§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), I must tell the House that I have not selected the amendment on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
I beg to move,
That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to set up a judicial enquiry to examine the circumstances surrounding alleged attempts by officers of the security services to subvert the government of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx in the 1970s, and to carry out all party discussions with a view to repealing official secrets legislation and to the introduction of a new legal framework giving appropriate and necessary protection to official secrets and, in particular, official secrets in relation to national security; and calls for consistency in the application of the law.There are two motions on the Order Paper and they are almost identical. One is an early-day motion and the other a motion for debate. The early-day motion carries the names of 153 hon. Members. Therefore, I start this debate with the support of 153 hon. Members and I intend at the end of the debate to divide the House, if possible, and to pick up more hon. Members in support of the principles set out in the motion.
On my way to London last week a colleague I was travelling with asked me what I was trying to prove. During the course of this campaign I have been trying to prove that the law as it stands is not working, that the law is an ass in so far as it is being inconsistently applied, and that there are those who are beyond the law. Those who are beyond the law include certain groups of officers within the security services. Some authors and journalists who rely for their daily bread on being fed information on the security services are also beyond the law. They are in the business of buying and selling secrets, most notably Mr. Chapman Pincher. Mr. Rupert Allason, a Conservative party candidate otherwise known as Mr. Nigel West, has also sold secrets.
I include among those who are beyond the law a number of security officers, including specifically Mr. Arthur Martin. Mr. Martin is a former Clerk to the House.
§ Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)
The hon. Gentleman is making a speech about those who consider themselves to be outside the law. Would he dare to make the rest of the speech outside in the street without the benefit of parliamentary privilege? Is that not a far worse abuse of the law?
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has intervened, because it gives me an opportunity to say to those who wish to intervene that I shall be dealing with all of these matters. If at the end of my speech the hon. Gentleman still feels moved to intervene, I shall give way to him.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Mr. Arthur Martin was a Clerk to the House of Commons from the mid-1970s until approximately 1981. He worked for MI5 until 1965 and then worked for MI6 until 1975. Mr. Arthur Martin remained very close to the security services during that period.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Indeed, he remained so close that he was able to brief Mr. Rupert Allason in detail for his book, "A Matter of Trust".
I also include among those who are beyond the law the two Conservative Members of Parliament who, if Mr. Wright's allegations are true, were involved in action against the Crown.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Mr. Wright names the two Conservative Members in his book, but I ask the Government to deny that that is the case and that they are named.
§ Mrs. Kellett-Bowman
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it fair for the hon. Gentleman to refer to certain people who are allegedly making money while not saying anything about the gentleman in Australia who is probably making a packet out of his memoirs?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The question as to whether that is fair is for the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours).
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will now understand why it may not be necessary to give way again during my speech.
According to Mr. Wright, those Conservative Members of Parliament, only one of whom is now sitting, acted as conduits for the smear campaign against Harold Wilson which was organised from within MI5 by some 30 security officers, some very senior. They knew that the information they were receiving came illegally from within MI5. They did not stop it, nor did they report it to the Home Secretary. They just passed it on in the knowledge that it would destabilise the Labour Prime Minister and his Government. I do not intend to name the Members of Parliament involved, I am simply approaching one of them and asking that person to make a personal statement prior to Mr. Wright's book being published.
The whole affair has been plagued by inconsistencies which derive directly from deficiencies in the law. Far worse is the fact that the Government, in a desperate attempt to plug the dyke of inconsistency, have had to practise deceipt and duplicity. That was what Sir Robert Armstrong was doing in the Australian courts. He was lying for the Crown. He lied over the Attorney-General's failure to stop the Pincher book; he lied over the crucial question of how copies of a synopsis of Pincher's book came into the hands of the Government; and he lied over the arrangements for the clearing of Mr. Allason's book. It is better not to answer than to tell a lie. He has disgraced his country and earned the justifiable contempt of Australia. He has also done irreparable damage to the historic relationship between our two peoples. It is only the existence of close family ties at a very personal level between those at home and those in Australia which will ensure that the historic relationship endures. I am at a loss to understand the lack of public protest over his indiscretions.
What has happened to the old values, or was I brought up to believe in a myth? I was able to predict all this in July 1986, when I raised this matter on three occasions in the House of Commons—on 14, 21 and 25 July. I did so with the single intention of smashing the injunction that was pending against The Observer and The Guardian newspapers. I did it by reading into Hansard the Cathy 784 Massiter evidence. I wanted to secure an open debate without the courts breathing down the neck of Fleet Street, because I believed that this affair was not about not the Hollis affair, or about security officers publishing their memoirs, but about one issue—the allegation that attempts had been made to undermine the Wilson Government by security officers.
It is the biggest political scandal of this century. It is a story of collusion between the British Right and the security services. It surpasses in importance the Zinoviev letter which effectively sealed the fate of the Labour Government in the 1920s. To quote "Man and an institution—Sir Maurice Hankey, the Cabinet Secretariat and the Custody of Cabinet Secrecy" by Mr. J. F. Naylor, published by the Cambridge University Press, on the Zinoviev letter he said:there is no longer room for doubt that 'the political bomb which exploded in the last days of the Labour Government was planted by the intelligence community' … the 'Zinoviev letter' was deliberately manipulated by a number of hands to secure a political end, namely Labour's defeat at the polls … from a historical perspective, the shocking aspect of the sordid electoral proceedings is the joint intrigue of the intelligence community with leading Tory party officials, including the chairman, Sir Stanley Jackson, and the treasurer, Lord Younger, to ensure the publication of a document bound to influence the latter stages of the campaign.It happened then, it happened in the 1960s and in the 1970s and it will happen again, unless we intervene. Down the years, there have been repeated reports of collusion. Today I want to concentrate not on collusion but on the specific issue of the interfence by the security services with the Labour party and the Government of that time.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
Has the hon. Gentleman had time to study the Official Report of 8 December 1977 when the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) said:The Prime Minister has conducted detailed inquiries into the recent allegations about the Security Service and is satisfied that they do not constitute grounds for lack of confidence in the competence and impartiality of the Security Services".—[Official Report, 8 December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 1645.]Is the hon. Gentleman saying that what was said by his right hon. Friend was not true?
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I shall send the hon. Gentleman a copy of the whole statement by my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman proves once again the need for me to finish my contribution, because I intend to deal with these matters. The hon. Gentleman should not be so impetuous.
On 12 May 1977 Mr. Barry Penrose and Mr. Roger Courtiour were summoned by Mr. Harold Wilson to his house in Lord North street. During that conversation he set out in detail and at subsequent meetings his allegations against the security services. "The Pencourt File", a book that was published about these matters, said:Sir Harold spoke in detail about the burglaries that he and some of his Labour colleagues in the Government had suffered. He spoke too about the extraordinary 'dirty tricks' which he said had been aimed against some of his Ministers in order to discredit them. He said the culprits were connected with South Africa and with intelligence circles in Britain itself. There was an important story to be investigated, he said, and more than once he used the name Watergate to describe what had been happening in Britain.Sir Harold is quoted as saying:I am not certain that for the last eight months when I was Prime Minister I knew what was happening fully, in Security".785 The book goes on:He"—Sir Harold—really would not rule out the possibility that individuals working inside MI5, and even MI6, had contributed to the 'smears' which, he complained, had frequently appeared in the Press and elsewhere while he had been at Number 10".That is all on tape and available today to be heard by those who want to know the truth of what happened in that period because those two journalists made a point of taping what they were listening to.
Mr. Chapman Pincher, who will feature later in my contribution, also had much to say on these matters. In his book, "Inside Story" he said:Wilson was reported as having accused certain officers of MI5 of having tried to undermine him and his government. He was quoted as believing that some of the disaffected faction in MI5 with extreme right-wing views' had even suggested that there was a Communist cell in the Cabinet and that he and Lady Falklender, his political secretretary, formerly Mrs Marcia Williams, were part of it.Mr. Pincher went on:I have confirmed that these were indeed Sir Harold's views and that long before his feelings about MI5 became public knowledge he had been in the habit of sounding off about them in private … This had come to my notice when a most eminent Oxford Professor wrote to me to describe what had happened at a literary lunch he had attended in Leeds in January 1977. 'I happened to sit next to Sir Harold … He told me that MI5 had spied on him when he was Prime Minister, plotted against him, tried to secure his downfall. I was embarrassed by this conversation. Finally, I said "But isn't MI5 under the Prime Minister?" He replied, "Oh yes, on paper, but that didn't make any difference."'Mr. Pincher went on:
Some of Wilson's friends also told me that he had gone much further in his condemnation of MI5 in conversations with them.There is much in Mr. Pincher's book on these matters and I do not want to detain the House by quoting them because they are there to read for all who are interested in these matters.
There were a number of articles in the newspapers at the time. I have a file of articles in the British press, and, in particular, from The Times, which sought to take these allegations seriously and published much material. Indeed, it did further investigative work.
We also have the words of Mr. Nigel West—Mr. Rupert Allason, the Conservative candidate to whom I have referred—who commented on a plot which took place in the 1960s. He said:It seems that an invitation extended by Lord Mountbatten to various public figures, to engage in talks to discuss the country's decline under Socialism, led to allegations to MI5 of an attempted coup d'état.Sir Martin Furnival Jones comments on those in an interview with reporters on The Times, much of which is also available today, in a form of which he may not be aware.
All those attempts involved security officers. Indeed, the discussions on the allegations that we hear today of what took place in the 1960s involved, to some extent, the same officers who were involved in the 1970s.
The only dissenting view on these matters is the voice of Mr. Joe Haines, a very reputable journalist on the Daily Mirror, but I am told that Mr. Haines has had his differences with Lord Wilson and it might be that those differences account in some part for the varying views on these matters.
The question is, why was not Lord Wilson taken seriously at the time? The first reason is that the whole 786 issue was overshadowed by the Thorpe affair which dominated Parliament for months and prevented a realistic debate from taking place on security matters. At a time when even reference to the security services was frowned upon in the House, it was seen as the accusation of a retiring politician and Prime Minister. When it was raised in the early 1980s it was once again crowded out by the debate on the Hollis affair and Blunt. Now there is a distinction, a difference, and that is because Mr. Wright has surfaced. He is directly involved in these allegations and is the first security officer to whom I give full credence on these matters. He says that he was involved and that, to some extent, he masterminded the operation. He speaks about
burgling and bugging all over London.We cannot quote directly from Mr. Wright's manuscript, but we know that by one means or another over the past one and a half years parts of it have come into the hands of the media in Australia and especially into the hands of freelance journalists in New South Wales. That was before the matter became an issue of public controversy.
The matter is of immense importance because the allegations strike at the heart of our democratic institutions. The assumption that everyone plays by the Queensberry rules has been shattered. The implications go far wider because, if we look at Zinoviev, the 1968 discussions about a coup and the 1975 discussions about a coup—erhaps in some ways irrelevant but nevertheless important—we see the destabilisation of a Labour Government. One has to ask what could happen to a future Labour Government. Could this happen again? If there is any chance of it happening again, Parliament has a duty to act fast.
Where dos this stop? The security services could effectively assassinate the character of any politician, and we all know how. Indeed, they could assassinate this Prime Minister by way of rumour and innuendo. The Prime Minister has not the persuasion of my hon. Friends, but in many quarters she is seen as radical in her own way, and all radical Prime Ministers and politicians are threatened by a security service which, in defence of the interests of the establishment, might choose to take action to destabilise its Government. There is a special responsibility on the Prime Minister to act because over the past few years she has upset many interests in Britain. If those interests sought to destroy her, they could do it and the Prime Minister must know that.
The hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) has referred to the response by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). The hon. Gentleman came in to make an intervention and now he has disappeared to have his press conferece. We know what happened in the inquiry that the hon. Gentleman spoke about. It was small and drew its information from a few people. My right hon. Friend took soundings from the director-general of MI5 and MI6, the very organisations which we now condemn for irresponsible acts. At that time I do not think that my right hon. Friend was fully aware of the implications of the accusation by Sir Harold Wilson. I am sure that he did his job within the confines of his being responsible for the security services.
If my right hon. Friend were faced with that decision today, I feel sure that he would undertake a far more detailed and profound inquiry. That is what would happen 787 in the United States of America in the event of such allegations being made there. If such allegations were raised in the United States, Congressional committees of inquiry would be set up to examine them. That is what happened over Watergate, and it is happening today over the supply of weapons to Iran. When Americans feel that their constitution is being challenged by anti-democratic bodies, the first thing they do is to bring into action their Congressional investigative committees to establish the truth. That is the sort of thing that we should do. If such an inquiry were held here, it would reveal the truth. That is at the heart of the first part of the motion. Such an inquiry could well take us down some strange routes and could lead to some interesting doors.
The inquiry would have to take evidence from a number of organisations and individuals. It would need to take evidence from Sir Martin Furnival Jones, the former head of MI5, and from MI5 and MI6 officers, including Mr. Wright, if he could be induced to come back to the United Kingdom. It might even have to take evidence from General Sir Walter Walker about civil assistance, and from David Stirling's GB75—and what about the elusive Mr. Greenwood, with his so-called 700 security vetted members, or perhaps from Mr. G. K. Young, a former deputy director of MI6 and his UNISON committee for action?
At first glimpse they may not appear to be elements within MI5, but these fringe organisations operated in conjunction with MI5 officers. That is what an inquiry would establish. Indeed, it might establish that some of the people involved were in the mainstream of British politics. As I have said, two Conservative hon. Members are identified by Mr. Wright.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Does my hon. Friend agree that Field-Marshal Lord Carver, who was Chief of the Defence Staff at that time, said that in February 1974 some Army officers at Army headquarters were talking about the possibility of military intervention? That talk was condemned by Field-Marshal Lord Carver, because he would have been the last person to show any disloyalty to Britain and its democratic institutions. Is my hon. Friend aware that, when I raised these matters in the House, among those who pooh-poohed the whole business was the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), who I understand had some MI5 connections in the past?
