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Mr. Tony Banks : The hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but surely most leak inquiries have been initiated by Ministers.

Mr. Aitken : I do not think that we can blame the Security Service if in the past it has been instructed to carry out certain functions.

Mr. Banks : That is precisely my point. In this instance the service should not be blamed because it is acting on the instructions of politicians. The politicians should not, perhaps, have given the service those instructions, but it was only carrying out orders.

Mr. Aitken : I am at one with the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps, indeed, the definitions in the Bill are a salutary reminder not only to the Security Service but to its political masters.

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Mr. Ray Whitney (Wycombe) : May I make a point about the activities of the Security Service in days gone by, and in particular my hon. Friend's brush with the authorities, to which he referred? The clause refers to

"the protection of national security".

Was not the release of a document labelled "confidential", in which my hon. Friend was involved--it may or may not have been classified correctly ; that is a different argument--carried out without authorisation, as far as the authorities were concerned? That was an action in protection of national security. Is not that case covered?

Mr. Aitken : I do not really have to argue the case with my hon. Friend, because the prosecuting counsel--whose words I recall vividly to this day--said in his opening speech at the Old Bailey, "Members of the jury, national security is not involved in this case." He was absolutely right to say that, because there was no question of anything other than the embarrassment of the Foreign Office and, perhaps, difficulties for our diplomatic relations. I think that a good many such journalistic inquiries could be stretched into the area of national security only by the most vivid leaps and arabesques of febrile imaginations. Here, surely, we can point to one past function of the Security Service which ought to be knocked out by the Bill.

There is another area of MI5's activity which, in the past at least, has been without the definitions in clause 1. The Security Service has been involved in investigating organisations that could be said to be critical of, and perhaps hostile to, the policies of the Government of the day. I am thinking of, for example, the investigations into the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It is, I believe, common knowledge that there was considerable soul-searching in the Security Service before it embarked on those investigations, but it was nevertheless instructed to do so.

There should also have been soul-searching before the Security Service investigated the National Council for Civil Liberties. The notion that such people as the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and Miss Patricia Hewitt were in some way involved in espionage, terrorism, sabotage or national security is too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Yet we know that those organisations were investigated by MI5.

5.30 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Would the hon. Gentleman not agree with me that of course it was ridiculous, but we have had absolutely no reason or justification given, except by the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) who said the National Council for Civil Liberties had been influenced by Communists, as perhaps it had been over 30 years ago. Is it not a fact that in the absence of any kind of parliamentary scrutiny all we get is the Minister of State responding to the Second Reading debate and saying he cannot possibly go into operational details?

Mr. Aitken : I do not want to go over yesterday's debate again today, but I do think that amendment No. 47, which is the amendment put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, is extremely well drafted, because if it was in the Bill it would allow MI5 to investigate such organisations, provided they really were a

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threat to national security, but with the very important rider that any such activities being investigated must not of course include "lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any of the activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) above",

and they basically cover espionage, sabotage, and so on.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay) : Is it not the case that very often the Security Service may receive information from reliable, or perhaps unreliable sources? I mentioned yesterday a boastful conversation between two suspected KGB officers, the implication being that there was some kind of contact with a particular organisation. Is it not therefore the responsibility of the Security Service to make investigations and not to continue surveillance for ever and a day, but legitimately to look at a particular organisation or a particular individual where allegations have been made, and then perhaps to clear that person? Surely we cannot limit the role of the Security Service to at least conducting that preliminary investigation.

Mr. Aitken : I understand the point my hon. Friend is making and I think the answer is really this. Of course we cannot blame the Security Service for chasing after what it believes to be a genuine scent for one reason or another, but at least amendment No. 47 will stop it running after a lot of false scents because it will have to remember not just what a rumour about a contact may be but its duty to make sure that the organisation concerned is not just involved in lawful advocacy, lawful dissent. So it is a good clause and a good amendment to have on the statute book.

