Mr. Peter Wright (Memoirs)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 20th July 1987.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 3:32 pm, 20th July 1987

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the Prime Minister's recent role in the Peter Wright case. I have to persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that the matter is definite, important and urgent. It is definite, because news has come into the public domain that shortly before 3 pm on Wednesday 8 July the Treasury Solicitor's office contacted Theodore Goddard, solicitors, informing them: The Prime Minister is tied up for the next hour or so. But as soon as she comes free. I anticipate being told to ask you for an undertaking not to publish any further extracts from Wright's book. At about 4 pm on the same day, the Treasury Solicitor's office called Theodore Goddard and demanded just such an undertaking by 5.30 that afternoon.

I have to persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that the matter is important. It would appear to be an example of the Prime Minister stepping into what Parliament has always believed to be the sphere of decision-making of a Law Officer, as a Law Officer. Is it not clear that, in the absence of a subsequent decision by the Appeal Court, the Attorney-General would have been in the position of having been instructed by the Prime Minister to seek an injunction? Of course, we cannot know what the Attorney-General's reaction would have been.

I also have to persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that the matter should have urgent consideration. Surely any prima facie case of the blatant abuse of a Law Officer's responsibilities as a Law Officer by a Prime Minister or any other Minister ought to be a matter of urgency for the House. During questions you will have perceived, Mr. Speaker, that when the straight question was very properly asked from the Opposition Front Bench by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) no answer was forthcoming other than a reference to a parliamentary reply on 8 December. Thanks to the Library, I have in my hand just two of the replies and there may be a third. Certainly, one of them has nothing to do with the Prime Minister. Ministers get into the habit of making references to previous replies that do not answer the question that was asked. On this occasion the question stated: Mr. John Morris asked the Prime Minister what arc the current instructions to Departments as to the need to consult the Attorney-General when questions of public interest arise; and if there has been any change since the present Government took office. The Prime Minister replied: Appropriate steps will continue to be taken to see that Departments are aware of the Attorney-General's responsibilities and functions." — [Official Report, 8 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 4–5.] In this case, that clearly has not happened.

The behaviour of a Prime Minister in her public capacity is a matter of lasting importance for Members of the House of Commons, and it is on that basis that I believe that you ought to consider giving this matter precedence.