HC Deb 19 July 1973 vol 860 cc845-75

10.4 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

As youth stumbles away into space, I, as one of the old boys, will try to bring at least the Government down to earth.

In raising the issue of the Norma Levy case and the subsequent Diplock Commission, I want to make absolutely clear at once my attitude to sexual morality, because there has been a suggestion that some of us are seeking to exploit sex scandals for political ends. I do not believe that I have the slightest right to judge any man or woman in the generality of the population. The defects in my own character are such that I would be presumptuous if I were to judge people solely on the basis of their sexual morality or immorality. There is, however, a clear distinction to be drawn between the generality of the populace and those of us who have chosen of our volition to enter public life.

I believe that when we enter public life we have no right to assume that we can have a private life. No matter what sphere of public life we enter, whether at local or national level, public figures should be beyond suspicion in terms of corruption, graft and immorality. But there is even more need for those of us who are fortunate to become Ministers in Government to be as moral in our sexual lives as we are in any other moral aspect. We all know that prostitution has for a long time been used as a basis upon which people can be recruited in secret service work. The agent of a foreign Power, no matter what Power that may be, will grasp at any weakness of any Minister and will exploit that weakness, particularly in regard to peccadilloes of a sexual nature, to suborn him from his responsibilities to the nation he serves.

In this case there were two Ministers involved. One, unfortunately, was Tony Lambton. While he was in this House I respected him and indeed had an affection for him, and we had a friendly relationship as Members of this House. I recall on a number of occasions having to go to his office to deal with my constituency cases. I was given by him the best possible treatment, and indeed he was one of those Ministers who did not necessarily accept departmental advice. I shall return to Lord Lambton a little later.

I want first to deal with the second Minister involved in this affair, Lord Jellicoe. I understand that Lord Jellicoe has a war record of which he can be very proud. I am not trying to suggest in any way that he is disloyal to this country. I believe that he won more medals or recognitions than virtually any other man in the war. Therefore, I want to be absolutely clear that in dealing with Lord Jellicoe I am not for one moment suggesting that he in any way jeopardised the security of this nation.

He was, however, a Cabinet Minister and thus he had the greatest possible responsibility to see that his conduct was such that he could not in any way be used, be blackmailed by anyone or become a tool of anyone while he was a member of the Cabinet.

The Prime Minister was right to accept the resignation of Lord Jellicoe, and I believe that the Diplock Commission's implied rebuke to the Prime Minister that there was no need for Lord Jellicoe to resign was wrong. I reject that rebuke, because the Prime Minister was quite right in accepting the resignation of Lord Jellicoe who, it is admitted, was engaged only in activities with call girls. But the fact that he was engaged in activities with call girls of any kind meant that he was a security risk. We cannot afford to have a Cabinet Minister engaging in activities in which he becomes a security risk.

I wish to refer to the Statement on the Findings of the Conference of Privy Councillors on Security, Command Paper 9715. That conference was charged with looking at the entire question of the kind of steps that might be taken to ensure the nation's security. Paragraph 10 of the statement states: Some of the recommendations of the Conference deal with what may be called the relation between security risks and defects of character and conduct. The Conference recognise that to-day great importance must be paid to character defects as factors tending to make a man unreliable or expose him to blackmail, or influence by foreign agents. there is a duty on Departments to inform themselves of serious failings such as drunkenness, addiction to drugs, homosexuality or any loose living that may seriously affect a man's reliability. That document was prepared in March 1956 and was presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister by command of Her Majesty. It was a document ensuing from a conference of Privy Councillors on security. Some people may have construed those findings as being applicable solely to civil servants. Some of the paragraphs in the document may give that impression, but if it applies to civil servants how much more should it apply to Ministers? Do we have double standards, one standard for civil servants, who may be in a lower category than a Minister in terms of access to secret documents, and an entirely different standard for Ministers?

Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South-West)

On the same tack, will not my hon. Friend agree that, contrary to what is recommended in the report, it would be highly desirable for the positive vetting procedure to be applied to Ministers, not before their appointment perhaps but in some brief period after their appointment, in the same way as it is applied to civil servants?

Mr. Loughlin

I shall be dealing in a moment with positive vetting as against briefing.

I emphasise this point because it has never been retracted. It is still part of the manual. If it is the yardstick by which we ensure that civil servants are not exposed to temptation and if drunkenness, homosexuality or any form of loose living is among the matters taken into account, how can an association with call girls and with prostitution be other than loose living? How can it be argued that when a Cabinet Minister—or, for that matter, a Minister of any rank—associates promiscuously with call girls and prostitutes, it does not matter, but that if the permanent secretary, the deputy secretary, an assistant secretary or a principal in the Department does, it matters a great deal?

Implicit in the document is the fact that civil servants should draw to the attention of their superiors defects in conduct such as those to which I have referred relating to other members of their Department. If members of the Civil Service should be policing themselves and if the permanent secretary in a Department is responsible for the conduct of his civil servants, so too is the chief Minister in the Department. The present head of the Department concerned is Lord Carrington. Perhaps the Home Secretary can tell me whether Lord Carrington was so incompetent and so negligent that he did not see these character defects and allowed a Minister to carry on in the way he did. If the Home Secretary takes that view—I shall come to dates presently for the right hon. Gentleman's benefit—I want to know why Lord Carrington is still head of that Department and why he has not resigned because of his negligence and incompetence.

I do not know what went on in that Department. I was only a very small fish but I know what went on in my Department. When I first became a junior Minister I was briefed and told how to conduct myself. A very charming gentleman told me about the pitfalls for which I had to look. I was never under any illusions. I knew what was happening. I knew that I was being briefed about the type of conduct which I should observe while I was a Minister.

Like my own Minister at the time, Lord Carrington was responsible for seeing that Lord Lambton was briefed. Lord Lambton said that he did not know whether he was positively vetted or briefed. He was extremely vague about it, and he said so quite openly and in public. In my view, in a sensitive Department such as his there should have been no ambiguity. There should have been a very clear indication to Lord Lambton that he was being briefed and coached in some ways about the dangers inherent in the position that he was holding in terms of the nation's security.

