HC Deb 01 April 1981 vol 2 cc321-72

'(1) A person who—

  1. (a) intentionally intercepts the contents of the mail carried by the Post Office;
  2. (b) instigates any person engaged in the business of the Post Office to intercept the mail; or
  3. (c) discloses the contents of any mail intercepted under paragraph (a) or (b) above. unless acting in obedience to a warrant issued pursuant to the following provisions of this section, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding £5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.

(2) Proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above shall not be instituted in England or Wales except by or with the consent of the Attorney General, or in Northern Ireland except by or with the consent of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

(3) No person shall be guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above as respects any act done by him whilst engaged in the business of the Post Office.

(4) The Secretary of State may, on the application of a chief officer of police or the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, issue a warrant for the interception and disclosure of the mail if he is satisfied that—

  1. (a) it would assist in the detection of a serious offence;
  2. (b) normal methods of investigation have been tried and have failed or from the nature of things are unlikely to succeed if tried; and
  3. (c) there is good reason to think that the interception would result in a conviction for that offence.

In this subsection "serious offence" means—

  1. (i) an offence for which a person not previously convicted could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years; or
  2. (ii) an offence in which either a large number of people is involved or there is good reason to apprehend the use of violence.

(5) The Secretary of State may, on the application of a chief officer of police or the Director-General of the Security Service issue a warrant for the interception and disclosure of the mail if he is satisfied that—

  1. (a) it would assist in the detection of a major terrorist or espionage activity giving rise to external or internal danger to the defence of the Realm; and
  2. (b) normal methods of investigation have been tried and have failed or from the nature of things are unlikely to succeed if tried.

(6) An application for a warrant under this section shall be made in writing and shall specify—

  1. (a) the person whose mail it is sought to intercept; and
  2. (b) the facts and circumstances in support of the application; but the Secretary of State may allow any information required under paragraph (b) above to be provided orally and not in writing in respect of an application for a warrant under subsection (5) above.

(7) Except in a case of emergency, any warrant under this section shall be issued only under the hand of the Secretary of State; and, in any such case, shall be confirmed under his hand as soon as reasonably practicable after issue.

(8) In this section 'intercept' includes the doing of any act designed to enable an interception to take place, and 'intercepts', 'intercepted' and 'interception' shall be construed accordingly.".—[Mr. Mikardo.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.45 pm
Mr. Mikardo

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

With this we may discuss the following: Amendment No. 54, in page 39, line 36, leave out clause 47 and insert—

'47. (1) A person who—

  1. (a) intentionally intercepts any message or other matter carried by means of a public telecommunication system (including any such system provided, under a licence, otherwise than by the Corporation);
  2. (b) instigates any person engaged in the business of the Corporation to intercept such a message or other matter; or
  3. (c) discloses the contents of any message or other matter intercepted under paragraph (a) or (b) above, unless acting in obedience to a warrant issued pursuant to the following provisions of this section, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding £5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both.

(2) Proceedings for an offence under subsection (1) above shall not be instituted in England or Wales except by or with the consent of the Attorney General, or in Northern Ireland except by or with the consent of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

(3) No person shall be guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above as respects any act done by him whilst engaged in the business of the Corporation.

(4) The Secretary of State may, on the application of a chief officer of police or the Commissioners of Customs and Excise, issue a warrant for the interception and disclosure of telecommunications if he is satisfied that—

  1. (a) it would assist in the detection of a serious offence;
  2. (b) normal methods of investigation have been tried and have failed or from the nature of things are unlikely to succeed if tried; and
  3. (c) there is good reason to think that the interception would result in a conviction for that offence.

In this subsection "serious offence" means—

  1. (i) an offence for which a person not previously convicted could reasonably be expected to be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years; or
  2. (ii) an offence in which either a large number of people is involved or there is good reason to apprehend the use of violence.

(5) The Secretary of State may, on the application of a chief officer of police or the Director-General of the Security Service issue a warrant for the interception and disclosures of telecommunications if he is satisfied that—

  1. (a) it would assist in the detection of a major subversive, 323 terrorist or espionage activity giving rise to external or internal danger to the Defence of the Realm; and
  2. (b) normal methods of investigation have been tried and have failed or from the nature of things are unlikely to succeed if tried.

(6) An application for a warrant under this section shall be made in writing and shall specify—

  1. (a) the person whose telecommunications it is sought to intercept and the telecommunications in question; and
  2. (b) the facts and circumstances in support of the application; but the Secretary of State may allow any information required under paragraph (b) above to be provided orally and not in writing in respect of an application for a warrant under subsection (5) above.

(7) Except in a case of emergency, any warrant under this section shall be issued only under the hand of the Secretary of State; and in any such case, shall be confirmed under his hand as soon as reasonably practicable after issue.

(8) In this section "intercept" includes the doing of any act designed to enable an interception to take place, and "intercepts", "intercepted" and "interception" shall be construed accordingly.'

Amendment (a) to the proposed amendment, in line 34, leave out 'subversive'.

Amendment (b) to the proposed amendment, in line 51, at end add— subversive activity" means activity whose objective is the overthrow by force of the government of the Realm'.

Government amendment No. 53.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. William Whitelaw)

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I be assured that when we reach amendments Nos. 54 and 53 there will be the right to vote on both?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I give the Home Secretary that assurance.

Mr. Mikardo

I begin, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by expressing, through you, my gratitude to Mr. Speaker for his kindness in reconsidering his provisional decision not to include new clause 8 in his selection.

For the benefit of hon. Members who were not on the Committee and who have not had time closely to follow its proceedings, I shall explain a technical point. The two main matters of the interception of mail and telephone tapping are to be discussed in reverse order to the way that we dealt with them in Committee. We dealt with them the other way in Committee because that is their order in the Bill. Part I deals with telecommunications and part II with the postal services.

In our discussions on part I, a new clause on telephone tapping was moved. In the debate on that clause hon. Members of all three parties expressed support for the principle, but not inconsiderable reservations about the working of it. Nevertheless, to provide the opportunity for the House to discuss the matter further, perhaps on the basis of a better set of words, the motion to give the new clause a Second Reading was carried and so was the motion that the clause be added to the Bill.

Later, when we discussed part II, a clause identical in wording to the one relating to telephone tapping—which now appears as clause 47—was moved in respect of mail interception. I explained earlier, when putting a point of order to Mr. Speaker, that the motion to read the clause a Second time was carried, but that the motion to add it to the Bill was defeated by one vote.

Although the two proposals were identical in wording—with the exception of one word, to which I shall come in a moment—and are also identical in their revised forms, they were treated differently by the Committee. Whereas we can deal with telephone tapping by way of amendment No. 44, we have to deal with mail interception by way of a new clause. Normally, new clauses come before amendments. We are reversing the procedure in order to deal first with mail interception.

The clause on mail interception was moved in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Weetch). I hope that I shall not cause him embarrassment if I say with complete sincerity that his speech was one of the most remarkable and powerful that I have heard during my 30 years in the House. I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that he will catch your eye later, as he has done so much work in this sphere and is so knowledgeable. I propose to deal only briefly with mail interception.

Mail interception arouses much less public interest than does telephone tapping, because far fewer people know that it goes on. Very few people know the extent of it. Many more of our people have their mail intercepted than have their telephones tapped. Unless one is in the security services there is no way of knowing the precise figures for either. We know that about 463 warrants for telephone tapping were issued, although, as I shall seek to show, the number of telephone interceptions was much greater. The figure for mail interceptions is enormous.

Half a dozen agencies have the right to demand the interception of mail. They are called—my hon. Friend may correct me if have the wrong technical term—requesting agencies. They can request the main Post Office at St. Martins-le-Grand to have mail that is addressed to any given address intercepted and copied and the copies sent to them. The extraction of letters from envelopes by some sort of spinning knitting needle, without its being apparent, was described in detail by my hon. Friend in Committee. There are also devices, such as rays and carbon lights, that show through envelopes and record letters. No doubt my hon. Friend will tell us about that. In the sub-ground floor of St. Martins-le-Grand there is a fleet of motor cycle messengers. When a letter arrives at the sorting office addressed to one of the listed addresses, it is sent to be photocopied and returned to the sorting office to be delivered at the normal time with the rest of the mail.

It is real James Bond stuff—spy fiction—but it happens every morning of the week. The figures for a recent year show that in London mail sent to 400 addresses was continually intercepted, and mail sent to a large number of other addresses was intercepted on a temporary basis—for example, offices of trade unions whose members were on strike or of an organisation that might be arranging a demonstration. I have no reason to believe that the figures have decreased. If we multiply by six or seven to equate London to the country as a whole, we see that a large amount of mail is regularly spied on and passed to the security services.

In the borough of Tower Hamlets, part of which I represent, is the Freedom bookshop, a political bookshop. The word "freedom" is anathema to our security services. To them freedom and peace equal subversion. The CIA uses the pejorative terms "peaceniks" and "freedomniks" to indicate that there is something wrong with such people. The Freedom bookshop is not a very good bookshop. It does not have much money, and a good bookshop needs a large stock, but all its stock is on the counters and shelves. It is not like a "porno" bookshop, with most of the stock in the back room.

Mr. Lawrence

How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. Mikardo

I have listened to debates in the House. As far as I know, no "porno" bookshop has its mail intercepted. When the Freedom bookshop was opened one morning, six letters were found. Inside one was a receipt from St. Martins-le-Grand for six letters sent for security vetting, so one of the security "bods" had been a bit insecure. John le Carré would not approve of him.

Mail is being searched on a massive scale. Perhaps such things go on in Moscow, but they are not publicised. What would The Daily Telegraph or the News of the World make of goings on in the basement of the central post office in Gorky Street, with little boys on motor bikes rushing to district offices to carry letters for the KGB to post? If one of the telegraph boys had an improper liaison with the woman in charge of the central post office, imagine what our newspapers would make of that as evidence of the horrible things that ordinary people have to suffer in a police State—but it goes on here.

As with the issue that I dealt with in the debate on the previous clause, this issue is also affected by the breaking of the postal monopoly. Once the Government get under way, some mail will be delivered by the Post Office and some by private companies. Anyone engaged in phoney business will now know what to do. If he does not want his letters to fall into the hands of MI5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10, he must not use the Post Office, because they will go through St. Martins-le-Grand and be collected by the little boys on their motor bikes. If he sticks to a private company that is trenching into the Post Office monopoly, he will be all right.

When the Secretary of State gives a press conference at the time of Third Reading—he likes giving press conferences—he should issue a notice to all spies, industrial espionage merchants, tax and VAT fiddlers and illegal currency dealers that they are safe if they send their correspondence through private mail deliverers. They should avoid the Post Office if they do not want their mail copied. I make the point facetiously, but it is valid. When the Government are creating two systems of mail delivery, how can they justify interception and surveillance of only one? When the Home Secretary enlightens us later I hope that he will address his mind to that question.

Undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that he, too, does not like the system, as it interferes with individual liberty, but that it is necessary to secure the defence of the realm. No hon. Member is in favour of subversion, but what about the prejudice of the defence of the realm through communications carried through private postal services? It is a penalty to have one's letters read. Why penalise only those who send their mail through the Post Office? Private firms could advertise in The New Standard: "Send your mail through us and not through the Post Office. It will be safe from the prying eyes of the Home Secretary."

I dwell only briefly on mail interception, as others, most notably my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich, are more knowledgeable than I am, and I hope will give the House the benefit of their knowledge.

I turn to amendments Nos. 54 and 53—the latter being the amendment of the Secretary of State for Industry—which deal with clause 47 and telephone tapping. There is an apparent paradox. I suppose that one could reasonably ask why hon. Members like myself, who are most concerned about interference with the liberty of the individual, want to put provisions for telephone tapping into statute. There is no statutory authority for intercepting telephone messages or for eavesdropping on telephone messages. We want the provisions in the statute so that the practice can be defined and limited. So long as it is not defined and not limited, goodness knows how many different agencies engage in telephone tapping, whether or not it is authorised by the Home Secretary, and goodness knows what sort of criteria, or lack of criteria, are or are not applied in deciding whose telephone shall be tapped, for how long, and for what purpose. I should prefer that we had none of it. If it is to exist, it should be in the statute so that hon. Members can attempt—we do not do so well at this as do other free countries—to call the responsible Minister to account.

6 pm

I suppose that the definitive dictum on this question was given by Sir Robert Megarry, who tried the case of Malone v Commissioner of Police. He delivered a long reserved judgment which all those interested in this problem of securing the safety of the State while not trenching more than necessary on the liberty of the individual will find worth reading. I am not being selective. The heart and thrust of Sir Robert Megarry's point was that the practice of telephone tapping is not one in which it is possible to feel any pride in English law and that the system of telephone tapping is so open to political abuse that it is "abundantly clear" that British practice will be found unacceptable to the European Court of Human Rights.

The Malone case is even now before the European Court of Human Rights. It will not look very good, I suggest, if that court comes up with a judgment, as it may in the light of Sir Robert's announcement, that our practices in respect of the interception of telecommunications are at variance with human rights.

We have a duty to protect the realm, and that applies to every Government of every country. I do not disguise that. I agree with everyone on that score. Other countries, however, achieve that aim with laws that are much better than ours. West Germany has a good deal more terrorist subversive activity than does Britain, apart from Northern Ireland. People in West Germany who have had their telephones tapped are notified when the tap is taken off, and they have the right to sue the Government if they can establish that the reason for the tapping was invalid and that the the tapping was unjustified. West Germany is not the most rabid, Red and revolutionary State in Europe—not by a long chalk. It is, however, a country where, following the horrible experiences of half a century ago, people are jealous of the rights and liberties of the citizen.

In the United States there is a good deal of eavesdropping on, and tapping of, telecommunications. It is authorised by a Minister, as in Britain. The difference is that there is good reason to believe that much less unauthorised tapping occurs in the United States than in Britain. In any event, the Minister who authorises it can be called to account in Congress. He has to give a report of what he has authorised. He can be called before a House Committee and before a Senate Commitee. In this House, hon. Members cannot ask a single question of the Home Secretary about his work in this respect. The United States has much more open government in this regard. It is much more tender of the rights of the citizen amd much more willing to make the Administration accountable to the legislature for any action taken in breach of the rights of the citizen.

I invite the Home Secretary to explain why he thinks that he cannot give the same rights to people here as are provided in West Germany and why he cannot hold himself accountable to the House in the way that his opposite number in the United States holds himself accountable to Congress. Those are simple requests and I should have thought them susceptible of a straightforward answer. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to bend his mind to them.

Account has to be taken of the volume of tapping that occurs. When one trenches on the rights of individuals, a difference in degree, if it becomes big enough, amounts to a difference in kind. The new clause makes provision for telephone tapping in cases of espionage, terrorism and serious crime. That is right. There is, however, a difference between a bit of tapping done for that purpose, which all hon. Members would support—there would be no dissidents among us—and the amount that actually occurs.

The number of taps has trebled in the last 20 years. I do not believe that the number of people seeking to overthrow the State by force has trebled in the last 20 years. Nor do I believe that the number of people engaged in espionage, counter-espionage or industrial espionage has trebled in the last 20 years. Will the Home Secretary give his explanation for this large increase? I happen to know the budget for this year for the telephone tapping installation organisation. It is £1,370,000. That goes almost entirely on salaries.

One can take a "flyer" about the salary that each telephone tapper receives. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) will be able to help the House because, although he has never tapped telephones, he has worked in telecommunications and knows the rates of pay. It looks, however, as though between 100 and 150 people—certainly more than 100—are engaged in this activity. Those are not the chaps who listen to the conversations or turn on the recorders. That is all done by MI5. I am talking only about those who put the plug in and do the hook-up. There seem to be, on that budget figure of £1,370,000, rather more than 100 of them.

We are told that telephone tapping takes place only when the Home Secretary has issued a warrant. The last figure that we have for the number of warrants issued in a year is 463. Are we to believe that between 100 and 150 chaps are doing 463 taps in a year, four each in a year, putting in a plug and then taking it out four times a year? I should like to know how long a lunch hour those blokes take, how many weeks' holiday they have in a year, and how many spy novels they manage to read. How bored they must be, waiting for the one time in every three months when the signal comes "Joe, stick one in there"! Then Joe has to wait for another three months.

Is it not clear that as 100-odd people are not employed to do 463 taps a year there are a heck of a lot more taps being done than 463? Does not that bear out the evidence that already exists from many sources that there is a good deal of tapping going on that the Home Secretary does not even know about?

When we debated the matter in Committee, the Minister relied heavily on the White Paper. The fact is that the White Paper is not complete; it does not tell the whole story. It does not cover all the agencies involved in telephone tapping. It does not cover the activities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, of the Ministry of Defence or of the Government's communication headquarters. Moreover, it does not cover the considerable activities in this country of the National Security Agency of the United States.

I do not know whether our MI5 does telephone tapping in the United States, but the Americans' lot do plenty in this country. We have employees of a foreign Government making telephone taps of the international conversations of British citizens. They do not tap any of us when we are talking to our constituents, but if we make a call that goes on a transatlantic cable we can be tapped by the National Securities Agency, and we often are.

So much for the general point. I now come to the particular point represented by my amendments (a) and (b) to amendment No. 54, dealing with the question of subversion. The only respect in which my new clause 8 differs from amendment No. 54, which is to replace clause 47—a new clause introduced in Standing Committee—is that my new clause does not include the word "subversive". My amendment (a) is to delete "subversive" from amendment No. 54, leaving espionage, terrorism, and so on.

Amendment (b) is a fullback position, to ensure that if amendment (a) is defeated and "subversive" remains in amendment No. 54 we have a definition of what we mean by the word. I shall not go to the stake arguing that the definition that I have written into amendment (b) is the best possible. I am sure that others could write a better definition, and if they wish to do so in another place I shall be happy. I should prefer the word not to be in the Bill, but if it is, it should be defined. If it is not, anyone who engages in a telephone tap on the grounds of subversion defines "subversion" to mean what he wants it to mean. In the absence of any definition, it can be an absolutely subjective judgment by any individual.

6.15 pm

Many people in the security services take the view that anything that is in opposition to the policies of the Government of the day is ipso facto subversive. That is the great danger. The right to oppose the policies of the Government of the day, whichever party is in Government—I have more than once opposed the Government's policies, whichever party was in Government—is an essential thread in the warp and weft of our democratic system. Anyone who takes away that right will strike at democracy as hard as do the totalitarians in a police State. If a person is held to be subversive ipso facto—because he disagrees with, and perhaps wants to organise against, the policies of the Government of the day—that tears away a lump of our democracy.

How else did it come about that the telephone of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was tapped? Was it really thought that Canon John Collins would blow up St. Paul's Cathedral, and that Lord Russell would seek to overthrow the State by force? It was tapped because the CND policy was contrary to the policy of the Government. Ipso facto, that is subversive.

Why do trade union offices have their telephones tapped? The trade unions are not seeking to overthrow the Government by force. They are not engaged in espionage, industrial espionage or counter-espionage. They are not wealthy men who go to the Cayman Islands in order to avoid their tax liabilities. The only ground on which their telephones are tapped is that they are held to be subversive, on the subjective judgment of an individual who thinks that, ipso facto, trade unions are subversive.

Mr. Gorst

The hon. Gentleman will remember that when we dealt with the question of definition in Standing Committee I suggested a definition that was far wider than the one in his amendment (b) to amendment No. 54. I said that the definition of 'subversion' is to overthrow or overturn, to destroy by weakening the trust confidence or belief in the State by unconstitutional if not illegal means."—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, February 1981; c. 389.] The hon. Gentleman said, as reported at c. 391 of the Official Report of our Committee proceedings, that he entirely accepted my definition. Will he explain why he has now narrowed the definition so much?

Mr. Mikardo

I shall do so gladly. I had not forgotten that. When the hon. Gentleman said what he did in Committee, I said—and I meant it—that I was very grateful to him for his intervention. I pondered very carefully when I was planning to table the amendment whether I should not pinch his words, but I thought that that would be a bit too much like a ploy, or trickery, in order to secure his sympathy and help and perhaps that of other Conservative Members. Therefore, all that I did was to precis the hon. Gentleman's definition. I think that what I have said is what the hon. Gentleman said, although of course not so complete, because it is said in many fewer words.

I shall answer the hon. Gentleman's point by saying that if he had tabled an amendment (c) in the terms that he just quoted I should gladly have withdrawn amendment (b). All I want is a definition, and a good definition. That is why I said earlier that I am not prepared to go to the stake to defend my words, and I defer to any right hon. or hon. Gentleman who can find better words.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

I am not a lawyer and I realise that as a layman I am treading dangerous ground, but I wish to put one point to the hon. Gentleman, many of whose comments I view with sympathy. The question is not whether a judgment is subjective as to the precise meaning of subversion but to what use the information is put that has been gathered from the tapping. It is difficult to find a definition of subversion that will cover everything. Would it not be better to restrict the use of the information gathered and leave it to the Home Secretary to use his judgment about what is subversive?

Mr. Mikardo

I understand what the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Browne) is saying. I thought that I had done what he asks for by not defining subversion in ipse but by defining the objects at which subversion was directed, the purposes for which the subversion was carried out. Indeed, the definition given by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) tends in that direction. I repeat that if any hon. Member has a better definition I shall be prepared to listen to him and to accept any formula that contains a good definition.

Perhaps the hon. Member for Winchester will be able to tell me—because I am sure that the Home Secretary cannot do so—what definition of subversion led to the tapping of the telephone of the Canadian high commissioner. Before considering what legislation to bring forward to deal with the repeal of the British North America Act, in response to the request of the Canadian Prime Minister, Her Majesty's Government wanted to know what the Canadians were thinking. The Canadian Government produced evidence to show that the British Government had information which they could have obtained only by overhearing telephone conversations at the Canadian commission.

What definition of subversion could have led to that? We all have different political views. Some people believe that any man, however slightly to the Left of the late Signor Benito Mussolini, is ipso facto a subversive.

Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Watford)

Like the hon. Member.

Mr. Mikardo

I accept that I am a little to the Left of the late Signor Benito Mussolini. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can say the same for himself, though I doubt it.

Nearly a half century ago, I remember a plain clothes man in the East End saying to me that all members of the Labour Party were Communists, and I replied "Including Clem Attlee and George Lansbury?" and he said, "Yes; they are the worst of the lot". Such opinions are much too individual and subjective.

My chief worry is that, whereas the people in our security services—I imagine; I do not know—are expert at all the mechanics of their trade, coding and decoding, cameras hidden in cigarette lighters, bugs, microphones hidden in toecaps, all the evidence shows that politically they are a bunch of illiterates. I would not trust any of them to make a political judgment. They exercise surveillance over mail and telephones for what they believe to be political ends, yet they are a bunch of ignoramuses. They are the people who went on listing Arthur Koestler as a Communist for more than 20 years after he had become the most powerful anti-Communist propagandist in the world. They are the people who listed Lord Russell. Anyone who knew him knows that he could not have swotted a fly. Yet the security services listed him as a potential man of violence.

They are the people who tapped the telephone of the International Labour Organisation—that is a beauty—to which Her Majesty's Government, like other Governments, send delegates, as does the CBI and the TUC. Her Majesty's Government must approve of the International Labour Organisation, as do we all, so why was its telephone tapped? If its title were what it really is, "The International Organisation for Relations between Governments, Employers and Workers", it would never have had its telephone tapped. But it made the mistake of putting the word "labour" in its title, and some political illiterate in the security services told himself that "Labour" equalled "Left" equalled "Communist" equalled "subversive", and so its telephone was tapped. There was also the case of the harmless bookshop that I mentioned earlier.

These are the people who are making judgments. We now know that they were not even able to recognise subversives when the subversive was their own boss, the bloke who sat for 12 years at the next desk or in the big room upstairs. They are the people who give themselves the right to make subjective judgments about the people who, on political grounds, should have their telephones tapped or their mail intercepted.

I come back to the question of the illegal tapping—and it is illegal—that is carried out in this country by the National Security Agency of the United States of America. It has been admitted in the United States that that agency has tapped the telephones of several Members of Parliament. The Home Secretary, when challenged, denied that Members of Parliament had had their telephones tapped. I am sure that he was right, because he was talking about tapping by the British services. However, he has no control over tapping that is done by the United States National Security Agency.

Whereas in this country the security services still considered Arthur Koestler as a Communist for only 20 years after he became a violent anti-Communist, in the United States anyone who has ever been a Communist remains one till the day that he dies. I am sure that they still have Frank Chapple listed as a Communist, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). With the American services, everything goes on for ever, and they are tapping our telephones.

I have spoken for a long time, and I apologise to the House, but I have done so for one reason. I shall repeat something that I said in Committee. I care passionately about the reputation of this country as a free society. In my life I have seen too much of the other sort of totalitarianism of both Right and so-called Left ever to want even the tiniest drop of the poison that runs through those systems seeping into our own society. I want to defend us, with every breath that I have, against that, but I believe that it is happening and that we are beginning—I do not want to overstate the case—to have some of the characteristics of a police State. We must watch it.

I repeat that proper surveillance in defence of the realm must go on, but it must not be used in secret or unaccountably to mask a gross invasion of the human rights and civil liberties of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of decent, innocent people.

6.30 pm
Mr. Gorst

It is extraordinary to find myself agreeing with almost everthing said by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). I may part company with him on the detail, but I agree completely with the broad sweep of his comments. I also agree that, on the amendments and the new clause, we are discussing two aspects of the same topic, because telephone tapping and the interception of mail are part and parcel of the same subject.

I agree with the hon. Member in another respect. When the matter was discussed in Committee and I supported the inclusion of what is now clause 47 I made it clear that I did so because I believed that the proper place to discuss a matter of such enormous importance as telephone tapping, with all its implications for the freedom of the individual, was not in a Committee of 16 Members but on the Floor of the House. In my view, the decision should be made here.

I am doubly convinced that my view was correct because in Committee, apart from the fact that the Labour and Liberal Parties take that view, I took a lone view on the Government side, and views expressed by my hon. Friends in an early-day motion—which has had a chequered career since it was tabled—have reinforced my opinion. At one stage, 13 per cent. of my hon. Friends also took that view. I believe that this is the right place for the matter to be discussed and decided.

The purposes of clauses 47, which is to be amended along the lines that I said would be essential if it were to continue to have my support, are fourfold. I take no exception to telephone tapping in the national interests—to defend the security of the State, or to find major criminals or fraudulent people—but it must be done under a warrant from the Home Secretary, which, he would say, happens at present. If it is not done under his warrant and is illegal it ought to be punishable.

At the moment, the operation is on the basis of guidelines enshrined in a White Paper produced by the Home Secretary. The terms of clause 47, as amended, will be on all fours with the terms of that White Paper. If the clause is not on all fours with the White Paper I shall have no objection to its being amended to make sure that it is, because I have no desire to tie the hands of the Home Secretary or the security services. Therefore, the first purpose of clause 47 is to ensure that guidelines are replaced by statutory provisions.

Secondly, it is necessary to deter and to penalise anyone who illegally taps a telephone. It is true that to interfere with telephone apparatus is already an offence under regulations made under the Post Office Act. The best information that I have been able to obtain is that, the offence is that of stealing the Post Office's electricity, for which one can be fined £5 or £10. That is not an appropriate penalty for interference with someone's privacy.

The onus is on the Post Office to take action. That is wrong. It must be entirely wrong for any agency of Government or, as the Post Office is, a body that is rather less than an agency of Government, to be the protector of the privacy of individuals. Because of the necessity for secrecy and security, I do not believe that the victim of a telephone tap is the appropriate person to take action. Indeed, it might be argued that he is already in a position to take action through the courts, but, as far as I know, no one has ever done so.

The appropriate authority is the person in our system who is responsible for law and order—the Home Secretary acting alone—or, through other procedures, with the consent of the Attorney-General. That is what clause 47 seeks to provide. I do not believe that suspicion of guilt entitles the authorities to ransack a person's house or violate his privacy without his knowledge and with impunity.

The third purpose of clause 47 is to reassure people that their private telephone conversations are secure from eavesdroppers and snoopers. Rightly or wrongly, there is a feeling among many people in my constituency and elsewhere that their telephones may be tapped. They would be reassured if they felt that anyone illegally tapping telephones would be subject to the severest possible penalties.

Finally, I believe that responsibility for initiating prosecutions must rest with the Attorney-General, or that such action must have his consent. It is not a matter where I wish to see private individuals taking the law into their own hands.

Clause 47 does not seek to tie the Home Secretary's hands or to diminish his freedom of action against criminals, frauds, terrorists, spies or anyone who is trying to subvert the safety of the State. It does not seek to remove secrecy from security operations or criminal investigation and it does not give anyone the right to discover through the courts whether tapping is being carried out.

It is argued that for reasons of administrative convenience it is desirable that this matter be subject to statutory provisions. However, although what is administratively convenient may be desirable, it should not, and must not, be at the expense of the rights of the innocent individual. On the question of finding the appropriate balance between the privacy of individuals and the security requirements of the State, I prefer that the final arbiter of the issues of principle that are involved should be Parliament rather than a faceless civil servant behind closed doors, typified by Sir Humphrey of "Yes Minister", manipulating behind the scenes. It is here in the House of Commons that we should decide the principles involved. But that does not mean that we should enshrine in legislation a reporting-back procedure.

It was for that reason that I recommended in Committee that the revisions to the new clause should eliminate four subsections which require notification of tapping, the right to apply for information, review by three independent people, and reporting to Parliament. By definition, in clause 47, it is only major criminals and subverters or spies acting against the interests of the State with whom we are dealing, and it is totally inappropriate, therefore, that the House should receive and debate reports on that subject.

The other imperfections of the clause will be removed by the amendment. They are twofold. First, the word "subversion" has been brought back, and I am happy to accept the reassurances given by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow on that. Secondly, serious offences are so defined as to include offences involving large numbers of people and the apprehension of any violence that might take place. There is a change to ensure that no Post Office employee in the course of his duty inadvertently commits an offence while carrying out his work.

I have heard certain arguments against statutory provisions as opposed to guidelines. It has been suggested that the system of guidelines worked perfectly well and that statutory provisions are not necessary. It is clear from what has been written in the newspapers and said in the House that there is so much disquiet that that can no longer be accepted.

