HC Deb 09 November 1987 vol 122 cc14-5
68. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation to confer immunity from actions for discovery in criminal and civil cases upon all correspondence between Members of Parliament and their constituents; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General

I am aware of my hon. Friend's very conscientious efforts to preserve the privacy of certain letters sent to him by a constituent who was to be a witness in a criminal trial. Those letters became the subject of a subpoena issued by the High Court judge trying the case. Nevertheless, my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor is not at present persuaded of any need to change the law in this area, which is of long standing.

Mr. Greenway

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the case that he has mentioned cost me £2,500 and that that was without choice on my part? Could the same thing not happen to any hon. Member, and would that not effect and inhibit future relations between hon. Members and their constituents? If it did, would my right hon. and learned Friend be kind enough to think again and either seek amendments to the law to give immunity to correspondence between hon. Members and their constituents, or allow reimbursement if a case such as the one that I have just gone through were to occur again?

The Attorney-General

The whole House will have great sympathy for my hon. Friend, but he will know that we are faced with a conflict between two important interests. One is the interest of preserving privacy in correspondence between a constituent and a Member of Parliament, and the other is the importance of not withholding from a court of law material that may be necessary to enable justice to be done in that court. I shall, of course, draw the attention of my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor to what my hon. Friend has said, but I should be misleading him if I were to hold out hope of a change in the law.

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