My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) asks me whether I consider that positive vetting would be possible with Ministers. I think that it would be extremely difficult. Any Prime Minister forming a Government would find it difficult positively to vet most of the people whom he had chosen within days of the Government coming to power, though I agree that my hon. Friend said if not at the time the Prime Minister appointed them, then shortly afterwards.

By and large, Prime Ministers know the people they intend to appoint. By and large—there are exceptions they know the character of the persons they wish to take into their administration. I go this far with my hon. Friend, and I shall illustrate it briefly. It is absolutely necessary that there should be, if not constant briefing, much more briefing than there is now. I see no reason for any Minister, be he senior or junior, not to have visits periodically from those who are responsible for ensuring that Ministers stay on the right lines. The senior Minister in the Department ought to do this with his junior Ministers.

Mr. George Cunningham

Without remotely suggesting that the need for positive vetting of Ministers arises from the Lambton-Jellicoe situation—which it certainly does not—I wonder whether my hon. Friend agrees that, because one knows the man and one has known him for some years, one can have complete confidence in him as a non-security risk? It was exactly that approach which proved to be unsuccessful in the Lambton case, and, in an infinitely more serious case, proved a disaster by letting Philby get practically to the head of M16.

Mr. Loughlin

I accept that, as regards Ministers, it is desirable to try to bridge the gap. I do not think that it is possible for positive vetting to take place either immediately before the forming of a Government or immediately afterwards. But some attempt must be made to ensure that a Minister has a clear picture of what he should and should not do.

For the benefit of the Minister—it may subsequently be for the benefit of the Government let me quote my own case. In my first Department, as I said, I was briefed very well, and I have no complaints. I was briefed very courteously and clearly. But I was in two other Departments, one of which was much more sensitive. No one came to me in the other Departments. I was briefed in the first Department. In retrospect—I say it only in retrospect—I think that it might have been as well if they had come to me in the third Department, where I had a sensitive area of responsibility. It would have been better if I had been given a further briefing then. I say that because it might be helpful to the Home Secretary.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Robert Carr )

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but that is one of the recommendations of the Security Commission which has already been accepted.

Mr. Loughlin

I read the Security Commission's report, but I did not notice that it said that there should he briefing when a Minister passed from Department to Department.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

It can be found in paragraph 37.

Mr. Loughlin

My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) corrects me.

There has been so much speculation and there have been so many vague hints that other Ministers are involved that it is essential that there should be another full and public inquiry. There is no hon. Member who does not know the name of the alleged third Minister in the case. The Prime Minister told the House that he readily accepted the assurances of the third Minister that he had not been involved in any of the scandals and, therefore, had not placed himself in a position of being subjected to any form of blackmail by other secret services. I do not know what the Home Secretary is doing. He may intervene any time he wishes.

Mr. R. Carr

I just do not like mud slinging. That is all.

Mr. Loughlin

I shall do a bit of mud slinging if that is the attitude of the Home Secretary. I am trying not to do any mud slinging. I am trying to deal with a matter which may be politically embarrassing to the Home Secretary, it may be politically embarrassing to the Prime Minister, it may be politically embarrassing to the Government, but it is important to the ordinary people of this country.

The Prime Minister accepted the assurance of the third Minister. However, what we have to remember—my hon. Friend almost got to it—was that Macmillan accepted the assurance that Philby was not the third man. I wonder why the third Minister has not attempted to rebut by libel action the statements that have been made about him.

I turn to the motion that I placed on the Order Paper. [Interruption.] The Ministers keep muttering. They will not stop me if they stay here until five o'clock in the morning; I shall still say what I want to say. The motion makes a number of charges. The Diplock Commission apparently took evidence from some witnesses. We do not know who the witnesses were. We know who were not called, but the Prime Minister is head of the security services in this country. It is an indictment that the Prime Minister had to confess that he did not know whether certain witnesses had been called. Why not? What kind of an inquiry is it that can keep from the head of the security services the names of witnesses called before it?

But what is much more important is how the inquiry was conducted. As far as we could see, a number of prime witnesses were never called before the inquiry.

First, there were Mr. and Mrs. Levy. 1 should have thought that if this case were to be investigated at all, the Levys were indispensable to the inquiry. Without them it was almost impossible to conduct an adequate investigation.

We then had the journalists from the News of the World and the People—two newspapers that I never read. The truth is that these investigatory journalists found out a great deal more about this issue than anyone else. They had knowledge. They had carried out a considerable investigation. My information is that none of those journalists was called before the Security Commission.

If the Levys and the journalists—prime witnesses—were not called, how can we possibly have any confidence in the Security Commission's report?

I think that a brief glance at the history of the affair might be useful, because the name of at least one of the Ministers was disclosed on 28th March. It was disclosed by no less a person than Mrs. Levy. According to The Sunday Times, she was being interviewed at Scot- land Yard not about prostitution or pornography. It may be that she was being interviewed about drugs. Anyhow, she let slip Lambton's name among the names of other prominent persons.

By one of those little twists of fate, somebody at Scotland Yard knew somebody at one of the security branches, they happened to meet each other five days later, and D5 was told. The security people were very interested and concerned and they acted pretty speedily. They not only started their investigation on 3rd April, but they were able to tell the Prime Minister on 9th April that there were serious grounds for believing that some of his Ministers were involved in what was likely to be a scandalous situation, and he was given Lord Lambton's name on 13th April.

The Levys had been under surveillance by Scotland Yard, if not by the security branch, during the whole of that time and subsequently up to 21st May, the day that Lord Lambton resigned.

When Lord Lambton went to Scotland Yard on the day that he resigned he was interrogated by police officials. He was asked on that day whether Mrs. Levy had given him drugs. Lord Lambton said, She has given me pep pills, but I have never taken them. I have in the past taken marijuana and opium in China. I want the Home Secretary to note the words, She has given me pep pills". In other words, she had given Tony Lambton drugs.