It has been suggested that Lord Diplock's recently published report should have allayed any fears. Quite the contrary. Lord Diplock addressed himself to the procedures which take place when the Home Secretary has granted a warrant. He did not—and was not, I understand, required to—examine what might be happening without a Home Secretary's warrant. To that extent I regard his report as being irrelevant.

It may be argued that if illegal telephone tapping or interception of mail takes place a warning will be enough. All I can say is that we have no evidence that that has ever been discovered and, therefore, we have no evidence whether a warning would be effective. If any cases of illegal telephone tapping or interception of mail have been discovered, I hope the Home Secretary will tell us how often they have been discovered and what action, if any, has been taken to ensure that they do not recur.

There is then the argument that secrecy will be blown by conceding a right of individuals to challenge these procedures in the courts. I have tried to show that I believe that this right already exists, but even if it does not exist, if it were created—which is open to serious argument—I should like to know precisely on what basis it is maintained by the Home Secretary or the Government that the House cannot enact in this clause a specific provision to ensure that such secrecy cannot be exploded. Lastly, there is the question of telephone regulations, which I have already mentioned.

In conclusion, I ask the Home Secretary, if he does not accept clause 47 as amended, to give an undertaking that if people are discovered to be illegally tapping telephones, infinitely stiffer penalties will be exacted against them, particularly if they are in the public service. It seems to me that the threat to the individual is infinitely greater if an over-zealous policeman or an over-zealous Customs and Excise official goes beyond his powers because he does not go to the Home Secretary for a warrant, perhaps feeling that were he to do so the Home Secretary would not think it justifiable to grant it. I ask the Home Secretary to give an assurance that the penalty for the offence will be more meaningful than a £5 or £10 fine.

6.45 pm

Vigilance is necessary in the protection of freedom, but petty surveillance, surreptitious, bureaucratic fishing exercises and speculative official eavesdropping are not features of a free society. They belong to a totalitarian society, or one which, if it is not a totalitarian society but permits such practices, is a soulless community with no respect for the dignity and privacy of individuals. I do not believe that many of us in the House would wish to support such a society.

Mr. Whitelaw

When the clause was debated in Committee, I undertook, through my hon. Friend the Minister of State, to argue the case myself on Report. It is, of course, my duty to do so because it is acutely my responsibility, and my responsibility alone. That is why it is so important that I should put my case to the House.

My purpose this afternoon is to persuade the House that new clause 8 on the interception of mail and the old clause 47 on the interception of telephone messages which was inserted in the Bill in Committee should be deleted and that the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) and supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) and the hon. Members for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) and Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) should not be put in its place.

These clauses are concerned with the integrity of the public telephone and the public mail services, which are of great importance to us all. They affect not only the minority who are involved in crime but the great majority who are not. They, too, have an interest in interception, both because they want criminals brought to book and because they want to be assured that their telephones will not be subject to arbitrary interception.

The postal and telephone services provide a universal means of communication for the whole nation, and the telephone system in particular provides the most convenient and quickest possible means of communication. It also provides the ideal means of communication for the criminal or the spy who wishes to contact his associates.

I do not think that it can be disputed that it is as necessary today as ever it was for the agents of the Crown to exercise a proper but strictly controlled surveillance in relation to those services. As the Birkett report put it in 1957: the criminal and the wrongdoer should not be allowed to use services provided by the State for wrongful purposes quite unimpeded". Since then, the growth of terrorism and drug smuggling have served only to strengthen the case. On this, there is no disagreement between the Government and the supporters of the clauses. They too, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North made abundantly clear, accept that interception is a weapon that should be available to the Crown.

What is at issue is not the need for interception as a weapon in the fight against crime but the way in which the weapon is controlled to ensure that the power to intercept communications is exercised only in clearly justifiable cases and the use made of it is limited to what is strictly necessary. A balance has to be struck between the needs of the community in the prevention and detection of crime and the rights of the individual whose privacy may be infringed.

7 pm

The question that we must debate today is whether, for that balance to be properly struck, the arrangements for the control of interception must be enshrined in legislation. My case rests on two simple but vitally important propositions. The first is that if interception is to be effective it must be carried out in secret. The second is that the judicial process is, by its nature, an open process. The conflict between those two propositions makes it impossible for interception to be regulated by an Act of Parliament and thus made subject to litigation, without destroying its effectiveness.

Clearly, a suspected bank robber, drug smuggler or spy should not know that his mail or telephone is being intercepted at the time. If he does, he will modify his behaviour accordingly. It is equally important that the information which forms the case for interception should be kept secret, both then and subsequently. Clearly, the criminal would be helped if he discovered how much the police knew about his activities and who was telling them. Yet that is exactly what would happen if the criteria for interception were laid down in an Act of Parliament; for it is an essential feature of our constitutional system that what is laid down in an Act of Parliament can be tested and enforced in the courts at the suit of any interested person.

Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

Many of us accept that but believe that the Attorney-General's fiat, in that he can take into account public policy, coupled with the fact that courts can, when necessary, sit in camera, could take account of the fundamental objection which the Home Secretary makes.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for accepting my argument. If the way in which the Home Secretary may issue warrants were laid down in an Act of Parliament, private individuals would have the right to sue the Home Secretary in a civil suit in the courts. That is the legal advice that I have received and it is the basis on which I rest my case.

If it could be said that that could be evaded, either by the use of Crown privilege or by courts sitting in camera, it would not be long before there was grave dissatisfaction. Many hon. Members have already said that that would be unsatisfactory.

Cases in which an individual thought that his telephone was being improperly intercepted could be brought before the courts and the courts would be obliged to adjudicate. To enable the court to determine the matter fairly, all the relevant information would have to be exposed in evidence. That would include all the information available to me. Some of it would be of a most sensitive nature, derived from people on whom the police and the security services depend; people, in some cases, whose lives would be endangered if their part were known or even suspected by the dangerous men against whom interception is sometimes employed.

Before I sign a warrant—and that is a responsibility that I cannot delegate—I have to be satisfied that interception is justified in accordance with the criteria set out in the White Paper which the Government published a year ago. I emphasise that. That is abundantly clear. It is a responsibility placed on me as the Home Secretary by the House and the country. It is important to make that abundantly clear.

That means that I must be fully and frankly informed of the basis of suspicion against the individual involved, including any information which on no account should be revealed, least of all to that individual. If I am to be frankly informed about such secret matters I must be in a position to keep the secrets entrusted to me.

How, then, could I permit such information—which I would not reveal to the House—to become evidence in a court of law? Yet, if interception were regulated by statute, that is what must happen. The essence of the judicial process is that the judge must determine a matter exclusively on the basis of the law and the evidence adduced by the parties, publicly and in the presence of each other.

Mr. Gorst

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that it is already illegal to interfere with a telephone by tapping without his warrant? If that is so, is not it already open to people to take the legal proceedings against which he is trying to defend himself?

Mr. Whitelaw

I am coming to my hon. Friend's first point. I shall point out where that is an offence, particularly for Post Office employees. I am saying that if the procedure for a warrant, as proposed, were laid clown in an Act, that of itself would lay me open to the civil suits which I have described. It would no longer be possible to keep secret the type of sensitive information, often given at great personal risk, to which I have referred. It is no answer to say that secret matters could be kept secret by claims of Crown privilege.

If secrecy precludes me from saying whether there has been an interception or, if there has, from demonstrating to the court that the conditions laid down in the statute for the issue of a warrant were met in a particular case, the judgment of the court must go against me. From that there is no escape.

Important safeguards already exist which avoid the unacceptable consequences of legislation. The Government have appointed one of our most respected judges, Lord Diplock, to scrutinise the existing arrangements and to undertake a continuing, independent check to ensure that the procedures and safeguards set out in the White Paper on 1 April 1980 are being observed.

I hope that whatever criticisms hon. Members may decide to make against the Government or the system they will not make unworthy accusations against Lord Diplock, who was asked by the Government to undertake a task and who is carrying it out scrupulously in every way. He has found that the procedures are being strictly observed. He had complete access to all the secret material submitted to me. That was questioned by an hon. Member earlier. He has complete freedom to look at any case in whatever way he chooses. Individual cases are thus independently tested against the published criteria while preserving the essential secrecy.

The public are protected against unjustified interception and the informant against the revenge of his associates. No one who has read Lord Diplock's first report can doubt the care with which he carried out his task. He gave the system a clean bill of health and his continuing checks on individual cases provide a valuable new safeguard against any departure from the published principles.

Then there is the position of the Post Office and, after the coming into force of this Bill, the British Telecommunications Corporation, which is independent of the Government. They need the confidence of their customers and would not put it at risk by allowing widespread and unjustified snooping on those customers' communications. In fact, they will undertake interception only where the law requires them to do so and their employees would be committing a criminal offence if they undertook interception except in accordance with a warrant.

Similarly, as regards the police, it was plainly stated on oath in a recent court case that The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis would not in any circumstances authorwise, or be party to, the tapping of any telephone otherwise than in pursuance of a Warrant of the Secretary of State. The same applies to other chief officers of police, and for an individual police officer to undertake unauthorised interception—I say this in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North—would be a very serious disciplinary offence. These arrangements provide a strong safeguard against unauthorised tampering with Post Office equipment. If Post Office employees engage in unauthorised interception they are breaking the law. While I know that generalised allegations of unauthorised tapping have been made, I have seen no evidence of it and I have not been given evidence of it. I can assure the House that if I were given specific evidence about unauthorised interception I would immediately take firm steps to deal with it. That is the answer to what my hon. Friend said about those who undertake it being punished.

It is sometimes argued that to introduce legislation into this area would not be all that damaging because a number of other countries have done it. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow asked me to reply to this point. This is, I believe, a misleading argument, which does not pay sufficient regard to the different legal, constitutional and historic traditions of the countries concerned, which make it inappropriate to draw a parallel.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, which is often quoted in this connection, there is a statutory provision which provides in terms that there shall be no legal remedy before the courts in respect of the ordering and implementation of restrictive practices", which in this context means surveillance measures. In exceptional cases the constitutional court would have a function, but of course in this country we have no constitution in the German sense and no constitutional court. If we were to follow the German model we should find ourselves with a statutory provision which was not within the cognisance of the courts of the land—those very courts whose constitutional function it is to interpret and enforce the statutes in individual cases. I cannot believe that the House would wish to adopt so extraordinary a provision.

In a number of countries the practice is for interception warrants in criminal cases to be issued by a magistrate or some other judicial officer, acting in an administrative rather than a judicial capacity. In this country, that would mean giving the responsibility to all magistrates, or all judges, or at least some class of judges, with a consequent loss of consistency of control and—which I believe in the end would be much disliked by the House—any democratic responsibility at all. I believe that it is far better that this responsibility should rest with a single Minister responsible to the House.

Moreover, from the information available to me I have formed the view that in those countries which provide for the regulation of interception by statute, usually including provisions such as retrospective notification, the effectiveness and value of interception has been reduced. I cannot believe that it would be wise for us to follow their example.

Let me now sum up the Government's case against these provisions. It is that, interception to be effective, must be secret. That, in turn, means keeping secret both the fact of interception and the information which led to it. If arrangements for interception were laid down by Act of Parliament it would be impossible under our judicial system to preserve that secrecy and yet, if challenged, to satisfy the court that the Act had been complied with. Secrecy and litigation cannot be reconciled. That is why we oppose these provisions. They are, in our judgment, unworkable. In our view they are also unnecessary.

The public have a right to know that interception is properly controlled. But I believe that the present system of administrative controls and safeguards, which I have set out in the White Paper and which have stood the test of time, provide the necessary assurance. The position of the Post Office, the key role of the Secretary of State's warrant, the procedural arrangements described in last year's White Paper and, behind them all, the monitoring of Lord Diplock are, I believe, sufficient to reassure the public that our arrangements are such as both to protect the public interest and, of vital importance, of course, to safeguard the rights of the private individual.

Mr. Golding

That speech can be categorised as one of Sir Humphrey's best. We can imagine him writing the peroration "Stood the test of time" and all the rest of it. What the Home Secretary has done is to turn the argument on its head, and I will come to that in a moment.

There is enormous disquiet on this subject, and it is because of the extent of the disquiet that the Post Office Engineering Union has spent so much time on it and that "Tapping the Telephone" was issued as a document. The POEU has been very concerned that its members have become dubbed telephone-tapping snoopers and, in inquiring in to the situation, it became very worried about the legal basis of the tapping.

I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) on the judgment that he quoted of Sir Robert Megarry. In that judgment it is made clear that telephone tapping in this country is not illegal. However, he argued at the same time that the practice of telephone tapping cries out for legislation, because the source of the authority is very vague indeed.

Schedule 3, part I, of the Bill provides: A requirement to do what is necessary to inform designated persons holding office under the Crown concerning matters and things transmitted or in the course of transmission by means of telecommunication services provided by the Corporation may be laid on the Corporation for the like purposes and in the like manner as, immediately before the appointed day, a requirement could have been laid on the Post Office to do what was necessary to inform such persons concerning matters and things transmitted or in the course of transmission by means of such services provided by it. That means that a Minister responsible for telecommunications can give a directive to what will become British Telecommunications to tap telephones. That is the source of the authority, and it is an unsatisfactory source. Of course, telephone tapping has to take place in secret and there is nothing in my proposal that would prevent telephone tapping from taking place or from taking place in secret.

It was necessary to move amendment No. 54 for three reasons. First, clause 47 is deficient, in that it hits employees in the performance of their duties. We have excluded them in the amendment. Already it is an offence for employees of the Post Office, under the Telegraph Acts and the Wireless Telegraphy Acts, either to tap telephones or to pass on information obtained through tapping.

Secondly, the objective of the amendment was to establish the basis on which warrants can be granted so as to reflect as closely as possible the existing non-statutory code described in Cmnd. 7873, which the Home Secretary presented to Parliament on 1 April 1980. That is why subversion is included within the amendment. It was intended to present to the right hon. Gentleman a statutory basis which was as close as possible to the principles to which he says he adheres. The objective of the amendment was to make it possible for the Government to accept a statutory position which in principle was still different from that laid down in Cmnd. 7873.

Thirdly, the amendment removes parliamentary accountability, as the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) remarked. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow talked considerably about the need for parliamentary accountability. Neither his new clause nor my amendment makes any provision for parliamentary accountability.

The amendment will ensure that those outside the business of telecommunications who intentionally intercept any message or instigate any person to intercept such a message, or disclose the contents of any message unless acting in obedience to a warrant issued pursuant to the following provisions of this section, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding £5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both. Therefore, the amendment is directed to those outside the business of telecommunications. It is directed to those who may wish to get themselves involved in telephone tapping, whether it be for business or industrial espionage, or for police, security or Customs and Excise business.

The second provision makes it clear that no proceedings shall be instituted in England or Wales except by or with the consent of the Attorney General, or in Northern Ireland except by or with the consent of the Attorney General for Northern Ireland. That means that secrecy will not be threatened by the clause. The proceedings that are to be taken under the amendment may take place only if the Attorneys-General have agreed to them. I assume that we can rely on the security clearings of our Attorneys-General.

Subsection (3) of the amendment provides: No person shall be guilty of an offence under subsection (1) above as respects any act done by him whilst engaged in the business of the Corporation. That does not give a general exemption to those who work in the corporation because, as the Home Secretary said, they are already covered under the Telegraph Acts. The subsection lays down clearly in a statutory form the principles contained in the White Paper.

