HC Deb 17 July 1984 vol 64 cc171-86 3.30 pm
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House will want to hear what the Prime Minister has to say.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, with permission I should like to make a statement on GCHQ.

Following the judicial review of the Government's action in respect of GCHQ, Mr. Justice Glidewell, in giving his judgment yesterday in the High Court, on four of the five grounds on which the Council of Civil Service Unions had based its case found in favour of the Government.

The judge confirmed that the Minister for the Civil Service has the right to vary the terms and conditions of service of civil servants so as to exclude membership of trade unions and that an instruction may be given under article 4 of the Civil Service Order in Council 1982 to this effect. Nevertheless, the judge concluded that, because of the lack of prior consultation with the unions concerned, the instruction given in this instance was invalid. His finding did not affect the certificates issued by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under the Employment Protection Acts.

In view of the implications of this judgment in the field of national security, the Government are appealing against it and are applying to the court later this afternoon for an early hearing of the appeal.

The judge indicated that the status quo should be maintained at GCHQ pending consideration of an appeal.

As the Government will be lodging an appeal later today, it would be inappropriate for me to make any further comment.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

The Prime Minister evaded my question earlier, but the Government have been found guilty of breaking the law. Will the Prime Minister now admit that the judgment of the High Court makes it clear that responsibility for this major breach of natural justice and offence against civil rights rests with her and her alone? Was it not she and she alone who issued instructions—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Kinnock

—for the compulsory removal of trade union membership rights without consultation with the trade unions? Why did she let a month elapse during which time consultations could have taken place before leaving the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs as a punch bag to try to cover up her trail of guilt? Will she further admit to the House and the country that she compounded her mischief by refusing, against the advice of her colleagues, to accept guarantees of continuous operations at GCHQ given by the trade unions way back in early February? Why has she spurned the opportunity afforded her by Mr. Justice Glidewell for a period of reflection and, instead, rushed off to appeal and thus prevent further consideration by this forum of Parliament? In an attempt to explain the reason for going to appeal—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. In the same way as I indicated that the Prime Minister has the right to be heard, so has the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Kinnock

Conservative Members illustrate their own discomfort and guilt by the noise that they make.

In an effort to explain the reason for going to appeal, the Prime Minister speaks of concern for national security. Since we share that concern, may I ask her whether that is sufficient ground for preaching natural justice, and how can she defend this country when she is so obviously prepared to make such breaches of natural justice? Will she now conclude this £5 million farce at GCHQ by apologising to loyal civil servants for insulting their integrity, and will she instruct the Government's lawyers in the Court of Appeal to withdraw the appeal this afternoon and inform the court that the decision of the High Court will be followed by the Government? In the light of this experience—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Kinnock

If Conservative Members give more, Mr. Speaker, they are going to get more. In the light of this experience, willl the Prime Minister just for once permit humility and reason to replace her extremism and prejudice?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying, although he did not quite use those words, that Mr. Justice Glidewell found the order invalid. "Invalid" was the word. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will find the words that he used within the judgment. May I remind him that during the last Labour Government four Ministers had their actions declared invalid by the courts? The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), when Home Secretary, was told by the Court of Appeal that his attempt to revoke television licences was unlawful, invalid and — [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Leader of the Opposition put his case in some detail, and the Prime Minister has a right to respond.

The Prime Minister

Mr. Sam Silkin, when Attorney-General, was told by the Master of the Rolls that he had no prerogative to suspend or dispense with the laws of England; and, of course, I could go on giving some of the details of other cases.

It is quite right that every member of the Executive must be subject to the law of the land. That is totally accepted. Every Minister would wish to have his actions subject to the law of the land, and takes them in the belief that they are subject to the law of the land. When one has a judgment of the kind that we have had, one uses the law, as one has a right to do, to take it to the Court of Appeal. I do not think that anyone would wish to deny the right to go to the Court of Appeal to get this matter satisfactorily settled by further hearing, and to see what that further hearing produces. Of course, Ministers are subject to the final finding of the courts of law.

