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Column 200exactly that. The case of Will Owen is fairly well known. He was acquitted of several charges under the Official Secrets Act. Thereafter, the Security Service invited him to attend a meeting at which he was invited to supply more detailed information. He was reluctant to go and took with him a colleague from the Labour Benches. He visited the Security Service and gave a detailed confession.
Two Harts are involved in the next case, one of whom, Mrs. Jenifer Hart, supplied information to the Security Service. She admitted once having been employed in the Home Office and of having had illicit meetings with a man who was a suspected Soviet intelligence officer. Those are two clear cases within the responsibility of the Security Service in which information was supplied. It seems to me to be perfectly proper for the service to be involved.
We heard yesterday--we have heard again today--the tremendous myths of the Peter Wright attempts to undermine the Labour Administration. I watched the tape again last night to make absolutely certain that there was no mistake about what Peter Wright admitted when he was being cross-examined by John Ware on the "Panorama" programme. It was interesting that Peter Wright admitted that there was no truth in the so-called plot and that it was wrong to have claimed in his book that 30 officers were attempting to undermine the Labour Government. He said that it was himself and perhaps one other officer, who got cold feet, who were prepared to consider leaking detrimental information about Harold Wilson. David Leigh's book on this subject mentions several case histories, all relating to Labour Ministers and Labour Members of Parliament who had been investigated by the Security Service in some way or other. In each case, there was justification for that pursuit under Maxwell Fyfe.
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the problem about Peter Wright is working out when he is telling the truth? Sometimes I wonder whether Peter Wright himself knows when he is telling the truth. Clearly, Peter Wright did give an interview in which he said that the Wilson plot was a fantasy, but he has also said on other occasions that, on balance, he is anxious not to give information which, overall, would damage the Security Service. Could the fact that he is now moving away from his original claims about the Wilson plot be in response to all kinds of external pressures, and the fact that he said
Mr. Tony Banks : He has made his money.
Ms. Abbott : Yes. My hon. Friend has intervened to say that Peter Wright has now made his money and so he can afford to withdraw his claims.
One cannot judge the truth by what Peter Wright says from one day to another. However, it is a fact that a whole host of stories were leaked to the press during the 10 years in which Wilson was Prime Minister that served to undermine him. That is a fact that nobody can deny.
Mr. Allason : It is not denied that there were many rumours relating to Harold Wilson, but his own conduct inspired many of those rumours-- [Interruption.] Well, I shall give hon. Members a small example. Harold Wilson made 14 visits behind the Iron Curtain--[ Hon. Members :-- "Oh."] Of course, there is nothing suspicious about that, but at that time many business men were approached by
Column 201the Soviets and it was believed that perhaps he had been approached, yet he made no report on that subject. When an analysis was made of his movements behind the Iron Curtain, it was difficult to trace exactly where he had been or what he had been doing.
That is the kind of basis that was used by Peter Wright. When one turns that into the allegations in his book, one sees that they do not hold water at all. Under cross-examination by John Ware, Peter Wright collapsed like a pack of cards and, when he was asked why he had mentioned the 30 officers, he said that he did not believe that it would have caused a fuss.
Mr. Maclennan : The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) comes to this House as a self-professed expert, although he has not at any time given the House any serious indication of what is the basis of his knowledge. He does his case no good at all by the sort of smears in which he has been indulging in the case of the former Prime Minister. It is as ludicrous to accuse Lord Wilson of being a suitable subject for an inquiry as it would be to authorise the security services to survey the Prime Minister because she has said publicly of the president of Russia, Mr. Gorbachev, that he is a man with whom one can do business.
Mr. Allason : I entirely concede that. I believe that it is fair to say that there must be occasions when Security Service officers do not follow the correct scent and are misled. Is that not the nub of the second group of amendments, because what we are trying to do is to define the role of the Security Service? I urge the House to pay attention to the different changes that I have described in the role of the Security Service in recent years and to try to concentrate especially on the two areas that have changed recently, its new involvement in counter-terrorism and its involvement in leak inquiries.