I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman resists the amendment. Presumably he is saying that it proposes that conditions should be laid down for the issue of a warrant and that those who have warrants issued against them could take action in the courts. How are they to know that a warrant has been issued? That would be a difficult question for the right hon. Gentleman tc answer.

7.15 pm
Mr. Whitelaw

If I were taken to court on a civil suit and the demand were made that it should be known whether a warrant had been issued, neither I nor any Home Secretary could conceivably answer that question. 'The hon. Gentleman must understand why that is so. The moment one such question were answered the issue would be opened up and one would be asked whether other people's phones had been tapped. That is inevitable, and that has always been accepted in the House. That would have to be accepted in the courts.

Mr. Golding

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that if the amendment were accepted as drafted any person could take the Home Secretary to court to challenge whether his telephone was being tapped?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is what I said in my speech.

Mr. Golding

If that is right, surely the answer is to amend the amendment in another place so that that cannot happen. I do not accept that it would be impossible for the Government to avoid that danger. Surely the Government can lay down in statute the conditions in which telephone tapping may take place without the Government endangering themselves by having to face a challenge in the courts.

Mr. Gorst

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the situation is exactly today as the Home Secretary fears that it might be tomorrow? If an individual takes British Telecommunications to court on the ground that it is tapping his telephone, it will have to prove that it is or it is not. If it says that it is, that can only be because the right hon. Gentleman has granted a warrant. If it has not had a warrant, that fact will be revealed. Therefore, the Home Secretary is blown in any event.

Mr. Golding

The Home Secretary has advanced that argument and it may have validity. I do not brush it aside. If it has validity, let those concerned find a way to remove that objection. I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman wishing to avoid the rule of law. That is what he is trying to do. He is saying "Trust us. We are reasonable chaps. We have Lord Diplock. Do you not trust him?" My answer is "Yes".

I am prepared to trust the Home Secretary as I am willing to trust Lord Diplock. However, I was bitterly disappointed when I read Lord Diplock's report. It was not because I considered it to be a whitewash or a cover-up. I was disappointed suddenly to realise the limitations of the scope of the inquiry. Lord Diplock took a sample of warrants signed. Given the Home Secretaries who have signed warrants in recent years, I should expect warrants to be found to be valid if traced back. I should have been shattered to read that in Lord Diplock's opinion the Home Secretary, or previous Home Secretaries, had been acting irregularly. I do not believe that Home Secretaries act in that way. I do not say that all my colleagues share that view, but that is a view that I hold strongly.

When I read Lord Diplock's report I was worried about the lack of concentration on the question "Is all tapping covered by warrant?". That is what bothers the members of the Post Office Engineering Union. They want to know whether all tapping is covered by warrant. The suspicion is that it is not. The figures that the Home Secretary has supplied do not correspond with what others feel is the truth. There is a gap. Therefore, the major problem is not that of the Home Secretary's control. There are other problems.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

I do not think so. The typical problem does not relate to cases where the Home Secretary rightly gives a warrant, or decides not to give a warrant. It relates, unfortunately, to cases of which I have personal experience, in which someone who should not be a police officer, and is unauthorised by the Home Office, succeeds in carrying out the telephone tapping because he is a police officer. He does it in the honest, although wrong, belief that he is doing it in the pursuit of trying to convict criminals. There are other examples. How do we deal with cases which have nothing to do with the proper warrant of the Home Office, where people manage to intercept? How do we stop such people intercepting in that way?

Mr. Golding

I thought that I was saying that. My preoccupation was with those who were tapping in an unauthorised way.

We need legislation because unauthorised telephone tappers now risk little. There are criteria in a White Paper and there are obscure Post Office regulations, but there is no specific legislation which threatens people with dire penalties if they tap a telephone without authority or a warrant. The Home Secretary is ducking out of the seriousness of the situation by seeing it only from his own desk and by looking at what he does himself. I would not say that there is no way in which he can know everything that is happening, but he should ask himself whether he knows what is happening on the ground. If the answer is that he cannot be certain, he must ask himself in what way we can provide penalties for the tapping of telephones, whether it is for purposes of industrial espionage or whether it is by people in the security forces, the police or Customs and Excise exceeding their authority.

The amendment is moderate, to say the least. We removed parliamentary accountability because that involved the Home Secretary accounting for his decisions, although a substantial case can be made for it in this area by senior Members of the House.

We have put certain things in the amendment which are slightly offensive to me. I do not like the criteria of Members being taken into account when telephones are tapped, because that could affect trade unions, Labour Party demonstrations, strikes and the sorts of activity in which I am involved. However, I was prepared to agree with the hon. Member for Hendon, North because I thought that it was a stronger argument to the Home Secretary that we had adopted the terms of his White Paper.

I said the same about subversion. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow makes a good argument. It is difficult to define subversion, but it is included in the amendment, not because I would put it there had I been drafting for the first time, but because it is in the Home Secretary's White Paper. We put it in to make certain that all the criteria laid down in the White Paper were included in the amendment.

There is serious disquiet in this country. Disquiet might be expressed by learned judges and in the courts in Europe. The Home Secretary's only answer is that a by-product of the amendment could be that he could be challenged in the court to see whether a phone was tapped and whether a warrant had been issued. If the right hon. Gentleman's argument is no stronger than that, he should re-think in terms of principle and not in terms of pure expediency in the office of Home Secretary. I am sure that if he were convinced about the principle—which he ought to be—he would have found an answer, or his legal advisers would have done so, within days to the point that he made at the Dispatch Box.

The Government amendment is a get-out that is unacceptable to us. We shall reconsider the objections and return to the matter. If the Home Secretary thinks that he is settling the argument now on a legal nicety, let him forget that, because we shall be back to argue the principle over and over again. If the price of winning the principle is that we eventually find the right words, we shall find them. However, the Home Secretary will be discredited in the process.

Mr. John Browne

I sympathise strongly with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon North (Mr. Gorst) and the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). I feel strongly about the balance between the security of the realm and the protection of the individual citizen against the invasion of individual privacy. It is a difficult and serious subject.

I am not too worried about the number of telephone taps and such matters, although they may have risen by three times in 20 years, because I suspect that the number of telephone subscribers may have risen by more than three times in 20 years.

A difficult, subjective judgment must necessarily be made about the word "subversion". It is in the interests of individuals in this country to put their trust in those who have been elected to such a high office as Secretary of State to exercise their judgment as to what is and what is not subversion. If we try to define "subversion" too strictly we may seriously detract from protecting the realm and individual citizens. There is evidence that the United States, under the guise of wanting to help open government and access of information, is doing the reverse of protecting individual citizens.

Therefore, I should like to thank my right hon. Friend for his speech. Having listened to his speech, I accept that he is a right hon. Gentleman and that therefore he is an honourable—indeed, a right honourable—and honest man and that he has access, not only to the facts at the Home Office but to vital secret facts—secret facts necessarily not available to us in the House. I for one am prepared to accept what he says and not vote against him in the Lobby. However, I should like to have his specific assurance that the protections which he has mentioned for telephone tapping also exist for electronic bugging. That can be a more insiduous practice because it is more open to abuse by unofficial sources than is telephone tapping.

7.30 pm
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

I rise not with the slightest wish, intention or hope of bringing the debate to an end but simply to encourage my hon. Friends with advice—which I am sure they do not need—to support the amendments. That is certainly the intention of the Opposition Front Bench.

I support them not least because I was sorry and surprised that the Home Secretary felt it necessary to introduce his amendment and to exclude the two major additions to the Bill which, if carried, would not only strengthen its provisions but end a good deal of the disquiet which continues to grow because of fear and apprehension that the interception of telephone calls and mail continues to a far greater extent than is acceptable in a free society.

Had the right hon. Gentleman felt that there was simply some deficiency in the amendment carried in Committee, or in the new clause tabled by my hon. Friend, it would have been open to him to offer an amendment in another place which met the principles but avoided the deficiencies. As it is, he has chosen to argue against the principles. That disappoints and surprises me, because the principles involved seem clear enough.

The first is utterly unexceptionable. Embodied in amendment No. 54, it is the belief that unauthorised interception of telephone calls should whenever possible be prevented or suitably punished. It is extraordinary that the Home Secretary should want to argue with that. The unauthorised interception about which disquiet grows is something of which he clearly disapproves, yet he is urging us to vote against an amendment which makes a clear and unequivocal statement of the illegality of such behaviour and imposes a penalty on those who might behave in such an illegal fashion.

It is not a severe penalty. Some Labour Members think that the penalty proposed for unauthorised interception is comparatively light for what is a major infringement of the privacy—and, therefore, the liberty—of the individual. Despite that, the Home Secretary argued against that part of the amendment because he feared that if such cases appeared in court it would result in the revelation of information which in the public interest it was undesirable to disclose. I am completely unable to follow that part of his argument.

Even if what the right hon. Gentleman said were accurate I would have doubts whether such infringements of liberty as are involved in unauthorised tapping should not be prosecuted because a prosecution might reveal things best left secret. But surely the problem does not arise in respect of unauthorised phone tapping, because the unauthorised phone tapper is prosecuted only with the approval of the Attorney-General.

I assume that if the integrity and security of the State is at risk, the Attorney-General will not authorise a prosecution. As far as I understand the normal practices of the Attorney-General, we will never know whether the prosecution has been prevented or whether the Attorney-General's fiat has been withheld because he regarded it as a frivolous prosecution which could not succeed in court or as a prosecution which might succeed but which, through its success or the Home Secretary's successful defence of his own position, might reveal facts that were better kept secret. I do not believe that the problem of court revelations applies to unauthorised tapping.

Mr. Lawrence

What is the right hon. Gentleman's response to the Home Secretary's point that if the Attorney-General does not give his fiat the game is given away that State sources are tapping a person's telephone, thus discouraging that person from carrying on activities which may lead to the discovery of crime, or worse? If the right hon. Gentleman is not being purely opportunistic in opposing this measure, why did the Labour Government do nothing in five years of office when the position on telephone tapping was exactly as it is now?

Mr. Hattersley

I shall ignore the hon. Gentleman's second and more trivial point on the basis that the technique of playing the man rather than the ball is always a recourse of incompetent footballers.

I was in the process of answering the hon. Gentleman's first point before he asked me to give way. The hon. Gentleman is "honourable and learned" and I am simply "honourable", so he will correct me if I am wrong. I am advised that it is not the practice of the Attorney-General to explain why he has or has not given his fiat for a prosecution. The Attorney-General might refuse a prosecution in such a case, as he refuses prosecutions in other cases, because he did not believe that it was a legitimate case to mount in court or because he thought that it was frivolously, maliciously or ignorantly pursued.

There would never be any reason to assume that the Attorney-General's refusal to authorise a prosecution was based simply on his fear that security would be at risk. There would be speculation about it, but there would be no necessary assumption which could be demonstrated by malicious persons.

The first part of the amendment relates to the prevention or punishment of unauthorised phone tapping. However, I regard the most important aspects of the amendment as those which seek to place on a statutory basis the methods by which authorised interceptions are approved and agreed. To me, that is a matter of principle. I have no embarrassment about describing a principle in this area, not least because of the way in which the most recent Diplock report, published last month, described with magnificent understatement the general attitude towards phone tapping.

For me at least, that report created more fears than it allayed. It said: The exercise by the State of any power to read or listen to communications taking place between private citizens involves an invasion of their privacy and has always been looked on by the public with suspicion and distaste. The House will have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) give an account of interception techniques. Had he been wrong, I am sure that we would have been told as much. He referred to the interception techniques which are applied by the Post Office. Anyone who heard that description would feel the same sort of distaste about the interception of the mail as Lord Diplock rightly describes as the general attitude towards the interception of telephone calls.

That distaste is right, necessary and proper. That is how the public rightly see these matters, because each act of interception is an invasion of privacy. An invasion of privacy of that sort and in that way is a denial of liberties which should exist in a civilised society except under the most extreme and easily demonstrable circumstances.

It is intolerable that such invasions of privacy and infringements of liberty should be initiated at the discretion of one man or woman. In saying that, I do not question either the competence or the probity of the Home Secretary. In this particular, I am not even saying that I have the strongest suspicions about those who work for him. Like other hon. Members who have spoken, I suspect that the over-zealous officer sometimes takes action which is not authorised, and I would have hoped that such action could be dealt with under the first part of the amendment. My principal concern relates to authorised interception and how it should be regulated.

I believe that in a society such as ours these procedures should be regulated by statute, for two reasons. First, it ensures that they are used sparingly. Secondly, it provides the certainty that if they are misused the aggrieved party has legal redress. At present there is no statutory, objective or material assurance that the procedures are used sparingly, and a party who may be aggrieved has no legal redress.

I do not propose to embark upon the arguments about the nature of the Home Secretary's right to intercept. Nor do I propose to embark upon speculation about how those powers were derived. What is certain is that they are exercised on the Home Secretary's sole authority. The guidelines are, by definition, no real limit on his powers. They may occasionally inhibit him, but they never actually prevent him from using his own discretion. He may be—and no doubt is—checked in his actions by his own character, by honour and by prudence. He is, of course, hedged about by the usual political constraints in terms of the damage and embarrassment that may be caused if the powers are used wrongly or badly, but there are no formal, published, enforceable rules by which the Home Secretary must abide.

The amendment does no more than propose a number of such rules, in what I at least regard as comparatively unambitious terms. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) said, it does not require a regular report to Parliament, although many would regard that as essential if the libertarian aspects of the problem are to be protected. There is no requirement for an individual whose telephone has been tapped to be notified after the tap has been taken off, although many countries require such notification—some a few days after, others some years after, surveillance has ceased.

Many free societies believe that it is the civic right of a man or woman at least to be told that this has happened after it has happened, on the principle that if it was justified the person is probably in prison, and that if he is not in prison the relevant Minister has probably behaved wrongly. The amendment merely seeks to lay down the criteria by which the propriety of interceptions is determined and to ensure that, if necessary, a Minister who has erred can be taken to court.

I shall deal as best I can with what appeared to me to be the Home Secretary's principal objection to doing that—that he might be taken to court in such a way as to require him to defend himself by providing information which in itself would undermine security, not least by allowing people who were perhaps not subject to tapping but who were conspirators with those who were, to obtain information permitting their escape and continued wrongdoing.

That defence seems implausible in this context. I cannot imagine who are the people who will take the Home Secretary to court claiming that he is tapping their telephones. I can imagine that there might be one or two frivolous or malicious prosecutions, but I think that the Home Secretary can stand that. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow gave examples of telephone tapping. Some of those may not have occurred. I do not question my hon. Friend's accuracy. I merely use this as a hypothesis. If one of those people took the Home Secretary to court and the Home Secretary said, "I know that I am accused, but it did not happen", I cannot see what possible damage that could do.

The real problem, by the Home Secretary's own definition, comes from those whom he described as dangerous men against whom interception is employed. Is he saying that such desperate men will take the Home Office to court, complaining about their telephones being tapped? I regard that prospect as incredible.

7.45 pm
Mr. Rees-Davies

What can happen, and has happened, is that the telephone calls of a member of the Bar defending a particular criminal are intercepted not on the warrant of the Home Secretary but in a gross breach of the regulations by the police. The right hon. Gentleman is surely not saying that in those circumstances the persons concerned, either the barrister or his client, may not take proceedings—indeed, they probably would take proceedings—and possibly obtain damages. That would involve the Home Secretary having to defend himself in order to establish that a warrant was not issued, and the whole matter would come out. It is a difficult question. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider how it is possible to find a way which does not bring the Home Secretary into it at all? The Home Secretary, after all, is probably thought to have every right to issue a warrant in the circumstances in which he does so. But how does one secure protection against the unlawful intervener?

Mr. Hattersley

I am defending and supporting an amendment written by another, so the hon. and learned Gentleman should perhaps not ask me to consider writing these things into it. Nevertheless, I defend and support the amendment with some conviction, as I believe that it meets the hon. and learned Gentleman's point exactly.

I am trying to deal with the situation in which a warrant has been issued and an interception authorised. The cases deployed by the hon. and learned Gentleman are dealt with in the first part of the amendment. Subject to the Attorney-General's approval they would be prosecutable in the normal way, provided that the Attorney-General gave his fiat.

The point that I am making concerns those occasions when the Home Secretary decides that interception is necessary, when his warrant is issued and his power is used. The Home Secretary expressed the fear that sometimes a reckless or malicious individual might prosecute him for having misinterpreted the powers laid down in the statute. I believe that that would virtually never happen. It seems inconceivable that a person of the kind described by the Home Secretary would wish to operate in that way. Moreover, even if it happened once or twice and the prosecution of offenders and the detection of crime were reduced in the one or two instances in which this extraordinary state of affairs had come about, I would regard that as a proper price to pay for ensuring that the liberties of the individual and his freedom from interference are properly protected.

As the Home Secretary himself has said, these are matters of balance between the freedoms and liberties of our people on the one hand and the need to ensure a reduction in crime on the other. The occasions on which prosecutions of the Home Secretary for tapping someone's phone might conflict with the security of the State or the prosecution of crime must be so rare that they should not weigh against the necessity to do what the amendment describe.

The amendment has three objects. First, it seeks to ensure that interception is carried out only for serious offences. That must surely be right. Secondly, it seeks to ensure that interception is carried out only when normal methods of investigation have been tried and have failed, or seem unlikely to succeed. Surely that, too, is right because of the distaste which Lord Diplock described as being the attitude of the British people to these matters and their natural wish that such practices should be used only when more orthodox practices have not worked, or seem unlikely to work.

Thirdly, the amendment seeks to ensure that such techniques are employed only when those who employ them are of the opinion that a conviction will result. If we regard this as an unpleasant practice, we should remember that it is a concept not unrelated to that of the just war. Such practices should be followed only when we believe that there is some hope of success, for to carry them out when there is no hope of success is to approach frivolity, which would not be appropriate in these matters.

Those three criteria will not only act as a proper check but will reduce the number of occasions on which telephone calls are intercepted. Those who have read the necessary background to this issue will recall that the Birkett report, published 24 years ago, stated: We are satisfied that interception is highly selective and that it is used only where there is good reason to believe that a serious offence or security interest is involved. That has been believed for so long that the Labour Government in which I served published the report in 1977. We were so satisfied with Lord Birkett's report that we thought it right to do so. That statement from the report may be true.

Many interceptions may be the result of technological change. Technological changes are available not only to the State but to wrongdoers, who thus obtain more sophistication. However, that is not the issue. The issue is whether interception is used when it should not be used and whether its use should depend on an individual's decision regardless of how trustworthy, respected or senior he may be.

If the Home Secretary speaks again, perhaps he will say whether he accepts the figures that have been given about the cost of interception and the number of interceptors employed by the Post Office. Those figures are likely to appear in an article in tomorrow's edition of the New Statesman. If the paper's techniques are the same as when I worked for it, the copy is still open to correction. If the figures are materially wrong, the assiduous sub-editors on the stone will no doubt be prepared to include figures that correspond with the Home Secretary's beliefs.

It is dangerous and disquieting that 1.5 million should be estimated for next year and that between 110 and 130 Post Office employees should be working full-time on the techniques of interception. Those of us on the Labour Benches who support the amendment do so because a principle is involved in the way that necessary powers are used. I am not saying that the techniques of interception are not a proper weapon in the war against crime. Of course they are. I am not saying that the powers of law and order should be prevented from carrying out their proper duties. However, in a society in which conduct is regulated by Acts of Parliament and in which those who fail to fulfil those Acts are taken to court, people should be able to have that redress on this issue.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)

Although I appreciate the points that the right hon. Gentleman has made, I am sure that he would wish to avoid the charges of shallowness of thought, of hypocrisy, and of political opportunism. Since the war there have been six Labour Governments and many more Labour Home Secretaries. Why is it only now that the Labour Party seems to think such legislation appropriate?

Mr. Hattersley

I have three answers to that. First, if I had wanted to give a simple technical answer—the sort that gets politicians a bad name-1 would have said that we had become more concerned because of the increase in the number of interceptions. I would have said that there came a point when a new technique was needed for managing those increases. That might be the professionally adept answer. The second point, which is perhaps not so professionally adept but which is right, is that I strongly believe that such matters should be controlled by law and subject to appeal in the courts.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that my third point is that since this subject involves civil liberties and privacy it is best discussed not in terms of trivial party points or differences but in terms of the principles of the issue. I stand on the principle that if telephone tapping is to continue and if the interception of mail is to continue—both must, for the sake of law and order—they should be regulated by statute. Those who are offended by the way in which such interceptions are applied could then appeal if they thought that such methods had been misused

My final point may demonstrate the strength of my beliefs. The Home Secretary said that my hon. Friends were wrong to compare practice in the United Kingdom with practice in other countries, because their legal and historical traditions differed from ours. He felt that that was one reason why the Federal Republic of Germany should not be cited as an example. When he said that, I was irresistibly reminded of a distinguished son of the Federal Republic of Germany, Professor Rolf Dahrendorf. I believe that it was in his second Reith lecture that he said that the history and traditions of the rest of Europe were separated from those of the United Kingdom because of the British preoccupation with secrecy. He referred particularly to the secrecy that surrounded the behaviour of those in authority. Indeed, he said that one thing that maintained authority in the United Kingdom in a way that it was not maintained in other countries in which other moves existed was the withholding of information from the people. He said that information lay in the hands of the few and that people had to fight to obtain it.

One of my reasons for supporting the amendment is that I want more information to be in the hands of the people. The amendment will achieve that.

Mr. Alton

I support the amendment. It is similar to but not quite as strong as an amendment that I supported in Committee. As the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) said, it is an indication of the desire of hon. Members to see enacted legislation that would protect the right of individuals that they have gone out of their way and are prepared to give some ground over the wording of the amendment. As the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said, it may not go far enough for many hon. Members. However, it may be considered a good start along the road of protecting individuals.

The amendment must also be seen against the background of the Diplock report. Many of us found that report profoundly disappointing, given the growing disquiet felt by many about the growth of telephone tapping. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) spoke eloquently, as he did in Committee, about the concern and disquiet experienced by many of our citizens. I congratulate him on the stand that he took, not only tonight but in Committee. He has tried to persuade many of his right hon. and hon. Friends of the need for such legislation.

We have heard many hair-raising stories. The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davis) spoke about lawyers' telephones being tapped. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) spoke about reports in The Guardian to the effect that American surveillance teams had been tapping the telephones of Members of Parliament. We have also heard about the enormous costs involved. If we allow the Bill to be enacted it will become a charter for nosey parkers and busybodies, who will spend their time prying and snooping into people's affairs.

I support both provisions because, as I said in Committee, my colleagues and I are opposed to unnecessary telephone tapping and the interception of and interference with mail. We believe that it is one of the most severe invasions of privacy. Such infringements may sometimes be necessary, but only in the most exceptional circumstances. Undoubtedly, some of these methods of crime detection have an important part to play at a time when the sophistication of international criminals and terrorists requires police and security authorities to adopt sophisticated methods to uncover and combat their activities.

These provisions represent a significant attempt statutorily to protect the freedom of individuals and their right to privacy. That right is inherently a part of any modern society that calls itself democratic. Unless there is a statutory authority and, consequently, some type of legal justification for circumstances in which surveillance is proper, we may find ourselves subject to the whims and caprice of a Home Secretary who can abridge those rights and freedoms with impunity.

8 pm

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I support the intention to restrict by statute the occasions on which it is deemed necessary to intercept telephone communications and mail and the attempt to strike a proper balance between permitting authorities to conduct serious investigations untrammelled by petty interference, and displaying due regard for the rights of possibly innocent people.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow referred to the Malone case. I think that the House would be well advised to consider the implications of that case because it serves as a warning which should not be left unheeded. Some safeguards must be laid down by Parliament to guarantee the proper exercise of surveillance techniques. Clearly, common law is not enough.

The provisions would also serve in a small way to comport with the United Kingdom's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. As I said in Committee, while it is apparent that currently the Government are evading their obligations under article 8 of that convention, which guarantees individual rights to private life and personal correspondence, the provisions of the amendment may narrow the gap and place the United Kingdom Government in a more tenable position to profess that they are truly champions of individual rights and are a reasonable example of a democratic society.

One of the major problems that stand in the way of such a profession is that currently there are no domestic remedies for violating fundamental rights. It was for that reason that my noble Friend Lord Wade introduced a Bill of Rights in another place which has as its aim the incorporating of the European Convention into domestic legislation. I want to draw the Government's attention to that Bill which is currently awaiting Second Reading in the House having completed all its stages in another place for the second time in two years. That is a clear indication of the growing concern of many Members in the other place of the need for a framework of legislation to protect and safeguard the rights of individuals. The clauses need to be seen in the context of the need for a Freedom of Information Bill, because people should have the right to know. That is why I said in Committee, and repeat now, that there is a great need for people to know whether their telephone is being tapped. I do not see that that goes against the maintenance of law and order. In many ways it would serve as a warning to those who are prepared to run in the face of law and order.

Sometimes I think that there is a need for interception of mail and telephone tapping, but in a civilised and democratic society we must bring about the right checks and balances and that must be done by statute. There is a need to import the European Convention on Human Rights into our legislation. We need to see the legislation in the context of the need for a Bill of Rights and for freedom of information legislation.

One of the hallmarks of a democratic society which has respect for the rights of the individual is its demonstration of support for the individual's right to express himself and to differ with prevailing opinion when he considers that it is important and in keeping with his principles. Such a respect for privacy must be safeguarded. That is why the new clause and the amendments are so important. I hope that Conservative Members will support the hon. Member for Hendon, North and that Opposition Members will support their Front Bench with the others whose names are on the amendment.

Mr. Martin Stevens (Fulham)

I agree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that this is not a matter of party controversy. It is a difficult subject and, as he knows, a number of my hon. Friends agree with much of what he said, I am not one of them, but I recognise that there are two entirely honourable views. The hon. Member for Liverpool Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) expressed the classical Liberal view on the subject. One does not always hear the classical Liberal view from the hon. Gentleman, but I was glad to hear it today.

The issue seems to be much more one of practicality. It is not reasonable to say that if someone's letters are opened or his telephone is tapped he should be aware that that is happening. I do not believe that the new clause suggests that that should be so. The proposition is that in the event of misuse of the power and the Home Secretary's code of practice being flaunted the ultimate arbiter of the offence should be the courts. I do not think that this is correct or practical. Those who take my view will accept that any Home Secretary of any party will use his powers responsibly. The code which he will lay down will be known to the House. It will not be arbitrary or dictatorial. It has not been in the past. But if officers of the security services or others misuse their powers, it is right that they should be dealt with by the Home Secretary and that the matter should not be discussed in open court.

I quite understand that I appear to be supporting a secretive approach, but we must face the fact that we live in a society where all too often the trappings of democracy are utilised not to reinforce democracy but to destroy it.

Mr. Gorst

I follow my hon. Friend's argument completely. He is saying that if people offend against practices they should be punished. But how can they be punished if there are no penalties in law? How can the Home Secretary punish someone in the public service who offends against the regulations—in other words, someone who taps without a warrant? How can the Home Secretary discipline someone who is not in the public service? What penalty can be imposed on him?

Mr. Stevens

I am arguing on the basis not of abstract codes of honour, justice or the liberty of the individual but of sheer practicality. On the basis of sheer practicality, I think that my hon. Friend will find that the heads of great Departments of State find ways of causing those of their officials who exceed their duties to regret that they have done so. If my hon. Friend is suggesting that employees or servants of the State will tap telephones, there is a risk of that happening whatever we may do in this debate.

Mr. Gorst

Three years in prison or a £5,000 fine.

Mr. Stevens

The core of my argument is that the Home Secretary has a prime duty to oppose the forces that seek to use the weapons of democracy to undermine democracy. We must give the Home Secretary—be he Conservative, Labour or a member any other party—the power to discharge his duty without involving him any further than we must in the restraints that the present proposals would impose.

Mr. McWilliam

I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens). I wonder what he meant by talking about those who would use the weapons of democracy against democracy. I believe that the weapons of democracy are those that we should use to ensure that we have a flourishing, vital democracy that protects people. Democracy cannot itself have weapons that will act against itself.

As the original mover of what is now clause 47, I little realised just what trouble it would stir up when I tabled it. I tabled it because I had read the White Paper. I had realised its shortcomings and the shortcomings of the role given to Lord Diplock. It seemed to me that yet again nothing would be done, and the matter would be covered up.

I have every respect for Lord Diplock. His report was excellent as far as it was allowed to go, but unfortunately it was allowed to cover only matters that are already adequately covered. Lord Diplock's terms of reference were to consider what was legal and properly covered by warrant, which is not our concern tonight.

I listened carefully in Committee to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst). I took his points, which is why I support amendment No. 54. He argued strongly that the drafting of the new clause was faulty, that some points were not properly stated and that others could have caused problems. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding), I accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that "subversion" should go back in. I also support the argument that there should be reference to numbers, but only because it is my fundamental belief that, in terms of the liberty and privacy of the individual and the rights of citizens, the House has a duty to act as one. Because of the Home Secretary's attitude, the Government are putting on a three-line Whip to oppose the amendment and the Opposition are putting on a three-line Whip to support it. That is a terrible indictment of British democracy. We are discussing the right of individuals to privacy in what is alleged to be a democratic society.

The Home Secretary opposes the amendment because he might be taken to court to answer for his decision, because he might just have transgressed against an individual's liberty. In that case, he should be at the Bar of the House apologising. If any Home Secretary is in danger of transgressing against the liberty of an individual, that is where he should be. If the Home Secretary is taken to court, I have no doubt that he will have a good defence, as he will have properly considered the warrants that come before him, as Lord Diplock confirms.

8.15 pm

It is equally interesting that the Home Secretary accepts responsibility for all telephone tapping. I am pleased about that. When I table questions about the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, MI6 or the American Security Agency tapping telephones he will not try to block them. He cannot. At the Dispatch Box he has accepted responsibility. I hope that he realises what he said. I believe that he meant to say that he accepts responsibility for telephone tapping within the area in which he is allowed to exercise responsibility, but that is not what he said. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the other area.