The detectives then showed him a photograph of himself smoking in Mrs. Levy's flat and suggested that he was smoking cannabis. Lord Lambton replied, I would not deny that. Yes. I would not deny I have smoked marijuana. That is the report in The Times of 14th June 1973.

All the time they were under surveillance and on 21st May Scotland Yard had corroborative evidence from Lord Lambton that drugs were being hawked in Levy's flat, that he had been given drugs by Mrs. Levy, and that he had smoked marijuana and cigarettes in Mrs. Levy's flat, indeed in the bed. I would have thought, as would any person with the slightest common sense, that there was a substantial evidence for the arrest of this woman.

Not long ago a case was reported in the newspapers of a young man who was found with drugs on him. When the case came to court it was stated that two grains of a drug were found in the ticket pocket of his jacket. That was the evidence on which the charge was based. He was found not guilty because he could prove that he had bought the jacket second hand and there was an element of doubt whether the drug was in the jacket when he bought it.

The police could not succeed there, but here was a situation in which Ministers were involved—a situation in which security might be involved; a situation in which the police had tangible evidence that drugs were in the house and that this woman was trafficking in them. But they did not arrest her. Why? The Home Secretary has a responsibility to tell the House why.

Mr. R. Carr rose

Mr. Loughlin

The Home Secretary can tell us after I and other hon. Members have spoken. In view of the evidence adduced at the Lambton trial, why was Mrs. Levy allowed to leave this country three days later? I conclude one of two things. Either the police have failed in their duty—and I will not make a charge of that kind against them unless I have reasonable proof. Or I can assume that it would have been politically damaging to have had the woman arrested. I go further and say that in view of the drugs evidence, once the whole thing came out it was essential that the Government should exercise their right to extradite this woman and bring her back to this country. [Interruption.] There are continual mutterings from the Government Front Bench, but I understand that drugs offences are extraditable offences in most countries. If not, the Secretary of State can tell us.

Mr. R. Carr

Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that no Minister in this country has any power to direct the police or prosecuting authorities when or when not to arrest somebody. He has made false accusations about things being done for political convenience. If that is not an accusation against the police and prosecuting authorities, I do not know what is. The fact is that when they had evidence they did not hesitate to bring a charge against a Minister. If they did not hesitate to embarrass the Government in that way, I hope the country will realise that they would not have hesitated to embarrass anyone else against whom they had evidence. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the police, with a Minister's connivance or support, can start arresting people against whom they have no evidence, he should be ashamed of himself.

Mr. Loughlin

The right hon. Gentleman is getting indignant. I thought I had portrayed quite clearly the circumstances in which the evidence was readily available, because it was available on 21st May.

Mr. Carr

It was not.

Mr. Loughlin

The right hon. Gentleman says that it was not. I have quoted from the Lambton drugs trial reported in The Times on 14th June. His secretary can get him a copy of it. It is in the Library. I have quoted the evidence given at the trial. Perhaps I should give it in a little more detail. It said: Mr. David Tudor-Price, for the prosecution, said Lord Lambton went to New Scotland Yard on the afternoon of 21st May, the day he resigned from the Government, and by appointment saw Deputy Assistant Commissioner Ernest Bond and Detective Chief Superintendent Albert Wickstead. He was asked if Mrs. Levy had given him drugs. Then follow the quotations I have already made. In other words, on 21st May he was asked either by Commander Bond or Chief Superintendent Wickstead about drugs.

So it was known on 21st May and it would have been possible on the basis of that evidence, not oppressively to arrest Mrs. Levy but for any magistrate to swear out a warrant—there is nothing oppressive about that; magistrates do it every day—to search the Levys' flat and to make inquiries of Mrs. Levy with a view to establishing whether that which Lord Lambton had said was true. But they did not. She was away. I think they got her away.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

Who got her away?

Mr. Loughlin

I do not know. Perhaps it would be better to address that question to the Home Secretary.

Mr. R. Carr


Mr. Loughlin

I am saying that she was a prime witness in this investigation. Without her, there would be no real inquiry. Nor could the inquiry be complete. In addition to the absence of the Levys, there was the absence of those other prime witnesses, the journalists. 1 would like to know how the truth could be found out if the prime witnesses were not brought before the inquiry. I believe that the Diplock inquiry is meaningless. I believe that there is a need for a full public inquiry so that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is brought out.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

I wish to address myself to some of the broader considerations involved in this subject. The Diplock Report has appeared and, by a coincidence, the current issue of the New Law Journal is reported in this morning's newspapers as saying: Rarely can a government report on such an important subject as security have been so welcome to those who stand to gain by lax or confused security arrangements in this country. It continues: It seems to us that the ranks of the establishment have come together with an almighty clang. In my view, that is a perfectly fair description of the Diplock Report.

The Government must accept the responsibility for what is now recognised by many people as a most inadequate handling of the matter. It seems to indicate that the security arrangements of the Government, for which the Prime Minister is ultimately responsible, are not as satisfactory as they ought to be. It is quite clear, on information available to me, that as long ago as May 1972 names were being mentioned and the existence of a VIP call-girl racket was known. I repeat that that was in May 1972.

How did the whole business come to light? It came to light purely as an accidental by-product of a raid on pornographic material in Soho. That raid took place in January 1973. In the course of the raid, conducted purely as an anti-pornography exercise, documents were discovered in a secret safe in the flat which was raided. That was the first indication that something was wrong.

What happened after that? There is a gap, and that gap is fully revealed in the report of the Diplock Commission. The Commission seems to accept that Lord Lambton began his deviation from the normal at some time in the late spring or early summer of 1972—that is to say, at about the same time as certain information became available to some Fleet Street journalists.

I should like to know—I should like the Home Secretary to explain—what happened from 1970, when Lord Lamb-ton was appointed, to mid-1972. Are we asked to believe that his deviations or defects of character suddenly took place two years after he took office? I find that rather difficult to believe. The Commission surely should have examined a little more closely that aspect of the matter.

