HC Deb 05 March 1981 vol 1000 cc404-5
5. Mr. Cryer

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to arrange for the regular publication of Diplock reviews of telephone tapping.

Mr. Whitelaw

No. I made clear in my statement on 1 April 1980 that only Lord Diplock's first report would be published. Subsequent reports will cover the detailed operations of the arrangements and will not be published. But Parliament will be informed of findings of a general nature and of any changes made in the arrangements.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Home Secretary accept that the present report does not cover Foreign and Commonwealth interception and National Security Agency of America interception, and is so complacent as to amount to a whitewash? Will he also accept that there is accountability to this House for this serious incursion into the rights of the private citizen, and that regular publication of the Diplock reports would be at least a start in that direction, although no substitute for the Home Secretary's own accountability, because one might see in the publication of the reports a development of perception and scrutiny, even by Lord Diplock?

Mr. Whitelaw

Lord Diplock's report is certainly important. For those of us who, like myself and my predecessor as Home Secretary, have had to carry that very unenviable task, it shows that we have carried it out conscientiously, as I believe we have, and to the best of our ability. I am glad of that, and I do not accept that the report was a whitewash.

I appreciate that I shall have an opportunity during the debate on the Report stage of the British Telecommunications Bill to deploy the full case on this very important matter concerning our country's security, the fight against crime, and so on. It would be right for me to reserve my full remarks for a debate on that occasion.

Mr. Lawrence

While I welcome the Diplock report may I ask my right hon. Friend to say what steps he is taking to prevent unauthorised telephone tapping and other invasions of privacy? In particular, will he give consideration to taking the Younger report on privacy off its very dusty shelf, where it has lain for about a decade, and having a debate in the House on the whole subject?

Mr. Whitelaw

With regard to unauthorised tapping, it is for the police to investigate allegations of criminal offences. I note what my hon. Friend has said about the Younger report and other matters. These are among the many matters which properly arise and they will be most carefully considered.

Mr. Hattersley

Is the Home Secretary aware that many people on the Labour Benches and elsewhere regard the first Diplock report as wholly inadequate? In very many ways, it arouses more fears than it dispels. Since, as the Home Secretary rightly said, the British Telecommunications Bill enables the House to debate one narrow aspect of telephone tapping, will he agree that it would be a thoroughly good thing if the Government provided time, before the Report stage of that Bill, to debate the general position of telephone tapping—official and unofficial, authorised and private—so that we may know the Government's views on these matters and express our own disquiet?

Mr. Whitelaw

These are not matters for my decision, as the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to know. If such an opportunity arose I would greatly welcome it because I have a duty to this House to explain exactly the Government's position and, what is more, my own very important position in this matter.