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contacts to camouflage its isolation and secrecy, but many British people continue to oppose the base, for which there is no longer any justification, if there ever was.

Throughout the time of the base's existence, Otley peace action group has held demonstrations and campaigned against it. A group of women, including Lindis Percy and Anne Lee, has focused particular attention on this foreign intrusion and has repeatedly entered the base and obtained valuable information--more power to their elbow. If Parliament will not provide accountability, people outside always will. While Parliament remains inert, it is people outside this place who have pushed Parliament along the road to democracy.

Some of the information was given in a recent Channel 4 "Dispatches" programme. The fact that domestic intrusion exists at Menwith Hill station is surely shown by the fact that British Telecom has a 32,000-telephone line capacity connection from Hunter's Stone Post Office tower along the B6451 to Otley. There cannot be 32,000 telephones on the base in simultaneous use ; that defies credibility. The Hunter's Stone Post Office tower happens to be a pivotal point of more than 1 million route miles of microwave radio connections installed in Britain. The cable from Hunter's Stone Post Office tower runs directly to Menwith Hill. There has never been any parliamentary authority to allow this serious and unwarranted intrusion into our telephone network.

There are two large United States firms within the

military-industrial complex : Loral Space Systems Incorporated, formerly a part of Ford, and Lockheed Aerospace. They sell much of the spy equipment and they are both involved in arms sales to third-world countries. Menwith Hill gains information that would be useful to them. Lockheed and Boeing, for example, oppose the success of Airbus Industrie, which has sold many aeroplanes round the world. Can the Minister guarantee that information about commercial matters relating to Airbus Industrie and the sales of the Airbus 300, for example, has never been picked up by Menwith Hill and has never been passed on to part of the US military-industrial complex ? Both Boeing and Lockheed depend for their continued existence on military contracts from the United States Government. Our Government continue to betray our people by allowing spy stations such as Menwith Hill to be dominated and operated by the United States, without any control that is visible to the people at large.

A recent "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4 examined the matter in some detail. I shall put a few quotations on the record for Parliament. Margaret Newsham is one of the few people who have worked at Menwith Hill and spoken out. She worked there from 1977 to 1981. She says :

"From the very beginning of my employment, it became very much aware to me that massive security violations were taking place. All the programmes that I did work on were subject to these abuses." She is referring to interference in commercial traffic.

The programme's commentary on Margaret Newsham continues : "And that wasn't all. Inside Building 36D at Menwith, she was invited to listen in on an American Senator's intercepted phone call. After leaving, she informed the US Congress about what she'd seen." Good on her. Can the Minister assure us that Menwith Hill

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never listens in to any telephone calls of United Kingdom Members of Parliament, not directly in the United Kingdom, but bounced back over the various satellite systems ?

According to the programme, only one person in the world has ever got the National Security Agency to admit intercepting his messages. He was a United States lawyer called Abdeen Jabaro who said : "It took me 18 years to get my records finally destroyed. It is like Big Brother. It's like 1984, of--surveilling people all over the globe. And if you're British, if you're French, if you're Dutch, you're any--any people, anywhere you have no rights to complain about this. You have zero rights."

What does it say for parliamentary democracy when people have no rights against these arrogant organisations which are given authority by a clique of people called the Government who have not come to Parliament to get any authority ? It is a scandal and a disgrace, and I look forward to the Minister trying to explain that away, as he tried to at Question Time in a superficial and cliche -ridden manner.

A National Security Agency employee was quoted on the programme, but the words of an actor were used as a disguise. The Government know all about using actors' words to disguise someone. That employee was quoted as saying :

"Menwith Hill was responsible for intercepting ILC' and NDC' traffic from 1966 to 1976. Then came the satellite intercepts, like MOONPENNY. ILC is International Leased Carrier--basically, ordinary commercial traffic. Your and my phone calls. And NDC' is Non-US diplomatic communications . But that job was later moved out of Menwith Hill during the 1970s, to Chicksands, where a special unit called DODJOCC was run by the NSA, direct from Menwith Hill. DODJOCC' stands for Department of Defense Joint Operations Centre Chicksands. Because of the high sensitivity of its work no Britons were ever allowed in."

Was that high sensitivity because they were intercepting British communications ? Howard Teicher, National Security Council member from 1980 to 1986, said on the programme :

"As a rule I believe that the United States government would never spy on the British government, and would never direct the National Security Agency to try to collect information on British government entities or individuals.

However, having said that that would be the rule, I would never say never in this business because, at the end of the day, national interests are national interests. And, as close as the US and the UK are, sometimes our interests diverge. So never say never. Especially in this business."