The right hon. Gentleman asks, why today? Our advice is that an appeal should be lodged today if there is to be any prospect of the case being heard before the courts rise for the summer recess. It is clearly in the interests of GCHQ staff themselves as well as of national security to remove uncertainty as soon as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to a no-strike agreement. The Civil Service unions made a number of alternative proposals. As Mr. McCall said before the Select Committee on employment, they undertook that they would not ask their members to take industrial action of any kind in essential intelligence and security services. I note, however, that such an agreement has already been repudiated by the conferences of the two largest Civil Service unions.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that Conservative Members appreciate her courage and her respect for the House in postponing the lodging of an appeal until later this afternoon so that the House may have an opportunity to express its mind on the issue? Does she agree that if others, including the Leader of the Opposition, were to follow her example, instead of making common cause with those who seek to deprive the law-abiding citizens of this country of their constitutional rights by intimidation and violence, it would be a better thing for the country and the House?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and I agree with him. The Government are exercising their legitimate right to appeal. It is an important case involving national security, and that is why we are lodging an appeal.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down South)

In a matter of this great importance, is it not essential, and the Government's duty, to ensure that the present law is clarified and defined at the highest judicial instance that is available?

The Prime Minister

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman heard me say that the judgment has substantial implications for national security. Therefore, we are exercising our right of appeal, as we believe that the case must be heard by a higher court.

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

Will my right hon. Friend make it abundantly clear that there is no incompatibility between the concept of natural justice and national seurity? Irrespective of the outcome of any appeal and whatever happens hereafter, will the negotiations between the Government and the unions be conducted on the basis of natural justice?

The Prime Minister

I think that my hon. Friend was using some of the words in the judgment. I think that it would be better if I did not go into the judgment, for the obvious and good reason that it is the subject of an appeal to a higher court. Hon. Members are rightly asking me why we took the decision in the first place, and I am fully prepared to answer that.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

What is the real reason for the Prime Minister's persistence in trying to overturn a decision of the courts and ignoring the decision of the International Labour Organisation? Is it because she is too stubborn to reconsider the offer made by the unions? If more judges hold against her in the Court of Appeal, will she then call it a day and not go to the House of Lords?

The Prime Minister

As the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware, I, rightly, cannot overturn the decision of a court, and I would not wish to do so. I believe that people should be subject to a court of law. I also believe that, being subject to a court of law, they are entitled to use their right to go to appeal, especially on a very important matter such as this, which involves national security. I wish to make it clear that at the end of the judicial process Governments, of course, accept the courts' final ruling. That is what the rule of law is all about.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Has not there been industrial action in the public service intended to hamper defence effectiveness? Has not there been industrial action at GCHQ in times of emergency? Has not Mr. Peter Jones of the trade union side denied that no-strike agreements were offered? Therefore, had the Government any alternative to taking the action that they did?

The Prime Minister

I believe that it was Mr. Jones who made some comments on the radio this morning about what the unions had offered. I do not have a transcript of precisely what he said. I have repeated to the House what Mr. McCall said to the Select Committee. I am aware that two of the main Civil Service unions overturned any offer of no-strike agreements. That seems to me to be very significant.

With regard to the reason that led to our taking the decision, my hon. Friend was right to refer to the fact that during one of the many strikes and industrial disputes in which GCHQ took part the Council of Civil Service Unions reported: 48 hours walkouts have severely hit secret monitoring stations belonging to the Composite Signals Organisation. The Government is clearly worried and will be subject to huge pressure from NATO allies. It is because of that sort of industrial disruption and a duly to maintain the national security of this country that we took action. The judge found that we were fully entitled to use the powers, but that they were invalid in that instance for one reason, and one reason only—because of the absence of prior consultation.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

Is not the Prime Minister aware that by her oral decision of 22 December she not only damaged national security but besmirched the office of Prime Minister? Furthermore, she dragged the Secretary of the Cabinet, in a letter to the Civil Service unions in January, seriously to mislead those trade unions about her capacity to enter into serious negotiations with the trade unions.

Why has not the Prime Minister informed the House that the secretary of the Civil Service unions had written to the Cabinet Secretary and offered to open negotiations and that the Council of Civil Service Unions is entitled to negotiate a no-strike agreement on behalf of all the Civil Service unions?

