§ Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)
I beg to move, That this House do now Adjourn.
Leave having been given on Thursday 23 January under Standing Order No. 10 to discuss:The circumstances surrounding the publication of classified information relating to the future of Westland plc.
§ Mr. Kinnock
For all of the people in the Westland company, the affairs of that company are obviously vital. For most of us outside the company, the affairs of the company have become increasingly important in recent months. But no one inside or outside the Westland company would have considered four weeks ago that this matter could become one of such current critical significance.
As the Prime Minister said yesterday, it was a comparatively small thing. Now it is palpably a very big thing. It has grown in size because of the actions and the attitudes of the right hon. Lady and Members of her Administration. Of course, the Prime Minister says that it would never have assumed this proportion but for the fact that one member of the team was not playing like a member of the team. It is plainly true that we and the country would not have known what we know now but for the fact that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) kicked over the bucket of worms by resigning earlier this month. All the dishonesty, duplicity, conniving and manoeuvring would still have been taking place. We would not have known about it quite so quickly and quite so clearly.
Evasions, manoeuvrings and deceits nurtured this comparatively small thing until it became a very big thing. It was turned from an issue into a crisis by the dishonesty of people in this Administration. That dishonesty infected the Government's whole approach to the affairs of Westland plc. There was a basic duplicity of their public dispassion about the affairs of that company and their private partisanship in the bids that were being made for Heseltine—[Laughter.]—for Westland. I think that may be the last occasion on which Conservative Members of Parliament have cause to be amused in this debate. Clearly, they hold a cavalier attitude towards dishonesty, which may explain the attitude of many of them—
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Leader of the Opposition to accuse hon. Members of this House of dishonesty?
§ Mr. Speaker
I think the Leader of the Opposition would wish to withdraw any allegation of dishonesty against Members of this House.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is a debate in which the House is taking a great interest. I ask the House to keep it on a level which is in keeping with our conventions. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition, at the beginning of his speech, would wish to get us off to a good start.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw any allegations of dishonesty.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I said that hon. Members opposite have a cavalier attitude towards dishonesty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. On the basis of the view that you take of affairs, I will certainly withdraw what I said earlier. I said that the Government's attitude was one of public dispassion and private partisanship. There are also the standing charges that still exist about moved meetings and minutes that were incomplete, and now we have the differing versions still existing of the meeting between Sir Raymond Lygo and the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. We know enough of the truth about the connivings of 6 January to understand that the dishonesty has run right through this whole episode. [Interruption.]
All dishonesty has to stop. We have had two dress rehearsals from the Prime Minister full of half-truths and concealments. Today the Prime Minister must come clean. That is not only my view; it is the view expressed throughout the country and expressed by the Home Secretary in the course of his interview yesterday. Today, the Prime Minister must answer the questions that she signally and significantly failed to answer six times last Thursday.
First, when did the Prime Minister find out about the decision to leak, how it was to be done and who was to do it? Secondly, how can the Prime Minister explain her claim that she did not know what action was being taken? Thirdly, did the Prime Minister establish an inquiry in response to the justifiable outrage of two Law Officers who felt that their integrity was being abused and compromised—
§ Mr. Kinnock
—or was there an additional reason for that? After seven days delay, did the Prime Minister establish an inquiry whose conclusions would not in the normal course of events be published, simply because she knew that demands for such an investigation would most certainly be made? Was that inquiry established for detection or was it established for deception? Was it set up to obscure the issues and to provide an excuse for silence? Was it set up by a Prime Minister who knew very well who had leaked, why they had leaked, when they leaked and what they did it for?
The Prime Minister must give clear and truthful answers to all of these questions. She must make no mistake. Today the Prime Minister is on trial. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] The main testimony against the Prime Minister is provided by herself. It is provided by her own words to this House last Thursday, and testimony is further provided by the whole nature of her style of governing. How could it be that a Prime Minister who prides herself so earnestly on her involvement in detail; who prides herself so much on her knowledge of the minutiae of her Government; who has such a deep engagement historically in the Westland affair did not know of a supremely important decision, taken by those so very close to her, to manipulate events on 6 January?
How can it be—
§ Mr. Churchill
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way, but before he accuses others 648 of deceit, will he explain whether it was deceit that led him to falsify his age when he first put himself forward for political candidature or did he just forget how old he was?
§ Mr. Kinnock
I think that that may be the best that Conservative Members will be able to do in the course of this afternoon. That was certainly the last time that I inadvertently added a year to my age.
On the testimony against the Prime Minister, provided by herself, we have to ask how it could be that seven days could pass before she recognised that the issue of the leak was so important that it warranted an inquiry. Who would expect us or the country to believe that 16 days could pass between the corrupt practice of that leak and the Prime Minister's discovery of the details when the plotters were her closest confidants—her most frequent companions?
Who would expect the House or the country to accept that in all that time the Prime Minister never asked her associates to venture even a guess about the identity of those involved in the leak? Who can expect us to believe that in all those endless hours of contact, through all those days of discussion and debate and questions, and statements in the House and in the even closer quarters of No. 10 Downing street, the Prime Minister was really blundering around in blissful ignorance of the actions of 2 January? Who would expect us to believe any of that?
Well, obviously the Prime Minister expects us to believe that. It is clear that the Prime Minister expects the House, her party and her fellow citizens to suspend all normal standards of belief and to accept that it is strange but true. "Truth," she said on television yesterday, "is often stranger than fiction." When we heard that, as when we heard her last Thursday, many of us wondered whether the Prime Minister had lost the ability to tell the difference between truth and fiction.
We want to know truthfully now exactly when the Prime Minister first knew of the decision to send the Solicitor-General's letter. We want to know truthfully now exactly when she first knew of the decision to leak the Solicitor-General's letter. We want to know now exactly when she first knew of the involvement of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and her office in the conspiracy. When did she first know that he had given his authority, as she put it, and when they had given their cover, as she put it, to act in good faith—act in good faith by making a furtive phone call to the Press Association for the specific and carefully contrived purpose of discrediting another member of her Cabinet?
We know that the right hon. Lady has not answered those questions. She has admitted that herself. Any statement, she said yesterday, is almost always a basis for further questions. That may be the understatement of the Prime Minister's lifetime. [Interruption.] But all we have had so far are excuses for the omissions and evasions of last week—no apologies for not answering questions with meticulous accuracy; just attempted excuses. All we have had is the propaganda about "toughing it out"—a phrase, Mr. Speaker, which you will recall first entered the British vocabulary when it came out of Richard Nixon's office.
We are told that last Thursday the Prime Minister was sheltering the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Home Secretary told Mr. Brian Walden yesterday—[Interruption.] They are going to hear it all, Mr. 649 Speaker—that he could feel the courage going through the Prime Minister when she made her statement, as the Home Secretary put it, "protecting Mr. Leon Brittan". That excuse has palpably gone because the late Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has gone, although, interestingly, he went not without resistance. Even when the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) wanted to do the right honourable thing and resign, the Prime Minister tried to talk him out of it and even invited him to apply for the next vacancy for "high office", as she put it.
But what of the Prime Minister's excuses for the omissions from last Thursday's statement and questions? [Interruption.] The Prime Minister said that the majority of the inquiry report—[Interruption.] Even the deliberate efforts, that will be heard by the nation, by Conservative Members to interrupt the House and to prevent someone from getting a fair hearing, will not stop the truth being heard. [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister said that the majority of the inquiry report was new to her. She said that, until the report was available, she did not have the full facts—what she called an "enormous number" of facts. As I listened to her then and to the Home Secretary yesterday, saying how much they wanted to be able to give the full facts, I began to think that it was the Government, not the Opposition, who had got the emergency debate today. [Interruption.]
The protest that there were just too many facts to be absorbed does not carry any weight at all. Of course, it is handy to have the full details for the historians—the dates, the times, the places, the footnotes. But only one fact was absolutely essential for the Prime Minister; one fact really mattered, and that was the fact that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and her office had conceived, organised and executed the leak. That was the fact which mattered and it was the fact which the right hon. Lady was forced to admit last Thursday. It was also the fact—the single salient fact—that the right hon. Lady was denied for over a fortnight.
Who were these people who decided to keep the right hon. Lady in the dark? Who were these merciless people who made the Prime Minister, in her innocent ignorance, go through the charade of the inquiry into the leak? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
Do something about the giggling schoolgirls opposite.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Whatever anyone sees, the whole country will be able to hear what has been going on. Once again, Conservative Back Benchers have decided that, because they cannot take the truth, they will try to bury it. [Interruption.]
We want to know who were the people who prevented the Prime Minister from being able to gain access to the single fact about the involvement of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and her office in the decision to leak. Who were the cynics who let the Prime Minister be in the dark for 16 days? Who let her come here to tell truths so partial, so incomplete, that they began to look like untruths and who let her come to make a whole speech in this House on 15 January without telling her that they 650 knew who had leaked, how they had leaked and why they had leaked? Who were these callous people who caused the Prime Minister so many problems over the weeks?
Why, they were the Prime Minister's own Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and, strangest of all, her own office—the Prime Minister's very own office, her closest, most senior staff; her office which, in her own words, did not seek her agreement; her office, which, in her words,considered—and they were right—that I should agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry".—[Official Report, 23 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 450.]That begs the question. If her office did not tell the Prime Minister, why did her office not tell the Prime Minister? There can be only two reasons. It was either because they did not want to tell the Prime Minister or because they did not think that there was a need to tell the Prime Minister. If they did not want her to be involved, that could be for only one reason—the simple, straightforward reason that they were doing wrong, that they knew that they were doing wrong and that they did not want the Prime Minister to be contaminated by the guilt.
Of course, it may be that they thought that the Prime Minister did not need to know about what was going on. They might have said to themselves, "There is no need to tell the Prime Minister. We know what her attitude is to Westland. We know her attitude to the turbulent Secretary of State for Defence. We know what her attitude is to his campaign and we know what her attitude would be to us using dirty tricks to defame and undermine the Secretary of State for Defence."
Were the people in the Prime Minister's office actually right about that? Do they really know the Prime Minister? Either they do know the Prime Minister and they think of her as a woman who would stoop to conquer, no matter how low, or they are totally mistaken and she is not the woman that they think.
From the Prime Minister's statement last Thursday it appears that they do not know the Prime Minister. We have the Prime Minister's own word for it. She told us that her office did know her well enough to guess accurately that she would agree to the attitude taken by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and that she did not and would not have consented, if she had been consulted, because she felt that there was a different way, a better way, to make the relevant details known.
Despite their years of close proximity and despite the deep mutual trust that has to exist between the Prime Minister and her office, it appears that they did not know the Prime Minister at all. There they were taking important decisions in her name—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Kinnock
Either they knew the Prime Minister or they did not know the Prime Minister. She says that they knew her well enough to understand that she agreed with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but that, had she been consulted, she would have told them that there was a different way and a better way that must be found to make the relevant facts known. 651 That is all despite those years of close proximity and all that close contact. Despite all of that, there they were, taking important decisions for the Prime Minister as she busied herself yards away in Downing street.
They did not tell the Prime Minister, so we are told. All the time, they were outrageously miscalculating the Prime Minister's attitude towards the correct method of putting matters into the public domain. Having made that miscalculation, they then apparently compounded the fault by allowing her to set up an inquiry into a leak which they themselves had perpetrated.
They must have been wrong—practically wrong and terribly wrong; too wrong to enable them to endure in their present positions. At least that is what we would think. How can they continue to carry out the immense responsibilities and be the object of the Prime Minister's trust when they could be so terribly wrong, so we are told, about her attitude towards the way in which that information should be released.
If they are so wrong, why have they not gone? They have not gone, and they are not going. They are not going because the Prime Minister says that she has complete confidence in them. Why has she that confidence in them? Is it because the Prime Minister, who has the reputation for. being ruthless with those who fail her, has suddenly gone soft? It cannot be that. It must not be because of charity. Can it be because of complicity by the Prime Minister? Can it possibly be that the Prime Minister is not innocent but that she is implicated and involved?
For the moment, we withhold our judgment while we wait for the Prime Minister to give her account. Last Thursday, in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), the Prime Minister said that she hoped that we would have the decency to accept her version of events. We have the decency; what we lack is the gullibility to accept the Prime Minister's version of events.
