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Mr. Hattersley : The Home Secretary says that I have got it wrong. I will read the passage from Hansard if he wishes, but let me put the case to him again. According to my reading of the Bill, if I am told by a member of the security services that my telephone is being tapped it is an offence for me to reveal it. Is that so, or is it not so?
Mr. Hattersley : As someone once said, that is all ye know and all ye need to know. If it is an offence for me to reveal that my telephone is being tapped--admittedly only when I am told so by a member of the security services--that seems to me to give the services an aura of mystery and secrecy that is wholly improper in a free society.
The position goes further than that. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) has asked me to consider the motives behind the Bill, which are open to a number of interpretations. There are those who think that the security services themselves want it as a justification to stop my hon. Friends and me pressing for something more realistic, and those who think that the Prime Minister wants it to introduce the law of lifetime confidentiality, which she claimed was legal before the Bill, but which certainly was not. One aspect of the Bill that undermines any claim that it can protect the citizen is the clause that makes it absolutely clear that investigation by a tribunal and commissioner is not subject to appeal or liable to question in court. The entire operation of the appeal system, the entire operation of complaints against illegal or unlawful activity and the entire operation of propriety are kept within the magic circle of the Security Service and the establishment.
If the Security Service is to be properly placed under democratic surveillance it is essential that a system should be introduced and accepted that breaks out of that coterie and allows someone outside the realm of prime ministerial nominees to make judgments about wrongdoings, mistakes and inefficiency.
The Home Secretary's third criterion on whether it would be acceptable to appoint a Select Committee makes sense only if the Home Secretary meant it to be ironic. He said that to introduce a Select Committee would blunt what he described as the clear ministerial responsibility of the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister. That clear ministerial responsibility is at present discharged by their refusing to answer any questions about the Security
Column 43Service. The Prime Minister was explicit when she said, during the debate on the Loyal Address, that if the Bill became law, the usual rule would still apply. Anyone looking into the past to see what the usual rule is would have no doubt that that would result in no information being provided to the House. The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister invariably answer that Ministers do not comment on such matters. They are not alone in that. Almost all of us who have served in Ministries involved with foreign affairs or in the Home Office or the Ministry of Defence have answered similar questions in similar ways.
As the system is now organised, there is no question of ministerial responsibility having any real meaning and practical effect. It cannot have a practical effect if hon. Members are able to ask questions about the security services publicly and openly in the House only when they are likely to be reported throughout the world. To make practical sense of ministerial responsibility, we need a system under which the Home Secretary and Prime Minister are requuired to give evidence, if necessary in secret, to a Select Committee to justify the way in which they have discharged their duties in relation to the Security Service.
I, and supporters of the amendment and new clause, argue that they give force to the concept of ministerial responsibility for a secret service, which cannot be discharged through the normal process of the House.
The ability of the proposed Committee to take evidence is, like its power to produce a report, essential to its work. That work is the general supervision of the security services. The Committee could not, and would not, become involved in the Security Service's day-to-day operation. We constructed the new clause in such a way that, in every particular, the Committee would operate through the institutions established in the Bill to demonstrate and provide a safeguard that it would not become involved in the day-to-day operation of the Security Service. That method of operating through the commissioner and Secretary of State would provide both a safeguard against interference in the Security Service's day-to-day work and a proper check on the activities of the commission and the Home Secretary. By any standards, the amendment and new clause are reasonable propositions which intend not only to improve the work of the Security Service, but to improve it according to the requirements of a free society. The real divide between the Government and the Opposition is whether security can be effectively organised outside the bounds of a comfortable little coterie of like-minded people. Nobody, certainly no Opposition Members, disputes the need for a service or for that service to operate generally in secrecy. The issue is whether the requirements of secrecy oblige that service to reject the normal obligations of democracy and efficiency.
Mr. Hattersley : I am about to finish. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that, so that he can make his speech. Efficiency and democracy would be extended by the introduction of a supervisory committee and that is why we support our new clause and amendments.
