With permission, I should like to make a statement about the case of Mr. Colin Wallace.
In a written answer on Tuesday to my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall), my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said that records had been found that brought to light information of material significance to the case of Mr. Wallace. Because those records had been overlooked, some misleading information had unwittingly been given to Members of this House by Ministers.
As regards Mr. Wallace's employment in the Civil Service, the papers revealed no evidence that the decision to terminate it in 1975 was taken for reasons other than the offence with which he was charged—namely, disclosing classified information to the media without proper authority and at a time when he had already relinquished his post at Headquarters Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, in the light of the new information about his duties that has now come to light, the Government have decided to ask Mr. David Calcutt QC to examine the papers relating to Mr. Wallace's case so that he can consider whether its presentation to the Civil Service Appeal Board may have resulted in any injustices to Mr. Wallace, and if so whether compensation should be paid.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, in a long written answer in Hansard on 30 January at column 110 set out the position that has now emerged over Mr. Wallace's case. He set out also the distinct issues as they emerge from a special re-examination of departmental records by senior officials. That re-examination showed, first, that papers previously overlooked showed that their earlier statements and letters needed to be corrected. The Government have therefore come to the House on this matter as early as possible and an inquiry is in hand within my Department into how the papers were overlooked.
Secondly, the re-examination showed that the newly found information raised a question mark over the presentation of Mr. Wallace's case to the Civil Service Appeal Board, and Mr. Calcutt will review those matters.
Thirdly, it showed that no information has been found to substantiate Mr. Wallace's allegations of a cover-up relating to the Kincora boys' home in Belfast, or to call in question the thoroughness of the major inquiries already made into that affair, including those of Sir George Terry and Judge Hughes.
Fourthly, it showed that no information was found to call into question Mr. Wallace's conviction for manslaughter, on which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary advised the House on Tuesday.
Fifthly, it showed that none of it calls into question the conclusion stated to the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 6 May 1987, following a special report to her by the director-general of the Security Service, that there is no evidence to support suggestions of attempts to undermine or discredit Ministers or former Ministers.
My statement follows the detailed answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and the published letters to right hon. and hon. Members to whom the previous incorrect answers were given. In their actions, which relate to events some 15 years ago and to the Administrations of that time, the Government have sought to respond promptly and candidly to meet the responsibilities that fall to them as a result of the new information, and in particular to tackle the question of possible injustice to Mr. Wallace in his Civil Service appeal.
I thank the Secretary of State for Defence for coming to the House to make that statement, because a written answer, no matter how long, is a poor substitute for an opportunity to put questions on an issue of such importance—especially when so many right hon. and hon. Members have been besmirched by the dirty tricks campaign, and when the very democracy that the House represents has been subject to subversion.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that all Governments in the early 1970s were subject to such attacks? Why is it that it is only now, 11 years after the election of the present Government, that the information has come to light? Can the right hon. Gentleman be more explicit as to how it became available? Will he say who was responsible for granting permission to Colin Wallace to dispose of the documents? Are any of the people engaged in those activities still working in the MOD, and in positions of responsibility?
Does the Secretary of State not concede that the Kincora inquiries were hampered in the past by Mr. Wallace's refusal to give evidence unless guaranteed immunity from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act? Will he consider that part of his statement, now that Mr. Wallace's status has been changed?
Does the Secretary of State agree that the latest revelations show that the questions asked over the years by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House were not the product of bizarre conspiracy theories but had substance in fact, and that what were once considered rumours are now accepted as facts? Does he agree also that the nature and scale of the allegations go far beyond the Ministry of Defence and that the inquiry announced today will be hampered by Mr. Calcutt's own admission that he can neither compel witnesses to testify nor afford protection for witnesses and their immunity from prosecution?
Does the Secretary of State not accept that an internal inquiry by the MOD, with no guarantee that its findings will be published or made available to the House, will fail to satisfy the House? Does he not recognise that the Attorney-General, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Prime Minister herself are all involved, and that the House demands a wider and deeper inquiry than that offered today?
If the House is to clear its name, and if those who have been besmirched in the past are to keep their heads held high, the House has a responsibility to provide the means whereby the fullest and fairest inquiry can be held.
I would not have thought from the contribution of the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) that my statement included the information that we have made full investigations and that we were concerned as to whether the whole truth had been given. I have reported to the House—y hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces—the outcome of those inquiries, which we took very seriously.
We are concerned that an injustice may have been done to Mr. Colin Wallace in respect of his handling by the Civil Service Appeal Board. We are anxious that justice should be done. I am concerned that at no time did the hon. Gentleman recognise the fact that we volunteered the information. We sought to bring the information before the House and to ensure that justice is done. Although the hon. Gentleman has sought to widen the matter into a broader range of innuendo and allegation, I have absolute confidence—as will anyone who knows him—that Mr. Calcutt will seek to discharge his responsibilities in a thorough way, and certainly will not turn aside if he is not able to do it within the terms of reference that he has been given. We are certainly anxious to ensure that Mr. Calcutt's conclusions are published.
If the Government are engaged in a cover-up, why did my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces give that detailed answer in the Official Report on Tuesday? Is it not wholly inconsistent with the allegations of a cover-up that that answer was given in the Official Report and this statement is being made today?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as that is precisely the point. We found that there were errors. We were not responding to any direct inquiry but to concern in the Ministry of Defence about matters that were being raised to see whether the information was correct. We had to refer to documents that are 15 years old which were found to be relevant.
A further extremely thorough investigation was made by a senior civil servant. As soon as the matter was brought to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, he gave immediate instructions that all documents were to be examined to see whether any further information that might have been overlooked had come to light.
No further information was found, but I should make it absolutely clear to the House that we shall take every step necessary to ensure that any information is brought to the House. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the firm way in which he has recognised that.
