§ Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)
I beg to move,
That the draft Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts (Continuation) Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 5th June, be approved.On behalf of the House, I begin by paying tribute to the late hon. Member for Knowsley, South, who, alas, is not in his place today.
The purpose of the order is to continue in force for a further year the Army and Air Force Acts 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957, which together provide the statutory basis for discipline in the three services. The House will be aware that it is a long—
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will the mumblings of the deputy Chief Whip, who is aspiring to higher things, be replaced by the Minister, who is still a Minister unless there has been a secret reshuffle that we do not know about?
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton)
I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Martin Redmond (Don Valley)
On another point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the Conservative deputy Chief Whip—[Interruption.] I am asking you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, not Conservative Back-Bench Members, whether it is in order for the Government deputy Chief Whip to start to move the order and then to give way to the Minister of State to continue?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The motion has been properly moved, and I have called the Minister to continue the debate. Mr. Archie Hamilton.
§ Mr. Archie Hamilton
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Before I start my remarks, I should like to express our deep sense of sympathy to the widow and child of the late hon. Member for Knowsley, South, who, of course, has previously addressed the House in this debate. His regrettable and early death is something that we all bitterly regret and it is a great loss indeed for the Opposition Front Bench.
The purpose of this—[interruptioni.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. Will hon. Members who are not taking part in the debate and who are engaging in noisy conversation at the Bar of the House please withdraw from the Chamber quickly and quietly?
§ Mr. Hamilton
The purpose of the order is to continue in force for a further year the Army and Air Force Acts 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957. Those Acts together provide the statutory basis for discipline in the three services. The House will be aware that it is a long-established practice for service discipline to be fully reviewed every five years by means of the consideration of an Armed Forces Bill and for the disciplinary code as then enacted to be reviewed annually in the intervening years by 562 an Order in Council which is itself approved by resolution of each House. Those arrangements were endorsed by the Select Committee examining the last Armed Forces Bill in 1986.
The constraints of military discipline mean that the legal status of the men and women of the armed forces is special, and it is right that it should be subject to approval each year by Parliament. Unless they are reviewed by Acts of Parliament, the three service discipline Acts will expire on 31 December 1991. The House can therefore expect to have an early opportunity to consider service discipline procedures in depth.
The House will, of course, understand that I cannot anticipate the specific provisions of the next armed forces Bill. There is, however, one aspect on which a general observation might be appropriate. Since the passage of the 1986 Act, we have continued to monitor closely changes in civilian legislation that have a bearing not only on the disciplinary systems of the three services but on other matters covered by successive armed forces Acts, especially those affecting civilians overseas, who are subject to service laws by virtue of their employment or as dependants. It remains our general intention to reflect such changes by means of amendments to the service discipline Acts in so far as it is sensible and practical to do so.
Discipline is well maintained in the services and service men and women recognise that it is in their interests that it should be. This annual debate on the continuation order inevitably tends to highlight those rare areas where discipline has fallen below the very high standard that is demanded. Since the services are drawn from the population at large, they cannot altogether escape the trends occurring in society at large. It is clearly right, therefore, that they pay considerable attention to providing practical advice, education and counselling to service men and women who have problems, especially relating to alcohol or drug abuse or concerning their personal life.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
As a member of the Select Committee to which the Minister referred a moment ago, may I ask him whether he is satisfied that the care and protection of the children of service men matches the development in the care and protection afforded to children in the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Hamilton
Yes, I think that I am satisfied on that front. That is one area to which the welfare organisations pay considerable attention. Obviously, we are mindful of the families and recognise the importance of looking after them as well. We are confident that that is being done competently by the welfare organisations at the moment.
In addition, we are indebted to the voluntary and other agencies that play a vital role in providing welfare services to members of the forces and their families, especially overseas. Whether in support of NATO or in other tasks, our armed services have an essential role in safeguarding our interests and our freedoms. I happily take this opportunity to pay tribute to their profes-sionalism and dedication.
A fair and equitable system of discipline is essential if we are to maintain good morale in the forces a crucial factor, given the demographic trough. It is our responsibility to ensure that the system of discipline, on 563 which the efficiency and effectiveness of their work so much depends, strikes a sensible balance between the rights of service men and women as citizens and the extra constraints which must necessarily be imposed.
That is what the services discipline Acts seek to do, and I therefore invite the House to approve the order.
§ Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)
I echo the Minister's praise for the men and women who serve in the armed services—I shall say more on that later. Secondly—and more particularly—we were pleased to hear the Minister's kind remarks about our colleague, Sean Hughes. As the Minister is aware, Sean's death was a major shock to all of us. We suspected that he was getting better, and we hoped that he would be among us again very soon. Our thoughts this evening must be with Sean's wife and daughter. In the time that he was a member of our defence team, he made a major contribution to our policy changes. I am sure that I speak for all hon. Members when I say that everyone in the House will miss him, because he had only friends in this place.
The debate is about an order that provides a statutory basis for disciplining the three services, as the Minister has explained. In his speech on this matter on 14 July 1988, the then Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), drew attention to a pamphlet entitled, "The Armed Forces: Your Rights and Responsibilities". He said that a copy would be given to all new recruits to enable them to understand their rights and responsibilities. The Minister described the pamphlet in the following terms:
it covers rights in regard to injustice or ill-treatment, equal opportunity of employment in the armed forces, voting and injury on duty."—[Official Report, 14 July 1988; Vol. 137, c. 677.]In his speech on the order on 28 June 1989, the present Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement said that the pamphlet was to be updated, expanded and circulated to all new recruits. Why circulate the pamphlet only to new members of the forces? Why not circulate it to everyone in the forces so that everyone knows where the Government stand on the matter?
