HC Deb 13 February 1947 vol 433 cc517-8
41. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Attorney-General if he will state the number of cases in which courts of law have, since the end of hostilities with Germany, criticized the initiation or conduct of charges brought against private citizens by Government Departments.

Mr. Hector Hughes

On a point of Order. Is not this Question inadmissible for the reasons set out in paragraphs (23) and (28) on page 338 of Erskine May?

Mr. Speaker

I did not exactly gather the point of Order. Do I understand it to be a submission that the Question is inadmissible?

Mr. Hughes

I am suggesting that this Question is inadmissible for the two reasons set out on the page of Erskine May that I have mentioned.

Hon. Members

What are they?

Mr. Hughes

One is that it seeks information which is easily accessible in published documents, and the other is that it is trivial and vague.

Mr. Speaker

I will have a look at the matter. I cannot answer off-hand. I had not really studied the Question in advance.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

So far as the Director of Public Prosecutions is concerned, for whose prosecutions my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is directly respon- sible, no representations have been received by him since June, 1945, criticising the inception of any prosecution. In four cases during that period his attention has been drawn to some feature of the conduct of the prosecution, and on each occasion full inquiry has been made and appropriate action taken. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is not responsible for prosecutions instituted on behalf of other Government Departments, but I am informed that as a general rule, no separate and special record is kept by the prosecuting Departments of comments made by the courts on the subject of prosecutions, and to ascertain the particulars asked for would necessitate a search of the file of every prosecution.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of the large number of such observations which are reported in the Press, will the Solicitor-General use his restraining influence on his more impetuous colleagues?

The Solicitor-General

I do not accept the implication of the question that they are impetuous. They are most prudent and cautious.

Mr. Hogg

Will the Solicitor-General see that the Departments of his colleagues follow the careful practice which he has described in regard to his own?

The Solicitor-General

They invariably do.