May I first acknowledge that the Secretary of State is concerned about possible injustice to Mr. Colin Wallace? But what about the injustice to the rest of us whose names have appeared on these blacklists? Is the Secretary of State aware that it is highly significant that in 1974 among the names on the blacklist were those of a former leader of my party, the then leader in the House of Lords, the late Lord Byers, myself as Chief Whip and my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Sir C. Smith)? The reason was that in 1974, between the two elections, the parliamentary Liberal party was pivotal to the parliamentary arithmetic. There could be no other reason.
Therefore, the Secretary of State must recognise that the only possible reason for the inclusion of our names was a direct attempt to interfere with the processes of parliamentary democracy. For that reason, he and the Prime Minister should recognise that it is no disrespect to them to say that it has gone beyond a matter just for Ministers; it is a matter for the House of Commons and a senior committee of Privy Councillors should be set up to inquire into it.
All I do know is that the matters were specifically investigated, first, by the right hon. Lord Callaghan, the previous Prime Minister, who made a statement to the House, and then by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who asked the director-general of the Security Service to investigate the matter. The director-general advised her, as she said in her statement in 1987, that there was no evidence of any truth in the allegations.
The right hon. Gentleman talks very glibly about blacklists. I have been on more blacklists in Northern Ireland than I care to count. The authors of some of those blacklists are proscribed organisations in any case. If the right hon. Gentleman has evidence that somehow the Government service was involved in those blacklists, he should bring that evidence forward. He certainly has not been able to impress the director-general of the Security Service.
Can the Secretary of State explain to us how anybody can be satisfied that this dirty tricks department is not still in operation when, at the Dispatch Box over and over again, Ministers are—giving them the benefit of the doubt—to the best of their knowledge, denying that it ever existed? How can we, without a full public, sworn inquiry, be satisfied that this matter is not continuing?
The hon. Gentleman will have seen Hansard and will know that my hon. Friend made it very clear—I think that it was made clear also by the right hon. Gentleman—that when this matter came to his attention the policy was changed. I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman certainly from my own experience that there is no question of such a policy being pursued.
Does the Secretary of State fully understand that our criticism is not directed at the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defence, the Army or the earlier Labour Government? I cannot quite understand, then, why the Government should feel the need to be on the defensive.
Does the Secretary of State not accept that all those named ought to have their integrity confirmed by an investigation much wider than anything that has so far been proposed?
In defence of the late Airey Neave, is the Secretary of State really aware of the need to identify that element in what I call the governmental machine that guided the black propaganda and has guided it for a good many years and which may have been the same element that warned the late Airey Neave, in the very week of his murder, that he would not be permitted to carry out Conservative policies?
I find it very distressing to hear continual references to a former, much-respected colleague, a man who has now been dead for 10 years and who is not, sadly, able to speak up and answer some of the points and comments that are made. I know nothing about the points that have been made.
Now, for the second time, we have these allegations about lots of names. I do not know what lists they were on —[Interruption.]—or what the authorship of the lists might be. I know very well, from my own experience, that there are organisations on both sides of the terrorist paramilitary extreme who are very good at producing lists and at black propaganda of that kind. If the right hon. Gentleman has evidence, he should produce it. Quite clearly, it was not evidence that impressed the director-general of the Security Services or the previous Prime Minister, Lord Callaghan.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that, after seven years of detailed inquiries affecting my constituent Mr. Colin Wallace, I naturally warmly welcome the Government's initiative of the Calcutt inquiry? I look forward to hearing the outcome of that inquiry.
Will my right hon. Friend also reflect on two problems that have emerged in the past seven years? The first is the genuine difficulty of looking into security matters, particularly matters reflecting on a previous Administration, when conventions make it difficult for Ministers, let alone a Back Bencher, to establish facts.
Secondly, with regard to the inquiry into mishandling of documents, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred, will my right hon. Friend accept that when I came to see Ministers in his Department in 1986, one of my concerns was about the then problem of six missing files referred to by my constituent? Will he therefore please ensure that in the inquiry these matters, and not just the documents referred to by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, are looked at in the widest sense?
It is precisely because of the seriousness that we attach to this matter that both my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and I have made the statements that we have—my hon. Friend in the answer that he gave on Tuesday and I here today. Exactly the same thoroughness as has marked this investigation will be carried over, under our very specific instructions, into the question of how this matter occurred and the handling of documents of this kind. I take note of what my hon. Friend says about the other files, and I will certainly look at that matter.
May I refer the Secretary of State to the answer that was given by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces a couple of days ago? The first paragraph states:
Ministers have not, of course, been told what advice was given to former Labour Ministers, nor what views they expressed, with the exception of … the then Attorney-General."—[Official Report, 30 January 1990; Vol. 40, c. 110.]
May I fill in that gap? What happened was this: I did not know that Mr. Colin Wallace existed. I was never informed that he would be given wide discretion to give documents of high classification—higher than senior civil servants in my own Department—and that he could use them for briefing purposes in all parts of the Province. I did not know that.
The first that I heard, in February 1975, was someone coming into Stormont house and saying that a document had been dropped in the door of a Times journalist, and it happened that the lady who looked after the house was the wife of a policeman. She had seen the classification and took the document to the police station. [AN HON. MEMBER: "What is the question?"] Well, Mr. Speaker—
This document was found, and as a result the police took it in hand. The hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) asked a question in the House, and I recall the answer was that it was a matter for the police.
After that, the Attorney-General, and I am referring to the document, consulted us—my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme) will recall this—and said to me, as he was bound to, was this a matter for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act? My view was no, that the document was not important enough, and no prosecution took place.
I say to the Secretary of State, what a position! Here was a high officer of state, an Attorney-General, considering whether to prosecute, but somebody else had given the man permission to use these documents without telling the Ministers of the day. That is the situation that we are investigating.
