HC Deb 04 December 1967 vol 755 cc947-8
38. Mr. Whitaker

asked the Attorney-General whether he will set up an independent commission composed of laymen to consider whether it is in the public interest for lawyers to be liable for negligence.

The Attorney-General

The first necessity, I think, is to give careful consideration to the complex judgment relating to this matter, which was delivered by the House of Lords in the case of Rondel v. Worsley on 22nd November. This, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and I are undertaking.

Mr. Whitaker

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many people, including lawyers, feel that the public cannot be satisfied as to the natural justice of lawyers being judges in their own cause as to what the public interest is, any more than as to A.S.L.E.F.'s views on its own restrictive practices?

The Attorney-General

I am aware of this and other considerations, but the rôle of the Bar in the administration is quite fundamental. The relationship and trust between the Bench and the Bar is basic in the administration of justice. I therefore believe that it is most appropriate, in the first instance, that my noble Friend and I should consider the implications of this important judgment.

Mr. Clegg

Would the Attorney-General inform his hon. Friend that solicitors, who are sometimes included as lawyers, are already liable in negligence and wisely insure against it?

The Attorney-General

I did not completely hear the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I am willing to concede that "lawyers" embrace "solicitors".

Mr. Hogg

In his consideration of the matter with the Lord Chancellor, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make quite sure that he fully acknowledges that the first duty of an advocate is to the court and to the administration of justice?

The Attorney-General

This is precisely one of the difficulties of the situation which the layman may not always understand.