HL Deb 06 July 1967 vol 284 cc767-846

3.33 p.m.

VISCOUNT DILHORNE rose to draw attention to the Report of the Committee of Privy Counsellors appointed to inquire into "D" Notice matters [Cmnd. 3309] and to the Government White Paper entitled "The 'D' Notice System" [Cmnd. 3312]; and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I hope noble Lords, wherever they sit, will think it right that we should have a discussion on what is commonly called the Radcliffe Report and the Government White Paper which followed it. That Report and that White Paper raise issues of considerable importance, quite apart from their effect on the character and reputation of certain individuals. This is no Motion of Censure which I am moving. Now that the dust has settled to some extent, I hope that we can consider these matters dispassionately and constructively, but that does not mean that we should refrain from criticism where criticism appears to be merited. It certainly is not my desire or intention that this debate should just be a continuation of the debate which took place in another place, or that it should just provide an opportunity for indulging in Party controversy.

I am not proposing in one speech to cover all the ground contained in the Radcliffe Report and the Government White Paper, but if I may remind the House, it was on February 16 that Mr. Chapman Pincher was told of the collection of copies of cables by a Ministry of Works van. It was on that day that he telephoned to the Ministry of Defence Press Office, and as a result was told that the story he had was "ludicrous". The Press Officer had been told then what line to take. I think it is not unimportant to note what that Press Officer said Mr. Chapman Pincher had said to him. It will be found on page 128 of the Report. It was that: … he had heard that cables were collected from some cable offices in London … and taken to a Ministry of Defence building".

Mr. Chapman Pincher also telephoned to the Post Office. In the Government's submission to the Radcliffe Committee, it is stated that the Press Office of the Post Office told him that his story was untrue. That will be found on page 36. The same thing was said in the memorandum by the Post Office, and that is to be found on page 42. Mr. Chapman Pincher, on the other hand, gave evidence that he had been told by the Post Office that there was substance in the story, but that not all cables went but some did. So here at the outset there was a conflict of evidence, and when the General Post Office Press Officer came to give evidence he admitted, perfectly frankly, that he had said that there was some substance in the story and that not all cables went but only some.

It appears to me a rather serious matter that the written Government submission to the Committee, and the memorandum of the Post Office, should both contain a factual statement which was wholly false. But for the answers given by the Press Officer which revealed the falsity, the result might well have been to cast doubt on the veracity of the evidence given by Mr. Pincher. I cannot but believe that great care was taken about the preparation of the Government's submission and the Post Office memorandum, and I think that if inquiry has not been made as to how this error came to be made it certainly should be inquired into. Perhaps the Government, when they come to reply, can state how this untruth came to be printed.

It was on the same day that Mr. Chapman Pincher spoke to Colonel Lohan. Colonel Lohan says that he was asked if there was a "D" Notice covering the interception of General Post Office telegrams by the Ministry of Defence, and that he replied that there was not. Mr. Chapman Pincher said that he asked whether the collection of cables was covered by a "D" Notice and he was told, No. As on the same day when Mr. Pincher spoke to the Press Officer at the Ministry of Defence and to the Press Officer at the Post Office they both say that he referred to cables, it would seem to me highly improbable that when he spoke to Colonel Lohan he referred only to G.P.O. telegrams. I feel that Colonel Lohan must be mistaken in his recollection about this. It is a matter of some importance, for if Mr. Chapman Pincher said to Colonel Lohan what he said to the other two Press officers, then he got a categoric assurance that a "D" Notice did not apply to the collection of these cables. All that took place on Thursday, February 16.

On Friday, February 17, the head of the Permanent Under-Secretary's Department at the Foreign Office heard that the Daily Mail and the Daily Express had got hold of a story that the Post Office and the four cable companies furnished the Ministry of Defence with copies of overseas cables, and he called a meeting to consider what should be done. That meeting decided to tell Colonel Lohan to get the story stifled by indicating that the subject came under the terms of the "D" Notice. I must say it seems to me odd that this meeting should have taken it upon themselves to decide, without consulting anyone of the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee, that publication of this story would be a breach of a "D" Notice.

My Lords, that having been decided, no further action was taken with the Daily Express to stop the publication of this story—publication which, we are told, endangered national security and which, I believe it has been alleged, endangered men's lives—until after the weekend, when Colonel Lohan saw Mr. Chapman Pincher at lunch on the Monday. When one reads the evidence given by Colonel Lohan as to what happened at the lunch it is, I think, significant that he never says that he asserted that publication would be a breach of a "D" Notice. He produced two "D" Notices and then put them away, and then sought to dissuade Mr. Chapman Pincher from publishing on general grounds.

