7 AUGUST 1964, Page 10

The Guardians One reads a lot these days by various

self- appointed Cassandras about the dangers of `creeping totalitarianism' in Britain. Yet last week we saw a most important decision by the Court of Appeal in reversing the whole trend towards the dominance of the Executive in this country. The details of the case are complex; and anyone who so wishes may read them in The Times Law Report of July 30. Briefly, in the course of a civil action brought by a large hotel company, the court held, as against a war-time ruling of 1942, that in relation to certain Government docu- ments the courts have 'a residual power to over- ride the Executive's veto on the production of documents where Crown privilege was unreason- ably claimed, thereby bringing the *law of England into conformity with the law of Scot- land and of the Commonwealth.' As Lord Den- ning, the Master of the Rolls, held in a magis- terial utterance, 'After all, it was the judges who were the guardians of justice in this land. . . Not so often, now, I think, that we see the text- book truisms of our childhood being laid down like this. Shades of Hampden and Hewart! What will the prophets of doom make of it?