The former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Admiral Stansfield Turner, explained how he met an American called Joe--of course--who said that there was information and that he was a CIA operator working secretly and spying in a country, the name of which is not given. Joe told the admiral that there were three contracts competing with United States firms. Admiral Stansfield Turner said : "

"What did you do about it Joe ?" And he said Well, we don t have any policy on this, so I did nothing.'"

When Admiral Turner took over at the CIA a new organisation was set up inside the Department of Commerce. Its special function was to receive valuable information from US intelligence that the Department could use to America's economic benefit. It is the Office of Intelligence Liaison.

The programme makers were not allowed inside, so they used the American Freedom of Information Act which the United Kingdom, the home of the mother of Parliaments, does not have and they asked for the standing orders of the department. They claim that they show that

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the office receives some of the unique type of intelligence collected at NSA stations such as the one at Menwith Hill. It is called sensitive compartmented information. Of course, the documents that were shown on the programme demonstrated what I have already said, that Lockheed and Laurel are integrated in the National Security Agency's operations. They are still involved in running the computers.

I shall quote again the words of Howard Teicher, the former head of the CIA. He said :

"The United States was always concerned about the purchase of non-American advanced armaments by the government of Saudi Arabia. We were certainly aware that by preventing a foreign government from selling something that we hoped would lead to an American entity to be able to sell, it would certainly contribute to our commercial interest, but that was not the first priority."

The first priority that he spoke about was the cold war, and that has ended.

What is the first priority at Menwith Hill ? Will the Minister publish the agreement that allows Menwith Hill to be operated at the base near Harrogate ? Why should not the people of the United Kingdom know about these matters ? In a democracy, why should they be kept from them ? It is an outrage that they ever have been.

What laws govern the operation of Menwith Hill ? Do the United States employees there come under United Kingdom law or does the Visiting Forces Act 1952 apply to civilians ? What rights do individuals or companies have if they believe that they are being spied on by Menwith Hill ? For example, can the Minister give a categorical assurance that Menwith Hill is not intercepting commercial traffic ?

Finally, if the Minister is so confident about democracy, will he allow me and other Labour Members to visit the base, especially since Harrogate councillors have certainly done so ?

1.49 pm

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Jeremy Hanley) : I very much welcome the opportunity afforded by the debate and I should like to use the occasion to deal with some of the fundamental issues concerning Menwith Hill station, which would perhaps benefit from clarification, as well as reply to some of the individual points that have been raised. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) said, the reason for the debate is not totally unconnected with my invitation for him to do so. We are in no way trying to quell accountability for our activities in the United Kingdom--quite the reverse.

As the House knows, I visited the station on 27 January. On that occasion, I received briefings on its current role from the senior UK and American personnel working there, including the head of station. I should make it quite clear that Menwith Hill is owned by the Ministry of Defence, but it may help if I explain the basis on which the United States forces and their civilian component are present before going on to underline the importance to the United Kingdom of the operations carried out at the station and the wider significance of the continued US presence in the United Kingdom and Europe. Finally, I shall address the issue of control and accountability for operations conducted at Menwith Hill.

Her Majesty's Government have made the site on which Menwith Hill station is situated available to the US Department of Defence. As such, the station is an integral

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part of the worldwide network which supports United States, United Kingdom and NATO interests. The arrangement has been made in accordance with the agreement regarding the status of forces of parties to the North Atlantic treaty of 1951 and other arrangements appropriate to the relationship that exists between the United Kingdom and the United States for the purposes of our common defence.

To that end, the United States Government have been granted permission to use the site, and the administration of the facility is the responsibility of the station authorities. However, the land comprising the site is Crown freehold land. I stress that Her Majesty's Government retain ownership of that land, and it follows that we have control over the use made of the site and its facilities. The United States is aware of, and entirely accepts, that position. At no time have the arrangements between the two Governments for the use of the site conferred any rights of ownership of the land on the United States Government.

The function of Menwith Hill station is regarded by Her Majesty's Government as being of the highest importance to the country's defence strategy and is subject to confidential arrangements between the UK and US Governments. The work carried out there is highly sensitive and rightly classified as secret. I believe very firmly that it would not be in the national interest, and would indeed defeat the very purpose of that work, if I were to comment in any detail on the activities that I have seen conducted there. United States forces have been stationed in the United Kingdom as a visible sign of the US commitment to NATO throughout the cold war. With changing circumstances in Europe, the US Government, in consultation with all their NATO partners, are realigning their forces to take account of the evolving security situation. Although the end of the cold war has brought about changes in the focus of US and UK defence concerns, the need for Menwith Hill station to continue its role as part of a worldwide defence network remains. Moreover, as recent events have shown, we continue to live in a very uncertain world and the recent NATO summit has confirmed that the forces of our US allies remain committed to a strong presence in Europe and, therefore, in the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, I welcome the continued presence of United States personnel at Menwith Hill as a tangible sign of the close defence and security ties between the two countries. I also would not wish to underestimate the beneficial impact on the local economy of their presence. I remind the hon. Member for Bradford, South of the number of jobs directly created by the existence of the base, which was referred to at Question Time about three weeks ago. There are currently some 600 UK employees, serving at every level throughout the base, and 1,200 US personnel.

