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Royal Commission On Criminal Procedure

Volume 387: debated on Monday 14 November 1977

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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is holding up the appointment of the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, announced by the Prime Minister on 23rd June.

My Lords, I am sorry that it has not yet been possible to announce the name of a chairman for this important inquiry, but I am sure that my noble and learned friend will recognise the importance, even at the cost of delay, of making the right appointment. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister hopes to make an announcement as soon as possible.

My Lords, while thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask him whether, if it has taken five months and there is not, even yet, a chairman, there must not have been an exceptionally large number of refusals; and, at this rate, how long is it thought it will take to obtain a full complement of the Royal Commission?

My Lords, we hope to make progress on this matter as speedily as possible. There is no disposition on my part to quarrel with my noble and learned friend on the desirability of speed in this matter.

My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that it must be a considerable disincentive to people to take on onerous, unpaid work of this kind that there are so many reports—the Report on Privacy, the Faulks Report on Defamation, the Phillimore Report on Contempt of Court, the Butler Report on Mentally Abnormal Prisoners—as to which the Government have not yet expressed any opinion one way or the other? Must it not make people feel that it is not worth while doing this sort of public work if their reports lie mouldering on Government shelves?

My Lords, I think my noble and learned friend would recognise that his supplementary question raises rather wider issues. What I am endeavouring to point out is that we want to make progress on this matter as speedily as we can.