HC Deb 19 January 1984 vol 52 cc438-9
11. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will issue guidance to police authorities about the circumstances in which police inquiries may be made about those who write letters to the press.

Mr. Brittan

The question of the particular inquiries to be made in any case must be for the chief officer of a force to decide in all the circumstances.

Mr. Winnick

Does the Home Secretary accept that considerable concern remains about the way in which Mrs. Madeline Haigh, who lives in Sutton Coldfield and was the subject of an Adjournment debate, was investigated and lied to by the Special Branch—which is not in any way denied—because of letters that she had written to the local press about cruise missiles Will the Home Secretary, having studied the case, give clear guidance to police forces, including the Special Branch, to the effect that other citizens should not be subject to the type of harassment and infringement of civil liberties that Mrs. Haigh experienced last year?

Mr. Brittan

The chief officers of police, and myself for that matter, fully recognise that the fact that somebody holds or expresses particular opinions cannot by itself justify action by the police. In the case of Mrs. Haigh, the chief constable has stated publicly that the original information did not warrant the attention that it was given. In the debate on 21 December 1983 reference was clearly made to the report which identified what had gone wrong in that case and the action taken by the chief constable.

Mr. Kaufman

In this year of 1984, above all, ought not the Home Secretary to stamp hard upon such a disquieting manifestation of the snooper state?

Mr. Brittan

As the chief constable investigated the matter and explained the position extremely candidly in a way which I should have thought would command respect, I do not think that the language used by the right hon. Gentleman is justified.