My Lords, I well understand the need for this order in respect of the application that has been made, but innovating the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to any extent can be done only as a matter of principle. It cannot be done ad hoc for a particular inquiry. Therefore, what is the principle under which it would be allowable in respect of this inquiry? The answer is that it is required to fulfil the inquiry’s remit. Only that would justify it. The application says, “We cannot fulfil the remit we have been given unless we are allowed to examine this matter”.
In my submission, it is extremely difficult to have an ad hoc system. The system ought to be governed, as the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is, by principle. It is very difficult not to agree with the principle where an inquiry has been set up by a responsible Minister under the Inquiries Act with terms of reference which require that a particular matter should be looked into for the inquiry’s remit to be fulfilled. That is the principle which enables the noble Baroness to agree that it should be granted in respect of the police inquiry but not in others. It seems to me that if it is justified in the police inquiry, the reason for that must be examined. The reason is that it is required to fulfil the remit of the inquiry.
I feel sad in a way that this instrument is necessary, because I thoroughly agree with the principles of the rehabilitation Act, which are extremely necessary and desirable. After all, people should have the benefit of forgiveness by society if they possibly can, and that is what this is about. On the other hand, once you have to justify an exception, the principle by which you justify it must be what you state as the basis of it. Therefore, while I understand the point that has been made, the way in which the instrument has been drafted makes it clear that this happens only in a case in which this exception to the Defamation Act is necessary to fulfil the inquiry’s remit.