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Is the Attorney-General aware that to most people their good name is the most precious thing they possess and that it is possible for newspapers to cite the individual concerned and to take liberties which they would not take if he had the money with which to defend himself? Is the Attorney-General further aware that there was a recent instance in which the Western Gazette, a Pembrokeshire paper, grossly libelled a young B.B.C. correspondent in Wales and that, because the man cannot find the large sum of money that is necessary to defend himself, he has to put up with the libel? Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman regard this as monstrous?
I recognise that there are balances of convenience and inconvenience on both sides and I recognise that this is a difficult question. On the Second Reading of the Legal Aid Bill, my predecessor, the present Lord Shawcross, supported, I believe, the exclusion of legal aid for libel cases on the ground that it was a form of action which is open to great abuse and, moreover, it is a most precarious and risky form of action. It would be extremely difficult for legal aid committees to select those cases which should and those which should not have legal aid. Only one case of hardship has been drawn to the Lord Chancellor's attention. I was not aware of the case in Pembrokeshire. As I say, there are balances both ways. I recognise the difficulty, but, on the whole, my noble Friend thinks it better not to spend public money on this form of action.