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent) : My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) made a most important contribution to the debate and I do not want to be distracted by the disgraceful slurs and smears of which the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) has just spoken in his references to the former Prime Minister and leader of the Labour party. If the hon. Gentleman was revealing the minds of some of his associates in the security forces, it should make us all the more alarmed. The hon. Gentleman is out of the service now, but I believe that no hon. Member would wish to concur with the doctrine that such pursuit of politicians would be justified because of visits that they had paid to countries behind the Iron Curtain. I can only hope that I misheard the hon. Gentleman, but that does not seem very likely. I suggest that the hon. Member for Torbay should read what he has said and take the earliest opportunity to apologise to the House.
Mr. Tony Banks : If he were a man, he would.
Mr. Foot : My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield said that this was the nub of the Bill, and I believe that he is right. Yesterday there were extremely important debates in which the House sought to establish some parliamentary control over the way in which the Bill was operated and the way in which the security services might operate. The replies from the Home Secretary to that important debate were certainly not satisfactory in terms of meeting the arguments in the debate, but they
Column 202were one way of dealing with the situation. I am sorry that the Government made no effort to listen to the arguments in the debate or to acknowledge the necessity for some genuine attempt at parliamentary control.
What my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has said today about that clause makes such control all the more necessary. I do not always agree with my right hon. Friend's views on constitutional questions. Indeed, I have a difference of opinion with him about what happened in the year 1688. I believe that it was a much better affair than he is prepared to admit. It did not have anything to do with democracy--the word had not been invented--but it had a great deal to do with parliamentary accountability. The reason why I take a more generous and liberal view of the matter than my right hon. Friend does is that one of the achievements of 1688, in my view, was to establish in a special way the subordination of the Crown to Parliament. My right hon. Friend's views about that are apposite, too.
Apart from cutting off the king's head a few decades before, that was the most significant constitutional legal assertion of the supremacy of Parliament and especially the supremacy of the House of Commons. Anyone who went along to the exhibition about 1688 and heard the words put into the mouth of William III by the Bill of Rights could appreciate that the Executive was being told that it was subordinate to this House. If the words of William III were repeated all over the world, they would stick in the throat of the present Prime Minister because they mean, "I acknowledge the supremacy of Parliament and I acknowledge that in all these matters I must come to Parliament and get Parliament's approval". What was said in 1688 was thus extremely relevant to this Bill.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has illustrated, under this Bill the Government are seeking to make formal and legal--that makes it all the more dangerous--what has happened in the past with the Security Service. The Minister protests that it is a liberal advance and not a retreat, but we shall be incorporating into the law of the land definitions of subversion and parliamentary democracy and what is an offence against them, which is something that we have not previously had in our constitutional procedures and rules. If we allow that to go through and do not examine in detail what the consequences may be, I believe that the Bill will be even worse than the Bill that we shall be discussing later on the freedom of information. The Official Secrets Bill is a shocking one, but if we pass this clause in these terms, after we have had a chance to examine them, the other Bill will be worse still. The next step will be a court case based upon clause 2(1), which I believe could be highly dangerous.
I hope that the Minister will be prepared on this occasion, as he was not yesterday, to listen to the case put by some of his hon. Friends, with the support of the Opposition, and seriously to consider whether he does not have an obligation to the House to change the definition.
I shall consider first clause 1(3), although I do not know what the hell it means. Clause 1(3) states :
"It shall also be the function of the Service to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom against the threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands."
I hope that we shall be told exactly what that novelty is, because that is what it is. If we need new provisions more relevant to modern times, we should consider, for example, the suggestions made earlier about chemical warfare and
Column 203other dangers. Those are modern developments which certainly require investigation by the Government. A secret service might have to operate in that kind of area and, if so. we should consider the matter in advance. If the Government's case is that they have put in clause 1(3) in order to cover general new eventualities, they should look at the new eventuality of that kind of warfare rather than the proposition in the clause. I have not heard a coherent explanation of what clause 1(3) means or against whom it is to be used. It seems an extraordinary provision and I should have thought that it ought to be deleted.
Even more serious are the implications that may be involved in the definition of subversion and so forth in clause 1(2), to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has already referred. If the Bill goes through on the basis of the discussions that we have had, no one will know for certain whether the different kinds of subversion that have been mentioned, and which MI5 felt entitled to investigate, are covered by the clause. Whatever Mr. Peter Wright may have been up to, no one will know for certain which of the activities that he described are excluded or covered by the Bill.