Mr. Heffer : On a point of order, Mr. Walker. Does that mean that we will be unable to vote on those amendments and that we can vote only on amendment No. 73? Will there be one vote on all the amendments taken together?
The Chairman of Ways and Means : It does not necessarily mean that. We usually follow the convention of voting on the lead amendment. The Chair will have to take into account a number of factors when deciding whether voting will be limited to that amendment.
Mr. Shepherd : The amendments in my name form distinct threads of oversight, reviews and the definition of the purpose of a security service in a modern society. Much of the information, and the wording of the amendments, is derived from the Canadian Security and Intelligence Bill and relies for its intellectual base on the mammoth works carried out by Mr. Justice McDonald in his seminal work on the subject entitled, "Freedom and Security under the Law".
The first group of amendments in my name relates to one of the threads running through the McDonald commission's report. I take it as given that we accept the need for the Security Service and that it is vital to the preservation of our democratic institutions and that element of our national life. In the management and control of a security service, three themes should inform us. First, there should be responsible government with accountable Ministers who know what the service is doing ; secondly, the rule of law should prevail in all circumstances ; and, thirdly, we should recognise the freedom of legitimate or political dissent. It is in that context that my amendments are framed.
Amendments Nos. 45, 48 and 54 suggest that the responsible Minister should be the Solicitor-General. That is not an attack on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I simply wish to raise the question of the need for a responsible and accountable Minister with the time necessary to carry out oversight and to set out the parameters within which the Security Service works. In that context, Mr. Justice McDonald said that responsible government means that
"responsible Ministers can know about all the practices and policies of security service and about any of their operations which raise policy or legal issues. The security system must be an open book to responsible Ministers and to the Prime Minister. No pages in that book should be sealed because security officials think they contain information too sensitive for Ministers' or Prime Ministers' eyes or ears. Responsible Ministers cannot be expected to know everything that a security agency does, but they can and must be expected to know the policies governing the operations of the security agency and to establish procedures for ensuring that operations raising difficult policy issues are brought to their attention."
Column 45In Australia, New Zealand and Canada the responsible Minister is the Solicitor-General. Delicate areas affecting the defence of our liberal democracy require an absolute knowledge of what the service is doing at any given time.
I am fascinated by the fact that we receive cards from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his Department when they acknowledge receipt of a constituent's letter that we may have sent. The back of the card lists the responsibilities of the Home Office which include police, criminal law and penal policy, magistrates courts, probation and prisons ; fire service, civil defence ; immigration, nationality and passports, community relations and equal opportunities, broadcasting, obscenity, data protection, royal matters, electoral law and liaison with the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, drugs, gambling, liquor licensing and animal welfare. That is a formidable array of duties and responsibilities. In addition, we have only to look at the legislative programme confronting the House to see how much work will have to be done. With this Bill, the Official Secrets Bill, the first four private Members' Bills and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill in Committee, the duties and responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary are onerous and, with day-to-day political exigencies, consume much of his attention. That is why, in our amendments, we have suggested that the Solicitor-General should be the Minister to whom the security services report, and who should be responsible for monitoring them. That suggestion is not intended to be divisive. The problem is one of time, and the Minister responsible for the security services should be able to follow the task through. New clause 2 proposes the setting up of an independent oversight review committee. The reasons behind each of our amendments hang together. New clause 2 sets out the form that such an independent oversight committee should take, which is the form that was adopted in Canada. In Canada, the Prime Minister and the leaders of the political parties nominate members to a review committee, which has wide powers. In Canada, leaders of parties with 12 or more Members of Parliament are involved, but one must realise that the Canadian Parliament has only 278 members. We have suggested for this country, on the ground of proportionality, that the leaders concerned should lead parties with more than 30 Members of Parliament, but we are not attached to a specific number.