The question is—I will ask the Secretary of State, who has the great advantage of knowing Northern Ireland—who gave this authorisation?
The documents that the Prime Minister's office—I believe that it may have been the Minister of Defence—gave the Library, give evidence that was given by Peter Broderick, the chief information officer, at the time of the inquiry into Wallace, when he lost his job. I am astonished. How much more does one not know? It says that Mr. Wallace was
The advisor on Irish matters to the whole Headquarters"—
he might have been a bit of use in the Northern Ireland Office, perhaps—
In order to do his job he had constant and free access" —[Interruption.]
Order. I know that this is a very important matter. The right hon. Gentleman was intimately involved at the time, but he must bear in mind the fact that other hon. Members wish to ask questions.
Is it correct—it needs to be looked at—what Mr. Broderick says:
I was instructed by my Generals there to use public relations and information policy techniques in direct support of their military objectives"?
In the same statement, it says, "We knew better than
This was a small group not of intelligence officers but the information staff, with Army intelligence, which includes the replies that we have had, taking over the job of the elected Minister of the day. I believe that this ought to be investigated. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] Some Tory Members might not like this, but our names have been impugned. Some of them—[Interruption.]
Order. I am sure that the whole House appreciates what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. He was involved in these matters, and it is right that we should hear him.
In the reply that came, the Prime Minister refers to the inquiry into the security services carried out by the noble Lord Callaghan and myself. The Prime Minister does not know what was in it, but that has not prevented her ever since from saying that everything was covered.
I make it abundantly clear that these dirty tricks in Northern Ireland were not covered in that inquiry. I am the only one who knows; the Secretary of State cannot deny it. I simply say that this will not go away. There is no hiding place. The next Labour Government will look at it, and those who are hiding things for this Government had better remember that.
The House has listened with respect to the right hon. Gentleman's recounting of events when he was in office and his personal recollections of those matters. He will recall—because he referred to the Minister of State's written answer and the question of who authorised these activities—that one point that is uncertain at the present time is whether Mr. Wallace was ever given this specific job.
The written answer—the House will have read it—stated that the case for establishing the post, when it was considered that an additional information officer was needed in Northern Ireland, included the suggestion that this was the sort of work that he should do. There is no information or documentary evidence indicating that he may have been given the specification orally. There is no evidence whether it was actually authorised.
It is also stated in the written answer that, even before he was appointed to the post, whether or not he was briefed orally.
it would appear that he had already been undertaking unattributable briefing activities of this kind, which may have included disinformation".—[Official Report, 30 January 1990; Vol. 166, column 111.]
The point that the right hon. Gentleman missed about the activities of Mr. Wallace was that the date on which the document was lodged was after Mr. Wallace had relinquished his post in Headquarters Northern Ireland.
That is the fact in this matter, so in relation to the question about his authority, he had no authority after the post had been relinquished. I do not wish to say anything further about that, because those are matters which are very much in the area that Mr. Calcutt must now judge and which arise under the question of the handling of Mr. Wallace's employment and the question of his appeal to the Civil Service Appeal Board.
Order. The whole House will have understood why a dispensation should have been given to the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), who was Secretary of State at the time. But I now ask hon. Members to put their questions succinctly so that as many as possible may be called.
Would my right hon. Friend agree that, while the House always listens with respect to the sincerity with which the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) puts his view, and from his experience as a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the matters which he was relating to the House relate solely to Mr. Wallace's job in Headquarters Northern Ireland, which was to do with a campaign against terrorists and paramilitaries of both sides and was nothing whatever to do with the wild and so far unsubstantiated allegations of any dirty tricks against any Ministers of any Government?
In that my right hon. Friend has instituted an inquiry into the Wallace affair, vis-a-vis his job, there is no evidence that there was subversion, and until anybody can produce proper evidence, there is no need to have an inquiry.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments. Anybody who has any memory of the circumstances will agree that while we can sit in judgment now in relation to certain activities that took place—and the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) knows this better than anybody—it was a time of great danger and of great casualties, something like 10 times the current level of casualties. It was a time when there were certain practices; the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South made clear his view about them and I fully endorse what he said about the unacceptability of some of the practices that occurred at that time.
But I am dealing in my answer with one specific matter. We have found that an error has been made. We have come straight to the House to make the position clear and to make clear the action that we shall take. There have been attempts to reopen a whole lot of other issues that have been dealt with separately and specifically, in one case by two major inquiries, headed by a distinguished chief constable and a distinguished judge. I am dealing with matters that have come to light, and we wish to see that if an injustice has occurred, that injustice is remedied.
I confirm what my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) has said, because I took part in those discussions. This afternoon, the Secretary of State has made out the case for a full judicial inquiry. He says that he does not know what went on under the previous Administration and that he does not know anything about the smearing not only of Labour Members, but of Conservatives and Liberals. He has raised an objection at the name of Mr. Airey Neave being mentioned, but what about those of us who have also been mentioned and smeared? In the House, we have a right for the matter to be examined in an independent way.
I do not accept everything that Mr. Wallace has said. He is a gamekeeper turned poacher and he has played some dirty tricks in his time—I understand that. However, we now believe that there should be an inquiry, and I am sure that the House agrees. It is up to the Prime Minister, as head of security, to set up that inquiry and until such an inquiry is set up, we shall not let the matter rest.
Fifteen years on, we hear these allegations about the besmirching of reputations. I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that these matters have been investigated twice. There is no evidence of attempts to undermine Ministers or former Ministers—[Interruption.]