We want the facts. We want them now. We want only the one version that will be believed—the truth, the whole truth and absolutely nothing but the truth. If the Prime Minister cannot tell that truth, she cannot stay. If she will not tell that truth, she must go.
§ 4 pm
§ The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)
Before I come to the wider aspects of this debate, let us recall one thing clearly: the background is the future of Westland and its work force. We have to remember that that future still hangs in the balance. The Government's position throughout has been that it is for the company itself to take decisions about the course to follow in the interests of the shareholders and the employees, but the Government are a major customer of the company and the Government's policies and intentions in that capacity are very relevant to the decisions that the company has to take.
It is therefore of the first importance that any pronouncements by the Government that might affect the company's decisions are accurate, consistent and in no way misleading. It is largely because one member of the Cabinet could not accept arrangements designed to secure the accuracy and consistency of Government statements that we are debating the whole matter today.
I propose to deal at once with some questions that have arisen since my statement of 23 January. I shall do so under three headings: first, the circumstances leading up 652 to the letter of 6 January by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General; secondly, the reasons for having an inquiry; and, thirdly, the outcome of the inquiry.
First, I shall deal with the circumstances leading up to the Solicitor-General's letter. The House will recall that I had cleared my own letter of Wednesday 1 January to Sir John Cuckney with the Departments concerned and with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General, for the reasons I have already given.
On Friday 3 January, there was an exchange of letters between Mr. Horne of Lloyds merchant bank, representing the European consortium, and my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Defence. In his letter, Mr. Horne asked for amplification of a statement in my letter to Sir John Cuckney. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend went into considerable detail in his reply. His letter had not been discussed with my office before it was sent, even though it dealt with points arisng from my letter to Sir John Cuckney.
On the following day, Saturday 4 January, I saw copies of the exchange of letters. In view of the very careful steps that I had taken to clear my letter to Sir John Cuckney with the Departments concerned and with the Solicitor-General, I made inquiries to find out whether the Defence Secretary's letter had been cleared in the same way with the Department of Trade and Industry and with the Law Officers. It had not. In view of the continuing need for accuracy and consistency in Government statements on this subject, I asked that a message be sent to my right hon. and learned Friend the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, as the sponsoring Minister for Westland, to suggest that he should ask the Solicitor-General to consider—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]
§ The Prime Minister
—the Defence Secretary's letter and give his opinion on whether it was accurate, and consistent with my own letter to Sir John Cuckney.
The Solicitor-General, on the basis of the evidence available to him, formed the provisional opinion that the Defence Secretary's letter contained material inaccuracies which needed to be corrected. This view was reported to me. The matter clearly could not be left there. I therefore, through my office, asked him to consider writing to the Defence Secretary to draw that opinion to his attention. I learned subsequently from the Solicitor-General that he spoke to the then Defence Secretary on the telephone that same evening and told him his provisional opinion about the letter and warned him that he would probably write to him on Monday 6 January, when he had checked the documents, and advise him to correct the inaccuracy.
The Solicitor-General further considered the documents on the morning of Monday 6 January. They confirmed him in his opinion. He therefore wrote to the Defence Secretary, advising him to write again to Mr. Home correcting the inaccuracies. My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) has asked for the further exchanges between himself and the Law Officers to be published. I have arranged for copies of the correspondence to be placed in the Library of the House.
It has been said that the letter to Mr. Horne has not been corrected. So far as the Government are concerned, we made it clear to the company—in the letter to Sir John Cuckney of 13 January from the permanent secretary to the 653 Ministry of Defence, a copy of which has also been placed in the Library of the House—that there was nothing to add to my letter to the company of 1 January.
Perhaps more to the point, my hon. Friend, the Minister of State for Defence Procurement made it clear, in his answer to the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) on 13 January, that the order for six additional Sea Kings would be placed if the plans for the five-nation battlefield helicopter project were approved, whichever reconstruction proposal Westland shareholders approved, and not—as my right hon. Friend had said—only if the European consortium proposals were accepted.
I explained to the House on 23 January how extracts from the Solicitor-General's letter were disclosed to the media on 6 January. I repeat that I deeply regret that this was done without reference to the Solicitor-General. Indeed, with hindsight, it is clear that this was one, and doubtless there were others, of a number of matters that could have been handled better, and that, too, I regret.
As I said to the House in 23 January, the company was informed also. There have been reports in the newspapers to the effect that that statement was wrong, and the company had not been informed. I understand that Sir John Cuckney's office has now confirmed that he did receive a call from the Department of Trade and Industry in the early part of that afternoon. The official in the Department of Trade and Industry concerned has again clearly confirmed that he made such a call, as he told the head of the Civil Service in his evidence to the inquiry.
As the full details of the disclosure only became known as a result of the inquiry which was subsequently instituted, I propose to deal next with the question why it was decided to hold such an inquiry.
§ The Prime Minister
I shall deal with these matters under the three headings I have given. On Tuesday 7 January—
§ The Prime Minister
On Tuesday 7 January, the day after the Solicitor-General's letter was disclosed, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General sought the view of the head of the Civil Service as to whether it would be appropriate for the Law Officers to seek a formal inquiry.
After discussions between the Attorney-General and the head of the Civil Service, my right hon. and learned Friend made clear his view that there should be an inquiry. The head of the Civil Service minuted me formally on Friday 10 January seeking my authority for the institution of such an inquiry. I readily gave him that authority. In fairness to everyone, it was essential to have a full and objective report on what had happened, and it was clearly desirable that all the officials concerned should be able to give their own full accounts of their part in what had occurred.
My authority was conveyed to the head of the Civil Service on Monday 13 January. The following day, I informed the House that an inquiry had been instituted. I had been asked by the Law Officers to institute such an 654 inquiry. I was formally advised by the head of the Civil Service to do so. I had no doubt that it was right to set up the inquiry.
Indeed, on 7 January the hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) an Opposition Front Bench spokesman—
§ The Prime Minister
—wrote to me to ask that an inquiry should be set up so that—I quote:the full facts can be established".Even so, some hon. Members opposite have subsequently criticised the decision to hold an inquiry.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
The Prime Minister said that she received a letter from me the day following the leak. Why on earth has she not told the House whether she knew the facts of the leak at the time that she received my letter?
§ The Prime Minister
I am dealing with the setting up of the inquiry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—and I shall deal then with the outcome of the inquiry and what I did know and what I did not. I have in fact done it in what I believe is the best order.
If I had rejected the advice that I had received, if I had refused to hold a formal inquiry, the parties opposite would have had just cause to criticise me. I have no doubt that they would have done so. To be criticised when I agreed to an Opposition request to hold an inquiry is, to say the least, an unusual experience. The inquiry reported to me on 22 January.
In my statement to the House the following day, I set out the steps by which the Solicitor-General's letter of 6 January was made public, as this emerged both from the accounts of officials as reported by the inquiry and also from my subsequent discussions with the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, whom I should like in this House to thank for his years of devoted service.
§ The Prime Minister
I am not giving way. I am going on because I have a long speech to make, and I must get through it.
§ The Prime Minister
It was the common purpose of all concerned that, at a time when difficult commercial judgments and decisions had to be made by the company, it was important that all pronouncements by the Government should be accurate, in no way misleading, and consistent with each other. [Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
It followed from that that, if a statement was made which appeared to be inaccurate or misleading or inconsistent with other Government statements, then it was the duty of the Government to make sure that the record was corrected as soon as possible.
When the Solicitor-General's letter was brought to his attention, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry took very much that view of the matter. He was clear that it was desirable to bring into the public domain as soon as possible the fact that the Solicitor-General had written to the then Defence Secretary, and the opinion he had expressed. The Secretary of State made it clear to his 655 officials that, subject to the agreement of my office, he was giving authority for the disclosure to be made by his Department, if it was not made, as he said he would prefer, from 10 Downing street. That I indicated in my statement last week.
§ The Prime Minister
This is a very tightly drafted argument and I should prefer to go on. I will give way later. Officials in the Department of Trade and Industry—
§ The Prime Minister
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman later. I wish to continue this section.
Officials in the Department of Trade and Industry approached officials in my office, who made it clear that it was not intended to disclose the Solicitor-General's letter from 10 Downing street; but, being told that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry had authorised the disclosure, they accepted that the Department of Trade and Industry should make it and they accepted the means by which it was proposed that the disclosure should be made.
My officials made it clear to the inquiry that they did not seek my agreement. They told the inquiry that they did not believe that they were being asked to give my authority, and they did not do so.
§ The Prime Minister
If they had believed my authority was being sought, they would certainly have consulted me.
§ The Prime Minister
No, not at the moment. This is very important. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
Officials of the Department of Trade and Industry told the inquiry that they regarded the purpose of their approach to my officials as being to seek agreement to the disclosure as well as to the method. They believed that they had the agreement of my office, and acted in good faith, in the knowledge that they had authority from their Secretary of State and cover from my office.
§ The Prime Minister
No, I must go on at this moment. This is vitally important.
Although, clearly, neither side realised it at the time, there was a genuine difference in understanding between officials as to exactly what was being sought and what was being given. [Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
I have given the House the view of what officials on each side told the inquiry. That is one reason why it was vital to set up the inquiry.
§ The Prime Minister
As I indicated, officials too had the right to put their view of their part of what had occurred. I deeply resent any attacks upon them.
§ Mr. Speaker
No. The hon. Member knows that the Prime Minister said that she would give way later. He must not keep on rising.
§ The Prime Minister
But it is common ground. as I told the House on 23 January—it was accepted—that the Department of Trade and Industry should disclose the fact that the then Defence Secretary's letter of 3 January was thought by the Solicitor-General to contain material inaccuracies which needed to be corrected, and that, in view of the urgency of the matter, the disclosure should be made in the way that it was. I have given the House this account—
§ The Prime Minister
I give way to the hon. Gentleman who has been rising, and to whom I promised to give way.
§ Mr. Dalyell
What are we to derive from the right hon. Lady's answer to the friendly intervention of her hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), the chairman of the 1922 Committee, in relation to putting it in the public domain, when she said:I gave my consent." —[Official Report, 23 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 455.]What interpretation is to be put on that?
§ The Prime Minister
I gave my consent to an inquiry, I co-operated with it and I set out the facts as fully as possible, in that statement. I noticed that I had said that. at that particular time. I did not give my consent to the disclosure. It was not sought and I have indicated that I deeply regret the manner in which it was made.
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the Prime Minister. Will she tell us what conceivable misunderstanding between the Department of Trade and Industry and her office could permit them to breach the Official Secrets Act and, in the words of the Solicitor-General, "immediately and flagrantly" to violate an important rule without any form of consultation with her as head of the Government. Will she now tell us when she knew?
§ The Prime Minister
I have just set out —[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have just in fact set out what my officials believed and what the Department of Trade and industry's officials believed. The right hon. Gentleman 657 will not accept that there was a genuine difference of understanding, which is something that happens almost every day in normal life, and he tries to deny it. Officials, too, have the right to be heard and not automatically be castigated by the other side. In answer to the question which I think hon. Members will be asking, I did not myself know about the disclosure of the Solicitor-General's letter until some hours after it had occurred. [Interruption.] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have been asking for the facts, and I am giving them. I have taken immense trouble to have them checked. I discussed the matter with my office the following day, when I also learned of the Law Officers' concern. I was told that the Solicitor-General's advice had not been disclosed by my office.
§ The Prime Minister
I was also told, in general terms, that there had been contacts between my office and the Department of Trade and Industry. I did not know about the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's own role in the matter of the disclosure until the inquiry had reported. [Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
Let me finish this section and them I will give way.
The difference of understanding between officials in my office and those in the Department of Trade and Industry only emerged after the inquiry had started.
§ Mr. Foot
Is the Prime Minister telling us that, from the day after the leak, on 6 or 7 January, right up until after the inquiry had reported, her right hon. and learned Friend the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry did not make any effort whatsoever to tell her how he had authorised the inquiry—[HON. MEMBERS: "Leak."]—authorised the leak? If so, does she think that such a Member is fit to be in any Cabinet, let alone hers?
§ The Prime Minister
I have indicated what the facts are and I have indicated the high regard in which I hold my right hon. and learned Friend the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. [Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
I have given the answers after strenuous efforts to check them with the officials concerned and with the Departments concerned.
