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Column 464being overlooked in the Ministry of Defence. I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces take full responsibility for that. I have come to the House at the earliest possible opportunity--I landed from Washington at half-past 8 this morning--to make a full statement to the House. The hon. Gentleman's comments are purely trivial.
Several Hon. Members rose
Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West) : We on this side of the House congratulate my right hon. Friend on his frankness. Will he confirm that, in his investigations in his Department, there has been no proved link between what he has revealed to us today and the allegations that have been made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr Campbell-Savours) about the so- called "dirty tricks department"? Will he also confirm that the defence of Mr. Wallace, at his trial where he was convicted for murder by a jury-- [Hon. Members :-- "Withdraw".]--which was upheld by the Court of Appeal--
Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) : In addition to the documents mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell- Savours), may I draw to the attention of the Secretary of State a 100-page pamphlet, illustrated with about 100 photographs, which seeks to denigrate in a scurrilous way his right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), which was circulated at the 1974 general election? Any inquiry that fails to address that and the documents already mentioned will not be credible.
Mr. King : As I have told other hon. Members, the question is whether the hon. Member has any evidence of the authorship of that document. I could point him to documents circulated in Northern Ireland that denigrated me in a particularly vicious and nasty way. I know that it is no good complaining about it, but I have a good idea of the origin and authorship of those documents.
Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) : Some years ago, the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service sent the Prime Minister several documents, some from Mr. Colin Wallace, some from the Institution of Professional Civil Servants as it then was, and one from Mr. Peter Broderick, the head of the information service for the Army in Northern Ireland. They showed clearly that there was a dirty tricks campaign in Northern Ireland. How comes it that, in the years since, the enemy from within has been allowed to lie, lie and lie again about what has been happening, but no Minister has come to the Dispatch Box to say, "That is not true ; we now have the truth ; we have seen the documents"?
Column 465Mr. King : As I am the Minister who has come to say that documents have been found, the hon. Gentleman should give me the credit for it.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) : Does the Secretary of State accept that, however fascinating the history of this episode, there is currently great cause for anxiety about the activities of the security services? The Secretary of State, as Minister directly responsible for military intelligence, his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), sitting on his right, who was formerly responsible for the secret services, and the Prime Minister, who is now responsible for all the security services, will be aware that the way in which things work is that they are informed on a "need to know" basis. Is he satisfied today that he knows all that he needs to know to ensure that such dirty tricks campaigns are neither happening now, with Colin Wallaces in new guises, nor will happen in the run-up to the next general election?
Mr. King : My statement and the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as well as what the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said, have made it clear that, whatever practices there may have been in the 1970s, they were clearly and firmly stopped. I have no evidence whatever that such a policy continued to be pursued, either in the right hon. Member's time of office or in mine.
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East) : Surely it is inconceivable to any reasonable man or woman that the people with and for whom Mr. Wallace worked embarked on the operation without thinking it through and forming an objective? If I recall correctly, the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said that, according to some documents, it was an objective of the generals. That is to say, they had an objective beyond and different from that of the elected Government of the day.
In Northern Ireland, we should like to know precisely what the political and constitutional objective was. We should also like to know why the information, misinformation or disinformation--call it what one will--has been referred to only in relation to Great Britain politicians.
All of us who work in politics in Northern Ireland know that, during the 1970s, the whole place was alive with rumours about leading politicians, especially those from the Unionist community. Many of those rumours were designed to injure the standing of those politicians, not only in their own communities but throughout the Northern Ireland community. Frankly, many of them were dredged out of a cesspool.
This is a serious matter. The Government and Conservative Members do not seem to understand that the present Government continue to be the victim of what happened in the 1970s. It was not an error but a deliberate policy perpetrated against the Government, and which the Government repeated to the House. That makes it a constitutional issue of the greatest importance. It is wrong for any Government to say that they will not carry out the fullest inquiry to discover what happened, if only for their own protection and that of the Prime Minister and of subsequent Cabinets.
Column 466individuals or organisations in the early 1970s was stopped. If there is any further evidence of such a policy, it should be brought forward. I have nothing to add to the statement that I have already made.
Mr. Cryer : But on the evidence from the Secretary of State's hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall)--Colin Wallace's Member of Parliament--documentation has been requested from the Department since 1986. Why has it taken four years to discover those documents? When was the search instituted and how many days ago was that handful of documents discovered? Will there be a search for the other five and a half or more files of documents that it is alleged have gone missing?
