I beg to move,
That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses to be known as "the Special Commission on Oil Sanctions" be appointed to consider, following the Report of the Bingham Inquiry, the part played by those concerned in the development and application of the policy of oil sanctions against Rhodesia with a view to determining whether Parliament or Ministers were misled, intentionally or otherwise, and to report.
Before the Attorney-General begins his speech, I should tell the House that I have selected the following amendments: amendment (a) in the name of the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore); amendment (b) in the name of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon); amendments (e) and (f) in the name of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop); amendment (h) in the name of the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton); amendment (k) in the name of the hon. Member for Tiverton.
It may assist the House if I explain the procedure that I suggest should be followed. When motions setting up Select Committees are moved in the House, they usually go through "on the nod". For that reason, the Questions on orders of reference, nominations and powers and so on are put en bloc to save time. But when such motions are debated, and more particularly, as today, when amendments have been selected, it is clear that the practice is to put a separate Question on each motion.
I propose, however, that all the motions before us in this instance be debated together first, together with such amendments as I have selected, so that we may have a broad debate on the whole matter and discuss all the amendments and all the motions.
At the conclusion of the debate tonight I shall, in accordance with the business of the House motion that has just been passed, put forthwith the separate Questions on each motion, calling first each Member whose amendment I have selected to move his amendment if he so wishes at the proper place in the motion concerned.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Might it not save individual hon. Members from seeking to catch your eye on a number of different occasions if all the amendments that you have decided to call were moved formally right at the beginning? In those circumstances hon. Members would need to speak only once, and could refer to any of the amendments they wanted. Otherwise, would it not be out of order for hon. Members who had caught your eye to refer to amendments that had not yet been moved?
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I think that it will help the House if we continue as I have suggested, and have a broad discussion, with hon. Members feeling free to refer to amendments that have not yet been moved but are on the Order Paper. It will make better sense for the whole of the House if the matter can be dealt with in that way. There will be an opportunity at 10 o'clock tonight for those who wish to divide on their amendments to do so.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you clarify what you said about the Divisions? Will we take the motion, paragraph by paragraph, with the appropriate amendments, as we come to them, or will we deal with all the amendments first before coming to the motion?
The amendments come first, as is the custom of the House, and I shall put the Question "That the amendment be made". Then I shall put the motion, or the motion as amended, as the case may be, as the main Question. At the end of the day, we will all be very clear about it.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for that indication of the procedure to be followed.
During the debate on the Gracious Speech last November, two days were devoted to Rhodesia. An important aspect of that debate turned on the question of what, if any, further inquiry should follow the publication of the Bingham report. On behalf of the Government, it was repeatedly stated that the views expressed by right hon. and hon. Members would be studied and that the Government, following that study, would bring forward their proposals for consideration by the House. It was made clear that the issue was essentially one for Parliament.
In that debate, my function was objectively to describe the possible choices so as to try to assist the House in weighing up their advantages and disadvantages. I believe that that process secured two benefits. First, the predominant view of the House became clear. It was that there should be a further inquiry and that it should be a parliamentary inquiry. Secondly, having fully deployed the pros and cons on that occasion, it is not necessary for me to repeat them today. I had expected that to be greeted with acclamation.
Having accepted the predominant wish of the House for a parliamentary inquiry, the Government have been concerned to preserve, so far as practicable, the essential safeguards to which I referred in my speech in November. Indeed, the need for them was voiced by many others, both here and in another place.
In December, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced the form of inquiry which the Government proposed in order to give effect to their assessment of the wishes of the House and of the need to preserve their safeguards. At the same time, he made it clear that the decision is for Parliament: to accept it, to reject it, or, subject to one important consideration, which I shall come to later, to amend it. The type of inquiry proposed, taking the form of what we have called a Special Commission, has now been on the Order Paper since we returned after the Christmas Recess. The House has had full opportunity to study it.
In their report, Mr. Bingham and Mr. Gray investigated in detail the way in which oil had reached Rhodesia since 1965. The task given to them, which they accomplished with scrupulous thoroughness, was to establish the facts and in particular those facts which suggested the leakage of oil through possible breaches of British sanctions legislation during the periods of two Labour Governments and one Conservative Government. The legislation was in force in all three periods.
As I informed the House in November, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has referred the Bingham report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director at once arranged for a senior police officer to lead the investigation into the possible commission of criminal offences. I can tell the House that that investigation is proceeding with all practicable speed. But it was not Bingham's task to consider issues of political responsibility whether to Parliament or more generally. It is that to which the controversy was mostly directed in our debates.
Some right hon. and hon. Members, and certainly most of those who spoke in another place, saw no need for a further inquiry and thought that it would be a useless exercise in raking over the ashes of the past. Many speakers pointed to the problems which such an inquiry could pose if it is to be effective. But the predominant feeling, certainly in this House, in the Government's judgment, was that the issue of responsibility should not be left to the historians. Both in Fairness to all who were involved, and to some who have been attacked, and so as to avoid any charge, however ill founded, of cover-up, the majority of those who spoke in this House expressed the view, and expressed it strongly, that responsibility should be investigated while the participants are still available to give their accounts.
The Governent have taken account of those differing views. They have concluded that the exceptional nature of the events covered by the Bingham report and the importance of the questions raised by hon. Members justify the predominant feeling in this House in favour of a further inquiry. This is indeed consistent with the path of openness which has characterised the Government's whole approach to these events. The further inquiry proposed will be another step along the same path.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the function of the proposed Special Commission will be mainly to make political judgments. But, in making these judgments, the inquiry must be as fair as is possible to all who were in some way concerned with the material events. It is, moreover, essential that the inquiry should not damage the processes of government or the interests of this country abroad. It is with these considerations in mind that the Government have decided to recommend the particular form of a Special Commission, with terms of reference concentrated on the major political issue, with a carefully devised procedure, and with members drawn from both Houses of Parliament.
If these resolutions are carried, the Government's intention is to nominate two of my hon. Friends—I repeat, my "honourable" Friends. I cannot speak for other parties, which, of course, will make their own nominations. But I hope that what I have said will help to relieve the fears, at least of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) and others, with regard to the Commission's composition.
The terms of reference will, we believe, enable the Special Commission—
Will my right hon. and learned Friend clarify what the total size of the Commission will be? On 15 December, the Prime Minister said that the Commission would be composed of eight Members drawn from both Houses, sitting under the chairmanship of a Lord of Appeal. That could mean eight or nine. It could mean eight inclusive of the Chairman or eight exclusive of the Chairman. Will my right hon. and learned Friend clarify that point?
The Government's hope is that the total number will be eight. Of course, it is a matter for the other place to pass a motion in relation to its part of the composition of this Special Commission.
The terms of reference will, we believe, enable the Special Commission to concentrate upon the issue of political responsibility not dealt with by Bingham, and to avoid traversing again the ground already covered by Bingham. Equally, it will be able to avoid the areas of criminal investigation which are being conducted under the Director's guidance. Thus, it will be for the Commission to investigate the way in which successive Governments pursued the oil sanctions policy, and to do so as deeply as may be necessary in order to ascertain and report whether Parliament and Ministers were misled concerning that policy. If the Commission concludes that Parliament or Ministers were misled, whether intentionally or not, it will have the further task of seeking to determine the responsibility of those, whether Ministers, officials or persons outside Government, who were providing, or failing to provide, information.
There is a strong consensus that any inquiry should be completed quickly. The Government believe that with those terms of reference the Special Commission should be able to carry out its investigation speedily. But it is also important that any inquiry should be effective. The Government believe that the powers and the procedure proposed for the Commission should enable it to reach effective conclusions. It will have the power to send for persons and papers.
In an amendment which he may or may not move, the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) asks that that power should expressly extend to compel the attendance of Members of the House of Commons. Of course, it is true that the power as proposed in the Government's motion does not confer a power on the Commission itself to compel a Member of the House to attend. But I find it very hard to believe that any right hon. or hon. Member would be minded to decline an invitation to appear before the Commission if invited to do so. However, if that should happen, which I would regard as being a most unlikely and reprehensible action, the Commission could bring the matter to the House and the House would then be able to move the necessary motion. It is unusual to do in these circumstances what the hon. Member proposes. Therefore, I hope that the House will come to the conclusion that we can follow the normal precedent and that such an amendment will not be necessary.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that the purpose of the inquiry would be to reach "effective conclusions". That is a most interesting concept. Can he give the House an idea of what an effective conclusion in this context might be?
An effective conclusion will be to give to the House as full a report as is possible on the conclusions reached on the terms of reference of the Special Commission. No one could ask the Special Commission to do more than that, and the hon. Gentleman could not expect anyone to do better than that.
My right hon. and learned Friend was dealing with the question of compelling hon. Members to attend. The gravamen of his argument was that it was not necessary to provide for this now but that if a situation arose the matter would come back to the House for this power to be granted. Would not it be better to anticipate the situation? It may not be necessary, but it would certainly avoid a measure of delay if anyone proved to be obdurate.
I do not think so. We are following the precedent which has been followed in countless inquiries of this kind, when it has not been thought necessary expressly to give the power to a Select Committee to call hon. Members before it. I do not know of any case—perhaps there have been some—where hon. Members have refused. I think that it would be undesirable to set a new precedent which would be liable to be followed in some other cases—perhaps not all—and would suggest that there was some particular reason for supposing that right hon. and hon. Members would in this case behave in a way that they do not normally do.
Since he has referred to my amendment, is the Attorney-General aware that this House ordered all its Members to enter into the Members' register any business interests that they might have in certain categories? To his knowledge, one right hon. Member has consistently refused to do so. With that knowledge, how can the right hon. and learned Gentleman assume that Members will automatically make themselves available when they are not ordered to do so by the House, when they do not necessarily comply with orders which the House has made?
That is an entirely different matter. However, in a matter that all right hon. and hon. Members would regard as being as important as this one, they would not treat it in the same way as a single right hon. Gentleman has treated a matter that he clearly does not regard as being important. We ought to be able to leave it at that and assume that right hon. and hon. Members will act in an honourable way. In the last resort, however, as I have said, we have our remedy.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear in the terms of reference that the question of the Beira patrol will be included? It is not clear in the terms of reference whether commercial activities are covered. Will the Attorney-General reaffirm to the House that the question of the Beira patrol, which ran for almost 10 years, will be referred to and that the rights and wrongs of a situation which incurred great expense will be considered.
The terms of reference have been drafted in a way that will enable them to be construed by the Special Commission as widely as possible. It is for the Commission to decide, though I would have thought that the Beira patrol was part of the oil sanctions story. It is a matter for the Special Commission to decide whether that matter falls within the scope of those issues which it regards as being relevant and important to investigate.
On the question of attendance of witnesses, in his statement of 15 December my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the precedent of the Dardanelles Commission. That Commission and the Commission on Mesopotamia were set up by Act of Parliament. Section 21 of that Act specifically says that the Commissioners shall have all such powers, rights and privileges as are vested in the High Court or in any judge thereof and talks about enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise.
Of course, if we had decided that we required a statutory type of inquiry we would have set it up, by a resolution of both Houses, under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act. Provisions of a similar kind are already incorporated into that Act, and the Act would have applied. But this is a parliamentary inquiry, where we are making our own rules, and so far as possible the Government propose to follow the ordinary rules in inquiries of this kind. Therefore, the particular requirement to which my hon. Friend referred is one that is not necessary. I hope that the House will accept that and leave it there.
I have said that the House will have the power to send for persons and papers and it may be that the papers will be more important than the persons in this context. Those papers will include Cabinet documents and Government files. The Government recognise that this step is unprecedented but are convinced that it is required. They are also convinced that it ought not to become a precedent. But short of leaving the verdict to history this step is inevitable in the circumstances of the oil sanctions story. If Parliament believes that that story should be fully and fairly investigated, the Commission must see the material contemporary documents. To rely wholly on the fallible, and perhaps differing, recollections of past events would be fair neither to the investigated nor to the investigators.
In connection with the papers, will the Government for their part make available to the inquiry the evidence for their statement to the United Nations in 1976 that the competent United Kingdom authorities, having examined the issues, were satisfied that there was no evidence of sanctions-breaking by any British company. That was said in September 1976. Will the Government give their full documentation and how they came to say that?
Secondly, will the Government provide all the papers relevant to the discovery, by The Sunday Times—nobody else knew about it—last September of further sanctions-breaking by BP? That allegation was denied by BP on that day but later admitted by it. With regard to Cabinet papers, does the Attorney-General agree that the Government should hand over for inquiry not only departmental minutes and Cabinet and Cabinet committee papers referring to sanctions-breaking but all those papers referring to sanctions generally? If there were no suggestion of sanctions-breaking, the competent authorities presumably could not have known that it was going on, but if there were meetings and documents saying everything that was known to Government Departments about sanctions and they did not refer to sanctions breaking, that in itself is important and will obviously be essential to the inquiry.
I will come to the way in which the Government propose to the House that this should be dealt with, but I can assure my right hon. Friend that it is not the wish or intention of the Government that any material document in the Government's possession should be held back. The problem will be the vast quantity of documents which may be marginally material. I shall come to that shortly.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend going to say something about the fact that the period with which the Committee will be dealing spans more than one Government? Since we accept in its entirety the Government's offer—and, indeed, the offer of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)—that any papers should be made available subject to the safeguards to which he has referred, and given that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) was against this inquiry and was unhappy about the papers of a Conservative Government being made available, what will happen to the papers of that period?
I shall be coming to that in due course. What I was saying concerned the difficulty in inquiring into these events without having the fullest reasonable documentation. That would not be fair to the investigators or the investigated—still less would it have been satisfactory to the public or opinion abroad. It is for these reasons and because of the special circumstances and importance of the task which the Commission is being given that the Government are prepared to agree in principle that the customary rules will be waived. However, it is essential that these rules should not be relaxed more widely than is required for the particular purpose.
I gave the reasons for that in November and I shall not repeat them. The Government therefore propose that papers bearing on the inquiry—and I use that term in the widest possible sense, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)—shall be made available to the Special Commission only through its Chairman. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister explained, it is proposed that the Chairman should be a Lord of Appeal. It will be for him, with the assistance of the Treasury Solicitor—into whose possession all potentially relevant papers will be placed—to examine and decide, if necessary after consultation with the other members, which of those papers shall be made available for the purpose of the inquiry. Similarly, the Chairman will decide which of those papers it will be essential to publish or to refer to in the report of the inquiry.
There is an immense amount of marginally relevant material. It will be for the Chairman, whose judicial experience will make him peculiarly well suited for this task, to confine the documents which are disclosed and considered to the essential minimum so that the matter can be dealt with as quickly and as fairly as possible. If he is in doubt as to whether any particular document or series of documents will be helpful and material, he will be able to consult the other members of the Special Commission. If a witness desires to bring a particular document to the Commission's notice, it will be for the Chairman under this same procedure to decide on its materiality and importance to the issues which the Commission will be considering. Former Ministers will have the customary opportunity to consult contemporary documents to which they had access at the time.
I wish to take up the subject of using the Chairman as a filter. My right hon. and learned Friend says that the primary object of setting up the Special Commission is to establish a political responsibility, and I agree with him. Yet the Chairman, who is not a politician in the normal definition of the term, will be asked to decide on the materiality of evidence in a political inquiry. Surely it is essential that in the first instance all members of the Commission, and not merely the Chairman, should have a right to decide on the materiality of a document.
My hon. Friend is entitled to his view. But the Government's view, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear when he announced the setting up of this inquiry, is that the arguments in favour of not releasing Cabinet documents and public documents—documents which are not normally released other than within the rules in the Public Record Act—are so strong that, although this occasion is regarded as unprecedented, it is none the less desirable, indeed essential, that the number of documents which are made available to the inquiry, and subsequently when a report is made, should be confined to the bare minimum that is relevant. We believe that a Lord of Appeal, who is not likely to be ignorant about political matters and who will have the opportunity of consulting his colleagues if he is in any doubt, is the right person to act as a filter for this purpose.
What are the criteria which the Lord of Appeal will use in describing what the Commission will or will not see? Furthermore, what are the criteria by which he will decide what shall or shall not be published? For example, is he to have discretion to decide for himself whether Cabinet documents shall be published?
In regard to the first point, it will be a matter for the Lord of Appeal to decide what, in his experience, is likely to be material and not simply peripheral. This is on the clear understanding that the Government are making these documents available as a special exception. It is felt that one should not travel any wider than is necessary beyond the bounds of materiality. That relates to the investigation itself.
As for the report, I hope that the Chairman, consulting as necessary the Special Commission, will be able to go much narrower, and that he will not find it necessary to append to the report a large number of documents of the kind which normally are not published if it is possible to give their effect or to produce the necessary conclusion in the report without publishing the document.
As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, I pressed for this inquiry, and I want it to be a proper inquiry. Is he aware that there will be anxiety in the House and outside it if we have the system he is describing involving a Law Lord? I am making no reflection on the Law Lords, who have vast experience, although not always vast experience of administration and the conduct of industry, the Government or the Civil Service. Will this not put hon. Members, and indeed Members of another place, in an individious position? Is there any reason in the mind of my right hon. and learned Friend for not trusting hon. Members? Are they likely to betray secrets of this kind? Surely if they betray secrets or offer to peddle them outside they will be amenable to the discipline of this House, which will come upon them in a terrifying form. Surely there cannot be two or three different classes of members of the inquiry.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton earlier drew attention to the fact that there may be wide ranges of documents which, although not necessarily relevant to sanctions breaking, may nevertheless be relevant to the task of the Commission. The major function of the Chairman, which is a function with which an experienced judicial officer is highly familiar, is to decide, if necessary consulting his colleagues, which are the material documents, and certainly whether documents brought to him by the Treasury Solicitor or those which a witness may wish to tender to the Special Commission are material. Therefore, members of the Commission will not be compelled, required or permitted to travel any wider than is necessary for the purposes of the inquiry.
It is not a question of trust. It is a question of confining as narrowly as possible the exception to the normal rules—rules to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton has subscribed strongly in the past. Judicial officers, such as a Lord of Appeal, are well used to this task of examining documents and deciding whether, on balance, they should not be disclosed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Huy-ton (Sir H. Wilson) said that judges are not necessarily well versed in administration. But the issues to be investigated by the Commission are highly controversial political issues and relate to the conduct of politicians and civil servants in relation to the House. In that area not even a Lord of Appeal is necessarily well experienced. Surely the judgment of what is or is not material is in this case as well to be dealt with by a politician as by a lawyer. If we are to trust the members who are to investigate this matter, surely we can trust them with the question of what they should select and disclose.
As I have said, if the Chairman of the Committee feels it necessary because of any doubt on a document to consult other members of the Special Commission, he will do so. There will be seven other members, all of whom will presumably be well skilled in the arts of politics. I do not think that the Lord of Appeal in the chair of this body will find himself in difficulty about giving full weight to the political aspects of this matter.
Before the Attorney-General leaves the question of collecting the evidence, will he tell the House the position concerning the Official Secrets Act and the Naval Discipline Act? Within the House we may know the extent of parliamentary privilege, but the Attorney-General should state publicly that there can be no prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for revealing to the Committee information which would outside the House be an offence, and, in terms of the Beira patrol, that there could be no prosecution under the Naval Discipline Act. He has not made it clear whether the judge is in the dark and feels around, hoping to find relevant information, or whether naval officers are expected to send in any information that they may think is relevant, as individual civil servants send in information that they may think is relevant. We need to cover this ground.
The Attorney-General is completely undermining his own case. He said earlier that there were two alternatives—the second inquiry or, ultimately, the verdict of history. If the second inquiry is fundamentally based on the exercise of discretion, however wise, surely the final judgment must remain with history.
The House will have the opportunity to express its view on that matter in due course. I am putting to the House what the Government propose, and they regard this part as absolutely essential. Without it, the Government would certainly not have put the proposal to the House.
The Attorney-General has not answered my point. As I understand it, the protection that the privilege of this House extends to witnesses is punishing those who take legal action against them. Will the Attorney-General confirm that it is not the case that a naval officer who submits evidence contrary to the Naval Discipline Act or the Official Secrets Act is not committing an offence? He would still be committing an offence, but the privilege of this House can act against anyone who brings a charge against him or who tries such a case. Will the Attorney-General confirm that we would be misleading people outside if we led them to believe that passing this motion turns into not an offence that which is an offence? All we can do is block prosecution.
