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Mr. King : That is the fact in this matter, so in relation to the question about his authority, he had no authority after the post had been relinquished. I do not wish to say anything further about that, because those are matters which are very much in the area that Mr. Calcutt must now judge and which arise under the question of the handling of Mr. Wallace's employment and the question of his appeal to the Civil Service Appeal Board.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Speaker : Order. The whole House will have understood why a dispensation should have been given to the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), who was Secretary of State at the time. But I now ask hon. Members to put their questions succinctly so that as many as possible may be called.
Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East) : Would my right hon. Friend agree that, while the House always listens with respect to the sincerity with which the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) puts his view, and from his experience as a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the matters which he was relating to the House relate solely to Mr. Wallace's job in Headquarters Northern Ireland, which was to do with a campaign against terrorists and paramilitaries of both sides and was nothing whatever to do with the wild and so far unsubstantiated allegations of any dirty tricks against any Ministers of any Government? In that my right hon. Friend has instituted an inquiry into the Wallace affair, vis-a-vis his job, there is no
Column 453evidence that there was subversion, and until anybody can produce proper evidence, there is no need to have an inquiry.
Mr. King : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. Anybody who has any memory of the circumstances will agree that while we can sit in judgment now in relation to certain activities that took place-- and the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) knows this better than anybody--it was a time of great danger and of great casualties, something like 10 times the current level of casualties. It was a time when there were certain practices ; the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South made clear his view about them and I fully endorse what he said about the unacceptability of some of the practices that occurred at that time.
But I am dealing in my answer with one specific matter. We have found that an error has been made. We have come straight to the House to make the position clear and to make clear the action that we shall take. There have been attempts to reopen a whole lot of other issues that have been dealt with separately and specifically, in one case by two major inquiries, headed by a distinguished chief constable and a distinguished judge. I am dealing with matters that have come to light, and we wish to see that if an injustice has occurred, that injustice is remedied.
Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East) : I confirm what my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) has said, because I took part in those discussions. This afternoon, the Secretary of State has made out the case for a full judicial inquiry. He says that he does not know what went on under the previous Administration and that he does not know anything about the smearing not only of Labour Members, but of Conservatives and Liberals. He has raised an objection at the name of Mr. Airey Neave being mentioned, but what about those of us who have also been mentioned and smeared? In the House, we have a right for the matter to be examined in an independent way.
I do not accept everything that Mr. Wallace has said. He is a gamekeeper turned poacher and he has played some dirty tricks in his time--I understand that. However, we now believe that there should be an inquiry, and I am sure that the House agrees. It is up to the Prime Minister, as head of security, to set up that inquiry and until such an inquiry is set up, we shall not let the matter rest.
Mr. King : Fifteen years on, we hear these allegations about the besmirching of reputations. I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that these matters have been investigated twice. There is no evidence of attempts to undermine Ministers or former Ministers-- [Interruption.]
Mr. King : I have come to the House to report on a matter on which there is evidence and in which we are clear that a mistake has been made. We are anxious to remedy that, and any ill consequences that may have flowed from it, at the earliest possible opportunity. People jumping up and down one after the other--and I could join the club-- [Hon. Members :-- "Oh!"] If the people jumping up and down alleging that they have evidence do have evidence, they should produce it so that the matter can be investigated properly.
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that we congratulate him on his candour on coming to the House? All Conservative Members are aware that these matters originated under another Administration and that present Ministers have no responsibility for what happened then. Can he confirm that the Government's statements during the past few days have been checked, confirmed and agreed by hon. Members who served as Ministers under the former Labour Administration?
Mr. King : I am grateful to my hon. Friend ; that is what we have sought to do. Having found that mistakes have been made, we came to tell the House frankly of them. I have dealt very directly with those issues, and with the action that we are taking to deal with the consequences and to try to ensure that it does not happen again. In response to my hon. Friend's question, the statements were not shown to hon. Members who had served as Ministers, but the details of the contents of the statements were communicated to Lord Mason, Lord Carrington, the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and Lord Whitelaw.