Is not the Secretary of State worried that the matter goes to the extent of treason? He seems to be prepared to defend the security services whatever dirty tricks they get up to, even to the point--this should be clearly noted by the House--of denigrating hon. Members for exercising their democratic options in the House. The aim of the security services was an attack on our very system of democracy. Would not an inquiry by the Select Committee on Home Affairs be a way of ensuring full democratic accountability? As the Committee is made up entirely of hon. Members, what is wrong with that?
Mr. King : I am not sure whether the hon. Member was listening to the answers that I gave earlier, including the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall). I have nothing to add to the statement that I have made about the approach that we should now adopt to these matters.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : While I welcome the narrow field in which the Secretary of State has responded, will he answer the questions asked earlier? Are any of those involved in disinformation or giving advice to Ministers still in responsible positions as advisers to the Government or in public service? Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the matter could go beyond the Ministry of Defence into other areas, even the Northern Ireland Office? Does he accept that it will take a wider inquiry to deal with the issues, the innuendo that still surrounds the people involved in the Kincora inquiry and the allegations that Colin Wallace was the third member present at the murder of Tommy Herren?
Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman chose to widen his questions into precisely the areas where I said that no evidence arising out of the matters that I have reported to the House has been substantiated or gives fresh ground for anxiety. On the question of who authorised Mr. Wallace, it is clear that he was already undertaking unattributable briefing activities, which may have included misinformation, before he was authorised to do so.
Mr. King : They were found early last year. The first document was found then. On the instruction of the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, a formal investigation was held to find out whether other information was available to guide us.
Column 467Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East) : If the Secretary of State is right to tell the House that these matters have come as a surprise to Ministers and senior civil servants, why, in the early years of this Administraion, while Colin Wallace was in prison, was a senior-level meeting held inside the Ministry of Defence at which Ministers and senior civil servants, including Clive Ponting, were present? The discussion was about the danger to the reputation of the Government if Colin Wallace came out of prison and continued to make the statements that he had made before he went in? How can we be told that the matter is a shock and a surprise? All the documents that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has shown to the House were delivered to the Prime Minister in November 1984. Why was nothing done about that?
Given that the Government have now admitted the status of Colin Wallace, can we be told why it was that, when Colin Wallace warned his superiors about child abuse in Kincora in 1974, no action was taken and that child abuse continued until the issue was made public by the press?
Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman tries to widen the issue beyond the point that I made. I shall seek to give the exact date when the first document came to light, on the basis of which an instruction was given for a full examination. A considerable number of documents had to be examined to make sure that there were no other inaccuracies in what is a very serious issue indeed.
It may not be clear that the first document was not the job specification ; it was not any evidence that anything was given to Colin Wallace. It was as listed. If the hon. Gentleman has read the Minister of State's written answer, he will know that it was a background paper seeking to justify expenditure on a further information officer in Headquarters Northern Ireland.
That was not conclusive proof, and that is why it was necessary to find out whether Colin Wallace was given the job specification and to seek to come to the House with proper information. We have come to the House not with a complete story but with something which is of sufficient concern and which we believe means that, in justice to Mr. Colin Wallace, the matter should be investigated and reviewed by Mr. Calcutt.
Mr. O'Neill : Will the Secretary of State confirm that Mr. Calcutt will have the powers to obtain and to make use of the job specification? Will he also confirm that section 1(9) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 makes it clear that not only those in the security services but those who work in support of them can obtain immunity and the like? Will he guarantee that immunity from prosecution will be provided under that Act?
Column 468How can the Secretary of State give a guarantee about "Clockwork Orange", which was not extended beyond Northern Ireland, when he freely admits that he has not seen the relevant papers?
Lastly, does the Secretary of State agree that to appear on a blacklist drawn up by terrorists is one thing, but to appear on a blacklist drawn up by servants of the Crown, whose responsibility was to uphold our freedom, is a completely different matter? As those people are senior Members of the House, surely it is reasonable that, as requested by hon. Members on both sides of the House, we have the fullest public inquiry so as to satisfy the House, to clear the names of those besmirched and to restore public confidence outside the House in the workings of our affairs?
Mr. King : Although the job specification is a classified document, Mr. Calcutt will have access to it and he will be able to show it to Mr. Wallace. I have also been advised that Mr. Wallace will be authorised to give the authorities the facts in the other matters that have been raised, so no offence arises under the Official Secrets Act. In that respect, there is no change from the old Act, which only made unauthorised publication an offence.
Mr. Madden : My point of order is precisely a matter for you, Mr. Speaker. I understand that an application for the matter to be referred to the Select Committee on Privileges has been made to you. Can you say when you intend to make a statement?