My understanding of the law in this respect is that it is founded on article 9 of the Bill of Rights, which is part of the law of the land. That makes it quite clear that proceedings in Parliament are absolutely protected in relation to the courts of the land. If I am wrong on that, the hon. Member will no doubt have the opportunity of showing me that that is so.
I am grateful to the Attorney-General for giving way again. Will he tell us what precedent there is for the distinction between members of a Committee set up by Parliament? Secondly, is he not proposing that the Committee shall consist of first and second-class members? Is it not an affront to hon. Members who are used to receiving highly sensitive and secret material in their membership of Select Committees? I have less experience than most, but as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee I remember that we heard a great deal about nuclear weapons. This material was highly sensitive, it was never leaked and no one was asked whether he was a Privy Councillor. We did not have a Lord of Appeal on the Committee. Is it not offensive to suggest that hon. Members appointed by the Government and noble Lords are in a second-class capacity and cannot be trusted with this material?
It is not offensive and is not intended to be offensive to any Member of this House or of another place that their task should be confined to only that which is essential. As my right hon. Friend has stressed on many occasions, in this field the conventions and rules that govern us—and he knows the reasons for those rules—normally require that there should be no disclosure within the 30-year period. That is the Government's dilemma in trying to give effect to what they understood to be the preponderant wish of the House that there should be a parliamentary-type Committee, while at the same time giving effect to what the Prime Minister has said is an absolute sine qua non of an inquiry of this kind—that is, that there should not be a free range among governmental and Cabinet documents in the course of the inquiry.
The procedure for making Government papers available is through the recommendation of the Prime Minister to Her Majesty. It is the convention that the papers of a previous Administration are not made available without the consent of the Prime Minister who led that Administration. The right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) takes the view that it is not right to set up an inquiry of this kind at all. But both he and my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton have, as I am informed, agreed to give their consent in relation to the papers of their respective Administrations, provided that Parliament agrees to establish a Special Commission.
I must also make it absolutely clear to the House as a whole that acceptance of the procedure that I have described and which is contained in the Instruction is a condition precedent to the Prime Minister making his recommendation to Her Majesty. The Prime Minister emphasised the paramountcy of this consideration on 15 December when replying to the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, and his decision is unchanged. On no other basis will the precedents be waived.
I am saying that if this part of the resolution containing the Instruction at the end, governing the way in which Cabinet and Government papers are dealt with, is amended to alter the arrangements proposed there, my right hon. Friend, as he said on 15 December, will not recommend to the Queen that Government papers be made available.
The Attorney-General has made an important and crucial statement. Are we to understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) has agreed, without condition, that the documents of his Administration should be made available to the Commission?
As far as I understand it, the right hon. Member has agreed that the documents of his Administration will be made available, provided that the Special Commission is set up in these terms. I cannot tell the hon. Member whether he has said that in precisely those terms, word for word.
It is not a question of withdrawing the recommendation. I have explained to the House—and I am sorry the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) did not hear—that Government papers, whether of the present Administration or a past Administration, are by convention not made available except by recommendation of the Prime Minister of the day to the Queen. If the safeguard that is built in to the Instruction at the end of the resolution is one which the House feels it cannot accept, the Prime Minister would not then feel entitled to make that recommendation to Her Majesty.
I shall have to consult the list of amendments before I can answer that. Two of them have not been selected. The only one with which we are concerned is in paragraph 9, to leave out the words "if necessary". If the House deleted the words "if necessary" so as to make it an obligation on the Chairman to consult the members of the Commission on all documents, then the consequence that the right hon. and learned Member mentioned would follow.
The Prime Minister has a duty of the highest importance to this House—no one disputes that—but he also has the highest duty in relation to the custody of Government and Cabinet papers, and to the ordinary rules, procedures and conventions which have been followed by Governments and never brought to an end.
I made it abundantly clear in my speech in November the problem that arose if Government papers were made available. We have produced what we believe is a sensible and viable compromise which will enable such papers as are material to be made available to the Special Commission. If the House asks for greater erosion of the basic principles, my right hon. Friend has made it quite clear that he will not accept that.
I understand what the Attorney-General is telling the House, but I do not think he has given a full answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers). My understanding of the Prime Minister's view is that it is not just amendment (k) which is concerned with this, but amendment (a), which would alter the nature of the Commission altogether, and amendment (h), which deals with the subject of publishing the proceedings. All of these bear on what the Attorney-General has just said.
I agree entirely that amendment (a) is so fundamental that it totally alters the whole concept. Any amendment—and I was looking at those which amend the Instruction—which fundamentally alters the basis that I have put forward would lead to the consequences that I have outlined.
But this point is absolutely fundamental to our constitution. The Attorney-General is claiming that, if the House passes a resolution, it will not be binding upon the Prime Minister because he is purporting to exercise some power of the prerogative. I have never heard of such doctrine since Cromwell came to this House. I do not accept that there is any authority for the proposition that the Prime Minister can reject a motion passed by this House. If I am wrong, I should like to hear the authority.
It is not a question of the Prime Minister not accepting a motion passed by this House. It is a question of an executive act which is required to make available certain Government papers over which the Prime Minister, as Her Majesty's first Minister, has custody and control. It has nothing whatever to do with the motions before the House. That particular function is a function of the Prime Minister as such, which he can exercise whether there is a motion or not, The Prime Minister will not exercise that function which is within his power as Prime Minister except on the basis that the House passes the resolution in substantially the terms before the House, and particularly having regard to this principle which is absolutely cardinal.
The Attorney-General is making the position clearer but we still have not reached a final point. I understand about the Prime Minister's recommendation to the Queen, but, supposing that some amendment which offends against the principle that the Attorney-General has laid down were to be carried tonight, would the Prime Minister refuse to recommend to the Queen in respect of the papers only of his own Administration, or those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and those of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) as well? If his recommendations were only in relation to the papers of his own Administration, do we understand from the Attorney-General that the right hon. Member for Huyton would none the less allow his Administration's papers to be examined? Would this also apply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup and his Administration's papers? Are these conditional consents, or what?
I can understand the uncertainty of the hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal about this aspect of the matter because it is complex. The Prime Minister of the day has custody and control over all Government papers, Cabinet papers or whatever they may be. That applies to those of both current and past Administrations. But it is one of the normal conventions that before the documents of a past Administration are looked at or released the Prime Minister of that day will, as a matter of courtesy, give his consent or withhold it.
The right hon. Member for Sidcup, if he saw fit—but he has not—could say "No. Courtesy or not, I shall not give my consent to the papers of my Administration being made available." The Prime Minister's function is to make a recommendation to Her Majesty in respect of all the papers. Of course, he would not do so in respect of the papers of the Administrations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton or of the right hon. Member for Sidcup unless, as a matter of courtesy, they gave their consent. That does not arise in this case because they have both given their consent.
The Prime Minister is therefore in a position to make those papers available as well as his own. The condition precedent that I have emphasised, and must emphasise again speaking on behalf of the Government, is one that applies to all documents—not any single part of them but all Government documents and Cabinet papers that may be material to the issue of the Special Commission. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that to the House on 15 December when replying to the Leader of the Opposition, and his decision is unchanged.
The Special Commission will sit in private, as is normal in the case of Select Committees when considering the conduct of individuals. It was the procedure of the Select Committee on the conduct of Members about two years ago and it is the usual procedure of the Privileges Committee. If there is criticism, it will come out in the report.
Anxiety has rightly been expressed about those who may necessarily be involved in this inquiry knowing in advance the case that is being alleged against them so that they are able, if they so wish, to have the benefit of legal assistance. It will be for the Special Commission to determine how, within its terms of reference and the powers given to it, it proceeds. I am sure that it will have those considerations very much in mind. The Commission will have power to hear counsel if it so decides. It will be for the Commission to decide whether to follow the advice which I gave when the House set up the Select Committee on the conduct of Members and to inform, in advance of its report, any persons whom it intends to criticise of the nature of the criticism so as to give them an opportunity to reply. I hope that the Commission will be guided by that advice, which the House will recall was the subject of controversy when the report of that Select Committee came out because that Select Committee had not followed that advice.
Will the Director of Public Prosecutions have completed his inquiry before the Special Commission starts its meetings? If the Special Commission starts its inquiry before the Director of Public Prosecutions has come to a conclusion, could not some of those who might appear before it find themselves at a serious disadvantage?
I shall come to the link between the Director of Public Prosecutions' investigation and that of the Special Commission, if the hon. Member will allow me to take the matter in turn. Indeed, it is the very next matter.
One of the motions on the Order Paper requires me to give the Special Commission such assistance as may be appropriate. This of course I shall do. But the particular importance of it is the possibility of difficulties which might arise should the Special Commission and the police—and through the police the DPP—encroach upon the same area of investigation. This is a difficulty which arises in any large-scale inquiry where there is a concurrent inquiry by the police. It is a difficulty which arose in relation to the Crown Agents inquiry. By regular contact with the DPP and the Chairman of the Commission, I hope to avoid those difficulties. That is the primary reason for the insertion of that proivsion in the motion. It is for the House to decide, subject to the reservation that I have made quite plain.
The Government commend the Special Commission to the House as the best means of ascertaining the truth, speedily and effectively, of protecting the national interest and our system of government, and of avoiding the unfair exposure of individuals to premature and unjustifiable attack and condemnation. In the Government's view, the subject matter of this inquiry is pre-eminently within the province of Parliament. We believe that an inquiry conducted by the parliamentary Special Commission is essential so that it is seen that there is no cover-up, so that those attacked have an opportunity to deal with the allegations in the most appropriate forum, and so that the full truth may be revealed.
I therefore invite the House to adopt these motions and let the Special Commission get on with its work in order that this chapter in the story may be speedily concluded.
I am sure that the whole House is grateful to the Attorney-General for the extremely lucid and painstaking way in which he dealt with what is a very complicated problem and an issue that has no precedent in the House.
This debate is not about the Bingham report as such—that debate was held on 7 and 8 November last year—although, clearly, the Bingham report must be the constant background to our discussions. It would certainly be unwise to mix up this issue with any general consideration of policy on Rhodesia. It is not a debate on sanctions. It is not a debate on Rhodesian policy. Those matters have been discussed by the House. I also hope that it is not a party political debate, although there are certainly strong feelings about the proposition.
This debate is about the constitution, the role of Government and the role of Cabinet secrecy within Government. Members of the House must take responsibility as Members for their decision. There are differing views on the Opposition Benches. There are differing views on the Government Benches. There is no party line. There is no Whip on the Opposition Benches and I imagine that the same applies to the Government Benches. Is that so? Ministers indicate that it is so. There is a free vote for the Opposition.
However, I have no doubt that since the Prime Minister announced the Government decision to table this motion on 15 December, opinion on the Opposition Benches has tended to harden against it, because the conviction has grown among hon. Members that there are dancers and difficulties in the course on which the Government are counselling the House to embark. We saw some of those difficulties and dangers today in the debate that has already taken place.
The more I reflect upon the matter, the more I am driven to the conclusion that the course that the Government are advocating is unnecessary, untimely, likely, to prove ineffective, and contains grave dangers both for the reputation of this country in the world and to our tradition of constitutional government.
I deal first with the point about the lack of necessity. By common consent, the Bingham report is a thorough, painstaking and objective report. It goes into this matter at great length. It runs to 500 pages. It is a truly comprehensive document. It was the Foreign Secretary himself who said, on 7 November:
The report is a model of careful research and balanced judgment. It brings out a whole range of facts and issues and provides helpful background for the specific debate tomorrow night on the order to renew section 2 of the Southern Rhodesia Act 1965."—[Official Report, 7 November 1978; Vol. 957, c. 696.]
That is a judgment that was echoed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath).
I believe that that view of the Bingham report will command widespread support throughout the House. The facts are all there. There is one file which has not been published because, I understand, it deals with the actions of individuals. That has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. If, after the DDP and his staff have studied that file and the report that has been published, it is thought that the criminal law has been broken, no doubt they will take the appropriate legal action. If the criminal law has been broken, it is essential that those who are responsible should be brought to justice and should be punished.
What is left? There remain the political issues. One of those questions is how much the Government headed by the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) during the period 1966–68 knew about the swap arrangements made by certain oil companies to ensure that oil went to Rhodesia. If the right hon. Member for Huyton did not know about them—this is another question—was he culpably negligent in not knowing? Should he have taken steps to inform himself on this point? Those are two political questions.
There is the further political question, which is also a question partially of fact. This concerns the famous meeting on 21 February 1968 attended by the then Commonwealth Secretary, Lord Thomson as he now is, when he was informed of the arrangements by the oil company—I am sorry. I have mixed up two meetings. It is the famous meeting of 6 February 1969. There was a previous meeting, but it is not quite as well known as this one. However, the critical meeting was on 6 February 1969, when the oil companies explained to Lord Thomson what was going on. Did the then Prime Minister know about that meeting, and, again, should he have known about it?
The right hon. Member for Huyton said that he did not know about it, and he has declared so in the House. I do not want to go back into that again. The right hon. Member defended his view very thoroughly and at great length, in what I can call an apologia pro vita sua. Perhaps it was of the same length as the original by Cardinal Newman, but not necessarily of the same spiritual quality. But the defence is there.
Lord Thomson takes another view. That was summed up in a report in The Guardian in September 1978, in which Lord Thomson maintained that he
conveyed in writing to the Prime Minister and other Ministers most directly concerned a full account of all that passed at my meetings with the oil companies".
I think that the hon. Member is getting just a little confused, because the September 1978 comment was not about that. The Guardian comment was not, in fact, about the second meeting. It was about the letter.
As to the letter, there was no doubt that I saw it, and I said so in the House. It included the phrase that a Minister was being asked in the House of Lords to deny that any of this was going on. Indeed, a special occasion was seized for that to happen in the House of Lords.
The question which mentioned British and French was interpreted by me, and I think by others, at that time, as meaning the leakage from Laurenco Marques, about which I had been asked by the Cabinet to complain to General de Gaulle, which I had done. There is a slight confusion.
I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that clarification. I am not seeking in any way to pass judgment on the matter. I take the view, however, that questions of this sort are much better resolved by the historians of the matter once the protagonists in this have passed from the scene to their various rewards. We cannot anticipate the judgment of history and it is futile to attempt to do so. The Attorney-General rather dismissed history. He did not quite say that history was bunk, but he did not think that the judgment of historians was very important. They are the only people who can really give an objective judgment on this matter, and they will need a certain passage of time before they can do so.
To be fair—having referred to the right hon. Member for Huyton—there is a further political question. It is the question whether the Conservative Government knew of the swap arrangements. There is no evidence in the Bingham report that the Conservative Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup did know. There are no records of any meetings between oil companies and Ministers in that period of the Conservative Government from 1970 to 1974 that ire referred to in the report.
On the point about whether the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend, knew the records of the preceding Government, my right hon. Friend made it quite clear in the debate on 8 November that he did not know. That is, as the right hon. Member for Huyton knows, the practice of Governments. The rule is so strong that it might well be called a convention of the constitution. The incoming Government do not have access to the papers of their predecessors.
In this connection I refer to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup on 8 November:
It is accepted in government that it is not only Cabinet records and Cabinet Committee records but the minutes on which a Minister writes his opinion or asks for advice and the minutes on which officials advise him, and it has also been accepted that what a Minister says to an official in discussion is also not repeated to his successors in an Administration."—[Official Report, 8 November 1978; Vol. 957, c. 992.]
The hon. Member is absolutely right about this. There is the exception, which I mentioned in the House, that on any matter affecting relations with third parties, particularly international questions, of course an incoming Government must be told what has been said to them, because otherwise a Prime Minister would look very foolish at international gatherings. Also, it helps such degree of continuity of policy as is considered desirable by both Governments.
However, every Government must tell international organisations the position over many years. That was why I asked my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—although I do not know the Government's position on it—why it was that in September 1976 Her Majesty's present advisers informed the United Nations, virtually in these words—I am rather simplifying it—that there had been no question of British oil companies supplying oil, themselves alone or with others, in the sense that has now been shown to have happened in Bingham, and that this had not been happening. For them to say that it had not been happening and to say that the position was exactly as it was in 1968, when it was not going on at all, suggests that the present Government are equally unaware of these things, and I would have thought they would be aware if it had been happening.
I agree that it is a convention that is flexible in its application in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested.
It is also clear from the Bingham report that the swap continued until 1974 and beyond, and this raises the same question as I raised with regard to the right hon. Member for Huyton, namely, ought the Prime Minister of the day to have known of these arrangements? There is no evidence that he did, but it is fair to ask whether he ought to have known and whether he ought to have done more. But, again, that is a political, not a judicial, question and it can be judged and seen only in a historical perspective.
So on this point I conclude that the facts and certain questions can be both established and raised by an inquiry—indeed, they have been—but the other issues, the political questions, can be decided only by historians. They cannot be decided by contemporary politicians, however many inquiries are held, because however hard one strives one cannot, in the nature of things, be objective in matters such as this. The history of previous Select Committees which are parallel to this Commission proves that abundantly.
My second point is that it is an extraordinarily untimely moment for the Government to produce this Commission. Quite apart from the difficulties that I have outlined, is it possible to imagine a more unsuitable moment to embark on the inquiry, during one of the gravest crises, if not the gravest crisis, that this country has faced since the war? I agree with the Prime Minister when he says that we are facing a moral issue, and the gravity of the crisis is precisely that we are up against the question whether, under the stresses that have been induced by various strikes, industrial action, and so on, we can remain a community sustained by shared values and a sense of common interest; or is British society about to dissolve into a welter of conflicting interests and pressure groups in which everyone pursues particular interests, some legitimate, others not, pressing them to the limit, without any self-discipline, self-restraint or concern for the common good? That is the issue which makes our present position so grave and it is that question to which the Government should be addressing themselves, instead of diverting the political and other energies, the energies of this House and its hon. Members, into what I suspect will turn out to be a dead end.
My third point is that the inquiry is likely to be ineffective. No doubt some new facts will emerge, but it is highly unlikely that there will be anything startling or anything very new. The political questions will remain at the end of the inquiry, just as they exist at the beginning, and those who are dissatisfied with the Bingham report will not be satisfied when this report sees the light of day.
Indeed, they say as much. It is quite clear, it is already there. Why look in the crystal ball when one can read the Order Paper? There, in the name of the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedge-more) and his hon. Friends, is an amendment of a radical kind which is really a manifesto of their dissatisfaction with the proposed arrangements. They want the whole inquiry to be held in public and they want all the evidence, including the relevant Cabinet papers and departmental files, to be published.
Well, the Attorney-General has made it quite plain that the Prime Minister will not agree to that, and the hon. Member and his hon. Friends have made it equally clear that they will be satisfied with nothing less than that. So there is going to be a great clash of opinion within the Government over this.
I ask myself this question, and I think it is a fair one: who really wants this inquiry? There is no very strong evidence that the Prime Minister wants it. To do him justice, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have made it quite clear what they want, and they have followed their desire to a logical conclusion. I wonder where the Leader of the House stands on this. Perhaps we shall hear at the end of this debate. Perhaps he is a great protagonist of this course. But it is quite clear that the Prime Minister, while tabling these suggestions, is not exactly in the van in leading for this approach.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has studied the debate that took place on this matter and the demands, requests or pressure for an inquiry that came from many quarters. Perhaps, as he is commenting on the views of some of my hon. Friends—who will no doubt put their own views in the debate—he will give us his view on the view that was expressed by the chairman of the 1922 Committee, who made a very strong plea that there should be a further inquiry. Indeed, he almost suggested that it would be a disgrace to the House of Commons if that did not occur. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would give his judgment on that attitude.
I have, of course, read very carefully the speech of the chairman of the 1922 Committee. As a former member of the Executive, I attach great importance to that Committee, its officers and its chairman, and I can assure the House that I have modified what I had thought of saying in the light of that speech. Had I not studied that speech closely I should have spoken in a much more unambiguous way than I have. The chairman's remarks have been subsumed into mine.
The fourth point, which I think is perhaps the most important point of all, is that we are embarking on a dangerous course, dangerous first of all to the reputation of this country. I know that those who support this scheme are not animated by unpatriotic motives; they think they are going to do the country good. I am afraid that they are not, because the mere fact that an inquiry of this sort is set up is damaging to the reputation of the country, since what is going on is in effect an inquisition into the whole process of parliamentary government as we have known it in this country and into the assumptions on which it is based.
