Is the Prime Minister aware that the present situation is extremely unsatisfactory and alarming? He must be aware that recent reports in both The Guardian and the Sunday People indicate that information about private individuals can be obtained from Government Departments and local authorities with relative ease, but information that the public are entitled to have is deliberately prevented by the Government from getting out. The Government put in Scotland Yard or somebody else to find out what was leaked about British Rail, which is of immediate public concern, yet details of the private affairs of individuals can be obtained, to such a degree—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—that Scotland Yard went to a private detective agency a few months ago and took away information about 250,000 individuals.
I do not accept the two allegations made by the hon. Gentleman. It is the job of Departments to safeguard all information until a decision is made that it should be made public either to Parliament or in some other way. Regarding the individual questions, I have already told the House that charges are in fact before the court and that every case of an alleged leakage of confidential information which is brought to our notice is immediately investigated. Those to which the hon. Gentleman refers are being investigated at present.
I have written to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and explained to him, after further checking, that the information I gave to the House was correct. In addition to the information I gave the House, there is a further procedure, which is termed, and generally known as, the leak procedure, which I was not describing.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I received his letter only a few minutes before this Question time and that on reading it and finding that he was not referring to the leak procedure, as I thought, I would not disagree that what he said on Tuesday was a correct account of what had happened under both Governments? As he will understand, however, from the letter I received from the Lord President when I raised the matter earlier it appeared to be a matter under the leak procedure on which I put my question.