May I now turn to a third area in which I believe MI5 tread from time to time, which again seems to be outside the terms of this Bill. I understand that the director general of the Security Service from time to time advises Ministers, and advises in particular the Prime Minister, on matters which could loosely be called security matters but are not absolutely security matters involving terrorism, sabotage, and the undermining of parliamentary democracy. For instance, I am told that the director general of the Security Service of the day regularly advises an incoming Prime Minister after an election if, in the view of the Security Service, there are any candidates around who might be considered for ministerial office who could constitute a security risk. This has certainly been true in the past, as we know, from memoirs about advice given to former Prime Minister Lord Wilson. Indeed, there was the rather hilarious case when he was advised not to continue the ministerial career of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). This turned out to be a confusion between a David Owen and a Will Owen.

Mr. Tony Banks : There was another case, of course. Harold Wilson was given advice by the security services not to appoint Judith Hart, now Baroness Hart, because the security service had confused two Harts, one of whom was a member of the Communist party named Tudor Hart. The fact is that mistakes can be made, but of course for those who are trying to climb up the greasy pole in this place they could be fatal in political terms.

Mr. Aitken : I take the hon. Gentleman's point, and behind it, of course, lies the important argument in this debate that any such advice, however well-meaning it may be, is advice which falls outside the terms of the Bill's definition of the functions of the Security Service. Just in case Labour Members think that these kinds of mistakes

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are totally confined to their side of the House and to Labour Prime Ministers, they may be interested to know that I was told--I believe reliably--that just after the 1979 general election no fewer than six parliamentary colleagues from these Benches were fingered by MI5 as being in some way not quite suitable for office. I cannot believe they were all saboteurs or terrorists, or indeed that they were trying to undermine parliamentary democracy--the very process that sent them to Westminster.

Mr. Allason : I have no role to defend the Security Service, but it seems to me that in the cases of Hart and Owen it was not necessarily the Security Service that made a mistake. Is it not the case that Will Owen was in fact prosecuted? He was acquitted, but he subsequently admitted to having conducted espionage. Similarly, with the case of Mrs. Hart, there were two Mrs. Harts ; one, Mrs. Jenifer Hart, who had been in touch with Soviet intelligence officers, and a second, Mrs. Tudor Hart, who was mentioned.

The point I am making is this : it has been assumed by the House that the blunder or error in mistaking these names or confusing these identities was a mistake made on the part of the Security Service, and that is not my information.

Mr. Tony Banks : One was a politician trying to be a Minister.

Mr. Aitken : I do not think there is necessarily anything wrong with the Security Service, if that is its defined role in law, advising Ministers or the Prime Minister that it has good grounds for believing that X or Y inside or outside this House is a security risk. The point is that these functions are not in this Bill at all. The only people they should be fingering in this way are terrorists, saboteurs, or those who are involved in espionage or threats to national security. That is a very different category from the kinds of activities I am getting at.

My serious question to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is this : is the remit of the Security Service really as narrow today as clause 1 in its present form says it is? In the past I think I have given enough indications to suggest there are areas where MI5 is operating which are outside the narrow areas of definition of this Bill, and I really do commend amendment No. 47 to my right hon. Friend. I think it would certainly provide a far better definition. I now turn to amendment 78, which is the one tabled by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, which is to knock out completely subsection (3), which refers to the economic well-being of the United Kingdom outside the British Isles. I want to know why MI5 should be involved in this activity at all. Surely activity outside the British islands is for the Secret Intelligence Service. Why is our domestic Security Service suddenly beng sent out to monitor the gnomes of Zurich who are speculating against sterling? I cannot understand this clause and what it is getting at.

There may be times when it is necessary to protect against threats to the well-being of the United Kingdom. For example, I hope the Security Service was on the ball when Mr. Arthur Scargill went to see Mr. Gaddafi to try to get financial assistance for what definitely was an attempt to overthrow parliamentary democracy.

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Nevertheless, I have difficulty in understanding why the domestic Security Service is being dragged into activity outside these islands.

Finally, I would like to say a few words about amendment No. 90, which stands in my name, which attempts to strengthen the security services by giving them statutory authority over a very new and frightening area of terrorism, the threat posed to our national security by chemical agents such as poisons and nerve gases. Until the recent Iran-Iraq war there was a comfortable assumption held by many experts to the effect that the moral obloquy of chemical and poison gas warfare could somehow preserve an uneasy international truce in this area of weaponry. But that assumption was shattered by the use of mustard gas in the Iran-Iraq war and, in particular, by the lethal gassing of civilian Kurds in March and August 1988. Soon after that terrible event President-elect Bush made an eloquent comment on the outrage that many would echo when he said : "I thought we had relegated the horrors of chemical warfare to the history books. I thought we had banished for ever what we all saw only a few months ago--a mother trying to protect her child, waving her arms against the invisible winds of death."

