§ 4.6 pm
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,The latest evidence heard in the New South Wales court revealing inconsistencies in the earlier evidence given on behalf of the Government.I must persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that it is definite—although I have not been in any direct contact with Mr. Malcolm Turnbull. Nevertheless, from the tapes, the BBC 7 am, 8 am and 9 am news and the press, it is quite clear that Sir Robert Armstrong, in an earlier intervention, was given information very different from that which he now reveals about "Their Trade is Treachery" being known to the Government on 15 November 1980.
I know, Mr. Speaker, that you like us to be precise in applying for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20, so I shall refer to column 965 of the Official Report on 3 December. During our debate on security matters, I set out the whole timetable, which showed that, six weeks before publication, because of what the Government had acquired from the premises of Sidgwick and Jackson, they knew exactly what was said in "Their Trade is Treachery".
I outlined how, three days before the event, there was a request from No. 10 Downing street for a copy of the book. I mentioned that Mr. Chapman Pincher had said, "I can't give you a copy because if I do you will slap an injunction on me," and how the Government replied, "Of course we will give you a written undertaking in two hours that we will not apply for an injunction." Mr. Pincher said, "How can you do that?" The Government replied, "Oh, we have already read the book." Those circumstances bring me to my next point. The matter is important because state burglary authorised either by Ministers or by senior civil servants—unless we are to believe that MI5 or MI6 was operating on its own behalf—is a deeply serious matter. For the sake of time, I refer to the substantial question I put in column 1092 of the Official Report on 4 December.
§ Mr. Dalyell
The matter is urgent because, although the gremlins who arrange the printed questions have, fortunately, given me question No. 1 to the Prime Minister on 13 January 1987, which asks her if she will place in the Library all correspondence conducted on her behalf between Sir Robert Armstrong and Mr. Chapman Pincher, it may well be that, for the health of the state, we should know before then exactly what really happened. This matter is urgent and important because we have here another example of the Prime Minister instructing her Cabinet Secretary, to put it at its kindest, to be economical with the truth.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,The latest evidence heard in the New South Wales court revealing inconsistencies in the earlier evidence given on behalf of the Government.353 I have listened with care to what the hon. Member has said, but I regret that I do not consider the matter which he has raised meets all the criteria necessary for an application under Standing Order No. 20, and I cannot therefore submit his application to the House.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
I am not challenging your ruling at all, Mr. Speaker, but I should like to refer to the facts that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has outlined.
Can you, Mr. Speaker, advise us what method is now available to the House to ensure that Sir Robert Armstrong's evidence concerning Westland is not as flawed, ill-informed, economical with the truth and plain forgetful as evidence given under oath in an Australian court?