The first assumption on which we all base our actions is the integrity of Ministers and their respect for this House, and here a question mark is raised straight away over that. The second thing we all rely upon is the morale and the standing of the Civil Service. If we make the suggestion that the Civil Service could have deliberately set out to mislead Ministers, if we raise that question, we are again attacking a basic assumption, which is accepted throughout the world, that we have an incorruptible, impartial and dedicated Civil Service.
Perhaps I might intervene in the sedentary dialogue between my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Norman Tebbit) and the Leader of the House, which is no doubt most interesting but is out of place in the middle of my constitutional reflections.
I turn now to the danger to the constitution.
The hon. Gentleman said that the raising of questions regarding the integrity of Ministers and civil servants would do us great damage in the world. Nevertheless, the questions have been raised. Does he agree that, their having been raised, if it were seen that there was no attempt to answer them, it would be far more damaging than to have the inquiry?
The hon. Gentleman's point would be valid if there were a great demand for this inquiry, but there is not. There is a demand from a minority of people, but there is no general demand throughout the country for this inquiry. Although there is a demand from a number of hon. Members, I do not think that it has passionately gripped the House. Looking around, although the membership here is distinguished, this is not one of those occasions on which the House of Commons is in fact demanding that something be done. The Prime Minister is proposing something and the House may, with many reservations, acquiesce in it.
My view is that we do not need any further inquiry into this matter. We need to await the result of the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions on what further action needs to be taken through the criminal law.
We have no written constitution; we have only procedure and convention. The thing on which our constitution rests perhaps more than anything else is the convention of Cabinet responsibility and unity and Cabinet secrecy.
The importance of Cabinet secrecy is that Cabinet responsibility depends on secrecy for its maintenance. In this respect I should like to quote from "The English Constitution" by Walter Bagehot, edited by myself, but not written by me. I quote him as an authority on the constitution. Writing on the Cabinet, he said:
The meetings are not only secret in theory, but secret in reality.
I offer that point to the right hon. Member for Huyton
By the present practice, no official minute in all ordinary cases is kept of them. Even a private note is discouraged and disliked. The House of Commons, even in its most inquisitive and turbulent moments, would scarcely permit a note of a cabinet meeting to be read. No minister who respected the fundamental usages of political practice would attempt to read such a note. The committee which unites the law-making power to the law-executing power—which, by virtue of that combination, is, while it lasts and holds together, the most powerful body in the state—is a committee wholly secret. No description of it, at once graphic and authentic, has ever been given.
[Interruption.] I am quoting from 1867.
It is said to be sometimes like a rather disorderly board of directors, where many speak and few listen—though no one knows.
After the late Mr. Crossman we know something but I do not think that we know all the truth.
I am not saying that the doctrine of Cabinet secrecy has not undergone development. The constitution is not a fossil; it is alive and growing. Nevertheless, the foundation of Cabinet secrecy is there. It was so strict that until the War Cabinet of 1916 there was no formal agenda and no minutes were kept of the Cabinet. The only record of the Cabinet was the Prime Minister's personal letter to the Sovereign. That was the only record of the Cabinet. When the secretariat was formalised in 1916, minutes began to be taken. But those documents were always most closely guarded, and they are today. There was the 50-year rule of restriction, now replaced by the 30-year rule.
Both the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have stressed the unprecedented nature of this application to make these documents available. It is not secrecy for its own sake that lies behind this rule; it is for the proper working of Cabinet government. If every Minister was free to reveal what happened in Cabinet and the documents thereto, there would be an end of Cabinet responsibility. If a Cabinet Minister knew that everything he said was to be published later, that would be an end of any frank and open discussion in Cabinet. Every Minister would be looking not back over his shoulder but forward over the shoulder and to the pen of his neighbour waiting to see what version was likely to be peddled around in future.
That is the case against the publication of documents such as the Crossman diaries, fascinating though they may be—and I confess to having read them. However, I found that any reference to me seemed to be totally inaccurate. If the general level of accuracy of the diaries is the same as the level of accuracy regarding references to myself, they are not very valuable documents.
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Huyton agrees with me. Those diaries were a glancing blow. But I think that, potentially, this is a more serious one that is being aimed by the Prime Minister. I fear that we shall return to the bad practice of Ministers taking away their own Cabinet papers in order to prevent them being published or being published in a prejudicial context.
Those are strong constitutional arguments against this Commission, and we must seriously consider them. I hope that the Lord President of the Council, who holds very high office in the State, will address his mind to these constitutional points of a general character when he replies to the debate.
There is a free vote in this House. The views that I have expressed are personal, but I think that they fairly represent the views of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the Shadow Cabinet and the majority of Opposition Members.
The Prime Minister, in putitng this proposal before the House, has embarked on an imprudent and dangerous course. It will not achieve the aims which it sets out to fulfil. While leaving the critics unsatisfied, merely whetting their appetites for further revelations, it will threaten two of the fundamental doctrines of our constitution—Cabinet responsibility and secrecy. That is too high a price to pay to satisfy the gentlemen who cluster below the Gangway on the Government side and who appear to have intimidated the Prime Minister—lawfully, no doubt—into losing his judgment and derogating from his constitutional responsibilities.
I am sure that we all agree that the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) has put his case with his usual eloquence. He has argued with impeccable logic, moving from false premises to false conclusions. We can all summon Bagehot in aid at this time of our need. I believe that the hon. Gentleman will confirm that, in his introduction, Bagehot was so antithetical to the democratic process that he wrote:
"Vox populi will be vox diaboli".
We have heard the same kind of feelings expressed by the hon. Member for Chelmsford as were expressed by Bagehot.
The hon. Gentleman, in effect, said that he strongly believed in Florentine corruption, which is secret government by secret processes, and he is prepared to use the doctrine of collective Cabinet responsibility to uphold that view of our constitution. In that sense, I think that he has probably opened a fundamental division between the two sides of the House. Everybody must be disappointed that he has told us that the Leader of the Opposition does not really want any inquiry at all. To that extent, my first words to the Government are congratulatory. I must congratulate them on having decided to set up an inquiry.
The Prime Minister recently gave an example of lawful intimidation relating to the right hon. Lady and the grandson of Winston Churchill. But an example of lawful intimidation which must have seriously wounded parliamentary democracy was announced on behalf of the Prime Minister by the Attorney-General today. He said that if the House passess amendments about the Production of certain Cabinet, Cabinet committee and departmental papers, the Prime Minister will not recommend to the Queen that the usual rule be relaxed.
That is not becoming conduct in a Prime Minister who heads a parliamentary democracy. That is not government by integrity. I do not even believe that the Prime Minister is exercising his usual standards of decency. I hope that this message will go back to him. It is not good enough for the Prime Minister, in effect, to threaten the House in that fashion.
I said that the hon. Member for Chelmsford spoke from false premises. He began by saying that all the facts were known and that there was nothing new to come out. It is certainly not my purpose to stand here and make revelations even if I had any to make—although I do not think that there is much about the Bingham report to come out which I do not know, so I am not worried about it in a personal sense.
But it does not matter what I know or what the hon. Member for Chelmsford knows. What matters is what the public know and whether they have legitimate concerns about the values by which we are governed and the integrity of the constitution. Like the hon. Gentleman, I believe in the integrity of the constitution, but I come to an opposite conclusion.
The hon. Gentleman said that Bingham had seen that all the files had come out except one. I can assure him that that is not true; not nearly all the files have come out. There are plenty of files from the old Ministry of Power, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence which Bingham did not see and which the public do not know about.
I do not even believe that Bingham got to the core of the cancer which I regard as being involved in sanctions-busting. I shall not go into the merits or even say what I believe that core to be, because that is for the inquiry to decide. We are here only to say what is the best method of getting the facts out. But the reason why I do not think that Bingham got to the central cancer is that he concerned himself with the basic process of sanctions-busting and with what happened from then on. He did not concern himself with the discussions leading up to the legislation or with the period between the legislation and the sanctions-busting.
It is my contention, for what it is worth—I do not think that it is worth that much; what is of value here is the evidence—that if the public knew the way in which industrialists, civil servants and Ministers discussed the legislation that they intended to pass and which they did pass and what happened between the passing of the legislation and the beginning of sanctions-busting, they would see a value system that they would not put up with. They would never countenance it.
In that sense, the hon. Member for Chelmsford is right. Of course it will damage the integrity of the constitution if that value system comes out. But how much more, as one of my hon. Friends said, will it damage the integrity of our constitution if all we can do in this House is say "There may be unpleasant things to come out: let us not deal with them in too much detail"?
I believe, and here I become more friendly to the hon. Member for Chelmsford, that he touched on a raw spot when he asked who wanted this inquiry—or who wanted an open inquiry. The amendments that I have put down amount to two things. First, they call for a much wider inquiry than the Government want. The Government have carefully qualified the inquiry with the phrase
with a view to determining whether Parliament or Ministers were misled, intentionally or otherwise".
I do not believe that that is adequate, for the reason that I have given. I do not believe that Bingham got to the core of the relationship among civil servants, industrialists and Ministers.
We want an inquiry to go into that central relationship and deal with the relationships among those groups and also involving foreign Powers. I suspect that when the public learn about some of the meetings which went on between industrialists and the Head of the South African Government, their eyes will pop open at the way in which we are governed and in which this business was conducted. Therefore, essentially, we need a wider inquiry than the Government have suggested. Certainly we need a more open inquiry.
One thing and one only about the inquiry is relevant. In this sense, the hon. Member for Chelmsford has got it right. The Government have equivocated and, in my view, they have made a mistake. All that matters is the evidence. We need to see the witnesses giving their evidence to make judgments about them giving their evidence. Anyone who has been a barrister—far too many hon. Members, myself included, have been in that invidious position—know that it is by watching witnesses give evidence and by looking at their demeanour and the way in which they respond to cross-examination that one learns a lot about the value of the evidence.
Secondly, we want to see the written evidence, and we want to see it all. We want to see those Cabinet files. But, more important, we want to see those departmental files and we want to let the public see them and make up their own minds. They do not necessarily want my view of what has happened—or the hon. Gentleman's view or the Prime Minister's view. They, and we, should be allowed to see the witnesses. We should be allowed to hear the questioning and see the written evidence.
I believe—I am sure that my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will think that I am getting slightly contentious now—that there have been a number of pressures on the Cabinet and a number of different strands which have led to this curious suggested inquiry, with the arbitrary presentation of evidence by the Chairman, possibly in conjunction with his Committee, and witnesses questioned in private.
We are discussing something that stands somewhere between moral corruption and treason. I do not use that last word wildly, because the least important thing in the inquiry is the legal aspect. It is not my concern to get civil servants, industrialists or Ministers into court. That is the trivial aspect of the case. The important aspect is the value system which produced the result which it did.
I have made some inquiries of various people, and it seems to me that three strands led to this suggested form of inquiry and that there were three pressures not to have the sort of open inquiry that I and some of my hon. Friends would require.
The first strand, to put it crudely and in the vernacular, is that we are not dealing with minnows. Some of the lawyers have taken that attitude to this sort of inquiry. In a sense, that attitude has been borne out not only in high places fairly near the centre of Government but also by Mr. Rees-Mogg and some of his colleagues on The Times before it went out of print.
The Times wrote that it would be unreasonable to put the full weight of the law into operation in this case, because a number of eminent top people were involved. That is a curious proposition from a newspaper which believes in the rule of law—one law for the mighty and one for the weak, one for the rich and one for the poor, and perhaps one for the rest of us and one for the friends of the people with whom Mr. Rees-Mogg and his colleagues move in conjunction.
That pressure has come on people, but another pressure has come on the Cabinet. That is the pressure which says "We must sweat it out." In other words, there has been pressure not to have an inquiry. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) mentioned the Beira patrol. If one were the Minister running the Beira patrol at that time, spending several million pounds of public money on an abortive exercise, one might want to sweat this out. I can understand that there might be fear in the stomachs of some of the people concerned, but I do not believe it is right to sweat it out—even by holding a limited inquiry where evidence is not given in public.
Some people have taken the extraordinary attitude that if a full-blooded inquiry is held Labour Members will criticise civil servants and industrialists. What do we make of that? It has been said that our Civil Service is incorruptible and impartial. I question that. If there has been something between moral corruption and treason committed by industrialists and civil servants, do we say that the public should not know it? If we suspect or know it, should not Labour Members criticise the industrialists or civil servants at an inquiry where those criticisms can be mooted?
Bearing in mind his speech, I am sure that the Attorney-General will be pleased to answer the important questions about civil servants. It is now known that certain Cabinet documents were given to Mr. Bingham. That raises a number of terrifying questions about the Civil Service. I speak as a former civil servant and I know, as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir. H. Wilson), that there is a strict rule that Cabinet papers on departmental files should be returned to the Cabinet Office at the end of the period of office of a Government. It would appear that the rule was broken recently by the Foreign Office. There is also the 30-year rule governing the publication of Cabinet papers.
When the Foreign Office handed those papers to Mr. Bingham, they were published and the 30-year rule was broken. I hope that in winding up the Leader of the. House will be able to correct me, but studies reveal that the papers were given to Mr. Bingham without the consent of the Foreign Secretary. Therefore, three strict rules have been broken.
A fourth point is that no papers—if there are any—concerning the Conservative Government reached Mr. Bingham.
Mr. Bingham and Mr. Gray were appointed by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. They did not receive Cabinet papers. However, they did receive certain documentary material. Therefore, the arguments of the hon. Gentleman against the Government and the Secretary of State are unfounded.
It is my understanding that Mr. Bingham received Cabinet papers, and that the rules to which I have referred were broken.
It has been suggested to me that it was accidental that the papers were handed over and that the Foreign Secretary was not consulted. If that is so, and such accidents occur in the Foreign Office, the time has come to have somebody running the office who is less accident-prone. I refer to the permanent secretary at the Foreign Office.
At the time that the papers were handed over, the parties were passing off the blame among themselves. Some worried Ministers sought to say that they had been misled by civil servants and industrialists, civil servants said that they had been misled by industrialists, and the industrialists said that they had not misled anybody. Therefore, one is bound to ask whether the giving of the papers to Bingham was accidental or whether there was something more serious behind it. As far as I can see, that point cannot be examined in the inquiry.
In the Christmas Recess I read Haldeman's "The Ends of Power". The book depressed me and made me wonder whether that is the way in which modem Governments function in modern society. Three images presented themselves. One was McCarthyism. There are historians present, but I do not believe one needs to be a historian to see that the values of the one are similar to the values of the other. The other two images which sprang to mind were British. One was Suez. That occurred about 10 years before sanctions-busting, but it does not need a historian to tell us that the values of Suez are not different from the values of sanctions-busting.
As I read the book, an almost unanswerable question came to my mind: would Suez have happened if a Labour Government had been in power? I shall not try to answer the question, but I make the point because I feel that it brings out the seriousness of what we are discussing. We are discussing international relations, international duplicity, unhappy relations between civil servants and industrialists, and an unhappy state of affairs among civil servants, industrialists and Parliament.
I do not believe that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has made a helpful point. Whether he agrees with me or not, we are now discussing serious constitutional issues. I believe that the public have a right to this knowledge in an open inquiry—even if that means that in the process the reputations of some innocent people are damaged.
Just as in Watergate the tapes were important, in this case the departmental files are of critical importance. For the first time in my life I see the value of departmental files. Everything gathers on them—people sign their names on documents and there are telegrams about this and that. For me, Government departmental files have become things of beauty and they are what the public want.
I hope that the House will have the courage to pass the amendment tabled by my hon. Friends and myself. If it does, it will be a good day for the democratic process; if not, it will be a bad day for the democratic process.
I shall return to the amendments of the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) at the end of my speech. I do not propose to detain the House for very long because I made a lengthy speech on this subject in an earlier debate, to which reference has already been made.
I welcome the terms in which the Government have put forward the motion and the setting up of the Special Commission. I believe that the case put forward by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) against having a further inquiry was shot down by the events that have occurred since the publication of the Bingham report. The hon. Gentleman said that the Bingham report was thorough and that further inquiry was unnecessary. However, we have already been enlightened by the debates that have taken place in this place and in another place after the publication of the Bingham report, when further information came to light.
I agree with the hon. Member for Luton, West that a great deal more has still to come to light. I argue more strongly now in favour of a further commission of inquiry and I base my argument on the fact that the statements made in these two debates by some of the main participants, namely, the two previous Prime Ministers and previous Ministers who were involved, lead one to the conclusion that further inquiry is necessary.
There is the question of who was right, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) or Lord Thomson of Monifieth. There is also the question not of what the incoming Conservative Government were told but what they were doing during their period of office to pursue their publicly proclaimed policy. This seems to me to be a matter of some importance.
These issues cannot just be swept aside as being of purely academic interest to future historians. The hon. Member for Chelmsford accepts more or less that further inquiry is called upon, but he says—I do not wish to be unfair to him—that we should allow that inquiry to take place after the normal lapse of time, after many of the personalities are out of operation, or deceased, that there should then be a great advance in publications and great use made of the Public Lending Right Act, as it would then be, and that historians would have a general field day.
The hon. Gentleman's argument might have some force if this were purely a domestic political consideration, but it is not, and I have been very forcefully reminded of this in the past few weeks. During the Christmas Recess—it was immediately after the announcement by the Prime Minister that the Commission would be set up—I was travelling in Africa. In the countries that I visited, some politicians were aware of the fact that I had taken an active part in calling for such an inquiry; others were not. At no time in my travels did I raise the question of the Bingham report, yet in every country that I visited—Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and Rhodesia—the question was raised with me. I was able, as a Member of this House, to say in reply to the questions that we were not leaving the matter as it stood and that the Prime Minister had told the House of Commons that there would be a special inquiry. I said that I could not guarantee that the House would accept the findings of the inquiry and that this would be a matter for the judgment of the House of Commons, but I was able to reassure all those who were concerned that further action was at any rate contemplated by the Government.
I must tell the hon. Member for Chelmsford that it would have been a pretty poor answer for me to have said to those who were much exercised on these matters, and who are calling in question the integrity, if not the honour, of this country in its policies in Africa, "These are very interesting matters, my friends, but let us leave them to future historians." I am afraid that that is not a view that is taken in those countries. We have to take account of the very strong feeling which has been raised on this matter in other countries.
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not advancing, as one of his principal arguments, the idea that because the leaders of other countries are interested in what is in the Cabinet papers we should breach our custom and our constitution and reveal them. I am sure that he would not think that it would be right, for example, for this House to suggest to the Zambian Government that their State papers on the matter of sanctions-busting should be subject to the sort of inquiry that the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) wants to have. If I were a Zambian, I would think that that was impertinence.
I see no reason why the Commission should not trail its net fairly widely and attempt to secure whatever external information it can get. I am not making such a simplistic point. I am not in any way diminishing the point made by the hon. Member for Chelmsford concerning the constitutional aspect. I think that his reasoning was sound. What I am saying is that at the end of the day we have to make a balanced judgment about these dangers, which he was right to draw to the attention of the House, as against what I know from my recent experience to be the very real anxiety in other parts of the world about the record of British policy.
The hon. Gentleman gave us another reason for not pursuing the inquiry when he said that this was not the right time for it. He said, in effect, that the country is in a hell of a mess and that we ought not to be wasting time now on issues of this sort. My view is that we must look at these things in perspective. We have talked a great deal in this House—indeed, I have myself—in recent days about intimidation. The intimidation that is going on in this country is as nothing to the widespread scale of intimidation taking place in Rhodesia at the present time.
The public policy of this country has failed in Rhodesia. It is a tragedy. If at the time of UDI or, indeed, in the years since UDI—I do not want to refer to the period of office of any one Government—the policy of this country had been to wash our hands of the whole affair and to recognise the regime, passing the whole problem to the United Nations or to Rhodesia itself, that would have been reprehensible, but it would at least have been a straightforward, honest and openly declared policy. If we had said "This is a rebellion against the authority of this House and we shall deal with it in the usual way by putting in the troops", that would have been a commendable policy, but it was not the decision taken by the Government.
We were left, therefore, with the publicly proclaimed policy, not only in this country but internationally, that the matter would be dealt with by the use of sanctions. That was a policy endorsed by both Conservative and Labour Governments, it was taken to the United Nations, and legislation was passed through this House and ratified by the House. We, as Members of the House of Commons, were told time and time again that certain things would flow as a result of that policy.
We now discover that, although that was the proclaimed position, something quite different was going on. To say that somehow we should ignore this, that it is all very interesting and that historians will look into why it happened, is to misunderstand the importance of maintaining some kind of reputation in this country for honest international dealing.