That vivid phrase,

"the invisible winds of death"

may be the coming horror in tomorrow's evil world of terrorist outrages. Evidence is mounting that several nations are now starting to manufacture, or are planning to manufacture, chemical agents and nerve gases for use by terrorist agents.

The world has now been alerted to the Gaddafi plant at Rabta, 40 miles south of Tripoli, which, in the view of western intelligence agencies, well -supported by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary's testimony, is certainly not a pharmaceutical plant for peaceful commercial purposes. It is highly unlikely that any such plant would be surrounded by anti-aircraft guns and missiles.

We are not just dealing with the possibility of Colonel Gaddafi supplying chemical agents to the IRA--not unlikely in view of his track record in supplying explosives to those terrorists. Other nations with terrorist forces operating in the twilight zone of international outlawry are now in, or getting into, the chemical weapons manufacturing business. Those nations include Syria, Cuba and North Korea.

If chemical weaponry is on the march, how well prepared is our Security Service to deal with it? I accept that some uses of those chemical agents and weapons may come well outside the Security Service's remit. For example, it would be for the defence forces to counter obvious attacks such as the firing of missiles at Britain armed with biological warheads.

But what about more subtle moves to overthrow or subvert Britain by chemical agents? There is no need for terrorists to bomb the Grand hotel at Brighton if the entire sleeping Cabinet could be wiped out by dropping nerve agent pellets into the air conditioning system. One blast of an aerosol can containing lethal germs such as Dengue fever into a crowded auditorium could debilitate and ultimately kill half a Government. Our parliamentary democracy could be overthrown in that way or by dropping drugs such as LSD into a city water supply

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causing debilitating havoc. Horrific though those Strangelovian ideas may seem, it is worth spending a moment talking about them because there is now little doubt among specialists that some are in the planning and preparation stage by tomorrow's terrorists.

Mr. Tony Banks : I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Is it not also a fact that much, if not all, of the expertise for manufacturing such evil weapons is coming from the west? The technology is being exported by countries such as Western Germany, the United States and Britain. It was appalling to hear that someone could buy such weapons in some sort of market. I accept that it was not a legitimate market, but somehow they were available for sale. Perhaps the Security Service should speed up its activities in some commercial areas where so much expertise is clearly being made available to countries that want to manufacture their own gas weapons.

Mr. Aitken : The hon. Gentleman is right. I agree completely. I am arguing that the Security Service needs authority and power to look at this horrific new area of the expansion of terrorism. I take his point that getting to the supply line, which may well be in a western country such as ours, is vital.

How well prepared is the Security Service to deal with that potential problem? It is not sufficiently authorised by the Bill. Chemical terrorism may not necessarily be violent or industrial, certainly not in the preparatory stages. However, the preparedness of the Security Service is almost more important than the authority being given by the Bill. For example, I wonder how many MI5 officers have degrees in chemistry or pharmacology. How many have any training in counter-terrorism on chemical weapons? The precedents are not encouraging. The only reference to MI5's chemical knowledge that I have been able to trace was, as so often in the past, a somewhat comic opera one, when MI5 decided that Hugh Gaitskell had been murdered by Soviet agents using a chemical formula. MI5's response was to send a former Army signals officer to talk to the British Medical Association. That is not the kind of specialist knowledge and expertise that is necessary in today's world. We need specialisation.

The matter of supplies is vital. A quotation from George Shultz bears out the point made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). In The Wall Street Journal on 3 January he was quoted as saying :

"The Europeans can still turn this thing off by denying the Libyans equipment and chemical agents and precursors."

The Security Service needs the legal authority and professional capacity to turn off chemical terrorism at the supply line stage, the subversion stage and the attack stage. If anybody in Britain is selling such equipment-- medium to low-technology stuff--the clause does not cover it. The word "chemical" needs to be in the Bill. I hope that the House does not think that I am guilty of futuristic scaremongering. If we can include this amendment in the Bill, it will give the Security Service a new professionalism and give a message to some of our allies, particularly the United States, that we are seriously worried about this issue.

