HL Deb 29 February 1996 vol 569 cc114-5WA
Earl Russell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what authority the Treasury Solicitor's Department in the Matrix Churchill case instructed counsel "to seek to avoid the disclosure of the documents covered by the various public interest immunity certificates".

The Lord Chancellor:

The Treasury Solicitor's Department was authorised to act in relation to public interest immunity on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence. The Attorney-General gave evidence to the Scott Inquiry that the instructions to prosecuting counsel in relation to the DTI were inadequate and that counsel should have been shown the correspondence between the Attorney-General and the then President of the Board of Trade. This is recorded in the report.

In the event, prosecuting counsel, in line with the then President's specially drafted PII certificate, emphasised to the court that Ministers were doing no more than performing their duty to assert PII, and that it was for the court to decide which documents should be disclosed. At counsel's invitation the trial judge read every document covered by the certificates and duly decided which should be disclosed.