HC Deb 08 July 1991 vol 194 cc640-1
28. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the scope of privilege enjoyed by barristers investigating alleged criminal behaviour on behalf of individuals or organisations.

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

Legal professional privilege relating to the discharge by a lawyer of instructions received from his client exists for the protection of the client and forms part of the general law of evidence.

Mr. Dalyell

What discussion took place between the Certification Officer and Government officials before the decision was taken to prosecute Mr. Scargill, Mr. Heathfield and the National Union of Mineworkers last September? Was there or was there not collusion? Have the Government advised the Certification Officer, Matthew Wake, to appeal? Why do the Government allow the Treasury Solicitor to work for the Certification Officer when he is meant to be independent? What is the cost of the case? Why did the Government pass information to the sequestrator?

The Attorney-General

The Certification Officer is an entirely independent statutory office-holder for whom I have no ministerial responsibility whatsoever. The prosecution to which the hon. Gentleman refers was brought by the Certification Officer in the exercise of his independent discretion. The Treasury Solicitor undertakes work for certain independent bodies and office-holders —for example, magistrates—and the staff are well aware of their obligation in that activity to exercise an independent professional judgment.

I am unable to answer the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question for which, again, I have no responsibility. As to the cost of the case, I note that the Under-Secretary of State for Employment gave a written answer on that the other day.

Mr. Fraser

When judicial inquiries such as the Scarman or Woolf inquiries take place, neither the conclusions of the inquiry nor the evidence that is given to it are used as evidence of other offences against those giving the evidence—that is a matter of practice and sometimes a matter of law. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it might be wise of him to issue similar guidelines for inquiries that are carried out by, say, a trade union or a local authority so that the setting up of such internal inquiries is not discouraged, and to ensure that witnesses who give evidence to such inquiries are not later prosecuted?

The Attorney-General

I am not sure that I follow the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is not for me to lay down guidelines about the instructions that a trade union or any other body gives to the professional people who carry out investigations on its behalf. There is no special rule relating to the admissibility in subsequent proceedings of the evidence that is given on such occasions. The ordinary rules of the general law of evidence govern that matter.