The Government's policy throughout has been to help Westland to seek the solution which would enable the company to continue in business as a private sector concern. It is this Government who fought to help it get the Indian order; it is this Government who undertook to write off nearly £40 million of launch aid if the W30 project was terminated; it is this Government who ensured that the board of Westland had a choice of options; and it is this Government who have pledged themselves to 658 resist discrimination against Westland in Europe, whichever option for its future it chooses. This was, and is, the right policy.
But from the Opposition we have heard nothing constructive. Oh yes, in the debate on 15 January, they offered the company their own two options. But what were they—nationalisation, or receivership.
The fact is that the Opposition parties, with the exceptions of the hon. Members for Yeovil and for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) are exploiting Westland and its employees, exploiting them for nothing more than their own narrow political advantage. It was the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Labour party who told his party conference, and I quote:you cannot play politics with people's jobs … they have no time for such posturing".[Interruption.] Yet that is precisely what he has been doing and has done again today.
§ The Prime Minister
Let me tell hon. Members the real reason for this debate. It is not because of the Opposition's concern for Westland and its employees; until today they have said precious little about them. It is not because of their passionate belief in the defence of the realm; their policies would leave us defenceless.
§ Mr. Kinnock
Let me remind the right hon. Lady of the "real reason" as she put it, for the debate. It is to find out the truth. The House is not satisfied, and the country will not be satisfied, that she has given us the full details. I ask the right hon. Lady again—when, truly, did she know? Can she expect us to believe that her office did not tell her when it knew? Can she expect us to believe that she was neither told by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry nor did she ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry exactly what was going on?
§ The Prime Minister
What the right hon. Gentleman cannot stand is that I have given him the facts and he does not like them.
§ The Prime Minister
The Opposition have deliberately blown up this issue out of all proportion. This debate is part of a massive diversionary tactic by the Opposition. They would like first to divert public attention from the growing extremism of their own party—as we have all seen so unmistakably in Liverpool, Lambeth and Tottenham—and secondly, to divert us from vigorously pursuing our policies and plans for our country's future.
We are not going to be diverted from the tasks we were elected to carry out. We shall gather with renewed strength—[Interruption.]—to extend freedom and ownership, to give power back to the people and to keep our country strong and secure.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
I believe that the Prime Minister, in retrospect, will wish that she had not made the latter part of her speech, because, whatever the House wants to hear today, it does not want a party political—[Interruption.] What the House 659 wanted from the Prime Minister—and, wherever the jeers come from, what both sides of the House wanted—was the truth from the Prime Minister.
Some new facts have been disclosed, which are of considerable importance. The Prime Minister told the House that she drew the attention of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the letter that had been written by the then Secretary of State for Defence and suggested that he should ask the Solicitor-General to see whether there were any inaccuracies. She told us that she did that on 4 January. She has further told us that she knew on 4 January, before the Solicitor-General rang up the then Secretary of State for Defence, that there were, on a provisional look at the documents, material inaccuracies, but that the hon. and learned Gentleman would write to the then Secretary of State for Defence on 6 January. So the Prime Minister, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday before 1.30, when the letter from the Solicitor-General arrived at her office, knew that it was highly probable that there would be material inaccuracies, in the view of the Solicitor-General, in the letter of the then Secretary of State for Defence.
The question that the Prime Minister has not answered is what conversations took place with her private office between her and Mr. Ingham and her principal private secretary, Mr. Powell, about what should be done if those material inaccuracies, provisionally thought by the Solicitor-General to have occurred, were confirmed in the letter that she was warned would be distributed on the Monday. I must say to the Prime Minister that it is not unreasonable to believe that she would have discussed that with those two individuals or at least one individual. It is a reasonable assumption that it was in the knowledge of how she reacted to the whole series of events that they felt confident to give the cover that she herself claimed in her statement—[Interruption.] I do not know. I am merely pointing out a major gap in the Prime Minister's account.
I ask the Prime Minister now to clear that up and to tell the House. Did the right hon. Lady discuss the issue with Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell on the Saturday evening, the Sunday or the Monday morning? Did you, Prime Minister? [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] That is the question that we are entitled to ask. I do not believe that it will be understandable to those who have worked in the Government machine that those two senior officials could have given the cover when asked by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
The decision to leak a document written by a Law Officer is a very serious decision. There is a strict understanding within the Government that the advice of the Law Officers is never referred to. It is only ever disclosed in very exceptional circumstances by the Law Officers themselves. The last occasion was when the Attorney-General released his opinion in 1982 on the Greater London council. A further issue arose when Attorney-General and Solicitors-General in successive Governments issued their views on the Simonstown agreement. It is a strict convention, which would have been known by Mr. Powell, and ought to have been known by Mr. Ingham, that under no circumstances did anyone, certainly not those senior officials, reveal the Law Officers' advice. This is not some minor leak. This is not a question of inter-party strife. It is not an argument between the Prime Minister and her then Secretary of State 660 for Defence. It goes to the core of the Government and their integrity in relation to the position of the Law Officers.
I must say to the Prime Minister that I find it very hard to believe that Mr. Powell, who was a diplomat and who is now on secondment to No. 10 Downing street, a person of outstanding integrity, would have agreed to the Department of Trade and Industry disclosing that information unless he had a pretty clear view of how the Prime Minister wanted the matter to be dealt with. The Prime Minister owes it to the country to say what discussions she had with Mr. Ingham and/or Mr. Powell.
I gather from the Prime Minister's silence that she will not tell us. If she winds up the debate, as I hope she will, I hope that she will answer that question. If she does not do so, the question will remain. If she does not do so, if she allows it to be assumed that those officials made that decision on 6 January without reference to her, there is no question what has to happen now. It is not just that the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) resigned because he obviously felt that he had lost the confidence of his colleagues. As a lawyer, he must have understood the significance of the decision that he took to authorise his Department to allow the Solicitor-General's letter to be partially leaked.
But it must be the case that both Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell will certainly be now subjected to the normal disciplinary procedures that cover civil servants and members of the diplomatic service. It is inconceivable that they can continue to advise the Prime Minister. That demand must be made. Mr. Ingham is paid as a civil servant. Mr. Powell is a diplomat. They are governed by rules and regulations that cover all officials of all Governments. At the core of this issue is an issue that has been causing concern for some time—the integrity of the Civil Service. There is one person who is responsible for that now. That person is the Cabinet Secretary.
I refer to the Solicitor-General's letter. The Prime Minister said that it was essential that the full facts were given. The Solicitor-General's letter, written on 7 January and now in the Library, reveals that the letter of the Secretary of State for Defence did not contain the material. inaccuracies that he had originally thought. He says:The additional evidential material on which you rely, and in particular the conversations with your European colleagues to which you have referred, is identified to me in your letter in terms too general for me to be able personally to assess whether the accuracy test is fulfilled. I quite understand why this may be unavoidable, particularly in the case of the conversations with your European colleagues, but it means that the judgment as to whether that test is satisfied must remain your own responsibility.Therefore, at the end of the day, the Solicitor-General's interference has not made any material difference to the Defence Secretary's case.
However, I should like to quote the most damning part of the Solicitor-General's letter:I want to express my dismay that a letter containing confidential legal advice from a Law Officer to one of his colleagues should have been leaked, and apparently leaked moreover in a highly selective way. Quite apart from the breach of confidentiality that is involved, the rule is very clearly established that even the fact that the Law Officers have tendered advice in a particular case may not be disclosed without their consent, let alone the content of such advice. It is plain that in this instance this important rule was immediately and flagrantly violated.What does that say for the competence of the Prime Minister, and the competence of the Government?
661 The fact of the matter is that the issue now rests on the Prime Minister's competence and the competence of her private office, and the degree of trust and honour in her private office. It is not often realised that the Prime Minister's principal private secretary has his desk as close to the Prime Minister sitting in No. 10 in the Cabinet Room as you are to me, Mr. Speaker. It is extraordinary that throughout this period, from the moment when the Prime Minister admits that she talked to her officials on 7 January, she did not ask them point blank what the view of the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks was. The Prime Minister tells us that she did not know about the view taken by the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks over this disclosure until she read the Cabinet Secretary's report.
That says a lot for the Prime Minister's diligence and attention to detail. It is inconceivable that the Prime Minister did not ask what the right hon. and learned Gentleman's attitude was. It is almost as inconceivable that he did not tell her what his attitude was.
It is extraordinary that we are asked to believe that there was a difference of opinion between the Department of Trade and Industry officials and Mr. Bernard Ingham as to whether or not this should be considered to be an authorisation from No. 10. Mr. Bernard Ingham has ruled the Government's press information with a rod of iron for nearly seven years. His role is more dominant in the Government's information service than that of any Prime Minister's press secretary this century. It is extraordinary that the lady concerned in the Department of Trade and Industry, when going to Mr. Ingham, should now be told that he was not giving her No. 10's authority. Frankly, no one who has seen the way that Mr. Ingham has operated or the way the lobby system has been manipulated and twisted over the past few years can possibly believe that this mild, insignificant, modest, quiet and unassuming Yorkshireman did not give his authority to that lady in the Department of Trade and Industry.
The Prime Minister has achieved what I think in retrospect she may most regret. She does not regret the passing of the Secretary of State for Defence, although I believe that she genuinely regrets the passing of the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks. By not admitting that she, by her general demeanour and general standing, gave a steer and guidance to Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell, she has left those two men with no alternative other than to resign. It is a sad commentary upon the Prime Minister's integrity that the only way that the integrity of the Civil Service can be maintained is for those men to take the honourable course and resign.
The Prime Minister must have hoped that this debate would end this whole affair. I fear, Mr. Speaker, that it will not. The Prime Minister has revealed both today and in former days that she is not worthy to hold the high office that she does.
§ Mr. Michael Heseltine (Henley)
I had not originally intended to take part in this further debate, and I shall not keep the House for more than a few moments. There are only one or two aspects on which perhaps I may be allowed to comment.
662 I should like to place it on record that I believe that from start to finish in this entire matter the behaviour of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General was exemplary.
I listened with great care, as did all my right hon. and hon. Friends, to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had to say. The House will realise that for me, as well as for many right hon. and hon. Members, my right hon. Friend's speech filled in a great deal of the background that we could not have known about before. I heard the Prime Minister clearly say that she deeply regretted the fact that the letter from my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General had been leaked. She went on to say that a number of other matters could have been better handled, and she regretted that, too. I think that that is a difficult and a very brave thing for a Prime Minister to say in such circumstances. I could not have asked for words other than those that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used.
For my part, I would say that in the circumstances, where colleagues in a Government feel strongly, as undoubtedly my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) did—I know that they will respect my position and feelings just as strongly, though perhaps from a different point of view—it is understandable that sometimes the atmosphere and decisions are not always all as we would wish them to be. I have no doubt that things that I did are open to criticism, and I accept a responsibility for that.
There are two issues on the substance of the Westland affair. The first concerns the future of the company and its effective control. As the House knows, I hold very strong views about our strategic defence interests, and I argue that Westland should remain part of the British and European Community industrial base. I shall seek to do everything that I personally can do to ensure that that is maintained.
The other issue concerns the politics of the matter. I believe that what the Prime Minister has said today brings the politics of this matter to an end and that any further questions that are to be asked will properly be asked by the all-party Select Committee.
§ Mr. Heseltine
I can answer that question, characteristically delivered from a sedentary position. The reason why the Tory party is after votes is because we have heard the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. If there are men born for whom the highest attainment is to remain Leader of her Majesty's Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition is such a man. I do not believe that the House has listened in a decade to a worse parliamentary performance than the one we heard today. Of course it is the constitutional duty of the Opposition to exploit a Government's difficulties, but they cannot even make a decent job of that.
In what has been a difficult and stressful experience for the Conservative party, let us understand clearly where we stand tonight. We shall be in the Lobby together with one purpose —to maintain a Tory party in power in this country and to keep the Labour party out.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)
After the intervention of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. 663 Heseltine) I had a momentary twinge of sympathy for the Cabinet and what they might have suffered, but the twinge passed. As the right hon. Gentleman spoke, I was reminded of a comment made by a far greater figure, as I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree—Sir Winston Churchill, who did change parties occasionally—who said, "It's all right to rat, but you can't re-rat."