Mr. Hind : When I asked a question of the Secretary of State, I wrongly said that Mr. Wallace was convicted of murder. In fact, he was convicted of manslaughter, and I wish to apologise to him and to the House.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. For reasons that are obvious to the House, it has been necessary to take some time on that important statement. The Leader of the House will, if you now give him an opportunity, put before the House five motions. As I understand it, under an order passed by the House on Friday, you have to put the Question on those motions and any amendments to them at 7 o'clock, despite the fact that it is now 5.25. If I am not mistaken--you will be able to confirm this--you have no discretion about whether you put the Question. You are obliged to do so and you must bring the debate to a conclusion with a vote. The motions before us all have profound effects on the rights of Members. They curtail those rights in a series of different ways. The Leader of the House will have a case to make as will the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman.
Mr. Beith : I am putting it to you, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that the Leader of the House is taking note, that, however well you discharge your duties, if you comply with the order passed on Friday, it will not be possible for all Back-Bench Members, who have a legitimate interest in the matter, to take part in the debate, yet it is their rights that are being taken away. I appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to tell the Leader of the House that you have no discretion about how long the debate can last, and that the matter should not be brought to a vote after so short a time.
Mr. Speaker : I confirm that I have no discretion in the matter. I have to put the motions at 7 o'clock. This is a joint debate. The five motions will be taken together, and I confirm that at the end I shall put only those motions that are moved.
I have selected the first amendment, in the name of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith).
Mr. Benn : Is it in order, Mr. Speaker, for five motions to be moved together without the consent of the House? My understanding is that motions of a differing character may be taken together if the House wishes it. Given the point that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) made about the pressure of time, if only the first motion is moved we shall at least be able to debate that for an hour and a half, but if all five motions are put together, all five have to be put to the vote.
Column 470to assent to the grouping of motions, all of which are quite separate in character. The House often discusses such motions together if it wishes to do so, but in this case the only way of protecting the time of the House on at least four of the motions is to object to them being taken together. Therefore, if it is in order, I object to the five motions being taken together--as, I gather, do other hon. Members.
Mr. Speaker : Let me make it perfectly plain. When the Leader of the House rises, he will move the first of the motions, but I understand that there is an agreement that all the motions should be debated together. I am sure that there is a great deal of interest in these matters, but to date no one has indicated their interest in taking part in the debate, although, of course, no one has to do that in writing.
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that it will be helpful to you, because you are in a difficult position, which is not of your making. Will you confirm that, if the Leader of the House were not to press some of the motions today, there need be no vote on those? You, Sir, have no discretion, but the Leader of the House does, and he should take account of what hon. Members are saying.
That is extremely helpful of the hon. Gentleman, because that is exactly what I mentioned. I can put to the vote only those motions which are actually moved. Until we hear the Leader of the House, I do not know which ones he intends to move.
Mr. Skinner : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that on Friday there was a business motion. It quite clearly allows the votes to be taken at the end. It does not state that the Leader of the House has to move the motions collectively. If he so chooses, and if the House agrees, the Leader of the House can move the first one, we can debate it and deal with it. The business motion does not compel the House as a whole to deal with all five motions collectively and dispose of them. The Leader of the House can help in this matter.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe) rose --
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have been trying to see how best to deal with this, because these are important matters for the House as a whole and the time for debating them has been curtailed. However, I would not wish to set aside time
Column 471to no purpose. As I understand it, we could debate all five motions even if I moved only one. If I have that option--it seems to be the convenient one--I should move motion No. 4, which relates to ten-minute Bills on Budget day, which has the widest assent. Of course, hon. Members may oppose it, but it is the one most likely to be generally supported.
The debate could range over all five motions and we could return on a subsequent occasion to votes on the other matters. That would be the most convenient way of proceeding, because we want to use the time usefully, but not in such a fashion as to deprive hon. Members of the opportunity of considering the matter.
That no notice may be given under Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in bills and nomination of select committees at commencement of public business) for a day on which Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer has declared his intention of opening his Budget ; but (i) notices proposed to be given for such day, and
(ii) notices so given for a day in respect of which such intention is subsequently declared,
shall be treated as having been given for the first Monday on which the House shall sit after the Budget is opened, and may be proceeded with on that day as though it were a Tuesday or a Wednesday. That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.
I am grateful to the House for giving me time, by raising points of order, to reflect on the matter sufficiently to reach a conclusion which makes reasonable sense.
As the House knows, the five motions arise from the second and third reports of the Select Committee on Procedure in the last Session. Three of them relate to private Members' time and two to ten-minute Bills. I am moving the first of the two relating to ten-minute Bills. They provide a sensible package to consider together.