There are other aspects of the Peter Wright affair that should be investigated and carefully examined by the Government. If we pass the Bill in the light of what happened in the past, we shall be sanctioning past events. One particularly disturbing revelation from the Peter Wright affair relates to the preparation of terrorist acts for the assassination of heads of foreign states. Peter Wright reveals that there was a plan to assassinate Nasser. If it is true that we had a secret service that was entitled, under its rules of operation, to prepare for the assassination of heads of foreign states, nothing could be more damning. If Nasser had been assassinated as a result of terrorist activities conducted by our Security Service, the consequences for our reputation throughout the middle east would be almost incalculable. Anybody who has been to Egypt knows the reputation that President Nasser had in that country, whether we liked it or not. If a British Government at that time were engaged in preparing for his assassination--an act of terrorism against a head of state--it was a monstrous affair.
Despite all the obstacles put in the way by the Home Secretary and his colleagues, the Peter Wright case eventually got to the judges, most of whom agreed with me about the implications of a possible plot to assassinate Nasser. They said that it was absolutely horrific that such an act might have been carried out by our secret service. Some of the judges questioned what would have been worse--a scheme to assassinate Nasser succeeding, or failing--and said that, either way, it would be outrageous if such activities had been authorised. They could think of nothing worse than terrorist acts against heads of other states being authorised and conducted by our secret service. I had hoped that there would be an investigation into this matter. I wrote to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions and urged that, whatever happened at the end of the affair, she should instigate such an investigation. The Prime Minister has said that there has been an inquiry into all of Peter Wright's allegations, but when I asked whether it had incorporated an investigation into the supposed
Column 204preparations for the assassination of foreign heads of state she could not give any answer and, so far as I know, there has never been any proper investigation into that allegation. It is monstrous that such an inquiry has never occurred. If such things did occur, it is monstrous that, even 30 years later, this country does not have sufficient determination to protect its good name. We want that kind of thing rooted out.
The passage of the Bill has given us the chance to root out such problems by reconsidering the definition of subversion. It is important that such matters are reconsidered. If we do not deal with such questions properly now, people will come to us later and say that we had the chance to change the law when we examined it in detail. We shall be told how many hours we spent on it and told that, at the end of it all, we came up with a definition of subversion which was satisfactory to Parliament.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has accurately cited one or two reasons why the particular words in clause 1(2) were used. My right hon. Friend said that the definition was cooked up by Lord Harris of Greenwich in another place. The idea that clause 1(2) is a considered judgment on the meaning of subversion is laughable. I cannot imagine that the Home Secretary would want to rest his case on such feeble grounds. The definition is nothing like good enough. Let us get the definition right. The hon. Member for
Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) deserves great credit for the definition contained in amendment No. 47, which deals with the real anxieties of the nation. There are deep, justified and legitimate anxieties about terrorism and all its modern apparatus and horror, particularly because of the way in which innocent people are drawn into terrorist acts. Of course the country wants measures taken which deal directly with such terrorism, and of course it is true that the secret services must deal with some forms of terrorist acts and operations. Those anxieties are dealt with in the first part of clause 1(2). It is all the more necessary, however, for the Government to ensure that they give an absolute defence for other people who are not engaged in terrorist activities but are engaged in perfectly legitimate criticisms of Government policy in whatever area. Such a defence must have occurred to the Home Secretary. In attempting to achieve a new definition of subversion, we should apply our minds to whether the English language is sufficiently elaborate to enable that to be done. The current definition makes no distinction between terrorist acts and legitimate criticism in the current definition and all the objections that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield has made against the use of that definition are perfectly justified on that count. We must accept that a court could easily uphold the current definition of subversion against legitimate criticisms. It has happened before--for example, the actions taken against supporters of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in previous years. I understand that some of those actions would still be justified under the definition outlined in clause 1(2). I do not know whether the Home Secretary will give us a direct answer on this matter. We remember that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) set up his own private apparatus and private army to conduct a war against CND. No doubt the more money he spent on it, the more he thought that he was getting on in the Conservative party. Some of us thought that that whole operation was absolutely outrageous, especially when it spilt over into secret activities against CND supporters.