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
I do not know of the connections about which my hon. Friend speaks. All such matters would be dealt with exhaustively by a judicial inquiry, if one were set up. It would establish the truth, because we need to know the truth. We need to know the connection between the Conservative party, the security services and these private armies, because that is most embarrassing to the Government. Perhaps that accounts for the Prime Minister's refusal to allow the Wilson allegation transcripts to come out in the Australian courts. The Government allowed the transcripts about Hollis to come out, but they blocked the transcripts about the Wilson allegations. Ministers should tell us why they did that. We need a judicial inquiry and it ought to have most of its hearings in open session, because the matters that I have spoken about have implications for our democratic system.
788 I should now like to turn to the Official Secrets Act, the reforms sought in my motion, and the matter of lifetime obligations of confidentiality to the Crown. Ministers have frequently spoken about that. Ever since I first heard the allegations by Mr. Wright, my overriding objective has been to destroy the case in the Australian court. That is not because I have any sympathy for Wright; on the contrary, to sell information to Summerpage was an act of treachery, and it was equally treacherous of Pincher to buy it.
Lord Rothschild's role becomes more mystifying day by day, but a lot has still to come out. I have asked for prosecutions under section 7 of the Official Secrets Act, because that section makes it an offence to incite and persuade civil servants to provide information which is officially secret.
When Pincher and Allason appear on television slagging me off and protesting their innocence over section 2 inquiries and hiding behind Treasury solicitors and D notice authorisations, they are missing the point. I am asking for their prosecution not under section 2 of the 1911 Act, but under section 7 of the 1920 Act. No authority can authorise illegality under that Act. I am about to table a parliamentary question asking for the prosecution, under section 7, of Rupert Allason, prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Torbay, for soliciting, inciting and persuading Mr. Arthur Martin, the MI6 officer to whom I have referred, to provide information for his book "A Matter of Trust".
As I have said, Mr. Martin was a Clerk in the House of Commons until 1981. He was Clerk to the Agriculture Select Committee and I am told that he was a pleasant character. He was a member of MI6, and the House is entitled to know what was the relationship between Mr. Arthur Martin and MI6 while he was a Clerk to the House. It was Martin who confronted Blunt with the allegation that he was a spy, and he debriefed him. Martin was a key figure in MI5 and later MI6. I find it curious that no mention of him was made in any book on the security services until the beginning of 1981, after his retirement from the House of Commons, and then in Pincher's book. There was no reference in Pincher's book "Inside Story" in 1978, but Martin left MI6 in 1974, or thereabouts. For whom was Martin working when he was working in the House of Commons? We are entitled to know. Is there an MI6 man in the House of Commons today?
The House will know that I have been the subject of repeated accusations of irresponsibility in naming names. Only those in the Press Gallery know how careful I have been not to breach national security in my campaign. My bid to destroy the case was not only to secure the publication of the Wilson allegations but to focus on the nonsense of section 2 of the Official Secrets Act and the inconsistency in that Act. This meant that I had to name names. All the names that I have tabled on the Order Paper are of people who have surfaced themselves and made statements publicly, thereby declaring their interest and identifying themselves as former security officers. They have all broken section 2 of the Official Secrets Act in talking to journalists and authors. All their names are to be found in books available in every public library in the United Kingdom that cares to stock them.
I tabled the names to show the inconsistency in the Government's position. I had 43 names the other week. I have tabled two since and I have a further 41. I have no desire to carry on tabling names, but what does one do 789 with those people who have broken the law? Does one ignore them, as the Government seem to have been doing over the past few years? The Government's position is totally inconsistent. It is inconsistent to drag Mr. Wright through the courts while ignoring others in the intelligence community who have leaked information. I have been tabling their names, and it has been interesting to see the Government's response. The names have either been referred to the Metropolitan Police for their investigation or drawn to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Government have admitted that prosecutions are now being considered. Inquiries have been set up as a result of names that I have tabled and letters of reprimand have been sent out to former security officers. So much for the allegations of irresponsibility tabled against me.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Surely the point that my hon. Friend is making is that the Government are wrong in doing what they are doing. That does not mean that peoole who have given evidence and declared what they were should be prosecuted, because, if we do that, we would be no better than the Government.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
My hon. Friend is correct. I have tried to explain that my campaign is to show inconsistency. One must table questions to draw attention to those who have not been prosecuted.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
My hon. Friend takes the words out of my mouth.
Who are the rest of the security officers? West, or Mr. Allason, in "A Matter of Trust" says:Meticulous research backed by hundreds of hours of interviews with agents, double agents and case officers has resulted in answers to these compelling questions.He was interviewing agents and people in the security services, to whom, somehow, he had access. Every one of those agents, in speaking to Allason, broke the law, but the Government took no action.
In Pincher's book "Too Secret Too Long" one is able to identify 32 MI5 and MI6 sources, but what action did the Government take against those sources when they fed Mr. Pincher, a high-ranking member of the Conservative Party? In the book "Conspiracy of Silence", Penrose and Freeman identify 18 officers, all of whom are quoted. All 18 are quoted in default of section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, but there has been no action by the Government. I asked the Government what action had been taken under section 2 to silence them, and the answer was none.
In all three cases, no action to prosecute was taken, because the Government gave clearance to the books and in doing so sanctioned leaks from officers. They would never have given clearance for those books unless they had been sanctioning leaks from officers. That is why I tabled a question, to which I have just received an answer from the Secretary of State for Defence, about the operation of the D notice committee. He tells me that he is not in a position to answer questions as to criterion considered and work carried out by that committee. The Government replied that Wright is a former MI5 employee. Are former MI5 employees bound by lifetime obligations to the Crown? If that is true, how did they respond to Friday's letter to the editor in The Times from Mr. Pincher, in which he said: 790I have never paid Mr. Wright anything. Mr. Wright received royalties on a jointly-authored book".Mr. Pincher now says that Mr. Wright was the author of the book. Last Monday, in a BBC transmission, Mr. Pincher said that he had received approval from the highest levels of the Government. The Government, in the words of Mr. Pincher, if he is to be believed, sanctioned a book by a former MI5 officer. It might be that Mr. Pincher is so worried about the questions I have tabled calling for his prosecution under section 7 for paying money to Mr. Wright that he is wriggling so much that he is now having to mislead the British media into believing that his role was not quite what Parliament is being told and what Ministers are saying behind cupped hands behind closed doors. He is wriggling, and it is interesting to see the way in which he is responding.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the revelation by Chapman Pincher in the letter on Friday is incredibly hard to reconcile with the Attorney-General's commentthe idea that we can allow officers or ex-officers of the security services to write books would probably end with us not having any important secrets which should be preserved."—[Official Report, 1 December 1986; Vol, 106, c. 620.]
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
My right hon. Friend draws attention again to an inconsistency, but then this whole affair is riddled with inconsistencies, and that is why we want to change the law. All these matters would come out if there were some form of inquiry for, in that case, there were in existence the scrutiny arrangements which were the subject of debate only a week and a half ago in the House of Commons.
Many books have been produced by security officers. For example, there is "Handbook for Spies" by Courtney Young and Michael Serpell, both MI5 officers. That book was written on the request of Sir Percy Sillitoe, the director general of MI5. "Cloak without Dagger" was written by Sir Percy Sillitoe with the help of Russell Lee, another MI5 officer. I am told that the journalist, Andrew Boyle, is currently researching a biography of Sir Dick White, another former director-general of MI5. What does the Minister intend to do about that book? It may be that it should come into the public domain. We should like to hear what the Minister has to say about that. I am sure that those in Australia want to hear what he has to say about these matters. It is a pity that those involved in the Peter Wright case are summing up now and not examining these matters in evidence.
"A Man Called Intrepid" is the biography of Sir William Stephenson, a former head of intelligence. It was written by Hartford Montgomery Hyde, another intelligence officer. Hyde wrote another book entitled "The Quiet Canadian", and included the name of the chief of the British secret intelligence service, Sir Stewart Menzies. He obtained official permission to do so. Sir John Masterman wrote "The Double Cross System". As a former MI5 officer he obtained permission from the Government to publish the book in the early 1970s. I am told that that permission was obtained from a Government of whom the Minister was a member. Perhaps he will deal with that when he replies.
Another example is the interesting book which was written by Mr. John Moe which I dug out of the woodwork for the Minister the other week. The book was published only nine weeks ago, and when I tabled a question about it I received the famous blocking answer 791 that it would be inappropriate to discuss how the book was published while proceedings are going on in the Australian courts. That book, which was written by a security officer, has been made available in British shops.
I brought Joan Miller's book into the public domain, and when I tabled a question about it the Government decided in desperation and in haste to run to the Irish courts to take out an injunction. A lady judge of the Irish courts gave them a good smack in the face. She realised that it was a lot of nonsense for the Government to apply—
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
That seems to be the in term today.
I have mentioned only some of the many books which have been written and published over the years. I have a list of them which came off the computer of the House of Commons. It has become fashionable to hold up in the Chamber lists which have come from Library computers for relating to party conferences, for example. These books all include statements by security officers or are drawn on their experiences, and all these officers have over the years broken the nonsensical law that exists.
The Government have turned a blind eye to these happenings—
§ Mr. Heffer
My hon. Friend may not like this, but of great importance is a book written by Sir Paul Dukes about the secret service operations in the Soviet Union at the end of the first world war. I think that it was published in 1933. It is something that the Government have forgotten. Indeed, most people have forgotten about it.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
My hon. Friend is right. I saw him studying the papers on these matters last week when he was sitting next to me in the Chamber. He has provided another example which goes back 40 or 50 years. I did not introduce it because I felt that it was important to introduce contemporary material.
Another interesting name is David Cornwall. I am told that he is known otherwise as John Le Carre. I am sure that I shall be corrected if I am wrong. I am told also that he is a former MI6 officer—a former section chief in Berlin. Under the guise of novels he has released a substantial amount of information on what Mr. Wright has referred to as tradecraft, which is an interesting term.
The Government's policy is being applied inconsistently. Certain writers are given the green light, most notably Pincher and Allason. What is Chapman Pincher's relationship with MI5 and MI6? In my view, it is questionable to say the least. We know that he is a prominent Conservative, but, putting that aside, he claims a friendship with a former director-general of MI6, Maurice Oldfield. He claims to know innumerable members of the security services.
The Prime Minister used Chapman Pincher to deal with the Hollis allegations, and the right hon. Lady's statement of 26 March 1981 is a classic. It was as if she were introducing a Green Paper or White Paper. She said:Mr. Speaker, with permission, I will make a statement about the security implications of the book published today that purports to give a detailed account of the investigations into the penetration of the Security Service and other parts of the public service"—[Official Report, 26 March 1981; Vol. I, c. 1079.]792 In other words, the Prime Minister waited for the publication of the book, and on the very day that it came into the public domain she made a statement in the House. I say that the Prime Minister's hand is behind the book that was published by Pincher. If Pincher is right in what he wrote in his article that appeared in The Times last week, the right hon. Lady has sanctioned a breach of the law. Some might say that she, too, should be prosecuted.
I believe that Mr. Chapman Pincher is very close to some elements in MI5, and so close that a deal was stitched up to ensure that his book was published. It was Bernard Sheldon, a junior solicitor in MI5 for the Security Service—I do not know whether he was in MI6—who cleared the book. We learn so much from that. If Pincher did not know that he was getting the green light, he certainly knew that by the beginning of 1981.
I know that Mr. Pincher denies that that was the position, but anyone reading the Sunday Express over these past weeks, however—it has been delightful reading—will take all that he has to say with a pinch of salt. His predictions do not come true. He was writing only a few days ago about how my hon. Friends and I were being used by Mr. Turnbull. He claimed that all would be revealed when Mr. Wright went into the witness box. We know now that nothing happened. Readers of the Daily Express and the Sunday Express are entitled to know what went wrong with his predictions.
What of Mr. Allason's relations with MI5 and MI6? His relationship is especially interesting. His book, "A Matter of Trust" is an encyclopaedia of information on the security services. At the front of his book there is a plan which sets out the structure of MI5 until 1965, which I hold up for the House to see. How did Allason obtain that information? How did he know what was going on internally? We know that the Government sanctioned the book, because the Attorney-General told us that he had done so. It seems that all the obstacles were cleared. The Government made a few amendments and removed a few names, but all the material contained in the book came into the public domain. I am not saying that it is wrong that this information should be made available publicly, but as the law stands it should not be made available publicly. We know, however, that there were no prosecutions. If the Government are willing to allow that material into the public domain, they should change the law. In providing the information they know that security officers have broken section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, yet they are refusing to take action.
Hundreds of names were deleted from Mr. Allason's book, but having written it he was invited by MI6 to write another, and it was quickly produced. Indeed, it seems that someone in the background must have been writing it for him. I am told that it was produced in only a few months, yet it dealt once again in great detail with the internal workings of MI6 during a crucial period of its existence.
Perhaps even more remarkable is Mr. Allason's book that is entitled "GCHQ". It seems to be a compendium of signals intelligence from the second world war to the present day. How did he get that information? Has someone been leaking? If someone has been leaking, why have prosecutions not been brought under the Act which the Government know is not working in the way that, many years ago, was intended by Parliament?
