Oral Answers to Questions — Court Proceedings (Reporting)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st January 1974.

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Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth 12:00 am, 21st January 1974

asked the Attorney-General if he will introduce legislation to clarify the law of contempt of court in relation to the reporting of proceedings.

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

This matter is being considered by the Phillimore Committee on the law of contempt of court.

Photo of Mr Edward Milne Mr Edward Milne , Blyth

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that only the full reporting of court proceedings gives meaning to the public character of justice in this country, and that, provided the report of a trial is fair and accurate and is published in good faith, it cannot and should not be regarded as contempt of court. In view of the interlocking nature of cases which are appearing before the courts and those which are due to come before the courts, will the Attorney-General prevail upon his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to consider setting up a Royal Commission on this subject? Will he consider establishing such a commission arising from the Poulson trial?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

The Phillimore Committee is examining the question of contempt of court. What the hon. Gentleman has said must clearly be borne in mind. There is some feeling about this matter and the Press Council in particular has asked for the opportunity, even at this late stage, to give further evidence to the Phillimore Committee. That it is doing on 26th January.

Photo of Sir Elwyn Jones Sir Elwyn Jones , West Ham South

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicate when it is hoped that the committee's report will be received? The House will appreciate the unfortunate circumstances of a personal character which have caused delay. However, the matter has been lying about for a long time. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an indication of when we may hope to receive the report?

Photo of Mr Peter Rawlinson Mr Peter Rawlinson , Epsom

It is hoped, despite the fact that the Press Council has asked for the opportunity to give further evidence on 26th January, that the committee will present its report to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate in March.