Column 205When the Home Secretary comes to defend the definition contained in clause 1(2) when we reach the end of this debate, I hope that operations such as those conducted against CND will be absolutely excluded. Not that judges necessarily always take account of what the Home Secretary says at the Dispatch Box--I do not share the confidence of others about the way in which judges go about this matter. Even if the right hon. Gentleman gives us that assurance, it does not go far enough.
The other virtue of the clause advanced by the hon. Member for Aldridge- Brownhills is that it offers a defence for legitimate criticism. The amendment lists what "threats to national security" means. They are genuine threats against which the nation has every right to protect itself. However, the amendment seeks to make a sharp distinction between genuine threats and every form of political advocacy that is properly understood by everyone in the House. A sharp distinction is drawn. The end of the amendment reads : "but does not include lawful advocacy, protest or dissent, unless carried on in conjunction with any activities referred to in paragraphs (a) to (d) above".
If a case such as MI5's shocking activities against CND ever came before a court of law in the future, that defence would protect a member of CND and anyone included in the categories referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield--the people who could be caught under the Government's ill-defined and absurd definition of subversion.
Once again I plead with the Home Secretary. This is a new measure, which he claims is a liberalising one. We sincerely believe that if the existing operation of the law or anything like it is incorporated in the Bill in legal form, the position could be even worse. That is why we must be so careful. This is the nub of the Bill, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield emphasised. It describes what the whole security system is supposed to be about. If the Home Secretary is genuine about the case that he has made to the House and the country, he should be able to accept the amendments tabled by his hon. Friends with a good grace.
The Home Secretary may be in some difficulty because the Prime Minister also has some interest in these matters. She has clearly brought pressure to bear on the Home Secretary on a range of issues touching civil liberties, the way in which the law operates and the way in which terrorism is dealt with. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has conceded willingly on some, if not all, of these matters. I doubt, however, whether he was so eager as the Prime Minister to concede on the right to silence, or whether he was so eager to concede on interference with the proper presentation and reporting of affairs in Northern Ireland. Today, a new change is being made. I dare say there were discussions in Government about the definition, and I do not say it will be easy for the Home Secretary to change it, but if he really meant what he said--that he wanted a proper review of the whole subject--I see no reason why the new clause cannot be incorporated. It would not solve all the questions associated with official secrecy, but it would be a big stride forward towards obtaining common assent on these matters. I do not know whether the Government want common assent. If the right hon. Gentleman looks back at the history of official secrecy, he will see what folly it was, way back in 1910 or 1911, to rush through a Bill without proper examination, and how foolish it has been to allow this kind
Column 206of law to stay on the statute book ever since. Now we have a chance to do the job differently. If the Home Secretary has any respect for what is known as his liberal reputation, I plead with him to accept the new clause and thereby change the way in which we set about this business.
Mr. Winnick : I echo what my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) said. It is rare for the House to have an opportunity on two successive days to discuss in detail, in Government time, the activities of MI5. Usually this is a subject for Adjournment or Consolidated Fund debates. Subversion and related issues are important matters, and it is right to try to define subversion.
If time permits, I shall go up to the foreign affairs committee of the parliamentary Labour party this evening, at which two senior officials from the Soviet embassy--I hope that the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) is taking note--will tell us about the internal changes taking place in their country. If I have the chance to participate, I shall say that I hope the time will come when the internal changes in the Soviet Union will be so extensive that members in the new Parliament that is coming into being there will be able to discuss these sorts of matters--the activities of the KGB and so on. I should have liked to be able to tell those officials that we had parliamentary control over MI5 ; I shall not be able to. I will, however, be able to say that our democracy allows us at least to debate these issues. That is one of the reasons why we have a Parliament.
Amendment No. 40 is my suggestion that
"All members of the Service shall take an oath to the maintenance of parliamentary democracy."
I entirely accept that that would not prevent scoundrels such as Wright from taking such an oath and then carrying out the sort of subversive activities in which he undoubtedly engaged. But it would do no harm to make loyalty to parliamentary democracy perfectly clear. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) once said that we do not take here an oath to parliamentary democracy, and perhaps we should. I see no reason why MI5 officers should not. My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said earlier that he was not sure whether Conservative Members were fully committed to parliamentary democracy. I think that the majority of them are, but I would find it difficult to believe that all of them are as committed to it as we are. 6.45 pm
One of the tests of commitment to parliamentary democracy is a commitment to its existence in all countries. It is interesting that Conservative Members often find reasons and excuses for not attacking regimes such as that in Chile. We believe that people everywhere have a right to a democratic system of government. That is why we on the Labour Benches criticise the vile regime in South Africa on one day, and what is happening in Czechoslovakia on another.