Why has the Prime Minister said that the status quo remains in Cheltenham when trade unionists are, at this moment, eligible to rejoin their trade union? Why has the right hon. Lady not told us whether Lord Donaldson will make the decision on the Government's appeal? Why is the right hon. Lady hiding behind the sub judice rule" Why has the Leader of the House not made provision for a debate in the House this afternoon?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that it is not for me to say who shall hear the appeal. He knows that it is impossible, and would be quite wrong, for a Prime Minister to attempt to interfere in the decision as to who should hear an appeal.

The judge indicated that the status quo should be maintained pending consideration of an appeal. I was quoting what I believe the judge said after the hearing. The Government will, of course, honour precisely what that means.

Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that it was the first leader of the Social Democratic party, the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who, when he was Home Secretary, was told by the Court of Appeal that his attempt to revoke television licences was unlawful, invalid and of no effect. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman protest then.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

The reaction on the Opposition Benches shows that the Labour party is, after all, in favour of obeying decisions made by judges. Does my right hon. Friend think that there will come a time when the Leader of the Opposition will advise his supporters to condemn secondary picketing if there is ever an order to that effect in the courts—[Interruption.] When the case finally goes for appeal, if — [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must confine questions to the matter before the House and not go too wide of that.

Mr. Nicholls

If, in the end, the present decision is reversed, does my right hon. Friend think that Opposition Members will be as vocal in support of that final decision as they have been in favour of the interim decision?

The Prime Minister

I want to make it clear that the Government, like any person or citizen, must and will accept the court's final ruling. That is not in doubt. I hope that it is not in doubt anywhere in this land.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

Is it not likely that, whatever happens in the Court of Appeal, this case will end up before the Law Lords in another place and that this process will take a long time? Why does not the Prime Minister in the meantime consult the trade unions at Cheltenham about the matter, which would be a reasonable thing to do, and find an appropriate way through the problems at Cheltenham?

The Prime Minister

For reasons which I have given, and which the right hon. Gentleman perhaps heard, this case has considerable implications for national security. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who was once Home Secretary, will not object to a Minister or anyone taking up the right to have a case heard by the Court of Appeal.

Sir Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that broken promises about strikes in the past and the rejection of strikes in the future do not command much confidence in relation to what can be arranged in consultation about our vital intelligence services?

The Prime Minister

I quoted from what Mr. McCall said to the Select Committee. I also noted that a no-strike agreement had already been repudiated by the conferences of the two largest Civil Service unions. I do not wish to go any further. The case will go before the Court of Appeal. I repeat that the Government will, of course, accept the judgment at the end of the judicial process.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

Is the Prime Minister aware that, had she accepted the report of the Select Committee, she would not be in this mess? The key passage in the judgment was to the effect that there should be a pause for reflection. Is the right hon. Lady capable of pausing for reflection? Is she capable of thinking that she might have been wrong? Is she capable of thinking that she might have been in error? Instead of rushing immediately to appeal, which could lead to an even bigger fiasco, will she take the course of negotiating an agreeable settlement, one which is acceptable to both sides, rather than proceeding by authoritarian diktat?

The Prime Minister

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should refer to appealing to the Court of Appeal as diktat. It is a due process of law, and he is well aware of that. I have already said that this is a very important case because it has implications for national security. At the end of the judgment, the judge indicated that the status quo should be maintained pending consideration of an appeal. It is clearly in the interests of the GCHQ staff and of national security that uncertainty should be removed as quickly as possible. If that is to be done, the case before the Court of Appeal must be heard as soon as possible, and therefore the application had to be made as soon as possible.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that even those who questioned the wisdom of the original decision will find her unequivocal acceptance of the rule of law in stark and refreshing contrast to the empty posturings of the Leader of the Opposition?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. I hope that the ultimate decision of the court, whatever it may be—whether injunctions, fines or some other decision concerning Ministers of the Crown—and all decision of courts of law will always be upheld.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Prime Minister shed light on the reported puzzlement of Mr. Justice Glidewell on why the instructions were given to officials orally on 22 December? What precise event prompted the Prime Minister, three days before Christmas, to give those oral instructions? Does she recollect that on 19 December she answered two parliamentary questions from me—[Interruption.] —about GCHQ Cheltenham? As she knew well that those questions were prompted by information that had come to me, not from trade union activists—[Interruption] —but from——

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Dalyell

For over five hours messages in relation to the instructions ordering the Belgrano — [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not go into overmuch detail. He is asking a question of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Dalyell

It is on the detail that we discover that the Prime Minister acted unlawfully and has misled the House.

