Director of Public Prosecutions

Oral Answers to Questions — Industry – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23 July 1979.

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Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

After he and I have returned from our summer vacations.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Keighley

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman condemn the sordid arrangement by which the Daily Telegraph apparently was prepared to pay witnesses, which could be said to induce a tendency towards conviction? Will he clarify the position about the remarks made in the other place by Lord Hartwell, the proprietor of the Daily Telegraph, in which he claimed that the arrangements had the approval of the DPP's office? Will he now condemn Lord Hartwell for misleading the House of Lords and the public at large, or defend or modify his own written answer last week?

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

I made my decision quite clear in my answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) on 18 July. It is important to remember that there are three people concerned in this matter. There is the member from the Director's office, who made a contemporaneous note which was seen on the same day by the Director of Public Prosecutions. There is the solicitor who communicated with him in the terms which I set out in my written answer last week. The third person at the other end of the line, who was not in any direct contact with the DPP, is Lord Hartwell. Nothing which I intended to say in that written answer suggested that Lord Hartwell was not telling the truth to the House of Lords as he knew it.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Shadow Attorney General

In view of the subsequent statement made on behalf of Lord Hartwell, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman clarify the position once and for all? No one wishes to be unfair to any of the parties in this matter. In view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's recent declaration that he would prefer the buying of witnesses' stories to be dealt with in the first instance by the Press Council, and in view now of the obvious breach of the declaration of principles of a few years ago, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider the position and introduce legislation to deal with the matter?

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

No, Sir. I do not intend to introduce or to advise the Government to introduce legislation until the Press Council has had a chance to deal with this. The Press Council has now received detailed documentation from the Director of Public Prosecutions and from the lawyers representing the various defendants who are co-operating with the Press Council and providing detailed statements. The Press Council is in the process of getting in touch with the newspapers themselves to obtain their version of the events. There is a considerable mass of papers to be examined, and the Press Council assures me that every step is being taken to expedite an inquiry consistent with the need for a proper regard for natural justice.

Photo of Mr Alex Lyon Mr Alex Lyon , City of York

Need there have been any confusion at all if Lord Hartwell had been bound by the rulings of the Press Council? Did not he know what was right without having to telephone the Director's office? Does not it indicate that the Press Council is a toothless animal which needs teeth?

Photo of Mr Michael Havers Mr Michael Havers , Wimbledon

I have made my position clear. It was not for Lord Hartwell to telephone the Director's office. He had a solicitor who was acting on behalf of Mr. Bessell and who gave him certain advice which may have been right or may have been wrong.