§ Mr. Foot
I accept the correction. I will watch the future career of the right hon. Member for Henley with that in mind. At present, however, we have far more important matters to consider than the right hon. Gentleman's future.
I listened to the Prime Minister's speech with great care, as it was an extremely important speech in the history of this Parliament and of her own life, but I must say that she did not answer many of the questions that had been put. Those questions will continue to be put until we get answers to them.
This debate and the events to which it relates turn on questions of confidentiality or, as the Prime Minister insisted in yesterday's interview—and I agree with her—collective Cabinet responsibility and its implications.
Let us go back, first, to 14 January—the Tuesday after the House came back from the recess—when the right hon. Lady referred to these matters in her replies. We were then discussing the letter from the head of British Aerospace. On that occasion, the right hon. Lady was extremely insistent on a very important matter. She said:As the hon. Gentleman is aware from answers that have been given many times by me, it is my practice not to publish exchanges with third parties, nor to reveal them if they are marked 'Private and strictly confidential.'In later emphasis on the matter, she said:With respect, I think that I have probably answered this question several times, but let me repeat the reply. The letter was marked 'Private and strictly confidential.' It is my invariable practice not to reveal publicly such correspondence without the permission of its author."—[Official Report, 14 January 1986; Vol. 89, c. 920-22.]We are therefore partly examining how that invariable practice came to be varied in this instance.
The then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry also emphasised this matter in his replies the previous day. He said:As for saying that the letter was marked 'Strictly private and confidential', the right hon. and learned Gentleman should be well aware that in matters of this kind it is the existence of the letter as much as its contents that is strictly private and confidential and that the confidentiality is one imparted by the author of the letter and no one else."—[Official Report, 13 January 1986; Vol. 89, c. 873.]
I agree with both those statements. Leaving aside the part of the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry made that statement to the House on 13 January. Yet on 6 January he had authorised the leakage of a confidential document without any reference to the author and, as has already been stressed, in circumstances of particular embarrassment and difficulty — even constitutional difficulty—because it was a letter from the Law Officers. It is barely credible that a Minister who could make that statement to the House on the afternnon of 13 January should have been guilty only a few days previously of such a departure from the "invariable practice" described by the Prime Minister. It is equally incredible that, after such conduct and after the Prime Minister had insisted on the strength of her commitment to that doctrine, the right hon. Lady should be so eager to 664 keep in her Cabinet a Minister guilty of such behaviour, especially in the light of the few revelations that she has made today.
The Prime Minister has contributed something today, in that she has stressed how much she knew about this on the previous Friday and Saturday, which makes the admission of her finding out on the Monday or the Tuesday all the more remarkable. Even more remarkable is the failure of her own Cabinet Minister to tell her on that Monday or Tuesday.
I shall come in a moment to the confusion—if that is the correct word—in the Prime Minister's own office. What is the situation that the country is asked to believe? Is it that from the Monday or Tuesday of the leakage right up to the time when the Prime Minister received the report — a period when many Opposition Members were putting pertinent questions to the Secretary of State and others and receiving evasive answers — the Prime Minister with all her determination to settle these matters did not even inquire what had happened?
Why was the Prime Minister so reticent? She is not normally guilty of that. I am not talking about civil servants, but about relations within the Cabinet. Why did she not ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to come along and tell her? He was quite an obedient member of the Cabinet and I dare say that if asked politely he would have been good enough to come along and explain. Was the Prime Minister not even curious, let alone probing? Did she not want to discover what had happened? Or was she so obsessed with all these other questions that she did not even trouble to ask what had happened?
When she eventually set up the inquiry—it was a bit late and some of us had assumed that it would be set up straight away — did the Prime Minister have no discussions with the Minister concerned? Is she really asking us to believe that she set up the inquiry without troubling to ask the Minister concerned what he thought about any part of it? She was treating the Minister as the Minister was treating the Law Officers, and we cannot have that. It is an extraordinary tale. For the Prime Minister's own peace of mind, I wish that she had been able to say a little more than that, because that gap will remain. I thought that she would try to answer it today, but she has not done so. She has merely said that she would have been in difficulties if she had not agreed to an inquiry.
§ Mr. Foot
If only the Prime Minister had talked to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and got the truth from him—assuming that that honourable Minister was prepared to tell her—she could have come to the House and told us. She could have said that the honourable Minister whom she always wished to keep in her Cabinet and whom she would always wish to have back in her Cabinet would never mislead her and had told her what had happened. In fact, he kept his mouth shut, or she kept her ears shut, all through that period.
That is an intolerable way for the Prime Minister to treat the House. She should have spoken to us much earlier. She should have been here on 13 January and on other occasions when the music was going against her. Had she done so, she might have avoided the terrible catastrophe that has befallen her and the Government. 665 The right hon. Member for Henley said the other day that there was a constitutional crisis—a breach in the constitution—although he seems to have got over that pretty quickly. I never thought that it was a breach of the constitution. To me, it is a matter of common decency and plain speaking. It is a matter of coming to the House of Commons and telling the House the truth. It is a matter of coming to this House of Commons and telling the truth.
§ Mr. Foot
It is a matter of the proper and essential relationship between the Prime Minster and the House of Commons, and through this House of Commons with the country at large. The right hon. Lady has gravely injured this. The reason for this is the atmosphere that is spread throughout her Government and her Cabinet. That atmosphere helps to determine the way decisions are made. It is a strange atmosphere. It is an atmosphere where, to take a practical example, the right hon. Members for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym), for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas), for Chesham and Amersham (Sir I. Gilmour) and for Waveney (Mr. Prior) and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are choked and stifled.
The other day, the chairman of the Conservative Party gave his advice on this matter; he has been brought forward to purify the atmosphere. Nothing like this would have happened had he been here—he would have eaten the two ex-Cabinet Ministers for breakfast to satisfy his appetite for lowering the standard of politics.
The reason why the Prime Minister is quite prepared to apply one rule of confidentiality to one lot and another rule of confidentiality to another lot — even though it includes her own Law Officers—is because she works on the principle, "Is he one of us?" She operates with those who are "one of us" and that is the way that this Government has been run and this country has been debased.
§ Mr. Foot
I heard the Prime Minister yesterday, as others did. The right hon. Lady talked of the time when she would depart. When she departs—I would prefer it, of course, if the decision was made by this House or the country, as it eventually will be made—what will be written on the right hon. Lady's heart but the shabby prevarications and the collective deceits of these past few weeks?
§ 5.2 pm
§ Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)
I do not think that I have ever heard three more miserable speeches from the Opposition on a major occasion such as this. During the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) one could notice the dismay of his supporters at the performance that he gave.
I never thought that the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) would sound like a pedantic lawyer.
The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) said on television yesterday that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had lied, but now, having heard the full explanation, he is forced to say that she did not attend sufficiently to detail with her customary diligence. 666 What a climb down that is. It is as though 300 people had turned up for a works outing to the circus, only to find that the circus had moved on to the next town.
The truth is that this whole affair has been an enormous fuss about very little. There should never have been the excitement that has been generated, and I hope that excitement will die down. I am sure it will.
The sad thing is that two of my right hon. Friends for whom I have a high regard are no longer in the Cabinet. I much regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is no longer in the Cabinet, especially after the performance that he gave today. I also especially regret that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) is no longer in the Cabinet. Although I do not know him well, I think he is one of the most brilliant members of our party; and I hope and trust that it will not be long before he is returned to high office. I do not think that he has every gift in politics. It must be said that he is somewhat deficient in the art—perhaps it should be described as the craft—of political skulduggery. Launching my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) as a missile, at one stage in this business, to appear on the Robin Day programme was not an ideal choice for that occasion.
I hope that the Opposition are not trying to pretend that leaks are solely the property of this Government. Nobody leaked as much as the previous Labour Government. On one occasion, according to Mrs. Castle, Lord Wilson—who constantly complained about the number of leaks occurring—was told by Tony Crosland:But I must point out that there is evidence that these leaks are coming from the most senior members of the Cabinet.The criticism of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) is especially rich, as Mrs. Castle continues:Harold will not have Hattersley because he is said to have made three disloyal remarks recently. Dick and I agree that this is absurd because, although we do not think that Hattersley is a particularly nice man, we know he will make disloyal remarks about anyone, including Roy Jenkins.
It is my no means unique for Cabinet Ministers to make disobliging remarks about each other. I only wish there were not so many people ready and willing to take these remarks down. This weekend I read that there were no fewer than 1,000 information officers in Whitehall. What do those ladies and gentleman do? I believe I am right that in the days when Lord Attlee was Prime Minister, he only had one information officer and he was placed in a dark room with no means of communication whatever. That is a system which appeals to me far more than the present one of countless information officers giving information to anyone who will listen. It breeds leaks, and eventually it breeds disrespect for the Government.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
The hon. Gentleman has tried to excuse leaks. Does he or does he not agree with his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General that the leak of a Law Officer's private and confidential advice to the Government is in quite a different category and inexcusable?
§ Sir Peter Hordern
My position is that I am against all leaks, whether they come from the Solicitor-General's letter or not.
Something must be done about this system of information officers and leaks. I know that successive Governments have wished to do this for a long time. It 667 would be worth considering placing Mr. Ingham in a somewhat different position so that he may make attributable statements on the record. This is the system in the United States where Mr. Larry Speaks is the President's spokesman. I also believe that we should look again at section 2 of the Official Secrets Act.
§ Sir Peter Hordern
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I wish to be brief.
What was all this fuss about? It was about a small company the size of a moderate London hotel. We are asked to believe that Sikorsky, the vanguard of American technology, was about to destroy and take over all technology in western Europe. That is no new charge. It is one which Servan-Schreiber made many years ago. In White Papers it has been a constant theme that we ought to have more co-operation between our defence companies within western Europe. Yet, year after year, very little is accomplished. It is true that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley succeeded with the European fighter aircraft. However, it remains the case that there are large overlaps in guns, tanks and electronics in western Europe.
Examination of Government expenditure on research and development reveals how much goes on defence rather than on other forms of science and technology. Bearing in mind the orders that are placed, we must ask whether defence expenditure is geared too much to help defence contractors, such as Marconi and Aerospatiale, and sometimes to great waste. I need remind the House only of Nimrod in that context. It resulted in vast over-expenditure compared with the original proposals.
However, it must be the first duty of any Secretary of State for Defence to buy the best equipment for our forces. In many cases, such equipment is American. If we concentrate our purchasing power more on western European firms, we must ask whether those firms have the desired capacity. Too often the Americans have the only available technology.
Westland was in great difficulty as long ago as last July. I understand that Sir John Cuckney saw my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley last September and asked for help. I believe that my right hon. Friend said that there would be no public money, and certainly not from his Department, and that Westland would have to help itself if it could, and that it might even be preferable if it went into receivership. There was not much enthusiasm last September for the European option. My right hon. Friend might have shown his enthusiasm a little earlier. If he had, we should not have got ourselves into the present trouble.
Substantial questions about Westland remain. Of course the European option must be considered seriously, but Westland knows that two of the helicopter companies involved are loss-making. Agusta's losses are larger than its turnover, which is quite an achievement. The interests of Westland workers are extremely important. They must be allowed to express a preference for the Sikorsky deal, which would give them access to wider technology and other developments. It has looked too often recently as though the efforts of the European consortium have been designed to block the Sikorsky—Fiat rescue bid.
As for Cabinet responsibility, I suppose that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could have sacked my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley earlier. Perhaps she 668 did not think that the Westland affair warranted such action, but it was clear that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley thought that the Westland affair warranted action. I think that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been far too kind. Indeed, I believe that she does not get her way nearly enough. We have a broadly based Cabinet, and I do not think that she gets her way nearly as much as she would like.
It is right for the Cabinet to be broadly based and to take in representatives from each section of the party. I am sure that the same has been true of other Cabinets. They include the Right and Left of a party—although they are now called wet and dry. Half of the Cabinet are most charming and likeable people who are economically illiterate and the other half are economically literate. That structure explains the leaks and counter-leaks. It is no good blaming my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for them. The issue was not important, and it is not important now. We all have very much better things to do.
