HC Deb 24 July 1967 vol 751 cc48-9
38. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will move to refer to the Select Committee on Procedure the present rule on matters awaiting judicial decision, with a view to its modification so that matters which are being dicussed and commented upon in the Press, television and radio can be referred to by Members in the House.

42. Mr. Driberg

asked the Lord President of the Council if, in view of the wider latitude in commenting on cases awaiting appeal now allowed to the Press and the general public interest in such cases, he will move to refer to the Select Committee on Procedure, the operation of thesub judicerule in the House of Commons.

Mr. Crossman

I sympathise on this matter and, in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, I am considering whether a further reference to the Select Committee on Procedure should be made.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Since the right h3n. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General has commended free discussion outside the House of criminal matters after sentence and before appeal, will the Leader of the House also commend to the Select Committee similar discussion inside the House, for is it not a nonsense that any hon. Member who wishes to discuss these matters in Parliament is prevented from doing so and has to go on television or radio to do so?

Mr. Crossman

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for permitting me to give my personal preferences on this subject some publicity. It is true twat there is prima facie a more severe restriction on comment in Parliament when an appeal is pending than in the Press or on radio and television. When I commend this to the Select Committee, it be in no doubt as to where my feeligs lie.

Mr. Driberg

Is my right hon. Friend aware that what he has just said will be extremely welcome to many of us and that there has been an astonishing change in the Press in recent times—with things being published which in the past would have been called contempt of court partly as a result of some words uttered, I think, by the Lord Chancellor?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware of that, and as far as I know no damage has been done by the greater freedom exercised there. I do not see why damage should be done in the House.

Mr. Hogg

Would the Leader of the House bring to the attention of the Attorney-General that much of the trouble is due to the astonishing long time now elapsing between sentence and appeal?

Mr. Crossman

I am aware that that is a very relevant factor.