No hon. Member tolerates bullying, cruel initiation ceremonies or any other unacceptable behaviour. Such behaviour must be stamped out and any misdemeanour must be dealt with fairly but rapidly. One of the problems is that we cannot possibly know the real extent of bullying in the forces. How could we? Many people who are subjected to bad treatment are too afraid to report incidents because the retribution could be even worse than the original bullying. While accepting the difficulties, can the Minister tell the House whether to the best of his knowledge the position is improving or deteriorating?
Most service men are well aware of their responsibilities and duties. They are members of a special group in society. They need extreme discipline to carry out some of the dangerous tasks that they have to tackle. While we praise the vast majority, questions must be asked about the activities of a few. I re-iterate that most of our forces personnel are highly self disciplined. However, it does not take much to make morale sag. Morale can be lost either by unacceptable activities or, worse, by suggestions and 564 exaggeration about the magnitude of the problem. We must not fall into the trap of purporting to know what we do not, but I wish to mention some of the realities.
Several matters worry the Opposition. We are worried about the premature voluntary retirement rates. The rate was about 22,500 in 1987–88 and 27,000 in 1989–90, an increase over two years of 21 per cent. We recognise the need for a substantially smaller armed force but we are worried that to allow the armed forces to be reduced by attrition will result in an imbalance in the mix of personnel.
In its 19th report the Armed Forces Pay Review Body also drew attention to those anxieties when it stated:We are concerned with any problems in recruiting or retaining certain groups, for example, those with specialist skills.Reductions should be carefully planned in order the keep the right balance of skills and expertise in the services.
One of the difficulties with maintaining service morale is that there is considerable uncertainty about the future role of the armed forces. The Government should recognise that their continuing refusal to discuss in public the "Options for change" study has a profoundly detrimental effect on service morale and consequently on recruitment and retention.
The recent NATO communiqué called for smaller and restructured active forces and it will scale back the—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I find it difficult to see any connection between what the hon. Gentleman is saying and the motion before the House.
§ Mr. Boyes
You may say that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but, with respect, discipline in the forces is affected to a large extent by morale. I argue that if morale is high the possibilities of discipline problems are reduced. That is affected by the quality of life and the expectations of forces personnel.
The report also mentioned the development of multinational corps. What will that mean for the British armed forces? Will it mean shorter tours and a greater dependency on reservists? Will a reduced requirement for training lead to the Ministry phasing out all low-flying training below 250 ft?
My main concern is that we retain well-trained, highly disciplined armed forces. I do not believe that the majority of hon. Members share some people's fears about increasing indiscipline. We accept that our armed forces consist of self-disciplined, motivated people on whom we might have to depend at some time.
Again, I thank the Minister for his kind remarks about our colleague, Sean Hughes. We also endorse his kind remarks about our forces and the duties that they must undertake.
§ 11 pm
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
I join in the expressions of sympathy from all parts to the House to the family of the late hon. Member for Knowsley, South, who will be greatly missed.
I do not think that the occasion of the renewal of the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Navy Discipline Act 1957 should be a parliamentary formality. My hon. Friend the Minister said that when preparing the next Bill on the armed forces he will seek to amend disciplinary legislation to take into account contemporary realities.
565 I want to draw two such realities to the attention of the House. The first is the defence of military installations in the current IRA terrorist campaign. This is a national emergency, and it affects the disciplinary arrangements for our armed forces. Has the Ministry of Defence considered whether the disciplinary code under which our reserve forces operate could be amended in view of that terrorist emergency to permit them to conduct guard duties on military installations at risk from IRA attack?
It is anomalous that part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment should be engaged in guarding installations as well as other vital military tasks. By virtue of a lack of appropriate legislative framework, however, the home service force, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment squadrons and the Royal Air Force police voluntary reserve and other reservists are specifically precluded from undertaking this task. If they were enabled to carry out those guard duties, it would release valuable regular personnel and the defence of such key military installations would not be so dependent upon the use of security firms.
In January, I put this point to the director of Royal Air Force security at a hearing of the Select Committee on Defence. He said that there were grave difficulties with this proposition; and adduced the argument that he had legislative difficulties in mind. I believe that the appropriate legislation makes provision for the call-out of reserve forces, other than for normal training, but solely on the assumption that it will be done when either "national danger is imminent" ora great emergency has arisen.In my judgment, this country faces a terrorist emergency and should take all the necessary measures to combat and to defeat the threat.
The second aspect of the contemporary defence scene that needs examining in relation to discipline and the legislative framework is that Her Majesty's Government are likely to have to use civil air transport assets and merchant shipping more in future as an economy measure, in the light of the "Options for change" exercise. We have powers to requisition ships and civilian aircraft in times of emergency or war, but it is not clear that we can compel either merchant seamen or civil air crews to fly to a war zone or regions where they are at physical risk. There is a danger that they or their unions will refuse to go to such destinations.
If we are to take up from trade merchant ships and civil aircraft in an emergency or war, we must be able to compel the relevant personnel to perform whatever military tasks are required of them. Such legislative provisions do not exist, and they should. That is another matter which my hon. Friend the Minister of State should consider and on which he should report to the House as soon as possible, if he cannot do so when he winds up.
§ 11.6 pm
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
My contribution will be exceedingly brief. I pay tribute to the late hon. Member for Knowsley, South, Sean Hughes. All hon. Members are saddened by his passing.
Our security services face double jeopardy in their job of preventing terrorism in the most grave and difficult circumstances. Part of the tactic to defeat terrorism is to 566 reassure the community at large that our security services are subject to the civil law. In practice, I and many others have seen the difficulty of that position.
Two members of the security services were charged with acquiring, in a manner that was not totally legal, a montage of terrorist personnel. It was acquired not, as many people believe, from a locked, but from an unlocked display cabinet in Dunmurry police station. Two soldiers decided to remove a montage from the cabinet when Dunmurry police station was under reconstruction because it had been bombed by terrorists. They removed it not because they wanted to pass it on to loyalist paramilitary organisations, but because one of the soldiers involved was under serious threat from terrorists, and had been warned that he was. He had conveyed this information to members of his family, and had taken the montage in order to alert them to the people who might be on the lookout for him, to murder him. One might say, "There but for the grace of God go all of us who served in Northern Ireland," because we have frequently acquainted our families with the likely threat to our lives while serving in the security forces.
