It would be “dangerous” for ministers to tell the press what is acceptable to print, Lord Chancellor Liz Truss said today.
Truss (pictured), who is also Justice Secretary, was responding to concerns that judges in the High Court case ruling on who had the final say on triggering Article 50 and the UK’s exit from the European Union had suffered “abuse” at the hands of the media.
Asked at a meeting of the House of Lords Constitution Committee about a Daily Mail headline which branded the judges involved in the decision as “enemies of the people”, Truss said: “Where, perhaps, I might disagree, respectfully, with some who have asked me to condemn what the press are writing.
“I think it is dangerous for a Government minister to say ‘this is an acceptable headline and this isn’t an acceptable headline’ because I am a huge believer in the independence of the judiciary, I am also a very strong believer in the free press.
“I believe, in terms of defending the judiciary, it’s very important I speak out about the valuable work they do.
“But I do draw the line at saying I should be saying what is acceptable for the press to print or not. That for me goes too far.
“I will always speak out and say how important having an independent judiciary is.
“And I have also said, on the individuals involved in both cases, the High Court and the Supreme Court, that these are people of integrity, and impartiality.”
The comments came after Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger complained some of the reporting of the Article 50 case risked undermining the rule of law.
Lord Neuberger also claimed politicians could have been “quicker and clearer” in defending the judiciary after the High Court ruling that Prime Minister Theresa May did not have the power to start the Brexit process without the consent of Parliament.
At a debate hosted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism last night, former Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans said of the Mail’s headline: “I thought it was disgraceful. It was pure Trumpery.”
IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses, a former appeal court judge, added: “Anyone who read the judgement wouldn’t have called [the judges] anything other than servants of the people.”
Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls