§ Mr. Skinner
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a matter on the revelations affecting Sir Anthony Blunt, and a statement that has been provided in the form of a written answer today by the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister. 1530 Sir Anthony Blunt is known to have confessed to having been involved in the Burgess-Maclean-Philby-and-others affair. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you consider that this matter of security is so important that it should be the subject of a statement from the Dispatch Box so that it can be properly examined and probed by Members of the House of Commons? Is it not worth noting that it contrasts sharply with the relentless pursuit of the journalists involved in the ABC case, and Mr. Philip Agee?
Does it not warrant a statement now from the Box and also a full debate on the matter in the course of next week?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman is interested in the same question. I allowed him to make his full point of order in the knowledge that I am not responsible for national security. That responsibility does not lie with the occupant of this Chair. Therefore, there can be no point of order about that.
§ Mr. Speaker
There can be no point of order about national security, because I am not responsible for it.
§ Mr. Christopher Price
I want to raise a point of order about the issuing of written answers in this House. It is a convention in the House that when a question is down for written answer the normal time for the issuing of that answer is 3.30 pm. One of the reasons for that is that hon. Members should be able to raise during business questions matters which are the subject of written answers. On this occasion, Mr. Speaker, the answer to a written question formed the subject of a very important issue, which has been reported in all the newspapers today, and on which I wished to address a question to the Leader of the House asking for an urgent debate next week on this issue. This answer was delayed until the end of business questions, which deprived hon. Members of their proper and rightful privilege of questioning the Leader of the House on this issue, when the whole country is wanting to know when we are to debate the double standards about the Official Secrets Act that this Government are attempting to introduce in another place, thereby making matters very much worse.
§ Mr. Foot
Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend, I believe that the House will agree that a matter of significance to the House as a whole arises here. Could not the Leader of the House assist us by saying that a statement will be made tomorrow, so that questions can be put? I would have thought that this was a subject on which it might be at any rate debatable whether it should have been the subject of a statement rather than a written answer. Therefore, will the Leader of the House assist us by saying that a statement will be made tomorrow?
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. St. John-Stevas)
As to the point raised by the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price), written answers come at various times of the day. There is no absolutely fixed time. Sometimes they come much later. There was no particular significance in the time chosen for this.
As to the need for a statement, in these matters of security it is advisable, as you have shown, Mr. Speaker, to tread prudently. I should have thought that the written answer by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was of such length and detail that we would be wise to consider that before pursuing any other matter.
§ Mr. Foot
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Gentleman made an important statement. I hope that what he says means that he is not excluding the possibility that the Prime Minister 1532 will make a statement on the question so that she may have questions put to her on the subject. After all, this has been a matter on which statements were made in the House. I hope that the answer means that he is not excluding the possibility of a further oral statement on the subject.