5.45 pm

Mr. Benn : The amendments touch on the nub of the Bill--what is subversion and what is national security and who should decide what is national security and who

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should decide what is subversion? Having the Bill means that we have probably had more meaningful discussion on the Security Service than we have had in recent years.

For a long time the general public have been persuaded that it is in their interests that foreign spies and domestic terrorists should be under careful scrutiny. Communists were automatically identified with foreign spies. I imagine that if the Soviet Union had wanted spies in Britain it would not have picked members of the Communist party. However, that was one of the foolish ideas that was current. The whole thing had to be covered by the tightest security and secrecy and judges capitulated whenever they heard the magic word "security".

The amendment is important because the definition of subversion is a political decision. Who is the enemy is a political question. We do not say that the chief of staff will announce which enemy country he intends to attack. That too is a political question. After all, security is a part of defence. We have an annual defence White Paper in which we are told what resources we have at out disposal and where they are deployed. We have an annual Army order. When I was first in Parliament an Act went through every year. Now it is an annual order. If the House does not endorse that order, the discipline of the armed forces disappears on the day that the old order expires. Why does that procedure not apply to the Security Service?

What is it about the Security Service's political objectives that makes them different from the defence forces' political objectives? The answer is that the decision about what is subversive has been taken by MI5, sometimes upon the intervention of Ministers. I say without any disrespect to the Home Secretary that I would be surprised if, like his predecessors, he really knew what was going on. Certainly some of my colleagues who were his predecessors did not know what was going on, because what was going on was an attempt to get the Labour Government out of office. I cannot believe that Lord Jenkins of Hillhead or my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) was in charge of such an operation. If one pursues the matter more fully, one finds that if pressed the Security Service would say that it is responsible not to the Home Secretary but to the Crown, a concept that I tried to explore on Second Reading. The Crown is a mysterious idea which implies a continuity of activity. The security services have really been protecting the status quo, which is not the same as parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy is supposed to allow one to change the status quo by political action. If one cannot change the status quo by voting, why vote? Immediately we come to the relationship between what is called national security, which is defined as the political and economic status quo, and subversion, which, in the case of parliamentary democracy, is a legal form of trying to change the status quo. The Home Secretary knows that, or his draftsmen have worked on that basis. If one then says that parliamentary democracy is trying to change the status quo by political means, one is caught by the Bill. If one is trying to undermine parliamentary democracy by political actions, one is a subversive. The Home Secretary has put his finger on that. If one interprets parliamentary democracy as meaning that one wants to change anything, one is covered by the Bill because one is trying to undermine parliamentary democracy by political action.

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The Home Secretary may smile and may give as many assurances as he likes, but I am defining how the Bill will work and that is how the system has worked until now.

Another aspect of the matter, which I have raised before, is that the condition under which the Americans allow us to borrow nuclear weapons is that American intelligence supervises British intelligence. The Americans have to check procedures and, for many purposes, they have to check people who are engaged in activities in which they take an interest. In a strange way, the definition in amendment No. 47 covers the Americans. It refers to

"the activities of agents of foreign powers that are detrimental to the interests of the United Kingdom and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person".

That would deal with James Angleton immediately, but no British Government who wished to retain nuclear weapons could implement such an amendment.

It is not only the theory of the matter that is interesting but the practice. In Field Marshal Lord Carver's television broadcast after his resignation as chief of the general staff, he said that for most of history Britain's armed forces were concerned with domestic security. He pointed out--and this point was interesting to me--that there have not been many foreign wars in which the British Army has been engaged. We fought the French and, a couple of times, the Germans, but for most of our history the armed forces have performed the function of security forces. That is why Parliament, in 1688, resolved that it did not want a standing army. That domestic function has been far greater, in the mind of the security services, over a long period. We have been told that the Russians were planning to invade. I do not know how many people now believe that Mr. Gorbachev is planning an attack on London. According to opinion polls, only 2 per cent. think that a Russian attack is very likely.

The concept of the "enemy within" is central to the issue. The present Prime Minister has made it explicit that the "enemy within" became the dominant consideration of the security services at the time when there was a Socialist challenge to the status quo. Trade unions are, by definition, considered to be potentially subversive by the security services. I know that because my private secretary in one of my Departments tried to take advantage of the scheme for interchange with industry. He said that he did not want an interchange with industry, but that he wanted to go to a trade union for a time. He was warned off because, in the eyes of the establishment that still runs the security services, trade unionism was subversive in itself. I am saying not that the security services believe that every trade unionist is subversive, but that the purpose of trade unionism is subversive.

