal immunity nor the guaranteed audience afforded to the parliamentary stage to refute the same accusations.

The project will start by creating a typology of Commonwealth legislative assemblies based on how they protect freedom of speech of parliamentarians, then proceed by comparing Speaker rulings on parliamentary immunity from a select few legislative assemblies using qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and set theory. Since Commonwealth legislatures have modified their parliamentary procedures since achieving self-government, parliamentarians from different commonwealth legislatures may be enjoying varying degrees of protection. The project will conclude by conducting interviews with key stakeholders to investigate those instances when parliamentary immunity was at stake.

This project will therefore shed light on the possible conflict that exists between transparency and accountability, contributing to the wider literature on legislative studies by focusing on parliamentary immunity, one of the most overlooked areas in this field.


André is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science and International Studies (POLSIS) at the University of Birmingham (UoB). His project examines the status of parliamentary immunity in Commonwealth legislatures, and how freedom of speech is protected in parliaments using QCA and set theory.

André holds an MSc in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason university, and an MA Conflict Resolution &Mediterranean Security and B. Psy (Hons) from the University of Malta. During his studies, he works with the Parliament of Malta as a research analyst.


  • B. Psychology Hons (Melit.)
  • MA Conflict Resolution & Mediterranean Security (Melit.)
  • MSc Conflict Analysis and Resolution (George Mason University)

Research interests

  • Legislative Studies;
  • Politics of parliamentary procedures;
  • Parliamentary immunity and privileges;
  • Qualitative Comparative Analysis and set theory.

Professional memberships

  • Political Studies Association Specialist Group on Parliaments
  • ECPR Standing Group on Parliaments

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