That is why I support the terms of the motion, which has been very carefully drafted, and that is why I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Luton, West. I think the Government are correct—no doubt after a great deal of hesitation—in bringing forward their motion and in striking the balance in this way. I believe that because the production of Cabinet and allied papers will be essential to the work of the inquiry it makes the Commission almost unique. That is why it has a unique form, with a Law Lord in the chair and members from each House of Parliament. We have to accept that, because the question raised by the revelations of the Bingham report is almost unique.
My only advice to my colleagues—who are as free as every other Member of any other party to ignore it—is that they should resist the amendments. I do not wish to have it suggested—I thought I heard a sotto voce comment—that Members of my party ignore my advice any more then members of other parties ignore the advice of their leaders, and on this occasion the Members of my party are entirely free, of course, to make their own judgment. But I advise resistance to the amendments which, however superficially attractive, might endanger the success of the entire operation. The hon. Member for Luton, West, having heard what the Attorney-General told us, must surely accept, if he stops to think about it, that that would be the result if we were to follow his course. I would advise him, therefore, to think twice before pressing his amendment to a Division.
Whatever my respect and regard for the Prime Minister, I have never regarded him as being the most enthusiastic apostle of open government. We have to live with the facts and not pretend that they are otherwise. I hope that the House will not endanger the position by passing amendments which would in my view be foolish in the circumstances, and that we shall give a welcome to the Commission. I hope that it will do something to rescue the rather sorry reputation of this country in this matter over the last decade.
It is my hope that at 10 p.m. the choice before the House of Commons will be a clear choice between setting up a Joint Committee, with sufficient powers to discharge the task that is entrusted to it in the first declaratory paragraph of the motion, and rejecting such a Joint Committee endowed with the necessary powers.
It would be unsatisfatory to the Members of this House, and to the esteem in which one would wish them to be held outside this House, if the question were a different one, namely, whether this House should accept or reject a Joint Committee which, by negligence or deliberately, in the terms of the motion setting it up, has been deprived of the necessary powers to enable it to discharge the task given to it in the first declaratory paragraph.
It is my contention that the Government motion contains defects of such a serious nature that I would rather see it rejected than see a Committee set up but shorn of the powers that it needs, knowing that it may well fail in its task because of Government incompetence or because the Government did not intend it to succeed in the first place.
Let us first dispose of a bit of spurious window dressing. The motion describes the Joint Committee as
the Special Commission on Oil Sanctions".
It is not a Commission, special or otherwise, of any kind. It has no commission, Royal, special or otherwise. It has no powers that a Joint Committee does not have. Nor does it have any attributes. Indeed, calling it "Special Commission" adds nothing to its powers or its significance.
Why, then, the Government might say, do I object to this bit of window dressing? I object to it because I believe that it will mislead. Outside the House there are people who are familiar with the term "Royal Commission", which has a legal significance. I think that they are likely to be confused by the term "Special Commission" into believing that it has some import when it has no import whatsoever. For instance, evidence given to a Royal Commission may have a special status under the Official Secrets Act. But there is no such thing as evidence given to a Special Commission, because the term "Special Commission" has no meaning. It has no existence. We are talking about a Joint Committee of the Commons and the Lords.
As we look at the phraseology that the Government adopted, either through incompetence or malice, we find that its defects are not marginal. They are serious. They are not just theoretical. They are practical. The Committee will have power to send for persons, papers and records. Unless we give it specific powers to send for Members of the House of Commons—which would be matched by the Lords empowering their complementary half to send for Members of the House of Lords—it cannot force the attendance of unwilling Members of either House.
The Attorney-General led us to believe that this was an entirely theoretical consideration that could not or would not
arise. Would it not? The Attorney-General himself in this Parliament refused to give evidence to a Select Committee of this House. He wrote asserting that he had no duty to give evidence or to advise Committees of the House unless he was ordered to do so by the House of Commons. However, this motion does not order him to assist the Joint Committee. It says:
That Mr. Attorney-General shall give such assistance to the Special Commission as may be appropriate.
But who is to be the judge of what is appropriate—the Joint Committee or the Attorney-General? As it does not say that it is the Joint Committee—call it "Special Commission" if you will—the Attorney-General is at liberty to do the same to that Committee as he did to a Select Committee of the House in this Parliament and say "I have not been specifically ordered to assist it and I refuse to do so."
There is another case in this Parliament. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster refused to appear before a Select Committee as he did not want to give evidence about the Iranian Chrysler contract. I hope that I have established to the satisfaction of the House that this is not just a theoretical matter of something that could happen hypothetically. I am dealing with events that occurred in this Session of Parliament and with one of the Ministers sitting on this Front Bench. Yet he claims that this is something that could not happen. Why, therefore, did the Government not endow this Joint Committee—or the half of it that is subject to the resolution of this House—with that power? This defect may be remedied by inserting the words
'(including Members of the House of Commons)'
after the words "persons" in paragraph 3. That is the power to summon Members. The power to force the attendance of the Attorney-General is given if, in paragraph 6, we leave out the word "appropriate" and insert the words
'required by the Special Commission'.
The Joint Committee then has the power—which will be matched undoubtedly by a parallel mirror resolution on behalf of another place—to send for Members of either House and to send for the Attorney-General if it should require his assistance.
When we follow on through this motion we find other interesting aspects. This body will be empowered to send for persons, papers and records. Yet in paragraph 9 the Instruction is limited to papers. Why is it not extended to cover records? Is it through negligence in drafting, or with intent? If it was with intent, with what intent? Why is it that records may be sent for but the Instruction does not apply to them? It applies only to papers. There must be some reason, unless it is sheer incompetence. I tabled an amendment to insert the words "records". The amendment is not so attractive that it will be called.
It will also be noted that the Instruction applies only to papers that have been submitted. It does not apply to papers that have been sent for. There may well be a distinction between the two.
By analogy, President Nixon offered to submit tapes selected by him to an investigatory body. However, the investigatory body realised it would not be able to discharge its function in that wise. It sent for what it wanted. Yet this Instruction applies only to papers submitted to the Special Commission and not to papers which have been sent for by the Special Commission. That is why I put down an amendment to insert the words "sent for or" in paragraph 9 after the first word "papers".
As we progress through the final paragraph of the motion, we find two highly significant words—"if necessary". The paragraph reads:
That it be an Instruction that all papers submitted to the Special Commission shall first be examined by their Chairman who shall determine, if necessary after consultation with other members of the Special Commission, which of the papers should be seen by the members of the Special Commission.
Who shall decide when necessity arises? Is it the Chairman or the members of the Joint Committee who shall decide? That is not clear. Not being clear, it lies within the power of the Chairman to say "As the words immediately following are 'Chairman who shall determine', I interpret it as meaning me. I
shall decide what is and what is not necessary."
I do not interpret the deletion of those two words—the subject of my amendment (k), which the Chair has selected—as meaning that the Chairman is bound to show the members of the Joint Committee every paper that he sees. I interpret it as meaning that he would be bound to discuss with them the characteristics of papers that he showed them and those that he withheld from them so that they would know what was being withheld from them.
Although we are told that the Chairman of the Joint Committee is to be a distinguished judge, that is not defined in the motion. The normal procedure, as set out by "Erskine May", is that the members of the Joint Commission elect their own Chairman unless the procedure is set out in a motion. Unless there is an instruction to the Committee to elect Lord Scarman, we cannot he certain that he will be the Chairman. It may be that that event will follow.
Whatever Lord Scarman's admirable attributes may be, I am not aware that he has extensive experience of government or politics. If someone is to judge what events, including advice and information, influenced Ministers in taking certain action and in not taking other action, or in making certain statements to the House when they might have made other statements, what is needed is considerable experience either of the House or of government. To entrust that task solely to someone who has experience of neither seems to put the remaining members of the Joint Committee in a position in which they will be asked to agree a report not knowing what evidence there has been which they would have considered relevant had they seen it and which they have not seen because someone else decided that it would not be relevant for them to see it. That is a matter of immense substance.
I accept that there is a strong argument that it is difficult to preserve complete confidentiality and that that is the practical difficulty in putting all the papers before the entire Committee. Surely the reasonable compromise would be for the Chairman to be bound to consult the other members of the Joint Committee about what papers they should and should not see. That seems to be a reasonable compromise. If the words "if necessary" were deleted by the passage of amendment (k), there would be a situation, although not in my judgment a perfect one, which would represent the nearest one to perfection which we are likely to achieve in a motion of this sort.
I hope that when the time comes the House will agree to the passage of amendments (e), (f) and (k), which the Chair has indicated it will allow to be put to the vote although they will not be debated. That will enable the substantive motion on which the House votes to be one of accepting or rejecting a Joint Committee adequately equipped to carry out the task that appears in the first declaratory paragraph.
The House will do a great disservice to itself and to the country if it establishes a Joint Committee that fails in its task because it has been denied from its birth the minimum necessary powers to be competent to discharge its task.
The hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) devoted his speech to the details of the motion and the amendments. His speech was none the less valuable for that.
I shall address myself to two central themes. The first is whether we need a further inquiry. The second is, if the answer is "Yes" to the first question, what sort of inquiry should we have?
It is right that the House has been reminded of the origins of the debate. It is not merely a technical matter of setting up a committee, nor does it stem solely from the publication of the Bingham report. It arises from the unilateral declaration of independence in Rhodesia.
As we have already been told, the Government of the day had three choices. Their first choice was to do nothing in recognising the new regime. Their second choice was to send in troops and to put down the regime by force. Their third choice was to adopt some middle compromise position. The Government decided to take the middle compromise position and to apply sanctions, saying that sanctions, although a compromise and middle position, would be no less effective in ending the illegal regime than the use of force. We were told that the rebellion would come to an end in weeks rather than months.
It was not the failure of sanctions to bring down the regime in weeks rather than months that led to the great concern of those who knew that oil was reaching Rhodesia against the declared position of Governments of both political persuasions and the decision of the United Nations. The failure vigorously to apply the policy of oil sanctions, although it applies to other sanctions as well, is directly responsible for the loss of life that is now taking place in Rhodesia and has taken place for some years in the recent past. It will continue for a long time to come. The loss of thousands of innocent lives of blacks, whites and whatever other colour has made no difference. Those lives have been lost because of the failure of the application of the sanctions policy. That gave rise to demands for an inquiry, the report of which was eventually published and is now known as the Bingham report.
The Bingham report made clear that there had been a breach of sanctions. We all knew that. It told us that British companies were involved in a way that we did not know previously. It told us that certain Ministers and Government Departments knew much more about it than any of us had cared to think possible. When the Bingham inquiry was established it was said by some that we should not learn anything beyond that which we already knew about oil reaching Rhodesia. However, the Bingham report told us a great deal. I should not like to forecast what will emerge from the further inquiry that the Government have set up. In principle, I applaud the decision to set up a further inquiry. If we knew what would emerge from it, there would be no need for the inquiry.
It may be that a great deal of valuable information will come out of the further inquiry. It may be that we shall discover at what level the decision was taken to neglect the sanctions policy. We may learn what considerations were taken into account when it was finally decided that we did not need to worry about British oil companies conniving at getting oil to Rhodesia.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) that not only the integrity of certain civil servants is involved. More is involved than the integrity of individual Cabinet Ministers or the Cabinet or Cabinets of the time collectively. There is involved the integrity of the policy of the British Government.
The hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who has now left the Chamber, said that it would be impertinence for Heads of African Governments or others in Africa to suggest that our constitutional processes should be rigorously examined. He said that it would be impertinence for hon. Members to suggest to the Zambian Government that their Cabinet papers of the period should be rigorously examined. If any stones need to be lifted to see what is crawling underneath, it does not matter where they exist, whether it is Zambia, Mozambique, Britain or anywhere else. We have to look for the information. We have a direct responsibility in this House for the policy of our Government. What is at stake is not simply the cleansing of conscience and clearing up the past but the future.
Other issues of great importance are being dealt with in Africa today. Our Government say, for example, that they are not supplying arms to South Africa. There are many issues on which we need to know how Government policy is made. We need to learn how to ask the right questions. Looking back on replies they received from Ministers about oil reaching Rhodesia, a number of hon. Members now realise that they did not ask the right questions. We did not know the right questions to ask. To get the right answer, one must ask the right question.
The whole future of Southern Africa is at stake if we fail to answer the question "What are you going to do to find out why the policy was broken?" This is no simple matter that we can easily slough off. Those hon. Members who believe that they can vote against this motion in its entirety and against the principle of a further inquiry had better think again, particularly if they imagine that they are helping international relations and that their action will not be taken into account in the world.
If we are to have an inquiry—we must have one—what kind of inquiry should it be? In my view, it should be the most open inquiry possible. If the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) is not carried, I shall support in its entirety the Government recommendation. That would be better than nothing. I am not as certain as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton. West that the public are demanding that great and beautiful thing, the Civil Service file. The fact that it is in plain covers does not necessarily mean that the contents are lurid. But we ought to see every possible document.
I want to refer briefly to the proposition put by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General on behalf of the Prime Minister—I know he would accept that this is the Prime Minister's view—that if the House dares to assert itself and changes one or two of the fundamental premises written into the resolution, the Prime Minister will not recommend to Her Majesty that the papers be made available. That is the most preposterous remark I have ever heard in this House. It must be the most preposterous remark made in the House for many generations.
We are dealing with a convention. I am sure that constitutional historians better versed than myself will agree that at one time we were told that if the 50-year rule was broken the whole fabric of democratic and Cabinet government would fall apart. We took a bold step and knocked the rule down to 30 years. We are saying, on this special occasion, that there should not be a time limit. But the 30-year rule itself is a convention. If it wishes, this House can decide that the 30-year rule should not apply. Are we being told that the Prime Minister will defy Parliament, and defy the orders of this House, encouraged to some extent by the Opposition?
I wonder what the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) or the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) would have said last December when the House defeated the resolution on the Government authority for sanctions if the Prime Minister had stood at the Dispatch Box and said "It is all right. The House has taken a decision that the Government shall not apply sanctions in the industrial situation, but I am the Prime Minister and I shall take no account of Parliament's view. Sanctions will continue". Would any Conservative Member, never mind a Labour Member, have remained silent? We would have heard about constitutional crisis, dictatorship, failure to accept the will of Parliament and demands for the Government to go to the country. I realise that the Conservatives consider this issue to be a matter of lesser importance, that they do not consider sanctions against Rhodesia to be as important as sanctions on companies.
Is not my hon. Friend aware that this is not something that has been sprung upon the House when the motion was put on the Order Paper? My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his announcement on 15 December, said:
I should not be prepared to advise Her Majesty to make me free to disclose Cabinet papers, except under the very rigid conditions which will be laid down in the resolution which will be placed before the House in due course."—[Official Report, 15 December 1978; Vol. 960, c. 1185.]
My right hon. Friend was stating clearly that the Government would not put down a resolution except in those terms, and those are the terms which the House will have to accept.
I am aware of that. I was not surprised when I heard the Attorney-General state this principle. I am not saying it has been sprung upon us, but I am saying that it is thoroughly wrong.
I consider myself an experienced Back Bencher with some experience in government and, therefore, an ideal person to serve on the Committee. I do not want to be too unkind to the Prime Minister, but it ought to be said that I took great exception to his coming to the House on the last day before the parliamentary recess to make his statement without any prior announcement that it was to be made. It would have been different if he had said earlier in the week that he intended to make a further statement about the inquiry, on the Friday. That would have been proper. I do not complain in the sense that hon. Members have to choose whether to remain here for Friday sittings. I maintain, however, that the statement was made very late and that a number of questions were raised. If I recollect correctly, Mr. Speaker did not wish to encourage too much questioning of the Prime Minister because Back Bench Adjournment debates were due to take place.
Let us not confuse the issues. The Prime Minister is entitled to put down a motion in any terms he wishes, and to add conditions to it if he wishes. But, if the House overrules him, he has no right to say that he will not present the motion as it was passed by the House. If he did say that, it would be a gross violation of our power and we ought to assert it here and now. I did not feel strongly about this matter until I heard the Attorney-General. After that assertion of Government power, the House has to say that they were wrong.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reinforcing my view that it would be a contempt of Parliament, and a contempt of Members of this House, if the House decided to pass an amended motion and the Prime Minister were then to say that he did not accept it. That, in essence, is what we are being told.
I want to addres myself to the question of executive privilege and the threat to the constitution raised by the hon. Member for Chelmsford. The hon. Gentleman said that the very fact of raising the question of integrity of civil servants and Ministers was a threat to the constitution. He quoted from Bagehot in 1867. He seemed to be suggesting that the doctrine of Cabinet secrecy, and the inviolability of the rule that Cabinet papers should not be seen, except in a certain period, was absolute and that there was never any time when or any condition whereby these matters should be challenged.
In drawing this analogy, I ought to make it perfectly clear that I am not drawing an analogy between the Prime Minister and former President Nixon. That is not my intention. But when some of the questions were raised about the executive privilege of President Nixon, it was said that the rule of law and faith in the constitution of the United States would be undermined. When the former President stood by executive privilege and denied to the elected representatives papers, tapes and various other things, they went ahead and destroyed any idea of executive privilege. They were absolutely right to do so.
We are right to say that there can be no absolute doctrine of executive privilege, or the privilege of Cabinet papers, if we think that the matter is serious enough. I happen to think that this matter is serious enough to merit going ahead with the widest possible inquiry.
The motion is drafted in terms suggesting that there should be a Joint Committee of both Houses. What is the Government's intention if the other place decides not to take part? I suspect that discussions have taken place through the usual channels, which might well result in the other place accepting this, but, if by chance it should decide not to do so, may we have an assurance that a Committee of this House will be set up to do precisely the same job?
Of course, I accept the dilemma and problems that the Government have had to face in coming to a satisfactory solution in order to have a further inquiry. I applaud their decision in principle to have a further inquiry. It is in the highest traditions of the Labour Party and Labour Government that we should be willing to go ahead and investigate matters, even though embarrassing things may emerge. I am sorry that the Government have not gone to the extent of making the inquiry as open as I would wish. But I applaud the principle.
I shall support some of the amendments tonight, but my right hon. Friends can be assured that I will support the proposition on the Order Paper if that is what survives.
I concur with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) in at least one point—that this is a very melancholy debate which relates to a very sad chapter in the history of our nation. On whatever side of the House we sit, we must look back on the events that occurred 10 years ago with a sense of shame and a sense of concern about how even now the matter can be remedied.
We owe a considerable debt to Mr. Bingham and Mr. Gray for the quality of their report. However, I take issue with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North on the two questions that he raised—whether an inquiry is necessary at all and, if so, what form it should take.
My reading of the Bingham report led me to the clear conclusion that at the very least one could see the outlines of a conspiracy. I refer the House particularly to what I believe is the key section of the report. It occurs on page 111 and relates to the role of the then Government and their relationship with the oil company and the swap agreement. It states:
Oil would still reach Rhodesia, but it could be truly said that it was not British oil. In the minds of the Groups, the significant thing was HMG's acceptance that oil would continue to reach Rhodesia. It thereafter seemed to them that HMG was more concerned about allegations of sanctions breaking (and in particular with allegations that British oil was reaching Rhodesia) than with any attempt to prevent oil reaching Rhodesia.
Slightly further on, in the next paragraph, it states:
It was undoubtedly felt to be desirable that the Total arrangement should not be publicly disclosed; this was (perhaps primarily) because of the indication given to the companies that HMG would not disclose it, but also because of the use which could be made of the information by critics of British sincerity.
That seems to summarise not only the large report but also the dismal history of what happened. I must confess a divided feeling on this. I feel ashamed at what has happened. I have strong sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgmore) and the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North, but I would like to know rather more about who knew, when did they know and what did they do about it.
I lived in America during the unrolling of the Watergate episode. There is something to be said for a nation facing what has happened, and inquiring into what has happened, regardless of whom it may affect. Certainly, no one is above the law. I feel this strongly, because I see in the Bingham report the clear outlines of a conspiracy. At the same time, I respect the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and other hon. Members relating not only to the need for an inquiry but also to the form of the inquiry.
The Prime Minister specifically referred to the fact that this inquiry would be based upon the precedent of the Dardanelles Commission. That is probably the worst precedent which could have been chosen. The Leader of the House never ceases to remark that I write history but never make it. I actually wrote the history of the Gallipoli campaign, and I am convinced that the Dardanelles Commission is the most inadequate of all precedents for a great variety of reasons. It was one of the causes of the creation of the 1921 Act, because the Commission itself was so inadequate.
