The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.
The media lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said Lord Denning ruled in the 1970s that "whatever comments are made in parliament" can be reported in newspapers without fear of contempt. He said: "Four rebel MPs asked questions giving the identity of 'Colonel B', granted anonymity by a judge on grounds of 'national security'. The DPP threatened the press might be prosecuted for contempt, but most published."
The right to report parliament was the subject of many struggles in the 18th century, with the MP and journalist John Wilkes fighting every authority – up to the king – over the right to keep the Public informed. After Wilkes's battle, wrote the historian Robert Hargreaves, "it gradually became accepted that the public had a constitutional right to know what their elected representatives were up to".