I have come to the House to report on a matter on which there is evidence and in which we are clear that a mistake has been made. We are anxious to remedy that, and any ill consequences that may have flowed from it, at the earliest possible opportunity. People jumping up and down one after the other—and I could join the club —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] If the people jumping up and down alleging that they have evidence do have evidence, they should produce it so that the matter can be investigated properly.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that we congratulate him on his candour on coming to the House? All Conservative Members are aware that these matters originated under another Administration and that present Ministers have no responsibility for what happened then. Can he confirm that the Government's statements during the past few days have been checked, confirmed and agreed by hon. Members who served as Ministers under the former Labour Administration?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend; that is what we have sought to do. Having found that mistakes have been made, we came to tell the House frankly of them. I have dealt very directly with those issues, and with the action that we are taking to deal with the consequences and to try to ensure that it does not happen again.
In response to my hon. Friend's question, the statements were not shown to hon. Members who had served as Ministers, but the details of the contents of the statements were communicated to Lord Mason, Lord Carrington, the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and Lord Whitelaw.
I am sorry that the patience of the Secretary of State is exhausted, but these are important matters. Is he aware that the real anxiety being expressed is that the security services are not under political control? He has said that he has no knowledge of the earlier years, although many of the offences occurred in the 1970s, with two Administrations. By admitting that she was misinformed, the Prime Minister has also said that she was unable, as Prime Minister, to get the truth out of the services for which she is supposed to be responsible to Parliament.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government's recent legislation now makes it a crime for Mr. Colin Wallace to give the evidence that would prove that the smearing had occurred? Is he also aware that the vast sum spent in trying to prevent the publication of "Spycatcher" did not show a yearning that the truth should reach the British public?
Is not all this combined to very strong evidence in support of a parliamentary inquiry at which Mr. Wallace, and perhaps Peter Wright and others who are certain that destabilisation occurred, could be rigorously cross-examined by hon. Members from across the House? Will the Secretary of State take seriously our anxiety that a breach of democratic responsibility has been committed by those who purport to be the defenders of our democratic rights?
I have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. I am advised that, as usual, he has got it mainly wrong. I am told that the idea that Mr. Wallace makes himself liable to prosecution does not apply, as he has never been a member of the security services. It has been made very clear,—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who from?"]—as I think the House knows, that this is an area where endless allegations are made. There is an amazing unwillingness to produce evidence that can be tested and checked.
If Mr. Wallace wants to make charges or has evidence on matters arising in Northern Ireland, he should bring it to the RUC. If he has any worries about his position in doing so in relation to classified information, it has been made clear time without number that he should address himself to the director of army security, who will advise him about the position.
I speak as one who served with the Army in Northern Ireland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given that 300 terrorist murders per annum were taking place at the time, the Army was absolutely justified in using disinformation? Does he further agree that the Army would have been negligent had it not used disinformation? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Is it not a fact that had the Army not used these techniques to undermine terrorism, many more British soldiers and civilians would be dead today?
I understand entirely why my hon. Friend comments as he does. There were practices of using disinformation to malign organisations and individuals. When my hon. Friend says that the Army is entitled to use disinformation, that is certainly true. Disinformation may be necessary to protect lives and security.
If hon. Members do not understand what I mean, I will give the House the most obvious and simple example. I arrived back this morning from Washington. I travelled under a false name. I make no apology for that. It was deliberate disinformation; it was done in the interests of security. The position is that disinformation may be needed to protect lives in Northern Ireland. I make no apology for that.
Should we not remind ourselves that the term "misinformation" is a euphemism for telling lies, that Mr. Colin Wallace was employed by a Government to tell lies, and that indeed he was a very squalid part of a very squalid operation in the North of Ireland at that time? There will be no tears shed in the North of Ireland about the manner of his dismissal.
The real issue at stake involves the characters and the reputations of those who were besmirched by people like Colin Wallace, those who may have lost their lives as a result of the activities of a dirty tricks department, those young lives that were blighted because of organised buggery which may have been part of the same campaign and, above all, the integrity and the highest practices which one expects from a system of law and security which simply did not seem to operate there at the time.
Will the Secretary of State agree to a full inquiry into those real matters, or will he consign this as another can of worms upon which the lid must be kept, instead of laying bare the facts which nobody doubts?
If I have heard him right, the hon. Gentleman is, in effect, asking for what would arguably be the third, fourth or fifth inquiry into Kincora. What presumption is there that that would establish anything different?
I have come to make a statement about certain information that was overlooked in the Ministry of Defence. I made it clear in that statement that the re-examination indicated that no information had been found to substantiate Mr. Wallace's allegations of a cover-up relating to the Kincora boys' home in Belfast. If new, fresh evidence emerges from another quarter, that evidence should be made available. If Mr. Wallace wishes to present any evidence, as he has been asked to do countless times, he should do so. What is absolutely unacceptable is for people to continue to call for inquiries, and to continue to indulge in innuendo, without producing any evidence on which the charges can be based.
Will my right hon. Friend clarify two points? If I understand his statement and the deduction that has followed it, it is perfectly appropriate and right to use disinformation to protect ordinary military operations; otherwise we would be running one after another into an ambush. Did I also understand my right hon. Friend to say that no evidence has come to light of attempts by agents of the Government to besmirch particular individuals in the way that has been suggested? If that is so, it too is important.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for making his first point, about disinformation. That is precisely the point. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said in his statement,
It has not since the mid-1970s been the policy to disseminate disinformation in Northern Ireland in ways designed to denigrate individuals and/or organisations or for propaganda purposes."—[Official Report, 30 January 1990; Vol. 166, c. 111.]
I did not say that it has not been the practice to use disinformation where it is necessary to protect lives, and for sound and absolutely honourable security reasons. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has understood that point very well.
As for my right hon. Friend's second question, I sought to make a point about the allegations that the security services were somehow involved in attempts to undermine or discredit Ministers in previous Administrations. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made a statement about that, and the director-general was asked to conduct a thorough investigation. He found no evidence of any truth in the allegations.
Will the inquiry deal with the question whether Colin Wallace had a written job description classified "secret", relating to his undercover operations? If it were possible to establish the existence of a job description in one form or another, would the inquiry be able to examine the nature of the activities involved?