When considering the security services, we seek to ensure that they enjoy the confidence of the spectrum of political parties in the efficacy of their policies to carry out their objectives. I shall not go through our proposals in detail because they are set out on the Amendment Paper and are explained fairly fully. However, our amendments propose that there should be two forms of oversight. First, there should be ministerial oversight through the use of a commissioner or, as we suggest, an inspector general, with a constant review of the services. Independent of that, there should be an additional review committee formed of outside members.
New clause 3 sets out the complaints procedure. It would enable the commissioner or the independent review committee to have the power to consider any complaint
Column 46coming both from within the service-- fulfilling some of the duties and responsibilities carried out by Sir Philip Woodfield--or from without. The difficulty of bringing such matters under the rule of law is that most of us do not know whether we are being investigated or whether our premises are being entered. We must, therefore, establish a system under which the facts can be studied and yet reassurance can be given within the circle of secrecy, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary describes it. Our proposals do not seek to breach that.
New clause 2 suggests that the oversight committee should be independent of the House, but that need not be so and the matter is open to question. The Canadians have appointed commissioners from outside who are made Privy Councillors to bring them inside the circle of secrecy but, as my right hon. Friend said rightly on Second Reading, the Canadian system is due to be reviewed next year. Some commissioners feel that their task could be carried out within Parliament, whereas some do not take that view, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) will recall from our own discussions with the commissioners.
Amendments Nos. 61 and 63 involve a change of words, but their principle is, again, to identify the functions--which come up for discussion later-- of the commissioner, or the inspector general, as we call him. He is the watchdog on behalf of the Minister through which he can assure himself that warrants are properly issued and that the structures and procedures that are followed by the security services conform with their remit and with the political direction given to them by the Prime Minister or the Cabinet.
The amendments seek to set the scene for a system that will hang together through its ingredient elements. We believe that they would enforce ministerial accountability to the House by the institution of independent review procedures and a proper complaints procedure from which nothing was hidden. The amendments also seek to set out the functions and the role of the inspector general as the watchdog to ensure that as the responsible Minister cannot, as was pointed out by the McDonald commission, know every detail about what is happening, the security services conform to their principal objectives. 4.45 pm
The principal objective of the security services is to defend our liberal democracy, but there is a fine and narrow area separating that objective from a threat posed by the intrusiveness of the actions of the Security Service. We must assert, through the House, that the rule of law should prevail. As Sir John Donaldson said, it is difficult for the courts to do that because they are confronted by a service that is outside the law. That is why the House must support the Government and congratulate them on bringing forward a legislative procedure to cover the security services. Our amendments seek to ensure that it is set up in such a way that we are reassured that the rule of law prevails. We give powers to the security services to carry out burglaries, for example, so we are making burglary legal. We must, therefore, be sure when we do that such power is not used in an offensive and intrusive way against loyal subjects, or in such a way as to intimidate people and to affect our freedom of discussion. Through the amendments, we seek to assure ourselves that
Column 47the Security Service is reinforced in its primary goal of defending our liberal democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of dissent.
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland) : On behalf of my party, I rise to support the amendments about which the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) spoke. I shall seek first the common ground between those who are dissatisfied with the provisions for oversight and for the operation of the security services within the Bill. There is common ground that oversight is necessary--perhaps even the Home Secretary would agree with that--and that public confidence in the Security Service has, to some extent, been eroded by the lack of such oversight and the exiguous nature of the parliamentary accountability that he and the Prime Minister have for the conduct of the Security Service.
