HC Deb 19 February 1990 vol 167 cc659-60 3.32 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

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 statement of a genuinely distinguished soldier, General Sir Peter Leng, Scots Guards, a senior commander in Aden, subsequently Master-General of the Ordnance and a member of the Army Council, but, most relevantly, Commander of Land Forces in Northern Ireland for the years 1973–75 that, contrary to Government claims, the operation Clockwork Orange had official sanction to run. I must persuade you, Mr. Speaker, that the matter is definite, that it is urgent and that it is important. The matter is definite, and it is fully reported in the first editions of yesterday's Sunday Times, under the by-line Barry Penrose and the heading "General Backs Wallace Claims". The four page 1 and page 2 articles were "pulled out," to use the trade term, for reasons that are revealing but not relevant to the application for the matter to take precedence over the announced business of the House of Commons.

The matter is important, because accuracy by Ministers to the House is important. You did me the courtesy Mr. Speaker, of being in the Chair for the Adjournment debate last Monday night, attended by about 70 Opposition Members and 30 Conservative Members. You will have heard, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces say, as reported at column 118 of Hansard, that operation Clockwork Orange was not approved.

At least the Select Committee on Defence might consider asking Sir Peter Leng to appear before it to clarify exactly what he meant. The Minister and the general cannot both be right. Who is the House of Commons to believe?

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

The general.

Mr. Dalyell

That would be my view—[Interruption]. Well, the general has no axe to grind.

The matter is urgent, because it emerges that Clockwork Orange was masterminded by a senior civil servant, Dennis Payne, and that the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, at the time, General Sir Frank King, has said that he has no quarrel with General Sir Peter Leng's account.

Nothing is more urgent than matters that go to the heart of the integrity of British Government. Nothing that this House of Commons has to consider is more urgent than the matter of integrity in the highest places.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely, General Sir Peter Leng's statement on Colin Wallace. As the House knows, under Standing Order No. 20, I have to announce my decision without giving reasons to the House. I have listened with care to what the hon. Gentleman has said. As he knows, I have to decide whether his application comes within the criteria of the Standing Order, and if so, whether the debate should have priority over the business already set down for today or tomorrow.

In this case, I regret that the matter that he has raised does not meet the requirements of the Standing Order and I therefore cannot submit his application to the House.

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