I want to deal next with the peace movement. The right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), when he was Secretary of State for Defence, was able to instruct MI5 to bug the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament--the Cathy Massiter case. That shows that anyone whose view of the world differs from the view that peace has been retained by nuclear weapons against the Red Army is a subversive--and that view is still held. No one should imagine that Peter Wright's story ended with his retirement or with the acquisition of power by the present Government.

Mr. Allason : I do not want the case of Cathy Massiter to be misrepresented or misinterpreted. Was it not the case that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who was then Secretary of State for Defence, requested information from the Security Service relating to

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CND and that the Security Service--quite rightly--declined to give any classified information? There was a disagreement and thereafter the Security Service agreed to supply information about CND to the section in the Ministry of Defence that had been set up to combat it, but only if the information came from open sources. The Security Service acted properly in declining to supply any classified information, and that was the judgment of the person who subsequently investigated Cathy Massiter's allegations, which were then dismissed.

Mr. Benn : The hon. Member may have more knowledge of these matters than I have, as he speaks with such confidence about what happened, and that illustrates my point. We should have known the information to which, apparently, the hon. Gentleman is privy and we should have had a chance to test the matter. I do not believe for a moment what he has said, but I cannot prove that, and he cannot prove the validity of his remarks, because the whole matter is covered by secrecy.

The next category of people who are considered to be subversive are the various types of Socialists. It is funny that the Communist party is held to be subversive now. As far as I can make out, it is advocating electoral pacts, so the security services do not seem to be up to date. But the people in the security services are not politically clever. I was once invited, as a Minister, to attend a conference of the Socialist International, a respectable body which was then presided over by Willy Brandt. My private secretary said to me that MI5 would not let me go. He said that the reason was that the International Socialists were on our list. He did not know the difference between the International Socialists and the Socialist International. That does not show a high level of political intelligence. There may be a need for more chemists in MI5. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea if MI5 were also to employ people who understand Socialism and realise that there are many varieties of Socialism.

I remember the case of a woman who was refused employment by the Civil Service because her father read The Daily Worker. We should not deceive ourselves that the amendment will be passed, but we can use Parliament to make available through Hansard --the only publicly owned newspaper that has not yet been acquired by Rupert Murdoch--to those who bother to read our speeches the truth about what is happening.

Mr. Winnick : Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Benn : I shall just finish this point.

The security services go to universities and ask teachers about the political activities of particular students who may have applied for a job in the defence industry or the Civil Service. Lecturers have told me that MI5 was sniffing around to find out whether Mr. Jones or Mr. Smith was reliable. If one has a friend who is keen to join the Civil Service, the first advice to give such a young man is, "Don't go to political meetings, my friend, because if you do, you may not get into the Civil Service." One reason why the security services and the Civil Service are so ignorant about political argument is that, to join the security services, one must have an unblemished record. One must not even read Campaign Group News or Tribune because that might suggest that one wanted to change the status quo.

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Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South) : Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Benn : Let me finish going through the categories of subversives.

Another category is those who are known to be politically active on an issue that may appear to be harmless. People may be against vivisection, for example, but it is always possible, in the minds of those who sniff around, that such people might take part in other activities that could be threatening. What is misleading is to pretend that the activities of the security services in the past, or the way in which they will operate in future, has anything to do with protecting the people's democratic rights. They are designed to protect the status quo.

Mr. Winnick : My right hon. Friend will probably not remember an incident that took place in the 1960s when he succeeded Frank Cousins as Minister of Technology. I brought it to his notice that somebody who wanted to work in a rather junior capacity in the Civil Service had apparently been refused a job, not because she was a member of the Labour party but because her father had been born abroad. Like many others, he had come here from Tsarist Russia before 1917, for pretty obvious reasons. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend intervened or not, but I am glad to say that that person eventually received an offer of employment.

6 pm

Mr. Benn : That is absolutely right. We have not yet discussed the question of vetting. The employees of the BBC are vetted. One cannot get a senior job at the BBC until one has been cleared by the security services. Do they imagine that a lot of terrorists are about to be made head of news and current affairs? The Clerks in this House are vetted. I know that from the evidence given to the Committee of Privileges. Members' research assistants are vetted. What has that to do with terrorism or espionage?

