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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. Before the hon. Gentleman concludes his remarks, let me make it clear that he will not impugn the activities of any hon. Member, and he will not make any remark against any serving Member of this House. The organisation to which the hon. Lady belonged is a legal organisation, and it is her own business.

Dr. Lewis: If I may conclude--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has concluded his remarks. I am telling him what he will not do.

7.56 pm

Ms Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): I congratulate the Committee on the report, and associate myself with the comprehensive opening remarks of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Because of time, I intend to concentrate my comments strictly on the subject of personal files. I intend to speak of the past--not, I hasten to add, because I want to dwell in it, but because I think that it has direct relevance to this debate and to any future investigations that the Committee may undertake.

In 1979, I was Labour's parliamentary candidate for Newbury, where I lived at the time. At the end of that year, NATO announced that American missiles would be sited in Europe. Some months later, the Ministry of Defence organised a ticket-only public meeting on Newbury racecourse to explain why the cruise missiles should be sited at Greenham common. I spoke for the local opposition. For me, it was a mere accident of history and geography, but the consequences of that time have cast a long shadow over my life.

It was a very different time--a time of cold war, when, as the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) said in the introduction to the report:

But then, as now, ordinary citizens thought that they had the right to free speech and peaceful protest. In 1984, the then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan--speaking of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament--appeared to agree. He said:

    "There is no doubt that peaceful political campaigning to change the mind of government and of the people generally about nuclear disarmament is an entirely legitimate activity."

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    So how did I lose my right to legitimate dissent? How did I end up--as I believe I have been--the subject of MI5 surveillance? I do not know if there are files on me or not, but I have been frequently named in that context.

In March 1985, Cathy Massiter, an MI5 agent of 12 years' standing who had left the service two years earlier, made statements in a television programme that she reiterated in a lengthy sworn affidavit. She has never been prosecuted. What I have to say derives from that affidavit.

At that time, the Security Service operated under the 1952 Maxwell-Fyfe directive, which I believe defined subversive activities as those that threaten the safety or well-being of the state or that are intended to undermine or overthrow parliamentary democracy through political, industrial or violent means.

Despite the history lesson that we have just heard from the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), I understand that, when I joined CND, MI5 did not believe that it was a subversive organisation--indeed, CND could not possibly have met the criteria that I have described. I was a long-standing member of the Labour party, and I worked for a well-known and respected voluntary organisation. Speaking about me, Cathy Massiter said:

However, as she said, the service was not deterred. It took advantage of the fact that CND was an open and democratic organisation, with the highest ethical standards. We had no personal scandals, despite repeated attempts to smear individuals. There was no Russian gold, and we famously sent back the donations from a numbered Swiss account.

We gave interviews freely to anyone who asked. When I gave one to a Soviet journalist, I unwittingly provided MI5 with--according to Cathy Massiter--the opportunity to record me as a contact of a hostile intelligence service.

Dr. Julian Lewis: In May 1982, was not the hon. Lady a member of the delegation that travelled to Moscow to meet the Soviet arm of the World Peace Council? Sally Davison, one of her colleagues in that delegation, said that the difference between CND and the Soviet peace committee was that the Soviet Union was in favour of peace.

Ms Ruddock: I speak only for myself. Because CND was open and democratic, it was willing to engage in discussions with other organisations. At no time in the Soviet Union did we fail to put our case for disarmament equally, east and west. The debate is not about the virtues of nuclear disarmament--all hon. Members will have their own views on that. I want carefully to deal with the report.

Mr. Winnick: Will my hon. Friend confirm that CND, of which I was not a member, produced a pamphlet that condemned totalitarian rule in the Soviet Union, making it clear that the activities in which she and her colleagues were engaged could not take place there? How, therefore, can CND be described as a Soviet front organisation?

Ms Ruddock: I thank my hon. Friend for those remarks. Indeed, members of the democratic movement in the Soviet Union told us how much they had learnt from the way in which we conducted ourselves.

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As I said, Cathy Massiter alleged that I was recorded as a contact of a hostile intelligence service. I will never know whether the journalist was a KGB agent, but, frankly, it hardly matters. Central to the debate is the claim that someone who did not fit the rules for scrutiny was put under security surveillance on a pretext. I had no redress then--and I have none today--for the slur on my character and integrity.

Secret surveillance was not the end of the matter. In March 1983, the then Secretary of State for Defence established a special unit--DS19--inside the Ministry of Defence, with the solely political purpose of combating CND's campaign. Miss Massiter testified that she was required to compile a report based on her MI5 files for DS19. That was a clear breach of the Security Service's duty to remain free of party political bias and influence.

Between 1981 and 1986, I was frequently subjected, as a direct consequence of my involvement in CND, to frightening and intimidating behaviour. I shall never know whether those events related to MI5, but I feel certain that my privacy--and that of my family--was systematically invaded, and my character, impugned, with absolutely no justification.

Did that happen to me? Does it still happen today? Could it happen tomorrow? The Committee must ask those questions for us, and it is clear that it is willing to do so. I share the concerns expressed in paragraph 40 of the report, which my case illustrates.

According to Cathy Massiter, my file grew and grew. It contained, she said, special branch references to my movements, products of mail and telephone intercepts, and police reports recording my appearances at demonstrations and public meetings. I believe that I should have the right to see that file. Indeed, before I heard the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), I was going to say that I believed that I had the right to have it destroyed.

The Committee's report makes no such recommendations about access, but, in paragraphs 50 and 51, it acknowledges the need to consider such matters. It says that more than 250,000 personal files still exist. I am not suggesting that my case is typical, but I suspect that it is not unique.

Changes in the law and the creation of the Intelligence and Security Committee should ensure that there is no repetition of the events of the 1970s and 1980s. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford asked, how can we have effective oversight if the people we are supposed to oversee decide how much information we receive? I wholeheartedly endorse the sentiments behind that question, and I welcome the Committee's proposals for a new, independent investigative arm.

The events that I have described belong to another time, but, even if my file had been closed a decade ago, I would still be angry that it had been compiled in the first place--solely because I was at the centre of an open and democratic organisation, which had massive public support and which was engaged in peaceful protest.

The charge that I was an enemy of the state was so patently absurd that I had thought that it had long been dismissed. However, The Mail on Sunday now says that I was one of the nine people singled out as "security risks" before the previous two general elections.

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I have never been a security risk. I was and am a loyal citizen of this country, who has done nothing more than campaign for causes in which I believe. If there is any file on me that suggests otherwise, that file contains a falsehood, and I should have the opportunity to correct it.

The rights to free speech and protest are fundamental democratic rights. Take them away, and we lose our ability to defend all the other rights and freedoms that are dear to the House. I very much welcome the Committee's report. I regard its work as one of the important checks and balances that protect those freedoms.

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