HC Deb 31 January 1977 vol 925 cc23-5
36. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Attorney-General if he is satisfied with the enforcement of the law in so far as it is within his responsibility.

41. Mr. Tim Renton

asked the Attorney-General whether he is satisfied with the enforcement of the law so far as it lies within his official responsibility.

46. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Attorney General if he remains satisfied with the workings of the legal system, in so far as it lies within his responsibilities.

The Attorney-General (Mr. S. C. Silkin)

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the Questions for Written Answer from the hon. Members for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) and Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) on 24th January.

Mr. Tebbit

Is it true that it was the Attorney-General who advised the Government on the implications of the law in the Tameside case and got it wrong, that it was he who advised them on the law in the Laker case and got it wrong, and that it was he who advised them on the procedures in the hybridity affair on the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill and got it wrong? Does not the fact that Mr. Gouriet's recent action prevented a breach of the law in the Post Office affair suggest that he was wrong in that case as well? Why does the right hon. and learned Gentleman insist on giving this bad advice?

The Attorney-General

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question embraced several different subjects, but, taking them as a whole, the answer is "No, I am not the only person who advises." I turn now to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. Having studied the judgments, which, as I said last Thursday, I had not at that stage been able to do, I can say that on the two major constitutional questions involved the court decided in my favour by two to one, with Lord Denning as the dissenting minority.

Mr. Atkinson

Reverting to the discussion on Thursday, does my right hon. and learned Friend remember that every newspaper in the country got the matter totally wrong by concentrating upon Lord Denning? Will he now confirm that, on the major issues facing him when he first considered the application, the two appeal judges came down firmly in his favour, therefore ruling out the necessity for him now to go to the House of Lords?

The Attorney-General

It certainly at least appeared that some representatives of the Press must have made their exit from the court when Lord Denning finished his judgment and they did not stay to hear the rest of the judgments, as a result of which Lord Denning was in a minority on the main questions. I am still considering with my advisers the question of an appeal to the House of Lords, because there were decided by the Court of Appeal matters of importance though outside the major constitutional matters upon which I attended before the court. I hope to give those the fullest possible consideration and then make up my mind.

Mr. Renton

Will the Attorney-General confirm that in the recent Post Office affair his decision was in no way influenced by the fact that the defendant was a powerful trade union?

The Attorney-General

Of course I confirm that. I gave my reasons in full on Thursday. If the hon. Gentleman was not present, he can study Hansard. That certainly did not figure among my reasons.

Mr. Heffer

Will my right hon. and learned Friend explain why in 1971 the previous Government took absolutely no action, and will he take it that many of us are getting fed up with judges instead of the House of Commons trying to decide the law of the land?

The Attorney-General

I take it that by his reference to 1971 my hon. Friend is referring to the postal workers' strike for three weeks. Rightly or wrongly, at least one member of the Court of Appeal made a distinction between a complete strike and carrying on working but discriminating against some particular person. If that is a correct distinction, it is an encouragement to people to go on full strike rather than to discriminate. As regards the other part of my hon. Friend's question, it is not for me to comment upon the judgments of the judges and I refrain from doing so.