There has been no decision to withhold for a period of 100 years the records relating to the interrogation of the late Sir Oswald Mosley before the Birkett tribunal. These papers are retained by the Home Office under the provisions of section 3(4) of the Public Records Act 1958 on the grounds of national security and pursuant to an approval given by Lord Chancellor Gardiner in 1967. At my noble and learned Friend's request, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary reviewed that decision a year ago. I understand that my right hon. Friend has no plans to reconsider the matter.
Is it not a fact that the 100-year ban imposed by the Home Office was designed originally to conceal the identity of current members of the Conservative party who, during that time, were known to sympathise with the idea that there should be a negotiated truce with Nazi Germany and a common front against the Soviet Union? Does the review that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is about to undertake involve the release of papers relating to the British Union of Fascists, or will it involve papers dealing with the arrest and imprisonment of Sir Oswald Mosley?
The hon. Gentleman has talked about the imposition of a 100-year ban, but that is not the fact. Authority was given by Lord Chancellor Gardiner for the Home Office to retain the papers. This open-ended retention has recently been reviewed. I have not read the report of the interrogation and I suspect that the hon. Gentleman has not seen it. I cannot deny what he says because I do not know what the report contains. I suspect that he is making an assertion on the basis of what he has been told and that it is very unlikely to be true.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there would be much advantage to be gained from releasing these papers after such a long period? They might reveal what happened to an ex-member of the Labour party who created the Fascist organisation in Britain.
The grounds for the refusal to disclose the papers are based upon security and intelligence considerations. Those who have had to take the decision have been satisfied that it is in the public interest that secrecy should be maintained.
There has been a welcome change in recent years and various Administrations have released such papers as early as possible. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider releasing these papers now to avoid suspicion that there is some form of cover-up?
I appreciate what my right hon. and learned Friend has said, but will he put it to the Lord Chancellor for his consideration that at the next review the time will surely have to come when we should try to excise the scars that Fascism and Communism have scored across Britain during this century, and that revealing these papers would be in the best interests of democracy?