HC Deb 12 February 1973 vol 850 cc979-80
34. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will amend the Bankruptcy Rules 1952 to provide that any person sought to be made the subject of a question in the course of public examination should be given due notice.

32. Sir D. Walker-Smith asked

the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce legislation to amend Section 15 of the Bankruptcy Act 1914 so as to provide for the attendance or representation of interested or affected persons at the public examination of a debtor.

Sir G. Howe

As my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor said in another place last week, proposals for amendments to the Bankruptcy Rules are under consideration.

Mr. Archer

While I accept that events have to some extent outdistanced the Question, may I ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees that the proper way to protect public men against irresponsible allegations is by means of tighter procedures and rules? Is it not rather unfair to expect individual advocates to conceal allegations which are in their instructions and which are relevant to their clients' cases?

Sir G. Howe

I do not wish to comment on any particular case, but it is important to keep this matter in perspective and to realise that the rules which apply to bankruptcy proceedings are not much different from those which apply to other court proceedings. The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate the difficulties of accepting to any significant extent the proposals implied in his Question.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

None the less, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be very damaging and very dangerous if the public were to think that men in public life were to enjoy a protection which the ordinary private citizen was not given? This is a matter of free expression. Will the Minister take that seriously also?

Sir G. Howe

This is a point which my noble Friend has very much in mind. Any changes which were to be made in the rules in this or in any other area would be changes of general application not conferring any special privilege on any special class of persons but reacting to the needs which arise from irresponsible allegations made in a whole host of court proceedings.