There have been at least 15 years of public debate on the matter, and there will be full opportunities to comment on the Government's proposals before legislation is introduced.
Will the Home Secretary make sure, in the months between the debate last Friday on the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and the White Paper that the Government plan for the summer, that he listens to the views of the country as a whole and not to the increasingly dominant view in his party that secrecy is justifiable? Is the Home Secretary aware that only two out of the 53 new Conservative Members elected in June voted for freedom of information? Is that not an indictment of a view that is generally rubbished, namely, that the Government put their own self-defence at a far more important level than the general interests of the nation and its ability to judge issues?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that all these matters of secrecy are of interest mainly to the media, and that the mass of ordinary patriotic people want state secrets to be kept as state secrets?
I must say that when I arrived in my constituency at the weekend I found a rather different flavour to the discussion there from the one here. We have a serious job to do, to honour the commitments that the Prime Minister and I have given to the House. During the debate on Friday many hon. Members explained how difficult that job will be. I agree with that, but we intend to do it.
Does the Home Secretary recall that during the debate on Friday quotations were read to the House from the book by Mr. Anthony Cavendish, in which Mr. Cavendish said that the security service had recently been involved in operations to discredit Members on both sides of the House. Why does the right hon. Gentleman think that such allegations should be suppressed under section 2 of the Official Secrets Act rather than be investigated, as they would be in any other democracy?
I do not wish to comment on the Cavendish case or the injunctions that have borne on that particular publication. I would much rather have a decent, restricted system for the protection of official information than the present system, which is open to misinterpretation and misuse, and that is what we intend to get.