§ 12. Mr. Litterick
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received on the White Paper on the reform of the Official Secrets Act.
§ 21. Mr. Rooker
§ 23. Mr. Christopher Price
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many letters he has received in response to the White Paper on the Official Secrets Act.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I have received 23 representations, including 15 letters, explicitly in response to the White Paper. Eleven were from hon. Members, four from private individuals, and eight from organisations, including three local Labour Party bodies. I have also received other representations on the matters covered by the White Paper, but it is not clear that they were in direct response to it.
§ Mr. Litterick
I am grateful for that answer. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House last Friday demonstrated that there is a wide measure of agreement that the Official Secrets Act must be reformed radically and soon? Will he give the House some assurance that in Committee his Department will not play ducks and drakes with the Bill of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) in defence of an existing law which has now been brought into disrepute?
§ Mr. Rees
My hon. Friend referred specifically to a reform of the Official Secrets Act. I should like to reform that very quickly. I have no intention of playing ducks and drakes with it. Indeed, with regard to a Private Member's Bill, perhaps I should ask those hon. Members of the Committee not to play ducks and drakes with us.
§ Mr. Corbett
Can I encourage my right hon. Friend to be a little more generous as to the assistance which he can give to this Private Member's Bill? Will he say that he will welcome some legislation, however narrow, with regard to the right to information?
§ Mr. Rees
I think that we must look at the question of access. We shall be discussing this in Committee. There are undoubtedly things to which the general public could have access without any problem at all. But what was quite clear from last week's debate was that there are things which are subject to the current Official Secrets Act, this applies to the American and Swedish legislation, too— 668 about which there can be no question of giving access.