I could describe at length the ways and means of telephone tapping. Apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Stott), I am probably the only hon. Member who can. The Home Secretary believes that control is properly exercised and that telephones are not tapped, and Lord Diplock confirms that, but I respectfully suggest that neither would know a bug if it jumped up and bit him. The Home Secretary relies on the advice of his officials—the same officials who seek to hide behind his coat tails. That is deplorable.

The Home Secretary said that it was a matter of the balance between the rights of individuals and the security of the nation. He went on to say something that the head of a police State would be proud of—that he does not wish to be publicly answerable for his actions. He wants to have secret information and hide behind the secrecy. The Prime Minister keeps telling the world that Britain is a democracy. The Home Secretary could have fooled me tonight. When people's private communications can be intercepted and they cannot find out why, that is not democracy. The Home Secretary in most cases does not even know about it. He quotes figures, but I can give him privately the number of lines in each telephone exchange used for interception.

Should we have to rely on members of my union, the Post Office Engineering Union, reporting indirectly that they have stumbled across a tap in order to gain control? The regulations state that if a man stumbles on a tap he finds the number of the area security officer in the directory, tells him about it and forgets the matter. If the security officer wants it taken off, he will telephone back; if he does not, he will leave it there. The engineer does not know whether it is legal. That is an entirely inadequate defence for individuals. In a 10,000-line telephone exchange, with only a couple of engineers, there may be one, two, three or four taps. The odds of an engineer stumbling on a tap are slim, but once in a while he does.

I listened carefully to the Home Secretary in the hope that he would come some way to meet us. We went a long way towards meeting the objections to my original clause. The right hon. Gentleman has a duty to look after every individual, not only his own civil servants. A democratic society is based on the support of an individual's rights against the self-interest of the State. The Home Secretary has manifestly failed to support individual rights. All hon. Members interested in democracy and individual rights should support the amendment. The Home Secretary has not made his case.

Mr. Christopher Price

I start with a couple of tributes. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) for persisting with this amendment in spite of the pressure that all those who have anything to do with politics know that only the Conservative Party can mount when this sort of thing takes place. We see now one of those curious alliances between the Freedom Association and the National Council for Civil Liberties that has already been noticed in California and other parts of the world when those people who see themselves as perhaps on the far Right and passionately in favour of liberty get together with those people who see themselves perhaps on the far Left and passionately in favour of liberty.

Mr. Gorst

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I must spoil his opening point by saying that I do not belong to the Freedom Association, although I do believe passionately in freedom. I am not sure that I would accept a description of myself as being on the far Right, either.

Mr. Price

Of course, we must all describe ourselves. I accept the hon. Gentleman's explanation completely. The only aspect of the debate that has saddened me is that, although the hon. Member for Hendon, North got a large number of Conservative members to sign his early-day motion we have not heard their voices in the debate as loudly as I, and also, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman, would have wished. I hope very much that at the end of the day they will put their feet where their signatures on the early-day motion were. I feel that they may not do so

The only way in which this House can operate is when, on occasions of this kind, Back Bench Members on the Government side are willing, from time to time, to defy their Whips and vote against their own Government. Some of the most glorious moments in the history of the House have occurred on such occasions. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he has one or two, if not 44, hon. Friends in the lobby with him today.

I should also like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam) and his fellow members of the Post Office Engineering Union. It is a tradition of the House that when there are two or three hon. Members who actually know about a problem, who have worked with a problem and who have lived with a problem in their working lives, the House listens to them rather more carefully than to others. The House consists of lobbies. If the farmers say something, we tend to listen to what they have to say.

When someone such as my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon, who has spent his life in an industry where he personally had to engage in these distasteful practices and when he conducts himself in the House wholly in line with the regulations to which he put his name on signing the Official Secrets Act at the age of 16 and tries to draw the attention of the House, without giving away any vital secrets of the country, to something that he feels is improper, it is vital that the House should listen. No one, not even Chapman Pincher, could accuse any of the three members of the Post Office Engineering Union in the House of being a Lefty, a Trot or a secret Communist. By and large, that trade union happens to be rather on the right of the trade union spectrum in Great Britain. It is an added reason why the House should sit up and listen and not merely sweep them under the carpet when we hear from members of this trade union objections of that weight.

If we follow the Home Secretary's advice, take absolutely no notice of the amendment and revert to the form in which the Bill first came forward, we shall be asking the colleagues of my hon. Friend to continue to carry out a distasteful job in areas where many hon. Members believe it unnecessary. This is quite apart from the issues of invasion of freedom and invasion of privacy. While supporting the amendment, I associate myself with the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) that the word "subversive" should be removed. What, in effect, does the word "subversive" mean in this amendment? It means literally anyone that a particular Government in power do not like. The Tory Party is subversive to a Labour Government and the Labour Party is subversive to a Tory Government.

I do not believe that "subversive" is a word that we can ask the courts to pronounce on. I do not think that it is the sort of concept that should creep into our legislation. There are plenty of words that could be used about illegality, terrorism and espionage that are already in the amendment. They are proper to be in legislation.

That is only a detail of the issue. The basic principle is whether interception of communications should be put under the rule of law. I found the Home Secretary's argument breathtakingly ludicrous. I do not think that he believes a word of what he was saying. Nor do I believe that whoever wrote his speech for him made any effort to grapple with the deep argument before the House. The idea that the Home Secretary should be put up to read a trivial brief—

Mr. Whitelaw

I must object. I believe every word of what I said. What is more, I went over it very carefully. I wrote large parts of it myself. I would not pretend that I wrote every bit of it, but I wrote a large part. I believe it passionately.

Mr. Price

The Home Secretary knows my admiration for many of the things that he has done. I do not believe, however, that an argument of this kind about fundamental liberties and privacy of citizens of this country, which have been canvassed by reports from Kenneth Younger's report onwards over the last decade and about which the Home Office has done absolutely nothing, ought to be met by the sort of legal trivia that the Home Secretary put before the House. I do not make a party point. I think I was more critical than any other member of my party of my own Home Secretary when I was sitting on the Government side of the House.

I should like to take the Home Secretary's arguments one at a time. What he was really saying was that on issues of this kind, involving secrecy, one could not legislate, because if one did the matters might be litigated in civil cases before the courts, and he might have to say something about them. That is an argument about every section of every Official Secrets Act that this country has ever had. What the right hon. Gentleman is really saying is that we should have no official secrets legislation at all, because if it were litigated before the courts certain matters might come out and endanger democracy.

8.30 pm

As many of my hon. Friends have said, it must be a matter of balance. I may be wrong, but I did not hear the Home Secretary address himself to the issue of balance. He simply said that someone might sue him and he might have to say certain things in public, that that would be terrible, and that therefore we could not legislate on the issue. If I am wrong, I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman and I shall listen carefully to the winding-up speech for the Government. On an issue of this gravity, the House demands more serious arguments than the Home Secretary offered us.

The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways in regard to the courts. He said that Lord Diplock produced a wonderful report. I agree, as far as it goes. I do not take issue with the report, but I agree with what everyone else has said—that it did not cover unauthorised tapping. But the other part of the Home Secretary's argument was that in a sense we could not trust the courts—that they might be bound to allow to come into the open matters which, if known, would endanger the security of the State.

I have followed these matters. In every case in which the courts have had to deal with sensitive security issues over the past 10 years they have leant over backwards to hold hearings in camera to prevent from coming into the open things that should not come out. To say that we cannot trust the courts to keep secret matters that should be secret is to run against the whole of case law and matters taken in camera in our courts since the Second World War. It is a specious argument to say that because there may he a risk of the Home Secretary's being sued, and then a risk of a judge's refusal to take in camera something that the Home Secretary asked him to take in camera, we cannot pass the amendment. It is not the quality of argument that should be advanced to the House. We deserve much better.

I should like to give just one example. The last time that I know of—though there may be many other times—when the Home Secretary's discretion was litigated in the courts was over the expulsion from Britain of Mark Hosenball and Philip Agee. I was the one who moved in the House to have Mr. Reginald Maudling's statement in the House put before the courts, so that they could consider his discretion. When the case reached the Appeal Court Lord Denning's judgment was clear. He said, "There is no question. If the Home Secretary says so, I shall not go against his discretion." Therefore, for the Home Secretary to say that he is frightened that the courts might let out into the open something that should not be let out is, in my view—I say this as one his admirers—an argument unworthy of the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that he wrote much of his speech. I hope that he did not write all that much of it, because it does not elevate him in my estimation.

I come to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow about cost. Parliament's supreme duty in these matters is to supervise moneys expended by the Government. My right hon. Friend said that tomorrow figures would come out showing that this year £1.3 million is being spent by the Post Office, soon to become British Telecom, on telephone tapping. That suggests that there are between 110 and 150 employees engaged in telephone tapping. That is meant to match up with the 463 warrants that Lord Diplock revealed were authorised by the Home Secretary.

I am dealing now with what might be described as purely the technical British Telecom business of telephone tapping—not the expenditure of the Government communications headquarters, MI5, MI6 or any similar body. The House, which we call the Mother of Parliaments, is entitled in 1981 to a simple "Yes" or "No" answer to the following question: is that the money that is spent on telephone tapping?

Over the past few years the Ministry of Defence has become increasingly open—indeed, free and easy—about costs. We have been told what Trident and cruise will cost. That is right, because Ministers should be answerable to the House. Only the Home Office persists in this anti-democratic attitude of refusing to tell the House how much money it is spending on these activities. I hope that the Home Secretary will tell us whether the figure of £1.3 million is the correct amount for what is spent this year on telephone tapping. Parliament has the right to be told.

The Post Office, as it does from time to time, has reorganised its telephone tapping division, which is now called the equipment development (policy) division, and goes under the name of ES4. That is known and can be looked up in the local library. But we want to know how much it costs, and it is an affront to the House if that information is not to be made available.

Mr. Stevens

The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) should remember that it has not been the universal practice over past years to disclose to the House the amount of, and method of spending, secret funds. After all, it was Mr. Stanley Baldwin who gave the income from the Duchy of Lancaster to the Committee of Imperial Defence before the war, for which he was not answerable to the House but without which we should not have won the war. The hon. Gentleman's argument is not quite as sound as it would appear at first glance.

Mr. Price

I was not talking about the budget of Government communications headquarters or about MI5 or MI6. I was talking about the budget in this respect of what is now the Post Office, and what is to become British Telecom.

It has become increasingly the practice to publish these figures in Western countries which are more economically efficient than Britain. Britain stands almost alone in its determination not to give the broad cost figures for its security services. I do not see what the danger is. Let us not imagine that the Russians do not know how much we spend on telephone tapping. The only purpose of the Home Office is to stop the British people knowing. Britain should give more information about these matters, as now happens in the United States.

I agree that the situation is not easy. As was said earlier, there is now little difference between tapping by attaching a wire to a telephone and other surveillance devices, for which we cannot expect either the Home Secretary or the Post Office to be responsible. Indeed, one can tap homes without even touching the telephone. The manager of my local telephone exchange told me the other day that much of the tapping is now done by what is popularly know as bugging, which does not involve the connection of a wire to a telephone and is done in many different ways.

There has been a series of moves ever since Mr. Brian Walden—who left for lusher pastures one day a week on London Weekend Television, instead of five days a week in this place—withdrew his Privacy Bill, which he won in the ballot, on the promise of the then Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, that the Government would act on privacy. That was 10 years ago. Since then the Home Office has done nothing and the problems have mounted.

Sir Norman Lindop produced a report on data protection, for which the Home Office is responsible. Again, the Home Office promised legislation some time—as soon as it was convenient—but nothing has been done and the problems of protecting individual privacy as technology advances have mounted from year to year. There is pressure from computer manufacturers for something to be done about the problem. Almost every other developed country has put such matters under legislative control. The only body in the Western world to refuse to do so is the obstinate, pig-headed British Home Office.

I do not blame the present Home Secretary. I have criticised his predecessors just as much. It is a superhuman task to get any control over the activities of the Home Office and its arthritic refusal to act on any of these issues.

When one goes to Scandinavia, Germany or the United States and sees the safeguards that they have provided and is asked, "How do you regulate these matters in the United Kingdom?" one feels a sense of sheer shame that one cannot point to any regulation except that the Home Secretary asks us to trust him. We know that the Home Secretary cannot supervise these matters. He has a million and one things to do. When he says that he makes sure that there are no breaches of warrants we know that we are relying not on him but on all the other folk, from the "Yes, Minister" big folk to all the little folk who know that their promotion in the Home Office and the Civil Service depends on sticking to the ludicrous secret ethos, which is decades out of date and has nothing to do with living in a modern world.

I did not agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens), though it was nice to have one Conservative Member emerging from his Trappist vows in order to say something. The hon. Gentleman said that he had much sympathy with the new cause, and so on, but that there were those who would misuse the democratic procedures, among which he seemed to include the openness of our courts.

That is at the root of the matter. Our courts have a tradition of operating in the open. Parliament has a similar tradition, but our Administration, unlike that in the United States and those in many other countries, have a long tradition of operating in secret and being prevented by the Official Secrets Act from telling anyone anything that they have learnt in their official business.

The hon. Member for Fulham probably represents the middling sort of folk on the Conservative Benches and. He seemed to be saying that he would prefer to trust those who operate in a secret bureaucracy than institutions such as the House or our open system of justice. If he was saying that, his opinions do not accord with those of most people outside. I get an increasing number of letters saying, "I have always voted Conservative and I always intend to vote Conservative, but please go on saying what you are saying about open government." If Government supporters insist on resisting the amendment they are way out of line with public opinion.

Mr. Stevens

Will the hon. Gentleman say how many lives of loyal American public servants were lost as the result of the application of his theories by Mr. Agee?

8.45 pm
Mr. Price

I have no evidence that any lives were lost. I am certain that in a democracy we need people like Philip Agee—and Mark Hosenball, who does not see himself as a martyr—to prevent democracy from slipping into the autocracy and dictatorship that has occurred in some European democracies. Turkish democracy has turned into military dictatorship; so has Greek democracy. It is only debates that regularly call the Home Secretary to order that stop the folk of this country who would like to see Britain's democratic institutions eroded into a dictatorship.

I find it astonishing that members of the Conservative Party who campaigned to win an election on the ground that they believe in the rule of law should on an issue as fundamental as this blandly get up in the House of Commons and say, "Yes, we believe in the rule of law, but we do not believe that the rule of law should apply in this area". It is a complete contradiction of their stated belief in the rule of law.

It is because we Labour Members—and I hope an increasing number of Government supporters—believe that in an increasingly technological age our liberties need to be protected by the law and cannot be left to the ministerial responsibility of the Home Secretary and the bureaucrats that my hon. Friends and I, and I hope Government supporters, will vote for the amendment.

Mr. Cryer

The tone of the debate indicates that one day is not enough to deal with the important subjects that are being debated. Two separate days should have been allocated to the consideration of the subject of telephone interception, which has been brought to the Floor of the House only because a clause was carried in Committee. We have to thank the hon. Members who initiated the clause and those on the Conservative Benches who voted for it for giving us the opportunity to debate the issue.

The Government have resisted a debate on this subject ever since they came to office. Had this subject been an issue under the Labour Government I have no doubt that they, too, would have resisted a debate. There is a consensus to avoid discussion of subjects such as telephone tapping. It is an area where the "Yes, Minister" syndrome triumphs and where the "public relations men," as many senior civil servants call Ministers, carry out inner Government policies completely and effectively.