The other aspect of the matter which disturbs me is the role played by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. It strikes me as evident that neither the Prime Minister nor the Secretary of State for Defence carried out efficiently the duties of their office regarding security. The Prime Minister is responsible for ensuring that his Ministers understand and execute their basic duties. The Secretary of State for Defence is responsible for ensuring that his subordinate Ministers understand and execute those duties. That was made clear a long time ago in the Denning Report of 1963, which stated that responsibility for departmental security rested fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the heads of Departments. It does not seem that that was properly and adequately carried out by the Secretary of State for Defence.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) pointed out, it seems that Lord Lambton did not know the difference between vetting and briefing. That proves the direct failure of the Secretary of State for Defence to ensure that security procedures were being properly followed in his Department. My hon. Friend has mentioned the report and the findings of the Conference of Privy Councillors in 1966. That conference was specifically called upon to deal with what he called security risks and defects of character and conduct. The report indicated that great care must be attached to character defects and factors tending to make a man unreliable or to expose him to blackmail or influence by foreign agents.

Can the Secretary of State for the Home Department assure the House that the Secretary of State for Defence carried out his duties in the way that is expected of the senior Minister of such a sensitive Department? What happened when Lord Lambton had to be approached and told that the police wanted him? The Permanent Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Defence was given the job of telling him. Why did not the Secretary of State call Lord Lambton to his office and confront him with that accusation? Why did he depute that task to one of his civil servants? He may have been too busy looking after the Conservative Party. It strikes me as odd that, in a serious situation of this kind, the Minister responsible should depute his Permanent Under-Secretary to handle the situation.

In paragraph 25 of the Diplock Report it is stated: At some date in the late spring or early summer 1972 he was given the telephone number of a 'Madam' who controlled a ring of highly-priced prostitutes. The proposition seemed to be accepted without any further examination that until the late spring or early summer of 1972 nothing was wrong. There was no further probe into the background of the case.

At paragraph 274 of the Denning Report, Lord Denning said: I have had evidence which satisfies me that there is excellent co-operation between the Security Service and the police forces. Is the Secretary of State for the Home Department satisfied that that excellent co-operation is still as good as it was when Lord Denning referred to it in 1963?

There are three elements in this kind of business—the Security Service, the Special Branch and the Serious Crime Squad. This third body did not exist when Lord Denning reported in Septem- ber 1963. All three are involved. I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary that there is close co-operation between all three branches of the administration of security and prevention of crime. Is that co-operation as good as it should be? It seems to me that it was lacking and that, therefore, certain people for the time being escaped the net. An attempt is still being made to extradite from the Continent one of the people who could give very interesting evidence.

All that has been said by the Diplock Commission was said a long time ago by Lord Denning. The Diplock Commission said at paragraph 37 of its report: we recommend that any Minister should be given a further briefing by the Security Service whenever he is appointed to a post in which he will handle more sensitive information than previously. The obvious deduction is that some Ministers have not been briefed by the Security Service on appointment to a more sensitive post.

The commission said at paragraph 34: We might add here that we are aware of suggestions that other Ministers, besides Lord Lambton, may have been associated with the Levys. Our investigations have shown that examples of mistaken identity are common in dealing with prostitutes whose clients are generally anxious to preserve their anonymity. All suggestions that other Ministers have been involved with Norma Levy or other members of that ring have come from sources which we regard as wholly unreliable. We have come across no evidence worthy of credence to suggest that any Minister, other than Lord Lambton, was involved. I believe that further evidence has become available to the Government since 6th July, when the report was published. Is that evidence being examined and probed? If any Minister or anyone else connected with the Government is implicated, will the necessary steps be taken to clear up the matter?

It is obvious to me that in recent days further evidence has become available, otherwise the police have not been doing their job properly. I refuse to believe that they are not doing so. All I want to know is whether the Government are taking heed of the additional evidence now available, and will take heed of more evidence that will become available in the not-too-distant future, before deciding what further action they should take.

The Diplock Commission suggested at paragraph 41 of its report: We believe that the attention of Ministers should be drawn more directly to the potential security implications of scandalous behaviour and of other circumstances which might expose them to pressure by hostile intelligence agents. It might be more appropriate for this to be done by the Prime Minister, rather than by the Security Service, perhaps in a document to which Ministers would be required to refer on appointment and from time to time subsequently. The obvious inference to be drawn from that paragraph is that the attention of Ministers has not been drawn directly to the potential security implications of scandalous behaviour, otherwise it would not have been reiterated in this report. It merely repeats what Lord Denning said 10 years ago.

I would recommend the Home Secretary to make the relevant sections of the Denning Report compulsory reading for all Ministers. It was a document written in 1963. I should like to quote from it the words which should be framed and hung up in Ministers' offices. The fact that these words are partially repeated by Diplock 10 years later indicates that Lord Denning's recommendations have not been observed as well as they might have been. Lord Denning said: Public men are more vulnerable than they were: and it behaves them, even more than ever, to give no cause for scandal. For if they do, they have to reckon with a growing hazard which has been disclosed in the evidence I have heard. Scandalous information about well-known people has become a marketable commodity. True or false, actual or invented, it can be sold. The greater the scandal the higher the price it commands. If supported by photographs or letters, real or imaginary, all the better. Often enough the sellers profess to have been themselves participants in the discreditable conduct which they seek to exploit. Intermediaries move in, ready to assist the sale and ensure the highest prices. The story improves with the telling. It is offered to those newspapers—there arc only a few of them—who deal in this commodity. They vie with one another to buy it. Each is afraid the other will get it first. That could have been written by Lord Denning a few days ago. It is even more apt now. We have apparently made no progress.

The Government must bear a heavy burden of responsibility in this situation, which is repeating itself 10 years after one of the classic reports on security. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence ought to be ashamed of themselves for allowing this situation to come about.