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I have answered many questions on that issue. I did not notice that that matter featured in the judgment on Mr. Justice Glidewell.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant)

Is there not a most singular and conspicuous difference between the Leader of the Opposition's sudden passion for and overwhelming conversion to the rule of law and that of St. Paul on the road to Damascus in that the right hon. Gentleman's conviction will vanish with the speed of a tropical sunset the moment——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must put his question to the Prime Minister and not address himself to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Lloyd

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the right hon. Gentleman's conviction will disappear the moment that the courts issue a ruling which condemns the violence and mayhem which is being orchestrated by leaders of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Transport and General Workers Union on our streets and at our docks?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition will insist on allying himself only with those who say quite clearly that they will accept and uphold the law.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Is the Prime Minister seriously telling the House that she will continue to exact a penalty from employees at GCHQ who have stood firm in their decision to remain members of trade unions or from any who have joined them during the interim period? Does she think that GCHQ's capacity to contribute to our intelligence and security is in better shape now than it was before she started all this?

The Prime Minister

As I have made clear several times in recent weeks, the service provided by GCHQ is excellent. I believe that the GCHQ employees to whom the hon. Gentleman referred are fully covered by the judge's remark that the status quo should be maintained pending consideration of an appeal. We had that much in mind when we began the judicial review.

Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this issue has nothing to do with civil rights and that the key issue remains national security, when over about 18 months 10,000 working days were lost and when on 9 March 1981 parts of GCHQ came to a halt? Is my right hon. Friend aware that she was right to take the action she took and that she was right to lodge an appeal immediately after the proceedings?

The Prime Minister

Those were the reasons that we gave for taking the action in the first place. The judge at first instance found that we had all the powers to take the action that we took. We had every one of the powers necessary to take that action. However, he considered that had we had prior consultation we might have taken a different course, and so he found that instance invalid, but not the general powers themselves.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockport, North)

The Prime Minister has placed stress on 48-hour disputes within the security establishment. Perhaps she will tell us of which unions Philby, Vassall, Maclean and Roger Hollis were members. How does she equate her accusations that are based on union membership with fallibility within our national security? She is totally wrong.

The Prime Minister

The quote which I used about 48 hours came from the Council of Civil Service Unions' campaign report No. 5. I could quote many more passages. We took action because national security and GCHQ are extremely important and we must have continuous coverage. The quotation which I used — I could give many more—shows that the Civil Service unions were prepared selectively to strike at GCHQ and to damage communications — [Interruption.] I shall quote from campaign report No. 1 of the Council of Civil Service Unions, which states: The use of selective strike action by members in sensitive areas is a key part of our campaign. That is what the council, not I, said.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Will my right hon. Friend view with alarm the advice of trade unions leaders to get in and start recruiting? Does she not agree——

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady must not read.

Mrs. Currie

Does not my right hon. Friend feel that that action will re-establish the conflict of GCHQ employees between loyalty to their employer and the nation and loyalty to their trade union?

The Prime Minister

I believe that the actions of both sides are covered by the judge's statement that the status quo should be maintained. Everything that my hon. Friend said shows the wisdom of entering an appeal quickly, so that it can be heard as quickly as possible by a court of appeal of three judges. This is an important case, because it involves national security. What my hon. Friend said lends powerful support to the need for a quick appeal and a quick hearing.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does the Prime Minister recognise that the court's decision was a sharp rebuke for the arbitrary and dictatorial way in which the Government, and the right hon. Lady in particular, make decisions? Is the right hon. Lady aware that the decision taken yesterday by the court will be warmly welcomed by all who believe in protecting the rights of working people?

The Prime Minister

A Minister in the Labour Government did not hesitate to appeal to the High Court and the Court of Appeal on a fundamental matter when it suited him. I am taking precisely the same course of action.

Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)

Is it not the case that the last Labour Government took action under this very law believing that that was in the national interest? Does my right hon. Friend find it slightly ironical that the Labour party is always against certain matters when it is in opposition? Does my right hon. Friend find this cant and hypocrisy typical of where the Labour party stands at the moment?