Will the inquiry also be able to establish the source of a document dated 1972—a CIA registration card—and that of a forged bank statement in the name of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), dated 1973? I might add that there was not a Labour Government in either of those years. Will it establish the source of a letter to my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley arid Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) dated 3 October 1971, from some American organisation of IRA sympathisers, thanking my right hon. Friend for money that he had never sent/again, a forgery?
Will the inquiry deal with a document dated autumn 1971—again, a Labour Government were not in power then—entitled "Economics: Master or Servant of Mankind"? The document was allegedly written—although we know that it is a forgery—by my right hon. Friends the Members for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and for Salford, East (Mr. Orme). Those forgeries were produced between 1971 and 1973, and we want to know who produced them.
Will the inquiry deal with a document entitled "Vote Labour", which advocates assassination, but which is a forgery and has nothing whatever to do with Labour? We want to know the source of that document. Will it deal with a speech that was allegedly made, but was never made, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East—to a Labour party conference that never took place? Who wrote this material? We want to know, and if the inquiry does not deal with these matters, it will be a whitewash.
The hon. Gentleman knew the answer to his question before he rose to his feet. He has indulged once again his interest in parading all kinds of rumour and innuendo. [HON. MEMBERS: "You asked for evidence."] The House has no idea of the evidence of authorship of those documents.
Let me deal with the hon. Gentleman's first question, about the job description. Let me make it clear—this is what I have come to speak to the House about—that I would expect it to be for Mr. Calcutt to make the decision, within his terms of reference. I have absolute confidence in Mr. Calcutt: I am confident that he will seek to discharge his terms of reference to the full, and will take into account any relevant matter. The other matters certainly do not fall within his inquiry.
A few moments ago, my right hon. Friend said that he had no direct information about some of the wider constitutional security matters in and around the Wallace affair. He is aware that some of us feel that that is the fundamental flaw in his statement, and in the terms of the inquiry that he has announced.
This is not merely a narrow Ministry of Defence matter relating exclusively to a Civil Service appeal to do with Mr. Colin Wallace, important though that is. There are new issues here. In the past few days the Prime Minister has announced to the House that she was misled by Government servants, and even this afternoon we have heard disclosures of apparently wrongful and unauthorised use of disinformation by members of the Security Service, without satisfactory checks and balance and ministerial authorisation.
I think that my right hon. Friend should take account of the feeling in the House that there are wider and deeper issues that need to be identified by a wider and deeper inquiry. The matter will not go away as quickly as some people hope, and I think that, sooner or later, a fuller inquiry will have to be carried out by the head of the security services.
I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about open government and less secrecy. I am sorry that he was not able to acknowledge the fact that, having discovered that an error had been made, we have come straight to the House. I thought that he would feel able to applaud that.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to clear up one aspect of what I said. Of course I am not privy to and familiar with the details of what the director-general of the Security Service may have found out about activities that took place during a Labour Administration, to which I do not have access. [Interruption.] I am talking now about attempts to subvert a Labour Government and the allegations that were made about the discrediting and the actions of Ministers at that time. I obviously do not have access to that information.
What I do have access to are the findings of the director-general of the Security Service, with which I have no reason to disagree. I share the view of the Prime Minister. She made it clear in her statement that she accepted fully the assurance and advice that the director-general had given her, and I am sure that the House will do the same.
But has the right hon. Gentleman not yet grasped that the misleading answers to which the Government have now admitted are like the 13th stroke of the clock, casting doubt not only on themselves but on all the other answers that have been given about the matter over the years? If it is only now that someone has troubled to search the files, how can it be known what other documents are lying there undetected, and how can the public have confidence in anything less than a full public inquiry?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may choose to see this as the 13th stroke of the clock, but I have no evidence of that whatever. I have made matters absolutely clear in my statement. On the specific question of the job specification, we have found that—to put it simply—there are concerns that the appeal may not have proceeded on the fullest evidence available to it. That is why my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces and I have made it clear that, as a result of previous information that was incorrect, misleading answers may have been given. That is precisely why we advised the Prime Minister, who has written letters on the same matter on our advice, that it was necessary to correct the incorrect advice that she had been given by myself and by Ministers in the Ministry of Defence. We sought to make that absolutely clear. But in my statement I made it clear also that people who imagine that there are all sorts of other implications in this error of overlooking certain documents are wrong. That simply does not stand up.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House should at least take into account the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall) was able to pursue his inquiries, which gave rise to the response of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces; the fact that my right hon. Friend came here to make this statement and to answer questions on it; and the fact that we have a system under which the accountability of the Government to this House is avidly pursued, even at prime ministerial level? No other Government or, indeed, democracy in the western world would allow this degree of public examination of its policies. Perhaps Opposition Members would like nothing better than an expose of the security system that would undermine fatally the capacity of this democracy to fight terrorism.
I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for the very eloquent and perfectly fair way in which he has stated precisely the issue that is before us. It is quite ironic that, when I come to the House to apologise for an error and to set out the actions that we intend to take to put it right, I should be told by some hon. Members that that will not do. It is a very odd approach indeed.
The Secretary of State admitted a few moments ago that, before the mid-1970s, there was a policy of denigrating individuals by disinformation. Can he tell the House on what information he bases that statement? Who were the people who were denigrated, and on the basis of what disinformation were they denigrated?