Indeed, those working at the station play a full part in the life of the local community centred on the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who is regularly in touch with those at the base. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Banks) recently spoke in the House of the excellent relationship between the United States personnel and the local community. I need hardly stress again the economic importance of such a base to that part of North Yorkshire. Its presence is widely welcomed and it is estimated that it contributes approximately £40 million to the local and national economies.

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The station's recent construction programme was planned and started several years ago and will therefore carry through to completion. As this has been the subject of much ill-informed speculation, I take the opportunity to state categorically that there are no underground bunkers, either existing or planned, at the station. The recently completed operations centre was built into the side of a hill to take advantage of the natural topography of the ground in that location.

As I stated earlier, there are currently 1,800 personnel employed at Menwith Hill, of whom 1,200 are US Department of Defence personnel and 600 are UK nationals. I also said that I have visited the base. Nowhere was closed to me. I saw US personnel representing all four armed services--US army, navy, air force and marine corps--and Department of Defence civilians and US contractor personnel. I also saw UK personnel, as I have stated, at every level.

As in the case of other US bases in the United Kingdom where US forces are based, locally employed UK staff or Ministry of Defence civilians work in support of activities there. A detachment of Ministry of Defence police is assigned to the base. The MDP officers are responsible for security, the costs incurred being reimbursed by the United States. However, it is worth mentioning that if overtime is occasioned by the activities of protestors, including those mentioned by the hon. Member for Bradford, South, that is a direct cost to the United Kingdom. That amounted to nearly £500,000 in the last financial year. Those people are not clever. They are merely destructive and wasteful.

In addition to the support staff, senior UK personnel are present at the station. For that reason, Her Majesty's Government are in a position to be entirely confident that British staff are aware of all facets of operations at the station. They are integrated at every level. Consequently, no activity considered inimical to British interests is, or would be, permitted there. On the issue of accountability and control, I stress that Menwith Hill operates with the full knowledge and consent of the United Kingdom Government. The hon. Member for Bradford, South mentioned visits to Menwith Hill by Members of Parliament and Members of the European Parliament. Previous requests for such visits and briefings have not been approved, on the grounds of disruption to the operational commitments of the base or for security reasons. I have stated that that would be the same for Conservative Members as for Labour Members.

It is not the practice of the Ministry of Defence to organise tours of the working facilities at Menwith Hill. In my reply to the House on 8 March, I said that the strictures appled equally to all. The local constituency Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon, has visited the station, but not for the purpose of receiving an

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operational briefing or a tour. His visit was organised as part of a programme to enable US personnel to understand better the workings of the British parliamentary system. He went there to brief, not to be briefed.

At the end of his speech, the hon. Member for Bradford, South said that local councillors had visited the station. That is true. Some 70 local councillors and 20 council officials have visited it. They were there either for social purposes or for planning purposes. They were not there to study operational purposes.

In closing, I should like to state that the personnel at Menwith Hill are carrying out an important and responsible job in difficult circumstances. They are accountable to both Her Majesty's Government and the US Government.

Mr. Cryer : Will the Minister give way ?

Mr. Hanley : No, I will not give way because I have more to say. I remind the hon. Member for Bradford, South that we have introduced further legislation to ensure that the work of our intelligence services is more transparent than it has ever been before. However, the irresponsible actions of activists who try to disrupt legitimate activities taking place at Menwith Hill cannot be interpreted by any stretch of the imagination as being in our national interest. I am afraid that I can only despise the actions of hon. Members who seem only too happy to jump on that particular bandwagon and to indulge in damaging innuendo and downright untruths about what goes on there.

The Interception of Communications Act 1985 applies to that base as it does to any other. I hope that the hon. Member ng out an important and responsible job in difficult circumstances. They are accountable to both Her Majesty's Government and the US Government.

Mr. Cryer : Will the Minister give way ?

Mr. Hanley : No, I will not give way because I have more to say. I remind the hon. Member for Bradford, South that we have introduced further legislation to ensure that the work of our intelligence services is more transparent than it has ever been before. However, the irresponsible actions of activists who try to disrupt legitimate activities taking place at Menwith Hill cannot be interpreted by any stretch of the imagination as being in our national interest. I am afraid that I can only despise the actions of hon. Members who seem only too happy to jump on that particular bandwagon and to indulge in damaging innuendo and downright untruths about what goes on there.

The Interception of Communications Act 1985 applies to that base as it does to any other. I hope that the hon. Member

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Three o'clock.

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