Will 1988 see the end of all the ludicrous measures taken by the Government over "Spycatcher", and the restrictive measures taken against the media in this country that want to report matters of genuine public interest? Does the Attorney-General, as a senior member of the Government, ever wonder whether the amount spent on this matter — £500,000, or, more likely, £750,000—could have been far better spent on ensuring that children in need could have their operations on the National Health Service without all the waiting and difficulties that such children and their parents now face?
As is now well understood, the Government's sole objective in the litigation has been to protect the lifelong duty of confidentiality owed by former members of security services to the Crown. I do not believe that the people of this country regard that as ludicrous. It is sometimes necessary to spend money to defend an important principle. I believe that the money has been well spent.
Does the Attorney-General realise that if he were to apply for a legal aid certificate to continue the litigation he would probably be refused on the ground that it was a waste of public money? Now that "Spycatcher" is so freely available throughout the world and this country, why does the Attorney-General not drop these ludicrous proceedings and merely continue to obtain an account of the profits of the book? I do not believe that anyone disputes that that would be the proper course of action.
My answer to the first question is no, because the Government have been concerned to defend the principle that I have already identified this afternoon. It has already become common ground that there is a lifelong duty of confidentiality. What remains at issue is the extent of that duty and the availability of means to enforce it in certain circumstances.
As to publication elsewhere in the world, it is important to uphold the duty of confidentiality by demonstrating by an order of the court that it is not open to a former member of the security services to publish in his own country what purport to be his memoirs and to make a profit thereby.