In my statement I referred to the answer that had been given by my hon. Friend. I have made it clear that his statement and his answers were based on a further examination of files—an examination which identified the case being made for the establishment of a new post whose job specification included these requirements. The hon. Gentleman has seen the answers. Further evidence on what form that took, and whether it was ever communicated to Mr. Wallace, is not clear. As for what has now happened to Mr. Wallace's position, I have no doubt that Mr. Calcutt will wish to pursue such matters.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this House and outside he enjoys widespread confidence for the integrity and thoroughness with which this inquiry will he conducted? Will he be reluctant to concede to arguments that the scope of the inquiry should be increased? Perhaps he would care to say what credibility we ought to attach to the allegations of dirty tricks and to the besmirching of Members of this House by a man who was convicted of and imprisoned for the particularly horrific manslaughter of the antique dealer Mr. Jonathan Lewis. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves not about the integrity of the Prime Minister and other Ministers reporting to this House but about the system by which this Walter Mitty character had such access to highly classified documents.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has stated very clearly another aspect of this very difficult saga. With hindsight, there is no doubt that one is entitled to ask how some of these things arose and how some of the people concerned could be involved in such matters. It is easy, 15 years after the event, for people who were not involved to judge. We certainly have a duty to take whatever steps we can to ensure that if, in the areas that I have described, errors were made and disinformation was overlooked, the situation is rectified. No matter what view we hold, Mr. Wallace is entitled to fair treatment. If we think that there is a risk that he did not receive justice, we have a duty to have the matter investigated.
I am actually aware who my Permanent Secretary is.
In that situation, there was concern over whether, in respect of a number of issues that had been raised, the fullest investigation had been made. Authority was therefore given, and the matter was raised with Ministers—immediately confirmed—to investigate whether any files were missing.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members on both sides of the House, when they first heard of the allegations made by Colin Wallace, were inclined to dismiss him as a Walter Mitty figure? Will my right hon. Friend accept that what has changed the situation this week is the confirmation that there were in the Ministry of Defence documents concerning an operation—perhaps not cleared, perhaps a renegade operation—code—named "Clockwork Orange"? Is not that the single item has justified some of the anxiety that has been expressed in the past?
Are there not precedents, in the shape of similar inquiries being passed straight to the Security Commission? Will my hon. Friend consider very carefully whether this is not an ideal matter for the Security Commission to look into? After all, if the Government have nothing to hide, surely it would be to their advantage to take that step.
My hon. Friend knows that what he referred to, particularly in relation to "Clockwork Orange" was referred to in the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. While descriptions have been given of what the project might have been like, and the suggestion made that Mr. Wallace was involved in the project, the documents make it absolutely clear that the project was not actually cleared. I think that this is where some ideas start off—whatever Mr. Wallace may have been involved in, and the ideas that he had—but we are dealing with the facts, with what actually happened.
Would the Secretary of State—first of all, as people read Hansard—realise that it demeans his office to pretend that the disinformation about which we are speaking is that which requires him to travel under an assumed name? We are speaking of much more serious matters.
Secondly, how can the right hon. Gentleman come to this House and repeat such phrases as "documents were overlooked" and "inadvertently misleading the House" and then proceed, in a stout defence, to resist any possible inquiry, on the grounds that there is no such information? Is he aware that his incapacity to understand the serious nature of the breach of rules—or whatever it was—by the Security Service is exactly the kind of defence used by the security services in eastern Europe? He ought to be ashamed of himself for taking that sort of position.
I have come here to explain certain events that occurred at a time when there were in office a Government of whom the hon. Gentleman was a supporter. I do not make any point about this, because it affected different Administrations at that time. I make no apology for coming to the House in these circumstances. It is disgraceful for the hon. Gentleman to say that I should be ashamed of myself when I have come to explain that mistakes were made, and to state what action we are taking to correct them.
While applauding the Secretary of State for his courage in making what would obviously be a very embarrassing statement for any Minister to make, may I ask whether he accepts that he has a very special responsibility to those whose reputation may have been gravely undermined by the activities of Mr. Wallace and his colleagues?
Can my right hon. Friend clarify in what circumstances he might think there was a case for a further inquiry? Would it, for example, be if we had evidence that all the documents referred to by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and other frauds and forgeries alleged by Mr. Wallace to be the product of his particular group had been supplied to the Government in 1984?
I am obviously grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said at the beginning. On this matter, we have sought to be quite frank with the House. Various allegations have been made. If there is evidence to substantiate the allegations about a whole range of matters, it should be brought forward. People might then like to explain why it had taken 15 years to do so.
May I address a number of specific points to the Secretary of State? He has referred on two or three occasions to mistakes having been made in the past, and he has twice repeated that errors have been made in overlooking information. The only significance of the new information is that it suggests that Mr. Wallace may well have been telling the truth in this particular.
The argument that we are seeking to put to the Secretary of State and to get him to accept is that, if there is evidence that Mr. Wallace has been telling the truth in this particular, there may well be validity in his general arguments and points. Therefore, for that reason if no other, there is a need for a far wider-scale inquiry than is being proposed at present. The Secretary of State must know that the piddling little inquiry that he has set up is to determine whether Mr. Wallace was fairly or unfairly dismissed in the light of the new evidence—but that just will not do.
The hon. Gentleman totally overlooks the fact that that was one of the specific matters raised by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) when he called for an inquiry. In fact, the hon. Gentleman was actually calling for the fifth or sixth inquiry. In answer to the idea that these matters have not been inquired into when they have been a matter of specific inquiry, there is absolutely no evidence that a further inquiry would produce anything different from the previous inquiries. It is simply no good for people to make and to keep on making allegations, which is certainly true of Mr. Wallace over the Kincora matter, and yet refuse to bring forward evidence on it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep resentment among my hon. Friends at the attempt by some Opposition Members to smear members of this Administration about things that happened long before any Minister in this Government came to power? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, if the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) were to put before members of the Government the documents of which only he and Lord Callaghan have direct knowledge, they would be looked into, and that it is no use the right hon. Gentleman accusing this Government of not knowing what they are talking about, when the information has not been put to the Government?
I certainly endorse what my hon. Friend says. If there is evidence, it should be brought forward and put before the appropriate authorities. I find it difficult, standing here, to understand why that has not been done.
