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Mr Richard Crossman's Memoirs

Volume 885: debated on Monday 3 February 1975

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asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on his discussions with representatives of the Sunday Times on the publication of the late Mr. R. H. S. Crossman's diaries.

I have not myself held any discussions with representatives of the Sunday Times on this matter. There have been discussions between those representatives and the Secretary to the Cabinet.

May I offer warm congratulations to the Government on their relaxed attitude in this matter? Apart from anything else, is it not desirable that these diaries should be published at a time when many of the dramatis personae can give their own version of events?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the first part of his supplementary question, and I am also grateful to all parties for their relaxed attitude to this matter.

The second part of the question raises constitutional issues which do not fall to be dilated upon within the scope of this Question.

Everybody likes to be relaxed, but is it not important to uphold the rule of law and the principle of Cabinet responsibility, and not to permit publications which would appear to impair that principle?

Everybody agrees that the principle of collective responsibility of Ministers has to be upheld, but in these matters there must be a balance—as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows from his period in office—between the right of a Member of Parliament who has been a Minister to write his memoirs to protect himself from criticism, and the public interest. There must, in all these cases, be a balance between those two criteria.

Will the Attorney-General consider recommending to the Government a change in the present 30-years' rule? Although it is only a few years since we altered the rule, it seems that it needs further alteration to bring it into line with current practice.

My responsibility is to enforce the law—in a reasonable way, I hope—and not to legislate. I am sure the hon. Gentleman's point will have been noted, but it is not one for me.