HL Deb 19 July 1983 vol 443 cc1039-41

2.52 p.m.

Baroness Sharpies

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether restrictions could be imposed on chief constables to prevent publication of articles in the press about recent violent crimes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Elton)

My Lords, we have discussed the whole issue with the Association of Chief Police Officers, who share our concern about the publication of Mr. Gregory's memoirs. It raises a number of complex problems which require further study. The association are giving their attention to this and will keep in touch with our officials.

Baroness Sharples

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for that reply. I am sure that he is aware of the extreme distress which has been caused to the families of the victims because of the many errors made by Mr. Gregory and the West Yorkshire Police. I am very grateful to him for his reply.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, is the noble Lord the Minister aware of how grateful the whole House is to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, for raising a matter which is causing so much anxiety? Because of that anxiety, would he try to expedite the consultations that are taking place in order that some definite regulation may be made to control this matter to see that there is not a repetition of this horrible incident?

Lord Elton

My Lords, I share the noble Lord's gratitude to my noble friend. I endorse her view of the distress caused by this to families involved and I can assure the noble Lord that all expedition will be followed that is consistent with thoroughness and a proper result.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, has the Minister read the report by the Press Council on this affair? If so—or if not—will he be able to assure the House that the findings of the Press Council on the conduct by certain newspapers and the other media during this deplorable incident will be taken carefully into account in any possible future action in order to prevent this kind of thing happening again?

Lord Elton

My Lords, we are very well aware of the views of the Press Council. We shall be treading this ground tomorrow afternoon; but I can certainly say that we welcome the way in which the Press Council strengthened its guidelines after the Sutcliffe case, and we believe that the press would be very well advised to observe them.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the noble Lord take this a step further? As I understand it, he said that the association is now considering this matter and will be in touch with the civil servants at the Home Office. Can he give an undertaking that his right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be considering this, giving it very careful personal thought and, if necessary, reporting to another place—which report could be repeated here?

Lord Elton

My Lords, this is a matter of close concern to my right honourable friend. It is proper, though, that the necessary groundwork should he done before he gives his full attention to what the proper solution should be.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, can my noble friend say whether these consultations are concerned with the publication of these articles by former chief constables or—as I think the question is drawn—by chief constables actually serving?

Lord Elton

My Lords, as I understand it, it is the whole question of the propriety of this conduct which is a matter of concern.