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : I am sorry that the patience of the Secretary of State is exhausted, but these are important matters. Is he aware that the real anxiety being expressed is that the security services are not under political control? He has said that he has no knowledge of the earlier years, although many of the offences occurred in the 1970s, with two Administrations. By admitting that she was misinformed, the Prime Minister has also said that she was unable, as Prime Minister, to get the truth out of the services for which she is supposed to be responsible to Parliament.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government's recent legislation now makes it a crime for Mr. Colin Wallace to give the evidence that would prove that the smearing had occurred? Is he also aware that the vast sum spent in trying to prevent the publication of "Spycatcher" did not show a yearning that the truth should reach the British public?
Is not all this combined to very strong evidence in support of a parliamentary inquiry at which Mr. Wallace, and perhaps Peter Wright and others who are certain that destabilisation occurred, could be rigorously cross-examined by hon. Members from across the House? Will the Secretary of State take seriously our anxiety that a breach of democratic responsibility has been committed by those who purport to be the defenders of our democratic rights?
Mr. King : I have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. I am advised that, as usual, he has got it mainly wrong. I am told that the idea that Mr. Wallace makes himself liable to prosecution does not apply, as he has never been a member of the security services. It has been made very clear,-- [Hon. Members :-- "Who from?"]--as I think the House knows, that this is an area where endless allegations are made. There is an amazing unwillingness to produce evidence that can be tested and checked.
If Mr. Wallace wants to make charges or has evidence on matters arising in Northern Ireland, he should bring it to the RUC. If he has any worries about his position in doing so in relation to classified information, it has been
Column 455made clear time without number that he should address himself to the director of army security, who will advise him about the position.
Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) : I speak as one who served with the Army in Northern Ireland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given that 300 terrorist murders per annum were taking place at the time, the Army was absolutely justified in using disinformation? Does he further agree that the Army would have been negligent had it not used disinformation? [Hon. Members :-- "Oh!"] Is it not a fact that had the Army not used these techniques to undermine terrorism, many more British soldiers and civilians would be dead today?
Mr. King : I understand entirely why my hon. Friend comments as he does. There were practices of using disinformation to malign organisations and individuals. When my hon. Friend says that the Army is entitled to use disinformation, that is certainly true. Disinformation may be necessary to protect lives and security. If hon. Members do not understand what I mean, I will give the House the most obvious and simple example. I arrived back this morning from Washington. I travelled under a false name. I make no apology for that. It was deliberate disinformation ; it was done in the interests of security. The position is that disinformation may be needed to protect lives in Northern Ireland. I make no apology for that.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : Should we not remind ourselves that the term "misinformation" is a euphemism for telling lies, that Mr. Colin Wallace was employed by a Government to tell lies, and that indeed he was a very squalid part of a very squalid operation in the North of Ireland at that time? There will be no tears shed in the North of Ireland about the manner of his dismissal.
The real issue at stake involves the characters and the reputations of those who were besmirched by people like Colin Wallace, those who may have lost their lives as a result of the activities of a dirty tricks department, those young lives that were blighted because of organised buggery which may have been part of the same campaign and, above all, the integrity and the highest practices which one expects from a system of law and security which simply did not seem to operate there at the time.
Will the Secretary of State agree to a full inquiry into those real matters, or will he consign this as another can of worms upon which the lid must be kept, instead of laying bare the facts which nobody doubts?
Mr. King : If I have heard him right, the hon. Gentleman is, in effect, asking for what would arguably be the third, fourth or fifth inquiry into Kincora. What presumption is there that that would establish anything different?
I have come to make a statement about certain information that was overlooked in the Ministry of Defence. I made it clear in that statement that the re-examination indicated that no information had been found to substantiate Mr. Wallace's allegations of a cover-up relating to the Kincora boys' home in Belfast. If new, fresh evidence emerges from another quarter, that evidence should be made available. If Mr. Wallace wishes to present any evidence, as he has been asked to do countless times, he should do so. What is absolutely
Column 456unacceptable is for people to continue to call for inquiries, and to continue to indulge in innuendo, without producing any evidence on which the charges can be based.