The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stevens) said that we should not have a set of punishments for people in the public service who fail to carry out such procedures laid down by the Home Secretary. He said that the Home Secretary could find ways of punishing people himself. He said that the proposed new clause and clause 47 should not be necessary. The notion that the Home Secretary can by subterfuge punish people internally within the Civil Service is an alarming possibility.

The standard of public service can be maintained by the standard of operation being laid down and by internal discretion about promotion, placing, patronage and holding back people's jobs not being at the behest of an individual. If we do not operate that system there is only a narrow line between the Home Secretary administering what he regards as just punishment and the abuse of power.

The Home Secretary claims that our proposal would make him open to challenge in the courts. That argument was effectively rebuffed by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price). The right hon. Gentleman's argument is a negation of the right of Parliament to legislate for every aspect of life if it chooses. The supreme body in this nation is Parliament. We have the right to legislate if we think that a matter should be placed clearly in perspective so that the ordinary citizen knows his rights and duties.

I do not say that we should legislate about everything. Indeed, the less legislation we have the better. We nearly always produce complicated legislation which is difficult for the average person to understand. However, Parliament has the right to legislate in many important areas. To say that the proposal would result in a challenge in the courts and that therefore Parliament should not legislate is to negate the power of Parliament on the ground of secrecy.

The Executive is accountable to the House. It is better and more easily accountable on the basis of legislation than on a vague premise that the Home Secretary will tell us at some stage everything that is going on, or what he thinks that we should know is going on.

When the Home Secretary was speaking I was reminded of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954. That legislation placed an absolute duty on mine operators in a hazardous undertaking. The argument by the then Government was that legislation would put all members of the National Coal Board in jeopardy if they had not personally inspected a site and that they would be open to prosecution in the courts. That legal opinion was delivered with all the might of the Government of the day in the Committee which was discussing the matter, and of course it proved to be totally fallacious. No member of the National Coal Board has ever gone into court as a result of that legislation. One or two have gone into court for other reasons, but certainly not on the argument advanced by the Government. I must say that the Home Secretary's arguments rather smack of administrative convenience.

I intend to support new clause 8, which is an excellent clause, but I prefer clause 47 because it has the advantage of ensuring parliamentary accountability. In the previous Session of Parliament I introduced a Ten-Minute Bill with the object of introducing some parliamentary accountability into the House. That Bill, for what it was worth, was not opposed. It evoked some expressions of support from hon. Members on the Government Benches.

The reason why I introduced the Ten-Minute Bill and, by and large, the reason why we are debating this Bill today is the operation of the press. If it were not for that we should never find out how the internal machinery of government works unless we were actually working in the relevant Department. Secrets are not given to Members of Parliament, at least not by our efforts here. Secrets appear in the press through devoted journalists in some cases working hard at a particular subject. Barriers are put up against Members of Parliament seeking information. That must be clearly understood.

It is not clearly understood that, for example, when the Home Secretary answers a question with the simple word "No" he blocks all questions on that subject for three months. That device is used by successive Governments to stop probing questions being tabled by Back Bench members seeking to try to discover some aspect of the administration of the Government that he thinks it is in the public interest to bring out.

We must pay tribute to the work of the New Statesman. It seems to me that its original claims have never been answered, because the Home Secretary has always stated that he checks every warrant. But the New Statesman, on 1 February 1980, said: Only the police, we were told, stick to the procedure of obtaining a warrant before placing a tap; the secret agencies have 'carte blanche'. Their activities may be covered by a general warrant, which counts as 'one' in accounts given to Ministers even though hundreds of lines may be involved. Then it said: Ex-Inspector Dick Lee, who headed the successful 'Operation Julie' drugs investigation, is reported as deploring the risk of abuse under present arrangements. He told the New Statesman: 'It is an executive Decision—there's absolutely no accountability.' Perhaps he was lying, although why he should lie to a newspaper it is hard to judge. He was a police officer whose word was held in high regard in a court of law, who was involved in a very serious and successful breaking of a drugs ring. I think that we have to give some weight to that evidence when it is quoted in a serious magazine article.

These questions have never been answered, because the Home Secretary has put a block on the questions, and so we have been limited in access to the Table Office.

Several of my hon. Friends have mentioned tomorrow's New Statesman. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) raised a question about the galley proofs which have been thoughtfully distributed to one or two of us for tomorrow's New Statesman in which it is claimed that there are between 110 and 150 Post Office employees whose full-time job is to tap people's telephones. This is based on the figure of expenditure which has been obtained and the average wage of about £12,500 each.

The Home Secretary ought to answer that point—I suspect that he will not—because if what the New Statesman says is true it undermines the credibility of the Home Secretary's claims and successive reports. We cannot accept that there are between 110 and 150 people beavering away on three or four telephone taps a year. That is not credible. If they are doing that, they are doing more than about 460 phone taps a year, and those are the phone taps that the Home Secretary says that he authorises. What are they doing?

Is that true or is it merely a newspaper story that is based on nothing? We merely want to know, and fortunately and fortuitously we have a debate that gives us that opportunity. If we had an annual report to Parliament by the Home Secretary, stories in the press and individual complaints by constituents could be raised in the usual way and debated in the House. That would be a testimony to the strength of our democracy. If democracy is to have any meaning and strength we must maintain our democratic standards. We must not subjugate our democratic standards in the pursuit of their defence to the extent that democracy is eroded and no longer exists to a viable degree.

9 pm

Mr. Rees-Davis

Clause 47(8) specifically provides that there shall be laid before Parliament a report setting out the number of warrants made under specific headings. It would seem that provision is being made adequately for precisely what the hon. Gentleman is talking about.

Mr. Cryer

Indeed. I hope that, with me, the hon. and learned Gentleman will resist Government amendment No. 53, which seeks to remove clause 47. The clause as it stands is preferable to amendment No. 54, which was tabled in the names of a number of my hon. Friends. Neither clause 47 nor amendment No. 54 covers bugging. They cover only telephonic interception and not eavesdropping by induction methods as opposed to direct contact. They do not cover foreign and Commonwealth interception. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) said, they do not cover the National Security Agency of the United States. The lawful basis for the operation of that agency seems extremely dubious. No clear legal basis or definition has ever been given in answer to my questions.

For those in the House who do not believe that these activities can possibly take place in our society, I ask them to ascertain why there is such a massive telephonic cable linking the tower at Hunter Stones with the station at Menwith Hill. On what basis was that authority given? These are matters of concern to those interested citizens who do not much like the idea of a friendly foreign Power—we have a long-standing relationship with America—being able to operate in Britain.

Mr. Mikardo

I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind that those who are prepared to justify the operation in Great Britain of the National Security Agency of the United States are horrified by the operations of the KGB in Czechoslovakia. To me are equally reprehensible.

Mr. Cryer

My hon. Friend has made the point admirably for me. He said that if we were debating these operations in the Soviet Union we would be condemning them, and rightly so.

If we have any estimation of the value of democracy, of debate, of argument and of an Opposition probing, examining, scrutinising and being a damned nuisance to many Ministers—I have heard former Labour Ministers talk about some committees as being a "damned nuisance" because they are probing, and no doubt they anticipate difficulties when they return to office—and if we value that sort of exchange, as I do, we must demonstrate that it is strong enough to resist encroachments by any Government agency and that we have a degree of openness that has been achieved, we hope, through parliamentary accountability.

However much people demean Parliament—and there are many influences outside that like to do so—it is our most important national assembly and it should be seen to be exercising some scrutiny of these murky areas. The areas which I have mentioned are not covered by the Bill. Therefore, it is a tentative step. Whilst interception is accepted by all hon. Members as a grave matter which interferes with the freedom of the individual, amendment No. 54 represents a retrenchment of the aims and aspirations of clause 47, because parliamentary accountability has been removed. I regret that.

Such retrenchment happens because those who moved the original clause, in the hope of getting some sort of accountability and statutory provisions so that our democratic system would be placed on a democratic and not a hidden and somewhat autocratic basis, in the Home Secretary's terms, wanted some legislation on the mater to go through Parliament. They were prepared to compromise so that the Government, knowing full well that there was support on Conservative Benches for democratic accountability and statutory provision, would say that they could see that there was a marked diminution in the provisions of the clause 47 and, therefore, that they would make a move towards it. However, they have not done so. They have plucked out every argument which they possibly can, including defective drafting of the clause. Had they been willing to accept the concept of a statutory provision they would have made use of their expert draftsmen and would have been able to produce amendments, as they have done on Report.

We are discussing an area of secrecy. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow has tabled two proposals about subversion. The Home Secretary says that he has authorised every warrant for tapping. Perhaps he will explain how he thought the ISTC strike headquarters was a subversive organisation. During the steel strike, the two principal organisers for the ISTC phoned each other on a secret, preplanned basis to organise a picket, which was to be outside an ice cream factory. It was not relevant to the strike, but they thought that perhaps the police would not be aware of such trivial details. They were right. The only people who turned up for the prearranged picket were the police. It was a deliberate policy of entrapment to lure the police into making a move so that the organisers could discover whether the police had been listening. That action proved to their satisfaction that their phone was being tapped.

If the Home Secretary authorises every warrant, on what basis was the tapping of a trade union invoked? That was acting properly in pursuance of a trade dispute. That is a matter of concern, because there is an unhappy suspicion that some people who carry out tapping feel that any trade union or political activity which is to the Left of the Conservative Party is subversive. Therefore, I hope that the proposed removal of the word "subversive" in my hon. Friend's amendments will be supported, because it will make that shady area of subjective judgment less open to abuse.

It will be a sad day for democracy if the Government oppose the compromise in amendment No. 54. My hon. Friends have bent over backwards to try to meet some of the points made in Committee in order to get some provision through the House in the interests of the protection of the ordinary citizen. That is what this is all about. It is about the freedom, rights and liberty of the individual.

We must do something about that, because we are moving from the electro-mechanical age to system X—the electronic age of telephone communication. I understand from experts that system X is far more easily tapped than the existing system. If that is true we should here and now build up safeguards to stop abuses. We are moving irresistibly into an electronic age, and we shall see enormous advances over the next 20 years.

Whatever those technological and electronic advances may he, we must ensure that the liberty and abiding values of human beings are protected for all time. That means supporting my hon. Friend's amendments.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I wholly subscribe to the closing words of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). The main reason for speaking in the debate is to draw particular attention to the new era which lies ahead. It is the era of bugging and immense electronic advance. We shall see the introduction of System X. We shall face an entirely new ball game in respect of both espionage and surveillance, in view of all the different electronic devices which will be used.

I know something of these, because I live in the house once occupied by the former Prime Minister—the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson)—which was bugged from top to bottom during the time that he had it. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep those bugging devices. They had to be taken away, as did the direct line to the President of the United States. I have also had my own phone tapped, but more of that anon. Therefore, I think that I am fairly well versed at least in the practical background of this subject. However, I am not too well versed in the technical expertise about which we have heard from hon. Members concerned with the Post Office.

It is an open secret that a large number of those in the Post Office are engaged daily in telephone tapping. Therefore, the first and major question which must be decided is whether we should now look at this whole problem and how it will affect the future. The answer must be "Yes, we must do so". I can say with a clear conscience that for the past 10 years or more both Governments and all parties have put this matter aside. But there is no real reason why it should be a party political matter.

I enter the caveat that in future we must look at this problem carefully to see whether we can meet it fair and square. Having said that, I come to the straight principle of whether the interests of State security are paramount. I come down on the side of the interests of the State being absolutely paramount. That being so, the question of secrecy must depend upon the decision and conscience of the Home Secretary. To that extent I entirely support the Government's approach along those lines.

It does not rest there, however. As I hope I can show, more unauthorised tapping of the type now taking place, and a very much greater amount of electronic surveillance which will take place much more easily in future, will arise unless we can find a way to stop it.

9.15 pm

There have been many examples over the years in which there has been unauthorised tapping of the lines of those engaged in the law. In my own case, this arose in circumstances about which I make no personal complaint. I do not think that I really had cause to complain, although I suppose that my client might have had cause to complain. It arose in the well-known case of Stephen Ward. I was advising Stephen Ward and, indeed, acting for him. It will be recollected that there was at some stage a consideration of the question whether he had a liaison with a Russian agent in this country, or at any rate with a member of the Russian embassy. Stephen Ward was an addict of the telephone. He was always ringing me up to try to get me to talk on the telephone about this or that. I told him frankly one day that I would not do that if I were him as my line was probably being tapped.

About a week later, just after Stephen Ward had rung me, I picked up my telephone and actually heard members of MI5 talking to another branch of the service on my line. That was within about 30 seconds of the receiver having been replaced. There is really no doubt that my telephone was being tapped at that time. I made certain inquiries, and there is little doubt that the tapping was unauthorised and was being carried out by a police or intelligence officer, zealous in the pursuit of his business but without a warrant. Certainly, it appeared that no warrant had been issued.

I make no complaint about that. I have not raised the matter over many years because I have no complaint about it. The person who might have had a complaint was Stephen Ward. I told him, but at the time he made no complaint either. One must recognise that in the great majority of cases in which this situation would ever arise nobody would make a complaint. In that instance, I made no complaint, because it did not damage me in the slightest, although I felt that perhaps I ought to be able to send my telephone bills to the intercepters, The problem was really that Stephen Ward could have had a legitimate complaint that confidential communications made by him to his counsel were being intercepted. Had the matter been considered by the Home Secretary, the Home Sectetary might, even so, have come to the conclusion that it was in the national interest and in the interest of national security so to do. If he took that view, I would entirely approve.

We must therefore be careful here. As I see it, the decision of the Home Secretary in cases that he approves is paramount. It is not a matter for which one can legislate. One cannot put it in an Act of Parliament and say that it should come before the courts. I entirely share my right hon. Friend's view that it cannot. What concerns me, however, is that there is a considerable amount of unauthorised telephone tapping of the kind that I have described. This can be carried out—I do not say that it is—by quite a large number of those who actually serve the Post Office. They have not only the skill and the knowledge, but they are in a position to do this. Futhermore, nowadays it does not have to be done by actual telephone tapping. It can be done by bugging and by other devices. Moreover, very soon electronic devices will come in which will make it even easier. We must therefore be careful here. The next problem is that it is plain that some police officers without a warrant from the Home Secretary may be in a position to secure unauthorised telephone tapping. It is to this branch of activity that I should like the Home Secretary to confine his attention.

My right hon. Friend is entitled to the type of power that he has outlined. However, there must be complete confidence. That is why I am minded to support certain parts of amendment No. 54 and certain parts of clause 47. I see no reason why the Secretary of State should not report to Parliament each year on the number of warrants that have been issued. In the modern age, that is perfectly fair and represents the correct use of open government. The right hon. Gentleman should use his discretion in making policy decisions about the report. If my right hon. Friend feels it right—and it could well be—he could have an independent panel of three Privy Councillors or Members of Parliament along the lines of the provisions contained in clause 47(7). That subsection mentions a panel of three independent persons appointed by the Prime Minister. That could be of assistance to Home Secretaries in meeting the challenges of this new electronic age.

It is not right to say that the Home Secretary has shilly-shallied. His remarks were completely sincere. If, for example, Stephen Ward had decided to issue proceedings for damages at that time he would have issued them against the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary would have had to say that he had not issued a warrant. It would have been said that there was no smoke without fire. As a result, a police officer—or, as is more likely, someone in the intelligence service—who had carried out an unlawful tapping in pursuance of his belief would have been let down.