The Prime Minister

I believe that my hon. Friend is referring to certificates issued under the Employment Protection Act 1975, which were given by the Labour Government and by us. The use of such a certificate in this case was not found to be invalid in any way.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Will the Prime Minister estimate how many Conservative Members share the view of the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst), who believes that the Government, having made a bad judgment, should now accept their mistake? How should the trade unions at Cheltenham be compensated after the Court of Appeal finds in their favour?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Lady is going into what will be argued before the Court of Appeal. Because the Government are entering an appeal before the Court of Appeal, it would be best if I did not enter into the arguments to go before that court. I hope that the appeal will be heard quickly. We shall accept the final results of the judicial process.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Because Labour Members and trade union leaders are stalking the country seeking to encourage people to go on strike but denying those people the right to be consulted, I ask my right hon. Friend one simple question: can she think of any greater humbug than Opposition Members using the word "consult"?

The Prime Minister

I hope that every person who carries any authority in any strike—I believe that this is what my hon. Friend is talking about—must say that he or she will accept the judicial process, as I have said from the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Is it not a fact that, in spite of the Prime Minister's attempts to mask the intentions of the Government, the Government's actions towards GCHQ and their other actions stem from a blind hatred of the trade union movement by the right hon. Lady, her right hon. Friends and other members of the Tory party.

The Prime Minister

No. As we said right at the beginning, there has always been special provision for certain intelligence services. GCHQ was regarded as an intelligence service and agency. It has been subject to several severe industrial disputes. Selective action was deliberately taken. We used powers which, according to the court of first instance, were valid powers to use. The only reason why those powers were not valid in the particular instance was the lack of prior consultation. That is the point. Because this matter affects national security, the case has been referred to the Court of Appeal for higher consideration.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that no amount of litigation, wherever it takes place, will overcome the dilemma that national security means no strikes at GCHQ, but civil liberties require that the civil servants there shall be properly represented? Will my right hon. Friend therefore urge the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers to listen to some of the suggestions that have been made to bridge this problem so that during the judicial process sensible negotiations are conducted to resolve the essential problem?

The Prime Minister

As the judge stated, it would not be right to take any action that could hinder the process in any way. Action was, of course, taken to get a staff association going. Clearly, any move in that direction must now be halted, as it may or may not be necessary according to the court's decision.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Notwithstanding the question of the appeal, will the Prime Minister and the Government take notice of what was said yesterday in the High Court—that there have been some guilty dealings in the lack of prior consultation with the relevant trade unions at GCHQ? Will the right hon. Lady and the Government consult throughout the public sector and replace the confrontational politics in the past five years in the Government's actions with the trade unions? Will the Government try some consultations and stop bringing the public sector, the Prime Minister and the Government into disrepute, as the right hon. Lady is doing?

The Prime Minister

I have carefully not intervened to confront Mr. Scargill.

Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, whereas the Government are prepared to subject themselves to the judicial process, the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, supported by his poodle, the Leader of the Opposition——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The same rules apply to every hon. Member. Questions must be confined to the statement. The Prime Minister's statement was not about the miners.

Mr. Hickmet

The Government do not consider themselves above the law, whereas the NUM does.

The Prime Minister

I believe that everyone in this country must accept the final judgment of the legal process, and that is precisely what I intend to do.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

Does the right hon. Lady recall that the last time I caught Mr. Speaker's eye during Prime Minister's Questions—more than two years ago—I accused her of being the worst form of vandal, in so far as she was tearing away at the fabric of our society? As it now seems that a High Court judge shares my opinion of the right hon. Lady, will she give the country an assurance that she will seek to honour her policies? Will the right hon. Lady answer the question asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris)? If the High Court decision goes against her, will she call it a day and not appeal to the House of Lords?