Perhaps the hon. Member for Torbay knows that Field Marshal Lord Carver, when no longer chief of the general staff, said in the late 1970s that in the early months of 1974 some junior officers spoke about the possibility of taking non-parliamentary action to resolve what they saw as the crisis in Britain. Interestingly, Christopher Walker wrote much the same thing in The Times after visiting Army barracks at that time. He reported such remarks in the
Column 207dying months of the Conservative Government headed by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). His articles were confirmed by Lord Carver, who presumably knew what he was talking about. I do not know why the Home Secretary dismisses that. It would be interesting to know whether MI5 investigated these activities--or did it take the view that as the Army officers were not engaged in Left- wing plots they needed no scrutiny?
Amendment No. 76 includes a definition of subversion which is an improvement on that given by Lord Harris in 1975--if I may say so to the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield. Amendment No. 76 suggests that the definition should be Lord Denning's, which remained the definition of subversion until the change in 1974. It is far narrower than the unfortunate definition of 1975, which was continued by this Government. In another amendment I have suggested a further alternative definition which would mean actions that are calculated to overthrow parliamentary democracy.
I do not disagree that it is necessary to protect national security and to provide protection against terrorism and sabotage. I have no quarrel with that whatever and would leave in the provisions relating to it because protection is one of the basic reasons for having a Security Service. I have long maintained that the definition of subversion should be as narrow as possible and should basically deal with actions that are calculated to overthrow by one means or another parliamentary democracy.
I have no doubt myself about what parliamentary democracy means. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) is not in the Chamber. It means the right to put forward and advocate, however strongly, views that are different from those of the Government and to be able to put them forward in Parliament and outside without fear of punishment. That is the basic difference between a parliamentary democracy and a dictatorship. I see many weaknesses in our parliamentary democracy, and I should like to see them rectified, but I have not the slightest doubt that I live in a parliamentary democracy. I have never gone in fear of being tortured by secret police. I know that in most countries that is not the case. I consider it a great blessing to live under a system of parliamentary democracy and civil liberties.
As I said earlier, I welcome the changes that are taking place in the Soviet Union and in Hungary. I see no reason for having any doubts in our minds about the definition of parliamentary democracy. One of the undoubted weaknesses in our system of democratic government is the way in which investigations and inquiries have taken place into matters that should not have been investigated. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) spoke about the Select Committee on Home Affairs and referred to the inquiry into the special branch, which was the first ever such inquiry. I take some credit for that because I was on the Committee and persuaded to my view the majority of its members who were at first reluctant to have such an inquiry. I also wrote the minority report.
The Committee heard evidence from Mr. Alderson, who had been the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall. He was an interesting witness and, presumably, he knows what he is talking about. He said that when he was
Column 208appointed chief constable in Devon and Cornwall one of his first actions was to look through the records of special branch being held by the police there. He told the Committee that he found many records that were useless, out of date, or had absolutely nothing to do with subversion or crime. I wonder whether chief constables in other places look through such records.
Mr. Hurd : Did Mr. Alderson give any views about the Security Service, which is the subject of our debate?
Mr. Winnick : As the Home Secretary knows, special branch works closely with the Security Service. Special branch often carries out investigations at the request of the Security Service. Does the Home Secretary wish to challenge that in any way?
Mr. Winnick : Special branch acts for the Security Service and I can understand why. I am not criticising that, but I criticise the keeping of records which Mr. Alderson said had absolutely no relevance to combating subversion. I wish that other chief constables would take the same attitude. Mr. Alderson told us that special branch had to report daily on industrial disputes and on the number of pickets involved in such disputes. He said that on some occasions daily reports were sent to the Home Office and always to police headquarters on all industrial disputes. That occurred in Mr. Alderson's time, and presumably things have not changed.