11.3 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Robert Carr)

We have heard two speeches, from the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) and the hon. Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), which were delivered in the public interest. I am quite sure that the hon. Members have nothing but the public interest in their minds. Like all of us, they enjoy serving the public interest.

I could not help noticing the subject heading under which the hon. Members wished to raise the debate. The subject heading on the list reads as follows: The efficiency of the Security Service in the light of the Security Commission Report I have not heard much about the efficiency of the security services.

Mr. Loughlin

I think Mr. Speaker will bear me out when I say that in the letter I submitted to him I said that I wanted to debate the findings in the Security Commission's Report of July 1973. I asked for a debate on the findings in the report. The title to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was selected by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Well-beloved).

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member who has the topic for debate has to relate his speech to a Vote. That is the reason for the title of the debate.

Mr. Carr

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, just as I am sure he will accept that the only title I was given was that on the circulated list. I see one hon. Gentleman laughing. Perhaps I should not have been altogether surprised at some of the matters that were raised.

Whatever notice was given of the title of the debate, and under whatever Vote the debate is taking place, the fact is that we heard speeches that were largely mischievious nonsense and I cannot help noting—I must say that I welcome the fact—that the two hon. Gentlemen appear to have no support from their Front Bench. Not only is there no vocal support for them, but there is a noteworthy absence of anyone on the Opposition Front Bench. All of us here and people outside know what deduction to draw from that.

The first point made is about the method of inquiry adopted by the Security Commission. As the House knows, any Home Secretary—any Prime Minister for that matter, and any Minister—is in an almost impossible difficulty in talking about security matters because it is impossible for me, as it has always been for my predecessors, to talk about the methods of the Security Service and its structure, let alone seek to defend its efficiency in any case.

With regard to the method of inquiry, I can only say that the Security Commission is supported in its existence by the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman supported it when he was Leader of the Opposition at the time the commission was established, he supported it during the six years he was Prime Minister and he supports it now that he is once more Leader of the Opposition. I think it needs to be put on record that the Leader of the Opposition fully supports the existence of the Security Commission, its membership, its terms of reference and the fact that the method it adopts in any inquiry is entirely for the commission itself to decide in the light of what it believes to be appropriate in relation to the particular case that it is investigating.

That does not, of course, make the commission right, but at least it does make clear that any suggestion that the Government are trying to use a body of men, a procedure or a method of inquiry to cover up something unpleasant to them is absolutely without foundation. The method, the body of men and the procedure are wholly supported by the Opposition now that they are in opposition, just as they were when they were the Government and before that when they were again in opposition. I hope that on a major charge I can leave it at that.

I regret that in the speeches we heard, particularly the first one—I am sorry to use hard words but I think they are justified—there were a succession of smears. First there was the smear that to some extent we were setting one standard for civil servants and a lower and easier standard for Ministers. There is no truth in that suggestion so far as concerns the moral standards of behaviour of Ministers and civil servants. The standards expected are high. They are higher than expected—and properly higher than expected, perhaps—of men and women who do not have those levels of responsibility. But they are the same for civil servants and Ministers.

There is one important difference, and that is the difference raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham). That is the question of positive vetting. It is true that civil servants in certain positions are subjected to positive vetting, and Ministers from the Prime Minister down to the most junior Minister are not subject to positive vetting. There are many reasons for that, all of which, or at any rate the sum total of which, are accepted by all parties and were confirmed as being right by the Diplock Commission whose report we are concerned with tonight.

That again, I suppose, is an arguable proposition as to whether that should or should not be so, but at least let us be quite clear that it is not a party matter. I am not suggesting that any hon. Member said that it was. To be absolutely fair, no hon. Member did so suggest. But I want to put on record for better or worse that it is a view held by the leadership of all parties that positive vetting of Ministers, for a totality of reasons—

Mr. Loughlin

I said that.

Mr. Carr

I know. I am not seeking to make it a party matter. I am merely stating the fact that it is not a party matter, and it is worth putting on record that the leadership of all parties has always believed, for a variety of reasons, that the positive vetting of Ministers would not be appropriate, and this is still confirmed by the Diplock Commission.

The second matter with which I want to deal is the attack on my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. George Cunningham

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the point, may I ask him to confirm that the position is not quite exactly as he has stated it? In paragraph 42 of the report, while the commission says that it thinks the difficulties are too great for positive vetting, or something like that, it goes on to say that in respect of any Minister who was not before his appointment a Member of either House of Parliament the Prime Minister ought to satisfy himself that there is no character defect or other circumstance which would mean that the appointment of that person would endanger security. That seems to me to be a long way off describing positive vetting. What we are saying is that in respect of people who are already in Parliament positive vetting cannot be required, but that in respect of someone outside the House something which amounts to positive vetting will be required. I suggest that that is a proposition which is, at the least, open to question.

Mr. Carr

I do not dispute that the whole matter is open to question. Clearly it is, and in the end it is a matter of opinion and judgment and not of proof. But I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman's statement is to some extent a statement of the obvious, and a very important obvious. Perhaps none the less, because of that, it is worth stating. There is no doubt that we who live in this House together, both as a community across parties and in separate communities within parties, get to know each other probably better than most other communities that I can think of.

Mr. Cunningham

That is what they said about Philby.

Mr. Carr

The hon. Member believes in the need for positive vetting of Ministers. I am old-fashioned enough not to. All I am saying—

Mr. Cunningham

My God!

Mr. Carr

This is a matter of opinion in which I differ from the hon. Gentleman. He—this does not make him wrong—is probably in a small minority, both in his own party and in the House. There may come a day when he will be able to say "I am right and I have been right all the time." All I am saying at the moment is that that is not the view of the overwhelming majority of any party. Anyway, it was not central to the matters raised today.

But it is important, in relation to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, to make it absolutely clear that the procedures as they existed were carried out. There have been suggestions from the beginning that the procedures as they were under the last Government have not been carried out. There it no truth in that at all, and I do not think that either of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken tonight seriously suggested that that was the case.