The Prime Minister

I believe that violence and intimidation are tearing their way through the fabric of our society — not the judgment in this case about prior consultation, which is being appealed against. The result of the final judicial process will, of course, be wholeheartedly accepted, whatever it is.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the vast majority of people on this side of the House and in the country fully accept the principle and purpose behind the Government's decision on GCHQ and expect no less than that Her Majesty's Government will uphold the law and use the law in the national interest and to protect national security in the way that she has described?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

In deciding to pursue an appeal, is it the Prime Minister's contention that the principles of natural justice were observed, which is flatly contradicted by the facts, or— something much more consistent with her general attitude—that in depriving trade unionists of their rights the principles of natural justice are irrelevant?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a matter for the court. The judgment will have substantial implications for national security. That is why it is being appealed before the court. It would not be right for me to start to argue the case at the Dispatch Box, because the House of Commons is not a court of law.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we must uphold the principle that the Government are ultimately responsible for national security? As 25 per cent. of GCHQ staff were involved in industrial action in 1981, does my right hon. Friend agree that any Government would have had to take action to ensure that that situation could not recur?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As I understand the judgment, we had all the powers that we took. The use of the powers was not found to be invalid. In this particular instance, it was found to be invalid on one point—that the use of the powers was not preceded by consultation. Had there been prior consultation followed by a decision nevertheless to use the identical powers, I understand that there would have been no ground for the court's decision.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

As the two QCs sitting beside the Prime Minister presumably have the grounds for appeal in their pockets or folders, may we be told whether those grounds contain a statement that the Prime Minister may ignore the rules of natural justice?

The Prime Minister

This House, however distinguished—and it is the most distinguished representative Chamber—is not a court of law. Therefore, the point should be argued before the Court of Appeal.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

As the Opposition are constantly calling for civil liberties and Conservative Members are constantly calling for national security, will my right hon. Friend remind the Opposition that without national security there can be no liberty for anyone in this country?

The Prime Minister

Yes, it is that aspect of the case and its implications for national security that led us to take the matter to the Court of Appeal. Because we believe that it is in everyone's interests to have the case settled quickly, we have decided to appeal this afternoon so that the case can be heard as quickly as possible.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

As the whole thing began because the Prime Minister was prepared to bribe trade unionists to forgo their union activities when she took action against GCHQ, and as the stakes are now extremely high because if the matter went the wrong way in the Court of Appeal it could lead to her resignation as Prime Minister, how can we be sure that she will not go to the extent of bribing the judges who are to take the decision?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Every hon. Member must take responsibility for his questions, but that one was out of order.

The Prime Minister

I must ask that that allegation be totally and unreservedly withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I gave the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to do that. Will he now withdraw it?

Mr. Skinner

No. The Prime Minister is quite capable of doing that to save her own neck.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I put the hon. Gentleman on warning that unless he is prepared to withdraw the allegation I shall be forced to take extreme action.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No point of order can arise. I am asking the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) immediately to withdraw his allegation.

Mr. Skinner

I have no intention of withdrawing the allegation because the Prime Minister would do anything to save her own neck.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I name Mr. Dennis Skinner for persistent disobedience of the Chair.

Motion made, and Question put, That Mr. Dennis Skinner be suspended from the service of the House.—[Mr. Biffen.]

The House proceeded to a Division—

Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride) (seated and covered)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely the point rests on the meaning of the word "bribe". When my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) used the word in respect of the payments made by the Government to trade union members at GCHQ there was no objection. It was when he used the same word in relation to the Prime Minister that the problem arose. It seems that using the word to denote an indirect influence is all right but using it to refer to a direct payment is not all right. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to reflect on the fact that my hon. Friend used exactly the same word to describe the Prime Minister's behaviour towards the trade union members and the behaviour alleged to be possible in relation to the judiciary.

Mr. Speaker

I took the action that I did because the hon. Member for Bolsover refused to obey an order from the Chair. That is the fact of the matter. I think that the whole House will agree.

The Tellers having been named and the Question having again been put—

Mr. Rogers (seated and covered)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) originally made the remark, you saw fit merely to admonish him. You asked him to withdraw it only on the prompting of the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister now to dictate the rules under which the House operates?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman misunderstood me if that is what he thought. I used the words, "That is out of order" and I gave the hon. Member for Bolsover the opportunity to withdraw what he had said, but he did not do so.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) (seated and covered)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Notwithstanding your remarks, Mr. Speaker, can I put it to you, first, that a question to the Prime Minister does not necessarily include an allegation if it is in the form of a question—which was the form of words used by my hon. Friend — and, secondly, although you ruled my hon. Friend's question out of order, if the Prime Minister had not replied, which I suspect is prima facie out of order, we should have proceeded to the next question and the matter would not have arisen. Might I therefore suggest that my hon. Friend's use of the word "allegation" is not in accordance with the words recorded in Hansard?

