"Spycatcher"

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

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Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South 12:00 am, 11th July 1988

To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on the implications for his general policy on initiating litigation of the costs of legal actions relating to the book "Spycatcher".

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

To enforce the duty of confidentiality owed to the Crown I shall, on behalf of Ministers collectively, continue to take such steps by way of civil proceedings as appear to the Government to be appropriate.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Does the Attorney-General accept that where there is a serious criminal seditious conspiracy, it is a civil servant's duty to expose that conspiracy, and that an attempt to bring down the 1974 Labour Government is set out in Peter Wright's book "Spycatcher"? Is it not shocking that the Attorney-General should spend in excess of £1 million trying to suppress that book, which no Government officer has tried to contradict, when those people in MI5Tory supporters—who tried to organise the downfall of the democratically elected Government of the day are getting away with it scot-free? What is the Attorney-General going to do about law and order and maintaining the reputation of British justice if he lets those Tory people in MI5 get away with it?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

The litigation that has been conducted on behalf of the Government in these courts and in courts elsewhere in the world has resulted in an affirmation of the duty of confidentiality that is owed by those who have served in the security services. It is extremely important that, where there is reliable evidence of criminal activity, that should be investigated. The Director of Public Prosecutions has expressed his conclusions with regard to the assertions that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) has in mind. It is equally important that the duty of confidentiality owed by former members of the security services should be enforced. If any Government were to shrink from enforcing that duty, the cost would soon be paid, not in money, but in lives.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Is it not typical of Opposition Members to attach such a low financial price to the upholding of a principle so important for a free society as the confidentiality of those secret service agents who are sworn to protect the nation's secrets?

Photo of Sir Patrick Mayhew Sir Patrick Mayhew , Tunbridge Wells

This is yet another example of the wide gulf between the opinions of all our constituents on the one hand and the opinions of certain Opposition Members on the other.