HC Deb 08 February 1973 vol 850 cc644-5
Q4. Mr. John Grant

asked the Prime Minister if he will now make a statement concerning the Franks Committee recommendations for reform of the Official Secrets Act.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add at present to the reply which I gave in answer to a Question from the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) on 23rd January.—[Vol. 849, c. 216–17.]

Mr. Grant

I thank the Prime Minister on this occasion for the accuracy of his replies. Will he brief the House a little more fully? Will he stop procrastinating about the Franks Report and use it as his first, however faltering, step towards the open government he promised? Is he aware that the Railway Gazette and the Financial Times have made a better contribution to open government than he has?

The Prime Minister

Most people who study the Franks Report recognise that it poses complex and difficult problems. This has meant discussions to reach an official decision about it and I hope soon to announce it. Open government does not consist of freedom for documents to be stolen by anybody who wishes to take them out of custody, nor does it involve the right of a civil servant to give away information which is not his to give.

Mr. Hugh Fraser

Nevertheless, if it is impossible for the Government to make up their minds would it not be of general interest for the House to have a debate on the Franks Report? There is a problem of communication between Government and people and there is a right and a need for the people to know. This is an important issue which should be discussed by the House.

The Prime Minister

I am prepared for the matter to be discussed by the House and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House heard what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser). The Government are examining the report thoroughly and properly as the subject requires and in due course will make their conclusions known.

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