Every author in this business wants to know how Mr. Allason gets his material. He is being systematically fed. This is no ordinary researching effort by Mr. Allason. 793 Could it be his Tory connections, and the fact that he stood in two general elections as a Tory candidate and today stands for the constituency of Torbay? He seems to know more about security services successes than failures, which leads me to believe that he is being fed from on high, and not just my Mr. Arthur Martin, the former Clerk to the House of Commons. I want to know to what extent he was involved in revealing to MI5 Mr. Wright's intention to write a book. The Sunday People, as it is now, published a letter about that matter some years ago. Did he give advance warning to MI5? If he did, why? What was his motive? He has become the unofficial spokesman for the security services, with some form of special access, and with some form of special immunity from prosecution given not only to him but to his sources.
The Attorney-General's position confounds me. I cannot understand how he survives politically. From Wright's letter to Pincher, we know that he revealed the innermost considerations of his office on why Allason should not be prosecuted and also told him of Martin's indiscretions in revealing classified information. The Attorney-General himself breached section 2. The Government responded by claiming self-authorisation as a defence. That is rubbish. It does not justify what he did. I have read every word on self-authorisation, including Franks. Self-authorisation is permissible only when it is part of one's duty, as a Minister in this case, to reveal information. Pincher had no right to that information; he had no duties in regard to it. He had no responsibility to receive it, but he was given it by the Attorney-General. Under section 2, the Attorney-General had a responsibility to prosecute Pincher for revealing that that which Armstrong said in the Australian Court breached security.
The story is sordid and squalid. It is a cover-up of the Attorney-General's position. A Labour Attorney-General would not be allowed to get away with it. I am told that the Attorney-General is desperate for the Woolsack. How desperate can a man be for his 30 pieces of silver? History will judge him harshly.
I have had two objectives in this campaign. They have been to secure the Wilson revelations, to ensure that they were made public, and to show the deficiencies in the Official Secrets Act. We need a more open, accountable, yet effective security regime. We should seek to protect information of operational importance and information which, if published, would be prejudicial to national security.
We should have followed closely the American system. In the United States of America, the director of the CIA appears on television. His office location is not a national secret. The CIA is so open that, only last year, Stansfield Turner, a former head of the CIA, was able to publish his memoirs. Indeed, 400 former CIA security service officers have published articles and books. They have all published works with authorisation from the CIA management review board. If a system can be set up in America that allows those people to write books and to ensure that they are published, surely we can set up a similar system, particularly if we have the scrutiny committee for which my hon. Friends have called.
Over the past weeks, I have been repeatedly asked what I should have done in the case of Mr. Wright. Under existing law, the Government have an obligation to make stick the lifetime oath of confidentiality and to use injunctions and the Official Secrets Act for the protection of official secrets of a national security nature—only 794 those. But the law should have been applied to all. It was not. That means no selection and no special favours because of connections. In so far as the Government have turned a blind eye to the law for years, it simply cannot be justifiable for them to take action against Wright's book, particularly when Turnbull, when he came to London, offered the Treasury Solicitor a deal that would have erased from the book any references to Security Service activities of a sensitive nature affecting the security of the nation. Under existing law and in the light of Government practice over years, the Government should have done a deal with Turnbull. Under the law as it should be, that is to say with the repeal of Section 2 and the retention of the body of section 1, a freedom of information Act in place, and the proper definition of classified material of a national security nature—which should be defined as information of operational importance which, if revealed, would be prejudicial to national security—Wright would have been able to publish. He would have had to secure clearance of sensitive material and delete, where necessary, on the instructions of a security clearance committee, but he would have been able to publish, particularly his allegations on Wilson.
I have written to the Prime Minister, asking her to ensure that that part of the book that deals with the allegations against the security services involving Wilson is published, irrespective of what happens in the Australian courts. There is no reason why that information should not be brought into the public domain this week. The great British public want to know the truth. They want to know whether it is true that a small group of people set out to undermine a democratically elected Government.
§ Mr. Williams
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but this is a critical point. Does he agree that we are here to discuss not just the contents of the book but one of the major offences that can be committed under our law—the act of sedition? "Halsbury's Laws of England" states:Sedition in the common law means acts done, words spoken and published or writings published with a seditious intention, that is an intention (1) to bring into hatred or contempt, or to excite disaffection against, the Sovereign or the Government".In his book, Wright admitted that he and his colleagues were guilty of sedition against the then Labour Administration. In those circumstances, it is beyond credibility that the Government do not set up some form of investigation.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The law must apply equally to all—the highest and the lowest in the land. That is what the public want. We do not want special treatment of certain people. We want the law to apply to everyone. If the law is an ass, repeal it.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Waddington)
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) asked what had happened to the old values. Having heard his speech, many of us may be asking ourselves that same question—what, indeed, has happened to the old values?
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that the House should be indebted to him for using this opportunity to debate these matters. I do not cavil at his having selected this matter for debate. We should be grateful to him for being so delightfully frank with us.
795 The hon. Gentleman said that the explanation for his behaviour over recent weeks was that he had one overriding objective—to destroy the case in the Australian courts. That case was brought by the British Government to preserve the principle that a person employed by the security services has a life-long duty of confidentiality, which, if my understanding is right, the hon. Gentleman acknowledged at the close of his speech. That has been the hon. Gentleman's ambition. Some of us may think that it is a curious ambition to set out to destroy the British Government's case in the Australian courts, but at least it is as well that the British public know.
I should think that almost everyone in the country accepts that we have to have a security service—that it is a crucial element in the safety and security of the people. I should think that there is also a general agreement that the responsibilities of the Security Service cannot be carried out effectively in a blaze of publicity. That is why it has been the general policy of successive Governments not to comment on the operation of the Security Service, even if it means that false and misleading allegations have to go unanswered. But I think that we ought to bear it in mind that, when wild allegations are made and not answered, it must be very disheartening and dispiriting for the people working in the service in our interest.
The present director-general is known personally to some in the House. He is a man of considerable breadth of experience and, as those who know him will agree, a man of quite unshakeable personal integrity. He is supported by a staff who are scrupulously careful in their role as defined by the directive. The staff do not and cannot receive public and detailed recognition for their work: but I do hope that among all today's controversies about what happened some time ago, the House will not treat lightly the debt that we owe to today's members of the Security Service. Unfortunately, one sometimes wonders, when listening to contributions by Opposition Members, what has happened to the old values.
§ Mr. Winnick
No one would dispute the need for a security service, especially in the fight against terrorism, and so on. I have previously paid tribute to the Security Service in that role. However, is there not a sharp distinction to be made between the legitimate work of a security service in a democratic society and otherwise? Miss Cathy Massiter, who worked for the MI5, said that the National Council for Civil Liberties was under active inquiries by MI5, and that anyone who was on the executive council of that organisation or who worked for it had a file in MI5, including, apparently my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), who, prior to coming to the House, was the legal officer of that organisation. While recognising that the Security Service overall plays an important role in safeguarding the security of our state, what possible justification can there be for such activities?
§ Mr. Waddington
Before the hon. Gentleman made those allegations, he must have known that I would do no more than other Ministers have done, whatever party they have belonged to, and whatever Government have been in power, and that is to observe the convention—the purpose of which is obvious to all of us—that Ministers do not allow themselves to be drawn into comments on allegations of that nature.
§ Mr. Heffer
I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a programme on Granada television on which he and I appeared many years ago, and on which he suggested that I and all members of the Tribune Group in those days were agents of the Soviet Union. I do not accept his position at all.
§ Mr. Waddington
I did not say anything of the sort. I remember that meeting clearly. It was in Rossendale town hall. During that meeting, I had cause to say that I doubted the complete conviction on the part of all members of the Labour party that our parliamentary democracy was the right form of government, and the hon. Gentleman was very cross with me—[Interruption.] I am only answering the hon. Gentleman. He was very cross with me. That is what happened.
The well-established policy of not commenting on the operation of the Security Service has been followed by successive Governments, but I can comment on the part of the motion of the hon. Member for Workington calling for the setting up of
a judicial enquiry to examine circumstances surrounding alleged attempts by officers of the security services to subvert the government of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx in the 1970s.I can comment because the allegation was dealt with long ago—during the period in office of the previous Labour Government, whom the hon. Gentleman supported.
I have to remind the House of the statement by the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), on 23 August 1977, which was referred to in the House on 8 October 1977 and is set out in the amendment on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind). During a reply to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), the hon. Member for Workington said that my hon. Friend had not read out the whole statement. Let me read it out now:The Prime Minister has conducted detailed inquiries into the recent allegations about the Security Service and is satisfied that they do not constitute grounds for lack of confidence in the competence and impartiality of the Security Service or for instituting a special enquiry. In particular, the Prime Minister is satisfied that at no time has the Security Service or any other British intelligence or security agency, either of its own accord or someone's request, undertaken electronic surveillance in No. 10 Downing Street or in the Prime Minister's room in the House of Commons.In the House on 8 December 1977 the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth also said—this is of some importance in view of press comment over the weekend:My right hon. Friend—meaning the former Mr. Harold Wilson, now Lord Wilson—associated himself with the statement that I made".—[Official Report, 8 December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 1644.]It is necessary to add only one thing. It is necessary because of some of the wilder comments made this afternoon about officers being beyond the law. No one is above the law in this country, and members of the Security Service are no more immune from prosecution than anyone else if they commit criminal offences.
The Security Service operates under the directive issued to the director-general by the then Home Secretary, Sir David Maxwell Fyfe, in 1952. The directive was made public in paragraph 238 of Lord Denning's report and still applies today. It makes the director-general personally responsible to the Home Secretary for the proper and 797 efficient implementation of the tasks set out in the directive, and it is through that relationship that ministerial control is exercised. The director-general is expected to seek direction and guidance from the Home Secretary as to the way in which the service goes about its business. But with one exception, the Home Secretary does not concern himself with particular operations. That one exception is when an interception warrant is sought, when of course the Home Secretary must be given sufficient supporting information for him to judge whether the application comes within the established criteria. But in general the Home Secretary is not concerned with particular cases. As paragraph 6 of the directive makes clear:Ministers do not concern themselves with the detailed information which may be obtained by the Security Service in particular cases, but are furnished with such information only as may be necessary for the determination of any issue on which guidance is sought.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has referred to the statement of 8 December 1977 with which, of course, I was associated. That statement refers to a detailed inquiry. I know the nature of that inquiry. A Minister of State in the Home Office—I make this point only to clarify the facts—is not briefed on security matters. What the Minister of State is reading has been supplied to him. That is true of all Ministers of State.
I am concerned about whether Wright's allegations were investigated at that time. They have been made more recently. They infuriate me because I stand by MI5. I know many of its members. They have served me well. I am angered that a small group under a man such as Wright, of little political intelligence, should now write a book saying that this sort of thing was taking place. I want the hon. and learned Gentleman to tell me not what was investigated then—I accepted that in good faith—but that Wright's allegations were investigated then. If they were not, surely they should be looked at afresh, or I, at least, was fooled at that time. I want the matter cleared up.
§ Mr. Waddington
I want to make absolutely clear the context in which I read that extract from Hansard and referred to that statement. In ordinary circumstances, no Minister would stand at the Dispatch Box and answer allegations about what is or what is not in a book which is or is not going to be published. The only reason why I read that statement is that I am in the rare position of being able to answer some of the allegations which have now been made in the press because a specific statement was made in the House about them. I do not put the matter higher than that. I am in no position to argue with the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) as to what is or what is not made known to a Minister of State in the Home Office. I am entitled to tell the whole House what the Prime Minister of the day told the House at the time about those allegations, which was precisely what I said this afternoon—that the allegations had been investigated and had been found wanting.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I am grateful to the Minister. Given what I said about MI5, for which I accept full responsibility during my time as Minister, in the terms of the remit which we were given, I again ask: is the hon. and learned Gentleman saying that he has found out that the 798 allegations—they are no more than allegations and it will all come out—made by Wright in a book were covered in 1977? That is all that I want to know.
§ Mr. Waddington
The House may or may not at some future time wish to return to some of these matters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not know why hon. Members express such surprise. They would have been surprised if I, a Minister of State in the Home Office, was the first Minister of any Government to stand at the Dispatch Box to answer questions put in a debate of this nature about the contents of a book that has not yet been published. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South may have his fun, but he knows what the answer has to be because it is that which would be given by any Minister of any Government.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
I understand what the Minister is saying, but, basically, it adds up to the fact that he does not know. We understand that. The powerful intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), speaking as a former Home Secretary, must carry a lot of weight. Will the hon. and learned Gentleman undertake to ask the Home Secretary in the near future to answer my right hon. Friend's question?
§ Mr. Waddington
I was not saying that I do not know, although the truth may well be that I do not know. I was giving the classic answer that, whether I had known or had not known, I certainly would not have disclosed the matter, even to the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South, whom I much admire, as he knows.
I was referring to the passage in the directive that explains that Ministers do not concern themselves with the detailed information which may be obtained by the Security Service in particular cases. There are good reasons for that policy. The Security Service is not, as some have alleged, in the business of obtaining information on behalf of the Government. It is there to protect the state against external and internal dangers, and must, as the directive makes clear, do this in a way that avoids any suggestion that it is concerned with any matter other than the defence of the realm as a whole. There must be no political bias or influence in its work. That is why the operational judgments must be for the director-general to make. If he gets them wrong, and the safety of the state is jeopardised or civil liberties unjustifiably infringed, he must answer to the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am sorry to keep interrupting the Minister, but will he now explain who determines the internal enemies? Who lays that down? Surely that must be a political decision. If it is not, who says who are the internal enemies—a Labour Government or members of Cabinet?
§ Mr. Waddington
I am afraid that I must bore the hon. Gentleman by referring him to the statement made by Lord Harris of Greenwich, a Minister of the Labour Government in 1975, who gave the classic definition of "subversion", which is by way of a direction to the Security Service. Subversion means:activities which threaten the safety or well-being of the State, and which are intended to undermine or overthrow Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means".799 That definition was closely examined by the Home Affairs Committee in last year's inquiry into the Special Branch. The Committee agreed that the definition was broadly correct.