It is extraordinary for the Opposition to pretend to great moral indignation. The Labour party has developed leaks into an art form. Under Labour we had something more akin to waterfalls than leaks, of every variety. Those who enjoy the fraternal bonds of Socialism show that they like nothing more than hating each other's guts. I am reminded of Lord Wilson's kitchen cabinet. I miss those leaks. Where now the stories of lavender writing paper or glasses of wine thrown over the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman)?
There were not just leaks. The Labour party went in for something much worse. My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley is said to be impulsive on occasion. I remember when once he went so far as to pick up the Mace. The House might not remember what occasioned his picking up the Mace. I remember it well. It was in May 1976. The House debated the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, and the Labour Government lost the Division. The next Division was called and the Labour party either sent somebody through the Division Lobby twice or allowed somebody who had been paired to vote. [HON. MEMBERS: "They cheated."] I shall not go so far as to say that they cheated, as that is an unparliamentary expression, but I have described what happened. There was none of this trifling business about leaks and counter-leaks, for the Labour party went in for something much rougher.
In 1969, the Labour party thought that it might get another 30 seats by holding up the Boundary Commission recommendations. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) laid the orders in the House—he was then Home Secretary—and tried to get his party to vote them down.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South and Penarth)
With respect, I did not try. I succeeded in getting them voted down.
§ Sir Peter Hordern
The right hon. Gentleman is correct. He laid the orders and got the vote. Mrs. Castle had something to say about that. That was the Attorney-General's advice at the time. The Home Secretary had merely to lay the orders, not to approve them. Mrs. Castle said:Everyone seemed to think this was a very ingenious solution though I am unhappy at the political morality of it. Not that I have any qualms at all about our holding up the redistribution.So much for morality.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
I am not sure that my hon. Friend is quite right. He said that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) held up the recommendations. The right hon. Gentleman was selective; he did not hold them all up.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order to debate the Boundary Commission's recommendations for 1969 during a debate on Westland plc?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman knows that this is a debate on the Adjournment. There is however a specific definite subject and I think that the hon. Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) is making a comparison.
§ Sir Peter Hordern
The Opposition do not have a leg to stand on. It beats me how they can have the nerve to come here and preach to us about morality. There are great issues to be dealt with. The price of oil is falling, there is strain on sterling, the level of unemployment is serious and the teachers' dispute continues. The Opposition have a heaven-sent opportunity to conceal the divisions in their ranks. I do not believe that people are such fools as to think other than that this petty, ridiculous issue has had a long enough run. It is time to get back to the serious business of running the country.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
This debate might be called, "No, Prime Minister", because it is about the relationship between those who hold high office and those who act on their behalf. On occasions, we are very amused by the scene of servants becoming the master.
I have had some previous experience of the mind of the Prime Minister, and I pray in aid two examples. The first concerns a statement made by her Government on 23 April 1982. It was for international consumption and was not given to this House or put in the Library until three weeks later. Reference is made to that in paragraph 3.28 of House of Commons paper 11/84.
The second example relates to a question that I put to the Prime Minister on 17 July 1984 — column 168 of Hansard—about the implementation of the Education Act 1944. Subsequent correspondence is in the Library, to which hon. Members can refer.
The question today is who gave authority for the release of the selected parts of the text of this important letter. Last Thursday, the House heard with enormous surprise—perhaps oiled by previous revelations in the press—that it was the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry himself who gave that permission. He is a lawyer, as we were reminded earlier today, and he gave permission to reveal in public the confidential advice of a Law Officer of the Crown. We now want to know whether the Prime Minister absolutely, tacitly or in effect shared in that decision, and we must not forget that she is also a lawyer.
The phrase "cover from No. 10" has been used, and in last Thursday's debate I asked the right hon. Lady specifically in column 459 of Hansard to whom Mr. Ingham was accountable and who decided his standing orders. Instead of saying what almost everyone would have expected her to say — indeed, the nation might have expected her to say—the Prime Minister did not 670 say, "To me." She talked about something that gave a clue to what was in her mind, which I shall not repeat now, but she did not admit that accountability.
I found that extremely strange, and perhaps this can be dealt with in the wind-up. On that very day, the Prime Minister had used the phrase "cover from No. 10". We all have people who help us—people to whom we give standing instructions, such as, "If they ring, tell them this," or, "If they ask that, refer them to me." Such instructions are very clear, but in this instance, when the Prime Minister's office was approached by the DTI, her officials were either so sure of what was in her mind that they could give clearance, or they vastly exceeded the authority that she had given them. It cannot be anything else—it must be either one or the other.
The Prime Minister has not claimed today that they exceeded their authority, but she said that they did not consult her on that day. That suggests the other possibility, that they knew what her mind was on some previous day, and the Prime Minister has also told us today that, on the Saturday, there had been a lot of discussion in No. 10 about these letters. That opens up the possibility that the officials acted on her authority, having known from a previous occasion precisely what the Prime Minister had in mind.
The Prime Minister also told us today that there had been a misunderstanding. I am confused, because last Thursday she made it absolutely clear—crystal clear, as Mr. Brian Walden might say—when she said:My office were accordingly approached. They did not seek my agreement: they considered—and they were right—that I should agree with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that the fact that the then Defence Secretary's letter of 3 January was thought by the Solicitor-General to contain material inaccuracies which needed to be corrected should become public knowledge". — [Official Report, 23 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 450.]Therefore, on Thursday, the Prime Minister told us that she would have agreed, and she concurred with the cover that was given by her office, whereas today as I understand it—it was not easy to follow—she said that there had been some misunderstanding and that cover was not given.
§ Mr. Spearing
The answer can come from the Dispatch Box. The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to intervene.
These anomalies must be cleared up, because the authority clearly given by the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was, according to the Prime Minister on Thursday, accepted, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman lost the confidence of his colleagues as that was known to be true. The House wants to know—we have heard nothing at all to the contrary—whether the Prime Minister, by implication of her office, was also involved clearly and explicitly with that decision. In nothing she has said today has she in any way dissociated herself from it. In fact, the additional evidence relating to the implication of her office on the Saturday brings her closer to it rather than separating her from it.
When they vote tonight and think of the call for loyalty, Conservative Members should ask themselves, "Loyalty to what?" Is it loyalty to a person, to the party or to the 671 supremacy of Parliament? I suggest that their loyalty to the last two vastly exceeds any loyalty they have left to the former.
§ Mr. Leon Brittan (Richmond, Yorks)
The House will know why I came to the conclusion that I should no longer remain a member of the Cabinet. I want to place on record my appreciation of what a privilege it has been to serve in the Government of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. The unhappy circumstances of the last few weeks will not detract from their achievements. I shall support the Government's policies as strongly outside the Cabinet as I have within it.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set out the facts relating to what has been called the "Westland saga", and particularly the circumstances relating to the disclosure of information contained in a letter of my hon and learned Friend the Solicitor-General. She has done so in great detail. Some of the facts only she can know about whereas in other events I myself was closely involved. I can and do confirm that with regard to the facts within my knowledge, the account of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is correct.
As my right hon. Friend said in her statement to the House last Thursday, I made it clear to my officials at the Department of Trade and Industry that—subject to the agreement of No. 10—I was giving authority for the disclosure of the Solicitor-General's letter to be made. I therefore accept full responsibility for the fact and the form of that disclosure.
The House knows of the extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented, circumstances in which we were working —the circumstances of the persistent campaigning of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Defence and the urgency of the need to ensure that the contents of the Solicitor-General's letter should become known. But for all that, and in retrospect, I must make it clear to the House that I accept that the disclosure of that information—urgent and important as it was—should not have taken place in that way, and I profoundly regret that it happened.
I must also make it clear that at all times the Department of Trade and Industry officials acted in accordance with my wishes and instructions. What they did was with my full authority. They are not to be blamed. Indeed, they gave me good and loyal service throughout my time as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
There is one further point—and one further point only—that I would make. I remain firmly of the view that the Government's agreed policy of letting the board and shareholders of Westland make up their minds about the company's future without political pressure was and is right. Let us hope that now—
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
The right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan), the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, resigned because of his responsibility for the 672 disclosure to the Press Association of legal advice in a letter supplied by the Solicitor-General. He was right to do so. His resignation is honourable, but he should have resigned earlier. However, it was not only the Secretary of State who was involved in that disclosure, which is the major reason for the anxiety about the happenings of the past four weeks. The Prime Minister was also involved.
For four weeks we have been trying to get information from the Government in a variety of ways, including today's Standing Order No. 10 debate. We have received some information from the Government, but it has taken a long time. We have not yet got it all, and, unless we get more this evening, the matter will continue.
I wish to raise two issues. The first relates to the role of the Law Officers, and the second to the private office. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) that civil servants in the private office should resign, and I shall argue that case shortly.
I first realised the peculiar nature of Law Officers during the Franks inquiry of 1972, so by the time I became a Minister I was not surprised by the way that they operated. It should not have surprised the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who has one great advantage over me—he is a lawyer. Indeed, it is said, properly, that he has aspirations in the political sphere, and so he should. It is an honourable task and peculiar to this country.
The Franks report states:The Attorney-General administers the criminal law in the interests of the community as a whole, and he must disregard the interests of his party, and those of the Government as such.The Solicitor-General and Attorney-General have done that consistently throughout the Westland affair. I do not seek to get at them. I am mentioning their role for other purposes.
Not only is the role of Law Officers different from other Government activities. Last week, it was drawn to my notice that if the Government were to fall next week, all the information in the documents, papers and Cabinet subcommittees would not be made available to the succeeding Government, but the Law Officers' information would. It is unto itself, and above politics. I do not understand how the Prime Minister and the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, knowing that, could use the advice given by the Solicitor-General on that Saturday and then on Monday as they did. That is one of the most important issues to emerge during the past month.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if there were material inaccuracies in correspondence, they should emerge?
§ Mr. Rees
Of course they should, but there should be a public statement. The inaccuracies should not have emerged in that way. That is the whole point of our argument.
I shall remind the House of what happened. The Government made a decision within one and a half hours. They moved more quickly than my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and his Cabinet did on such issues. The Government knew what to do within one and a half hours. I bet that the matter had been discussed before, and that the civil servants knew what was in the minds of their lords and masters; otherwise, they would not have acted as they did. One does not leak a little bit of a letter to an honourable member of the press. I am coming to the conclusion that the Government were 673 not interested in informing Sir John Cuckney. As far as I know, he never found out. Apparently, he said that he did not find out. I am told that he thought that it was politicians playing games.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
Is not the importance of the matter the fact that in the part of the letter that was not released, but which was communicated to the then Secretary of State for Defence, our posts in Europe were reporting a different view about the future potential for Westland collaboration in European projects from that which was being purveyed by the then Secretary of State for Defence in his open communication to the chairman of Lloyds merchant bank, which was acting for the European consortium?
§ Mr. Rees
That may be, but the Government must deal with that through their machinery. The letter should not have been leaked in the way that it was. The way in which the letter was leaked is important. During the past month the Law Officers' method of operating has been compromised by the Government.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
In the extraordinary circumstances that prevailed, would it not have been appropriate to draw attention to what are normally classified messages coming from abroad? Was not the important fact that the former Secretary of State for Defence was being misleading?
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that was the point that had to be got across quickly?
§ Mr. Rees
It was up to the Government how they handled that. I am worried about the way in which the Government dealt with advice from the Law Officers. They dealt with it badly, and both the Prime Minister and the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry were implicated in that.
I wonder when the Solicitor-General knew of the leak. Eventually, the Prime Minister set up a leak inquiry, which has two stages. First, the Cabinet Secretary is asked to set up a leak inquiry, which is carried out within a Department through the permanent under-secretary concerned. If the inquiry comes within the provisions of section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, the matter goes to the police. This matter never went to the police. Did the Solicitor-General know, when he and the Attorney-General asked for the leak inquiry to be set up, that the others involved knew that they had authorised the leak? The Law Officers would not have asked for an inquiry if they had known who had authorised the leak.