Mr. Lambton, formerly the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, was briefed in the proper manner. Of course, had he not been, my right hon. and noble Friend would indeed have had something to answer for. But he was briefed. It is true that when Mr. Lambton was interviewed on television he did not seem very clear about the status of different forms of vetting, but I really do not see how my right hon. and noble Friend can be blamed for that.

I would not try to blame Mr. Lambton either. When dealing with this matter in response to questions on an earlier occasion, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred—the House understood this—to the exceptional strain to which Mr. Lambton must have been exposed when he was being questioned on television. If any of us is prepared to stand up and put his hands on his heart and say that in equivalent circumstances, under equivalent strain, he would be clear about all these things, it might be wise if he showed more humility. My right hon. and noble Friend cannot be blamed for Mr. Lambton not knowing what sort of vetting took place.

It is worth pointing out that since Mr. Lambton, perhaps mistakenly, was under the impression that he had been positively vetted, that was hardly evidence that it was a light and easy briefing that he had had. It was evidently a briefing which had sufficient effect on him to make him say, in those circumstances, "I have been positively vetted."He did not say "I cannot recall any vetting at all."

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Southall)

I think the right hon. Gentleman is placing too much credibility on Mr. Lambton's own words. In that television appearance, under questioning, did he not also say that, as far as he knew, the principal person in the situation, Norma Levy, was not aware of his situation? The right hon. Gentleman could not think that that was the case. Or is that what the right hon. Gentleman seriously thinks? The major point is that raised in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) concerning the disquiet which inevitably arose from the fact that the principal witness to the examination was missing from the country but is now back in the country and inevitably, in the sheer logic of the evidence, new light must be thrown on the whole situation.

Mr. Carr

I will come to that issue in a moment, but it is not germane to the responsibilities of my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

The hon. Member for Brixton seemed to think that there was something blameworthy in the fact that it was the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Ministry of Defence rather than the Secretary of State himself who saw Mr. Lambton. That could have been arguable, and it would be a charge calling for serious consideration had anyone at that stage wanted to see Mr. Lambton about a security matter. But that was not what the police wanted to see Mr. Lambton about. The police wished to see Mr. Lambton not about a security matter but about inquiries they were making in apprehension of a possible criminal offence.

I think it perfectly proper for the police to have spoken in that instance to the senior civil servant rather than seek to see the Secretary of State for Defence himself. But, of course, if they had wished to see the Secretary of State, he would have seen them. However, I must repeat that at that stage we were dealing not with a security matter but with the possibility of a criminal offence having been committed, about which the police wished to interview Mr. Lambton and about which they did in fact interview him, as a result of which a criminal charge was laid against him, on which he has since been tried, convicted and sentenced.

Mr. Lipton

If a Minister in charge of a Department is told or gets to know that one of his junior Ministers is in trouble, is it not his job to send for that junior Minister and find out what is going on?

Mr. Carr

I wonder by what remarkable telepathic insight the hon. Gentleman imagines that he knows that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence did not see Mr. Lambton. He seems to be suggesting that he knows that the Secretary of State did not see Mr. Lambton. That is a preposterous suggestion to make, and I do not believe that he has the slightest information, let alone evidence, on which to make it.

Mr. Lipton

So he did see him?

Mr. Carr

He was seeing him daily. Does not the hon. Gentleman know what sort of world we live in a Department? Does he imagine that a senior Minister never sees his junior Ministers? Does he not realise that a senior Minister is doing business with his junior Ministers day in and day out? The suggestion that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence stayed in some aloof, distinct and remote position is without the slightest foundation or evidence.

Mr. Cunningham

Can the Home Secretary tell us whether this matter was discussed between the Secretary of State and Mr. Lambton?

Mr. Carr

Not offhand, no. It may be a matter of personal relationships between two men who have been not only colleagues but friends to discuss their private affairs, but it is not a matter of business for the Secretary of State for Defence to discuss with an Under-Secretary when a possible criminal charge is under investigation. Indeed, I suggest that it might well be held, had he done so, to have been an improper thing to do.

I am aware, and I was aware from an early stage of this wretched situation, that while, as Home Secretary, I had serious responsibilities from a security point of view, not only did I have no responsibility, in relation to a criminal charge, to intervene but I had a definite responsibility to refrain from intervening. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear on 25th May, this was one of the reasons why we could not acquaint Mr. Lambton of some of the things we had heard, because to do so might have been to warn him of the impending inquiries which the police and the Director of Public Prosecutions believed they ought to make into the possibility that he had committed a criminal offence. In those circumstances, it would have been entirely wrong and improper for anyone to give any warning to Mr. Lambton that such inquiries were pending or on foot.

That was one of the reasons why, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made quite clear—not one of the reasons, but the reason—during the considerable period we could not acquaint Mr. Lambton of some of the allegations made against him. It was also why the police informed the Security Service at a very early stage. It was also why the Security Service immediately informed me as Home Secretary and, of course, the Prime Minister. It was why the Prime Minister immediately instructed the Security Service to make all the inquiries it could to discover whether in its view there was any security risk of which we should be aware. As my right hon. Friend reported, several times during that period these inquiries to the Security Service were renewed and each time the Security Service replied "We have no reason to believe that there is any active security risk". Therefore, the normal course of the law and of inquiry in a potential criminal matter had to be allowed to take its course without any interference from Ministers.

Mr. Cunningham

I am sorry to intervene again, but that long answer conceals an inconsistency. The Home Secretary made to rebuke my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) for thinking that the matter had not been discussed between the Secretary of State for Defence and the junior Minister and he implied that very likely there had been such a discussion. Now he is saying that he does not know whether there was such a discussion and, indeed, that it would have been improper for there to have been such a discussion. It is a circuitous argument.

Mr. R. Carr

I apologise; I did not think it was a circuitous argument. If it was, I did not intend it to be.

