HC Deb 25 October 1982 vol 29 cc729-30
39. Mr. Renton

asked the Attorney-General how many prosecutions he has authorised under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act since May 1979.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

Since May 1979 I have authorised proceedings in two cases under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911, against one defendant in each case. I have also authorised proceedings in one case, against two defendants, under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1920.

Mr. Renton

Have any of the prosecutions related to matters currently being debated in the media, particularly in regard to security leaks from the Cheltenham communications centre?

The Attorney-General:

The story to which my hon. Friend refers is based on an article in an American newspaper, which names the person against whom I have authorised proceedings under section 1 of the 1911 Act. That case is sub judice. The House will understand that it would not be right to have further public discussion until the trial is completed.

Mr. Archer

Having persuaded the High Court that there would be a serious danger to national security if the book "A Matter of Trust" by Mr. Nigel West were published by Weidenfeld's, is it true, as reported in The Sunday Times yesterday, that, nevertheless, it is likely to be published in America? If so, does it mean that controls in Britain are too draconian, or should we conclude that the security secrets of America's allies are insufficiently protected in the United States?

The Attorney-General

That does not arise out of the question. I know only what I have read in the newspapers about the apparent intentions of the American publisher.

Mr. Beith

On 20 July the Prime Minister said that if any evidence emerged against other persons relating to the Government's communications headquarters it would be referred to the DPP and that it would be for the Attorney-General to decide whether any charges under section 1 should be pursued. Is there any further evidence, and has the Attorney-General had to consider further charges relating to other persons?

The Attorney-General

I have had nothing in the sense in which the hon. Gentleman asks. The matter is totally unrelated to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Leadbitter

The Attorney-General has rightly said that one case under section 1 is sub judice in relation to the communications and intelligence centre at Cheltenham. However, arising from the reports, from history and from the assurances by the Prime Minister on 20 July, is the Attorney-General's Department motivated to carry out any investigations at all in connection with the centre beyond that of the sub judice matter?

The Attorney-General

Any question of investigations into the measures for security in any Government premises is a matter not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.