HC Deb 23 February 1987 vol 111 c14
51. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Attorney-General on what date, and at what time, he first became aware of the police search of the British Broadcasting Corporation offices at Queen Margaret Drive, Glasgow, as part of inquiries initiated at his request into alleged breaches of the Official Secrets Acts in relation to a secret defence project.

The Solicitor-General

On the morning of Sunday 1 February.

Mr. Dalyell

Has it dawned on the Government that the raid on the BBC in Glasgow was an illegal act? Why do Ministers think that they know better than Professor Robert Black, professor of Scots law at the University of Edinburgh, who has argued convincingly that since a justice of the peace did not sign a warrant it was an illegal act? Why do they think that they know better than Professor Tony Bradley, professor of constitutional law at Edinburgh university and editor of Public Law, who says that the feelings of the victims—in this case, the Foreign Office—had to be taken into account?

The Solicitor-General

Reluctant though I am to play so tempting a question away into the heather, that is not a matter for the Attorney-General.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Might not those who appear to believe in the divine right of investigative journalists reflect on what would have been thought, said and done if pre-war journalists had betrayed the secret of radar?

The Solicitor-General

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. It is all very well for us to pay careful attention—and we need to—to the rights of a free press and freedom of speech, but the need for the United Kingdom to protect its essential security interests tends to receive less vocal support and recognition

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Solicitor-General regard it as satisfactory that the law governing the obtaining of search warrants is different in England and in Scotland, thus enabling the authorities to indulge in the sort of gamesmanship of which we heard in relation to the Glasgow search?

The Solicitor-General

The hon. and learned Gentleman invites me to stray into matters which are the responsibility of my Scottish colleagues, but it would he wrong for me to do so. It is right that the Act of Union should be respected and that the Scots should continue to be able to have a law of their own.