§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,the appeal in the Australian courts in the case of the Attorney-General v. Heinemann Australia Pty. Ltd. and Peter Wright.
The matter is important because a great body of opinion in this country, of all political persuasions, believes that to appeal would only heap one embarrassment upon another, as the Government would inevitably lose. A wise man knows when he has been given a sound beating. Only a fool would go on in search of more punishment. The great majority of people in this country object strongly to the undignified spectacle of Britain being mauled and hauled over the coals in an Australian court action. People are unable to understand the inconsistency in the Government's prosecution policy—the green light to Pincher and West, and the red light to Wright, The Guardian and The Observer, against whom injunctions remain.
People believe that an appeal would leave Britain open to further revelations as to the identity of security officers who, despite lifetime obligations of confidentiality to the Crown, have leaked secrets and yet have not been prosecuted. There is concern about the delay that any appeal may have on the decision whether to prosecute Lord Rothschild, under section 7 of the Official Secrets Act 1920, for soliciting Mr. Peter Wright, by means of an offer of money, to pass to Mr. Pincher documents known or believed to contain official secrets relating to the security services.
What is most worrying is the grave matter of the insistence of the British Government in the Australian court that Wright's affidavit on the destabilisation of Labour should be taken in private session behind closed doors. Why have the Government so vehemently denied that any attempt was made to destabilise Labour, yet made a desperate plea to the judge to prevent Wright from making his allegations in public? We know that that happened, from reading the small print in the judgment. When I alleged this matter months ago, there were repeated denials. We have Mr. Justice Powell to thank for allowing this part of the secret evidence to be brought into the public domain. It is clear that a major cover-up of security service activity in the mid-1920s is now taking place. The Government want to keep the lid on the issue until after the general election.
The matter is urgent because we need a full debate on the accountability of the security services to Parliament and on the reform of the law. I earnestly hope that my memorandum to the Privileges Committee on the necessary reforms will be fully considered. It provides the framework that would avoid embarrassment in the future.
Finally, the matter is important to me as a Socialist. We do not want a future Labour Government, wrestling with unemployment, to be destabilised by a gang of out-of-control security officers.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) asks leave of the House to move the 703 Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,the appeal in the Australian courts in the case of the Attorney-General v. Heinemann Australia Pty. Ltd. and Peter Wright.
I listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman said, as I listened also to the exchange of questions to and answers from the Attorney-General earlier today. I regret that I do not consider that the matter the hon. Gentleman has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20 and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.