Under the Government's own definition of "subversion", which includes undermining parliamentary democracy, were these dirty tricks that were aimed at politicians "subversion"? Will the Secretary of State answer that point? Is it not becoming increasingly clear that there was political meddling on behalf of a small faction in the security services to achieve a Right-wing putsch in this country, and that it was successful? When are we going to get the truth about that?
I am making a statement about somebody who was a member of the information service in the headquarters in Northen Ireland, and attached to the Army. That is the matter with which I am dealing. Some of the allegations that have been made previously have been fully investigated, and separate statements have been made to the House. Some of the allegations have been subject to quite separate and very full inquiries. I have nothing to add on those. I have made a specific statement about the action that we are taking in respect of one specific matter.
If it is established beyond peradventure that there is no shred of evidence to suggest that there was a campaign to discredit Ministers at the time, is not the only logical conclusion that those who call for further inquiries are, either consciously or unconsciously, seeking to attack the credibility of our security services, which at the time were facing a campaign that caused the death of 300 people, or that they have no confidence in Ministers of the time?
Listening to some of the contributions that have been made, I well understand why my hon. Friend makes that comment. I am under no illusions that one or two contributors to this debate are very keen to undermine —[Interruption.]—the confidence in the security services, and they have made that perfectly clear—
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir David Steel) and other right hon. and hon. Members were seeking to aid and abet the terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland by raising the questions that they have?
May I invite the Secretary of State, on reflection, to withdraw the remark that he has just made, which I am sure, on reconsideration, he would want to withdraw? It cannot possibly be his view that my right hon. and hon. Friends who have served, as he did, with great distinction in Northern Ireland, could possibly justify or deserve the comments that he has just made, and on behalf of my other hon. Friends, I certainly repudiate them.
I also speak as an hon. Member who has served in the armed forces in Northern Ireland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are sometimes in danger of discussing these matters while losing sight of the general context? Does my right hon. Friend accept that his statement proves to the House that the Government's only object is to ensure that fairness and accuracy are put on the record, whichever Administration may have been in power at the relevant time?
That has been my purpose today. If errors of this kind are discovered, it is important that one comes immediately to the House to make that clear. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces set out the full background to these matters. My right hon. and hon. Friends and other hon. Members who were given incorrect information have received full letters setting out what we believe to be the correct position.
Does not the Secretary of State very much regret that the Prime Minister has not seen fit to listen to one second of the statement that he has made this afternoon? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Prime Minister that he has been unable to persuade the House of the matters that we are debating, and that his very unconvincing performance of bluff and bluster has not prevented him from sinking in the House this afternoon?
Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to come to the House on Monday to announce that there is to be a full independent inquiry into all the matters that we have been discussing, and that there will be a parliamentary investigation, either through a special Select Committee or through the Select Committee on Privileges, to examine the activities of Mr. Wallace in relation to Members of Parliament and former Members of Parliament?
I think it is absolutely ludicrous for the hon. Gentleman to suggest that the Prime Minister should come to the House to apologise for an error made in documents being overlooked in the Ministry of Defence. I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces take full responsibility for that. I have come to the House at the earliest possible opportunity—I landed from Washington at half-past 8 this morning—to make a full statement to the House. The hon. Gentleman's comments are purely trivial.
Order. The whole House knows that we have a heavy day in front of us. May I ask hon. Members to reflect on their questions and to ask for information that has not already been given?
We on this side of the House congratulate my right hon. Friend on his frankness. Will he confirm that, in his investigations in his Department, there has been no proved link between what he has revealed to us today and the allegations that have been made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr Campbell-Savours) about the so-called "dirty tricks department"? Will he also confirm that the defence of Mr. Wallace, at his trial where he was convicted for murder by a jury—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw".]—which was upheld by the Court of Appeal—
I confirm, as I made clear in my statement, that the further information which has come to light has no relevance whatever to the other matters that he raised.
In addition to the documents mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), may I draw to the attention of the Secretary of State a 100-page pamphlet, illustrated with about 100 photographs. which seeks to denigrate in a scurrilous way his right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), which was circulated at the 1974 general election? Any inquiry that fails to address that and the documents already mentioned will not be credible.
As I have told other hon. Members, the question is whether the hon. Member has any evidence of the authorship of that document. I could point him to documents circulated in Northern Ireland that denigrated me in a particularly vicious and nasty way. I know that it is no good complaining about it, but I have a good idea of the origin and authorship of those documents.
Some years ago, the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service sent the Prime Minister several documents, some from Mr. Colin Wallace, some from the Institution of Professional Civil Servants as it then was, and one from Mr. Peter Broderick, the head of the information service for the Army in Northern Ireland. They showed clearly that there was a dirty tricks campaign in Northern Ireland. How comes it that, in the years since, the enemy from within has been allowed to lie, lie and lie again about what has been happening, but no Minister has come to the Dispatch Box to say, "That is not true; we now have the truth; we have seen the documents"?
Does the Secretary of State accept that, however fascinating the history of this episode, there is currently great cause for anxiety about the activities of the security services? The Secretary of State, as Minister directly responsible for military intelligence, his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), sitting on his right, who was formerly responsible for the secret services, and the Prime Minister, who is now responsible for all the security services, will be aware that the way in which things work is that they are informed on a "need to know" basis. Is he satisfied today that he knows all that he needs to know to ensure that such dirty tricks campaigns are neither happening now, with Colin Wallaces in new guises, nor will happen in the run-up to the next general election?
My statement and the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as well as what the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said, have made it clear that, whatever practices there may have been in the 1970s, they were clearly and firmly stopped. I have no evidence whatever that such a policy continued to be pursued, either in the right hon. Member's time of office or in mine.