In this instance there was an inquiry about photographs of terrorists being circulated and, to put it in colloquial terms, the soldier was caught out. In order to show that the law was impartial—I do not mean this in a derogatory sense—the soldier was sentenced to a year's imprisonment. The judge in the civil court acknowledged that the soldier had no intention of passing the montage to loyalist paramilitary organisations. However, no account was taken of the fact that that young man was under considerable pressure and feared for his life.
That young soldier has been criminalised. He will serve a year in prison, and when he is released he will not be accepted back into his regiment, and it is likely that he will not have the means to protect himself against a terrorist assault. That is double jeopardy. Hon. Members will have heard me say that I have never experienced bad apples in the Ulster Defence Regiment, but I have encountered many bruised apples, people who have been damaged by the continuing threats, pressures and stress that they face every day.
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have never before been unable to hear an hon. Member for the chatter going on at the Table in front of me. Would you please suppress it?
§ Mr. Maginnis
I have used one example to demonstrate the double jeopardy faced by members of our security forces. However, I am making a point not specifically about soldiers in the Ulster Defence Regiment but about all our soldiers serving in Northern Ireland under the most difficult circumstances. Will the Minister consider the difficulties that they face in circumstances which after 20 years are perhaps no longer unusual but are certainly difficult? Will he make certain that everything is done to ensure that members of our security forces who are trying to protect their lives and those of their families are not made subject to the civil law in a way that criminalises them? If we do not face that problem, we will demoralise the people who have to carry out the difficult task of fighting terrorism. That can only be bad for the morale of our troops.
567 I leave the Minister to ponder the problem—and to reassure the House that, as they do their difficult job, our troops will not face that double jeopardy of being subject to both civil and military law.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
I, too, will be brief.
I share the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), and look forward to the comments of my hon. Friend the Minister on the case that he mentioned. I imagine that they will have to be made in writing; I should very much like to see a copy, for I find that case—if indeed it is as represented by the hon. Gentleman—deeply disturbing.
I wish to make three points. The first relates to the Home Service Force, of which I am a serving member: indeed, I have just returned from a drill night with my unit. As my hon. Friend knows, the point at which a soldier becomes subject to military discipline is the point at which he is attested. The HSF is a small organisation with a very low budget, but we think that it offers good value for money. In my view, our ability to recruit adequate numbers—the majority of HSF units are under strength at present—would be greatly enhanced if we could cut down on the inordinate amount of paperwork involved. Typically, it takes seven months to process the documents before a man can be attested and taken into a unit. Men become disillusioned: in theory, they should not be allowed to be equipped with kit and to go on exercises until the paperwork has been completed.
My second point concerns the new management strategy for defence. It seems to me that the discipline aspect is missing from this very interesting and well-laid-out document. The new strategy presents an enormous opportunity that can be exploited; however, it also presents a considerable danger. That danger stems from—perhaps "lack of understanding" is putting it too strongly— from, rather, a failure to take full account of the difference in terms of discipline and many other factors between members of the armed forces and the other employees for whom such systems are devised.
Let me give a simple example. One of the issues on which the document focuses is the importance of accounting for the way in which time is used. No limit of any sort is placed on the extent to which those who are fully subject to military discipline can be worked; when they are working in Ulster, for example, they may be on the job for all the hours that God gives, except for the minimal number required for obtaining food and sleep. Conversely, when a unit whose members are working extremely hard for much of the time is not fully stretched, it is not reasonable to expect those men to account for every last hour: indeed, it may not be cost-effective for them to try to do so.
Having read a number of articles and examined the new management strategy quite closely, I think that we should be very careful—especially at this crucial time, as it goes into its next stage of implementation—to trade off the upside against the downside when making our assessment. On the one hand, it is genuinely possible to give unit commanders powers to have more control over their unit in ways that are useful to them; on the other hand, there is the real risk that we may generate a good deal of 568 unnecessary, wasteful and resented paperwork. That is a difficult balance to strike and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will take careful account of that.
Thirdly, I welcome the confirmation in my hon. Friend's opening speech that we are to have the quinquennial Armed Forces Bill next year. I was glad to hear him say that the Government would consider developments in the civilian community and, in particular, in legislation sponsored by other Departments. One of the things that most concerns me about the feedback that I get from serving members in the armed forces, who are subject to the military discipline which, among other things, requires them to go wherever they are posted, is the way in which they are disadvantaged by much of the legislation sponsored by other Departments. I could run through a long list. For example, social security regulations often have residence in the United Kingdom qualifications, from which those magic words "or service abroad under the Crown" are omitted. I had a recent case involving legislation on student grants which also contains a United Kingdom residence qualification. So it goes on.
I hope that the Government will see the Armed Forces Bill as an opportunity to ensure that, in ways that in most cases involve only small sums of money, the armed forces are not disadvantaged in the many reforms and advances that the Government introduce through their many Departments by virtue of the fact that they are subjected to military discipline and, as a result, have to go wherever they are posted.
I leave those three thoughts with my hon. Friend. I suspect that he will not be able to reply to them all in detail tonight but I hope that he will write to me on my first point and that he will take all my points into consideration.
§ Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)
I offer my simple tribute to Sean Hughes. He was in every sense a fine, decent and honourable Member of Parliament.
As I mentioned in my intervention, I was a member of the previous Armed Services Bill Select Committee, and I would be most pleased to serve on the next one. On the basis of that experience, I offer a few brief comments on what the Minister said.