But the essential problem of the Government's proposals are as follows. This inquiry will sit in private. It will publish its findings, but not the evidence. The agreement on the availability of Cabinet papers depends on the agreement of former Prime Ministers, not necessarily former Ministers or officials, and the test of the relevance of Cabinet papers is to be applied by the Chairman, whose name we do not yet know.
These seem to be formidable arguments against the Government's proposals. But I should like to put the argument on a rather different plane. I feel that it would be unwise for this House and this country to look back at a time when not only its domestic but also its international problems are so substantial. I have very deep sympathy for the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North about our reputation in the Third world, and particularly in Africa. I have thought very greatly about that. But I have come to the conclusion that it would be wise for us to accept the Bingham report, to accept whatever blame lies upon all of us, whether or not we were in the Government, to regard that chapter as closed and as a nation to look to the future, not only nationally but also in Africa. It is for that particular reason that I shall vote against the Government's proposal.
We are dealing with some very fundamental questions. We are dealing with questions about the probity of civil servants and people in public life. We are dealing with questions about the relationships between people in public service and people in the service of private companies. We are dealing with the relationships between Governments and multinational companies. We are dealing with relationships between Ministers and civil servants. As the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) said, we are dealing with the very standing of the Government of the country in the eyes of other people in the world.
It seems to me that though the breaking of oil sanctions was in itself a serious enough matter the sort of questions which are raised run far wider than this particular issue. My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said earlier today that we did not want to have a cover-up or a whitewash in this inquiry. It would need to be seen as something established by this House itself.
Against that background and the seriousness of the fundamental issues, I believe that we should judge this motion according to several criteria. The first is that the composition of this Commission—it should, as the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) said, be called a Joint Committee—should be seen to have the approval of this House and not be something cobbled up in a corner by the different party establishments. Second, there should be the maximum possible openness in the Commission's proceedings consistent with the requirements of national security and the reasonable protection of those individuals who might be implicated. The third criterion is that the inquiry should be as broad as possible.
Looking at the motion against these criteria, I make one or two points. I was disturbed by what the Attorney-General said earlier today concerning the terms of reference. He seemed to imply that the scope of this inquiry would be very narrow. Perhaps I misheard or misinterpreted him, but he seemed to imply that. My hope is that the terms of reference as set out in the motion will be interpreted as widely as possible, because we are concerned with the whole complex of relationships as among persons, Governments and companies. If the inquiry is too narrow, we shall be dealing with matters out of context. This would be wrong.
Second, on the question of the membership of the Commission, I was pleased to hear the Attorney-General say that the two people to be nominated from the Government side would be hon. Gentlemen rather than right hon. Gentlemen. I hope that the other two parties will follow this good example. However, there is a second point about the size of the Commission. When I asked the Attorney-General today about its size, he told me that there would be eight members. That is not quite the end of the matter, is it? Surely there is nothing to stop the House of Lords—assuming that it agrees to the setting up of this Commission—saying that if the House of Commons is to have five members, why should not the House of Lords have five, or even more? What guarantee do we have that the membership will be eight, with five members from this House and three from the other House? This point needs to be cleared up.
My third point concerns the secrecy of the Commission's meetings. The Prime Minister called in aid the precedent of the Commission on the Dardanelles. This was the one precedent to which he referred in his statement on 15 December in this House. Whether or not that Commission performed its job well I do not know, but the point is that it was created by an Act of Parliament rather than by a resolution of the House. In this context, that seems to me to be a red herring, because the fact was that in the Act that set up that Commission power was given to it to decide whether its meetings should be open.
I find that quite remarkable because, after all, the country was in the middle of a war and the Commission was to investigate matters concerned with the conduct of the war. Yet, for good or ill, it was thought fit to leave it to the Comission itself to decide whether or not its meetings should be open.
If that was good enough in 1916, it ought to be good enough now. The motion as it stands clearly bars all public meetings. It is made quite clear that all meetings must be in private, leaving no discretion to the Commission. Here we come back to the question of trust. Do we, or do we not, trust the members of this Commission? Do we trust them sufficiently to accept that they will have due regard to such matters as national security and the protection of those individuals who are implicated? It seems to me that in this motion we are saying that we do not trust the Commission members. That is a rather poor basis on which to start.
The basic point is that the issues at stake are fundamental ones, about the nature and integrity of Government and Parliament. If everything is done behind closed doors, suspicions about a cover-up or a whitewash will inevitably arise. Though the Attorney-General is seeking to avoid that situation, suspicions will surely arise unless there is the maximum openness in the Commission's proceedings.
The motion appears to give the Chairman of the Commission enormous and exclusive powers. According to the motion he may consult the other members of the Commission, but he is not required to do so. He may, as the hon. Member for Tiverton pointed out, consult his colleagues if necessary. Who is to decide when that might be necessary? Presumably the Chairman himself. This will obviously create the possibility of tension between the Chairman of the Commission and the other members. It will be very difficult to avoid tensions in that situation. Again, we encounter the question of that trust which the House should surely place in the members of the Commission. I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for York (Mr. Lyon), and for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes), who found astonishing the statement by the Attorney-General that the Prime Minister will not make Cabinet papers available unless this House passes the final paragraph of the motion in an unamended form.
The Attorney-General said that this inquiry was a matter for the House. If it is a matter for the House, how can the House carry out its proper functions without the full freedom to do so? Surely it is quite unacceptable that the decisions of this House should have to be taken under what amounts to a threat or duress.
I welcome the setting up of this Commission, but I make three points. First, the terms of reference should be interpreted in the widest possible manner. Secondly, we need a serious reconsideration of the ban on the Commission meeting in public, and, thirdly, we need to reconsider the exclusive powers given to the Chairman.
I am happy to take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) about the gravity of the position, but not about the details of the mechanics of the Commission. I believe that we must re-examine the principle at stake.
I was happy, in the debate on 7 November last year, to recognise the need to consider the case for a further inquiry, but having carefully considered all that was said in that debate and the statement by the Prime Minister and other members of the Government subsequently, and having listened carefully to what has been said in this debate, I have reached the clear conclusion that the case for a further detailed inquiry into Rhodesian sanctions does not stand up.
Nothing has been said to show that any good can be achieved by such an investigation. We have all had clearly proved to us the amount of damage that can be done to the interest and standing of this country. We must also take into account the situation in Rhodesia. Do we believe that another long and painful raking over of the sad but cooling embers will do anything but make the possibility of finding an adequate solution to that dreadful problem any easier? Clearly, such an inquiry will make the situation very much worse.
When the debate began, I was not sure whether it was possible for the Government to move away from the principle of having a Commission. The statement made by the Foreign Secretary on 24 January, somewhat appropriately at an anti-apartheid rally, made it clear that he regarded the matter as a fait accompli. This leads us to the question of the relationship between the function of this House in debating the matter and the policies adopted by the Government.
Let us imagine that on a free vote hon. Members accepted that the case for an inquiry did not stand up, and that the Government accepted that decision. There would be an outcry. We know whence such an outcome would arise. There would be an outcry. We konw and loud protestations about the sanctity of open government. As a former civil servant, nobody could be more passionately devoted than I to the need to improve and open up government. I am well aware of the damage done to the efficiency of the Administration by the resort to official secrecy, and I very much hope to play a part in the proceedings on the Official Information Bill.
I also share the anxiety of all hon. Members about the need to restore the balance between the legislative and the executive arms of government. I am convinced that an inquiry such as is envisaged will not move in this direction and will do nothing to improve the quality of government. Indeed, I believe that it will achieve the reverse. It will make any Government, whether the present or a future Government, and their servants still more furtive and timid.
What more do we need to open up? Nobody can answer that in full detail. I endorse the compliments which have been paid to Mr. Bingham and Mr. Gray, who carried out a very full inquiry. Since that inquiry the debate has indeed opened up. There have been debates both in this House and in the other place. We have also had full statements from the principal actors in the drama. I refer to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) and Lord Thomson of Monifieth. There has been an exchange of letters in The Times, and I am sure that there will be many more articles in the press as a result of this debate. Surely enough information exists to understand that it was a sorry tale, that the decision should probably not have been taken in the first place, and that its execution left a great deal to be desired. It was a sad episode in our history. All that is known. What more can we expect?
Is it suggested that we wish to bring the wrongdoers to justice? The Attorney-General said this afternoon and in the debate in November that the probability was that the Commission would make more difficult the process of bringing to justice any offenders against the law of this country. The Director of Public Prosecutions has already taken up the inquiry and is handling the papers. If that process runs in tandem with yet another inquiry, the one may prejudice the other and that would create serious legal problems. That could result in difficult legal procedures and could probably render them inoperative altogether. That is not the result which I or other hon. Members would like to see.
What other objective is there? The Attorney-General spoke of a political objective. Would we achieve the objective of embarrassing former Members of this House or of another place who were Ministers at the time when these events occurred? What contribution would that make to good government or to our country's interests? Is it being suggested that some unfortunate civil servant should be put into the stockade? Will we discover that some notional civil servant may have been in cahoots with Mr. Ian Smith or with the oil company tycoons? In my Foreign Office days I never had any responsibility for Rhodesian affairs, but I should be most surprised if one were to find a civil servant who is in that category.
I yield to nobody in my admiration of the British Civil Service. It is rare to find in it the fault of foolhardiness, or any readiness to take bold, independent decisions. I regard that as a laudable quality and, if it ever existed at all, it is rapidly disappearing.
The pressure has always been for civil servants to get clearance. Anyone who has been in Government service will know the process. It is inconceivable that any civil servant involved in such a sensitive area as sanctions on Rhodesia would not have obtained political clearance. Therefore, I do not believe that anything significant will emerge in this regard in the area of a conspiracy by the Civil Service. On the information that I have, I would be happy to set at rest the fears expressed so passionately by the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore).
Are not the good name and good faith of this country also at stake in the world at large? If efforts are not made to get to the bottom of the affair, will not people abroad believe that the British Government were not sincere in what they were seeking to do and were indulging in a cover-up? Should not we all be proud of the good name and good faith of this country and see that they are maintained by going ahead with the inquiry?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was just arriving at that point. The good name of this country is precisely what we should be discussing, and we should keep it at the forefront of our considerations.
What will be the result of the inquiry? I have established the negative results. One clear result will be that the good name of this country will be further tarnished. Britain's standing reached one of its lowest points in history when, two days after Bingham emerged, the Prime Minister was obliged to fly to Kano and apologised to President Kaunda of Zambia for Bingham.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not attempt to persist in saying that that was the reason why the Prime Minister flew to Kano. He flew there in order to have consultations with the President about the immediate critical situation that Zambia had to face and to offer friendship and support to a friend of this country.
My information is contrary to that offered by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). Where should we be if there were a decision not to pursue the Bingham inquiry?
I return to the point made by the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens). There would be a serious protest, not only from President Kaunda but from President Nyerere, General Obasanjo, Mr. Nkomo and Mr. Mugabe. That would certainly be the case. I am also certain that we should have that chorus backed up by the Soviet propaganda machine. That is what happens. It would be a two-day wonder, but no more than that.
We have far less to apologise for in this action and much else in relation to Southern Africa than many of the other participants in the drama. I would be interested in the conversations referred to by the Leader of the Liberal Party, when African leaders were talking about Bingham. It would be interesting to talk to African leaders about their role in Rhodesia over the past 10 or 12 years. Nearly every country that has dealt in this sphere could have its own Bingham. We should not be mealy-mouthed about that. That is the way the world is working. If we move against the grain of that, we do ourselves serious harm.
The standing of the House is at stake in everything that we do. As has been mentioned, this country is at a point of severe crisis, domestically and internationally. In order to be seen to act responsibly in this House, we must understand the realities of the world, where British interests lie, and what we can really achieve. We can firmly make it clear that the breaking of oil sanctions was a sorry story, and Bingham exposed it. We must leave the rest to history. This House and this Government must get on with the job of protecting British interests and solving the problems of this country.
When I saw the motion on the Order Paper I was concerned that the members of the Committee appointed by this House should include a goodly sprinkling of people who were not Privy Councillors. On the whole, Privy Councillors tend to be either members of Cabinets or senior members of Government. A Privy Councillor is a member of Government who is seen to be a good boy, rather than a bad boy, and therefore the climate of Privy Councillors is conducive to explaining away any difficulty in which the Government find themselves. I want to see someone on the Committee who will apply a critical mind so that when we get the report we shall know that we have the plain unvarnished truth.
I was glad to hear that the two members of the Committee who will be nominated from the Labour side of the House will not be Privy Councillors. I hope that that example will be followed by the other parties. Therefore, I have decided not to push my amendment which has been selected.
I am intervening in the debate for two reasons. The first is the question of Cabinet papers. An enormous mystique has grown up around this question. We have heard the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) reading what Bagehot said 100 years ago, but things have changed since then and minutes are kept of Cabinet proceedings. Anyone who thinks that Cabinet proceedings are anything like the revelations in Richard Crossman's diary is in for a shock. As a junior Minister, I saw some Cabinet papers. I was not bound either by any oath as a Privy Councillor or by the Official Secrets Act, and I found those documents extremely dull. It was difficult to find out who said what, because, apart from naming the Minister who introduced the discussion, the debates are recorded in general terms. I do not believe that any great danger would be done to the fabric of our society if we discussed Cabinet papers on a wider basis than we do at present. But there is strong resistance on the part of members of the Opposition as well as the Government to allowing that principle to prevail.
I suspected that there would be a compromise, and compromise there is. That compromise goes too far in my view, but initially I was prepared to accept it. However, in the light of what the Attorney-General has said, I feel more disposed to vote for the amendment put down by the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop).
It is one thing for the Prime Minister to say that this is a serious matter, and, although it is not normal to disclose these documents and he personally does not want to, he has agreed to do so in the interests of indicating to the House that there is nothing to hide, knowing that there are certain careful safeguards, and hoping that the House will accept them; it is quite another for him to say that if these safeguards are not agreed to be is not prepared to release the documents. That is an impertinence to the House and a contempt of it. It is not within the power of the Prime Minister to flout the authority of this House expressed in a vote. On that basis, I am persuaded to vote for the hon. Member's amendment. If the Prime Minister were to flout the authority of the House, he might find himself in some hot water. The House has ways of expressing its disapproval of that kind of conduct. I am sorry that the Prime Minister's motion was put in such terms.
The other matter which has arisen in the course of the debate which prompted me to speak is perhaps even more serious. It is the attitude of the Opposition as indicated by their official spokesman and by almost every Opposition Member who has spoken. It may be a free vote, but it looks suspiciously as though the whole of the Opposition will vote one way. I do not regard that as a satisfactory response to the challenge with which we are faced by Bingham.
It has been asked "What more do we need, since Mr. Bingham has disclosed so much?" From the debates that followed Bingham, we know that there is an acute conflict between the account put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) and the account put forward by Lord Thomson of Monifieth in the other place. It was said that a Cabinet Minister sent a document across to Downing Street and the Prime Minister of the day said that he never saw it.
I am not so sanguine about civil servants as the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney). I recall when I was a Minister and he was a civil servant and we had our discussions. I cannot say that his response encouraged me to believe that civil servants do not sometimes act in a manner inconsistent with the directive of a Minister.
We have never really gone through this, and I do not want to delay the House, but I hope that the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) will agree that as a civil servant I followed my duty by pointing out the errors of certain courses as I saw them. If he, as Minister, elected to follow a certain course, I followed that loyally.
Since in this House we always accept the word of hon. Members, I should like to believe that. I can only tell the House that, until the hon. Member assured me just now, I was in some doubt. If anybody wishes to know more about it, he ought to consult a report in the Library by a gentleman called Hawley. That report was disclosed to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), though I do not know where it came from. From that report it is perfectly clear that civil servants in the post in which the hon. Member for Wycombe was then, Deputy High Commissioner, took a very strong view which was different from that of the Minister. Indeed, the civil servants pursued their own policy long after the Minister told them not to do so.
I should like to pursue this. I understood, when the hon. Gentleman began his remarks about me, that he was suggesting that I was in some way linked with the Hawley report. I should make it clear that I had left that post before the Hawley report and its leakage occurred. This is obviously not the appropriate time to discuss any particular episode.
I accept that it is not the appropriate time. I am simply making the point that it is not the case that civil servants always act in accordance with the direction of their Minister. I have concrete evidence from my own experience that they always present the Minister with papers that they should present, but it is not the case that they always keep the Minister fully informed on matters about which he has a right to be informed. However, I am not aware that that occurred in the case of this account from Mr. Bingham.
On an issue which is of such importance as the avoidance of sanctions, it seems to me that it would be very difficult indeed for a civil servant to take upon himself the responsibility of not informing his Minister. If it happened—and I do not put it entirely out of the realms of possibility—we should know about it. As yet, I do not have complete assurance from the Bingham report that it did not happen.
If the Commission were to come forward with clear evidence that Ministers had not been informed by their own civil servants, I am sure that the hon. Member for Wycombe would recognise that that would be a matter of first importance. This House would then have to act upon that information in order to ensure that civil servants were more accountable to their Ministers and to Parliament. For that reason, I believe it is of supreme importance that we go right to the end of the story and retrieve every morsel of information that we can about what did or did not happen.
If it becomes plain, as it might, that there are defects in the way in which Ministers are served by their civil servants, or that there are defects in the ways in which Ministers account for themselves before this House, it becomes more and more clear that what we have to do is to increase our power over the Executive and over the civil servants. I hesitate to make the case when the Leader of the House will be winding up this debate, but the case would then become stronger for strong Select Committees which would be in constant communication with civil servants and Ministers about the development of policy as an ongoing thing, and as that happened they would be able to avoid this kind of thing.
I make two final points. It is suggested by the hon. Member for Chelmsford that the country is not really terribly interested in whether we have an inquiry. I think that that is right; but it is right for all the wrong reasons. It is right because most people, having read about Bingham, have said "What else do you expect from politicians?" I believe that cynicism to be the greatest threat to our democratic system. Far more threatening than the trade unions or the right to strike or picket is the cynicism that Parliament is not a body in which people can have trust. I want to remove that cynicism. It is essential that we should have the report of the Joint Committee, if only to remove that cynicism.
Then, further, there is a case for trying to explain to our people why it was—if this is what the Commission finds—that, Ministers having decided that the operation of sanctions would involve us in difficulties with South Africa which they did not want to take on, they therefore decided not to come to the House and say publicly "This is the dilemma and this is what we have decided to do." They tried to conceal that difficulty by making or, at least, sanctioning a swap arrangement which was a breach of sanctions but, at any rate, enabled them honestly, or apparently honestly—I am never much given to the idea that just because the words are not wrong something is not a lie—to say that the oil was not coming from British companies.
If the Prime Minister of the day had come to the House and said "This is our dilemma", the House would have had to discuss it. It would have had to ask whether sanctions could proceed in that case, or it would have had to say "If sanctions are to proceed, we must take on South Africa."
I accept that that, particularly at the time, would have been a serious development of policy in Southern Africa. I happen to believe that it was the right policy to follow, and that if the Prime Minister had come to the House with that dilemma I would have known my answer to it. I do not say that it is the answer that the House would have given, but I know what I would have said. We would then have had a discussion about the real issues underlying sanctions, whereas what we did was to continue, unbeknown to ourselves, a charade in which we played our parts.
Those of us in the so-called Back-Bench Africa lobby were constantly saying that such-and-such should be done, when we did not realise at the time that a swap arrangement had been sanctioned by our own Government. Had we been able to use that information as part of the dialogue in forming policy, it is possible that a different policy would have emerged, a policy which would have been more effective in dealing with the Rhodesian problem, and a policy which would have led to the collapse of Mr. Smith long before the fighting broke out in earnest in 1972. The loss of many lives would have been avoided. We never got to that because some people, members of the Government, apparently took a decision that they would not tell.
The political process cannot develop unless we know all the facts, unless we have a sensible discussion about the facts and arrive at policies that are properly related to the facts. I do not believe that a policy can be built upon sand merely because it is convenient as far as public opinion is concerned that the harsh nature of the reality should not be disclosed. I fear that in many ways until quite recently we were pursuing that kind of policy in relation to whether or not there should be support for an internal settlement. The reality is that the internal Government have lost all credibility within Rhodesia, yet we are still arguing in this House on the basis of assumptions that are totally unjustified by the facts.