There has been some suggestion that my right hon. and noble Friend somehow held himself aloof in all this. There was no intention of that, but it would have been improper had my right hon. and noble Friend or any other Minister, in his official or his private capacity, warned Mr. Lambton of the charges which might be made against him and about which the police had expressed their need to inquire. It must be obvious to the House that, when such a thing is known, it would be totally improper to give the suspected person any warning, because that might pervert the course of justice.

I pass to the demand made by the hon. Members for Gloucestershire, West and for Brixton that there should be another full public inquiry.

Mr. Lipton

I did not ask for that.

Mr. Carr

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I do not believe that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West produced one scrap of solid evidence or argument to support such a request. He mentioned that there was or might be a third Minister. He mentioned that everybody in the House knew who that third Minister was.

Mr. Loughlin

I must correct this. If I said that, it may be wrong. What I mean to say—I hope it will be corrected now in HANSARD—is that every Member of the House knew the name that was being bandied about as being the third Minister.

Mr. J. R. Kinsey (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

No, they did not.

Mr. Carr

I cannot tell what other hon. Members know. I can only say that the hon. Member seems to have more knowledge than I and some of us at any rate.

The hon. Member for Brixton, even if he did not ask for a further public inquiry, definitely said that some further evidence had come to light—I think he said since 6th July. I can only deny that absolutely. If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence or if he knows anybody else who has any evidence, let such person come forward and provide that evidence; and I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that it will be as thoroughly, as impartially and as fearlessly dealt with as was the original information which led to this whole sorry affair.

Mr. Lipton

What is the object of the lengthy police interrogation of Norma Levy since she returned to this country?

Mr. Carr

It is not for me to know that. It is not for the hon. Gentleman to know it either. If I were to inquire of the police what they were doing, it would he wholly improper. If the hon. Gentleman began to suspect that I was doing that, I think he would be the first person to seek to raise the matter in the House, probably under Standing Order No. 9. I could not foretell how you, Mr. Speaker, would judge it, but I think you would not dismiss it lightly if somebody suggested that I as Home Secretary was inquiring into what the police were questioning someone about. It would be a wholly improper thing for me to do and a fatal step for any Minister to take.

Mr. Lipton

The right hon. Gentleman completely misunderstood what I said. Further evidence is now available, and I hope that the necessary steps will be taken to ensure that heed is taken of it by the appropriate authority.

Mr. Carr

The hon. Gentleman says with great confidence that further evidence is now available. I do not know whether the police are aware of further evidence. I can only say that I am not and the Government are not aware of it. If there is further evidence of which the hon. Gentleman is aware, providing it is evidence and not mere scandal mongering, I suggest that he gives it to the proper prosecuting authorities and it will be as fearlessly, fully and impartially dealt with as was the original allegation and evidence.

Mr. Ronald Brown

(Shoreditch and Finsbury): In this case all the names have been published of people who are supposedly concerned. Names have been bandied about in the Poulson affair. It is interesting that in the court case at present being heard which is called the Payola case reference is made to Mr. X, Mr. Y and Mr. Z. Can the right hon. Gentleman indicate why in the Payola case all the evidence is being treated secretly, with witnesses being referred to as Mr. Y and Mr. X, whereas speculative statements in Poulson—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a matter for the Home Secretary. It is for the court considering the case. It cannot be raised now.

Mr. Carr

I shall not refer to that matter, Mr. Speaker, but may I say without rancour that it is important for the House and the public to realise that under our system—it is one of the fundamental supports of our system and freedom in this country—Ministers do not, cannot and must not interfere in the course of criminal inquiries. That is absolutely fundamental.

Mr. Lipton

I accept that.

Mr. Carr

I hope that the whole House will accept it and act upon it.

I can assure the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West that some of the things which he said are not embarrassing to me, to the Prime Minister or to the Government. I hope that they are slightly embarrassing to his conscience.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the failure to arrest Mrs. Levy. There was some suggestion that the police did not arrest Mrs. Levy because it would have been embarrassing to the Government for them to do so. That is a scandalous, dirty suggestion to make without any foundation. It is a scandalous innuendo, not simply against the Government but against the whole Metropolitan Police, because it implies that they took instructions either from me as Home Secretary or from another Minister not to carry out their duty as they saw it. How can the hon. Gentleman make that suggestion when they had charged a Minister? If it was not embarrassing to the Government to do that, I think that we could have borne the embarrassment of Mrs. Levy being charged had the police any evidence against her. If they had had evidence against her at that stage, I am sure they would have charged her.

The hon. Gentleman seems to think that the police should have charged her because Mr. Lambton or somebody else had said something at his trial. But does he suggest that because, say, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State or someone else who may speak in this debate says that he knows that a certain Mr. Loughlin who happens to be the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West has been partaking of drugs—no one has said so, let me make clear—it is to be regarded by the police as a reason for stopping the hon. Member from leaving the country or for making a charge against him? For heaven's sake! When that day comes, I hope that 1 no longer live in this country.

Mr. Loughlin

I can understand the right hon. Gentleman getting a little indignant, but let me put again the two points I made. Evidence was available to the police on 21st May. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that I quoted from The Times and I quoted what was said by the two policemen who interrogated Lord Lambton. The first question was whether Mrs. Levy had given him any drugs, and he said "Yes". The second question related to a photograph that was shown to him by the police and which showed him smoking a cigarette, and Lambton agreed, according to the evidence at the trial, that that cigarette could have been marijuana. Two separate pieces of evidence were given to the police: one was a photograph and the other was a statement made by a Minister, the person being investigated. I should have thought that that would have justified the police in taking action.

Mr. Carr

I have been a Member of the House for 23 years and, although I should require notice to name cases, I do not think that my memory is playing me false when I say that I have heard hon. Members stand up for the liberty of the individual and criticise the police when they have taken action on evidence far more substantial than that.

I do not believe that the charge that the police deliberately turned a blind eye bears one moment of serious consideration or inspection. The hon. Member is forgetting how this matter arose. The information about Lord Lambton came to the police in the course of inquiries in pursuit of what they believed might be a criminal offence. They were in hot pursuit of what they suspected might be criminal offences. Any suggestions that suddenly they cooled in that hot pursuit and withheld action when they had evidence which they believed would justify it certainly does not bear examination.