For example, the Minister said that the discipline Acts embrace not only the members of the armed services, but the civilian employees and the families of our service men. As a result of my experience, I came to assume that the term discipline includes, for example, redress of grievance procedures as well as disciplinary procedures. It also includes adequate welfare and counselling procedures for service men and their families. That is why I was pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge the need to provide good counselling and guidance to those suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. Many industries now have intelligent, sensible and compassionate alcohol abuse counselling services, and I welcome similar developments in the armed forces.
I also urge upon the Minister—he may argue that this is gratuitous advice—the need to prepare plans to deal with the distress which must be afflicting many service men now as a result of what may well appear to some of them to be a somewhat uncertain future. I have seen similar distress, leading in some cases to illness, among those facing redundancy and unemployment in industry. I saw 569 that particularly when a large shipyard in my constituency collapsed with the loss of more than 4,000 jobs. If regiments are disbanded, or if there is a pretty drastic reduction in certain sectors of the armed services, those who have to leave will require, among other things, intelligent and compassionate counselling. Much can be learned from the counselling services established in large-scale industry in the United Kingdom, where plants —perhaps coal mines, shipyards and other major employers of labour—have had to put people out of work. That is a very serious matter.
I must say a few words about the children of service men. Cases of physical and sexual abuse involving such children are fortunately very rare. But, even if there are only a couple of cases a year, the victims and their families have to be treated as carefully and as sensitively as possible.
The Minister may not recall this fact, but during the Report stage of the Armed Services Bill—I think it was in late 1985—I put down a number of amendments that sought to give added protection to children caught up in such distressing circumstances who lived abroad in married quarters where service men were stationed. I am pleased to tell the House that the Minister with responsibility for the Army at that time gave me an assurance—I was perfectly willing to accept it and I withdrew the amendments—that, on the basis of the concerns that I had expressed, a memorandum had been sent to the commanders of all bases overseas and in the United Kingdom outlining the need to give the best advice and counselling available to those involved; not merely to the children but to the alleged perpetrators and the children's mothers.
It is crucial that developments in child protection legislation in the United Kingdom are matched in armed services legislation. I shall certainly keep a watchful eye on that when we next debate an armed services Bill.
§ Mr. Brazier
It may be of assistance to the House for it to know that the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen's Families Association, the services welfare organisation responsible for such work, and its professional staff pride themselves on the fact that they have pioneered some of the developments that are now also taking place in the wider community as a result of new legislation. It operates the type of fully-integrated set-up that we are now trying so hard to encourage in the wider community.
§ Dr. Godman
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention because I failed to mention SSAFA.
Without wishing to indulge in anecdotal prattle, may I say that the first time that I came across SSAFA was as a young military policeman. I had to attend a fatal traffic accident, in which a Scottish soldier had died in Germany. The representatives of SSAFA were utterly marvellous in the way that they gave guidance and help to the young soldier's family, who lived in the married quarters in Munster, Westphalia. Therefore, I have some experience of SSAFA's work, albeit abysmally dated.
It is a long time since I was in the armed forces—too long, perhaps. Nevertheless, I believe that those are important considerations. A former Army Minister readily acknowledged the concerns that I expressed on that earlier occasion. If I am fortunate enough to be a member 570 of the next Select Committee, I shall seek to cross-examine Ministry of Defence representatives on some of the topics that I have barely mentioned tonight.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) for his fond tribute to my friend and colleague, Sean Hughes.
If I ask that the order should not be considered until the Government are more candid about the case of Colin Wallace, it is because I believe that it involves basic issues of military discipline. It is less an issue of what happened to Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, the then Mr. Edward Short, and the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) because, in general, politicians can look after themselves. The people who cannot look after themselves are those who are in the care of the state, as were those vulnerable boys at Kincora. It is a blemish of discipline that the Government have not been more forthcoming in giving a satisfactory explanation.
In case anyone supposes that just a very few of us are pursuing Colin Wallace's case obsessively, I may point out to the Minister that, together with the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), I was a speaker at the memorial meeting at the Guards and Cavalry club—not my usual habitat—for the late George Young, deputy head of MI6. On that occasion, and quite unprovoked by me—because I did not raise the subject—people expressed the view that it was important that the Colin Wallace case was straightened out. I will attempt to do so again tonight.
I refer to the Minister's letter to me of 20 June, in which he says:
In your speech during the Army Debate on 5 June you asked a number of detailed questions relating broadly to matters which have been the subject of various allegations by Mr. Wallace. Several of your questions relating to Kincora concern matters outside the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence and I will confine my comments on that subject to repeating that I am aware of no substantive evidence that Army personnel knew in the 1970s that homosexual abuse of boys was taking place at Kincora.Turning to your questions about Clockwork Orange, as my Written Answer to Michael Marshall on 30 January explained, two documents have been found which contain brief references to 'Clockwork Orange': both are dated 1975.Incidentally, I have informed the hon. Member for Arundel (Sir M. Marshall), who is Colin Wallace's Member of Parliament, of my intention to make this speech, and I believe that I have his approval. The Minister's letter continues:
No record has been found of any draft document containing the material which Mr. Wallace has described as an early version of 'Clockwork Orange'. Nor has any material been found which would justify allegations that Crown servants commissioned or authorised Mr. Wallace to create or use material denigratory to MPs, or engaged in such activities themselves. No correspondence between Mr. Broderick and General Leng on that subject has been traced: you will be aware of General Leng's firm assurance to the Government that he recalls no project by the name of 'Clockwork Orange' and would never have authorised any attempt to smear MPs. You also questioned the Government's position and official statements on this and other matters (including the security exercise near Aldergrove airport) in the light of press suggestions that contrary information may be possessed by former Crown servants who served in Northern Ireland at the same time as Mr. Wallace. I am not prepared to treat uncorroborated reports as being of substantive value. The Government has repeatedly made plain that, if anyone has substantive evidence which corroborates Mr. Wallace's allegations concerning a campaign by Crown servants to 571 smear MPs or a cover-up of knowledge of homosexual abuse of boys at Kincora, they should give it to the Government or the Police. To date no one has come forward with such information. Finally, the handling within the Government service of papers relating to Mr. Wallace has been the subject of a very thorough inquiry by a senior civil servant. The results of that inquiry have been reported to Parliament. It has been acknowledged that there were some shortcomings in the way that papers were handled, but the substantive errors of fact which resulted have been corrected by statements subsequently made by Ministers. Any suggestion that officials or Ministers acted in bad faith is wholly unjustified.I think it fair to put that letter from the Minister on the record.
