I am of opinion that the Bill is absolutely out of character not only with our present Constitution, but also with modern ideas concerning the need for information and the accountability of public figures, particularly Parliamentrians and especially Government Ministers and senior public servants who have the responsibility of governing our country in a just and peaceable way and of using our taxes to the best advantage of the public good. (I strees the word "public") I would refer to the submarine Thetis case decided in England shortly after the Second World War. The submarine was, I think, Britains first nuclear submarine and when sent out on its sea trials, foundered with the loss of all on board. The relatives of those who died alleged that the sibmarine had certain defects in its design and/or construcrion which rendered it unseaworthy and that these defects were known to those in the admiralty responsible for its sea trials, and demanded compensation from the British Government. The Crown pleaded privilege and refused to disclose the plans and other documents connected to the submarine, saying they were top secret and could not be disclosed for fear that Britain's enemies might obtain valuable information about this very advanced vessel. The court over-ruled that, saying that the question of public policy, if raised, could not be left to the State's discretion, but was one which the courts had to decide as it would in the case of any other objection. The plans were therefore produced, I think, to the court in camera. In the end the dependants of the deceased received compensation. I would like to see something on those lines incorporated into the present Bill, which might otherwise be unconstitutional, having regard to the provisions of the Constitution which safeguard the right of and access to information, and the accountability of all, including Ministers of State, to the courts, etc. It is after all, the Constitution which rules us all. We will see if, in its present form, it passes the scrutiny of the Constitutional Court, I very much doubt it will.
Professor William Ramsden, QC (BA 1948, LLB 1954, LLM 1984)