In any case, the hon. Member seems to be unaware that Mrs. Levy—I think both Mr. and Mrs. Levy—had left the country on 20th May, which was the day before 21st May. The hon. Member must realise that, thank goodness, in this country we do not have the power to stop people from leaving the country unless there is reasonable cause to bring criminal charges against them. Once again I say that I hope I no longer live in this country if we ever reach the stage when the police have such powers. They do not have such powers, of course, and Mr. and Mrs. Levy had left by the time Mr. Lambton made the statement to which the hon. Member refers.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned extradition. I can pass over that quickly. Under the extradition treaty that we have with Spain, an old treaty dating back to 1878 or in that period, the only possible charges that might have been made against Mr. and Mrs. Levy were not for extraditable offences. There I must leave it, because Mrs. Levy is back in this country and has had a charge made against her, so that her whole case is sub judice.

The hon. Member for Brixton said that the existence of a call-girl racket involving top-ranking personalities had been known since 1972 and that there was some earlier evidence at the beginning of 1973. If so, it was not known to me as Home Secretary. If it was known to the hon. Member or to any people he knows, why, in the name of all responsibility, did he or they not come forward with the evidence? I cannot repeat too strongly that we all have some duty, it evidence comes to our attention which we believe to be more than just rumour or scandal mongering and to have sufficient credibility of substance to be a serious matter, to bring such information to the notice of the proper authorities. People should not make charges of that kind unless they have done their duty as citizens.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether I could assure him and the House about the degree of co-operation between the security services and the police. I can indeed so assure him. I think that is proved not just by my assurance but by the very way in which this matter came to our attention. The police, in the pursuit of criminal inquiries, came across this allegation and they immediately reported it to the Security Service which immediately reported it, as it should, to the Prime Minister and to me as Home Secretary. That is evidence of the close degree of co-operation between the police and the security services.

It is also within my personal knowledge that from that moment onwards, under instructions from the Prime Minister and myself, the police the whole time kept the Security Service fully informed. It would not have been proper for the police to keep me as fully informed, because it could prejudice a criminal inquiry, but there was no doubt about the close cooperation with the security services.

Mr. William Wilson (Coventry, South)

May I ask the Home Secretary one simple question? In the light of what he has just told us, it appears that the knowledge that the Government subsequently had about Lord Lambton came to them out of the blue. In view of what he said to us originally—that we in this House know one another and come to understand the characters of one another —how does it come about that such a matter as this did not come to light, ex-except out of the blue, when another entirely different inquiry was being pursued?

Mr. Carr

That is unfortunately true. We know each other well, but we do not know each other fully. I have to admit that.

Mr. Cunningham

All right.

Mr. Carr

The hon. Gentleman slaps his thigh and says "All right". He can go on believing that Ministers should be positively vetted if he likes, and I will go on believing that they should not and that I have the vast majority of hon. Members of both major parties on my side. Perhaps we in the majority are wrong, but it does not stop us holding our beliefs any more than it stops the hon. Gentleman holding his.

Mr. Cunningham

The right hon. Gentleman must admit that, in a serious matter like this, it is not good enough to go on saying that one person has his opinion and others have theirs. In para graph 42 of the Diplock Report there is the sentence: We have also had in mind that the Government Chief Whip of the day can be expected to be very well informed about any member of either House of Parliament who is a potential candidate for Ministerial office. Does not the right hon. Gentleman at least think it curious that that should be one of the principal conclusions of a commission arising from a Lambton situation where clearly his colleagues were not fully aware of the character and activities of the man? Whatever conclusion one might ultimately reach on the point, is not that a manifest weakness in the Diplock Report?

Mr. Carr

The hon. Member can think so if he likes. I evidently cannot change his mind and he cannot change mine. We should remember that even positive vetting is not infallible. If I remember correctly, the Diplock Commission expressed the view that, even if the then hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed had been positively vetted at the time, these weaknesses or warning signs would not have been brought to light or would not have led to his non-appointment as a Minister. It is only a matter of opinion, but I think that was the view expressed by the commission.

Mr. Cunningham

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of Lord Jellicoe. In paragraph 23, after referring to Lord Jellicoe, the report says: If it had been disclosed in the process of positive vetting to which all civil servants are subjected before being employed on exceptionally secret work, it would not"— the "it" means his conduct— in our view, have been treated as disqualifying him. The commission says that about Lord Jellicoe, not about Lord Lambton. If the Home Secretary knows the report so little as to confuse these two things, I am surprised.

Mr. Carr

Perhaps I can tempt the hon. Member to turn to the last paragraph in the report, paragraph 43, which says: In the particular case of Lord Lambton and, a fortiori, in that of Lord Jellicoe, we are satisfied that positive vetting at the time of their appointment would not have brought to light anything which would have suggested that they were unsuitable on security grounds. The hon. Member referred to some of the recommendations which the Diplock Commission made about the future. He said that he drew the inference that the proper procedures had not been carried out. I do not believe that he can substantiate that charge.

Mr. Lipton

Why did the commission mention it?

Mr. Carr

Because it felt in the light of experience that in future we should have procedures which are even more stringent than in the past. That has been our practice through the decades. We have constantly improved and made more stringent our procedures. But there is no suggestion from the inquiries that the commission made that the standing procedures as practised by the last Government and as followed by the present Government were not followed. It has said that in future there should be even stiffer procedures.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear, we are accepting that. It is always easy when new procedures are adopted to say that perhaps they should have been adopted earlier. But what sort of a country are we living in? I do not believe that we should attract into public service the sort of men and women we have always managed to attract, regardless of party, if we were to make the conditions of that public service too much like living in a police state.

That is why we are right only to go on adding to our procedures when, alas, experience proves it necessary. Experience has seemed to prove that it would be wise, unfortunately, to add to those procedures. That we shall do, but we in this Government have honoured to the full the procedures as we inherited them.

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