It was a charade, brought about because of the demands in the House for an inquiry. The Prime Minister could have stopped it. She could have come to the House and said, "I have to tell the House that on Monday we made a mistake. There is no need for an inquiry. We authorised the leak." That is what worries me most about what has been happening. I have already said that the Prime Minister's office knew, if not directly, what the Prime Minister and her Ministers wanted. The Cabinet Office staff are loyal and of a high calibre. They may have been high fliers, but inexperienced in the ways of politics. In my view, this should not be a matter for disciplining those people. Whether they come from the diplomatic service, the Treasury or wherever, I believe that they acted with 674 the connivance of the Prime Minister. It is not good enough to expect civil servants to act as fall guys. To some extent, during the past week, the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has acted honourably in following that premise.
Other allegations are being made and more allegations will be made in the weeks ahead. They will not go away. It is being alleged — I mention this now so that the Leader of the House can deny it—not only that was the Solicitor-General's letter leaked, but that the Prime Minister's office subsequently, because it was told to do so, acted in a peremptory and cavalier way by contacting the Law Officers and asking them if there was a way of pushing all this under the carpet.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He will not be surprised that I require him to do so. The allegation is not true.
§ Mr. Rees
I accept that immediately. It is better that I should raise the matter on the Floor of the House than that the story should fester in the papers.
The Solicitor-General is an honourable man. The only complaint of the Law Officers was the way in which the Solicitor-General's letter was dealt with. I am sure that the Solicitor-General would have corrected me if that were not the case.
§ Mr. Rees
What was the point of getting at the civil servants when it had been discovered that Ministers had authorised the leak?
The hon. Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) referred to the press office. It is time that we considered the way in which the press office at No. 10 carries on. It has become more important than Prime Ministers themselves, with morning briefings and the releasing of innuendo. It is time that some other method was found, even if that involved another Minister to work with the Prime Minister and to look after the press office. That occurs in other Departments. In the Home Office, someone looks after police information and produces documents and press statements. However, I am concerned about the political side, which is mainly at No. 10.
The Westland episode has gone well beyond the problem of a small company. It is not only a matter of morality or integrity. When I read about the way in which the Cabinet had carried on, I had a good look at the Franks inquiry report on the Falklands war. The last paragraph, which I willingly signed, states that it was not the Government's fault. Paragraph 339 states:Against this background we have pointed out in this Chapter where different decisions might have been taken, where fuller consideration of alternative courses of action might, in our opinion, have been advantageous, and where the machinery of Government could have been better used.I have heard this story unfold and nothing has changed. The only difference is that there will be no war to wipe out that paragraph.
§ Mr. Speaker
It may assist the House if I say that the Front Bench spokesmen will seek to rise at 6.5 pm. I ask for brief contributions. In fairness, I must respect the rights of Back-Bench Members as well as those of Privy Councillors.
§ Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East)
With the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), I believe that it is impossible not to feel a slight twinge of sympathy for the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. He had to address the House without knowing the story that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would tell. He had nothing much to say, except to repeat the questions that have been asked in the Sunday newspapers, which he did. He then tried to give a lecture on responsibility, but at that moment he lost the attention of the House to the extent that you, Mr. Speaker, had to plead with us to listen. It is rather difficult for us to listen to a lecture on responsibility from someone who has never held it; and to hear from the Leader of the Opposition how the Government have failed in their responsibility when he has yet to exercise authority of any sort was more than we could take.
That task might have been difficult for the Leader of the Opposition, but the leader of the Social Democratic party was under no such disadvantage. His position requires no sympathy, because by the time he made his speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had answered all the questions. She told us the full, unfortunate regrettable story with an honesty and candour that all of us received with great relief and sympathy because it is not easy for the leader of a Government to have to say that some things happened that should not have done. Instead of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport, (Dr. Owen) having the decency to say, "Now that we have heard the story—although it is not a good story—we will accept it," he got on his moral high horse and lectured us about the honesty and decency of office.
I would prefer to say this to the right hon. Gentleman's face, but he is probably appearing on television at the moment. He was a member of a Government who were hardly the model of Cabinet collective responsibility. He took the decision about Chevaline. He reached high office and, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, he knows what is involved in it. He knew that that decision had been taken and that it had been kept from all but a select few. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) might have a word or two to say about that. He sat in that Cabinet for five years yet he did not know that his colleagues had taken that decision. The right hon. Member for Devonport dared to lecture us about open government and about the way in which we conduct government. We need no lessons in morality from him.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
Is my hon. Friend aware that, on television, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) lectured us about patronage? When I asked him if he could name the relationship of the Prime Minister of the day with the man that he had appointed as ambassador to Washington, the right hon. Gentleman walked out of the studio.
§ Mr. Mates
My hon. Friend relates an interesting tale.
We are 45 minutes away from the end of what has been a sad incident in the Government's life, but it is only an incident. What we have heard today from the Prime 676 Minister, from my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and last, but not least, from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) has shown that at least if we made mistakes we are prepared to admit them —[Interruption.] I have no doubt that most Opposition Members find that funny, because a little modesty and honesty would come ill from their lips.
Things have gone wrong in this affair, and no one denies it. From the outset, because I happened to be involved in the issue, I said that this was the row that should never have happened. What has been said by the Prime Minister and by the two former Secretaries of State vindicates that statement. It is most unfortunate that it became a personal battle of wills, and we have all suffered as a result of it. But it is equally clear that, now that all of them have been as open, frank and honest as they have been today, we can put this affair behind us. It is just a minor incident when one thinks of the great matters that this Government have decided and must decide in the future.
I know that I speak for every Conservative Member when I say to the Prime Minister that, having cleared this matter, she should get on with more important issues. not least a consideration of the way in which we now discuss what happens to Westland. As she reminded us in her speech today, that has not gone away. I hope that we can define the national interest in this matter without interfering with the rights of the shareholders and the board to make up their minds at the end of the day. There is a national interest in the matter and it is for us to try to define it because, after all, that is the job of Government. I hope that the Select Committee on Defence, which is considering the matter, will take evidence from all parts of industry and politics to try to come to a united conclusion as to where that national interest lies.
It is always unfortunate when mistakes are made. It is always best to come clean about them. My right hon. Friend has done that in full measure today. The Government may have suffered because of what has happened during the past two or three weeks, but it is a temporary setback. We must pick ourselves up and dust ourselves down, because there is a job to be done. I know that we shall be united behind our Cabinet in doing that job.
§ Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
No one will know what happened until the memoirs are written, but Bernard Ingham was my press officer for some time and I know a little bit about him. He is a very tough customer, but he would never dare to agree to betray a Cabinet Minister without the authority of the Prime Minister. I do not believe for one moment the account given by the Prime Minister that Bernard Ingham and Mr. Powell assented to the wishes of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry — [Interruption.] I do not believe for one moment the account that has been given. What happened was that the Prime Minister used some powerful words—"who will rid me of this turbulent priest?"—and the rest was done by the civil servants to rid her of the Secretary of State for Defence.
I have found it hard to believe the Prime Minister since my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) raised the Belgrano question, so today is not the first time 677 that doubts about her trustworthiness have crossed my mind. But the debate will be wasted if we do not understand the lessons that may be drawn from it.
First, why did the Government lose two senior Cabinet Ministers over this matter? We are at least entitled to know that. The answer is that when Westland got into difficulty, in pursuit of their policy of non-intervention, the Government said, "We do not care what happens to Westland." They said the same about the steel, mining and manufacturing industries, so there was no surprise about it.
However—this is why the matter became a central political question —the vultures from Washington and Brussels moved in. As Minister with responsibility for aviation, I used to deal with Westland and I know of its long link with Sikorsky.
Sikorsky wanted to use Westland to expand its arms sales in Europe. The Prime Minister could not ignore that view because she was close to President Reagan and she wanted contracts for star wars. However—this is why it is a big issue, not a little issue —there is a growing feeling among western European industrialists that American domination must end. Therefore, the Prime Minister tried to withdraw from a major international industrial matter by pretending that the decision should be left to the shareholders. Of course, her idea of democracy is to hold ballots to elect trade union executives, but if employees want to ensure their future employment, they must buy their votes and become shareholders. We saw the disgusting slave market of the Albert hall, with people such as Mr. Bristow and Lord Hanson buying shares to trade the future of Westland workers. So much for the workers at Westland having any rights.
The matter became more complicated because one Minister supported the American bid and another supported the European bid. The Prime Minister deliberately used the mechanisms open only to a Prime Minister, first, to encourage legal advice and, secondly, to release that advice to destroy the Secretary of State for Defence, who left the Government. Thereafter, she had to sacrifice her Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by saying that he, alone among Ministers, had authorised the leak. That is what happened. That is what people outside know to have happened. It was not simply a matter of who telephoned whom on what occasion. This was, and still is, a major industrial conflict between Europe and the United States, with Ministers taking different sides and the Prime Minister using her powers, first, to undermine one Minister and, secondly, to get another Minister—very close to her—to take the blame so that he felt he had to resign.
It was good to see those two Ministers go. The former Secretary of State for Defence led the Army against the Quakers at Molesworth, so I am pleased that he has gone. The former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, when he was responsible for the Home Department, told the police to batter the miners at Orgreave and now he has gone. The loss of those two Ministers is a plus, and it must have delighted the National Union of Mineworkers and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
However, the House must discuss other matters. The first is the Official Secrets Act. Some months ago, Sarah Tisdall, from a sense of principle, released to The Guardian, which did not protect her — it might be 678 remembered that Bernard Ingham came from The Guardian—details of something that had happened, and she was put in prison for six months. No doubt the Prime Minister, who believes in law and order, endorsed that sentence. Clive Ponting of the Ministry of Defence was charged under the Official Secrets Act. Yet the Prime Minister retrospectively authorised — today she takes responsibility for what she pretends she did not know—a leak to undermine a colleague. There is no doubt that the purpose of the leak was to undermine the Secretary of State for Defence. That is her idea of law and order and official secrecy.
What she should have done, if the Minister had made a mistake, was to issue a public statement saying, "We have reconsidered the letter from the Secretary of State for Defence, and in some respects we believe it to be in error." She could have sent it with a motor cycle messenger to the place where the shareholders were meeting—it has been done previously—so that the shareholders would know the position. But she chose to do something different.
The incident also throws light on the lobby system and all those people sitting there in the Press Gallery —[Interruption.] If I am not allowed to refer to them, Mr. Speaker, that is another absurdity added to many. There are people in this Palace who go twice a day to No. 10 and get from Bernard Ingham an account of what the Prime Minister wants them to know about Government business. Then people appear on television saying, "Our political correspondent understands," but they never tell us from where the information comes. They do not understand it. That is because they got it 10 minutes before from Bernard Ingham on the instructions of the Prime Minister.
When the briefing gets a bit touchy, they appear on television or write in the papers about a grave constitutional crisis. The lobby correspondents are involved in secret arrangements with Ministers of all parties. I hope I will not be accused of being a leaker when I say publicly what has to be said. I do not leak through the Lobby. That is a vicious system, because it creates a sort of cosy conspiracy between Ministers, Shadow Ministers, civil servants and the lobby correspondents.
The third thing that the Prime Minister did was to blow up the questions of procedure that she sent to her own Ministers in 1979. I have a copy sent to me by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) in 1976. The procedure is identical from year to year. It says about consultation with the Law Officers, in paragraph 25:It is essential that Law Officers should be consulted in good time before the Government are committed to critical decisions involving legal considerations. The categories of cases in which it would normally be appropriate to consult the Law Officers include the following:The classic case for consulting the Law Officers is contained in that paragraph.(1). Cases in which the legal consequences of intended action by Government might have important repercussions either in the foreign or the domestic field.
Paragraph 23 of these instructions to Ministers reads,It is important to avoid giving any indication of the manner in which the Minister has consulted his colleagues before any decision is announced.The Prime Minister broke her own rules. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend says they are his rules, but they disappeared along with him and the Prime Minister issued 679 her own. As the Cabinet Secretary was my right hon. Friend's Cabinet Secretary or Lord Wilson's Cabinet Secretary, the same rules apply.
The main reason we are debating this matter is, first, because it is a major constitutional question. Because of the Official Secrets Act and the way in which the right hon. Lady treated her Cabinet but because the Government misled Parliament and the public we have had to have this debate. We are told that parliamentary democracy is what we uphold but we cannot have parliamentary democracy if Ministers do not tell the House of Commons what is happening and have to be hauled up under Standing Order No. 10.