If for that reason alone, I think we should have the full facts before us about what happened and a proper discussion of what implications that has for policy making in the future.
I am almost diffident about intervening in what had become a rather interesting and private debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). I look forward to hearing on another occasion a full statement of my hon. Friend's case and particularly of his relationship with the hon. Gentleman when he was a Minister. Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman that I do not think that the Opposition will be presenting a united front on this. He may even have the uncomfortable experience of finding himself in the same Lobby as myself on the main issue, and may even want to reconsider his position after hearing that.
I agree with him, and not with my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, that the Bingham committee's report, admirable, cogently argued and lucid though it may be, cannot possibly be the last word on this whole question viewed as a political and historic episode of some importance. This is no criticism of Mr. Tom Bingham and his colleague, because their terms of reference were far too narrowly drawn to throw up all the essential evidence on which to form a political judgment on this very important episode.
The fullest and most cogent case against the setting up of the Special Commission was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), who is not present at the moment. He made the point first that this was really a matter to be left to historians. Of course, no one is better equipped than he to make that observation, except perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James), and we have been particularly privileged to hear contributions from both of them. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Leader of the House?"] I do not know whether or not the Leader of the House can be considered a historian I know that he has made a contribution to history and has written a biography of his predecessor in Ebbw Vale, but I do not know whether he regards that as a political work or a work of serious history. Perhaps he will enlighten us when he replies to the debate.
At any rate, the historians and men of letters in our midst make a particular and often sparkling contribution to our debates.
I do not believe, however, that whatever conclusion we reach or whatever conclusion the Special Commission reaches will prevent historians of the twenty-first century from going over this ground again. I am not conscious that because a Select Committee was set up to consider the Jameson raid—which I find to be perhaps the closest parallel, because these questions of connivance and collusion and, indeed, the integrity of a Minister, in that case Mr. Joe Chamberlain, were at stake—it was important to determine as one of the issues how far Mr. Chamberlain knew of the plans of Dr. Jameson. But that is a matter of history and I do not propose to take the time of the House to go back over it.
The point I wish to make is that certainly the conclusions of that Select Committee have not prevented a future generation of historians going over that ground in infinite depth and with infinite care, and I am quite certain that future historians, particularly perhaps when the missing filing cabinets provided to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) by the Peachey, property company have turned up, will find a rich fund of material to go over.
Yes, the chess set. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), like his hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore), has a keen nose for what I think the hon. Member for Luton, West described as moral corruption and treason. Perhaps I do not have quite such a sensitive nose. I certainly do not detect any particular connection between a silver chess set and the matters with which the Special Commission will be concerned.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for encouraging me to move away from that subject. I succumbed to the blandishments of the hon. Member for Fife, Central. I shall leave it at that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford and, indeed, Labour Members were concerned that the so-called Special Commission would be ineffective. I do not propose to traverse ground covered by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) with his usual expertise. I defer to him on parliamentary procedure and powers.
I doubt whether the Special Commission will be short of oral evidence. I feel that every right hon. Member who is in any way concerned with these matters will be only too ready and anxious to give his version of events to the Special Commission. For instance, I am sure that the right hon. Member for Huyton with the written word, his reminiscences on "The Governance of Britain" and oral evidence will endeavour to clarify his own position.
However, I entertain some doubts about the quality of the documentary evidence which may be available, particularly Cabinet papers. I recognise the delicacy of the Prime Minister's position—indeed, any Prime Minister's position—and the constitutional proprieties. But I must say to the Attorney-General, whom I know to be an advocate of skill and tact, that the message that he conveyed to the House this afternoon was similarly tactless. It has not done anything to allay the concern of those who have been considering this matter.
I should have understood if the Prime Minister had said that his Administration's papers, if certain amendments were carried—I am still unclear as to which amendments he takes exception—would not be available. But, whatever the strict constitutional position, I do not feel that the Prime Minister was entitled to say that he would not be able to make a recommendation relating to the Cabinet papers of his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton or of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). It must be a matter of judgment for them whether to make those papers available on the condition that the Cabinet papers of this Administration are made available.
As the Prime Minister has not been present, perhaps I may convey to him— I hope not presumptuously, but I think that I am echoing the views of many of his hon. Friends—that the message was a little tactless. I hope that, whatever the outcome of tonight's votes on the various amendments, he may choose to reconsider his position on that matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) is a man of great experience and charity. I think that that was a perfectly proper observation. I think that I can leave it there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford said that the Special Commission was a diversion of effort. So far as I can gather, only five hon. Members will be involved. I doubt whether we shall be in a position to debate their conclusions until possibly the further side of a general election. I have no doubt that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are concerned with the present discontents in the country and problems in their constituencies, but I do not think that this Special Commission will be substantial enough to divert our attention from more pressing problems.
I am sensitive to the argument put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford—he may not have put it in this way—that a minimum of secrecy is necessary for the efficient despatch of Government business. I am also sensitive to the argument that perhaps a minimum of humbug is needed if the decencies of public life are to be preserved. I leave the argument there, because my hon. Friend deployed it far more effectively than I could.
However, I hope that this debate will not be regarded as lying between those practical men of affairs who have experience of government and are concerned with the proper conduct of business and those who are without that experience and possibly with ulterior motives and who believe in total exposure. I hope that I have no ulterior motives and I do not believe—I say this to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe—in total exposure.
However, as I have considered this problem, another aspect has struck me. Sanctions were introduced by the Administration of the right hon. Member for Huyton as a matter of high national policy. Whether he was right in so doing, we are not now concerned to debate. I merely put it on record that I believe that it was a mistaken tactic that has proved entirely fruitless and has inflicted a great deal of unnecessary embarrassment on this country. But, as a consequence of the sanctions policy, the Queen in Parliament created offences under the criminal law. Some of our compatriots and some companies have already been prosecuted.
I asked the Attorney-General a question about the number of prosecutions that there have been for breaches of the Rhodesian sanctions orders. With his usual candour and comprehensiveness, the right hon. and learned Gentleman replied:
There have been 10 prosecutions for breaches of the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) (No. 2) Order 1968, of which nine have been successful. One prosecution is pending.
That is presumably the Lucas prosecution, which has now come to a conclusion satisfactory to the company.
There have also been 24 prosecutions for breaches of other legislation relating to Rhodesian sanctions, of which 21 have been successful. Three cases are pending.
In cases where there have been convictions, fines ranging between £10 and £50,000 have been imposed. In some cases, where imports to the United Kingdom have been concerned, goods have been confiscated."—[Official Report, 6 November 1978; Vol. 957, c. 46.]
As I said, there has been in the public eye the prosecution of the Lucas company and some of its directors. I would recall to the House the fact that one of the directors, a Mr. Lock, was prosecuted for what, in lay terms, amounted to negligent misconduct because he should have known what was carried on by a branch of his company in South Africa. I am happy to state that he was acquitted, as was the company, although one employee of the company was convicted and fined £500.
In the debate on the Gracious Speech on 7 November, the Foreign Secretary made it clear that the Director of Public Prosecutions would be pressing on with prosecutions in this field, that the Government, so far as they were entitled to do so, would throw their weight into this area and make certain that any infractions of the orders would be brought before the courts and that—I suppose—he hoped they would be prosecuted with the full rigour of the law.
I feel that if a person were charged with breaches of these orders, certainly with breaches which occurred before the debate on the Gracious Speech, he would be entitled to argue that he thought—indeed, the public thought, as probably most of the public do—that the Government who introduced the sanctions orders initially had considerable doubts about their ultimate efficacy and that although perhaps they had initially been ignorant of breaches of the order in the most important sector, that concerned with the import of fuel oils into Rhodesia, they subsequently connived at, if not colluded over, these breaches.
I am not saying whether that is true or not—that will be a matter for the Commission—but that is certainly the impression that has been left on those of my constituents with whom I have talked about this question since and before the publication of the Bingham report.
This is one of the central political issues to be elucidated. But it is not entirely a political issue, because it also touches on the administration of justice, as I have said previously to the House. Any advocate called upon to prepare his speech in mitigation on behalf of a client who had been convicted of a breach of these orders might well point to the minutes of the meeting presided over by Lord Thomson of Monifieth—may I say that I have considerable personal regard for the noble Lord, both for his charm and his integrity—on 21 February 1968. There was a subsequent meeting a year later on 6 February 1969. If I were defending a client in breach of the orders, I would draw the attention of the court—although I might be ruled out of order for so doing—to a consideration of how far the Government which had created the offences of which my client had been convicted had connived at breaches of the orders.
My right hon. Friend has a great gift of phrase, a great knowledge of the Bible and classical literature. I recall with pleasure his memory of Plutarch in other debates. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that he will catch your eye in the debate.
I believe that a court called upon to determine the penalty in a case such as the one I have described would have to consider whether the Government which created the offence believed that the sanctions orders would contribute effectively towards resolving the problem of UDI. The problems of the impotence of the Government of the day were real. But if one is to create a criminal offence one must come to the House and the country with the cleanest possible hands.
Whether the penalty for the offence would be pecuniary or a term of imprisonment, the court would have to consider how far the Government had been guilty of connivance or collusion. I do not suggest that the Attorney-General should encourage the Director of Public Prosecutions—he cannot of course give instructions to that Department—to consider the prosecution of his right hon. Friend the noble Lord Thomson of Monifieth or of his right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton. That is an absurd suggestion and I do not make it.
Those who tangle with criminal law in the future, upon the encouragement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, are entitled to have these questions answered. I am conscious that we cannot answer them in the highly charged atmosphere of this Chamber. We do not have the material or the necessary skills to do so. Therefore, in the interests of justice and not of partisan politics, some other form of investigation must be devised.
I confess that, like many of my hon. Friends, I am not enamoured of the so-called Special Commission and, as I have indicated, I have reservations about its powers. However, I do not believe that any Member of this House or the other place would shirk his duty and not appear before the Special Commisison. If he did, I believe that it would be right for the Special Commisison to draw inferences unfavourable to him.
I feel that the terms of reference of the Special Commission are a little meretricious. Of course, it would be right for the Commission to consider whether Ministers were deceived, and the question of how far the House was misled will be a key issue. None of the papers was available to the House. Another key issue is how far the Cabinet and the Ministers of the day connived and colluded or how far they remained in ignorance of what was going on.
In the absence of more attractive and practical proposals, and in the hope that the Special Commission will address itself to what I regard, and I hope the House regards, as an important issue, I shall support the motion.
The hon. and learned Member for Dover and Deal (Mr. Rees) referred to the undoubted fact that the British Government, generally speaking, were not interested in this matter. Judging from the attendance in the Chamber, the majority of Members of this House are not interested either. But that, as my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) said, is no good reason why we should not go ahead to ascertain the truth.
Indeed, British politics might have been in a healthier state if the Government which perpetrated the Suez disaster had set up a similar committee to ascertain the truth of that disaster. Perhaps we could trace the cynicism now prevalent among the British public to that crisis. However, we have never yet learnt the truth of it. It is very important for the credibility of Government, for the credibility of our Civil Service and for the credibility, more importantly, of the nation as a whole that we should bend every endeavour to get at the truth, however unpleasant it might be for individuals or Government.
The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) was a fairly high-up civil servant. I do not want to criticise the Civil Service unduly, but he would appear to have been the sort of archetypal civil servant who makes us deeply suspicious of the whole set-up of the Civil Service. Speaking more as a civil servant than as a politically sensitive representative of this House, he admitted, in effect, that it was a sorry tale and that therefore we had better wrap it up.
I take a completely opposite view, precisely for the reason that, if it is a sorry tale of deception by somebody, it is imperative that we should use all our endeavours to get to the truth, however distasteful it might be and however destructive it might be of the careers of individuals, be they Members of this House, civil servants, oil executives, or anything else. If there are wrongdoers, they must be identified and suitable punishment must be meted out "pour encourager les autres".
This, more than any other issue that I remember debating in this House, is a political matter of great concern to this House, to our people and to our credibility as a nation in the world. Politically the reputations of former Ministers—and perhaps of existing Ministers—are at stake. Constitutionally what is at stake is whether this House was deliberately deceived by Ministers of the Crown of both Governments and whether Ministers were deceived by civil servants.
There is a very important matter to which reference has not yet been made, and I hope that the Joint Committee will undertake to investigate it. I refer to the relationship between BP and the Government. The Government have a major shareholding in BP, yet there was evidence that there was either no relationship or that some very questionable relationship existed between the British Government's directors in that company and the Government themselves.
Not least in importance is a matter which has been referred to by several right hon. and hon. Members in the course of the debate, and which was referred to by the Attorney-General, namely, the Prime Minister's doctrine. I could scarcely believe my ears, but I knew very well that the Prime Minister had said it on 15 December because I was here at the time. It was, I believe, in reply to a question from me that he laid down the astonishing doctrine that if this House does not do what he thinks we ought to do, he will take no notice of it. I tell my right hon. Friend that that is an outrageous and completely unacceptable doctrine, and that we shall not accept it. I hope that no Back Bench Member—and, indeed, no Front Bench Member, apart from Cabinet Members—will accept that doctrine.
I turn directly to that statement by the Prime Minister on 15 December. After it the Leader of the Opposition had some startling and ominous things to say. The right hon. Lady said that she wanted speedy conclusions, otherwise the interests of the United Kingdom would be damaged. What did that imply? Surely the implication of that was that if we investigated in depth and discovered the facts the Government would be damaged, and that therefore we should have a speedy, inconclusive whitewashing exercise to safeguard the good name of this country. That doctrine was propounded by the right hon. Lady. She almost inferred that the more inadequate the inquiry, the better our interests would be protected in this country and presumably in Africa. The right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) shakes his head. I hope that he will read what his right hon. Friend said on that occasion. He may then draw his own conclusions.
The Prime Minister was questioned more effectively, I thought, by the former Tory Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), when he referred to the question of the evidence to be taken in private. My amendment refers to that point. In reply the Prime Minister said that if the evidence was not taken in private—if it was taken in public—private characters might be jeopardised, and character assassination of private individuals might take place which could not be remedied easily in the short term. In the nature of events we must take that risk. It is unavoidable. My amendment seeks to deal with that matter.
All parties pay lip service to the principle of open government until they become the Government. Then suddenly they backtrack. We have repeatedly tried by a variety of measures to obtain more open government. Concessions have been made reluctantly by successive Governments by means of a multiplicity of Green Papers. We have not made much progress in all the time that I have been here in implementing the principle of open government. The idea of having the evidence taken by this Select Committee, with the safeguard that it would be at the discretion of the Chairman and his Committee acting together, would be sufficient safeguard against the abuse of individuals who gave evidence to the Committee.
Many years ago we heard in Parliament the same argument about Select Committees of other kinds. We always sat in private until relatively recently. The argument was always put by Governments that the press would report the proceedings week by week. The outside public would therefore obtain a bowdlerised version of what was happening and the evidence would be out of date when the report appeared. The press and public would therefore have been fed with inexact, inaccurate, scurrilous stories of which the press is capable. Those arguments were advanced over a long period of years against allowing the public inside the Select Committees. Eevery Select Committee now allows in the public. None of the dangers feared at that time has arisen.
There is still a problem. The press is allowed to report the meetings of the Public Accounts Committee, but as a member of that Committee I am not permitted to give official evidence. It is still half a story. I could not take part in a television programme tonight because a report has not been made to the House.
As far as I understand the hon. Gentleman, that is a case for saying that we should go even further and introduce the television camera. I am all in favour of that. If we are to get an accurate description for the public of what goes on in this place, our proceedings must be as open as possible. I should be all in favour of having television cameras in Select Committee rooms and in the Joint Committee.
The former Conservative Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup, advanced a valid argument about having a report produced by the Committee but published without the accompanying evidence. Nothing could be more calculated to convince the public that a whitewashing exercise had taken place than to produce a report but not the evidence. We should be saying "There is the report, but we shall not tell you the evidence on which it is based." I can think of nothing more damaging to the standing of the House than that procedure.
There has been and still is constant pressure on the Government not to appoint a majority of Privy Councillors. The argument has been conceded by the Government but the Opposition may take a different view. We have no control over the Opposition, but I hope that when the membership is ascertained a resolution will be put before the House and we shall be able to amend the membership. If a resolution comes before us, and if the Opposition have appointed Privy Councillors, we shall move amendments to delete the Privy Councillors' names and to replace them with Back Benchers. If that procedure is adopted, we shall have that privilege.
We may talk about the nuts and bolts but we must not lose sight of the principle. My hon. Friends the Members for York and for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) put the matter in the right perspective. It is highly politically charged. Whatever faults we may find with the terms of reference of the Committee and its composition, it is extremely important to our friends in Africa, to the Third world and to everybody in Great Britain to ensure that the House of Commons, a democratically elected assembly, is willing, despite the damage that may be incurred by former Ministers and civil servants, not to shrink from ascertaining the truth. I only wish that the Tory Government had done so in 1956.
It is always a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the House of Commons must not shrink from ascertaining the truth when its honour is involved.
The hon. Gentleman tried to make a party political point about Suez. I could make a party political point about Admiral Byng and the muitny of the Nore. Neither Suez nor the mutiny created a new criminal offence. Sanctions did so, and many innocent persons, including constituents and those running smaller companies, have suffered. There is a proper emotional viewpoint for the British public to hold. We have all had cases where, for example, a sick person has not been able to return to Britain or where a few goods—for example, a couple of leopard skins or a cow hide—have been prevented from being imported because of sanctions. Everyone in Britain has connections with those who have suffered because a new criminal offence was created by sanctions.
The honour of this House is very much involved. I want to look back at the reason why the Bingham report was published. Admittedly, the Foreign Secretary instigated the report, but I hope that the Government are aware that the reason it had to be instigated was because an action was being taken in international law by the President of Zambia and by a British company, Lonrho, against international oil companies.
I am one of the sponsors of the Official Information Bill. It is wrong to imagine that the Bingham report is sui generis to the House of Commons. It arose only because these international actions were being taken by Lonrho and by the President of Zambia against various oil companies. Let us get that straight.
That certainly is not true. Those actions, no doubt, were taking place, but the Bingham inquiry was set up as a result of certain information being passed to the Foreign Secretary, who consulted me. That information indicated there may have been sanctions-breaking. It was entirely as a result of that. It had nothing whatever to do with anything else.
This can doubtless be investigated when the Committee is set up. I am told that a great deal of information came from either the President of Zambia or from the Lonrho company in this country. That will be shown later. To imagine that the Government have acted out of their good will is not the fact. This will undoubtedly be shown by the evidence put forward to this Committee.
I have spoken about the emotional angle and the suffering created for many people by a new criminal offence. There is a much more important angle which should be investigated. People say let history decide. This might have been acceptable 80 years ago or 50 years ago, when Britain was a great Power and this House of Commons was regarded with great respect by the people of this country. It is no longer regarded with respect. That is why I believe there must be a proper inquiry.
Faults have been committed at a very high level. The main argument for setting up this Committee is not simply the emotional feeling that small men have been persecuted while the great get away. It is not the tradesmen that people want to see hung in this country, it is the politicians. That would be very popular.
I want to raise the question of the deceit of the House of Commons over a long period of years. The most obvious area of deceit occurred over what was called the Beira patrol. Again and again, the House was told that this was essential to the maintenance of sanctions. If one looks at the evidence, it is clear that the Beira patrol had no influence on the flow of oil into Rhodesia. By 1965, when sanctions were set up, one ship was stopped going in. After that, they all went in to Lourenco Marques without let or hindrance.
By 1970, the port of Beira had seized up and yet ship after ship, officer after officer, and crew after crew of the Royal Navy were engaged in this fruitless patrol at immense cost to the taxpayer and because we were not allowed to use Simonstown, great damage was caused to naval hulls. This needs to be investigated. Yet when I asked the Attorney-General this afternoon whether the Beira control was to be included within the terms of reference, he was rather doubtful. This is something which cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds. That is why it must be made clear that the witnesses called will not be subject to prosecution under various naval Acts. That is why I feel very strongly, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), that the Joint Committee should have the absolute ability to send for the right persons and papers.
I would like to see the harbour master from Beira sent for. There are two of them, both Portuguese. They know how many ships were wasting their time. They know what it cost the taxpayer, not in terms of money—that is for an accountant to quantify—but in terms of steam, men and ships. Yet again and again we were smoothly told that this was central to the maintenance of sanctions.