The director-general is personally responsible to the Home Secretary but it is also well established that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister concerns herself with major Security Service matters. The Maxwell Fyfe directive provided that the director-general must approach the Prime Minister on matters of supreme importance and delicacy; and my right hon. Friend amplified this role, in her statement on the Blunt case in November 1979, by stressing the Home Secretary's responsibility to inform the Prime Minister or make sure that the Prime Minister is informed, in that type of case. She added that, in practice, both the Home Secretary and she make a point of keeping in close touch with the director-general.
Some of those arguing for some form of external oversight—
§ Mr. Waddington
I have been very generous in giving way. There is no point in the hon. Gentleman bawling from a sedentary position.
Some of those arguing for some form of external oversight seem to think that present arrangements for ministerial responsibility for these matters are static and uninformative. That is not so, and this Government can claim to have discharged their responsibilities to Parliament in as full and open a way as is consistent with the need to preserve national security—indeed, there has been greater openness under this Government than ever before.
On 21 November 1979, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made her statement on Blunt, deciding that it was right to confirm that Blunt was a Soviet agent, a fact of which previous Governments had been aware but had never informed Parliament. On 26 March 1981, the Prime Minister made a further statement on the implications of the Chapman Pincher book, "Their Trade is Treachery", indicating that the positive vetting procedures had not been reviewed since 1962 and that she had asked the Security Commission to review the security procedures and practices then followed in the public service and consider what changes were required.
In 1985, we came to Parliament and secured approval for the Interception of Communications Act which made unauthorised interception a criminal offence and, for the first time, provided a statutory and public framework for authorising practices of interception of communications which had, in fact, been carried out under the authority of Ministers of successive Governments for many years. That step hardly lends support to the story put about by some Labour Members that the Government have been unwilling to make any changes and have been less open even than their predecessors. The facts prove the reverse.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Will the Minister answer a very simple question? Why is he delaying telling Parliament whether Mr. Pincher will be prosecuted for paying Mr. Wright for information which he knew was classified?
§ Mr. Waddington
The hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that question as well. He would be the first to 800 rise in his wrath if anything was said which suggested that the decision to prosecute was not for the Attorney-General alone.
There was then the report to the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the results of the inquiry by the Security Commission into Bettaney. She made a full statement on the commission's criticisms and said that she and the Home Secretary were determined to see that action was taken to remedy management weakness within the Security Service.
The present director-general has devoted a major part of his time to that management task, particularly in relation to personnel. Earlier this year he put forward a report which the Prime Minister made available to the Security Commission, and the Security Commission has informed my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of its approval of the more open style of management which the director-general has introduced throughout the service, and of the changes in procedure affecting the appraisal, posting and promotion of staff.
The commission also noted with approval that the vetting procedures were being improved, following the recruitment of more investigating officers, and that the division of responsibility between line management and the specialist personnel managers had been tackled and clarified. In short, the Security Commission considers that the director-general is to be congratulated on the way in which he has tackled the problems which it identified.
The record shows that this Government have been far more open and receptive to fresh ideas in this field of security than the Labour Government. The principle of ministerial responsibility has shown itself able to adapt to particular events and situations. Discussion is bound to continue, but we are not at present persuaded that any of the proposals for changes in the system so far put forward would provide marked advantages.
The public have a fairly clear view of these matters. They understand the need for a security service and they are, I believe, becoming impatient with those who wish to undermine that service by removing the confidentiality which must lie at its core. This is an area in which fair sounding compromises can be particularly dangerous. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary will maintain to the full their responsibility as the points of contact between the Security Service and this House. In a dangerous world we shall continue to do all that we can to preserve the integrity and the necessary confidentiality of that service.
Lastly, the motion calls for the repeal of official secrets legislation and its replacement by a new framework to protect official secrets and, in particular, official secrets in relation to national security.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Can the Minister tell the House whether the security officers who gave information to Mr. West broke the law?
§ Mr. Waddington
I have not the slightest intention of being drawn into that matter for the reason that I gave a short time ago. All Opposition Members who think about it for one moment will understand why Ministers have said that, in all circumstances, it is wrong for them to be drawn into discussion about what is or is not correct—
§ Mr. Waddington
—about the various allegations made about the Security Service.
801 There is another reason why it is impossible for me to be forthcoming—it has already been stated. Whatever may be the sub judice law in Britain, we are still under the judge in Australia.
§ Mr. Waddington
We are now dealing with that part of the motion which calls for the repeal of official secrets legislation and its replacement by a new framework to protect official secrets, especially official secrets in relation to national security. We have to consider what that would entail.
I do not think that anyone seriously objects to section 1 of the Act, which is concerned essentially with spying, pure and simple. It is section 2 which has attracted the criticism, and it may be helpful if I remind the House of the background.
In 1971, the then Conservative Government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Lord Franks to review the operation of section 2, and the committee's report recommended repeal and replacement of section 2 by an Official Information Act containing narrower and more specific provisions. The first category of information which the committee suggested should be protected was information relating to the defence or security of the realm, or to foreign relations or the currency or the reserves—information which had been classified on the ground that its authorised disclosure would cause serious injury to the interests of the nation.
Before any prosecution could have been undertaken, the responsible Minister would have had to confirm the classification personally, and the prosecution would have had to satisfy the court that the information fell within one of the prescribed categories and had been classified.
The committee also recommended that certain other categories of information should be protected if disclosed by a crown servant contrary to his official duty. These categories included information likely to be helpful in the commission of offences, all Cabinet documents irrespective of subject matter, information given to the Government by private individuals or concerns, or any information the disclosure of which was for private gain. The receipt of official information would have ceased to be an offence, but the unauthorised disclosure of such information would have remained one.
It was not until some six years after publication of the Franks report that the then Labour Government published, in July 1978, a White Paper setting out proposals for legislation, but when they did so their proposals were, broadly speaking, based on the Franks recommendations. I remind the House that the last part of today's motion suggests that new legislation should concentrate on matters relating to the nation's security. That reads rather oddly in view of the fact that both the Franks report and the Labour Government's White Paper made plain the obvious—that any replacement of section 2 would have to go far wider than national security and have, for instance, to guard against corruption and the commission of crime.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
The Minister is doing us a service by reminding us of what the Franks committee, of which I was a member, recommended. When, in October 1976, I announced that the Labour Government would follow the Franks report, the Attorney-General asked me to announce that he would not prosecute under section 2 of 802 the Official Secrets Act except under the classification of secret and above. That was a profound step and thus, under the Labour Government, de facto, the Attorney-General carried out a major part of the Franks recommendations. That was the only reason for my speaking as an expert witness for Mr. Ponting—his was not a security matter, as the Government made clear. I made it clear that that was why he should not have been prosecuted under the Act, although I do not say that he should not have been dealt with in some other way because I do not like people who leak. Will the Minister ensure that those facts are included in Ministers' rubric in future?
§ Mr. Waddington
That came out at the time, but the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly within his rights to put that on record. However important it may be, it was not the matter with which I was dealing.
I was giving the history of the establishment of the Franks committee, its report, that it considered that any offence should go wider than releasing information about national security and the fact that when the Labour Government left office in 1979 no legislation had been introduced to implement the recommendations of the Franks report.
Unlike the Labour Government, which sat on the Franks report, this Government acted and the House knows what happened. The Protection of Official Information Bill which would have repealed section 2 of the 1911 Act and replaced it with provisions based broadly on Franks got its Second Reading in another place, but it was clear that there was not sufficient agreement to enable it to proceed further.
That potted history illustrates the whole difficulty. While it is easy to say that section 2 should be repealed, nobody has yet put forward proposals which would give both proper protection to matters which must be kept secret and seem likely to command a sufficient measure of agreement. No doubt the hon. Member for Workington and others will keep on trying. I did not think much of his effort today. But I wish he and some of his colleagues would be sufficiently frank and generous to admit that this Government, unlike their predecessor, the last Labour Government, have already tried and should be given credit for it as they should also be given credit for the Interception of Communications Act and the other steps which they have taken in this immensely difficult field of security since 1979.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has proved the substance of his motion well. Throughout his time spent on the issue he has shown, above all, first, that the Government have been incredibly inconsistent in their interpretation of the law and, secondly, the nonsense of the Official Secrets Act.
I would have been more impressed with the Minister's response if he had made it clear that the passage of the Interception of Communications Act 1985 was the result, not of a voluntary effort by the Government, but of a case at the Strasbourg court which forced the Government to act. I agree strongly with the Minister that the British public will not forgive people who undermine the effectiveness of the British security services. That is why the British public will not easily forgive the Government. Whatever else has been shown by this dreadful affair in 803 Australia, it is that the way in which the Government have managed this and every previous case has severely damaged confidence in the security services.
My hon. Friend showed the Government's inconsistency. We recognise that the Minister is not the Attorney-General, but he is a lawyer and knows well that he, like any other hon. Member, can say whether he thinks that the law has been broken. It is almost impossible to conclude other than that Mr. Chapman Pincher's efforts have involved a breach of the law. It is a matter for the Attorney-General whether to prosecute and he must make several judgments to reach that conclusion, one of which is whether the law was breached. No one can reasonably conclude from anything that has come within the public domain that the law has not been broken.
One good result may arise from this sorry saga and that is that no hon. Member can seriously believe that the present way of controlling the security services will continue for much longer. I doubt whether it will continue beyond this Government. The Prime Minister will probably have to stick to the present method, but no other Prime Minister, political party or Government is likely to continue with a system that has brought the security services into such disarray in recent years.
The Government have got themselves into an acute mess because they tried to stop Mr. Wright's book being published. Yet, both MI5 and MI6 knew that Chapman Pincher was writing a book with MI5 help two months before—Sir Robert Armstrong has said—the Government knew. We understand from Mr. Chapman Pincher that Mr. Wright was a co-author who received royalties. If that is the case, clearly the law is being interpreted inconsistently.
M15 and MI6 apparently released secret information without telling the Prime Minister. Sir Robert Armstrong is the principal adviser to the Prime Minister on security and intelligence matters, yet it appears that he did not know that information had been released. As he is the principal adviser to the Prime Minister, clearly we must assume that neither the Prime Minister nor the Home Secretary knew of that disclosure. If that is the case, what sort of accountability exists through Ministers to the House for the security services? The answer must be virtually none.
MI6 knew that Mr. Pincher's book would refer to allegations that Sir Roger Hollis'was a Soviet agent. Worse still, Sir Robert was told that the advance copy of Mr. Pincher's book was obtainedon conditions which made it impossible to take any action about it.What does that imply and what did Ministers know about the way in which the copy was obtained? If they knew nothing, what sort of accountability exists through Ministers to the House?
The Government's actions have seriously damaged the security services and the way they work in the eyes of the public. Since 1979 the Government's approach has been a mass of confusion. Clive Ponting and Sarah Tisdall were treated differently. Cathy Massiter was treated differently again and there was an incredible mess over GCHQ. Few people knew how GCHQ operated until the Government tried to ban trade unions there. Now people throughout the world know more about the activities of GCHQ than ever before.
804 In 1979 the Prime Minister started by giving the House more information in advance and detailed information about the Blunt case. Yet in response to an intervention the Minister said that it would be wrong for Ministers to give detailed answers. In 1977, as Leader of the Opposition, she asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), then Prime Minister, for a statement on the bugging of Lord Wilson's office. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister, whom the Minister serves, asked for a full and detailed statement on the bugging of Lord Wilson's office in 1977, and in 1980 gave a detailed answer on Professor Blunt, the Minister has said that the Government do not want to give information.
As the Prime Minister and the Government got themselves into a series of confusing positions over Clive Ponting, Sarah Tisdall, GCHQ and others, they began to clam up. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington was absolutely right in saying that then the information came out in diverse ways, revealing in the worst possible way the contradictions and absurdities of the present legal position.
The Prime Minister has given up answering questions which could be answered simply. Some weeks ago a national newspaper carried a major story about the possible bugging of the office of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock). The Conservative party leapt on that and used it as a red herring, but no Opposition Member ever argued that the office of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition had been bugged. Our argument was that in some way the Prime Minister appeared to know about that in advance. There are several ways that she could have known about it. One way, as I said on one occasion, was through a perfectly normal conversation, perhaps with a solicitor in Australia or perhaps with a Conservative Member.
I must emphasise that when I wrote to the Prime Minister telling her what I had told the media, I made no allegations about the bugging of offices because I did not consider that that was likely to have happened. In my letter I wrote:I said that I recognised there might be a perfectly conventional explanation, but another very real possibility is of course that the information came to you through the normal daily work of GCHQ in monitoring overseas communications where the question of security is concerned.We all know from the previous debates on GCHQ that that is part of its normal work. If information relating to security was passed upwards in the normal way, and eventually came to the attention of the Prime Minister, that is one way in which she could have found out.
The answer that I received could have said that the Prime Minister obtained the information in a perfectly straightforward way by word of mouth, or it could have said that the Prime Minister obtained the information from the GCHQ tapes. That, again, would have been perfectly understandable, but the answer said:The Government's policy on telephone tapping remains as set out in 1966 by the then Prime Minister, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx. Lord Wilson said he had given instructions that there was to be no tapping of the telephones of Members of Parliament. He said that that remained the policy of the Government and if there was a development which required a change in the general policy, he would, at such moment as seemed compatible with the security of the country, on his own initiative, make a statement in the House about it. I reaffirmed that this Government stood by that undertaking on 6 February 1980 and on 31 October 1983. The position remains the same today.805 No one quarrels with that and no one asked that question. The letter gives no answer to the question of the GCHQ tapes. The easiest and simplest way for the Government to deal with that part of the question is to release that tape, if it exists. It would not cause any problems to any hon. Member and there is no reason why the tape should not be released.