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion) : Will my right hon. Friend clarify two points? If I understand his statement and the deduction that has followed it, it is perfectly appropriate and right to use disinformation to protect ordinary military operations ; otherwise we would be running one after another into an ambush. Did I also understand my right hon. Friend to say that no evidence has come to light of attempts by agents of the Government to besmirch particular individuals in the way that has been suggested? If that is so, it too is important.
Mr. King : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making his first point, about disinformation. That is precisely the point. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said in his statement,
"It has not since the mid-1970s been the policy to disseminate disinformation in Northern Ireland in ways designed to denigrate individuals and/or organisations or for propaganda purposes."--[ Official Report, 30 January 1990 ; Vol. 166, c. 111. ]
I did not say that it has not been the practice to use disinformation where it is necessary to protect lives, and for sound and absolutely honourable security reasons. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has understood that point very well.
As for my right hon. Friend's second question, I sought to make a point about the allegations that the security services were somehow involved in attempts to undermine or discredit Ministers in previous Administrations. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made a statement about that, and the director-general was asked to conduct a thorough investigation. He found no evidence of any truth in the allegations.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Will the inquiry deal with the question whether Colin Wallace had a written job description classified "secret", relating to his undercover operations? If it were possible to establish the existence of a job description in one form or another, would the inquiry be able to examine the nature of the activities involved?
Will the inquiry also be able to establish the source of a document dated 1972--a CIA registration card--and that of a forged bank statement in the name of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), dated 1973? I might add that there was not a Labour Government in either of those years. Will it establish the source of a letter to my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) dated 3 October 1971, from some American organisation of IRA sympathisers, thanking my right hon. Friend for money that he had never sent/again, a forgery?
Will the inquiry deal with a document dated autumn 1971--again, a Labour Government were not in power then--entitled "Economics : Master or Servant of Mankind"? The document was allegedly written--although we know that it is a forgery--by my right hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and for Salford, East (Mr. Orme). Those forgeries were produced between 1971 and 1973, and we want to know who produced them.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Will the inquiry deal with a document entitled "Vote Labour", which advocates assassination, but which is a forgery and has nothing whatever to do with Labour? We want to know the source of that document. Will it deal with a speech that was allegedly made, but was never made, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East--to a Labour party conference that never took place? Who wrote this material? We want to know, and if the inquiry does not deal with these matters, it will be a whitewash.
Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman knew the answer to his question before he rose to his feet. He has indulged once again his interest in parading all kinds of rumour and innuendo. [ Hon. Members :-- "You asked for evidence."] The House has no idea of the evidence of authorship of those documents.
Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman's first question, about the job description. Let me make it clear--this is what I have come to speak to the House about--that I would expect it to be for Mr. Calcutt to make the decision, within his terms of reference. I have absolute confidence in Mr. Calcutt : I am confident that he will seek to discharge his terms of reference to the full, and will take into account any relevant matter. The other matters certainly do not fall within his inquiry.
Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : A few moments ago, my right hon. Friend said that he had no direct information about some of the wider constitutional security matters in and around the Wallace affair. He is aware that some of us feel that that is the fundamental flaw in his statement, and in the terms of the inquiry that he has announced.
This is not merely a narrow Ministry of Defence matter relating exclusively to a Civil Service appeal to do with Mr. Colin Wallace, important though that is. There are new issues here. In the past few days the Prime Minister has announced to the House that she was misled by Government servants, and even this afternoon we have heard disclosures of apparently wrongful and unauthorised use of disinformation by members of the Security Service, without satisfactory checks and balance and ministerial authorisation. I think that my right hon. Friend should take account of the feeling in the House that there are wider and deeper issues that need to be identified by a wider and deeper inquiry. The matter will not go away as quickly as some people hope, and I think that, sooner or later, a fuller inquiry will have to be carried out by the head of the security services.
Mr. King : I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about open government and less secrecy. I am sorry that he was not able to acknowledge the fact that, having discovered that an error had been made, we have come straight to the House. I thought that he would feel able to applaud that.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to clear up one aspect of what I said. Of course I am not privy to and familiar with the details of what the director-general of the Security Service may have found out about activities that took place during a Labour Administration, to which I do not have access. [Interruption.] I am talking now about attempts to subvert
Column 458a Labour Government and the allegations that were made about the discrediting and the actions of Ministers at that time. I obviously do not have access to that information.