My reason for putting forward amendment No. 39 is to omit the word "industrial" from the definition of subversion. It is quite wrong that people should be investigated because they engage in perfectly legitimate trade union activity or industrial disputes. I do not take the view that when one engages in legitimate industrial activity--one of the rights of a parliamentary democracy--one is engaging in subversion or something close to it.
Why were MI5 files kept on Jack Jones and on Hugh Scanlon, now Lord Scanlon? Were they subversives? Is it suggested that Jack Jones, who at an early age went to fight Fascism in Spain, and who has always been in favour of our parliamentary system of democracy, is a subversive in the pay of Moscow? What about Hugh Scanlon? Why were MI5 files kept on such people? There have been abuses. It would not have been thought appropriate in any circumstances for special branch and MI5 to keep files on Tory politicians, however Right-wing. However, it was considered proper and legitimate-- though not by me--to keep files on such leading figures in the trade union movement as Jack Jones and Lord Scanlon.
Mr. Tony Banks : Does my hon. Friend agree that certain elements in the security services do not see their function as defending parliamentary democracy? As I said earlier, as they see it, their function is to defend the status quo. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and I said earlier, that means capitalism. They are defending the status quo and capitalism and not parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary democracy is acceptable to them and to many Conservative Members as long as it underpins and serves the interests of the status quo and capitalism. As soon as we start using parliamentary democracy to try to introduce Socialism, we see how thin is the veneer of democracy on the Conservatives.
Mr. Winnick : My hon. Friend may or may not be right, and the Home Secretary may respond to his intervention. I do not want to undermine what I have said so far, which, is an indictment of some of the abuses that have occurred. However, in all fairness, there is some evidence that ultra Right -wing organisations have been
investigated--and properly so--by MI5. Papers that have been brought into the public domain show that the Mosley movement was certainly the subject of investigation before the war. One assumes that the National Front is the subject of continued investigation. Perhaps I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West and, if so, it is one of the few disagreements between us. I do not object if organisations of the ultra Left are looked into, because I am in favour of parliamentary democracy, unlike a few Conservative Members. I am totally committed to parliamentary democracy, perhaps if only for the selfish reason--although I hope not-- that I know that in a dictatorship I would be one of the first people sent to a concentration camp. I trust that there are many other reasons why I am in favour of parliamentary democracy. I would certainly be joined in a concentration camp by many of my hon. Friends.
Mr. Tony Banks : It would be a pleasure to be there with my hon. Friend.
Mr. Winnick : I do not think that it would be a pleasure. Perhaps I am also strengthened in my defence of parliamentary democracy because my ancestors lived in a country where there was no rule of law. They knew very well what happened when abuses occurred, and those abuses were often at the instigation of the police. I do not want to live under such a system. One of the reasons for my ancestors coming here was that they wanted to live under the rule of law and found such a life a great blessing compared to the situation in which they had lived before. I have many reasons for being grateful to this country, one of them being that it gave hospitality to my ancestors. Although they were not fleeing, they wanted to live in a different political climate.
My final point is about the right of protest, advocacy or dissent. I know that that is covered in the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills and it is also covered in new clause 4, which is mine. That new clause clearly says :
"Nothing shall be done under this Act which undermines the right of protest, advocacy or dissent."
The Home Secretary will almost certainly say that nothing is done to undermine those democratic rights. But enough has been said in the debate today and yesterday and on previous occasions about the way in which people who legitimately engage in dissent on nuclear disarmament or civil liberties or on other matters have been investigated by MI5. It is quite likely that the Bill would not be before us if it were not for the outstanding cases to be brought by my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) and Miss Patricia Hewitt to the European Court of Human Rights.
When those cases are brought before the European Court of Human Rights--and they will not be abandoned--no doubt the Home Secretary or his agent will say, "These changes are taking place", and that will be his defence. If what I have said is right, we owe a tribute to
Column 210those two women because they have demonstrated that if, in a parliamentary democracy, one is the subject of abuse, and if the state has acted against one without reason or justification, that should be pursued. That is a right that we should exercise whenever necessary.