Mr. Tony Banks : Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Benn : I do not want to detain the House. I am merely trying to put a few fruits on the harvest festival altar so that people may observe them later.

The next question is, "What is parliamentary democracy?" It has been defined in many different ways. Last summer, we celebrated the tercentenary of 1688--apparently the year of the birth of parliamentary democracy. I should have thought that William of Orange would have been regarded as one of these foreigners trying to disturb parliamentary democracy, but it turns out that he was in at its birth. I am reminded of the saying

"Why does treason never prosper?

Here's the reason :

For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

The other day I went through the Second Reading of the Reform Bill. The Conservatives of the time were opposed to the Reform Bill because they thought that it would undermine parliamentary democracy. Mr. Asquith, the great Liberal leader, opposed votes for women on the ground that that proposal would upset parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy has been defined to mean the status quo at the time. What is it in practice? The Crown in Parliament is sovereign and the powers of the Crown--except for the power to dissolve Parliament or to ask someone to form a Government --are not personal to the

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sovereign. Every Prime Minister--I do not differentiate between the present Prime Minister and her predecessors in this respect--uses the powers of the Crown to do all sorts of things that have nothing to do with Parliament and nothing to do with democracy. The Prime Minister appoints the Archbishop of Canterbury. What has that to do with Parliament or democracy? The Prime Minister appoints the judges and the chairman of the BBC. She appoints Lord Chalfont to the IBA. The Prime Minister can go to war without consulting Parliament or sign treaties without consulting Parliament. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) signed the treaty of accession to the Common Market before it was even published. All such activities are undertaken under the Crown prerogative.

Suppose that we say that we do not like the use of that prerogative. Is that an attempt to undermine parliamentary democracy by political action? I have long been a republican and I believe that the Queen should be the head of the Commonwealth. Is that subversive? Is it subversive to want to abolish the House of Lords, which has no democratic base in society? Many Liberals have argued for a single Chamber or two elected Chambers. Is that subversive? Is it subversive if I say that the Church should not be established? The other day, I looked up the coronation oath and found that the only pledge that the Queen gives is that she will uphold the rights of the bishops. That is most interesting. It was clearly not applied in the Viraj Mendis case, but that is another matter. There is no democracy in the sense that in a democracy the electorate has the final say. The truth is that the status quo covers a semi-feudal system which is not subject to normal public means of accountability under the Bill.

In a democracy, the ultimate responsibility for deciding the interests of the state lies with the electorate. That is what democracy means. If the electorate is to decide what is in the interests of national security and what is subversive, the electorate must know enough to know what goes on. This Bill tries to entrench in statute a rotten little directive of Maxwell Fyfe, who told them to get on with it and not bother him and a rotten definition by Lord Harris of Greenwich, who used virtually the same phrase as appears in clause 1. On that basis, the Home Secretary hopes to entrench in statute powers that have been exercised under the Crown prerogative for years, and dress it up as the entrenchment of the protection of parliamentary democracy against subversion.

The Home Secretary will not be affected by my arguments, but I hope that people outside will realise when they read them that the Bill is not what it is made out to be. It is not an advance. It is the entrenchment in statute of powers that no democratic Government have the right to exercise.

Mr. Allason : The second group of amendments is important, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) for raising these matters. I am concerned at some of the myths and legends mentioned by the Opposition. Perhaps I may clarify. It is certainly not their fault--it is not even the fault of the Security Service--that there is so much secrecy and mythology surrounding MI5. Many years ago, when I started my research I visited a retired director-general of the Security Service who was apparently terribly reluctant even to tell me the three functions of the Security Service at the time--counter-espionage, counter- sabotage and