Part of the reason why I raised the issue last week, and am doing so again tonight, is that I shall send the Official Report of these proceedings to the master of Magdalene—as I have sent him previous reports—because David Calcutt should consider these matters as part of his inquiry. So the more formally they are put, the better.
On 3 July, Mr. Wallace, having studied the Minister's reply, wrote:Thank you very much for sending me a copy of'the Minister's reply
of 20 June regarding the questions which you raised during the Army debate. Quite frankly, I was furious when I read it. The letter is a disgraceful and deliberate attempt to evade every question you raised and it is clear from the wording of the reply that the Minister knew he was evading the issues. I don't know how you feel about it, but I think the Government should be told the reply is not acceptable and asked to deal with each one of the questions properly.That is exactly how I feel.For example, on the Kincora issue",the Minister
claims that he is 'aware of no substantive evidence that Army personnel knew in the 1970s that homosexual abuse of boys was taking place at Kincora."'I have put this letter in the possession of the Ministry of Defence and it should have reached the Minister's office.As you know, there is ever growing evidence that whatthe Minister
is saying is completely untrue, and that he knows that it is untrue. On 18 March this year, The Correspondent published a report which included the following comment from Mr. Hugh Mooney, Information Adviser to the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland from 1971–73:Mr. Mooney also admitted that Mr. Wallace had told him about the sex scandal at Kincora boys home in Belfast—casting further doubt on Government claims that the security forces had no knowledge of the long-running rape and buggery of children in care'.Similarly, in the transcript of the tape-recorded telephone conversations between General Leng and Barrie Penrose, General Leng confirms that he was 'aware of the homosexual insinuations' relating to Kincora and he also remembers saying 'this is a police matter, not ours.'On a point of journalistic principle, Mr. Penrose has given up his job with The Sunday Times on this very issue.
The letter goes on:Mike Taylor has also gone on record saying that he recalls seeing the Kincora file at Army Headquarters and, in particular, the two key documents which I had in my possession and which are referred to in Paul Foot's book, Who Framed Colin Wallace?In addition, Peter Broderick has confirmed that he recalls seeing the memorandum which bears in his own handwriting the words 'Clerks IP' and which refers to William McGrath running a home for children on the Upper Newtownards Road. The document also gives the telephone number and full postal address of Kincora.Lastly, there is the information provided by 'James', the Army Intelligence Officer who appeared in the BBC 'Public Eye' programme, and who has since confirmed to other journalists that, not only was he aware of the assaults that were taking place in Kincora, but also that his MI5 superior, 572 Ian Cameron, stopped him from taking further action. Worse still, despite negotiations between the RUC and the MOD, MI5 refused to make Ian Cameron available for interview by the police and failed to answer their questions.The letter goes on to say that the Minister'sreply to you on this issue is, therefore, despicable. The rest or'the Minister's
letter is so outrageous that it is difficult to comment on it seriously. However, the following points need to be made:1. The Minister again avoids facing up to the issues which you raised during the Army Debate by trotting out the Government's standard line of defence: 'The Government has repeatedly made it plain that, if anyone has substantive evidence which corroborates Mr. Wallace's allegations concerning a campaign by Crown servants to smear MPs or a cover-up of knowledge of homosexual abuse at Kincora, they should give it to the Government or the Police'. That is precisely what I did do in 1984 when I sent a complete dossier of information to the Prime Minister personally, but no action was taken on its contents. Similarly, you will recall that I recently sent to the Prime Minister a selection of documents bearing the handwriting of various Crown servants and containing information smearing political figures. Although the Government does not deny the authenticity of the documents, the Defence Secretary claims there is no evidence to suggest the material was intended for dissemination to anyone. How utterly absurd!I say to the Minister that I am not making a party issue of this. I was deeply shocked to see the imprimatur of the Army headquarters at Lisburn on an absolutely disgusting article in relation to the former Conservative Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup.
The letter continues:2. The Government has repeatedly assured the House that the 'fullest inquiries' have been carried out into my allegations. Despite that claim, the Government has refused to arrange for individuals such as Mike Taylor or Peter Broderick to be interviewed about the statements they have made to the press corroborating my allegations. The Goverment has a clear duty to carry our such enquiries and it is no use Ministers claiming that such witnesses should submit their own statements to the authorities. Such claims are totally dishonest, and Ministers know very well they are being dishonest when they refuse to face up to this issue.
§ Mr. Maginnis
I feel that I have a responsibility to intervene at this stage. No one can fail to admire the hon. Gentleman's tenacity in pursuing the Kincora case, which has disturbed every hon. Member. In so far as he pursues it within the scope of this debate, I hope that he will make it clear that he is not insinuating that the serving forces in Northern Ireland were involved in the Kincora scandal. If I may say so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, one might assert that this is somewhat outside the scope of the debate and could reflect badly on our serving forces. No hon. Member would wish that to happen.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have been following the debate carefully, and I understand that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) is asserting that matters of discipline impinged on employees or people responsible to the Ministry of Defence. To that extent, the matter is relevant to the debate.
§ Mr. Dalyell
I should like to agree strongly with the first point made by my hon. Friend, if I may call him such. It is true that most of the Army were clean, and some of thern are very shocked—including some of those whom I met tonight, who were senior officers in Northern Ireland in the 1970s—that this happened. It is no part of my case to denigrate the overwhelming majority of the British Army.
