HC Deb 12 January 1987 vol 108 cc34-5 4.20 pm
Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I rise on a point of order to seek your guidance following allegations made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) in a debate on the security services on 15 December. I would have raised the matter with you sooner, but for the fact that the hon. Gentleman made his attack initially under the cloak of anonymity and it was not until immediately after the rising of the House for the Recess that my name came to be publicly linked with his accusations. Therefore, I am availing myself of the first possible opportunity to draw this matter to your attention.

During a 56-minute speech the hon. Gentleman attacked various individuals, including the head of the Civil Service and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, impugning the honour and integrity of both. Among the targets of his attacks were two Conservative Members of Parliament whom he declined to name and who, he claimed, had engaged in a conspiracy with officers of MI5 to bring about the downfall of Her Majesty's Government by unconstitutional means during the second Administration of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx.

He said at column 783 that only one of the two hon. Members was still in the House and that he would approach that individual and ask him "to make a personal statement". Two days later I received a letter from the hon. Gentleman stating that Mr. Peter Wright had "identified" me—whatever that might mean—and calling on me to make a personal statement to the House.

The very next day a highly regarded member of the parliamentary press lobby informed me that he had been told by the hon. Gentleman himself that Sir Stephen Hastings and I had been sent letters by the hon. Gentleman, identifying us. I understand that the hon. Gentleman subsequently denied informing the press. However, by whatever process of telepathy the existence of his letters came to be communicated to the press—certainly neither Sir Stephen nor I did so—our names came by the weekend to be publicly linked with his most grave accusations.

Asserting that it was the biggest political scandal of this century and that it surpasses in importance the Zinoviev letter", the hon. Gentleman accused me, and our former and distinguished colleague, Sir Stephen Hastings, of being beyond the law and involved in action against the Crown. He alleged that, as part of a smear campaign designed to bring about the downfall of the Wilson Government, we acted as "conduits" for bogus information which we knew came illegally from within MI5. The hon. Gentleman further declared: They did not stop it, nor did they report it to the Home Secretary. They just passed it on in the knowledge that it would destabilise the Labour Prime Minister and his Government."—[Official Report, 15 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 783–4.] The charge that the hon. Gentleman has levelled against us is, in effect, of engaging in a treasonable conspiracy to bring down Her Majesty's Government. Few graver charges can be made, especially against a Member of this honourable House. Indeed, it remains a capital offence for which, uniquely, the gallows are preserved to this day.

May I say that I have never at any time worked for or with MI5. Nor have I ever knowingly even met any individual from MI5. I have certainly never engaged in any conspiracy, treasonable or otherwise, with MI5 or with any of its officers, past or present. So far as they relate to me, the hon. Gentleman's accusations are a seamless tissue of falsehoods. Furthermore, Sir Stephen Hastings, with whom I have been in touch and who, like me, has issued writs for libel against The Observer and two of its correspondents, has asked me to state on his behalf that the charges against him are also without foundation.

In the circumstances, Mr. Speaker, I must ask you whether it is in order for an hon. Gentleman to make such accusations against a fellow hon. Member without producing any evidence to substantiate the charge. If you agree that that represents a flagrant abuse of the privileges of this House, I should be grateful if you would consider referring the hon. Gentleman's conduct to the Committee of Privileges. Finally, I challenge the hon. Gentleman either to repeat his accusations outside the protection of parliamentary privilege or to withdraw them unequivocally.

Mr. Speaker

As the House knows, the rule is that it is not in order to reflect in debate on the conduct of another hon. Member except on a substantive motion which admits of a distinct vote of the House. In the debate on 15 December, to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) reflected on the conduct of two other Members. If he had identified them, the Chair would have intervened to enforce that rule. He did not do so, so there was no basis on which the Chair could take action. Nor can I take action now. However, if the hon. Gentleman alleges that this is a matter of privilege, he should write to me in the usual way and I shall consider it.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I give you notice that I intend to take the opportunity of replying in full detail.

  1. STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c. 23 words