HC Deb 18 March 1985 vol 75 cc626-7
35. Mr. Winnick

asked the Attorney-General if any decision has been reached on whether any prosecutions are to take place arising from the film, "MI5's Official Secrets".

The Attorney-General (Sir Michael Havers)

I announced on 5 March that there would be no prosecutions under the Official Secrets Acts in connection with this film.

Mr. Winnick

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the makers of the film and the two former employees of MI5 will view that as an undoubtedly wise decision? Is he further aware that the serious allegations in the film about the malpractices and abuses carried out by the security service should be a matter of concern to his Department as well as to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not feel that if there is to be confidence in the security service it is essential that it should be able to carry out its duties without the political prejudice under which it clearly now operates?

The Attorney-General

I am very much aware of the allegations contained in the film. I obtained a copy, watched it, and asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to request the Metropolitan police to carry out an investigation. That is now under way and the Metropolitan police will report to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who, in turn, will report to me.

Sir Edward Gardner

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that during the debate on the Interception of Communications Bill last week a former Home Secretary gave it as his opinion and his knowledge that one of the allegations contained in the film was absolute rubbish?

The Attorney-General

I am aware of that. It is fair to say that many of the other allegations were vague and unspecific. However, I am sure the House will agree that the allegations should be investigated, and that is taking place.

Mr. John Morris

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Lord Rawlinson, a former Attorney-General, expressed concern in another place on 28 February about The Times report that Ministers were saying that there was to be no prosecution in this case? Will he explain what ministerial consultations have taken place? Will he dissuade his colleagues, including the press officer at No. 10, from giving guidance in matters that are solely his responsibility?

Since the Attorney-General has, in another instance, taken the initiative, will he consider doing the same about the sort of prosecutions that he will authorise under the Official Secrets Act, which might help to kill any parallel being drawn with the 19th century courts of equity, where it was said that the jurisdiction in equity varied with the length of the Lord Chancellor's foot?

The Attorney-General

That criticism may have been apt then, but I do not think that it applies now.

I consulted my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Lord President—as a former Home Secretary with great experience — and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I consulted them on one issue only — the security implications of adducing evidence about interception and, in general, the implications of doing anything that might amount to confirmation or denial that particular interceptions had been made. I did not ask for their views on any other aspect of the case and they did not proffer any such views. I consulted no other Minister.

As the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) will be the first to appreciate, if there were any prosecution, even in respect of just one interception, that would implicitly amount to confirmation of it.