Surely it is inconceivable to any reasonable man or woman that the people with and for whom Mr. Wallace worked embarked on the operation without thinking it through and forming an objective? If I recall correctly, the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) said that, according to some documents, it was an objective of the generals. That is to say, they had an objective beyond and different from that of the elected Government of the day.
In Northern Ireland, we should like to know precisely what the political and constitutional objective was. We should also like to know why the information, misinformation or disinformation—call it what one will —has been referred to only in relation to Great Britain politicians.
All of us who work in politics in Northern Ireland know that, during the 1970s, the whole place was alive with rumours about leading politicians, especially those from the Unionist community. Many of those rumours were designed to injure the standing of those politicians, not only in their own communities but throughout the Northern Ireland community. Frankly, many of them were dredged out of a cesspool.
This is a serious matter. The Government and Conservative Members do not seem to understand that the present Government continue to be the victim of what happened in the 1970s. It was not an error but a deliberate policy perpetrated against the Government, and which the Government repeated to the House. That makes it a constitutional issue of the greatest importance. It is wrong for any Government to say that they will not carry out the fullest inquiry to discover what happened, if only for their own protection and that of the Prime Minister and of subsequent Cabinets.
It is clear, and the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) made it clear, that any policy of disinformation designed to denigrate individuals or organisations in the early 1970s was stopped. If there is any further evidence of such a policy, it should be brought forward. I have nothing to add to the statement that I have already made.
But on the evidence from the Secretary of State's hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall)—Colin Wallace's Member of Parliament—documentation has been requested from the Department since 1986. Why has it taken four years to discover those documents? When was the search instituted and how many days ago was that handful of documents discovered? Will there be a search for the other five and a half or more files of documents that it is alleged have gone missing?
Is not the Secretary of State worried that the matter goes to the extent of treason? He seems to be prepared to defend the security services whatever dirty tricks they get up to, even to the point—this should be clearly noted by the House—of denigrating hon. Members for exercising their democratic options in the House. The aim of the security services was an attack on our very system of democracy. Would not an inquiry by the Select Committee on Home Affairs be a way of ensuring full democratic accountability? As the Committee is made up entirely of hon. Members, what is wrong with that?
I am not sure whether the hon. Member was listening to the answers that I gave earlier, including the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel (Mr. Marshall). I have nothing to add to the statement that I have made about the approach that we should now adopt to these matters.
While I welcome the narrow field in which the Secretary of State has responded, will he answer the questions asked earlier? Are any of those involved in disinformation or giving advice to Ministers still in responsible positions as advisers to the Government or in public service?
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the matter could go beyond the Ministry of Defence into other areas, even the Northern Ireland Office? Does he accept that it will take a wider inquiry to deal with the issues, the innuendo that still surrounds the people involved in the Kincora inquiry and the allegations that Colin Wallace was the third member present at the murder of Tommy Herren?
The hon. Gentleman chose to widen his questions into precisely the areas where I said that no evidence arising out of the matters that I have reported to the House has been substantiated or gives fresh ground for anxiety. On the question of who authorised Mr. Wallace, it is clear that he was already undertaking unattributable briefing activities, which may have included misinformation, before he was authorised to do so.
The Secretary of State said that documents were overlooked. On what day were they found? What was the date? He must have it on file somewhere.
If the Secretary of State is right to tell the House that these matters have come as a surprise to Ministers and senior civil servants, why, in the early years of this Administraion, while Colin Wallace was in prison, was a senior-level meeting held inside the Ministry of Defence at which Ministers and senior civil servants, including Clive Ponting, were present?
The discussion was about the danger to the reputation of the Government if Colin Wallace came out of prison and continued to make the statements that he had made before he went in? How can we be told that the matter is a shock and a surprise? All the documents that my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has shown to the House were delivered to the Prime Minister in November 1984. Why was nothing done about that?
Given that the Government have now admitted the status of Colin Wallace, can we be told why it was that, when Colin Wallace warned his superiors about child abuse in Kincora in 1974, no action was taken and that child abuse continued until the issue was made public by the press?
The hon. Gentleman tries to widen the issue beyond the point that I made. I shall seek to give the exact date when the first document came to light, on the basis of which an instruction was given for a full examination. A considerable number of documents had to be examined to make sure that there were no other inaccuracies in what is a very serious issue indeed.
It may not be clear that the first document was not the job specification; it was not any evidence that anything was given to Colin Wallace. It was as listed. If the hon. Gentleman has read the Minister of State's written answer, he will know that it was a background paper seeking to justify expenditure on a further information officer in Headquarters Northern Ireland.
That was not conclusive proof, and that is why it was necessary to find out whether Colin Wallace was given the job specification and to seek to come to the House with proper information. We have come to the House not with a complete story but with something which is of sufficient concern and which we believe means that, in justice to Mr. Colin Wallace, the matter should be investigated and reviewed by Mr. Calcutt.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that Mr. Calcutt will have the powers to obtain and to make use of the job specification? Will he also confirm that section 1(9) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 makes it clear that not only those in the security services but those who work in support of them can obtain immunity and the like? Will he guarantee that immunity from prosecution will be provided under that Act?
Lastly, does the Secretary of State agree that to appear on a blacklist drawn up by terrorists is one thing, but to appear on a blacklist drawn up by servants of the Crown, whose responsibility was to uphold our freedom, is a completely different matter? As those people are senior Members of the House, surely it is reasonable that, as requested by hon. Members on both sides of the House, we have the fullest public inquiry so as to satisfy the House, to clear the names of those besmirched and to restore public confidence outside the House in the workings of our affairs?
Although the job specification is a classified document, Mr. Calcutt will have access to it and he will be able to show it to Mr. Wallace. I have also been advised that Mr. Wallace will be authorised to give the authorities the facts in the other matters that have been raised, so no offence arises under the Official Secrets Act. In that respect, there is no change from the old Act, which only made unauthorised publication an offence.