What I do have access to are the findings of the director-general of the Security Service, with which I have no reason to disagree. I share the view of the Prime Minister. She made it clear in her statement that she accepted fully the assurance and advice that the director-general had given her, and I am sure that the House will do the same.
Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West) : But has the right hon. Gentleman not yet grasped that the misleading answers to which the Government have now admitted are like the 13th stroke of the clock, casting doubt not only on themselves but on all the other answers that have been given about the matter over the years? If it is only now that someone has troubled to search the files, how can it be known what other documents are lying there undetected, and how can the public have confidence in anything less than a full public inquiry?
Mr. King : The right hon. and learned Gentleman may choose to see this as the 13th stroke of the clock, but I have no evidence of that whatever. I have made matters absolutely clear in my statement. On the specific question of the job specification, we have found that--to put it simply--there are concerns that the appeal may not have proceeded on the fullest evidence available to it. That is why my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and I have made it clear that, as a result of previous information that was incorrect, misleading answers may have been given. That is precisely why we advised the Prime Minister, who has written letters on the same matter on our advice, that it was necessary to correct the incorrect advice that she had been given by myself and by Ministers in the Ministry of Defence. We sought to make that absolutely clear. But in my statement I made it clear also that people who imagine that there are all sorts of other implications in this error of overlooking certain documents are wrong. That simply does not stand up.
Sir Giles Shaw (Pudsey) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House should at least take into account the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) was able to pursue his inquiries, which gave rise to the response of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces ; the fact that my right hon. Friend came here to make this statement and to answer questions on it ; and the fact that we have a system under which the accountability of the Government to this House is avidly pursued, even at prime ministerial level? No other Government or, indeed, democracy in the western world would allow this degree of public examination of its policies. Perhaps Opposition Members would like nothing better than an expose of the security system that would undermine fatally the capacity of this democracy to fight terrorism.
Mr. King : I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for the very eloquent and perfectly fair way in which he has stated precisely the issue that is before us. It is quite ironic that, when I come to the House to apologise for an error and to set out the actions that we intend to take to put it right, I should be told by some hon. Members that that will not do. It is a very odd approach indeed.
Column 459Mr. John Hume (Foyle) : The Secretary of State admitted a few moments ago that, before the mid-1970s, there was a policy of denigrating individuals by disinformation. Can he tell the House on what information he bases that statement? Who were the people who were denigrated, and on the basis of what disinformation were they denigrated?
Mr. King : In my statement I referred to the answer that had been given by my hon. Friend. I have made it clear that his statement and his answers were based on a further examination of files--an examination which identified the case being made for the establishment of a new post whose job specification included these requirements. The hon. Gentleman has seen the answers. Further evidence on what form that took, and whether it was ever communicated to Mr. Wallace, is not clear. As for what has now happened to Mr. Wallace's position, I have no doubt that Mr. Calcutt will wish to pursue such matters.
Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this House and outside he enjoys widespread confidence for the integrity and thoroughness with which this inquiry will be conducted? Will he be reluctant to concede to arguments that the scope of the inquiry should be increased? Perhaps he would care to say what credibility we ought to attach to the allegations of dirty tricks and to the besmirching of Members of this House by a man who was convicted of and imprisoned for the particularly horrific manslaughter of the antique dealer Mr. Jonathan Lewis. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves not about the integrity of the Prime Minister and other Ministers reporting to this House but about the system by which this Walter Mitty character had such access to highly classified documents.
Mr. King : I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has stated very clearly another aspect of this very difficult saga. With hindsight, there is no doubt that one is entitled to ask how some of these things arose and how some of the people concerned could be involved in such matters. It is easy, 15 years after the event, for people who were not involved to judge. We certainly have a duty to take whatever steps we can to ensure that if, in the areas that I have described, errors were made and disinformation was overlooked, the situation is rectified. No matter what view we hold, Mr. Wallace is entitled to fair treatment. If we think that there is a risk that he did not receive justice, we have a duty to have the matter investigated.