When moving the Opposition amendment, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) described the other amendments in the group as a halfway house. That comment shows a misunderstanding of the nature of parliamentary accountability and of the extent to which it is possible for a parliamentary Committee to act wholly independently of Government.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook referred to the experience of the United States Senate and Congress and their approach to the supervision and independent scrutiny of the security services, but he failed to recognise that the Congressional committees do not owe their membership to the nomination of the Executive. They are genuinely independent and their basis is quite different from that of Committees of this House, which are inclined, inevitably, to adopt an adversarial approach to the Government of the day. For that reason, they are not entirely suitable for the supervision of the Security Service. The right hon. Gentleman spoke favourably about the work of the Franks committee on the Falklands. That committee demonstrated how independent oversight, even of the most sensitive matters involving the security of the nation, could be conducted by a body that commands the support of the House of Commons and that was regarded as authoritative.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : On what basis does the hon. Gentleman have less confidence in his own colleagues in this House than, for example, American legislators have in their colleagues in Congress? What is the difference between a British Member of Parliament and a United States Congressman that prevents a parliamentary solution?
Mr. Maclennan : The hon. Gentleman has been a Member of this House, with some interruptions, for as long as I. He knows that members of parliamentary Select Committees are appointed by the Whips and that in some cases they are the home of those whose participation is designed to test their suitability for promotion and that in other cases they are designed to buy off awkward customers.
Mr. Maclennan : That is true, but the hon. Gentleman is enough of a political realist to know that Select Committees of the House of Commons properly are involved in controversy and that properly they sometimes adopt partisan positions and oppose the views of the
Column 48Government of the day. Ultimately, however, their membership is dependent on that Government of the day. The profound difference between Select Committees and Congressional committees is that Congressional committees are not appointed by the President, the Executive or the American equivalent of the Home Secretary. The attractiveness of the proposition that we should look to the Canadian rather than to the American model is that constitutionally our countries are much more similar. A committee of Privy Councillors would ensure the degree of independent judgment and weight that is necessary to give confidence that the oversight of the security services is in responsible hands and that the committee will be prepared to voice uncertainty, disquiet or criticism, even though it has been appointed by senior members of the political parties, including the Government and the leaders of the Opposition parties. The Canadian system is quite young, but it is soundly based and we would be wise to follow that pattern.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was unrealistic to advocate that a Committee of this House should conduct the scrutiny. I do not believe that such a concession would ever be made by a Labour Government. It is highly unlikely that such a concession would have commended itself to the right hon. Gentleman when he was in office. The route that the right hon. Gentleman has recommended would make it less likely rather than more likely that there would be any form of independent outside scrutiny in which the House of Commons could have confidence.
The recommended policy of scrutiny and oversight in new clause 2 goes a great deal further than that set out by the Government. I draw the Home Secretary's attention to the advantages of the review committee having the wide functions that are set out in subsection (5)(a) of new clause 2. Apart from dealing with specific matters, such as the issue of warrants or the handling of complaints, which is provided for to some extent in the Bill, the budget and the annual total expenditure of the Security Service would be reviewed. That is not provided for by the Government, despite the fact that we are told that the Security Service now costs about £100 million per annum. Financial control is exercised only by the issue of a certificate by the Comptroller and Auditor General, on the say-so of a Minister that the money has been spent.
The proposals for review by a committee of Privy Councillors are well worked out and should command confidence. I profoundly hope that the Minister will say that he is prepared to accept them. I hope also that it will be possible to vote separately on the amendments.
Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : We are discussing a varied group of amendments. Their diversity means that it is open to the Home Secretary to divide and rule by seeking to make the point that there are differences of opinion among those who have tabled amendments. He will no doubt employ that tactic, but very much more unites us than divides us when it comes to the question of the type of oversight that we believe ought to be provided. It is natural that there should be some difference of emphasis as to the right form of oversight for the security services.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will probably stick to his traditional guns and say that no oversight is necessary beyond the ministerial oversight that is provided by him and the Prime Minister. That view needs to be
Column 49challenged hard. Britain is now the only democracy in the English-speaking world that has no form of independent oversight of its security services. Today we are advancing arguments that one day are bound to triumph. In the light of experience, it is unacceptable for the Home Secretary of the day to continue to demand that he and he alone, with the assistance of the Prime Minister, should monitor and supervise our security services.
The fact that we need some form of parliamentry oversight is arguable : whether it is parliamentary or political oversight, or the kind of oversight that is set out in the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), or the kind of oversight that is set out in my new clause 8, which focuses on the much narrower point of improving the management and efficiency of the Security Service by means of a security commission. One could argue that all these views fall within the criteria of the Secretary of State's three points that he says must be accepted before we can deal with any form of oversight of the Security Service.
What do we mean by parliamentary oversight, as expressed by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley)? He has put forward the idea of a Select Committee. He makes a valid point from which none of us as parliamentarians can shrink without a sense of shame--that it is almost inconceivable that Parliament could not produce a committee of discreet, silent, patriotic and responsible Members to exercise such a function. Of course, if we pick the right men and women, we can have a completely suitable committee. In the United States Senate and House, they have had parliamentary oversight, as we would call it, for some years now. It is true that there have been some unfortunate leaks from those committees, but often from staffers rather than Senators or Congressmen. It has happened, and we must concede that that has made some dent in the argument in favour of parliamentary oversight. However, the committees have done enormous good and they have been extremely effective at times.
I should like to give a not unamusing example of the effectiveness of parliamentary oversight as exercised by the US Senate. I shall quote a small passage from Mr. Bob Woodward's riveting work, "Veil". Page 265 of the book deals with the attempt of Director Casey of the Central Intelligence Agency to organise a coup in the small country of Suriname, a former Dutch colony. He was unable to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee himself, so he sent his Deputy Director, Mr. McMahon. Mr. Woodward writes :
"McMahon briefed the matter to the Senate Intelligence Committee. He was met by a chorus of You've got to be kidding.' Why several senators asked, is the Reagan Administration considering a coup in a country that has no significance? The Suriname people were primitive and gentle, much like Tahitians in the South Pacific. The population was about 350,000. That's the size of Tucson, Arizona. Goldwater, particularly, was incensed, declaring, That's the dumbest idea I ever heard of in my life.'
It wasn't enough. After the briefing, the committee agreed to send a letter to protest to President Reagan, telling him of its opposition to covert action in Suriname.
Goldwater sent a personal message to Reagan saying, in effect, Do you really need this?'
The plan was dropped, but McMahon was shaken up on the play. He rededicated himself to keeping the CIA out of comic-book operations."
Column 50I quote that passage as it is an illustration from the other side of the Atlantic of how a forceful parliamentary committee can keep the intelligence services out of what Mr. Woodward calls "comic-book operations". Comic-book operations have been undertaken by our security services, and not in the very distant past. The entire, extraordinary extravaganza of allegations concerning the former Prime Minister, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, are part of those comic-book operations, although they were not so comic for people at the receiving end, or those in the Government involved.
The notion that there is good oversight of the security services even now is belied by an interesting letter which gives the game away about the total inadequacy, until extremely recently, of oversight by Ministers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) tried to suggest that there has been only one little slip up in the past few years and that oversight is working well. Sir Robert Armstrong sent this letter, which is addressed to Mr. Day, a former Security Service official, and dated 29 January 1986. The point of the correspondence was that Mr. Day wished to send a memorandum on the need for improved oversight to various Members of Parliament and the Home Secretary. Sir Robert Armstrong was trying to persuade him not to send one, not because there was anything confidential in it but because the notion of oversight was somehow not welcome to Sir Robert Armstrong, then the Cabinet Secretary. The vital part of the letter reads : "And you would be taking this action at a time when more is being done to improve both the management of the service and the degree of awareness that some of us outside have of it than for many years past."
In other words, Sir Robert Armstrong was saying that even people as close as the Cabinet Secretary have for many years past had no awareness, or no adequate awareness, of what is going on in the security services.
The notion of ministerial or Cabinet Secretary oversight is therefore not a doctrine which can be sustained on the language of the letter signed as recently as 1986 by the Cabinet Secretary. We must try to move onwards from this stubborn, "They shall not pass" defence of Ministers who maintain that ministerial oversight works magnificently.
Mr. Whitney : Is not my hon. Friend trying to have it both ways? I recall some time ago his paying tribute to what appeared, as far as we on the outside could see, to be a good shake-up in the security services conducted by Sir Antony Duff. We now have Sir Robert Armstrong referring to other improvements. Is that not to be welcomed? Are we not wrong to say, "My goodness, that shows how bad things are."?
Yet again, my hon. Friend has dragged out the dreadful Mr. Wright. We should be clear that, immediately after the allegations about Lord Wilson surfaced, Lord Callaghan scotched them and said that there was nothing in them.
Mr. Whitney : With hindsight, when the Wright allegations were published, he said, I think rather meaningfully, that when it came to choosing between the official version and the Wright version, he had no doubt about which to believe.
Mr. Rees : I do not know where to begin. I was involved in the inquiry. Later, when still an hon. Member of this House, Lord Callaghan said that the later revelations were not involved in the inquiry.
Mr. Aitken rose --
Mr. Whitney rose --
Mr. Whitney : My hon. Friend is most kind. When referring to the Wright disclosures, Lord Callaghan also said that, given a choice between the Wright version and the official one, he was in no doubt about which to accept.
Mr. Aitken : I seem to have stirred up a not insubstantial hornets nest. My argument was not based entirely on Mr. Peter Wright. Nevertheless, although he is not a completely accurate witness, he has left enough unanswered questions which what my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) calls Lord Callaghan's scotching has not entirely destroyed or diminished.
We are arguing about various possible kinds of oversight. We could no doubt have lengthy debates on each of the amendments. There is some merit in the notion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills that the security services should report to a less busy Minister than the Home Secretary, but I do not think that that is entirely practical in the long term because the buck has ultimately to stop on someone's desk, and I think that the Home Secretary's is the right desk on which it should stop.
The Home Secretary's position, however, unassisted by any kind of committee, and behind the barrier of secrecy in the House or anywhere else is not, I think, sustainable in the long run. Perhaps the greatest breakthrough in oversight that we have yet witnessed was in regard to the Bettaney case. An horrific series of blunders were revealed. Why was there any shake-up in the Security Service? Why were there improvements in personnel? I shall return to the subject when we discuss new clause 8, but they came about only because there was a degree of oversight, otherwise they would never have shown up on the radar screen.
The Bettaney case illustrates only too clearly that a busy Home Secretary simply could not do his job properly, not because the Home Secretary was wrong but because the system that he was asked to operate was wrong. It is not that I do not trust my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister; I do not trust the system that they are trying to operate without any monitoring assistance from people such as a Canadian inspector general or a dedicated body of senior Members of Parliament.
Column 52We cannot for much longer continue defending the position that no change whatsoever is necessary. The present system does not work and some form of oversight is needed. The amendments attempt to introduce such a change and I am willing to support any proposal that makes sense.
Mr. Rees : I seek to intervene simply because I am a member of a Select Committee. I shall have to leave soon and it is discourteous to speak only for a moment. I shall make one point which I would have developed at length.
I do not know whether the amendments or the new clauses are the right way forward. However, I am concerned that security and the information available to various Home Secretaries is treated as if it were a party political matter. For example, the documents are provided by the Foreign Office to various Governments, but as soon as a new Government come into office, the documents are filed away and new documents with new references are provided for the incoming Foreign Secretary. They contain very much the same information but are produced on the ground that no information that was provided to the previous Government should be given to the new Government. Lord Carrington told the Select Committee that officials came to him and said, "We have never told you this before, sir, but in the previous Government in 1978"--in which the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) was involved--"the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary of the day took a certain action that was reported to the defence and overseas policy committee, but you must not tell the new Government that it happened." That was done on the basis that political information is not provided to a new Administration. One of the problems for a Home Secretary or a Foreign Secretary is that information available about problems in MI5 and MI6 is not communicated to new Ministers. Therefore, when it came to appointing a new head of MI5, in which the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister play a part, we were not informed, but we now discover that in 1972 there was great concern in the Home Office about what was going on in MI5. The new Home Secretary was not told.
