HC Deb 13 May 1985 vol 79 cc13-4
32. Mr. Nicholas Brown

asked the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation to provide for the investigation and adjudication of allegations of misconduct by banisters by a statutory body specifically established for the purpose.

The Attorney-General

No, Sir. The Bar, like all comparable professions, is self-regulatory. There is no fundamental distinction between its disciplinary procedures, which are founded in the common law, and those of other professions, whether they are based on the common law or on statute. Those procedures are designed to protect the public and the interests of the client.

Mr. Brown

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the existing disciplinary machinery cannot be allowed to function in a blatantly party political manner? Is it not intolerable that a profession dominated by Conservatives should use its own disciplinary machinery to intimidate those banisters who defended striking miners in cases arising out of the recent industrial dispute? Is it not made even more unacceptable because the same committee has taken no action against those banisters who, in similar circumstances, advised the working miners in Nottingham? Is not the legacy of the miners' strike bitter enough without Conservative banisters exacerbating the situation by using the disciplinary machinery in this disgracefully unprofessional way? What action will the Attorney-General take to prevent those excesses?

The Attorney-General

I reject any allegations of political bias. Questions of conduct are matters for the Senate, as the governing body of the profession. The Bar's code of conduct is designed for the protection of the public, and, in particular, the interests of the client. Conduct of the kind about which complaint has been made goes to the heart of that code and is a matter that we are entitled, if not bound, to investigate.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

In view of the disgraceful remarks from the Opposition Front Bench, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that there is no evidence, with the Bar or with other disciplinary inquiries in other professions, that such bodies are influenced by political considerations?

The Attorney-General

I have never found any evidence of it, and I much regret that the allegation has been made today.

Sir Edward Gardner

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it would be wrong for defence counsel to enter into general agreements about a particular kind of case, how that case should be conducted, whether there should be pleas of guilty or not guilty, what court should be chosen and whether trial should be by magistrates or by judge and jury, when such decisions could create a serious conflict with public interest, conflict with the interests of justice and, in particular, conflict with the interests of a particular defendant?

The Attorney-General

That matter is under consideration by the Bar Council, and in the circumstances it would be wrong for me to comment on it.