D-Notice Committee

– in the House of Commons at 4:47 pm on 11th January 1988.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 4:47 pm, 11th January 1988

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 work of the D-Notice committee". I have to persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that the matter is definite, urgent and important. You will have heard this afternoon, during questions to the Attorney-General, that there is considerable misunderstanding on both sides of the House—not only on the Opposition Benches, but on those of the Government — about the role of the D-Notice committee. You will have heard the gasps when the Attorney-General said that there was nothing wrong with the D-Notice committee. You will have heard the question from the hon. Member for Thanet South, (Mr. Aitken), which revealed that this is not just a single party matter.

The truth is that in recent months the D-Notice committee has been bypassed.

I must keep off the Government's reasons for having injunctions in the Scottish courts, but it will be well known that there is now a series of court activities in relation to STV, the Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman. The urgent question is whether those injunctions are legal at all. According to Professor Robert Black, a professor of Scots law, the party must be named in an interdict.

The moves against the newspapers are unprecedented—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. In making his submission, the hon. Gentleman must not refer to matters currently before the courts.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

We are in a difficult position. I recognise the difficulties involved in what is a very grey area. It is an urgent matter, but I shall leave it because in applications of this kind one must be succinct.

There can hardly be anything more important than allegations about the destabilisation of a democratically elected Government in Britain. The allegations follow the allegations by Colin Wallace and, rightly or wrongly, the allegations by a man who is very different from Mr. Peter Wright, namely, Mr. Anthony Cavendish, a thoroughly responsible source, and refer to smears on my right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister, on Ted Short and, indeed, on the leader of the Conservative party at the time, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath).

Surely nothing could be more important than to have a public inquiry into the events at the time when the former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) was in office. Contrary to what has been said repeatedly on Scottish television, endorsed by the former Prime Minister, now Lord Callaghan

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The hon. Gentleman has had his time.

The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing an important and specific matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, the work of the D-Notice committee. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have to decide whether to give the matter that he has raised precedence over the business set down for today or tomorrow. I regret that I do not find that the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.