We should be given more detailed answers, especially if the Prime Minister and the Government consider, as they appear to have considered in the past, that it is appropriate to give such information. Indeed, the Minister has made great play of the argument that the Government are prepared to do that.
What is to be done in future? I said that the mess that we are now in is largely of the Government's making and that it has done immense damage to the country's security services. But we must also look to the future and accept that no future Government will allow the present situation to continue. One of the greatest nonsenses is that the two security services—MI5 and MI6—have no statutory existence, yet are probably the best known security services in the world. It is time that we gave some attention to placing them on a proper statutory footing. If we could do that, we could then deal with some of the problems, which several Opposition Members have mentioned, such as how the security services should operate, whether they should operate outside the law, which of course they should not, and whether they should operate against trade unionists, the National Council for Civil Liberties, or any of the others. We could also talk about the guidelines that existed for such security services instead of pretending that those services do not exist and instead of having a system which, when it breaks down, is disastrous for the morale of those security services and indeed for security generally in Britain.
When I have spoken on Home Office matters relating to security and so on I have pointed out that in the 20th century the United Kingdom has allowed itself, for very understandable reasons, due primarily to two world wars, to become excessively obsessed with secrecy. In this country it is almost impossible to get to the truth of matters which are, or should be, in the public domain. That undermines the confidence that people have in the system. Worse, if there is a rumour about, such as that Lord Wilson's office was bugged, and no one can disprove it, it gathers pace. Whether it is true or not—I am not in a position to know that—my hon. Friend the Member for Workington is saying that a rumour which has been around for many years has never effectively been put down. It is our contention that it will not be put down until we have a system of considering such things which satisfies the public. We must be able to do that if we are not to have constant problems of this sort.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Workington said, the Official Secrets Act needs radical change. It needs to be underpinned by a freedom of information Act. That concept has received support from every significant sector of the House except for the Conservative party. That is the one party that resists moving towards, or giving public support to, a freedom of information Act. I exempt the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and one or two of his hon. Friends, who have spoken out in favour of such a measure.
Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act is absurdly and dangerously wide. The democratic and civil rights of the British people have been undermined by an excessive 806 obsession with secrecy resulting partly from two world wars, partly from Northern Ireland and partly from other issues that have troubled us from time to time. Section 2 is far too wide. It drags far too many people into the net. If it did not exist or if the wording of that section was more appropriate, the Government would not be in the mess that they are in with Mr. Wright.
We also need a Select Committee to deal with the security services. That is long overdue. I was about to say, as I suspect I heard sotto voce from behind me, that the Select Committee should not, in the Opposition's view, be composed of Privy Councillors.
§ Mr. Soley
I accept that gracefully. If we have confidence in our parliamentary system, we must have confidence in the hon. Members who are elected and the way in which they are selected to serve on committees. No one has said that it should be only Privy Councillors who serve on the Select Committees on Defence. Secret information is discussed in Select Committees, and they can go into secret session when it is necessary to do so.
Other countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States and several west European countries have confidence and trust in their elected representatives, and that enables them to carry out the discussions necessary to ensure that the security services operate effectively and efficiently, and at the same time act in a way which does not destroy or undermine the confidence of the public in their democratic and civil rights.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does my hon. Friend agree that, in some respects, opposition to such a Select Committee denotes a feeling that, although there should be every confidence in those who serve in the Security Service, there should not be the same feeling of confidence about hon. Members on either side of the House and that, therefore, in essence, hon. Members are not to be trusted with such matters?
§ Mr. Soley
That is precisely the trap that I am talking about. We are saying that our Members of Parliament, elected by the people, are not sufficiently trustworthy to do the job. All hon. Members, wherever they stand politically, have a duty to refute that. If people are given responsibility, they normally discharge it well. There are perfectly satisfactory safeguards, within the democratic system as it is operated in Britain, to ensure that the security services can operate effectively and efficiently under the system that we propose.
There must be someone to whom personnel in the security services can turn if they consider that they are being misused or have obtained some information which they consider they cannot pass on within the existing service. We should consider, say, an inspector general or an ombudsman for the security services. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) said, in another debate, that we should consider a parliamentary commissioner for civil rights. We certainly need someone to do the whistle-blowing operation for those who serve in the security services.
The Minister made much of Lord Harris's definition of subversion. During the passage of the Interception of Communications Bill, we said that the definition should be reconsidered. I understand the importance of Lord Harris's definition, and I do not rule it out of court. However, although I am not always the greatest supporter 807 of Lord Denning's interpretations, he came up with a very good definition of subversion. He said that it must mean the overthrow of the state by unlawful means. It is the unlawful part that should worry us. When allegations have been made to the effect that the security forces have been used in an inappropriate way against trade unionists, the NCCL or some other group, it is assumed that it is unlawful to challenge the Government. That idea must not be allowed to gain ground. A challenge to a Government should not be allowed if it is unlawful, threatens to bring down the Government by violence, or if there is criminal dishonesty, such as corruption, which is designed to undermine the stability of that Government. Such challenges would be unlawful, but other challenges would not be.
There is a strong case to be made for the motion, and it was put very powerfully by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington. The Minister was unable to answer all of the questions. I do not criticise that, as I realise that the Home Secretary or Prime Minister should have been here to answer them. However, this debate will not end today; it will continue until the security services are put on a much better footing in the House and until we have a much better way of dealing with the sort of problems that we have faced recently.
§ Sir Ian Percival (Southport)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) should have put the weight of the Opposition Front Bench behind the attempt made by other hon. Members to make my hon. and learned Friend the Minister say something that he should not say. My hon. and learned Friend, however, dealt with those questions in the only manner open to him, and did so with firmness and dignity. I for one appreciated that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) made his point and was then good enough to show that he accepted that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister had to give the answers that he gave. The hon. Member for Hammersmith should know that, if he was a Minister, he would have to answer all questions relating directly to security in the same way as my hon. and learned Friend the Minister has just done.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I render unto the Minister just as one might render unto Caesar, in that he is doing his job, and I have no complaints about that. However, he prayed in aid the 1977 statement. New allegations have been made by that man in Australia, for whom I have no time. They are serious allegations, and I just want to know whether they were taken into account. I feel very strongly about the fact that a small group of men like that in MI5 should have acted in such a way.
§ Sir Ian Percival
The right hon. Gentleman made his point clearly in his previous intervention. I thought that he then acknowledged that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister could only have given the answers that he gave. Perhaps I misinterpreted the right hon. Gentleman's gestures, but it seemed clear to me that he was doing that. Those who read this debate will realise that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister could only give the answers that he gave with such firmness and dignity.
There were many tempting items in the speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith. He referred to the matter 808 that we debated last Wednesday, but he seemed to overlook the fact that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that we were not closing the door on the issue, and may wish to come back to it in a calmer atmosphere. We regard the position as being far from fixed. Indeed, it is the oldest question in history: who guards the guards, or who watches the watchers? One day, someone will find the answer, or at least a better answer, and we shall all embrace it with open arms.
Let us by all means return to that issue, but it is sufficiently important for it to be debated on its own. Even in this short debate, the references to it show some of the difficulties that will have to be met. Some say that Privy Councillors should be involved, while others say that they should not be. Some say that there must be secrecy, and others say that it is not necessary. I accept that all those points must be debated, but not in this atmosphere.
My criticism of the speech made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will be brief, as I wish to be constructive. However, I thought that in many respects what he said was deplorable—
§ Sir Ian Percival
No. That was cheap and nasty. I shall have something to say about those comments, and I am not surprised that the hon. Gentleman's immediate reaction should be that I might have something to say about his sordid and squalid remarks concerning my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) is now quoting me.
§ Sir Ian Percival
I am, and I am turning the hon. Gentleman's comments back on him. It is deplorable that the hon. Gentleman should have speculated to that extent. It is also deplorable to use the privileges accorded to the House to say things about people when they may long to have the opportunity to clear up the matter in the courts. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman had been a Member of Parliament for long enough to know that he should be more careful. It is deplorable to use this subject for scoring party political points. However, the hon. Gentleman apparently cannot resist that.
The hon. Member for Workington accused my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General of behaving in a sordid and squalid fashion. When the hon. Gentleman looks at his speech, he may well conclude that it was his attack that was sordid and squalid. My right hon. and learned Friend has served the House faithfully and well, and with a dignity that some others may well wish to try to emulate. We can all differ, but not in the way that the hon. Gentleman did.
I should like to start my next remarks on common ground. There cannot be any argument among us about the fact that if any of us received information in confidence we should never publish it without permission. The critical words are "without permission". What we learn as lawyers, Members of Parliament or, a fortiori, as an employee of the security services should not be divulged without permission. The hon. Member for Workington obviously agrees with that, because in several of his recent speeches he has put it even higher than that. He says that it is treachery for an ex-member of the security services to publish information received in that capacity without permission. Those last two words must always be there—
§ Sir Ian Percival
The critical words are "without permission". I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman in that regard.
The next part of his argument is that there are many cases in which either we should not have given permission, or we should have prosecuted. But he is not being consistent in this case. He says that we should have prosecuted other cases beforehand. I have just realised that I have fallen into the error of not drawing a distinction between prosecution and civil proceedings. But the hon. Gentleman argues that we should not have taken civil proceedings in this case. From the start, his aim has been to destroy our chances of preventing publication of information, although he acknowledges that publishing it is treachery. The hon. Gentleman must consider that to be an inconsistency.
I do not concede that permission was granted where it should not have been, because I do not know the facts. However, if it has been given and it should not have been, that is a fit matter for discussion because, ex hypothesi, the material is in the public domain and we can all have our say as to whether permission should or should not have been granted. There may be differences of opinion as to whether civil or criminal proceedings should have been taken in previous cases. However, surely to goodness, there can be no question about what should have been done in this case.
The Wright case involves a man who was in the service who is bound by his oath. He is publishing for money—without permission—the information that he obtained in the service. By the definition of the hon. Member for Workington, he is engaging in treachery. Should we say, "Never mind, we will not prosecute this time because there might have been errors."? I do not accept that there were errors. I do not know the facts and I will not speculate. However, even if there was fault to find in previous decisions, should we say "Here we have a case"—
§ Sir Ian Percival
I wish that the hon. Gentleman would remember that he had an hour in which to address the House. I am trying to make my comments in less time.
By common consent, Wright is engaging in treachery for money, yet should we not take proceedings against him? That is ludicrous, especially when we realise that he has moved outside our jurisdiction so that we cannot deal with him here. He knows better than anyone that if he tried to publish here, the odds are that civil proceedings would have been commenced against him and he would have been prosecuted. However, he knows that we cannot do that now.
Another feature of the case is that the hoohah of the past weeks has destroyed confidence. Confidence is really destroyed when someone from the inside engages in treachery. Wright is breaching confidences given him by his fellow members of the service. Confidence is destroyed when those working in the service can no longer rely on their colleagues not taking the kind of action that Wright has taken. The fact that Wright's actions received so much support from politicians on the Opposition Benches must also do much to destroy the confidence of those in the service.
What are we trying to do in Australia? We are asking for the assistance of the courts of a friendly country to stop 810 a man who, by common consent, wants to engage in treachery for profit. I would hope that if a friendly country—or indeed any country—came to us to protect itself in similar circumstances, we would have a ready ear to listen to that country. However, it is not simply our security that is at stake. Opposition Members seem to have lost sight of the fact that it is the present Labour Government of Australia, who are not in the business of helping the British Government—not Mr. Gough Whitlam who has no reason to be that pleased with our actions—who have put their senior civil servant before the court to say that, in the Government's opinion, Australian security interests are at issue as well. He has said that there is a danger to Australian security interests. I would not be surprised if there is not more reference to that before the proceedings are ended.
It is almost unbelievable that Opposition Members can express views about the case without taking into account the fact that the Australian Government have had their senior civil servant give evidence on oath to state that Australian security interests are at issue. In such circumstances, it is extraordinarily inconsistent of the hon. Member for Workington not to separate certain matters. The Peter Wright case must be considered separately from the other cases. We must consider what that man is trying to do and, by our common definition, he is indulging in treachery for profit.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood the body of my speech. He must consider Wright's motive. Wright does not believe that he has been treacherous because he cites the precedents of others who have been allowed to go to print. We are considering Wright's view and position and the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech is based on the wrong premise.
§ Sir Ian Percival
The hon. Gentleman had an hour in which to state his case. I am not mixing up anything. We must clarify these issues. The question here is whether someone in the secret service may publish for money information gained in the secret service.. The hon. Member for Workington has said that, prima facie, that is treachery.
§ Sir Ian Percival
I gave the hon. Gentleman credit for saying that.
However, I do not think that he would go so far as to say that he would agree that anyone with such confidential information is entitled to publish for profit. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman would say that for a moment. That is exactly what Mr. Wright is trying to do. Mr. Wright cannot be the judge of whether he has a motive to justify actions that people in his position are not allowed to take. That is a very dangerous approach to the matter and one that I would not have expected to hear from the hon. Member for Workington, as that is unsustainable and unworthy.
I urge the House to consider the case in Australia on its own. If we do that, there can be only one answer. It was 811 right and necessary to take proceedings, whatever had happened before. We can only hope that right will prevail and that the publication—[Interruption.] We can only hope that what should happen will be the right outcome and that the book will not be published.