We should say time and again as we debate the Bill that the right of protest, advocacy or dissent--no matter how much one disagrees with the Government, be they Labour or Tory--are basic rights that should be protected at every opportunity, especially as the Home Secretary would not deny that abuses have occurred in recent years. In a foolish and stupid intervention, the hon. Member for Torbay suggested that there was some justification for investigating Lord Wilson. What was the reasoning of some MI5 official that Lord Wilson should be investigated, when even in his student days at Oxford--perhaps this is a criticism of him in relation to some of the ways in which young people of the time were protesting over what was happening in Spain and Munich--he was in no way involved? If a person such as he could be subject to investigation and suspicion-- sustained suspicion, if the hon. Member for Torbay is right--simply because Lord Wilson made 18 or 19 trips behind the Iron Curtain, something must be very wrong indeed with certain officials involved with MI5 and with the attitudes of some Tory Members.
I hope that the Home Secretary will recognise why my hon. Friends and I have tabled this series of amendments and why they should be accepted.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : I do not find it as easy as does my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) to define parliamentary democracy. Because it is so difficult to define, perhaps the Home Secretary will provide us with a definition. It may be said that parliamentary democracy can easily be recognised, but what is or is not permissible under a parliamentary democracy is more difficult to spell out.
I welcome the amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) because it represents at least an attempt to deal with clause 1(2), which is most unsatisfactory. In that connection, it is unfortunate that we are debating the Bill on the Floor of the House because that denies us the opportunity of the more detailed scrutiny of the measure that would take place in Committee upstairs, and we will not be able to return to many of these issues on Report.
There is disquiet about the way in which subsection (2) is drafted, and it is unfortunate that because of the way in which the selection of amendments has been made, of which I make no criticism, we are having to debate many important issues together. Hopefully the Home Secretary will give his definition of parliamentary democracy so that we may judge how far activities that most of my hon. Friends would consider to be perfectly legitimate might be considered as undermining parliamentary democracy.
My amendment No. 81 would delete the word "undermine" and I have tabled it in an effort to discover whether what I consider to be legitimate protests would come under the definition of activities that the Security Service should be trying to thwart.
Parliamentary democracy is much more than conducting elections or having votes in Parliament to give legitimacy to measures. There could be an element in a parliamentary democracy by which the minority gives its consent to be ruled by the majority. That is a difficult
Column 211concept to develop and one which the Government do not fully understand, considering the way in which they treat certain parts of the British Isles, where the majority of people do not consent to the measures which are being inflicted on them by the Government. I will not pursue that aspect far. If the elected Government of the day impose an incomes policy and trade unions decide that such a policy is not acceptable, and they set out to try with industrial action to undermine that policy, is that a form of legitimate protest and dissent which they are entitled to pursue without being subject to scrutiny by the Security Service?
There are many areas where individuals might try to alter Government policy by taking action. They may protest and organise in peaceful ways but ways likely to cause inconvenience and difficulty to other individuals. That would seem to me to be legitimate ; the tradition in this country of peaceful, passive resistance is to be admired and that would not seem to be an area in which the Security Service should intervene.
Once one moves from that area of peaceful activity to violent activity, there is every reason why the Security Service should be involved. But I am not certain that the Home Secretary shares my idea of the division between peaceful and violent protest. The definition of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills appears to be nearer to my definition than that which the Home Secretary would probably give. Clause 1(3) is extremely puzzling. On Second Reading several Members spoke of the economic well-being of the nation and the half answer we received from the Home Secretary was to the effect that our economic well-being was well defined and was contained in international treaty. I found that puzzling because if
representatives of foreign Governments got together to cause a run on the pound or tried to create some other economic problem for us, that would be a legitimate area for the security services to investigate. But if the same people did the same thing in the City of London, it would appear not to be a legitimate area for investigation because subsection (3) refers to
"threats posed by the actions or intentions of persons outside the British Islands."
That is puzzling because it seems to imply that the security services, which I understand operate within the United Kingdom, should try to find out what is going on abroad, whereas if the same activity appears to be happening within the country, that is not a legitimate area for investigation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) made great play with the fact that in his view the Bill is about serving the capitalist system. I should have thought that his remarks were relevant to subsection (3), the economic well-being of the nation. The difference between our economic well-being and capitalism would, I imagine, be hotly debated in this Chamber. It is an area extremely difficult to define, and that is why the Government should delete clause 1(3).
My amendment No. 82 is concerned with clause 2(2)(b) which states "that the Service does not take any action to further the interests of any political party."