This is an important debate. It goes well beyond whether the Prime Minister talked to Bernard Ingham, which I am sure she did. I know that other people who know Bernard Ingham will agree that he would not have so acted if he had not had the clearest instructions so to do. The debate is important because of Westland and all the other matters. The Prime Minister must be wondering why what she sees as such a small issue should have been exploded to the point where it appears to the minds of some correspondents to threaten the premiership.
The reason is that Thatcherism, which the right hon. Lady created and believes in, was a myth. People are asking whether that myth is capable of leading the Conservative party to victory at the next election. The Conservative party is looking for a new leader. Members on the Government side will go into the Lobby tonight and the resigned Secretaries of State will be rubbing shoulders with the Prime Minister. The reality of the matter is that they are looking for a new—[Interruption.]—leader.
§ Mr. Benn
If British politics moves sharply to the Right, the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) would be the obvious candidate. This style of Government, the approach to industry that says it does not matter whether our helicopter company continues any more than it matters whether we have a steel industry or an engineering industry, combined with a contempt for Cabinet government, parliamentary government and truth, has brought the Prime Minister to the point where her days are numbered. If the Conservative party does not deal with the matter, the electorate will put my right hon. Friends in charge.
§ 6.5 pm
§ Sir Ian Percival (Southport)
That is one of the most disgraceful speeches that I have ever heard, even from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). In addition, the right hon. Gentleman has spoken for so long, despite your injunction, Mr. Speaker, that I have had to cast aside a point a minute and shall confine myself to two aspects about which I must say a word.
This House must deplore and condemn the cowardly attempts that have been made to implicate the Solicitor-General in any—[Interruption.] I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman ultimately accepted the assurance given to him, and I hope that other hon. Members will do the same. The House must realise how fiercely proud of our impartiality are all of us who have held that great office, and how important that is to the life of our Parliament. There is not the least trace of impropriety or breach of those standards by the present holder of that office. 680 We have heard from the Leader and the deputy Leader of the Opposition a torrent of cant and hyprocisy. Only marginally less nauseating was the contribution on behalf of the alliance. But it was all counter-productive because what must now be as clear as a pikestaff is that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stands head and shoulders above all of her critics in courage, loyalty and integrity. If those critics believe that in this way they are going to drive her and us out of office, they have sadly misjudged the lady, her Back-Bench supporters and the great majority of people in the country.
Now can we not get on with the job? Speaking both for myself and for all those who would have liked to have the chance to say it in this debate, may I say to the Prime Minister, "Thank you for your courage, loyalty and integrity with which you set the lead for us all." [Interruption.] Of course the Opposition do not like to hear that. With that lead we can and we will beat not only the Opposition but the other, and real, problems that beset the country we love.
§ 6.7 pm
§ Mr. John Smith (Monklands, East)
The word will be going out from those who conduct press affairs for the Government that matters have been answered and cleared up today, and that the House of Commons and the British public can put this matter safely behind them in the confident reassurance that, perhaps at long last, the Prime Minister has come clean with the House and with the public. Let us examine what the Prime Minister told us today. It was not a great deal. First of all, she told us that the first she discovered of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry's behaviour in the matter was at the end of the inquiry. Secondly, she told us that some hours after the leak she was told in general terms of her office's involvement. Thirdly, she told us how the inquiry came to be instituted.
I cannot see how the addition of these small pieces of information, interesting though they are, changes the situation from last Thursday, when the Prime Minister was floundering in her inability to answer these questions. Now, suddenly, we are told that it has all been cleared up. It has not all been cleared up and the question that will be asked again and again is a very simple one. It is: before the Prime Minister decided to institute the bogus inquiry into the leak—bogus is what we now know it was—did she know about any of the involvement of her Ministers and her officials?
I have to concede that we have received a partial answer to one leg of that question, because she said that she did not know about the involvement of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. That is a little curious, because he says, and the Prime Minister said when she made a statement about this matter the other day, that he telephoned her or caused his officials to communicate with No. 10 on the basis that, subject to the agreement of No. 10, certain action was to be taken. It is odd that that was there and signalled from the beginning apparently, yet the Prime Minister says that she did not know of his involvement until after this laborious inquiry had been completed.
But let that matter stand. What we do not know is whether the right hon. Lady knew from her officials of their involvement in the leak before the setting up of the inquiry. That question simply has not been answered. It will be asked, and it will be asked, and it will be asked 681 again until it is answered. The question is not an idle one. It is not one of a small matter of the mismanagement of government; an unfortunate leak, a slip, something that arose out of an unfortunate, but genuine, misunderstanding, as we are told.
Let me remind the House what the Solicitor-General wrote to the former Secretary of State for Defence in the letter which has become available only today, having been declassified and put in the Library before the debate started. In the penultimate paragraph, the Solicitor-General, writing to the former Secretary of State for Defence the day after the leak occurred, said:On a different aspect of this matter. I want to express my dismay that a letter containing confidential legal advice from a Law Officer to one of his colleagues should have been leaked, and apparently leaked moreover in a highly selective way. Quite apart from the breach of confidentiality that is involved, the rule is very clearly established that even the fact that the Law Officers have tendered advice in a particular case may not be disclosed without their consent, let alone the content of such advice. It is plain that in this instance this important rule was immediately and flagrantly violated.
So let us get to the situation on 7 January, when the Solicitor-General knows that a flagrant violation has occurred. This is the time when the Prime Minister has been told in general terms of her office's involvement. She certainly must have known that there was a leak. It was on the front page of The Times, The Sun, the Daily Mail and I think that it got into The London Standard on that very day. In lurid headlines, the Daily Mail says:The great Cabinet shambles. Open war as Ministers attack Heseltine".The Times said:Heseltine told by law chief: Stick to the facts".The article goes on in that vein. The Sun, true to form, had a simple headline:You liar".That was all happening on 7 January.
The Solicitor-General tells us that it is quite clear that a flagrant violation has occurred. I assume that the Prime Minister knew of the rule about Law Officers. But what was her reaction to that? Did she have people in and say, "A flagrant violation has occurred. I am not putting up with it in this Government which I run and I want to find out what went on."?
Nothing happened from the Prime Minister until the Attorney-General stirred himself, realising that a flagrant violation had occurred. He did not go to the Prime Minister apparently, which is very strange, but to the head of the Civil Service. Perhaps he thought that he would get a more sympathetic response there than going to the Prime Minister, and be able to get his complaint out before he received his letter of dismissal perhaps. However, he goes to the head of the Civil Service and within minutes the Prime Minister—three days later—on 10 January says, "I readily admit that I gave my authority for an inquiry to commence." The question must be: why did it take the Attorney-General and the head of the Civil Service to remind the Prime Minister of her constitutional responsibility? Why did she remain inactive? That is charge number one.
Charge number two is: is it really true that the Prime Minister knew nothing about the activities of her civil servants in No. 10? In that regard, Mr. Speaker, let me remind you of something which happened this very afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow 682 (Mr. Dalyell) rose in his place and put a question to the Prime Minister. He referred to a question at column 455 of Hansard of 23 January put by the chairman of the 1922 Committee, the hon. Member for Woking, (Mr. Onslow), to the Prime Minister. I hope that the House will forgive me if I quote the question and answer, because it is of profound importance.
The hon. Gentleman said:My right hon. Friend will be aware that many right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, like the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), are not really interested in listening to the facts of the full account given by my right hon. Friend. What view does my right hon. Friend think that the House might have taken of any Minister in any Government placed in such an invidious situation by the action of a colleague who had failed in his duty to ensure that correct information was made public as soon as possible?That is clearly referring to the conveying of the information suggesting that it was necessary for a Minister to make sure that that information was communicated. There can hardly be any doubt about that. Nor was there any doubt apparently in the Prime Minister's mind as to the meaning of the question, because she replied:Yes, Mr. Speaker, it would have been much easier, as the facts were commercially sensitive, if the relevant letters had been cleared as mine was with the Solicitor-General. It was vital to have accurate information in the pubic domain because we knew that judgments might be founded upon that and that the Government could be liable if wrong judgments were made as a result of misleading information. It was to get that accurate information to the public domain that I gave my consent"— [Official Report, 23 January 1986; Vol. 90, c. 455.]Why did the Prime Minister tell us last Thursday that she gave her consent to the leaking of the letter into the public domain? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]
§ The Prime Minister
I shall gladly reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I was quite content that I had given a whole account in the statement, cleared in every single detail, and the account in the statement was absolutely accurate.
§ Mr. Smith
I know that the Prime Minister's statement was gone over with a toothcomb. The one she read out here is full of all the weasel words such as "it became accepted as a matter of duty" and "cover" instead of "authority" —all those curious words that have been fashioned and honed after many hours of consultation to get them right.
The Prime Minister was OK when she was on the statement, but the question took her slightly outwith the range of the statement. The question could not have been clearer and she said, "I gave my consent." Today, when she was asked about it by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, we all heard her say: "When I said consent, I meant consent to the inquiry." I must say that I felt something had gone wrong there, and I immediately checked in Hansard. It is obvious for everyone to see that the Prime Minister did not mean that. So she either gave us the wrong answer then or a wrong answer today. Which one was it? On the record in Hansard the Prime Minister admits that she gave her consent to the leaking of the information. Until she publicly corrects that account and answers the particular allegation that I have made, the question will remain unanswered.
§ The Prime Minister
I did not give my consent to the leaking of the information. May I make that quite, quite clear?
§ Mr. Smith
If we are to accept the Prime Minister's statement that she did not give her consent, she was 683 remarkably foolish to say so when she answered the question to the House. It takes me back to my days in the criminal courts. When some people gave unfortunate answers when required to do so about their activities they did not always get such an understanding response. "I made a mistake," said the Prime Minister. Did the Prime Minister make a mistake? That is one of the unanswered questions, and there are more.
What is worrying people who care about good government in Britain is that this is typical of this Administration. I am sorry to say that there is no surprise throughout Britain at the evasions, denials and all the wrong goings-on of recent weeks and months. There is no surprise that things should happen in this way, because the standards of good government in Britain have been steadily deteriorating under the Prime Minister and her Ministers. That is why it appears to be enough to come to the House of Commons and get cheers from the ruling party for saying that matters should have been handled in a different way. Handled? Why cannot the Prime Minister say, "It was wrong. It should not have happened and I am taking steps to make sure that it does not happen again."? No, it is all a matter of handling. It is a matter of manipulation and presentation.
I hope that the time will come soon in this House of Commons when Ministers, including the Prime Minister, when asked straight questions will give honest answers; when we will have a Government in whose competence, as well as in whose integrity, we can have confidence.
The problem is this: if we accept the explanation that has been given to us, it is a sorry tale of woeful incompetence. If we cannot accept it, the whole integrity of this Administration is suspect.
This matter, I am sorry to tell the Government, simply will not go away, despite the attempts by Conservative Members, carefully planned throughout this day and carefully planned in advance, to disrupt the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. The Conservative party's tenacious defence of power is ruthless and absolute. Unfortunately for them, they have been found out and are being found out daily by the public.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
The knowledge that a debate is to arise on a motion for the Adjournment is frequently a matter for regret and some disparagement, but this afternoon has demonstrated that a debate on the motion for the Adjournment, shot through with passion and arguments of principle, can put the House in the best possible light.
I say that in respect of the whole range of speeches, including that by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith). It is not difficult to flatter the right hon. and learned Gentleman; it is more difficult to flatter some of those sitting behind him.
The House has very properly considered the matter in the forum of this Chamber, but my hon. Friend the Member for Hamphsire, East (Mr. Mates) has reminded us that departmental Select Committees are also investigating the wide range of issues that have been debated and which, I have no doubt, will continue to be matters of parliamentary interest.
I want to draw the attention of my hon. Friend and of the House to three aspects of this afternoon's debate. One concerns, in a very real sense, tragedy; another is the 684 major lesson for Parliament and for the Treasury Bench; and finally I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends to a dire political warning implicit in what is now being argued.
First, as far as the point of tragedy is concerned, the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have drawn attention to the continuing shadows over the future of Westland—a future which cannot be assisted by the current political difficulties and a future which we must all hope will shortly be resolved.