Motion Nos. 1 to 3 relate to private Members' time. The overall purpose of the three motions is to ensure that, as far as possible, the time available for private Members' business is fully used for that purpose, not interrupted or disrupted by the unintended or unorthodox use of procedures relating to other issues. They are also intended to avoid any unusual use of procedure which would affect the precedence of private Members' Bills as determined in the ballot and Standing Orders, or provide additional time for a particular Bill beyond that allotted to private Members.
When it made these recommendations, the Procedure Committee was not concerned with the progress or fate of individual Bills, and nor am I. Our common purpose is simply to protect private Members' time--no more, no less --and that is what the motions set out to do. Of the two motions relating to ten-minute Bills, motion No. 4, which I have moved, is intended to ensure that the opening of the Budget is not delayed by a ten-minute Bill. The other motion on that topic--motion No. 5--is tabled to overcome problems which have arisen under the existing queueing system by replacing it with a ballot system.
Of the three motions on private Members' time, motion No. 3 would mean that, on a Friday on which private Members' business had precedence, any petition remaining to be presented at 10 am would stand over until 2.30
Column 472pm. In practice, in the ordinary way, the presentation of petitions on such days is normally completed well before 10 am. On the one occasion when that was not the case, the subject of the petition was the same as the motion to be debated on that day.
On this matter, I agree with the Procedure Committee that reform on the lines suggested in motion No. 3 would not involve any real curtailment of Back Benchers' rights, and no one seriously argues to the contrary.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Is the Leader of the House aware that all this tidying up and rationalisation operates against the interests of any Member, from whichever party, who is determined to raise a subject? We can all easily go in for ballots. It takes a little effort, guts and sweat to queue for many hours. It is an interesting question of philosophy : should we operate a general ballot to the advantage of the Executive or give some chance to hon. Members who, rightly or wrongly--for whatever cause, good or bad--are prepared to sweat it out in that room upstairs?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman intervenes at the wrong stage of my speech. When I deal with the relevant motion I shall express some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman. He should allow me to come to that. I am dealing with motions Nos. 1 to 3 ; he is making a point about motion No. 5 with which I shall deal in a moment. Under the terms of motion No. 2, if a motion for a by-election writ moved on a Friday--on which private Members' business has precedence--was opposed, it would not be pursued at that time on that Friday. This motion represents a modest improvement on the original recommendation. The Procedure Committee's proposal was that, if proceedings on such a motion had not been disposed of by 10 am, they should stand over to the next sitting day.
There are two good reasons for being a little more positive than the Procedure Committee. First, such a motion, if not taken formally, might not be disposed of in half an hour. It would be sensible to avoid starting something which might not be finished, but which could nevertheless encroach on private Members' business which was to follow.
Secondly, such a motion would take precedence over the presentation of petitions, and would therefore encroach on the time available for their presentation. The overall effect of the variation contained in my motion would be no different from the Procedure Committee's proposal, but it would lessen the scope for encroachment on private Members' time. Its effect would be that the by-election writ motion would stand over for consideration on the next business day--the Monday.
It has become customary for writs to be moved on a Tuesday, and it is most unlikely that a party would seek to move a writ on a Friday. In practice, polling normally takes place on a Thursday. By deferring the moving of a writ from a Friday to a Monday, the same two Thursdays would be available for polling.
Mr. Skinner : The Leader of the House was a Member of Parliament on the two occasions when I moved a writ on a Friday. I was doing him, as well as many of my hon. Friends, a good turn on those two occasions--especially on the first, when Enoch Powell was involved in trying to keep people here through the weekend. I was trying to stop his queue-jumping Bill. The right hon. and learned
Column 473Gentleman will remember that, almost certainly, he would have been kept here Friday, Friday night, Saturday and Sunday until the Bill had got through the House. I was doing the Leader of the House a service.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I appreciate the trail-blazing role played on that occasion by the hon. Gentleman. Since he undertook that noble task, the matter has been considered by the Procedure Committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) ; from that joint distillation of activity and intellectual effort, these proposals have emerged. That simple
change--transplanting the day from Friday to Monday--will still leave the same two Thursdays available for polling.
I emphasise that the motion does not preclude the moving of a writ, but it prevents Members from using it as a ploy to delay the start of private Members' business. It takes its place alongside the other proposals in relation to private Members' business.
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton) : Before the Leader of the House leaves that point, will he confirm that what the Procedure Committee recommended would have stopped any proceedings at 10 am on a Friday on which there were private Members' Bills or private Members' motions? As I read it, under his motion, the person who moves the writ could speak for three hours, because it says "and is opposed". It cannot be opposed until the person who moves it stops speaking--that is the first moment at which it can be opposed. Surely that is so?