Why is that provision necessary? It seems automatic that the Security Service would not take action in the interests of any political party. But if it is necessary to include such
Column 212a provision--and I can see good reason for having it--it should go further and add, as I suggest, that the Security Service should not take any action in support of
"any individual, any company or any organisation."
In other words, the Security Service should not be partial. In recent years there has been evidence to show that some people in the Security Service have operated in a way that has favoured the interests of a particular individual.
There was a feeling that Chapman Pincher, as a reporter with the Daily Express, obtained certain pieces of information--or gave the impression that he had obtained certain pieces of information--because he was on a favourable footing with the security services. That state of affairs appeared to favour him as a journalist and to favour the security services because the information that he revealed helped them. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Torbay is not here at the moment. He gave the impression that certain people in the security forces have been more willing to talk to him than they have to other journalists. That has worked to his benefit because it has helped to build up his reputation as an expert on the security services. Presumably it has also helped the security services as they believe that they have found someone to put forward their point of view. The security services should not operate in favour of any individual in that way.
I wish to deal now with the question of how far the security services should, or should not, operate in favour of a particular company. There is probably far more talk than action about the way in which other countries want to obtain good intelligence about our military operations and capability. Other Governments are keen to obtain that information, but there are many companies involved in the armaments industry for which it is just as important to know the exact capabilities of weapons systems made by other companies so that they can further their own commercial interests. That issue becomes particularly difficult when multinational companies are involved. They want to collect information about a weapons system so that they can put forward their system as the better system or find a defect in the system so that they can find a niche in the market. The security services should not operate a policy that favours particular companies.
Those companies obtain a great deal of information from the ex-civil servants and people with a military background whom they employ. The security services should not favour any particular company or organisation. Some organisations have strong political links. It is not just political parties that contest elections, but anyone with strong political views which may be incorporated in an organisation, although such an organisation may not be recognised as a political party that puts up candidates for election.
The Government must explain why it is necessary to define a political party as not having any support from the security services and why it is not necessary to include companies or organisations in the provisions. I hope that they will explain why they have included clause 1(3) and that, as a result of this debate, they will find a far better definition than is included in clause 1(2).
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak now because the Committee has listened to all those hon. Members who tabled amendments. I should like to cover most of the points that have been raised.
Column 213We have all enjoyed the increasingly frequent trips of the right hon. Members for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) back into the 17th century. I know that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield is an addict because he occasionally visits, in Burford churchyard in my constituency, the place where his heroes, the levellers, were taken out and shot by the hero of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, Oliver Cromwell. Obviously they have composed their differences today.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent said that we are taking an area of public activity out of the realm of the prerogative and putting it into the realm of statute. He described that as the process of 1688. He was right to say that, as we are proposing to do that, the House should consider carefully the definitions proposed by the Government because they are now in statute and statute is in the custody of the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) then carried the argument forward logically. He was too skilful to ask for details of what was done, or not done, in the past, but he used his examples to pin us down about the future. We have asked Parliament to define closely, for the benefit of Government and the Security Service, the limits within which the Security Service will have to operate in future. That is the purpose of the Bill. We are asking Parliament to set limits which will be binding in future. It is therefore perfectly legitimate that we should spend a great deal of time on how those definitions are worked out.
Then, logically, we come to the scheme produced by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). We should be clear about the difference between his approach and that of the Government, which is not a fundamental difference of principle, but one of flexibility, or relative inflexibility. My hon. Friend put his case very reasonably. In amendments Nos. 46 and 47 he seeks to define absolutely and comprehensively the purposes of the Security Service. The Bill takes a different approach. The House should understand that ; I do not want anyone to be deceived hereafter. We define the protection of national security as the objective. The Bill states : "The function of the Service shall be the protection of national security".
We then list a number of issues that fall into that category, which, at present, includes most of the activities of the Security Service.
Under our supposition, other activities could be included, provided that it is for the protection of national security. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) raised this point. He was modest about his exposition of the case, but he put it very clearly. If we accept the Government's approach in the Bill, and if, therefore, the Security Service is not absolutely confined by the definitions of the moment--for example, the definitions in my hon. Friend's proposal--will its scope go too wide? I should like to address that point.