HC Deb 10 February 1987 vol 110 c262 10.14 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

I rise on a point of privilege, Mr. Speaker, about which I have given you private notice, to seek your advice on a statement that appeared on the tapes of which I had given you a copy. The statement reads: Writs out over Zircon film. Writs sought by the Freedom Association were issued by the High Court tonight against eight people, including Labour MP Tony Benn and journalist Duncan Campbell, alleging a breach of Official Secrets Act over the banned Zircon satellite TV programme. The move was made by Norris McWhirter, the Association's chairman, following the showing of the banned BBC programme at a public meeting in London last night. Freedom Association said those named in the writs had been associated with the public showing of the film as speakers or organisers. I appreciate that there is no right for hon. Members to be protected for what they do outside the House, and I spoke at the meeting yesterday before which the film was shown. However, three issues are raised that I should like to put to you briefly, Mr. Speaker.

First, under the Official Secrets Acts, prosecutions require the authority of the Attorney-General, and it must be a matter of concern as to whether the Attorney-General has given authority for me to be prosecuted. Secondly, what is the position if the writ is served in the Palace of Westminster? Thirdly, I am a member of the Committee of Privileges to which this matter has been referred. Under your ruling, Mr. Speaker, the Committee can, if it so decides, see the film. What is my position as a member of the Committee able to see the film under your ruling if, as occurred last night, I saw part of the film somewhere else?

I do not expect a ruling tonight, but I felt that I should bring the matter to your attention at the earliest possible moment. Perhaps at a later stage it might be possible for you to say something.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman has raised a matter about which I shall say nothing at the moment. I shall communicate with him later.