HL Deb 25 July 1994 vol 557 c62WA
Lord Lester of Herne Hill

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the light of the Opinion of the Lord Woolf expressed in a speech in this House on 14th July 1994, in R v. Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, ex parte Wiley, and others and R v. Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police ex parte Sunderland and others, the Government accept that the President of the Board of Trade was incorrectly advised by HM Attorney-General that public interest immunity required that documents relevant to criminal proceedings concerning the Matrix Churchill affair could not be disclosed to the defence (as the President wished) without the permission of the criminal court.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern

The Attorny-General's advice to the President of the Board of Trade was given on the basis of the law as it was then understood following the decided cases. This House has now overruled the Court of Appeal's decision inNeilson v. Laugharne and held that the cases in which the judgment was subsequently applied were wrongly decided. Although ex parte Wiley, and others, and ex parte Sunderland and others were decided on a narrow basis and the House of Lords did not engage in an extensive examination of the wider case-law, the speech of Lord Woolf gives fresh guidance which serves to redefine the approach to be adopted towards certain aspects of public interest immunity. That guidance will be given full weight in any future advice by the Law Officers on public interest immunity.