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Publishing And Government

Volume 895: debated on Wednesday 18 June 1975

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asked the Attorney-General what criteria are used by him in seeking an injunction against the publication of a book such as the Crossman Diaries; and whether he will ensure that no such cases are brought that would conflict with the Government's policy that Government processes should be more open to the public and their policy to replace the Official Secrets Act by a measure to put the burden on the public authorities to justify withholding information.

It is one of my functions as holder of the office of Attorney-General to take such action in the courts or elsewhere as appears to me to be necessary to "protect the public interest" and to accord with the existing law. It is one of my ministerial functions to advise the Government on what the law is and whether changes are desirable. It would be wrong to confuse those two functions.So far as concerns action to prevent or delay the publication of books and documents, I pay particular regard to the principle of collective ministerial responsibility which necessarily involves the preservation, so long as necessary, of the confidentiality of discussions entered into and documents circulated on a basis of confidence.