HC Deb 02 June 1992 vol 208 c699
11. Mr. Martyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence at what level of secrecy classification he is willing to disclose documents to hon. Members.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Jonathan Aitken)

Hon. Members may be allowed access to information at various levels of classification depending on the circumstances. Classified information is also made available in accordance with the published rules to members of Select Committees.

Mr. Jones

I think that I heard the Minister's reply that, sometimes, restricted documents would be available. May I remind the Minister that, last year, I asked the Secretary of State for the criteria applied to the construction of safe ranges? That information was refused me as it is in a classified document. I was then sent it anonymously—[Interruption.] Does the Minister agree that it is ludicrous for the information on the safety criteria for ranges to be classified in any way and that it is even more ludicrous for hon. Members to be refused access to that information? Is it not even more ludicrous—[Interruption.] Is it not even more ludicrous that I was able to obtain a copy of that document not from some foreign agency, but from a constituent of mine? Does he not—

Madam Speaker

Order. This is Question Time. It is not a debate and the hon. Member has asked quite enough questions.

Mr. Aitken

There is no ministerial responsibility for anonymous letters.

Mr. Dickens

Am I not right in saying that the key element in the defence of the realm is surprise and that there is a great difference between betraying classified information to a potential enemy and the citizens charter, which gives people their rights? We must be careful in the information that we make available.

Mr. Aitken

My hon. Friend has made his point in his usual robust way. He is right to point out that there is a difference between classified information and the information covered by the citizens charter, which is simply information already in the public domain, but which needs greater and wider amplification.

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