573 On the hon. Gentleman's second proposition, I was under the understanding that this is a debate on discipline and those who are answerable to the Ministry of Defence. I hope to heaven that certain sections of the security services in military intelligence are answerable to the Ministry of Defence. One of the worries is that discipline was not nearly tight enough.
§ Mr. Dalyell
That is very much the point. Indeed, it is the central point.
In all the argument between General Leng and Mr. Penrose, it is difficult to clarify matters. However, the central difficulty is that some of us think that military intelligence was not nearly as responsible to the Ministry of Defence as it jolly well should have been.
The letter continues:In paragraph 2 of his letter, Archie Hamilton claims General Leng has given the Government an assurance that he `recalls no project by the name of "Clockwork Orange".' That is totally false. In interviews with the press, including the one with Barrie Penrose, the General confirmed that he did recall `Clockwork Orange' but, quite rightly, says he did not know about its political content.That is highly germane to the point on which my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) intervened.
The letter continues:4. Also, in paragraph 2 of his letter, the Minister says: `No record has been found of any draft document containing the material which Mr. Wallace has described as an early version of "Clockwork Orange".' The Minister could clear up this issue very easily by asking Lt. Colonel Railton and Penny Sadler, the MI5 officer who typed the document, if they recall it. It is, of course, possible that no record of the document exists because all such records have been destroyed, but the Government could, without much effort, find out if it was produced at Army HQ in 1974 and typed by a member of MI5. That was, after all, what your questions in the Army Debate were designed to establish.5. Finally, the last paragraph of Mr. Hamilton's letter does not explain how a number of senior MOD officers—General Garrett, General Rous, Mr. Whitehead etc—failed to draw Minister's attention to the fact that Government replies were, from their own personal knowledge of my case, inaccurate. Their failure to advise Ministers accordingly strikes at the very heart of the credibility of the 'senior civil servant's report' to Parliament.That is the letter on 3 July.
On 8 July, Mr. Wallace wrote again. I have not yet given this letter to the Ministry of Defence. He says:Thank you very much for sending me the copy of Hansard containing your speech during the Northern Ireland (Direct Rule) Debate on 5 July. I think the speech was excellent and, supported by the one made by Ken Livingstone, it brought into focus the Government's failure to address the issues under discussion.I apologise for returning yet again to the answers provided by Mr. Archie Hamilton"—who is present tonight—but I think they are significant in that they demonstrate in the clearest way possible the fact that, contrary to Government assurances to Parliament, Ministers are not only failing to tell the truth about the overall affair but also are failing to make even the most rudimentary checks into my allegations. In your speech last week, you correctly highlighted the fact that some three weeks after my allegation concerning Mr. Whitehead's role in typing the Haughey document, it would appear that no one had bothered to check the allegation with him.574 It is not so much that the Ministry of Defence is being lazy, but that it has been told to put the shutters down. That is not good enough for the House of Commons.
The letter continues:
With your agreement, I would like to return to one specific matter which the Government could check out very easily if they are genuinely concerned about providing Parliament with accurate information on my case.You will recall that in a letter dated 30 January this year, Archie Hamilton told Ken Livingstone:`On 6 May 1988 you asked me about the involvement of Army Information Service Staff in the planting of hoax bombs and in the carriage of captured terrorist weapons or explosives. It is now apparant that you were referring to planned security exercises. Mr. Wallace has referred to Mr. CTT Whitehead"'—who now, incidentally, is the press officer responsible for the prison service department, a highly sensitive department of the Home Office—'having taken part in a mock raid on Aldergrove Airport; I understand that he took part in a security exercise in November 1973.""—which my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) may recall.`Mr. Wallace has also suggested that fake CIA cards were carried; and I understand that such cards were carried on that occasion, for exercise purposes only. It is now unclear what was the full scope of the exercises, but they did include a test of vehicle check points en route to Aldergrove Airport. We have found no evidence that arms and ammunition captured from the IRA were carried. Nor have we found any evidence that any real explosives were planted.'Comment: Why is it 'now unclear what was the full scope of the exercises'? The officer who planned the exercise was Major (now Major General) the Hon W E Rous. Why cannot the MOD ask the General to explain the details of the exercise?Mr. Wallace then states that he
wrote to the Prime Minister on 6 February pointing out that Mr. Hamilton's reply was inaccurate and saying:`Two of those who took part in the "raid", Mr. Michael Taylor, a former MOD official, and Miss Wendy Austin, a BBC journalist, have confirmed to Paul Foot and other reporters that captured IRA weapons, including rocket launchers, mortars, pistols and explosives were carried on that occasion. Moreover, as the MOD is well aware, we planted a bomb containing real explosive—but without a detonator—inside the headquarters of the UDR battalion guarding the airport and a "hoax" bomb on the Belfast/Ballymena railway line near Templepatrick. The latter device was blown up by an Army bomb disposal team'.On 16 February, the Prime Minister's Private Secretary,Mr. Charles Powell, wrote saying:`Statements made by Ministers to the House on these past events are naturally reliant on the material available in departmental records. Mr. Hamilton's letter of 30 January to Mr. Livingstone explained that the scope of the exercise at Aldergrove airport to which you refer is unclear at this distance in time: but that departmental records contain no evidence that captured weapons were carried nor that real explosives were planted.It is not possible to offer comment on statements said to have been made to the media by Mr. Taylor or Miss Austin about the "mock" raid at Aldergrove airport, in the absence of direct knowledge of them. But if Mr. Taylor and Miss Austin have any information which they consider relevant they should pass it to the Ministry of Defence'.I share Mr. Wallace's view when he comments:It is nonsense to say that 'statements made by Ministers on these past events are naturally reliant on the material available in departmental records.' As I have pointed out above and in earlier correspondence with Ministers, the MOD does not have to rely on departmental records alone, there are 575 a number of senior Defence staff who have personal and direct knowledge of the events in question and who could help Ministers with their enquiries, should they wish to do so"—or, more precisely, should Ministers wish them to do so.
