Memorandum by Rt Hon Tony Benn
I understand that this issue is now before your
Committee and would like to submit a few points for your consideration:
(1) Information about what Governments do
is essential in democracy, which depends on voters being informed.
(2) Very few real secrets exist, relating
mainly to Security, the Budget, before it is opened and personal
(3) It is malice, not information, which
damages the conduct of public business, malice which flourishes
in gossip and the media.
(4) Ministers and political advisers publish
diaries and memoirs and I do not see why retired civil servants
should not do the same, subject to the laws of libel and within
I would be glad to meet your Committee to present
this case in person but understand that this will not be possible.
I am therefore enclosing just one example which
I hope will make my point, relating to the Cabinet held on 18
March 1975 when a decision was made to recommend a YES vote in
the Referendum on British membership of the EEC.
The Cabinet minutes for that meeting have now
been released under the Thirty Year rule and I enclose a photocopy
of them (Annex A).
Also enclosed is my full, uncut and unedited
diary of that Cabinet which I wrote that day from notes I made
at that meeting (Annex B).
Your Committee may like to compare the two and
consider whether the diary, (an edited version of which was published
in 1989), in any way damaged the public interest or whether it
provided a different but interesting perspective of a key government
decision and how it came to be taken.
Other accounts written by ministers or civil
servants attending that same meeting would, I believe, also be
of interest, as would accounts of most meetings that take place.
The truth will make us free and truth has many
sides to it.