HC Deb 20 January 1959 vol 598 cc19-20
36. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Attorney-General if he will arrange for the setting up of an appropriate committee to review the existing state of the law with regard to Crown privilege of documents.

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

No. The law and practice governing the exclusion of evidence in judicial proceedings in the public interest was reviewed as recently as 1956. The Government came to the conclusion that no amendment of the law was required, but, with the object of minimising the prejudice which may be unavoidably caused to litigants by the withholding of evidence, decided that certain modifications should be made in the practice then current. An announcement to this effect was made by my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor in another place on 6th June, 1956, and the whole question was very fully debated in this House on 26th October in the same year. I do not consider that there is any need for a further review of the position at present.

Mr. Fletcher

Is the Attorney-General not aware that those modifications which he announced have proved quite inadequate, and recent cases have shown that the existing system produces great injustice, being very largely condemned by the legal profession and going much further than is required on any grounds of national security? Would it not be much better, in doubtful cases, if it were left to the judge rather than the Minister to decide what documents should be produced in court?

The Attorney-General

I cannot accept any of the hon. Gentleman's statements.