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Attorney General's statement on defamation action

Friday, 11 May 2001 Media Statement

Attorney General's statement on defamation action

The Attorney General, Margaret Wilson says the Crown's actions in the case of the defamation action against the Prime Minister were at all stages guided by the provisions of the Cabinet Office Manual.

Under the manual the Attorney General must reach a view about the capacity in which a Minister acted and advise Cabinet of that view.

"The Manual establishes a non- political and objective process. It is a process that applies to all Ministers current and former. This is clearly illustrated by a recent request by a member of a former Cabinet who has sought to exercise the 'indemnity against proceedings'. This indemnity is a convention of government by which a Minister is protected from personal loss arising from actions taken as a result of holding a Ministerial position," said Margaret Wilson.

"In this case I was able to assure Cabinet that I was satisfied that the matter arose as part of the Prime Minister's Ministerial duties, in particular, given her responsibilities with respect to the conduct of Ministers and the allocation of Ministerial portfolios.

"I based this advice on the clear facts. It was clear to me that the Prime Minister made her comments about Mr Yelash in her capacity as Prime Minister.

"Ministers of the Crown have always been covered against such eventualities. For example Mrs Shipley's legal expenses were met in relation to an action brought against her.

"The Cabinet manual clearly prescribes the process for dealing with litigation involving Ministers. This process was followed".

ENDS

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