I urge Opposition Members to consider the fact the some people have had a lot of fun speculating about the case. In the course of today's debate and in other debates, other subjects have been raised that deserve further consideration. However, we must put the case in Australia into the right perspective and we should stop playing party politics with national security. I urge Opposition Members to re-examine their position. In the light of day, when emotions are cooler, how can Opposition Members justify setting out with an overriding desire to ensure that the Government fail in an action in a foreign country?
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
I shall come to what I consider to be the core of the speech by the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival), but first I must make it clear to him that at no time in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) or at any time during the proceedings have the Opposition been engaged in any party political fight—[Interruption.] It is clear, if the confessions and boasts of anyone are justified, that there is one person who was engaged in a party political fight of the most outrageous kind and that is Mr. Peter Wright himself and some of his associates. If what Mr. Wright says is true, they were engaged in a treasonable attempt to attack the Government of the day.
The Minister's speech touched on some of the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington but did not answer the central question. The right hon. and learned Member for Southport had no right to say that the question had been answered. The question is, what have the Government done about the recent revelations made by Mr. Wright? I do not know whether those revelations are true but they deal with what happened in the days of the Government of Harold Wilson. All the Minister did was quote from what was said by the previous Labour Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan). I am sure that when he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) conducted their inquiries at that time they listened carefully to what they were told by the security services and, of course, they conducted a proper inquiry and took the proper action of coming to the House to state the position as they knew it. At that time, among other things, they did not know about the claims of Mr. Peter Wright, who was a long-time member of the Security Service. The Minister and the right hon. and learned Member for Southport have not attempted to answer that question. I would have thought, whatever differences we may have on these matters, that all of us could agree that, if Mr. Peter Wright's accusations are correct, it is a serious matter.
The security services have a greater interest in getting the matter examined and dealt with than anybody else, because otherwise the slur will hang over the modern secret service that it engaged in a treasonable conspiracy against the Government of the day, in breach of its undertakings, just as history shows that the secret service did engage in 812 such a treasonable outrage at the time of the Zinoviev letter. If anybody reads the records now he will see that the way in which the secret service behaved in 1924 was palpably wrong according to its undertakings. Today it would also be a monstrous scandal if Mr. Peter Wright's charges are correct. Therefore, the charges must be examined. They have not yet been examined. The Minister has come to the House today and had to confess—I do not blame him—that there has not been any examination.
The motion argues—I certainly agree with it—that there must be a proper examination. We propose a judicial inquiry, where a judge is appointed to look into it. It would have to be a secret inquiry because I do not believe that we can have a full-scale public inquiry into the operations of the secret service. If my hon. Friend the Member for Workington was asking for that, I do not think it is right. In any case, if the Government do not like the exact form of the inquiry we are asking for, it is their business to come forward with an alternative.
This matter will not go away. These are serious charges, and the Government have less right than anybody to say that they do not take any notice of Mr. Peter Wright's charges. If Mr. Peter Wright is doing sufficient damage to the Security Service by the publication of this book on the other side of the world, then, in heaven's name, surely the Government cannot say that they will take no notice.
I might be able to say that I do not give a damn about what Mr. Wright says about anything, which is probably my considered view, just as it is my view about Mr. Chapman Pincher. However, the Government have thought it necessary to have the whole process of a prosecution on the other side of the world which has made fools of our eminent civil servants. That contraption has had to be wheeled on to deal with Mr. Wright's accusations, so it is impossible for the Government to shelter in the way in which the right hon. and learned Member for Southport so ill advised them to do. The Government have said that it is an important case. They are prepared to spend large sums of taxpayers' money to present their case. When part of that case—not all of it—revolves around the question whether the charges about a conspiracy in 1974 were correct, there has to be an examination. If the Government do not agree to that now, they will have to do so at some later stage.
One of the most objectionable features of the issue is that it is inextricable from secret service operations. I am not complaining. Secret service operations have to be kept secret and they cannot be discussed at every available opportunity. However, occasionally inquiries are made by the Government and one important inquiry was made by the present Government into the case of Sir Roger Hollis; in fact, I believe that two or three inquiries were made. The last inquiry came up with a clean sheet for Sir Roger Hollis. The Prime Minister, quite rightly, made a statement to the House saying that Sir Roger Hollis was cleared. I accepted that, as did the House. I believe that every decent citizen of this country accepted that, in those circumstances.
Therefore, what in heaven's name were the Government playing at in the court in Australia when they tried to smudge that issue? I know that there is some legal excuse for it, but the common, ordinary, sensible people do not always understand obstruse legal obfuscations. It was said in the court that the case against Sir Roger Hollis was to be accepted. I know that that does not mean that 813 the Government are saying that he is guilty. However, the Government have no right anywhere other than in the House to put any new charge against him. If there is any new charge or suspicion against Sir Roger Hollis, the Prime Minister has a special duty to come to the House and say what it is.
Until that happens, the previous statement of the Prime Minister stands. It would be a gross injustice to the memory of Sir Roger Hollis, his family and those associated with him if such rumours should be peddled and if the Government did not take clear steps to knock them on the head as they sought to do a few years ago when the charges were made by Mr. Pincher and a few others.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Obviously my right hon. Friend has some knowledge of Sir Roger Hollis and the family and feels for their distress. I have no such knowledge and that must be typical of most of the population. The request my right hon. Friend makes to the Government to clear one family is an impossible task when the people have no confidence in the Government's oversight of our security services. The only way in which people such as Sir Roger Hollis and his family can be secure is when, if the Government say that we have a sensible security service and that it is under control, it is believed. At the moment, whatever they say is not believed.
§ Mr. Foot
I understand my hon. Friend's argument. However, I am in favour of the proposals made by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington. There should be a new method of surveillance over the secret service because these events have made that essential, not only in the interest of Sir Roger Hollis but in the interest of others. The well-paid vultures are happy to make charges against the dead, whether it is Sir Roger Hollis or others. They believe that once people are dead they can make any charge they wish, make any kind of money they like out of it and make the accusations in the wildest possible terms. That is most unjust, and in the interests of fair play and justice and also in the interests of the security services the Government should take steps to try to protect the dead.
A major revelation by Mr. Peter Wright relates to the attack on the Labour Government. That must be cleared up. However, there are other so-called revelations. Mr. Wright is supposed to have said that when he was in the security services they engaged in a conspiracy to murder President Nasser. I should be bitterly concerned if a British Government agency had engaged in the preparation of acts of terror. It would be an outrage if the security services were told in 1956 by Sir Anthony Eden and the Government of the day that they could prepare a plan for the assassination of President Nasser. I hope that the charge that the British Government gave instructions to engage in an act of terror can be repudiated. That is why there should be a proper investigation of these matters.
I was in Cairo a few days ago, before these revelations were made. Heaven knows what injury they will do to the future operations of the British security services. They must not engage, either in this country or elsewhere, in illegal acts, in particular in criminal acts, because eventually it comes out into the open and when that happens it can do appalling damage to the security of the state.
That is happening in the United States. The exposure of the arms sales to Iran, behind the back of Congress and 814 of those with responsibility for these matters after a section of the security services had been given orders by somebody, has wrecked United States foreign policy in the middle east. Many of the worst acts of terror have been carried out with Iranian money and Iranian backing. The Iranians helped to kill the previous President of Egypt, and I have no doubt that many other killings have been carried out by them.
If the United States security services are prepared to engage in such operations, we should be all the more determined to keep our security services out of them. It would do nothing but harm to the effectiveness of the security services if they were to engage in such manoeuvres and such trickery. This squalid business should be cleared up in the interests of the security services, and that cannot be done effectively unless that part of the motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington which relates to a judicial inquiry is adopted. A judicial committee would be the best body to carry out such an examination.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
I hope that in his remarks about 1956 the right hon. Gentleman is not giving credence to Mr. Gough Whitlam's allegations relating to events that took place long before he held public office and for which there is no evidence whatsoever.
§ Mr. Foot
I am saying nothing against Mr. Gough Whitlam, although I should examine what he has said on this and other matters. I am referring to what Mr. Wright says in his book. Mr. Wright says that he engaged, with others, in a treasonable conspiracy in this country and that MI5 or MI6 engaged in the preparation of an act of terror to murder the President of the republic of Egypt. If that is the truth, it should be examined. If it is a lie, let it be exposed. But if it is the truth, or if there is any element of truth in it, I and, I should have thought, every decent citizen in this country would want our security services to be cleaned up.
I do not agree with all that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington does. However, it would help to improve the effectiveness of the future operations of the security services if this motion were to be passed and if the Government were to act upon it.
§ 6.5 pm
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)
I am pleased to be following the former Leader of the Opposition. If he has done nothing else, he has livened up our proceedings this afternoon, which I felt were in danger of achieving the remarkable result of making the exciting subjects of security and espionage excruciatingly boring. He asked a few pertinent questions with which I shall deal later.
The speech of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was a strange and curious mixture of tedium and hysteria. However, it contained a few perceptive passages and it is to those and to the motion itself to which I shall refer. The motion breaks down into three main parts. It calls attention to themanagement and operation of the security services".Just about everybody in the world seems to have been doing that lately.
The most interesting comments on the management and operation of MI5 were made in the 1985 report of the Security Commission. It highlighted many management weaknesses, many of which we are told, and believe, have to some extent been remedied by the present director 815 general. However, it is germane to ask why there is such a sharp difference between the management of MI5 and that of MI6. Almost all the criticism that one hears of the security services zeros in on MI5, whereas MI6 appears to have a relatively trouble-free and criticism-free record. There is a lot to be learnt by looking in detail at the comparisons, but there is no time to do so today—whether those comparisons relate to selection, management methods or the lack of introspection in MI6, which is a comparatively open organisation in the sense that it mixes and mingles with other people in the world of foreign policy, whereas MI5 personnel are so hunkered down in their bunker that sometimes quite extraordinary things seem to be able to go wrong without anybody taking much notice.
If I understand correctly the hon. Gentleman's main criticism of the management of the security services it is that at times they are outside political control. That also seemed to be the main point of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). The second part of the hon. Gentleman's motion highlights that criticism most dramatically. It calls for a judicial inquiry into the allegations relating to the Government of Lord Wilson. The most interesting intervention this afternoon was that of the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) who asked a question to which no satisfactory answer has been given.
There is no need to worry about this matter if the 1977 statement that was read out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State applies precisely to the alleged events. However, if that statement does not cover those allegations, it is a completely different ball game. I, too, should like a judicial inquiry to be held if that matter has not been covered in any way.
I know nothing about these matters and I make only one comment. It is almost inconceivable that any operation of the kind that seems to have been alleged could have been carried out on a completely unauthorised, freelance basis. One only has to think of the mechanics of an operation of that kind. To get into a former Prime Minister's residence without authorisation and set up the technical equipment and then to take the tapes away and have them read, analysed and stored at headquarters enters the realms of speculation and fantasy, as does the original allegation. Nevertheless, there is an unanswered question which the right hon. Gentleman exposed in a devastating way and at some stage we need an answer.
More interesting about the management of the security services is the issue that we touched on at great length in the debate on 3 December. There is no point in going over the same ground again, but I want to comment on two things that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in his fine speech on that occasion.
First, my right hon. Friend's main objection to the proposal for some sort of oversight body was that such a body would have to be inside the barrier of secrecy. He said that it would be a constitutional contradiction becauseif it is inside the barrier, it cannot communicate its findings convincingly to those who remain outside." —[Official Report, 3 December 1986; Vol. 106, c. 942.]On reflection, I did not find that part of my right hon. Friend's argument convincing simply because the Security Commission frequently goes inside the barrier and then 816 comes out with a report on what has gone on, some of which is put into the public domain in a report to Parliament and parts of which are not. The report on the Bettaney affair is a classic example of that. That report took us all well inside the barrier of secrecy, but the published document, which took us some way inside, nevertheless also contained two unpublished annexes which, presumably, took us still further inside. I hope that when we return to the debate on oversight my right hon. Friend will reconsider the views that he expressed on that area.
Secondly—here I have more sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, particularly as my views on the matter are changing—my right hon. Friend argued convincingly that ultimately the management of the security services must depend on somebody reporting to a Minister. The more one considers the idea of a Select Committee of Privy Councillors, or, in the view of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), non-Privy Councillors as well, reporting to somebody other than the Home Secretary or the responsible Minister, the more doubtful the edifice becomes. If we are to have an efficient oversight body—that is surely first prize—it must be a body that reports to Ministers. That is a theme for a future debate on the oversight issue.
The motion calls for reform of the law on official secrets and, in particular, for consistency in the application of the law. I can only say "Hear, hear, and amen" to that. Any logical look at the problem shows that the Official Secrets Act is in a mess and the Government's recent efforts to be consistent in their handling of such cases clearly has not succeeded. Ask any man in the street, let alone any Member of this place, and no one will pat the Government on the back for their consistency in handling the Wright case and previous incidents, including the books.
In making the simple point that the Government have been inconsistent, instead of waiting for most of us to say, "Hear, hear", the hon. Member for Workington shot off into the realms of the most extraordinary demons, hobgoblins and fantasies. Although one or two of the things that he said may have contained a glimmer of truth, most of them were wildly over the top and should never have been said in a speech in the House.
The recent arguments about the security services have done much more harm than good to the morale and efficiency of the services, but at the end of the day perhaps one good thing will emerge. Instead of continuing to rake over the dead leaves of the past, we may start to look to the future to make sure that such blunders, errors and inconsistencies are much less likely to happen again. The service will never be error-proof, but with a greater parliamentary input than we have had so far, with an oversight body which I am sure will come one day, we shall soon have a better and more effective Security Service.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Truth is stranger than fiction and the history of these matters from the Philby case through to the revelations of Mr. Wright provides a mixture of stories better and more fascinating than those in many novels, some of them written, as has been pointed out, by the practitioners of this very activity of security and espionage.