Mr. Wallace again wrote to the Prime Minister on 21 February saying:'In your reply you attempted to avoid dealing with the fact that you had misled Parliament and claimed that you cannot take notice of comments made in the Press by my former superior officers and colleagues. Such a claim is totally disingenuous because you have repeatedly told the House that there have been "the most thorough investigations" into my allegations. If that is correct, why have those investigations failed to interview those who took part in the raid on Belfast airport'?That is a fair question. Time and again, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and I received answers from the Prime Minister and other Ministers referring to thorough investigations. That really is a load of codswallop.
Mr. Wallace's letter of 8 July continues:On 27 March, Ken Livingstone received the following Written Answer (Hansard Column 97):`Mr. Livingstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will direct his officials to interview Mr. Mike Taylor and Miss Wendy Austin about the full scope of their activities in Army Information Services in Northern Ireland in the 1970s'?According to Mr. Wallace's letter, the Minister replied,No. If Mr. Taylor or Miss Austin has information about activities in Northern Ireland which they feel to be of significance, they should submit it to the RUC or the Ministry of Defence.In his letter of 20 June to me, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said:You also questioned the Government's position and official statements on this and other matters (including the security exercise at Aldergrove airport) in the light of press suggestions that contrary information may be possessed by former Crown Servants who served in Northern Ireland at the same time as Mr. Wallace. I am not prepared to treat uncorroborated reports as being of substantive value.Mr. Wallace went on to state that the Minister's replies are, to say the least, a hit on the dishonest side and that there can be no excuse whatsoever for his failure to have the allegations relating to Aldergrove airport checked with those who took part in the raid, particularly when they occupy even more senior positions in the services. He went on to state:
For example, when the Prime Minister and others were supplying the above replies to Parliament, Mr. Chris Whitehead was Chief Press Officer at the MOD—he is now head of PR for the Prison Service.For a long time at any rate—I do not know whether the position has changed in the past week or two—Mr. Whitehead, according to the press, was not asked. They had not even bothered to ask people to whom it is very easy to put questions. I shall go on taking up the time of the House at awkward moments unless some effort is made on the part of the Ministry of Defence and the Northern Ireland Office to do something to answer questions that can very easily be answered.
Mr. Wallace's letter went on to state:During the raid, Mr. Whitehead carried a forged CIA identity card and a selection of weapons and explosives in his car. He was accompanied on that occasion by Miss Austin. I spoke to Miss Austin personally about two months ago and she recalls very clearly the details of that raid.Similarly, the MOD could check with the Commanding Officer of the 9th Battalion, Ulster Defence Regiment, in whose HQ we planted a bomb, and some of whose members found several of the weapons we were carrying.The officer who organised the exercise and who arranged for captured weapons and explosives to be supplied to my 576 team was Major Willie Rous. When the above answers were being given to Parliament, he was Director of Army Public Relations at the MOD. He is now a Major General and Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley.Presumably the Ministry of Defence knows how to get in touch with the commandant at Camberley.
Mr. Wallace said:
In addition, the overall exercise was supervised by Major General Leng, Commander Land Forces, personally. He was present at the UDR headquarters when the bomb which we had planted was discovered.The Aldergrove airport exercise may seem to be a trivial point in comparison with Kincora and 'Clockwork Orange', but I regard it as a yardstick of the Government's credibility on the overall issue. Bearing in mind Government assurances to parliament on 30 January and 1 February that they were anxious to correct all previous misleading statements, it would be helpful if, by obtaining further admissions on the above, we could demonstrate that inaccurate information is still being given to the House and that Ministers are failing to take the most elementary steps to ascertain the correct facts even when specific issues are brought to their attention and when key witnesses are still in Government employment.Mr. Wallace concluded that he thought that the Ministershould be pressed to explain the Government's excuse that they were only made aware that some of their previous answers about my case had been misleading, following the discovery of some papers last year. The inescapable fact remains that I submitted all the relevant facts to the Prime Minister personally in November 1984"—I have seen the file, and it is thick and comprehensive—
and, it would appear, that neither Major General Garrett, Brigadier Rous nor Mr. Whitehead told Ministers that the information they were giving to Parliament was inaccurate. Similarly, Mr. Hamilton should be asked to explain why the Government's 'thorough inquiries' did not include those officers or others such as Penny Sadler, Michael Taylor, Peter Broderick or 'James', the Intelligence Officer who investigated Kincora.You and the House have been very patient with me. Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Hansard of this debate will go to the master of Magdalene, David Calcutt, who is undertaking an investigation. I hope that he will say that, in view of this and what happened last week, as a heavyweight lawyer and, in a sense, morally responsible to the legal profession in this matter, he will demand that his terms of reference be widened. Part of the reason for doing this is that I am a bit bothered that the terms of reference of the Calcutt inquiry in relation to Mr. Wallace are pretty narrow. They should be widened. Personally, I shall not complain too much if Mr. Calcutt does not produce the report oversoon. He has a mountain of work to do and a formidable task. He should apply himself to the wider aspects of this issue.
Finally—I make no apology to my colleagues—as my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow said in another context, in dealing with young boys and military discipline, this is an issue that is above Heath or Wilson or anything of that kind. The fact is that, for a long period and in a sustained way, sections of the British state—paid for by the taxpayer—countenanced the systematic abuse of boys, entrusted into the guidance of our state, who were highly vulnerable.
This is a moral issue and an issue of discipline. It will not go away, and the sooner candid answers are given, the better for all of us.
§ 12.6 am
§ Mr. Archie Hamilton
With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to reply to the debate.
