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Law Of Confidence

Volume 990: debated on Monday 4 August 1980

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asked the Attorney-General when he anticipates receiving the Law Commission report on the law of confidence.

I do not expect to receive the Law Commission's report before the end of the year.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not agree that the decision in the BSC and Granada Television case has created new and perilous possibilities of confrontation between journalists and the rule of law? As the Prime Minister has said that she wishes to defer consideration of legislation to change the law and to overrule that decision until after the Law Commission has reported, will the Attorney-General urge the commission to act more swiftly and to produce answers and proposals for legislation in its report?

No doubt the Law Commission will bear in mind the decision of the House of Lords and the judgments when they are given at the beginning of next term.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that, whatever may happen in future, the rule of law is the rule of law, that the law ought to be obeyed and that attempts to prevent the law from being obeyed are to be thoroughly deplored?

That concept is one of the reasons why I hope that the Law Commission will have plenty of time in which to consider what I believe to be a very important decision of the House of Lords.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the number of decisions that require to be taken on the law affecting the news media is ecalating? Has any consideration been given recently to the reports of the Phillimore committee on contempt, the Faulks committee on defamation or the Younger committee on privacy? Is it not time to consider the whole package of privileges, restrictions and safeguards affecting the media and to invite Parliament to take some decisions on the merits, rather than allow the courts to take piecemeal decisions on the precedents?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to admit that his Government did not show any great anxiety to deal with any of those reports. As he knows, it is our intention to publish a Bill on contempt early in the next Session. The other important matters are still under consideration.