Mr. King : I am actually aware who my Permanent Secretary is. In that situation, there was concern over whether, in respect of a number of issues that had been raised, the fullest investigation had been made. Authority was
Column 460therefore given, and the matter was raised with
Ministers--immediately confirmed--to investigate whether any files were missing.
Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay) : Will my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members on both sides of the House, when they first heard of the allegations made by Colin Wallace, were inclined to dismiss him as a Walter Mitty figure? Will my right hon. Friend accept that what has changed the situation this week is the confirmation that there were in the Ministry of Defence documents concerning an operation--perhaps not cleared, perhaps a renegade
operation--code-named "Clockwork Orange"? Is not that the single item has justified some of the anxiety that has been expressed in the past?
Are there not precedents, in the shape of similar inquiries being passed straight to the Security Commission? Will my hon. Friend consider very carefully whether this is not an ideal matter for the Security Commission to look into? After all, if the Government have nothing to hide, surely it would be to their advantage to take that step.
Mr. King : My hon. Friend knows that what he referred to, particularly in relation to "Clockwork Orange" was referred to in the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. While descriptions have been given of what the project might have been like, and the suggestion made that Mr. Wallace was involved in the project, the documents make it absolutely clear that the project was not actually cleared. I think that this is where some ideas start off--whatever Mr. Wallace may have been involved in, and the ideas that he had--but we are dealing with the facts, with what actually happened.
Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : Would the Secretary of State-- first of all, as people read Hansard --realise that it demeans his office to pretend that the disinformation about which we are speaking is that which requires him to travel under an assumed name? We are speaking of much more serious matters.
Secondly, how can the right hon. Gentleman come to this House and repeat such phrases as "documents were overlooked" and "inadvertently misleading the House" and then proceed, in a stout defence, to resist any possible inquiry, on the grounds that there is no such information? Is he aware that his incapacity to understand the serious nature of the breach of rules--or whatever it was--by the Security Service is exactly the kind of defence used by the security services in eastern Europe? He ought to be ashamed of himself for taking that sort of position.
Mr. King : I have come here to explain certain events that occurred at a time when there were in office a Government of whom the hon. Gentleman was a supporter. I do not make any point about this, because it affected different Administrations at that time. I make no apology for coming to the House in these circumstances. It is disgraceful for the hon. Gentleman to say that I should be ashamed of myself when I have come to explain that mistakes were made, and to state what action we are taking to correct them.
Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : While applauding the Secretary of State for his courage in making what would obviously be a very embarrassing statement for any Minister to make, may I ask whether he accepts that he has
Column 461a very special responsibility to those whose reputation may have been gravely undermined by the activities of Mr. Wallace and his colleagues?
Can my right hon. Friend clarify in what circumstances he might think there was a case for a further inquiry? Would it, for example, be if we had evidence that all the documents referred to by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and other frauds and forgeries alleged by Mr. Wallace to be the product of his particular group had been supplied to the Government in 1984?
Mr. King : I am obviously grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said at the beginning. On this matter, we have sought to be quite frank with the House. Various allegations have been made. If there is evidence to substantiate the allegations about a whole range of matters, it should be brought forward. People might then like to explain why it had taken 15 years to do so.
Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) : May I address a number of specific points to the Secretary of State? He has referred on two or three occasions to mistakes having been made in the past, and he has twice repeated that errors have been made in overlooking information. The only significance of the new information is that it suggests that Mr. Wallace may well have been telling the truth in this particular.
The argument that we are seeking to put to the Secretary of State and to get him to accept is that, if there is evidence that Mr. Wallace has been telling the truth in this particular, there may well be validity in his general arguments and points. Therefore, for that reason if no other, there is a need for a far wider-scale inquiry than is being proposed at present. The Secretary of State must know that the piddling little inquiry that he has set up is to determine whether Mr. Wallace was fairly or unfairly dismissed in the light of the new evidence--but that just will not do.
Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman totally overlooks the fact that that was one of the specific matters raised by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) when he called for an inquiry. In fact, the hon. Gentleman was actually calling for the fifth or sixth inquiry. In answer to the idea that these matters have not been inquired into when they have been a matter of specific inquiry, there is absolutely no evidence that a further inquiry would produce anything different from the previous inquiries. It is simply no good for people to make and to keep on making allegations, which is certainly true of Mr. Wallace over the Kincora matter, and yet refuse to bring forward evidence on it.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep resentment among my hon. Friends at the attempt by some Opposition Members to smear members of this Administration about things that happened long before any Minister in this Government came to power? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, if the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) were to put before members of the Government the documents of which only he and Lord Callaghan have direct knowledge, they would be looked into, and that it is no use the right hon. Gentleman accusing this
Column 462Government of not knowing what they are talking about, when the information has not been put to the Government?
Mr. King : I certainly endorse what my hon. Friend says. If there is evidence, it should be brought forward and put before the appropriate authorities. I find it difficult, standing here, to understand why that has not been done.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : Under the Government's own definition of "subversion", which includes undermining parliamentary democracy, were these dirty tricks that were aimed at politicians "subversion"? Will the Secretary of State answer that point? Is it not becoming increasingly clear that there was political meddling on behalf of a small faction in the security services to achieve a Right-wing putsch in this country, and that it was successful? When are we going to get the truth about that?
Mr. King : I am making a statement about somebody who was a member of the information service in the headquarters in Northen Ireland, and attached to the Army. That is the matter with which I am dealing. Some of the allegations that have been made previously have been fully investigated, and separate statements have been made to the House. Some of the allegations have been subject to quite separate and very full inquiries. I have nothing to add on those. I have made a specific statement about the action that we are taking in respect of one specific matter.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : If it is established beyond peradventure that there is no shred of evidence to suggest that there was a campaign to discredit Ministers at the time, is not the only logical conclusion that those who call for further inquiries are, either consciously or unconsciously, seeking to attack the credibility of our security services, which at the time were facing a campaign that caused the death of 300 people, or that they have no confidence in Ministers of the time?
Mr. King : Listening to some of the contributions that have been made, I well understand why my hon. Friend makes that comment. I am under no illusions that one or two contributors to this debate are very keen to undermine-- [Interruption.] --the confidence in the security services, and they have made that perfectly clear--
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir David Steel) and other right hon. and hon. Members were seeking to aid and abet the terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland by raising the questions that they have?
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : May I invite the Secretary of State, on reflection, to withdraw the remark that he has just made, which I am sure, on reconsideration, he would want to withdraw? It cannot possibly be his view that my right hon. and hon. Friends who have served, as he did, with great distinction in Northern Ireland, could
Column 463possibly justify or deserve the comments that he has just made, and on behalf of my other hon. Friends, I certainly repudiate them.
Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon) : I also speak as an hon. Member who has served in the armed forces in Northern Ireland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are sometimes in danger of discussing these matters while losing sight of the general context? Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement proves to the House that the Government's only object is to ensure that fairness and accuracy are put on the record, whichever Administration may have been in power at the relevant time?
Mr. King : That has been my purpose today. If errors of this kind are discovered, it is important that one comes immediately to the House to make that clear. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces set out the full background to these matters. My right hon. and hon. Friends and other hon. Members who were given incorrect information have received full letters setting out what we believe to be the correct position.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Does the Secretary of State now accept that he has demonstrated clearly that the Prime Minister should have been making the statement this afternoon? Having misled the House--[ Hon. Members :-- "Oh."]--and having refused to make a statement--
Mr. Madden : Does not the Secretary of State very much regret that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to listen to one second of the statement that he has made this afternoon? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Prime Minister that he has been unable to persuade the House of the matters that we are debating, and that his very unconvincing performance of bluff and bluster has not prevented him from sinking in the House this afternoon?
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to come to the House on Monday to announce that there is to be a full independent inquiry into all the matters that we have been discussing, and that there will be a parliamentary investigation, either through a special Select Committee or through the Select Committee on Privileges, to examine the activities of Mr. Wallace in relation to Members of Parliament and former Members of Parliament?