The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes) referred to the leaflet that was issued in 1988 which 577 outlined the rights and responsibilities of service men. I can confirm that the leaflet has been updated and is issued to all new recruits. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the leaflet should be given to all service personnel, a point which was raised in the debate last year. The then Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces, my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert), told the House that, if that were done, we would have to issue 300,000 copies. All service men are made aware of their rights and responsibilities in information that is already widely distributed. As my hon. Friend said, I suspect that the leaflet, which covers a number of subjects in general terms, would, like so much of our mail, end up in the wastepaper bin. Nevertheless, we are conscious of the need for members of the services to have proper advice on their rights—
§ Mr. Hamilton
It is conceivable that the NHS leaflet would tell people something that they did not know already. Other than new recruits, members of the armed forces know well their rights and responsibilities. I am talking about the updated version. I can make it available later to the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the rate of premature voluntary retirement. The number of people who are leaving the services early is causing us some concern at the moment. Fortunately, recruitment is holding up extremely well and we have a record number of recruits. Nevertheless, the number of those leaving the services is running ahead of the record numbers that we are managing to recruit.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to "Options for Change". Clearly there is a degree of uncertainty—of which we are well aware—but much detailed work remains to be done. We then hope to be able to announce our intentions to the House. That will do something to help to solve the present problem of uncertainty.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) referred to the present terrorist emergency and was concerned that our reserve forces are not able to carry out guard duties. He thought that some legislative change was necessary. That may be so. I should like to come back to him on that, having found out what the position is. A problem about reserve forces doing duties with firearms is that we must be confident that they are properly trained. We would not have the time to give them training on ranges to make us confident that they were competent in the use of firearms.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood also mentioned that we have no legislative powers to force merchant seamen or civilian aircrews of chartered aircraft to go to war. We had a healthy response when the Falklands conflict arose. Indeed, several merchant seamen volunteered to go to the Falklands region even though they were under no coercion to do so. Their pay was somewhat enhanced to reflect that. I shall write to my hon. Friend on whether we need powers to force merchant seamen to go to war.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
I appreciate that my hon. Friend has undertaken to write to me on both issues. May I add that as part of his review under "Options for Change" hypothetically it must be possible that Her Majesty's Government will consider chartering civil assets to fulfil roles both in shipping and air transport which were previously fulfilled by the military. If that is the case, there is, at least prima facie, a good argument for considering seriously legislative provision even if historic experience in the Falklands campaign was a happy one.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I take my hon. Friend's point. I am not certain that "Options for Change" will lead to us depending more on chartering, but clearly it is a possibility. As he knows, chartering would be a critical element of any reinforcement plans in the event of a major war in Europe. We constantly examine whether there are enough merchant ships to fulfil the required functions.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) raised the case of a UDR soldier who took a photo-montage and was imprisoned by a civilian court for a year. Subsequently he could not return to his regiment. The hon. Gentleman described that as double jeopardy. One must accept that if there are mitigating circumstances—the hon. Gentleman said that there were —one must expect a court to take them into account. The hon. Gentleman would not expect me to question the finding of the court. It is not our job to take up the finding of a court. We must recognise the independence of the judiciary and respect the sentences that are passed.
§ Mr. Maginnis
The Minister will realise that the peculiar circumstances in Northern Ireland make it necessary at times for people to enter into plea-bargaining arrangements. Our security forces have a political responsibility on their shoulders. That may not be widely admitted, but we know that it is the case. The hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), who served as a Minister in Northern Ireland, nods in agreement. It is incumbent on soldiers to be political in their actions. The soldier in question was persuaded that it was circumspect to enter into a plea-bargaining arrangement, so there was no possibility of pleading mitigating circumstances. It is "Heads you lose, tails you do not win."
§ Mr. Hamilton
I note what the hon. Gentleman says, but I believe that he is trying to draw me even further on the findings of our court. As he knows, there is a rule in the UDR that when one is convicted by any civil court one must leave the regiment. It is not a question of the soldier being tried again under military discipline.
My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) referred to the enormous amount of paperwork involved in getting into the Home Service Force, and I shall consider that problem. My hon. Friend rightly mentioned the new management strategy and the necessity to achieve a balance between efficiency and paperwork. We are mindful of that and we must make certain that as much responsibility as possible is delegated to budget holders. The services are responding well to the challenge. It is necessary that they are given the freedom they need to exercise the discretion that should come with their new responsibilities. My hon. Friend also asked that the next armed forces Bill should take into account the changes in other legislation. It will do so, and it is important that it should.
579 The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) emphasised the need for adequate welfare and counselling services, upon which we concentrate. He also said that the services are facing an uncertain future. We recognise the need to end that uncertainty as soon as we can so that the services know the way ahead. It is rather alarmist, however, to talk about widespread redundancies. I do not think that that is the ball game, bearing in mind the large turnover and natural wastage of personnel in the services. The changes will be made between now and the end of the century and therefore there is plenty of time for those changes to be made without them resulting in redundancies.
The hon. Gentleman also made a good point when he said that we should not tolerate child abuse in the services, even if the incidence of it is small. I was grateful that my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury intervened to describe the role of SSAFA in dealing with that matter. I must come back to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow about what provision is currently made to deal with that problem as I am not totally certain about it.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was, as always, courteous enough to tell me in advance that he intended to air again his concerns about the case of Mr. Colin Wallace and Kincora. Despite your remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I admire his ingenuity in devising a basis upon which to introduce such matters into the debate. I cannot accept that the issues are directly relevant to the matters we are discussing. Many of the points raised were familiar ones that have been dealt with in the past. I shall, of course, look carefully at the record to see whether any new matters of significance were raised. If so, I shall certainly write to the hon. Gentleman about any that concern my Department. However, he is well aware that most matters concerning Kincora are properly the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
On the question of documentary material, Mr. Wallace has provided extracts from a number of documents—he says that he wrote some of that material. I know of no evidence that he was ever given official authority to produce any material that intentionally denigrated Members of Parliament. If Mr. Wallace has any solid evidence that Crown servants were authorised to prepare or use material—
§ It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business).
§ Question agreed to.
That the draft Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts (Continuation) Order 1990, which was laid before this House on 5th June, be approved.