There is another question which ought to be investigated by this Special Commission, namely, whether British sailors were actually protected by international law in the pursuit of their patrol. Looking at the various articles of the United Nations, I have reason to believe that if ever they had taken action British sailors could possibly have been put on a charge either of piracy or of murder. Yet this went on year after year, and the House of Commons was told that it was essential.
There are many people who say "Let the dead bury the dead, let this be wrapped up in history" I disagree. The fair name of the House of Commons is at stake. Let this investigation be set up, and allow it to send for witnesses under proper protection.
I agree with the last words of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) that the honour of the House of Commons is at stake, as is the honour of successive British Governments. That is why I still support the setting up of this Special Commission.
It has been said that there is not much interest in this matter. I suspect that is right. We would be wrong to think that the people of this country, who have problems with hospitals, heating and so on, are bothered about this debate. But we must face the fact that the people of this country have for some time not bothered a great deal about foreign affairs. We have become increasingly parochial. But, the questions having been raised about the honour of the House and the honour of successive British Ministers, this inquiry is essential with regard to British reputation abroad, where British behaviour in foreign affairs still counts. It should be seen that we have no desire to draw a veil in order to protect individuals or Governments.
The question that arises in this debate relates to the form of the Special Commission. There are two issues in this respect. There is the issue of confidentiality—of whether or not papers and witnesses should be seen privately. There is also a totally different question, which is the extent to which the Government are prepared to trust the honour of Members of Parliament.
I do not go all the way with my hon. Friends who have argued for a virtually total openness of the hearing of witnesses. When one is dealing with former senior Ministers and other senior officials, one cannot be sure in advance that a probing question will not produce an answer which may not be totally germane to the inquiry but which may affect some aspect of national security. So long as it is understood that evidence will be published after the Special Commission has heard it, and has considered whether any portions need to be sidelined or excluded, I believe that the Commission can sit in private. I have no worries that there will be a cover-up by a Special Commission of this House if it were to sit mainly in private.
What does concern me is the doctrine enunciated from the Government Front Bench, namely, that if certain amendments are accepted by the House the Government will not see fit to recommend certain things to Her Majesty the Queen. It seems to me totally intolerable that the Government should trust a High Court judge, however learned and honourable he may be, and not trust the Members of this House, especially since, as we all know, they will be hand-picked by the Government Whips and the Opposition Whips for their general moderation and reliability.
I find it intolerable that the Government have rejected the amendments of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). I do not always see eye to eye with him, but on this occasion it seems to me that it is a derogation of the power of the Special Commission that the Government motion says that the Attorney-General should give assistance to the Special Commission "as may be appropriate". That leaves it in the hands of the Executive totally to decide when, and when not, to give assistance.
I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend, whom I regard truly as rightly honourable, would intend that. But we have had cases in the not too distant past where Ministers of the Crown were required to appear before a Select Committee and were prevented from doing so by the Government. However honourable my right hon. and learned Friend may be, I believe it is correct for the House of Commons to insist on the
amendment of the hon. Member for Tiverton, seeking to delete the word "appropriate" from the Government's motion and to insert the words
required by the Special Commission".
Equally, if one is to trust the Members of the House of Commons, as I believe one should, I do not believe that the other amendment of the hon. Member for Tiverton, namely, to insert the words
(including Members of the House of Commons)
after the word "persons" in paragraph 3, is necessary. I agree with the Government that any Member of this House who decided not to appear in front of a Special Commission would in effect convict himself, and I doubt whether any hon. Member would behave in that way.
The other major question concerned the amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Tiverton to delete the words "if necessary" in paragraph 9. This is also fundamental, because for the Chairman of the Commission to decide whether he should consult hon. Members on what is, by Government admission, a highly political matter—a decision to be taken by someone who is not a Member of the House of Commons—seems to me to display a total mistrust of this House. It appears also to undermine the sincerity of the Government's whole approach in setting up the Commission.
It seems to me that there is a compromise which could be offered by the Government. If the House is prepared to accept the confidentiality of the proceedings of the Special Commission, it would seem that the Government should be prepared to accept that hon. Members are to be fully trusted. I hope therefore that they will be prepared to accept the amendments to which I have drawn attention.
One wonders, having heard the speech about the great demand of the country for this Commission, why that demand has not been reflected by a better attendance in this House. Several times during the course of this debate there have been no more than three Back Benchers on either side of the House and there has usually been one—the Attorney-General has faithfully been here most of the time —on the Front Bench. This is the debate that is meant to be exciting the attention of the country.
I ask, first of all, why we need another inquiry. Nobody could say of the Bingham report that it was not a full, detailed and first-class report. Are some Members hoping, perhaps, to indict other Members, or some civil servants?
The right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) wants an inquiry, but made a detailed speech to the House at some length making it clear that no blame lay upon him. Does the House not accept his word? In the same way, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) told the House that there was no discussion of any kind about sanctions-busting and that nothing was known about the swap arrangement entered into by the previous Government. That assertion is supported by the absolute lack of any document to the contrary. Does the House not accept my right hon. Friend's word?
Why are we undertaking the exercise at all? In a long speech the Attorney-General—it was no fault of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because he had to suffer many interruptions—demonstrated clearly the difficulties that arise for the Special Commission following this proposal. Does the country demand it? I have not had one letter on this subject, nor have all my hon. Friends to whom I have spoken about it. Certainly the House, judging by the lack of attendance today, does not seem to demand it. Today's attendance has been worse than many an attendance on a Friday. Are we frightened that we shall be accused of a cover-up? If that is the case, why have there been no letters to hon. Members on this subject?
What pressure from the press has there been? There has been the usual pressure from certain people who hope to find scandal to sell their newspapers. But the pressure is remarkable by its absence in the last few weeks. In my view, some of the pressure appears to come from those who hope to be able to damage reputations—those of Members of this House, civil servants, or even that arch-enemy, the multinational.
Much more important is the reputation of this country. The damage to this country could be enormous, especially when there are extravagant allegations, such as those made by the hon. Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore), particularly if they are repeated in the way he made them today. Furthermore, there will be damage to the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility and to Cabinet secrecy.
Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten his own speech? Anybody who listened to it would have been horrified by his remarks.
Free and frank discussion, as described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup in the debate on 8 November, is essential to Cabinet collective responsibility and Cabinet secrecy and to make Cabinet discussion work. If I may paraphrase an important speech delivered in another place on 9 November last year, are we not reaching the stage where it has become a standard reflex action to follow the report of one inquiry by establishing another to investigate the original inquiry? We are in danger of suffering from the national neurosis of seeing conspiracies everywhere we look.
Bingham made the fullest possible inquiry. It has been published in full, the DPP is considering the, matter in terms of a possible criminal offence, and there is no evidence in Bingham of any cover-up. Are we not hurting ourselves by unnecessary self-inflicted wounds?
The reputation of Great Britain is not the end of the matter. To my mind, the most serious consequence of the Government's proposal is that the setting up of the Commission involves a serious constitutional change—namely, the disclosure of Cabinet papers.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General says that it is unprecedented, but the Government are convinced that it should not become a precedent. I hope he will forgive me if I say that that is a piece of convoluted nonsense, because if it happens it will be a precedent. It does not matter how hedged in the restrictions are; the moment one breaks the rule, the precedent exists. To say that the Government are convinced that it will never become a precedent defeats the whole purpose of what we are discussing.
What safeguard for secrecy is there? I listened with interest to the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huyton, but we must remember what bitter experience has taught us in this place. We must remember that there are leaks from Select Committees and that often the leaker cannot be traced. We have had cases in which every member of the Select Committee—one of whom is very likely, if not certainly, to have been the leaker—has denied it. Leaks do not have to be by a Member of Parliament. If the Commission examines Cabinet documents, inevitably some of those documents will be put to witnesses and will be seen by their advisers.
In those circumstances, how can it be said, as was said by the former Prime Minister in his rather bland and confident way, that the sanction of the House's anger for any breach would be an effective deterrent? Such a sanction would be totally ineffective without knowing who it was who breached the secrecy. Our track record on that is not good.
The proposed breach of this rule, the creation of this precedent, is so serious that it outweighs any need that there may be for the Special Commission. There is no way of repairing that dam once it has been cracked.
If the Special Commission is set up, what will be the minimum safeguards? The Government's motion, unamended, is the absolute minimum safeguard that must be imposed when dealing with Government and Cabinet documents of this kind. I agree with the Attorney-General's view. He has had a rough ride. He has perhaps had to bear the blame for the Prime Minister. But on 15 December the Prime Minister made the position absolutely clear. If there were to be a Special Commission that would allow Cabinet papers to be seen by the Chairman and perhaps by members, witnesses, counsel and others involved, that would be such a departure from the rules that it would create the first breach of the dam and safeguards would be essential. There should be no doubt in the minds of those who show shock when the Attorney-General uses a well-known legal phrase that exactly sums up the position—that this is a condition precedent to the setting up of the Commission—that the last paragraph should remain inviolate. We agree entirely about that. If the Commission is set up, those safeguards are absolutely essential.
On whether access should be limited to the Law Lord presiding, judges often look at documents where privilege and especially Crown privilege is concerned, in order to rule whether a claim for Crown privilege is justified. Documents will be restricted, and the Crown or other parties in civil litigation will seek to say that a document is privileged for one of many reasons. The trial judge will often decide to look at a document and rule upon its admissibility. Can anybody say that a Law Lord is not eminently suitable to do this job, particularly with the assistance of the Treasury Solicitor? To command public support, it will not be enough to leave the Treasury Solicitor with that odious decision. That decision must be made in co-operation with a member of the Commission.
It will be a huge task. I was horrified when the Attorney-General spoke of the enormous amount of documents that are marginally relevant. I feel sorry for the Law Lord who has this immense task. But, for a speedy and effective result, common sense demands that we have such a filter. Even if a judge is not a politician, he is able to decide questions of relevance and materiality.
The motion provides that, if he is in doubt, he can consult the other Commissioners. Why does that make the other members—to use the phrase of the right hon. Member for Huyton—"second-class citizens?" I suspect that they will be delighted to be relieved of this burden. If I were a member of the Commission, which, thank God, as a Minister in the the Administration, I cannot be, I should be perfectly willing to trust the judgment of the Law Lord and the Treasury Solicitor. I would welcome the fact that I only had to deal with the documents that they had decided were relevant to the issue. Any dissension from this view means that those who dissent are saying that they do not trust either that eminent Law Lord or the Treasury Solicitor, and I will certainly not subscribe to that.
Is not the right hon. and learned Member addressing himself to the wrong question? The other Members of the Commission will be saying to themselves "Am I not to be trusted, along with my Chairman, to decide what is relevant and to keep confidences when I have been sworn, as it were, as a member of a Commission and given a solemn and serious task to perform?"
Even if the motion provided that there should be a quorum of two Commissioners, and if one could expect a Special Commission of 10 persons presided over by a Law Lord to be able to go through a mass of those documents with the Treasury Solicitor, within a couple of days the absentee rate would be so high that I doubt whether there would even be a quorum.
My right hon. and learned Friend has fallen into the trap of assuming that the name that the Government want to use is meaningful. He has referred to "Commissioners". This is not a Commission of any sort at all. The members of it will not be sworn to anything. This is just a Joint Committee of two Houses. It is not any kind of Commission.
I am delighted to be corrected by the expert behind me. I do not think that I said "sworn". I used the word "Commissioner" because that is the term used in the motion. Any form of inquiry during which a person against whom an allegation may be made or imputed cannot hear all the evidence or cannot cross-examine all the witnesses who might incriminate him must be unsatisfactory. Such an inquiry where the evidence is not published leads to gossip and rumour. The names of the witnesses are bandied about, spies wait outside the room to see who is called in and who is not. Press photographers hang around trying to catch them as they come out or go in. It is not a satisfactory form of inquiry.
On the other hand, if we are to have an inquiry this is the inevitable consequence of the breach of secrecy rule and cannot be done otherwise. This is perhaps another reason for thinking again as to whether we need the inquiry at all. But if we do have the inquiry we on this side agree with the strict limitations set out in the last paragraph. We have a free vote tonight, but this is my view and I have discussed it with many of my hon. Friends. We even see the reason for the unusual use of "lawful intimidation" by the threat that it is a condition precedent that these safeguards remain inviolate. If we are to have a Commission, I would not accept any Commission that went any wider than the one proposed by the Government.
The right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) started his remarks in the same way as the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) by posing the question whether it is necessary to have this inquiry at all. I shall follow the sequence of events put by the hon. Member for Chelmsford and answer his questions accordingly.
I believe that it is necessary to have an inquiry for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, it is necessary because of the debate in the House on this subject. We promised in that debate that we would listen to what was said. Had we come to the opposite conclusion, come back to the House and said that there was no need for any inquiry, all the charges of contempt of the House that have been used this evening would have been justified to the hilt.
During that debate we had a series of requests from all parts of the House for another inquiry. My hon. Friends, who have been consistent throughout on this subject, pressed for the inquiry, and obviously, if we had not proposed it, they would have been fully entitled to say that we had neglected and rejected the consistent advice that they had given ever since the publication of the Bingham report. They gave us that advice in the House of Commons. They gave us similar advice at the Labour Party conference and other such places where these matters were fully and properly debated. I agree with what my hon. Friends have said today—that it would detract from the honour of the House if they had not pressed for an inquiry of this nature.
It was not only my hon. Friends who pressed for an inquiry. I shall not attempt to make any point about the inconsistency of members of the Opposition Front Bench. I listened to the previous debate and to the speech of the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), the chairman of the 1922 Committee. I have cited him and I know it apparently touches on some terrible sensitivities on the Opposition Benches if I even mention his name. Why not throw him out of the chairmanship? We should then know what their views were.
The right hon. Member for Taunton spoke in strong terms. Not only did he plead that there should be an inquiry but he also indicated, in a sense, that it would be a disgrace to this House of Commons if we did not proceed. Those are pretty strong words. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) holds to the view that the right hon. Member for Taunton and others gave on that occasion. Therefore, it is not a question of the Government listening only to Labour Members.
The Leader of the Liberal Party pressed very strongly for such an inquiry. Therefore, in bringing forward this motion, we are responding to the consistently importunate demands of the House of Commons.
Among those who have pressed for an inquiry, has not the Lord President omitted President Kaunda of Zambia? Is not the reality of this situation that the Prime Minister, in order to get out of a difficult situation in Nigeria, promised President Kaunda that he would have this inquiry, and tonight is the pay-off for that?
The hon. and learned Gentleman's statement is absolutely false. That is not the truth. The pressure, the demands, as I have already indicated, came from the House of Commons itself. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went to Zambia and had a meeting with President Kaunda. I do not know why that should be regarded as a matter for attack by the Opposition.
It is not a fact at all, and I hope that hon. Members will not repeat an accusation that has already been denied on a series of occasions. It was denied by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon), who saw President Kaunda shortly afterwards, and denied by many others. I do not know whether Opposition Members have any interest in trying to sustain relations between this country and Zambia. I am not quite sure whether any of them is interested in doing so. I believe that the way in which that intervention was made does not assist in that purpose at all.
There are other reasons why we believe it is right that there should be an inquiry. I believe that it accords with the highest traditions of this House and this Parliament. One of the strengths of the British House of Commons has always been—or has usually been—that we are prepared to examine and scrutinise charges of misdemeanours, mistakes or errors that have been made by previous Administrations or by those charged with executive office on behalf of the country.
Anyone who takes his children through Westminster Hall and sees the place where Warren Hastings was tried and acquitted will see one of the great—[Interruption.] He was tried by Parliament, and what happened in this House of Commons was that many Members of this House—Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox and Richard Brinsley Sheridan—fought for the idea that there should be a proper examination of accusations that are made. I believe that it was to vindicate the honour of this House that that happened.
I believe that the demand that has come for the fullest proper exposure and examination of this question is in the same tradition. It has been made in accordance with the highest traditions of the House. Therefore, I believe that all the sneers and jeers, from whichever quarter of the House they come, and the suggestion that there is something evil or malicious in the demand that there should be such an inquiry, should be dismissed.
I do not agree with the right right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of history. I was indicating that one of the reasons why the reputation of this country in India was sustained was precisely because a small number of Back Benchers in this House—as most of them were— demanded that there should be a full investigation. Of course, it was a different kind of investigation, but they demanded a full investigation into what had occurred. I believe that the honour and reputation of this House was sustained by those processes. It is part of that demand which leads to this proposal as well. Therefore, for those reasons, too, it is necessary to have the inquiry.
It is necessary also in the interests of the general relations of this country with other countries. As the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone said, many accusations have been made. Accusations of hypocrisy have been made against the Government and others engaged in the activities at the time. It is right that those accusations should be examined, and those who have been charged should be able, if they can—as I believe many of them can—to exculpate themselves entirely from such accusations.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), in the earlier debate and on previous occasions, urged that there should be such a full examination, the House also had an obligation to take that into account. Right hon. and hon. Members who may have been subjected to the kind of attacks to which my right hon. Friend was subjected had every right to say "Let the documents be produced and let us see, and let others judge whether our claims are correct."
Therefore, I hope that the House will recognise that, whatever may have been the temper of this debate today, there has been a very strong demand in the country for such a further inquiry. [HON. MEMBERS: "No".] I have already recapitulated to those hon. Members who were not present for the earlier debate how widespread was the demand we had for debates from many quarters.
It is no good the hon. Gentleman saying "Who from?" I have cited a considerable number of Opposition Back Benchers or prominent Members who pressed us for this as well. Therefore, in responding to this demand, request, or whatever one cares to call it, we are responding, as we are perfectly entitled to do, not only to the views of many right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches but to those in all parts of the House who have put this matter forward.
The right hon. Gentleman can quite correctly point in the official record to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have asked for an inquiry. However, he said that there was a widespread demand throughout the country. Where is this widespread demand throughout the country? I have not received a single letter from a constituent, and I should be surprised if any other hon. Member has received one. Who is making this demand?
I do not think that anyone in this country who wants to concern himself with this kind of maintenance of its reputation would be likely to communicate with the hon. Gentleman. They would not think that it was a very useful operation. But there are many other hon. Members who have had representations made to them. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman must not be so disrespectful to some of his hon. Friends who take a different view on the matter.
Having decided that there was every ground for an inquiry, as I have said, and that an inquiry was necessary, the next question was what sort of inquiry it should be. Of course, that raised considerable problems. The hon. Member for Chelmsford said that an inquiry such as this would be ineffective and would raise serious or dangerous constitutional principles. This is, in a sense, the kernel of the debate and of the reason we have proceeded in the way we have. Of course, there are serious problems involved of constitutional questions concerned with Cabinet secrecy, and it is precisely because of those problems that we have come forward with a proposal for a different kind of inquiry from the kinds of inquiry we have had before.
However, before I come to that special aspect of the matter, let me mention this. We looked at the other forms of inquiry that we might have embarked upon for this purpose. We might have embarked upon a tribunal of inquiry, which is the way some of these inquiries are conducted. I have seen some of these inquiries set up by this House in years past, and, although some of them conducted their affairs perfectly properly and satisfactorily, some tribunals of inquiry set up under the 1921 Act, in my opinion, and indeed in the subsequent judgment of the House, have done grievous injustice to individuals.
That injustice sprang almost inevitably from the way they proceeded, but partly also from the fact that they proceeded in public, with no charge being made against the people there to be examined and with the possibility that entirely innocent people might have their reputations and their records undermined without any proper reason and without adequate compensation.
That happened on a number of occasions, and that is why some of us fought very hard to try to get that rectified. The report of the Salmon committee made recommendations for trying to safeguard such inquiries against such dangers, but I do not believe that any of those hon. Members who have looked at this in years gone by would claim that all those dangers have been removed. I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Sedgemore) made this point, but other hon. Members have said that it is possible that some innocent people may suffer in the process. No one can give a guarantee against that in any kind of inquiry, but I believe that this House of Commons, above all other institutions in the country, should be very careful before proceeding along a line which runs the severe risk of many innocent people suffering, even for the high purpose of trying to discover—[Interruption.] I know it is an argument against, but it is an argument that has to be balanced if we are to consider what form of inquiry is the right one to have. That is one reason why we said there should not be a tribunal of inquiry such as had been urged on us by some hon. Members in the debate.
Another obvious alternative we considered, and one which was put forward in the debate from both sides of the House, was to suggest the normal form of Select Committee. I can understand the case for that. Some of my hon. Friends wanted a Select Committee of this House, acting in the normal way in which a Select Committee operates, but that brought us directly up against the whole question of Cabinet papers and Cabinet secrecy. If we were to set up an ordinary Select Committee of the House, and if that Select Committee were to be dealing with Cabinet papers as it deals with other papers in other matters now, we would be setting a precedent with enormous potentialities. There is not the slightest doubt about that.