It is particularly in terms of tragedy that I and many of my colleagues feel deeply the loss of two colleagues over this issue — my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan). My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) paid a very warm tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks, which I thoroughly underline. My right hon. Friend the Member for Henley has given the clearest possible indication that he returns — [Interruption.] — to the fray with tremendous enthusiasm. [Interruption.] The nervous laughter on the Opposition Benches shows how much they will be frustrated in their hope that they were to see some form of civil war within the Tory party over this matter. My right hon. Friend's speech this afternoon indicates that for the Government Benches and the Conservative party, this is no parliamentary Dunkirk, but rather a parliamentary Alamein. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Biffen
When I look at the hamster from Bolsover —[Interruption.]
I turn to the most central and serious issue of this whole unhappy business —the need for effective collective responsibility. The situation outlined by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Whitelaw in another place on 23 January was an accurate and perceptive description of recent months. I would judge that it is the hallmark of good government that it should be defined and realistic in its ambition, but effective in its operation.
The doctrine of collective responsibility has been followed by successive Administrations, with the cumulative wisdoms that come over the ages and over the Parliaments, because of the necessity for strong and secure Government to operate within that discipline. Hence, despite what may be a certain amount of modish criticism —[Interruption.]. Oh, yes. If hon. Members wish to dispute what I am going to say, we shall be happy to have their dissent on record. For I want to assert that the operation of the 30-year rule and the operation of strict confidentiality applied to Government papers are integral to the operation of collective responsibility [Interruption.] So central has this been to good government that, when Governments have from time to time been obliged to digress from the doctrine of collective responsibility, it has been done on a formal basis and on terms where the breach was acknowledged to cover but a limited period.
I have particularly in mind—I say this for the benefit of the Opposition Benches below the Gangway — the Liberals who sat in the Government of 1932 and were allowed licensed dissent on the issue of free trade and, more within the recollection of the House, the European Community referendum arrangements of which the right. 685 hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) took advantage when seven Cabinet Ministers were entitled to argue their dissent within licence.
§ Mr. Benn
The right hon. Gentleman made a special reference to reasserting the 30-year rule—after we have seen the 30-second rule applied. Is he actually laying claim to a reassertion by the Government, after what has happened, that these matters cannot be properly examined for 30 years? In particular, is he denying the right of privilege to expose them? I quoted from that procedure and laid it on the Table. It is now in the public domain, and I want that to be clear.
§ Mr. Biffen
The right hon. Gentleman has got his publicity. I was asserting the desirability of the 30-year rule in the light of a great deal of opposition that there now is to the effectiveness of the 30-year rule. I was saying that a 30-year rule or something very much like it is important for the maintenance of the doctrine of collective responsibility.
Finally, the informal breach of collective responsibility is that which gives rise to the greatest difficulty for contemporary Governments. No one is a better demonstration of that than the right hon. Member for Chesterfield who, in the mid-1970s, pursued a highly individualistic form of existence within a Government and, in my belief, weakened that Government, subverted loyalty to his colleagues and, on the whole, was a gift to his opponents.
As politics is or should be, at least in part, about learning from experience, I say that this Treasury Bench has learnt from the bruising experiences of the past weeks. If Opposition Members were at all wise, they would also learn.
§ Mr. Biffen
No. I am going to proceed to the third point that I wish to make, which is a warning to my right hon. and hon. Friends about the nature of this afternoon's debate and what I believe it implies in political terms.
It has been a major political assault. It has not been an assault designed as a relentless search for truth. The disclosure of the Solicitor-General's letter, which certainly is an incident which contains errors enough, has been mentioned from the Government Benches, not least by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but nonetheless it has been subject to critical comment elevated out of all proportion. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) properly assessed the situation in his intervention at Question Time on 23 January when he referred to "hypocrisy", "humbug" and "cant."
First, on the issue of the disclosure. The disclosure was undertaken in terms which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has deprecated. We all admit that we judge that matters could have gone better, but to turn this into some kind of moral crusade is simply to totally disregard what happens in the world about us.
If we want to know we need only look to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield, without whose existence this speech would be the sadder, when he wrote "Arguments 686 for Socialism," in which he set out in a fair way the operation of disclosure. He repeated some of it for us this afternoon.
§ Mr. Biffen
Both the Crossman and Castle diaries are textbooks of the practice, and that has been referred to again and again by my hon. Friends. [Interruption.] I can tell the right hon. and learned Member for Aberaven (Mr. Morris)—
§ Mr. John Morris
May I ask the Leader of the House two simple questions? Did the Prime Minister canvass her advisers or any Minister before she requested through her office the Solicitor-General to write his letter or to put that letter into the public domain? Secondly, when she set up the inquiry, did she know that it was an official leak? Did she know the salient facts?
§ Mr. Biffen
Those points have been dealt with by the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The fact that they are being put again and again shows the prejudiced approach by the Opposition. It is an approach symbolised in the language of the Leader of the Opposition in his speech this afternoon, when he said that the Prime Minister was on trial. That is the language of someone whose idea of a trial in the House of Commons is the ethics of the kangaroo court.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made a reasoned exposition both in the circumstances of the Solicitor-General's letter and of the leak inquiry. It is an exposition which appeals to any fair-minded judgment in the House. We have gone through an episode implying sadness and regret. There is certainly no question whatsoever of implying any shame. The Opposition now show an opportunism possessed only by those hungry for office. Such an appetite bodes ill for the nation and I ask my hon. Friends to reject the argument and the votes of the Opposition.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:
§ The House divided: Ayes 219, Noes 379.690
|Division No. 50]||[6.34 pm|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Bruce, Malcolm|
|Alton, David||Buchan, Norman|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Caborn, Richard|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Callaghan, Rt Hon J.|
|Ashton, Joe||Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)|
|Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)||Campbell, Ian|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Canavan, Dennis|
|Barnett, Guy||Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)|
|Barron, Kevin||Cartwright, John|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Bell, Stuart||Clarke, Thomas|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Clay, Robert|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Clelland, David Gordon|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Blair, Anthony||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cohen, Harry|
|Boyes, Roland||Coleman, Donald|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Conlan, Bernard|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Cook, Frank (Stockton North)|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)|
|Craigen, J. M.||McCartney, Hugh|
|Crowther, Stan||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||McGuire, Michael|
|Cunningham, Dr John||McKay, Allen (Penistone)|
|Dalyell, Tam||McKelvey, William|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||McTaggart, Robert|
|Deakins, Eric||Madden, Max|
|Dewar, Donald||Marek, Dr John|
|Dixon, Donald||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Dobson, Frank||Martin, Michael|
|Dormand, Jack||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Douglas, Dick||Maxton, John|
|Dubs, Alfred||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Meacher, Michael|
|Eadie, Alex||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Eastham, Ken||Michie, William|
|Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Ellis, Raymond||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)|
|Field, Frank (Birkenhead)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Fisher, Mark||Nellist, David|
|Flannery, Martin||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||O'Brien, William|
|Forrester, John||O'Neill, Martin|
|Foster, Derek||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Foulkes, George||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Fraser, J. (Norwood)||Park, George|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Parry, Robert|
|Freud, Clement||Patchett, Terry|
|Garrett, W. E.||Pavitt, Laurie|
|George, Bruce||Pendry, Tom|
|Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Penhaligon, David|
|Godman, Dr Norman||Pike, Peter|
|Golding, John||Prescott, John|
|Gould, Bryan||Radice, Giles|
|Gourlay, Harry||Randall, Stuart|
|Hamilton, James (M'well N)||Redmond, Martin.|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)||Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)|
|Hancock, Michael||Richardson, Ms Jo|
|Hardy, Peter||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Robertson, George|
|Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Rogers, Allan|
|Haynes, Frank||Rooker, J. W.|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Rowlands, Ted|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Ryman, John|
|Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Home Robertson, John||Sheerman, Barry|
|Howells, Geraint||Sheldon, Rt Hon R.|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham)||Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)|
|John, Brynmor||Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds, E)|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Snape, Peter|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)||Soley, Clive|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Spearing, Nigel|
|Kennedy, Charles||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Stott, Roger|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Strang, Gavin|
|Lambie, David||Straw, Jack|
|Lamond, James||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Leighton, Ronald||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Tinn, James|
|Litherland, Robert||Torney, Tom|
|Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)||Wainwright, R.|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Wallace, James|
|Loyden, Edward||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Wareing, Robert||Woodall, Alec|
|Weetch, Ken||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Welsh, Michael||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Williams, Rt Hon A.||Mr. John McWilliam and|
|Wilson, Gordon||Mr. Ray Powell.|
|Adley, Robert||Cope, John|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Cormack, Patrick|
|Alexander, Richard||Corrie, John|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Couchman, James|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Amess, David||Critchley, Julian|
|Ancram, Michael||Crouch, David|
|Arnold, Tom||Currie, Mrs Edwina|
|Ashby, David||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Dicks, Terry|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Dover, Den|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Dunn, Robert|
|Baldry, Tony||Durant, Tony|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Dykes, Hugh|
|Batiste, Spencer||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Bendall, Vivian||Evennett, David|
|Bennett, Rt Hon Sir Frederic||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Benyon, William||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Best, Keith||Fallon, Michael|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Farr, Sir John|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Favell, Anthony|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Blackburn, John||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Body, Sir Richard||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Forman, Nigel|
|Bottomley, Peter||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Forth, Eric|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Fox, Marcus|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Franks, Cecil|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Freeman, Roger|
|Bright, Graham||Fry, Peter|
|Brinton, Tim||Gale, Roger|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Galley, Roy|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Browne, John||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Budgen, Nick||Gorst, John|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gow, Ian|
|Burt, Alistair||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Butterfill, John||Greenway, Harry|
|Carlisle, John (Luton N)||Gregory, Conal|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Griffiths, Sir Eldon|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Grist, Ian|
|Cash, William||Ground, Patrick|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Grylls, Michael|
|Chapman, Sydney||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Chope, Christopher||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Hannam, John|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Harris, David|
|Cockeram, Eric||Harvey, Robert|
|Colvin, Michael||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Conway, Derek||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Coombs, Simon||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW)||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Hawksley, Warren||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Hayes, J.||McCrindle, Robert|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney||McCurley, Mrs Anna|
|Hayward, Robert||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Heddle, John||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Henderson, Barry||Maclean, David John|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Hickmet, Richard||McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)|
|Hicks, Robert||McQuarrie, Albert|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Madel, David|
|Hill, James||Major, John|
|Hind, Kenneth||Malins, Humfrey|
|Hirst, Michael||Malone, Gerald|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Maples, John|
|Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)||Marland, Paul|
|Holt, Richard||Marlow, Antony|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Howard, Michael||Mates, Michael|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Mellor, David|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Merchant, Piers|
|Hunt, David (Wirral, W)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Irving, Charles||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Jackson, Robert||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Moate, Roger|
|Jessel, Toby||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Moore, Rt Hon John|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Key, Robert||Mudd, David|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Murphy, Christopher|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Neale, Gerrard|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Needham, Richard|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Knowles, Michael||Neubert, Michael|
|Knox, David||Newton, Tony|
|Lamont, Norman||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Lang, Ian||Norris, Steven|
|Latham, Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Lee, John (Pendle)||Osborn, Sir John|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Ottaway, Richard|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Page, Sir John (Harrow W)|
|Lester, Jim||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Lightbown, David||Parris, Matthew|
|Lilley, Peter||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Lord, Michael||Pawsey, James|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)|
|Pollock, Alexander||Stokes, John|
|Porter, Barry||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Portillo, Michael||Sumberg, David|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Powley, John||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Price, Sir David||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Raffan, Keith||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Rathbone, Tim||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thurnham, Peter|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm||Tracey, Richard|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Trippier, David|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Trotter, Neville|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Rost, Peter||Viggers, Peter|
|Rowe, Andrew||Waddington, David|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Ryder, Richard||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Walden, George|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Waller, Gary|
|Scott, Nicholas||Walters, Dennis|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Ward, John|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Watson, John|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Watts, John|
|Shersby, Michael||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Silvester, Fred||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Sims, Roger||Wheeler, John|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Whitfield, John|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Wilkinson, John|
|Speed, Keith||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Speller, Tony||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Spence, John||Wolfson, Mark|
|Spencer, Derek||Wood, Timothy|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Woodcock, Michael|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Yeo, Tim|
|Squire, Robin||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Steen, Anthony||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Stern, Michael||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
§ Question accordingly negatived.