Whatever new system we have, it should straddle Governments, and information should be available on a long-term basis. That is extremely important because security is not a party political matter. It is of the greatest importance and should not be treated in that way. Therefore, at the very least, if the Government will not agree to some of the proposals that have been suggested, I hope that in future, when one Home Secretary succeeds another, there will be discussions between the two. There are not a large number of officials involved. One could almost say that only one is involved. What is going on is generally kept away from the Home Office and only the Home Secretary and one official are involved. It is not a party political issue. At the moment the system is fragmented and, therefore, mistakes are made.
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Mr. Heffer : I find myself in some difficulty because I do not agree completely with the idea of a Select Committee or with the idea of Privy Councillors. I should like there to be a vote in the House to elect people to a review body. Who appoints the members of a Select Committee?
Mr. Heffer : The hon. Gentleman says that it is both sides, but the Whips on both sides appoint hon. Members to Select Committees. In 24 years I have been selected once to serve on a Select Committee. That indicates that I have never been particularly popular with certain people. Such a system is not good enough.
I believe that a genuine representative committee of Members should examine the security services. The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) spoke about comic-book operations. I should like to go back still further. I read an absolutely fascinating book entitled, "One Girl's War", in which the author described how during the early part of the war she and a gentleman went around burgling people's houses. One of the people they burgled was R. Palme Dutt, who was then a member of the Communist party. They thought that the innermost secrets of the Communist party at the time were hidden under his bed.
They went to his house and looked under his bed where they found a box which they thought contained all his innermost secrets. They got it out and inside they discovered his marriage lines. There cannot be anything more comic-book than that. That was a great discovery by MI5 at the time. One could go on about comic-book operations. I have often said that I am sure that my telephone is bugged. I have always thought that it was bugged. If it is not bugged, why is it that, every night at about 8.30 pm, my telephone rings once and does not ring again?
Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay) : In my experience, one's telephone service actually improves when there is a warrant on the line. The advantage is that a telephone engineer comes to fix the telephone before one has even reported it broken.
Mr. Heffer : I did not say that my telephone service did not improve. However, I believe that my telephone has been bugged for a long time. Every night at about 8.30 pm my phone rings once, so my wife or I get up to answer it. I believe that it happens when one agent replaces another agent. What else can it be? It happens at exactly the same time every night. If our conversations are monitored, that is most remarkable because my wife's conversations with her mother must be very revealing, as must my conversations with my mother-in-law.
I am sorry that we do not have a third course before us. That is my fault and that of my hon. Friends for not tabling one. I shall vote either for the Select Committee, which is an advance on the present system, or for the idea of a review committee composed mainly of Privy Councillors. However, I am not keen on Privy Councillors ; they have more rights in this place than they are entitled to have--
Mr. Richard Shepherd : Perhaps I did not explain my admendment very well. The Privy Councillors who will be appointed will be ordinary people from outside the House--following the Canadian experience--who, when they have been found acceptable to the Government, will be brought within the circle of secrecy. Such people might include a distinguished lawyer or the chairman of the National Council for Civil Liberties. If they were considered acceptable within the circle of confidence, they would be made Privy Councillors. So they would not necessarily be Members of Parliament.
Mr. Heffer : I support the hon. Gentleman's view up to a point, but whether they come from inside or outside the House, I am not particularly enamoured of Privy Councillors. Once they get to that position they have certain rights and privileges beyond those possessed by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and myself. They become tied into something that is not necessarily right.
Perhaps we should include a few trade unionists, or even members of my constituency party. That would be interesting. If it came down to it, I would vote for the Select Committee option, which is better than the proposal of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills.