State Security

Oral Answers to Questions — Attorney-General – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th January 1988.

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Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow 12:00 am, 11th January 1988

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the outcome of his correspondence with the BBC concerning security-related matters.

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The suggestion contained in my letter of 4 December to the deputy director-general of the BBC remains open.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

What was wrong with the D-notice procedure that it was not used?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

Nothing was wrong with the D-notice procedure.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , South Thanet

If there was nothing wrong with the D-notice procedure, will my right hon. and learned Friend tell us whether he was in correspondence or communication with the secretary or any other official of the D-Notice committee, prior to issuing his large number of injunctions?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The D-notice procedure relates to matters that the Government consider to be sensitive from the security point of view, and those are identified by D-notices which are published. The D-Notice committee is not concerned with and no 13-notice bears upon the preservation of the duty of confidentiality which is owed. I have had no correspondence with the secretary of the D-Notice committee.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is satisfied that there is nothing wrong with the D-notice procedure, what will he say to those who have to operate it—the editors, upon whose co-operation it depends? Is it not clear that the D-notice procedure is one of the many casualties of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's rush to go into the courts about these matters?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

I think not. The D-Notice committee is a non-statutory body responsible jointly to the Secretary of State for Defence through the permanent secretary and to the media through a representative. It deals with those matters which I have identified. The duty of confidentiality which is owed by former members of the security services is an obligation of a civil nature owed to the Crown, and the Crown therefore has to take such steps in the courts as it thinks appropriate to enforce that duty.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.