Indeed, some hon. Members—my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West, for instance—are in favour of having an arrangement whereby Select Committees examine Cabinet papers as well as the rest. By the way, I do not join those who wish to attribute some special mystique to Cabinet papers. For light reading I much prefer Byron's letters or something of that sort, and I recommend that hon. Members who wish to use their time profitably should not spend it reading Cabinet papers. But the allocation of Cabinet papers almost indiscrimately, as some would argue for, or at any rate with very few safeguards, to Select Committees of this House would not merely entail the risk of transforming the relationship of the House of Commons and the Government in ways that would not be an advantage to the country as a whole, but would destroy altogether the basis of Cabinet government in this country, and I am strongly opposed to doing that.
I am in favour of protecting the confidentiality and secrecy of Cabinet discussions. If that principle is abandoned, so far from it leading to open government, I think that it will lead to a new form of closed government. I do not believe that any Cabinet, charged with the essential tasks of governing the nation, would permit every debate and discussion that it had to be open to the public and to Select Committees in the way that some of my hon. Friends would like. Therefore, I am strongly sympathetic to the view that we must have very careful safeguards for dealing with this situation.
That is precisely why we came forward not with an orthodox inquiry of any kind that we have had before but with what we thought it was right to call a Special Commission, because it is a Special Commission. I know that has given some offence to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). But if we called it a Select Committee people would ask "Why not treat it in the same way as ordinary Select Committees?" If we called it a tribunal, they would ask "Why has it not got the powers of ordinary tribunals?" That was why we went about it in this way. We want it to be special and to be identified with the House so that people should not make any mistake about it. Therefore, we propose to establish it as a Special Commission and to set out the general arrangements under which it can deal with Cabinet papers in a special way.
That is why we have argued—not argued, but inserted in the proposal, and I think that the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon agrees with us—that the Commission should sit in secret and publish its findings in the manner that we have suggested. That is also why we have set out in the last part of the motion the method of sifting Cabinet papers. The right hon. and learned Gentleman treated that part of the argument with extreme fairness. He put forward reasons why he did not wish to have an inquiry at all. But he said that if we are to have an inquiry, this is probably the best way to get the best safeguards to guard against the dangers which most of us recognise. I suggest that we have made a substantial effort to deal with the natural fears which were bound to arise.
My hon. Friends the Members for York, Luton, West and Luton, East (Mr. Clemitson) have urged that they wish to have an inquiry which will not whitewash in any sense but will have the power to go into the facts and will command support throughout the whole House. In proposing to the House who shall serve upon the Commission, we shall of course take that into account. The names that we propose will have to be brought before and approved by the House. I believe that that is the proper way to proceed. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends, when they see how we propose to act in that direction, will also feel that we have taken account of their representations.
Some of my hon. Friends—in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes)—asked what would happen if there should be a conflict between the House of Lords and the House of Commons about the arrangements for these proceedings. That is an important matter. We had to consider it carefully because we are seeking to set up a Special Commission with some representation from the House of Lords. We want that representation partly because of the question of the Chairman, for the reasons indicated by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. We also believe that, because the other place has been partly involved in these events, it is a worthwhile way to proceed. If we are to succeed in setting up a Commission on that basis, we must have the support of the House of Lords as well. Securing the support of the House of Lords is not always easy or automatic.
The other place will be discussing not this precise motion but a comparable one in a day or two. We hope that, this motion being passed by this House, as I hope and believe it will be, the House of Lords will pass a complementary motion which will enable the proceedings to go ahead.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North asked what would happen if the House of Lords upset the apple cart. I do not want to put any evil ideas in the mind of the Leader of the Opposition—I know that she hardly raises a whisper with their Lordships on any occasion—but, if this motion is passed and seen as the will of the House of Commons, I hope that the other place will take that into account.
When the other place had its previous debate, there was much less enthusiasm for this inquiry than there was in this House. It did not have such a passionate advocate of an inquiry, on either side, as the right hon. Member for Taunton.
Perhaps some of those voices will be heard again in the House of Lords. However, I hope that their Lordships will also take into account what I believe will be the decision of this House and that we shall then have the inquiry along the lines suggested in the motion.
Some of my hon. Friends have suggested that the Prime Minister was in some way threatening the House in what was said by the Attorney-General. That is not a proper construction. As the right hon. and learned Member for Wimbledon said, the Prime Minister made the position clear when he announced the inquiry—there was no concealment. I think that the Prime Minister deserves more congratulation on his candour than criticism for his alleged arrogance. He made it plain how be believed we should proceed.
Clearly, we had to take into account the novel situation that, if this inquiry were to be effetive at all, it was absolutely essential that Cabinet papers should be made available or it would be a farce. But, that decision having been made, it was then essential in our view to have all the protections that the motion involves. That is not threatening the House but putting before the House a considered judgment on the best way of carrying out the will, not of every hon. Member, but of the overwhelming majority.
It may not be threatening the Members of the House of Commons, but surely it shows that Members of both Houses who will be on the Commission are not trusted as much as the Chairman of the Commission, who will be a Law Lord. If we concede confidentiality, surely the Government can concede some right of hon. Members to see copies.
There is no suggestion that what we propose involves any reflection on the other members of the Commission. The unprecedented nature of this Commission, its powers and the importance of the questions that it is to examine are all reasons why hon. Members invited to sit upon it will be eager enough to do so. I believe that it will discharge its duties to the honour of the whole House. That is the way to carry on faithfully the requirement of ensuring that, when such accusations have been made, the House shall examine them to the full and shall provide facilities for them to be examined and for conclusions to be reported to the House, as every such body will have to do. This House will then be able to pass its own judgment.
We shall do a great service, by passing the motion, to the good government of this country, to the honour of the House of Commons and to the way in which the House is prepared to scrutinise these matters.
(a) in line 1, leave out from "That" to end and add
'a Committee of ten members of this House be appointed to consider the part played by those concerned in the development and application of the policy of oil sanctions against Rhodesia with a view to determining: (1) the role played by industrialists, civil servants and Ministers, (2) their relationships with each other and foreign governments and (3) whether Parliament or Ministers were misled, intentionally or otherwise and to report:
That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records and to obtain such specialist advice or help as they think fit; to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House; and to report from time to time:
|Division No. 62]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Bean, R. E.||Kerr, Russell||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Rooker, J. W.|
|Buchan, Norman||Lamond, James||Skinner, Dennis|
|Canavan, Dennis||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Stoddart, David|
|Carmichael, Neil||Lee, John||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|English, Michael||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Flannery, Martin||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Madden, Max||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Newens, Stanley||Mr. Bob Cryer and|
|Hooley, Frank||Ovenden, John||Mr. Brian Sedgemore.|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Evans, John (Newton)||Kilfedder, James|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Eyre, Reginald||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Fairgrieve, Russell||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Speithorne)||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Knox, David|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lamont, Norman|
|Bates, Alf||Fookes, Miss Janet||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Beith, A. J.||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Ford, Ben||Loveridge, John|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Luard, Evan|
|Biffen, John||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Luce, Richard|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Freud, Clement||McCartney, Hugh|
|Body, Richard||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||George, Bruce||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Bottomley, Peter||Glyn, Dr Alan||Maclennan, Robert|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Golding, John||Magee, Bryan|
|Brotherton, Michael||Goodhew, Victor||Marks, Kenneth|
|Buchanan, Richard||Goodlad, Alastair||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Buck, Antony||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Mather, Carol|
|Budgen, Nick||Grant, John (Islington C)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Gray, Hamish||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Carlisle, Mark||Grylls, Michael||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Carter, Ray||Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Moate, Roger|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Molloy, William|
|Clegg, Walter||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Monro, Hector|
|Cockcraft, John||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Hastings, Stephen||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Coleman, Donald||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hayhoe, Barney||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Cowans, Harry||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hooson, Emlyn||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Crouch, David||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Murrey, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hurd, Douglas||Neave, Airey|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Nelson, Anthony|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Newton, Tony|
|Deakins, Eric||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Ogden, Eric|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Dormand, J. D.||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Pardoe, John|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Johnson, Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Park, George|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Parker, John|
|Druffy, A. E. P.||Jopling, Michael||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Dunnett, Jack||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Penhaligon, David|
|Eadie, Alex||Judd, Frank||Percival, Ian|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Perry, Ernest|
That the proceedings in so far as they involve the examination of witnesses shall be held in public save in so far as the Committee shall determine that it would be against the interests of national security to do so:
That all the evidence including relevant Cabinet papers and departmental files shall be published as an Appendix to the Committee's report".—[Mr. Sedgemore.]
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Stainton, Keith||Viggers, Peter|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Stallard, A. W.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Stanbrook, Ivor||Ward, Michael|
|Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Stanley, John||Watkins, David|
|Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Steel, Rt Hon David||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Rowlands, Ted||Stott, Roger||Wellbeloved, James|
|Sainsbury, Tim||Stradling Thomas, J.||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|St. John-Stevas, Norman||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Whitney, Raymond|
|Sever, John||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Tebbit, Norman||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Shersby, Michael||Thatcher, Rt. Hon Margaret||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Tinn, James||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Tomlinson, John|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Torney, Tom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.||Mr. Ted Graham and|
|Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Mr. Robert Rhodes James.|
|Division No. 63]||AYES||[10.12 p.m.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Ovenden, John|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Pardoe, John|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Park, George|
|Bates, Alf||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Parker, John|
|Bean, R. E.||Hayhoe, Barney||Penhaligon, David|
|Beith, A. J.||Heffer, Eric S.||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hooley, Frank||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Hooson, Emlyn||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Buchanan, Richard||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Buck, Antony||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sever, John|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Judd, Frank||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Carmichael, Neil||Kerr, Russell||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Carter, Ray||Kilfedder, James||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Skinner, Dennis|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Knox, David||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lamond, James||Snape, Peter|
|Coleman, Donald||Lamont, Norman||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cowans, Harry||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Crouch, David||Lee, John||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Cryer, Bob||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Luard, Evan||Stoddart, David|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Luce, Richard||Stott, Roger|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Deakins, Eric||McCartney, Hugh||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Dormand, J. D.||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Tinn, James|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Tomlinson, John|
|Dunnett, Jack||Maclennan, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Eadie, Alex||Madden, Max||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|English, Michael||Magee, Bryan||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Marks, Kenneth||Ward, Michael|
|Flannery, Martin||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Watkins, David|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mikardo, Ian||Wellbeloved, James|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ford, Ben||Molloy, William||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|George, Bruce||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Golding, John||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Gould, Bryan||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Graham, Ted||Newens, Stanley||Mr. Tom Cox and|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Ogden, Eric||Mr. John Evans.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Grylls, Michael||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Percival, Ian|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hastings, Stephen||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Biffen, John||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Body, Richard||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Brotherton, Michael||Hurd, Douglas||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Budgen, Nick||Hutchison, Michael Clark||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Carlisle, Mark||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Shersby, Michael|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Clegg, Walter||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Stainton, Keith|
|Cockcroft, John||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Costain, A. P.||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Stanley, John|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Le Marchant, Spencer||Tebbit, Norman|
|Eyre, Reginald||Loveridge, John||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Mather, Carol||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Moate, Roger||Whitney, Raymond|
|Freud, Clement||Monro, Hector||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Goodhew, Victor||Neave, Alrey||Mr. Ivan Lawrence and|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. Robert Rhodes James.|
|Gray, Hamish||Newton, Tony|
That it is desirable that a Joint Committee of both Houses to be known as "the Special Commission on Oil Sanctions" be appointed
to consider, following the Report of the Bingham Inquiry, the part played by those concerned in the development and application of the policy of oil sanctions against Rhodesia with a view to determining whether Parliament or Ministers were misled, intentionally or otherwise, and to report:
|Division No. 64]||AYES||10.22 p.m.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Heffer, Eric S.||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Hooley, Frank||Rhodes James, R.|
|Bean, R. E.||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Body, Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rooker, J. W.|
|Bottomley, Peter||Kerr, Russell||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Kilfedder, James||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Brotherton, Michael||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Budgen, Nick||Lamond, James||Sever, John|
|Canavan, Dennis||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Crouch, David||Lawrence, Ivan||Skinner, Dennis|
|Cryer, Bob||Lee, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|English, Michael||Loveridge, John||Stoddart, David|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Tebbit, Norman|
|Flannery, Martin||Madden, Max||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Moate, Roger||Ward, Michael|
|Ford, Ben||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Whitney, Raymond|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Nelson, Anthonym||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Goodhew, Victor||Newens, Stanley|
|Gould, Bryan||Newton, Tony||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Ogden, Eric||Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop|
|Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Ovenden, John||Mr. Ivor Clemitsop.|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Freud, Clement||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||George, Bruce||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Bates, Alf||Golding, John||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Beith, A. J.||Graham, Ted||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Grant, John (Islington C)||Pardoe, John|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Park, George|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Parker, John|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Penhaligon, David|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Carter, Ray||Hooson, Emlyn||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Cohen, Stanley||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Coleman, Donald||Judd, Frack||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Cowans, Harry||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Knox, David||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Luard, Evan||Smith, Rt. Hon John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||McCartney, Hugh||Snape, Peter|
|Deakins, Eric||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Dormand, J. D.||Maclennan, Robert||Stott, Roger|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Magee, Bryan||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Dunnett, Jack||Marks, Kenneth||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Eadie, Alex||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Tinn, James|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Millian, Rt Hon Bruce||Tomlinson, John|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Molly, William||Torney, Tom|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Division No. 65]||AYES||10.32 p.m.]|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Gould, Bryan||Newens, Stanley|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Newton, Tony|
|Bean, R. E.||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Body, Richard||Heffer, Eric S.||Rooker, J. W.|
|Bottomley, Peter||Hooley, Frank||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Brotherton, Michael||Kerr, Russell||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kilfedder, James||Sever, John|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Cohen, Stanley||Lamond, James||Skinner, Dennis|
|Crouch, David||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cryer, Bob||Lawrence, Ivan||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lestor, Miss Joan Eton & Slough)||Stoddart, David|
|Drayson, Burnaby||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Ward, Michael|
|English, Michael||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Flannery, Martin||Madden, Max||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Moate, Roger|
|Ford, Ben||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop and|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Graham, Ted||Park, George|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Grant, John (Islington C)||Parker, John|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Penhaligon, David|
|Beith, A. J.||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Rowlands, Ted|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Hooson, Emlyn||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Buchanan, Richard||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Carter, Ray||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Judd, Frank||Snape, Peter|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Stallard, A. W.|
|Coleman, Donald||Knox, David||Stott, Roger|
|Cowans, Harry||Luard, Evan||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||McCartney, Hugh||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolion W)|
|Davidson, Arthur||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Tinn, James|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Maclennan, Robert||Tomlionson, John|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Magee, Bryan||Torney, Tom|
|Deakins, Eric||Marks, Kenneth||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Dormand, J. D.||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Millian, Rt Hon Bruce||Watkins, David|
|Dunnett, Jack||Molloy, William||Wellbeloved, James|
|Eadie, Alex||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Freud, Clement||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Mr. Alf Bates and|
|George, Bruce||Pardoe, John||Mr. Joseph Dean.|
|Division No. 66]||AYES||[10.42 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Penhaligon, David|
|Bean, R. E.||Kerr, Russell||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Body, Richard||Kilfedder, James||Rhodes James, R.|
|Bottomley, Peter||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Lamond, James||Rooker, J. W.|
|Cohen, Stanley||Latham, Arthur (Peddington)||Ross, Stephen (Isle Of Wight)|
|Cryer, Bob||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Skinner, Dennis|
|English, Michael||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Spearing, Nigel|
|Flannery, Martin||McKay, Allen (Penstone)||Stoddart, David|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Madden, Max||Torney, Tom|
|Freud, Clement||Mikardo, Ian||Ward, Michael|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Newens, Stanley||Wise, Mrs, Mrs Audrey|
|Gould, Bryan||Newton, Tony|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Ogden, Eric||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hooley, Frank||Ovenden, John||Mr. Dennis Canavan and|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Pardoe, John||Mr. William Hamilton.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Armstrong, Ernest||George, Bruce||Moate, Roger|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Golding, John||Molloy, Williams|
|Bates, Alf||Goodhew, Victor||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Beith, A. J.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Bean, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Graham, Ted||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Grant, John (Islington C)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Blaker, Peter||Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Brotherton, Michael||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald king|
|Budgen, Nick||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Nelson, Anthony|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Carter, Ray||Hooson, Emlyn||Part, George|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Parker, John|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Coleman, Donald||Judd, Frank||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Cowans, Harry||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooling)||Knox, David||Sever, John|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lamont, Norman||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Lawrence, Ivan||Shersby, Michael|
|Deakins, Eric||Loveridge, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Luard, Evan||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Depatford)|
|Dormand, J. D.||McCartney, Hugh||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Dunnett, Jack||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Snape, Peter|
|Eadie, Alex||Maclennan, Robert||Stallard, A. W.|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Magee, Bryan||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Marks, Kenneth||Stott, Roger|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Tebbit, Norman|
I beg to move amendment (h) in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton), to leave out from 'That' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'the proceedings of the Special Commission shall be open to the public unless the Commission from time to time decides otherwise.'.—[Mr. Canavan.]
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that, based on page 649 of "Erskine May", if the next motion that you are about to put to the House were to be carried out, the House would be appointing the first secret Committee since 1857—over 122 years. The House of Lords, if "Erskine May" is correct, would be appointing its first secret committee since 1847–132 years.
Would it not be the first Committee since that time forbidden by order of the House to admit any member of the public or even a Member of the House to sit and listen to it?
|Division No. 67]||AYES||[10.52 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Hooson, Emlyn||Newton, Tony|
|Bean, R. E.||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Ovenden, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Pardoe, John|
|Body, Richard||Kerr, Russell||Penhaligon, David|
|Bottomley, Peter||Kilfedder, James||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lamond, James||Rooker, J. W.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Crouch, David||Lawrence, Ivan||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Cryer, Bob||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Loveridge, John||Shersby, Michael|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|English, Michael||McDonald, Dr Oanagh||Skimmer, Dennis|
|Flannery, Martin||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Spearing, Nigel|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McKay, Allen(Penistone)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Madden, Max||Stoddart, David|
|Freud, Clement||Mikardo, Ian||Tebbit, Norman|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Moate, Roger||Whitney, Raymond|
|Goodhew, Victor||Monro, Hector||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gould, Bryan||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Nelson, Anthony||Mr. Ivor Clemitson and|
|Hooley, Frank||Newens, Stanley||Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslon.|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Davidson, Arthur|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Carter, Ray||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)|
|Beith, A. J.||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Deakins, Eric|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Cohen, Stanley||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Coleman, Donald||Dormand, J. D.|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Cowans, Harry||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Buchanan, Richard||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Dunnett, Jack|
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it be an Instruction that all papers submitted to the Special Commission shall first be examined by their Chairman who shall determine, if necessary after consultation with other members of the Special Commission, which of the papers should be seen by the members of the Special Commission for the purposes of the inquiry and which of the said papers and records should be shown to parties interested or their Counsel or agents, or to witnesses, and which of such papers and records may be retained by members of the Special Commission or such parties, Counsel, agents or witnesses, and which of such papers and records shall be included in or referred to in any report.—[Attorney-General.]
|Eadle, Alex||Magee, Bryan||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanashire)|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Marks, Kenneth||Snape, Peter|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Stott, Roger|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Molloy, William||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|George, Bruce||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Golding, John||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Tinn, James|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland||Tomlinson, John|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Torney, Tom|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Park, George||Ward, Michael|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Parker, John||Wellbeloved, James|
|Judd, Frank||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Rowlands, Ted||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Knox, David||Sever, John|
|Luard, Evan||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McCartney, Hugh||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Mr. Ted Graham and|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Mr. Alf Bates.|
That it be an Instruction that all papers submitted to the Special Commission shall first be examined by their Chairman who shall determine, if necessary after consultation with other members of the Special Commission, which of the papers should be seen by the members of the Special Commission for the purposes of the inquiry and which of the said papers and records should be shown to parties interested or their Counsel or agents, or to witnesses, and which of such papers and records may be retained by members of the Special Commission or such parties, Counsel, agents or witnesses, and which of such papers and records shall be included in or referred to in any report.