HC Deb 10 April 1975 vol 889 cc1398-9
12. Mr. Brittan

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he proposes to introduce legislation to repeal Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

I have nothing at present to add to the reply I gave on 6th March to a similar Question by the hon. Member.—[Vol. 887, c. 468.]

Mr. Brittan

Does the Home Secretary agree that the section is discredited and virtually unusable, and that there is an urgent need for new legislation which will confine the operation of criminal law to the narrowest possible category of situation, where the security of the country is genuinely at risk?

Mr. Jenkins

I have indicated in various public statements, one of them probably made since 6th March, that I believe that the area should be narrowly circumscribed and that the object should be to keep the criminal law out of this field so far as possible. That remains the basis of my thinking on the matter. I hope in due course to be able to make a statement to the House in somewhat greater detail about the broad lines on which I wish to proceed and then at a reasonably early practicable time to introduce legislation.

Mr. Lipton

Is my hon. Friend aware that many years have elapsed since the Franks Committee reported on the matter, and that it produced a detailed and exhaustive report on which apparently no action has been taken?

Mr. Jenkins

Two and a half years have elapsed since the committee reported. In relation to Government action on independent reports, I would not describe that as "many years". But certainly a number of years have elapsed, and I do not wish to add to any dilatoriness that there may have been.