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counter-subversion. The role of the Security Service and its functions have been defined only twice--first, in the Maxwell Fyfe directive, which was secret and was not disclosed until the Denning report, and, secondly, in the evidence put before Lord Franks. It is curious to note that people have not noticed the metamorphosis that has taken place in the intervening years. Counter-terrorism is to be included in the Bill. Counter-terrorism is a very important, very specific and very professional activity and it has never been an activity in which the Security Service has been involved. Counter-terrorism has traditionally been left to special branch and the anti-terrorist squad. I do not argue that the acquisition of information relating to terrorism should not be gathered by the Security Service but the House should be mindful of the change that is taking place. Surely the role of the Security Service is simply to gather information and supply that information to the relevant quarters. Its objective is often to obtain a conviction in the courts, but traditionally the Security Service has not been able to fulfil the role of supplying witnesses and that is why it has not indulged in counter- terrorism in the past. My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South made several other points about the new uses of the Security Service. One of them leaves me feeling very anxious. My humble view is that the business of leak inquiries is in direct contravention of the Maxwell Fyfe directive. A short time ago a document was leaked from the Department of Health and Social Security. It seems that if the Government leak a document it is all right, whereas if someone else leaks it it is not. Surely such leaks cannot be described as affecting national security or involve the defence of the realm. It never occurred to me that the Security Service would be involved in the investigation. I was appalled to read in the newspaper the name of the "Cabinet official" who was to be conducting it, because I happened to know that he was a long-standing member of the Security Service. Such activities are not a proper function of the Security Service.

Two very important activities of the Security Service are not covered in the Bill. First, much has been said about positive vetting. Some hon. Members will be surprised to learn about it. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) mentioned visits to universities in pursuit of positive vetting inquiries. Those inquiries are not conducted by the Security Service. The Security Service has always taken the view that it is too secret to conduct positive vetting inquiries. The reality is that a small group of field inquirers, based at the Procurement Executive of the Ministry of Defence, conducts the positive vetting inquiries. The Security Service's argument has always been that security is too important to be left to the experts. It has said that there should be security departments in all Ministries and in all areas of Government, and that it will give those Departments advice.

It seems to me that the most sensible arrangement would be for the Security Service to conduct the positive vetting and to make the field inquiries. There have been countless examples. Indeed, virtually every major spy case since 1953 has involved somebody who has not just cleared his or her positive vetting, but sailed through it. The examples are legion so I shall not bother to give them. Another clear example--

Mr. Buchan rose --

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Mr. Maclennan rose --

Mr. Allason : I shall give way to the hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan).

Mr. Buchan : Several of us have been increasingly intrigued--and now disturbed--by the hon. Gentleman's apparent inside knowledge of the security services. We know of his past service in relation to this and about the books that he has written. However, into almost every speech--and at almost each moment--the hon. Gentleman drops in another piece of ex cathedra information about what the security services do or do not look after. Is the hon. Gentleman a member of MI5? Mr. Allason rose --

Mr. Buchan : Let me finish the question. The hon. Gentleman has allowed me to intervene--

Mr. Allason : The answer to the question is, "No, I am not."

Mr. Buchan : The first question is, is the hon. Gentleman a member of MI5? The second is, if not, and if he is in possession of all that information, which has been leaked--presumably illegally--from MI5, has he reported those leaks, and, if not, why not?

Mr. Allason : The short answer is, "No, I am not.", but I have conducted research over a period of 10 years. I hope that many hon. Members recognise that security is an important issue and one worth researching. It is not a matter of clandestine sources. I have written 10 books on this subject. I would honestly recommend that the hon. Gentleman buys them because they are good value.

I turn now to another area that is important in relation to security and vetting--

Mr. Maclennan rose --

Mr. Allason : Three years ago, after a bomb was placed on board an Air India jet flying across the Atlantic from Canada, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service decided that it would vet all airside personnel, that seems a proper occupation for it. About 14, 000 people per year in Canada are routinely vetted because they have airside access to aircraft. Surely that is an area of professional expertise in which the Security Service should be taking an interest because it seems to me to be be at the heart of the defence of the realm. However, once again that aspect has been left to amateurs because the Security Service has taken the view that it is too secret to involve itself.

6.15 pm

I turn now to a couple of cases that have been raised about which I shall try to dispel some of the myths. Some facetious remarks have been made about the connection between the Communist party of Great Britain and foreign espionage. The fact is that over the years no fewer than two national organisers of the Communist party of Great Britain have been convicted of espionage and have served long terms of imprisonment. Because of that historical precedent, the Security Service has traditionally taken an interest in the Communist party--which seems not entirely unreasonable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South mentioned the vetting of potential Ministers. Once again, the examples given suggested that they were not espionage cases, but the two cases that my hon. Friend cited were

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