Whitsuntide Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th June 1957.

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Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East 12:00 am, 6th June 1957

I want to explain the reasons I am opposed to this Motion. I am opposed to the House adjourning for as long as two and a half weeks until what I regard as a matter of fundamental importance to the British public, touching questions of the liberty of the subject, has been satisfactorily resolved. I have heard in this House for the first time suggestions from the Home Secretary which have shocked me. I am not concerned with the application of this particular case. I am concerned with the principle and with the implications of statements made by the Home Secretary, implications which go to the very roots of British justice and which, in my opinion, ought not to be left unresolved for as long as two and a half weeks.

If what the Home Secretary said is right, one of the consequences is that the police will be able to claim the privilege—and apparently now are claiming the privilege—of tapping communications between an accused person and his professional advisers and of reporting those communications to the police or to the prosecution or to a third party. That offends against one's whole conception of British justice.

As a solicitor, I have telephone conversations with clients every day of the week. Many members of my profession communicate with clients on the telephone. Are we to assume from now onwards that the police claim the right to listen to those conversations?