The almost Victorian melodramatic tones with which the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) opened the debate were not needed to draw our 817 attention to some of the problems. He sounded as though he could take a good part in a pantomime at this season of the year, given the sheer tone of malignant horror-mongering in which he managed to engage. The truth is serious enough not to need that and I must differ from the hon. Gentleman in some respects, even though I shall say later why I will advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the motion.
First, I did not agree with the conclusion or form of the hon. Gentleman's attack on the Attorney-General, who has succeeded, where others have failed, in distinguishing his position in standing firm for accuracy and honesty at several points in recent events. I might have wished, and indeed have argued, that he should have given up his office in doing so, but the manner of his conduct in no way justifies the tone of what the hon. Gentleman said about him.
Secondly, I did not like the way in which the hon. Gentleman has used the Order Paper so indiscriminately to list the names of large numbers of people and, in particular, I did not like the way in which he developed his attack on Mr. Arthur Martin, for whose record of service in the security services Britain has particular reasons to be grateful. Indeed, he was dismissed from the service in circumstances which still give rise to many of the questions at the heart of the debate.
The Minister of State's reply held a note of complacency which I thought had begun to be dispelled when the Home Secretary spoke earlier and said that the door was still open to further consideration. Indeed, the Conservative Members who have spoken today have themselves said that they see the door as still open as we look for a way of establishing some decent scrutiny of the security services which can help to deal with some of the problems about which we are all concerned.
That same complacency is to be found in the amendment on the Order Paper, welcomed by the Minister, proposed by some Conservative Members, none of whom are present in the Chamber and all of whom have absented themselves during most of the debate. That amendment lays particular stress on the statement made by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) on 8 December 1977, and it misses the point in two ways: because it does not deal with what the statement fails to talk about—what happened in places other than 10 Downing street and the Prime Minister's room in the House of Commons; and because it fails to recognise that on several occasions in recent history Prime Ministers, including the present one, have appeared at the Dispatch Box and made statements about which there is now every good reason to have considerable doubt.
I should say that I do not believe that the Prime Minister was at fault in some of the errors that occurred in her statement at the Dispatch Box at the conclusion of the Blunt affair, or indeed the statement she made after that. In some cases, errors or misleading aspects can be pointed to based on the briefing she was given. I hope that we can get rid of the complacency and recognise on both sides that there is a real problem.
If one looks at what can happen to the security services, it is obvious that if there is not some way of intensifying the effectiveness of oversight, a number of different problems can emerge. One is that, in an atmosphere of complacency, treason can flourish. We have had that long list of traitors—Philby, Blunt, Bettaney and the smaller fry at lower levels—and in every case it is possible to 818 point to extensive complacency without which such people could not have operated and could not have continued to hold the responsible positions that they did. An atmosphere of complacency contributes to outright incompetence in the security services, such as that which allowed an absence of positive vetting in MI5 of the kind to which the Security Commission drew attention after the Bettaney case. That simply could not have gone on if anyone beyond Ministers had been regularly reviewing the effectiveness of the services and questioning Ministers so to encourage them to ask the right questions of those who were responsible to them. Complacency can breed many problems in the security services.
Secondly, the absence of scrutiny can preserve a climate of opinion completely divorced from that to be found in the world outside. The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) pointed out that that may be a greater tendency in MI5 in its particularly enclosed world than in the intelligence services. It is easier to take an older example. It is the kind of climate which allowed Philby just before the war to establish, successfully, cover for being recruited to the service on the basis of his pro-Fascist connections, such as his involvement in the Anglo-German Society of that time. Such was the distorted climate of opinion in the service at that time that it proved not only to be an acceptable cover then, but helped to defend him against criticism and suspicion at later stages. It is now contended that during the war a considerable group within the service continued to believe that the real battle they were fighting was against the Soviet Union and they were much distracted from the war against Fascism in which Britain was engaged.
Distinct from what was going on in the real world, that climate of opinion was allowed to remain in the security services. One sees the same danger at the time of the alleged events surrounding the Wilson Government, to which I shall refer again, of the possibility that there may have been within the security services people who somehow believed that, because a Labour Government had come to power, the end of the world had arrived. I am opposed to Labour Governments and in favour of preventing them from happening and of making sure that they cannot pursue their more foolish policies by voting those policies down—as we were able to do when we had the political power. But Britain is a democracy, and if the people elect a Labour Government, even under our distorted electoral system, it is not the business of those who work for Government to look for ways to get rid of them or to discredit them. The possibility that there may have been a climate of opinion in some quarters in MI5 which held that the presence of a Labour Government justified the taking of illegal actions is extremely worrying. That possibility is generated when there is insufficient scrutiny of the security services.
There are other dangers that arise in the absence of scrutiny. They include the possibility that actions approved by the Executive but not by Parliament may be undertaken. That has been a problem in the United States and is now being examined by Congress which has the machinery to do so. Congress is examining the pursuit of a policy in clear defiance of declared Government policy of not supplying arms to Iran.
We may imagine that such things cannot happen here, but of course such a thing did happen in the immediate aftermath of the war. It was not public knowledge and was certainly not known in Parliament that British forces were 819 involved in assisting in the parachuting into Albania of supporters of the exiled and deposed king of Albania. Had that been known to anybody, some questions might have been asked about what happened to those people because, of course, when they arrived in Albania the security authorities there knew perfectly well when and where they would land; they had been informed of that by Mr. H. A. R. Philby. He was at the heart of the operation. It was perhaps the least noticed but the most evil of his acts of treachery that he condemned those people to death because he knew about their departure and communicated the information to the Albanian Government, who were and are ruthless. The fate of those people is now well known.
That action took place under a Labour Government and was designed deliberately to destabilise a Communist Government in Albania. The Executive approved and undertook that action knowing that it would be unlikely to obtain parliamentary approval. That is a dangerous kind of action to undertake and is one of the reasons why there must be better scrutiny. Equally dangerous in the absence of scrutiny is the possibility that actions not approved by anybody outside the service can more easily take place. That is because no questioning takes place. The Maxwell Fyfe directive rather conveys the flavour, "Don't call us, we'll call you." It gives the impression that Ministers are to be told of things when the service determines that they need to know. Of course Ministers can ask questions, but it has always been my submission—one which the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth accepted when I put it to him during the debate in 1979—that Ministers are less likely to ask questions if nobody is asking them questions. That is the danger in the present arrangements.
If actions are undertaken by the security services without the approval of anybody outside the services, either by the service as a whole engaging in freelance activity or by groups within it doing so, then the horrifying Pandora's box is open and that is where we come to the allegations about what went on in the Wilson Government. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) said—he was the Home Secretary at the time—he was never informed of any such action, and if it took place it must have been illegal because it was not authorised as it should have been. As my right hon. Friend also said, it would have been the product of a diseased mind to imagine that such action was necessary or desirable. It is an utterly monstrous proposition to say that any such action should be undertaken against an elected Government.
Of course, there is a world of difference if the security services communicate with the appropriate Minister if they have reason to believe that a member of the Government presents a security risk. That is not impossible: it can happen and there must be a mechanism for dealing with it. But that is a long way from the happenings now being alleged during the years of the Wilson Government.
§ Ms. Clare Short
What the hon. Gentleman says has major implications. He says that if a member of the Government is a security risk it is the duty of the security services to communicate that to the Government. The logic of that statement is that if the security services think the Prime Minister is a security risk they should check and 820 communicate. Are the security forces entitled to supervise and check and report on members of the Government? The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to say that somehow they can supervise Ministers but not the Prime Minister, because if he says that he is not consistent.
§ Mr. Beith
There are ways in which it could come to the notice of the security services that, heaven forbid, the Prime Minister was an agent of a foreign power. But the proposition is so unlikely because of the many checks and balances in existence that it would require a fairly major effort on the part of any security service to contemplate that it was the case. If it were, it would be their duty to report that to the appropriate authorities.
§ Mr. Beith
That is a long way from what is alleged to have happened. It is alleged that Harold Wilson was being framed, that he was being burgled in an attempt to establish incriminating evidence, and that when such evidence was not found it was manufactured and communicated to the outside world by a variety of groups. Those are allegations of monstrous activity and if they have any weight or credibility they deserve to be examined. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth was in possession of the full substance of the allegations when he made his statement to the House. For that reason, the matter must be looked at again, but at this stage we do not know whether it will go to a full judicial inquiry. If the motion goes to a vote, one of the reasons why I shall advise my hon. Friends to vote for it is that I think the matter should be looked at again.
§ Mr. Alan Williams
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about having to look at it again, but after we have had the result of the court case. That is because the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General will have to account for themselves to the House. My advice to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is that we should not have a vote tonight but should wait until we have statements from the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General.
§ Mr. Beith
These issues are so grave that some further attempt must be made to establish whether or not there is any substance in them. That brings me to one aspect of the Wright case about which it would be proper to speak even though the court case is going on. It is that, whatever criticisms we make of Wright—and I make a number—one of his motivations was that he believed things had been brushed under the carpet and he embarked on a crusade. He believed that matters had not been brought to a head and that deception was being allowed to continue. However much we criticise his subsequent actions, we must recall that he sought to interest Conservative Members, including the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, in his allegations and to try to get them by various routes to the Prime Minister.
There is a crusading aspect to all this, and although it does not vindicate his subsequent actions it was serious in itself and leads me to remind the Minister that at the very 821 least there ought to be a proper internal mechanism by which an officer who believes that something is seriously wrong can ventilate his grievance. That was one of the issues discussed by the Security Commission and the Prime Minister spoke about it in her statement to Parliament. I gathered from the Home Secretary when he replied to an intervention by me in the debate on 3 December that it is still under discussion and is one of the aspects of the Security Commission report which has not been fully resolved. Something must be done about that.
I see that in the end as linking naturally to some external oversight, because people are likely to have more confidence in an internal inspector-general, or whatever he may be, if he reports, as does the Ombudsman, ultimately to some external or parliamentary body. If there is no internal mechanism, that is yet another reason why people may believe that they have an excuse to go outside. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival) that no one can be allowed to be the sole judge of whether he has sufficient reason to break the confidence which is enjoined upon him in his position as an officer or former officer of the Security Service. He cannot be the sole judge, but if he has no other recourse and nowhere else to go, he is left in a very unsatisfactory position. I speak not only of Wright, but of very many officers who have found themselves in this position—[Interruption.]
§ Sir Ian Percival
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the officer should be his own judge of when to speak? That really is a slippery slope.
§ Mr. Beith
Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman was unable to hear me because of the noise behind me. I was agreeing with his statement that no security officer should be the sole judge of whether what is on his conscience or mind should be brought into the public domain. That cannot be right. Therefore, we must look for other mechanisms whereby people can ventilate grievances in a proper manner and feel that their case is being heard.
There are many things we have discussed today to which we will have to return. The Minister of State said in his speech that the public understand perfectly well what is at stake, and that they know and have a basic feeling about what is right and wrong in these matters. That is so, but the public at large also can see the total inconsistency of the position of the Government. The public can see that there is no distinction, as the Government pretend to draw, between someone who publishes a book in his own name, disclosing secrets learnt in his office, and someone who supplies that information, whether for money or not—in this case, it was for money—to another author to be included in a book which is subsequently described as being co-authored by the two individuals. There is no difference, moral or otherwise, in the importance of confidentiality in those two cases.
The Government are right to be concerned about ensuring that the confidentiality of the security services is kept, but they have undermined their case both by their inconsistency and their consistent failure to recognise what really matters. It is absurd that we should go on pretending that we do not have an intelligence service and for Sir Robert Armstrong to be expected to deny in court that there is such a thing as MI6. But there are things which have have to be kept confidential. If the Government were more consistent and offered genuine opportunities for 822 oversight and for the aggrieved officer to raise his grievance in a suitable manner, they would be in a better position to work for the preservation of the confidentiality and day-to-day secrecy on which the security services depend to do their job on our behalf.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
First, let me say constructively what I believe should now be done. The Security Commission should be converted into a tribunal of inquiry under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921. The Security Commission consists of Lord Griffiths, Sir Anthony Lloyd, the deputy chairman, and Lord Allen of Abbeydale and four others. Therefore, they have the legal firepower and are already in the business of security matters. I have discussed this with two former permanent secretaries of the Home Office and one former permanent secretary of the Foreign and Commonwealh Office and believe that it is a sensible proposition.
To save time, I quote the powers. On 23 January 1964, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the Prime Minister, in announcing the setting-up of the Security Commission, said:Exceptionally, the Commission might find that they were unable to make progress without powers to compel evidence. In such a case, Parliament would be asked to pass the necessary Resolution under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, to vest the Commission with the powers of that Act for that particular inquiry. The Commission would then proceed in all respects as a Tribunal of Inquiry."— [Official Report, 23 January 1964; Vol. 687, c. 1272–3.]I am glad that we are not voting tonight, because I would have been uncomfortable about doing so, believing that these matters are very serious and that we must wait until the end of the court case in Australia. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) for agreeing to this.
The Security Commission or tribunal should discuss certain specific matters. The first of them concerns Anthony Blunt. I do not think it edifying for people like me, or most of us in this generation, to try to pass censorious moral judgments on men when in their late teens or early twenties in Cambridge or elsewhere in the 1930s. The lines between pro-Communism and passionate, and justified, anti-Fascism were blurred. From 1941 to 1945, Russia was on our side. For my part, I will remember Anthony Blunt as an inspiring lecturer who awakened my interest in the French impressionists.
What I am about to say I am perfectly prepared to repeat outside the Chamber. I do not shelter under privilege, but the House of Commons is the right place for a Member of Parliament to make such statements for the first time.