Mr. Speaker

Whatever the hon. Gentleman may say, the fact remains that I asked the hon. Member for Bolsover to withdraw his remark. He persistently refused to do so. The whole House knows that and it heard what was said.

The House having divided: Ayes 218, Noes 84.

Division No. 411] [4.20 pm
Adley, Robert Harris, David
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Alton, David Haselhurst, Alan
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Ancram, Michael Hawkins, C. (High Peak)
Arnold, Tom Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)
Ashby, David Hayes, J.
Ashdown, Paddy Hayward, Robert
Aspinwall, Jack Heathcoat-Amory, David
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Hickmet, Richard
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Holt, Richard
Baldry, Anthony Hooson, Tom
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Howard, Michael
Beith, A. J. Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Best, Keith Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Biffen, Rt Hon John Howells, Geraint
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bottomley, Peter Hunter, Andrew
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Irving, Charles
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Jackson, Robert
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Braine, Sir Bernard Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Brinton, Tim Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Key, Robert
Bruce, Malcolm Kilfedder, James A.
Bruinvels, Peter King, Rt Hon Tom
Buck, Sir Antony Kirkwood, Archy
Budgen, Nick Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Carlisle, John (N Luton) Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Knox, David
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Lamont, Norman
Chapman, Sydney Lawler, Geoffrey
Chope, Christopher Lawrence, Ivan
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Lilley, Peter
Colvin, Michael Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Coombs, Simon Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Cranborne, Viscount Luce, Richard
Dickens, Geoffrey MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Dicks, Terry MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Derail, Stephen Maclennan, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. McQuarrie, Albert
Durant, Tony Major, John
Dykes, Hugh Malins, Humfrey
Eggar, Tim Malone, Gerald
Emery, Sir Peter Maples, John
Eyre, Sir Reginald Marlow, Antony
Fallon, Michael Maude, Hon Francis
Favell, Anthony Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Forman, Nigel Meadowcroft, Michael
Forth, Eric Mellor, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Merchant, Piers
Fox, Marcus Meyer, Sir Anthony
Franks, Cecil Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Mills, lain (Meriden)
Freud, Clement Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Galley, Roy Moate, Roger
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Goodhart, Sir Philip Monro, Sir Hector
Goodlad, Alastair Montgomery, Fergus
Gorst, John Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Gower, Sir Raymond Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Greenway, Harry Murphy, Christopher
Gregory, Conal Neale, Gerrard
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Needham, Richard
Grist, Ian Nicholls, Patrick
Grylls, Michael Ottaway, Richard
Gummer, John Selwyn Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Page, Sir John (Harrow W)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Pawsey, James
Hancock, Mr. Michael Penhaligon, David
Hanley, Jeremy Pollock, Alexander
Hargreaves, Kenneth Porter, Barry
Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down) Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Price, Sir David Thornton, Malcolm
Rathbone, Tim Thurnham, Peter
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Renton, Tim Tracey, Richard
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Trotter, Neville
Roe, Mrs Marion Twinn, Dr Ian
Rost, Peter Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Walden, George
Ryder, Richard Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wallace, James
St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N. Waller, Gary
Sayeed, Jonathan Walters, Dennis
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shelton, William (Streatham) Warren, Kenneth
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Watson, John
Silvester, Fred Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Skeet, T. H. H. Wheeler, John
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Whitney, Raymond
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wiggin, Jerry
Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Soames, Hon Nicholas Winterton, Nicholas
Stanbrook, Ivor Wolfson, Mark
Stewart, Allan (Eastwood) Wood, Timothy
Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood) Woodcock, Michael
Stradling Thomas, J. Wrigglesworth, Ian
Sumberg, David Yeo, Tim
Taylor, John (Solihull) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman Younger, Rt Hon George
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M. Tellers for the Ayes:
Thomas, Rt Hon Peter Mr. Ian Lang and Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Ashton, Joe Litherland, Robert
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Barron, Kevin Loyden, Edward
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) McNamara, Kevin
Bermingham, Gerald McTaggart, Robert
Bidwell, Sydney Marek, Dr John
Boyes, Roland Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Buchan, Norman Maxton, John
Canavan, Dennis Maynard, Miss Joan
Carter-Jones, Lewis Michie, William
Clarke, Thomas Mikardo, Ian
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Cohen, Harry Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) O'Brien, William
Corbett, Robin Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Cowans, Harry Park, George
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Patchett, Terry
Cunliffe, Lawrence Pike, Peter
Dalyell, Tam Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Redmond, M.
Dobson, Frank Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Eadie, Alex Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Eastham, Ken Rogers, Allan
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpfn SE) Rooker, J. W.
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Fatchett, Derek Sheerman, Barry
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Foulkes, George Soley, Clive
George, Bruce Strang, Gavin
Godman, Dr Norman Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Wareing, Robert
Harman, Ms Harriet Welsh, Michael
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Wigley, Dafydd
Heffer, Eric S. Williams, Rt Hon A.
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Wilson, Gordon
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Winnick, David
Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Lamond, James Mr. Jeremy Corbyn and Mr. Bob Clay.
Leighton, Ronald