There might be an undesirable balance. Is it preferable to keep the Home Secretary and the Services out of this or is it better to legislate? On the whole I share the Home Secretary's view that such matters should not go before the courts. Difficult as it is, the House is, however entitled to the greatest possible measure of assurance that people cannot tap a line unlawfully when the Home Secretary has not issued a warrant.

Mr. Christopher Price

The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned the theoretical possibility of Stephen Ward suing the Home Secretary. That is the nub of the argument that the Home Secretary put forward. Apart from the conversation that the hon. and learned Gentleman overheard, what evidence could Stephen Ward have adduced that would have persuaded the court to ask the Home Secretary to answer for his actions?

Mr. Rees-Davies

That would have depended on the evidence that I would have had to give of the conversation that I heard between the two members of the intelligence service when I intercepted their telephone conversation after they had evidently been listening to mine. It is unlikely that, if obtained, the evidence would be sufficient. That tends to support the Home Secretary's argument, namely, that he should have absolute discretion to perform his duty—as he faithfully does—just as other Home Secretaries have done in the past.

That means that the House is dependent on Home Secretaries to undertake thorough investigations to ensure that unauthorised tapping is not done by intelligence officers or police officers. That is the fear that I have in certain instances. I have a great fear for the future concerning the development of electronic surveillance of every kind.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will take every opportunity to monitor this system and ensure that there is no abuse of his warrants in any cases that he can avoid. I hope that he will always be extremely careful in that regard.

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

The House will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to speak at great length. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies). He has exposed tapping and bugging, of which he has had personal experience. What causes anxiety are not the cases that have come to light but the hundreds and thousands of cases that over the years have not been exposed. He has shown that tapping and bugging are not recent phenomena dreamed up by sections of the media but that they have been with us for many years. We can be thankful that people have been more vigilant in the past and that they are now exposing what has been going on behind closed doors.

As politicians we are used to most of our words being recorded, disseminated and sometimes used against us, but at least we are aware of what is being done. These are not the ramblings of people suffering from paranoia, who think that every word is being overheard. The foundations for our worries have been expressed so eloquently inside and outside the House especially during the past 12 months. It may have escaped people's notice that the amendments are supported by all shades of political idealogy and all sections of the political spectrum in the House. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) will not feel that I am insulting him if I say that he is on the Left of the Labour Party. I think that he would be quite pleased. On the other hand the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) is certainly not on the Left of the Conservative Party. I have not heard of any pronouncements from our erstwhile colleagues, but perhaps they have not yet got round to making policy pronouncements. All sections of opinion, including the Liberal Party, are clearly in opposition to the Home Office's perspective. Clearly the time has come for legislation.

What has happened over the past few months is an indication of an increasing vitality in Parliament. Perhaps confounding Prof. Griffiths' analysis of parliamentary Committees to the effect that apparently they have no use and that few amendments are carried, here is an example of a holy or unholy alliance across the Floor of the House which is of benefit to the country and to the House.

I do not deny the right of the State to monitor conversations. Every State does it and every State has the right to do it. But it must be done in limited circumstances if the proper controls are exercised. Together with many others, I am not convinced that all the controls are being exercised. Reports and investigations reveal only what people wish to see revealed. The Diplock report is a classic case of a report not even looking at the tip of the iceberg. If anyone thinks that that limited number of cases represents anything other than a tiny fraction of cases of bugging and tapping, he is being excessively naive. We are witnessing an incredible increase in interception of communications by the official organs of the State, either legally or illegally.

I regard as a more sinister development surveillance by private individuals. At least the State can point to some form of moral justification for occasionally opening letters or for tapping or bugging. But there are no circumstances in which I regard tapping or bugging by private investigators or by a private individual as being anything other than immoral and illegal. This is not paranoia.

For better or for worse, we may be 10 years behind the United States, but the intelligence industry has taken root and is thriving on both sides of the Atlantic. Unless curbed by this or other legislation, the cancer will grow, with dangerous consequences.

9.30 pm

The title of a book published in America, but available here, is: The Big Brother Game—Bugging, Wiretapping, Tailing, Optical and Electronic Surveillance, Surreptitious Entry—How to Stop It or Do It Back. Surveillance is becoming more sophisticated. I am not only not talking about top level technology—lasers and microprocessors. Tapping is not always carried out by a guy 50 yards away in a car. It can be carried out by someone in a hotel room in San Francisco through an infinity transmitter. How can legislation cover a guy in San Francisco listening to a conversation here? Without even the telephone being lifted, a conservation within 30 feet of the instrument can be heard many thousands of miles away.

The penalties are derisory. Even with the increased penalties proposed by the amendment, the risk might be worth taking in industrial espionage in order to steal a major company's secrets. When millions of pounds are involved, someone may be prepared to risk a spell in gaol or a fine of a few thousand pounds. The amended clause 47 is a considerable advance. Although amendment No. 54 does not go far enough, I am pleased with it. I hope that the Back Benches will find the enthusiasm to support it.

A further deficiency is the inability of the House to establish a viable system of parliamentary accountability, as my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley said. I regret that little progress is being made over the warrant application procedures. There are shortcomings even with the amendments, but we are moving in the right direction.

Mr. Cryer

The Birkett report of over two decades ago on the authorisation of warrants, and the minority report of Patrick Gordon Walker, who could not be regarded as an outrageous radical, suggested that each warrant application should be by way of an affidavit of the officer concerned. Even that modest proposal, as an additional safeguard to ensure that State interception is scrupulously carried out, is not countenanced by the Government and is not included in the amendments.

Mr. George

I welcome my hon. Friend's intervention. I hope that, as a result of the lengthy debate, amendments may be introduced in another place.

I have reached my conclusions on tapping and bugging not by membership of the Committee but through my long interest in controlling the private security industry. This is not a time to criticise the Home Secretary's perspective on the industry, but one way partly to deal with the problem is to increase fines. A second way is to institute a system of public regulation, so that private investigators who indulge in tapping and bugging have their licences revoked. They are interfering with the rights and privacy of others.

I very much hope that those hon. Members who are present will support the amendments. I regret that it is often the case in debates of this kind—I believe that this is the experience of many hon. Members—that it is those who have not heard the debate and who have not been convinced by the arguments who will eventually determine the outcome. I believe that the manner in which the issue has been articulated and the considerable public outcry that has occurred must convince the Home Secretary, as it did not convince his predecessor, that the time has come for much tougher legislation. I hope that the Home Secretary will consider introducing further legislation to strengthen the defences of society against illicit tapping and bugging. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that one way of accomplishing our objective would be stricter licensing of the private security industry.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

The Question is, That the clause be read a Second time—

Mr. Cryer

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Hon. Members on both sides have raised important points specifically directed at the Home Secretary. I think that the House will be extremely disappointed if the Home Secretary fails to reply. II believe that the right hon. Gentleman has a duty to the House. I appreciate that he has already spoken. However, many hon. Members have expressed some criticisms during what I think has been the first major debate on this subject in the history of the House. The Home Secretary has a duty to make a responsible reply to the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Chair has no authority to persuade an hon. Member to speak or to dissuade him from speaking.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 224, Noes 284.

Division No. 133] [9.35 pm
Adams, Allen Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Aitken, Jonathan Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Allaun, Frank Freud, Clement
Alton, David Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Anderson, Donald Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter George, Bruce
Ashton, Joe Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,) Ginsburg, David
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Golding, John
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Gorst, John
Beith, A. J. Gourlay, Harry
Benn, Rt Hon A. Wedgwood Graham, Ted
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Bidwell, Sydney Grant, John (Islington C)
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro) Hardy, Peter
Bradley, Tom Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Brocklebank-Fowler, C. Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Haynes, Frank
Brown, R. C. (N'castle W) Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'yS) Home Robertson, John
Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P) Homewood, William
Campbell, Ian Hooley, Frank
Campbell-Savours, Dale Huckfield, Les
Cant, R. B. Hudson Davies, Gwilym E.
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Coleman, Donald Janner, Hon Greville
Cook, Robin F. Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cowans, Harry John, Brynmor
Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Crawshaw, Richard Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Crowther, J. S. Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cryer, Bob Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n) Lamond, James
Dalyell, Tam Leadbitter, Ted
Davidson, Arthur Leighton, Ronald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Davis, T. (B'ham, Stechf'd) Litherland, Robert
Deakins, Eric Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Dempsey, James Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Dewar, Donald McCartney, Hugh
Dixon, Donald McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Dobson, Frank McElhone, Frank
Dormand, Jack McGuire, Michael (Ince)
Douglas, Dick McKelvey, William
Dubs, Alfred MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Duffy, A. E. P. McNally, Thomas
Dunnett, Jack McNamara, Kevin
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. McTaggart, Robert
Eadie, Alex McWilliam, John
Eastham, Ken Magee, Bryan
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Martin, M (G'gow S'burn)
English, Michael Maxton, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Mikardo, Ian
Evans, John (Newton) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Field, Frank Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
Fitch, Alan Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Fitt, Gerard Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Flannery, Martin Morton, George
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Moyle, Rt Hon Roland
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Ogden, Eric
Ford, Ben O'Halloran, Michael
Forrester, John O'Neill, Martin
Foster, Derek Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foulkes, George Parker, John
Pavitt, Laurie Strang, Gavin
Pendry, Tom Straw, Jack
Penhaligon, David Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Race, Reg Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Thomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Richardson, Jo Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Tilley, John
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Tinn, James
Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Robertson, George Wainwright, R. (Colne V)
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Walker, Rt Hon H. (D'caster)
Rodgers, Rt Hon William Watkins, David
Rooker, J. W. Weetch, Ken
Roper, John Welsh, Michael
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Rowlands, Ted Whitehead, Phillip
Ryman, John Whitlock, William
Sandelson, Neville Wigley, Dafydd
Sheerman, Barry Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Williams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Williams, Sir J. (W'ton)
Short, Mrs Renée Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Wilson, Rt Hon Sir H. (H'ton)
Silverman, Julius Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Skinner, Dennis Winnick, David
Snape, Peter Woodall, Alec
Soley, Clive Woolmer, Kenneth
Spearing, Nigel Wright, Sheila
Spriggs, Leslie Young, David (Bolton E)
Stallard, A. W.
Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles) Tellers for the Ayes:
Stoddart, David Mr. Frank R. White and Mr. Allen McKay
Stott, Roger
Adley, Robert Butcher, John
Alexander, Richard Cadbury, Jocelyn
Alison, Michael Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Ancram, Michael Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Arnold, Tom Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul
Aspinwall, Jack Chapman, Sydney
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne) Churchill, W. S.
Atkins, Robert(Preston N) Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E) Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone) Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Clegg, Sir Walter
Banks, Robert Cockeram, Eric
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Corrie, John
Bell, Sir Ronald Costain, Sir Albert
Bendall, Vivian Cranborne, Viscount
Bennett, Sir Frederic (T'bay) Critchley, Julian
Benyon, Thomas (A'don) Crouch, David
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Best, Keith Dorrell, Stephen
Bevan, David Gilroy Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dover, Denshore
Biggs-Davison, John du Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Blackburn, John Dunn, Robert (Dartford)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Durant, Tony
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dykes, Hugh
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Bowden, Andrew Eggar, Tim
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fairbairn, Nicholas
Braine, Sir Bernard Fairgrieve, Russell
Bright, Graham Faith, Mrs Sheila
Brinton, Tim Farr, John
Brittan, Leon Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Brooke, Hon Peter Finsberg, Geoffrey
Brotherton, Michael Fisher, Sir Nigel
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n) Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Browne, John (Winchester) Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles
Bruce-Gardyne, John Fookes, Miss Janet
Bryan, Sir Paul Forman, Nigel
Budgen, Nick Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bulmer, Esmond Fox, Marcus
Burden, Sir Frederick Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mates, Michael
Fry, Peter Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mawby, Ray
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Garel-Jones, Tristan Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gilmour, Fit Hon Sir Ian Mayhew, Patrick
Glyn, Dr Alan Mellor, David
Gow, Ian Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gower, Sir Raymond Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Gray, Hamish Mills, Peter (West Devon)
Greenway, Harry Miscampbell, Norman
Grieve, Percy Moate, Roger
Griffiths, B. (B'y St. Edm'ds) Molyneaux, James
Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N) Monro, Hector
Grist, Ian Montgomery, Fergus
Grylls, Michael Moore, John
Gummer, John Selwyn Morgan, Geraint
Hamilton, Hon A. Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hampson, Dr Keith Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hannam, John Mudd, David
Haselhurst, Alan Murphy, Christopher
Hastings, Stephen Neale, Gerrard
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Needham, Richard
Hawkins, Paul Nelson, Anthony
Hawksley, Warren Neubert, Michael
Hayhoe, Barney Newton, Tony
Heddle, John Onslow, Cranley
Henderson, Barry Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Osborn, John
Hicks, Robert Page, Rt Hon Sir G. (Crosby)
Hill, James Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Parris, Matthew
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hooson, Tom Pawsey, James
Hordern, Peter Percival, Sir Ian
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd) Pink, R. Bonner
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Pollock, Alexander
Hunt, David (Wirral) Porter, Barry
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Jessel, Toby Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Proctor, K. Harvey
Kaberry, Sir Donald Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Raison, Timothy
Kershaw, Anthony Rees-Davies, W. R.
Kimball, Marcus Renton, Tim
King, Rt Hon Tom Rhodes James, Robert
Knight, Mrs Jill Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Knox, David Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Lamont, Norman Rifkind, Malcolm
Lang, Ian Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Langford-Holt, Sir John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Latham, Michael Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Lawrence, Ivan Rossi, Hugh
Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel Royle, Sir Anthony
Lee, John Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Le Marchant, Spencer St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Scott, Nicholas
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Loveridge, John Shepherd, Richard
Luce, Richard Shersby, Michael
Lyell, Nicholas Silvester, Fred
McCusker, H. Sims, Roger
Macfarlane, Neil Skeet, T. H. H.
MacGregor, John Smith, Dudley
MacKay, John (Argyll) Speed, Keith
Macmillan, Rt Hon M. Speller, Tony
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
McQuarrie, Albert Sproat, Iain
Madel, David Stainton, Keith
Major, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Marland, Paul Stanley, John
Marlow, Tony Steen, Anthony
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Stevens, Martin
Marten, Neil (Banbury) Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire) Waller, Gary
Stokes, John Ward, John
Stradling Thomas, J. Warren, Kenneth
Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW) Watson, John
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Tebbit, Norman Wells, Bowen
Temple-Morris, Peter Wheeler, John
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Whitney, Raymond
Thompson, Donald Wickenden, Keith
Thornton, Malcolm Wiggin, Jerry
Townend, John (Bridlington) Wilkinson, John
Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath) Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Trippier, David Winterton, Nicholas
Trotter, Neville Wolfson, Mark
van Straubenzee, W. R. Young, Sir George (Acton)
Vaughan, Dr Gerard Younger, Rt Hon George
Viggers, Peter
Waddington, David Tellers for the Noes
Waldegrave, Hon William Mr. Carol Mather and Mr. Alastair Goodlad
Walker, B. (Perth)
Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If a vote is desired on amendment No. 54 it will be taken when we reach the amendment on the Amendment Paper.

Forward to