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R v Ernest Saunders & Others: Withdrawal of Public Interest Certificate

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: The certificate signed by the Right Honourable John Redwood MP in November 1989 related to the proceedings then before the Crown Court. The certificate was settled after consultation with Counsel, who was instructed to appear if necessary. The certificate fully covered all the issues which the law then required should be addressed by the Minister.

The law in this area has been developed by the courts since 1989. As the law then stood, where a Minister was satisfied that documents attracted public interest immunity, it was his duty to claim that immunity. In those circumstances it was for the court, and not for the Minister, to judge whether the public interest required disclosure.

Following a House of Lords decision in July 1994, it is now possible for a Minister to decide not to advance

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a public interest immunity claim if he considers it is in the overall public interest that disclosure be made.

Having been informed of the matters now in issue before the Court of Appeal and having the benefit of advice from prosecution counsel on the relevance of the documents to those issues, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate and Consumer Affairs was satisfied, on June 8, that this is a case where it was in the overall public interest that disclosure be made.

The grounds of appeal in the proceeding now before the Court of Appeal relate inter alia to abuse of process and disclosure issues, including the documents covered by that certificate. It is for the Court of Appeal to consider these issues. In these circumstances, the noble Lord will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment further.

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Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why, if the decision (subject to Counsel's advice) to lift the public interest certificate signed by Mr. John Redwood MP was taken on 8th June 1995 (The Independent 28 June 1995), implementation of that decision was delayed until 3.55pm on Thursday 22 June 1995.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate and Consumer Affairs having been satisfied, on 8 June, that it was in the overall public interest that disclosure be made of documents relevant to matters now in issue before the Court of Appeal, the actual disclosure of those documents thereafter was a matter for the Serious Fraud Office. Copies of the documents were passed by my department to the Serious Fraud Office on 9 June for that purpose.

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