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That Mr. Dennis Skinner be suspended from the service of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I call Mr. Secretary Younger to make his statement.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Because of this unfortunate interruption of service, and because the Prime Minister saw and grabbed an opportunity to change the press reportage of the GCHQ issue, could some more of us be called who wanted to ask a question on this grave matter?

Mr. Speaker

The House has had a very good run on this.

Mr. Faulds

I did not.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House has had a good run. We have another statement and an important Back-Bench Members' debate ahead of us in which many right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part.

Dr. Owen

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have heard from only one side in this dispute about the interpretation of the High Court's judgment. The Prime Minister has consistently claimed that the status quo will be maintained. One of the parties to the dispute has already said that it greatly resents the Government's attempt to misrepresent the High Court's meaning. The judgment is not available to right hon. and hon. Members. It is clear from the interpretation of one party to the dispute—after all, the Prime Minister is a party to it — that the judgment restores the status quo at GCHQ; it does not maintain the status quo. May we have the judgment in full placed immediately in the Library because at the moment it is not available to hon. Members? It is presumably being made available only to one party to the dispute.

Mr. Speaker

The judgment has been reported widely. The right hon. Gentleman's question is not a matter for me.

Dr. Owen

It certainly is a matter for the House. A party to the dispute has come to the House and given one interpretation. The Council of Civil Service Unions, which is another party to the dispute, has no doubt written to right hon. and hon. Members claiming that the former interpretation is black propaganda. Hon. Members have every right to see that interpretation. In the past 24 hours the rights of the House have been trampled on, and many of us are getting extremely annoyed about the way in which the Government have behaved.

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was in the discussion between counsel and the learned judge afterwards that the judge recommended in open court that the status quo should be maintained. I have ordered a copy of the transcript. The moment that I have received it, I shall, of course, place it in the Library.

Mr. Dalyell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Wanting for greater accuracy to see the full judgment rather than the report in The Times this morning, I went to the ever-helpful Dr. Menhennet, the Librarian, and asked him, together with his assistants, to get hold of the full judgment. I understand that the Library of the House of Commons has difficulty getting hold of these judgments because apparently they are done by a private firm which is unwilling to yield them up. As Mr. Speaker, can you look into this question of private firms which apparently prevent the Library of the House of Commons from getting hold of judgments?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has just heard the statement by the Attorney-General, who has told the House that as soon as it is available to him the judgment will be placed in the Library.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you be so kind as to study a transcript of today's Hansard, because in his question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) sought by implication to impugn the impartiality and integrity of the Master of the Rolls? If that is the case, I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to withdraw.

Mr. Speaker

I was listening carefully but did not hear that accusation, and I have not had time to study the record of today's Hansard.


Mr. Nicholas Winterton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that it was the decision of the House that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) should leave the precincts of the House immediately. Am I permitted to say that he still remains within the precincts of the House in the Lobby, giving a statement to the press? I should be obliged, Mr. Speaker, if you would give instructions for your decision, and that of the House, to be implemented forthwith.

Mr. Speaker

I shall look into the matter.