HC Deb 03 July 1989 vol 156 cc13-4
54. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Attorney-General why, pursuant to his answer of 12 June Official Report, column 549, he does not accept the premise that it is important to our system of government that Ministers do not tell lies to the House of Commons.

The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

No sensible construction of my answer can support that assertion.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the Attorney-General believe the leak from Sir Leon Brittan, who complains that Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell approved the disclosure of his letter? How, as a Law Officer of all things in this Government, can he remain easy when he sees the people who abused his own actions more prominent in Madrid than the Foreign Secretary?

The Attorney-General

I am afraid that I cannot encourage the hon. Gentleman by adding anything to the answer that I gave on 8 May to his hon. Friend for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).

Mr. Teddy Taylor

If my right hon. and learned Friend cannot do anything about that, can he at least do something to protect the people against political parties which constantly sing songs proclaiming people's power and red flags, but then say that they want to surrender all power to Brussels and the bureaucrats?

The Attorney-General

I am expected to be extremely versatile in this position, but my authority does not extend to taking any such steps as would satisfy my hon. Friend.

Mr. Winnick

Are we to believe that someone in Government lied about the leaking of the letter, but that parliamentary convention does not allow the Attorney-General to say so? Do we take it that civil servants at No. 10 lied, or is the Attorney-General telling the House that he believes what we believe about the leaking of that letter, but that as a member of the Government he is hardly in a position to say so?

The Attorney-General

I thought that I had dealt as usefully as was within my power with much the same question from the hon. Gentleman on 8 May.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that if Brevity is the soul of wit constant repetition must be the sign of a most unoriginal mind?

The Attorney-General

We all have our own styles. but as I have a frog in my throat I had better emulate those who practise brevity.