I believe that Anthony Blunt left a collection of documents compiled by himself and that those documents were bequeathed to his brother, whom I have not approached. The condition was that the documents should not be made public for 20 years. I do not know whether Mr. Blunt's brother has read them. The papers were transferred to an institution in London for safe keeping.
However, I am informed and believe that a Government agency has had a sight of those papers. They revealed to the agency not only who the so-called fifth man was, but many other names and facts. Because the Prime Minister said that there was no proof that Sir Roger Hollis was a Soviet spy—that is before the papers being read, 823 so I am sure that the Hollis statement was made in good faith by the Prime Minister on the basis of knowledge available at the time—it is difficult for the Prime Minister to admit any knowledge of who was a spy at this late stage. I take on board what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot).
This brings me to the subject of burglary. For a Government agency to have read these papers was strictly illegal. Illegal or not, it has now been done. The parallel case is the break-in at Sidgwick and Jackson. That was illegal. That was six weeks before the book "Their Trade is Treachery" was published.
I ask the direct question: have Ministers been told about the documents bequeathed by Anthony Blunt? Have they been told whether knowledge that Hollis was positively identified as being a spy has come from these documents? I am not asking that the documents, which are very personal, should be made available, but I am asking that the Security Commission, either itself or—better still—as a tribunal under the 1921 Act, should have a sight of what the Government agencies know.
I am concerned about ministerial control over housebreaking by state agencies, which is akin to the problem of state telephone tapping. Is there effective ministerial control over breaking into and entering houses? This is a legitimate and important question, unless the House of Commons is told that there was no authorised breaking and entering.
House breaking is illegal, just as phone tapping is illegal, infringing the right of privacy. A Minister may authorise phone tapping on internal matters. Which Minister is responsible for any rules of breaking into and entering houses, be they private houses or those of publishers? Peter Wright was the senior case officer when Blunt was supposed to have confessed. I understand that it is simply not true that he confessed all. Apparently, there is an affidavit that the Prime Minister misled the Commons on Blunt. Furthermore, parts of Blunt's testimony were kept out. Why? A tribunal should be told. After all, the Prime Minister came in with a great fanfare of trumpets, saying "I am going to get control of the security services", and then did nothing about it. Why have the doubtless good intentions gone astray? As I told him at the Islwyn constituency Labour party Chartist rally in November 1985, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock), when he becomes Prime Minister, must give his mind to those problems. Does the Blunt testimony reveal who tipped off Burgess and Maclean? The late Colonel Marcus Lipton told me before he died that he believed that Burgess and Maclean had been tipped off by a senior figure of the so-called establishment, who did so out of the kindness of his heart on an old-boy network, and not by a spy or agent. This issue should be clarified by a commission or tribunal.
Another matter to which a commission or tribunal should turn its attention is a letter from Sir Michael Hanley to Wright, which reads:The firm is doing well and has passed recent examinations.Was this a reference to a private inquiry by Sir Robert Armstrong into MI5's activities against the Wilson Government? If so, on whose initiative and authority does the Security Service investigate some 30 persons such as Lord Kagan? Was it freelance or part of coherent control, 824 and where was the accountability? What could Peter Wright have meant by using the words "deniable, authorised, illegal" when referring to activity in the Wilson years? It is the opinion of Mr. Richard Morton Taylor, who was in court, that he did not make this up.
The tribunal must consider the Attorney-General's role. Why did it take 10 days for Sir Robert Armstrong to apologise? The apology came 10 days after my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—this is in column 426 of Hansard of 27 November—had asked about the Attorney-General's role. Why was the Attorney-General not consulted about Rupert Allason? Why was he not consulted about Chapman Pincher? These are all questions to which there must be sensible answers.
For reasons of time, I shall omit other questions that could be asked about the Attorney-General, save for one. The Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that they have MI5 in control and then say at the same time that the Attorney-General did not know. Either the Government are in control—they are indivisible, are not they?—or they are not. When did Sir Robert Armstrong know about "Their Trade is Treachery"? Was it February 1981 or December 1980? How could Mr. Pincher be quoted as saying, "All is well now. All is hunky-dory"? I asked the question of the hon. Member for Stroud (Sir. A. Kershaw) about the time in 1984 that he was sending Clive Ponting's letter to me to the Ministry of Defence. He sent another document to Sir Robert Armstrong, which was a dossier from Wright. Why were Her Majesty's Government not as active about the Wright dossier as they were about the Ponting dossier?
It is important that the Labour party is committed to the Cirencester and Tewkesbury amendment of the Bournemouth conference of 1985, when it was promised that we would have some sort of tribunal to which civil servants who felt that they had been abused could go. Did Sir Robert Armstrong hush up the Kershaw note concerning the memorandum from Wright? Were other members of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs told? If so, should a chairman of a Select Committee keep such a matter to himself?
Finally, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it may be within your recollection that I raised with Mr. Speaker the issue of Members' telephones. My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) has received a letter which I have cross-checked, which I think should be the property of the House. It reads:First of all, let me make it plain that I am not and never have been subject to the Official Secrets Act.This is an anonymous letter. It continues:I will not identify myself because I am apprehensive of the Security Services. For 12 years, from 1968 to 1980, I was associated with the modernisation of the Government's telephone network covering the Whitehall area. The project consisted of eight central branch exchanges, each covering a geographical area of Whitehall, and all included all Government offices and buildings within that area. Each of these CBXs was connected to each other and to the outside public network via a CBX tandem exchange located in the building known as the North Rotunda under the Department of the Environment at the entrance on Great Peter Street. Also in this building were located three of the eight CBXs, the others being located around central London. The Palace of Westminster was served by a CBX located in an underground bunker in Storey's Gate, since modernised, I believe.You will appreciate from the above that the key to the whole network is the CBX tandem access, which would give anyone access to all telephone calls internally and externally, which is open to some 70,000 telephone lines. These included all MPs' telephones, Downing Street and any other 825 telephones serving Government Departments for roughly one square mile around Whitehall. Access to the North Rotunda building is via a door to the right of the Great Peter Street entrance of the Department of the Environment, and required a pass issued by the authorities to visitors, who were allowed to fill in a visitor's pass that had to be handed over on leaving the building. On entering the building one is confronted by a flight of steps, opposite which is a glass-fronted office that is manned at all times by uniformed security officers. Over a period of time, mostly outside normal working hours, a room immediately to the left at the bottom of the steps was installed with extensive and very sophisticated equipment.One day two severe-looking men turned up at the site and refused to show either identification passes or to fill in a visitor's document. After being refused admission, uniformed security guards received a telephone call instructing them and their colleagues to give all these men access day and night without question. These men and others manned the equipment in this room 24 hours a day. They never spoke or acknowledged normal greetings and access to the room was barred, of course. I cannot remember when this started, having no access to records, but it was a few weeks after MPs received push-button telephones instead of dial telephones. I am sure that this can soon be ascertained.It soon became accepted by all the Post Office BT staff and the contracting engineers that the only possible purpose for which this equipment could be used was intercepting telephone calls. I am sure that you realise the implications. Imagine the political advantage if you were the Government of the day and you had access to every telephone call made and received by Opposition MPs, every civil servant in Whitehall, not to mention"—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
Order. I hope that the extract is about to come to an end. The hon. Gentleman should be making a speech rather than reading a letter.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I merely say that it is not explained how telephone calls between my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and Australia were intercepted. The answer that Mr. Speaker gave me was to refer the matter to the Prime Minister. Many hon. Members are concerned about what has happened and I believe that the information that came to my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East rings true.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall North)
I am sure that the concluding point of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) should be taken up by the authorities in the House. It is a serious matter which cannot be dismissed out of hand.
The only thing that I would say about the case in Australia, which my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) made much of, and rightly so, is that it was a mistake in the first place for the Government to pursue the case. I doubt whether they will win it, and the Government will be left with much egg on their face. The case has done nothing for the reputation of the Cabinet Secretary, who had an embarrassing brief, to say the least. In the eyes of many in Australia, and perhaps in Britain as well, he made rather an ass of himself.
When the Select Committee on Home Affairs decided to look into the activities of the special branch, a number of witnesses came before the Committee to assure us that there was nothing to worry about. We know that the special branch works closely with the Security Service, and we were told that the work being undertaken by the Security Service and by the special branch was legitimate and that there was no question of anyone being inquired into because of his political views, that political dissent was 826 legitimate, and that there was little to worry about. The majority of the Committee came to the conclusion that the evidence was sufficient to justify a report which stated that the work being undertaken by the special branch was perfectly in order.
Some Labour Members, however, were not convinced. I am sure that much of the work undertaken by the special branch is necessary and justified but many people—certainly many people in the Labour movement—are concerned that some activities carried out by the special branch have little to do with the security of the state.
It was near the end of our inquiry into the special branch that a television film called "MI5's Official Secrets" was shown. Some people have said that we should not take too much notice of what Mr. Wright told the court—that he has exaggerated, and so on. In the television film, Cathy Massiter, a former official of MI5, stated that a number of people and organisations were the subject of inquiries because of their political views. They are people and organisations who in no way can be described as trying to undermine our democratic institutions.
One of the organisations mentioned by Miss Massiter was the National Council for Civil Liberties. She said, as I remarked in an intervention in the speech of the Minister, that anyone who worked for the NCCL, anyone on the executive council and anyone who is active enough to be a branch secretary of that organisation is subject to inquiry, and a file is kept by MI5. One of the people who was the subject of an investigation—and certainly a file by MI5—was, apparently, my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) when she was the legal officer of that organisation. Is it suggested that my hon. Friend wants to undermine our democratic institutions and that she wants to turn this country into a Soviet republic? Therefore, inevitably, an argument that those activities are going on must give rise to a great deal of anxiety and undermine our confidence in the Security Service.
I wish to give another illustration. When a journalist of some 30 years resigned as the editor of the CND journal—he had fallen out, as people tend to do in various organizations—he was subject to several questions from the special branch. It wanted to know who lived with whom, and what was the leadership style of the then general secretary of the CND. What is the purpose of such questions? If it is claimed by Ministers, including the Prime Minister, that it is perfectly legitimate to argue that one can be in favour of nuclear disarmament without being a security risk, why are those questions asked? They must give rise to much concern.
From reports in the press and from what Miss Cathy Massiter states, I understand that in MI5 there is what is known as an F branch. It is sub-divided into other branches. For example, F2 investigates trade unions, F7 investigates various political groups, including Members of Parliament—that is interesting to know—teachers, teachers, lawyers and journalists, F4 is responsible for putting agents into political parties and organisations, and F6 is responsible for trade unions.
§ Mr. Winnick
The hon. Gentleman made a comment that I do not wish to repeat. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends says that it is possible that F7 has a file on the hon. Gentleman. If so, I deplore it.
827 The recent allegations arising from the court case regarding a plot against the Labour Prime Minister at the time add further reasons why there should be a Select Committee or some form of parliamentary oversight of the security services. What would be the position if it were stated in court by a former MI5 official that certain MI5 officials had plotted to undermine a Conservative Prime Minister? I doubt whether Conservative Members would take such allegations in a light-hearted way. Surely at the end of the day we must persuade the House and the country that MI5 officials act in a politically neutral way. The first requirement of anyone who works in the Security Service is that he is totally committed to parliamentary democracy. Would anyone suggest that Mr. Peter Wright and some of his cronies who carried out what can only be described as subversive and criminal acts in 1974 are dedicated to parliamentary democracy? We know about Mr. Peter Wright. Do some of his colleagues, who worked with him at the time, remain in the Security Service? If so, is it not time that they were thrown out? Is it not time, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), the former leader of the Labour party, stated, for MI5 to be cleansed completely?
That we need a Security Service is without doubt, but we need a Security Service that is politically neutral and is determined to defend parliamentary democracy. It is no good talking about fighting subversion while at the same time members of the security services do their utmost to carry out subversive activities. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) has changed his mind about the parliamentary Select Committee. It is essential, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) said, that there should be such a Select Committee to oversee the Security Service. It will not come into being during this Parliament. I hope that, when my party returns to office, such a Select Committee will be set up.
§ Mr. Waddington
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall speak again.
I think that all hon. Members will agree that this has been an interesting debate. We should thank the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) for having selected the subject, even though I do not think that there was much in the content of his speech for which to thank him. I have already commented on his speech, so I shall refer to the remarks by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). He suggested that the best alternative to the present system was the setting up of a 828 Select Committee which, in some way or another, would survey the work carried out by the Security Service. If that course is suggested, we must face, in the starkest fashion, the difficulty that was posed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in the debate last week—whether the body responsible for surveillance will be within or outside the barrier of secrecy.
It is difficult to contemplate a Select Committee on which there would be not only Privy Councillors but people who are not Privy Councillors, being privy to operations carried out by the Security Service. If the Select Committee, with that role, is not to go within the barrier of secrecy, it is highly unlikely that it will satisfy the critics of the present system. It is difficult to see how it will be any improvement at all on the present system.
I was interested in the remarks made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Southport (Sir I. Percival). He pointed to the inconsistency of the case put forward by the hon. Member for Workington, who seemed to say that what Wright did was wrong, yet it was equally wrong to take action to try to prevent him from doing it. One could have understood it if the hon. Gentleman had said that what Wright was doing was wrong, that it was impolitic to do much about it, and that there were more dangers involved in the Government trying to do anything about it than to do nothing. I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend was right. The hon. Member for Workington said that while Wright was doing what was treasonable, we should do nothing about it, and that indeed he was entitled, as an hon. Member, not just to object but to bend all his efforts over the weeks and months to destroy the British case in the Australian courts. That strikes me as one of the most bizarre cases to have been but forward by any hon. Member over recent years—
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Main Question put and negatived.