There is some conflict of evidence about what was said at this lunch. After it, Colonel Lohan went to the Daily Mail. The statement of evidence of the managing director of that paper shows that Colonel Lohan said that he was not relying on the two "D" Notices and that he made a personal approach, saying that there was a specific operation in progress—something that he had not said to Mr. Chapman Pincher. It would indeed be odd, would it not, if he relied on the "D" Notices when he saw Mr. Chapman Pincher at lunch, that he did not do so when he went to the Daily Mail directly after lunch?

One cannot but feel considerable sympathy with Colonel Lohan. When he went to see Mr. Chapman Pincher his hands were tied. The instructions he received from the Foreign Office official were to the effect that he should say as little as possible—just that the "D" Notices applied. This Foreign Office official was anxious that Mr. Chapman Pincher should not be told too much as—and I quote his evidence—he estimated that Chapman Pincher was the type of journalist who would not be beyond using any official information he was told in confidence by Lohan". That, I must say, I think was a monstrous thing to say about a journalist whom I do not think he knew—a journalist who is respected in his profession; and not only in his profession—without any grounds being put forward for saying that he would not respect what he was told in confidence. So Colonel Lohan was really told just to say that the "D" Notices applied.

It may have been the view of this official that that would suffice. If that was his view, then he knew little about the operation of the "D" Notice System. It would, I think, be a sad day for freedom of speech and the freedom of the Press if publication of an embarrassing article could be stopped by the ipse dixit of an official that a "D" Notice applied. Efforts have been made to blame Mr. Chapman Pincher for his conduct in this affair. I must say that I think that blame should rest in a very considerable degree on those who did nothing with the Daily Express over the week-end on this matter, and with those who so completely tied Colonel Lohan's hands, for wholly inadequate reasons, as to what he should say.

My Lords, as I have said, if Colonel Lohan did not rely on the "D" Notices when he saw the Daily Mail it would appear to me improbable that he did so when he was with Mr. Chapman Pincher immediately before. Indeed, it would seem from Colonel Lohan's evidence that he never took the view that "D" Notices covered the matter. When the Prime Minister took it upon himself to allege that there had been—and I quote his words— a clear breach of two 'D' Notices it was not as a result of anything Colonel Lohan had said. In Colonel Lohan's evidence he said that whoever briefed the Prime Minister on that was utterly wrong. It was a wicked thing to do. But to that statement the Prime Minister has stuck, and stuck throughout. I have not seen that the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee have ever asserted that there was a breach of the "D" Notices. The Times, the Telegraph, the Observer and the New Statesman all say that the "D" Notices did not apply. Mr. Lee Howard, the Editor of the Daily Mirror, was of the same opinion and resigned from the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee.

I am not going to take up time this afternoon in discussing the wording of the "D" Notices. They are not documents which fall to be construed by lawyers, although it may comfort the Prime Minister, as he said, that the Law Officers have expressed the opinion that the "D" Notices did apply. I think that is beside the point. After a special notice had been sent out following the Birkett Report that telephone-tapping was not protected by a "D" Notice, it was at least arguable that cable-vetting fell into the same category. After that notice had been sent out, the earlier notices, which are published in this Report, had to be treated as if they had been amended. But, of course, the amendment is not there for anyone who picks up the "D" Notice, and that may explain why the Foreign Office official assumed that there had been a breach.

Frantic efforts were, we know, made at the last moment to stop publication. In those efforts the Foreign Secretary played a remarkable part—all to no avail. One thing we should consider, surely, in the light of what has happened: what ought to have been done? First, I would say that it should not have been assumed that "D" Notices applied. It is no doubt very tempting to say on occasions that they do. Surely steps should have been taken, if the matter was of such importance as it has since been represented to have been, to deal with it at the very highest level. We have this "D" Notice machinery, which has worked very well in the past; and one thing that bothers me is whether it is ever likely to work so well again in the future: because what has happened now must be very destructive of the mutual confidence that should exist, and should be maintained, between the responsible Press and responsible Ministers.

Surely, with a matter of such importance, steps should have been taken, and it should not just have been left to the Secretary of the "D" Committee, acting on his own with his hands tied behind his back. Surely someone in a position of authority should, before the weekend was over, have got in touch with someone of a high position in the Daily Express. I know that Colonel Lohan thinks it would have been improper for him to have gone over Mr. Chapman Pincher. I appreciate his sentiments about that. But it should not have been left to Colonel Lohan to decide what should be done. If, for instance, the Foreign Secretary, instead of waiting until after dinner on the Monday night (he knew about it before the weekend), had himself taken the trouble to write a letter to the Editor of the Daily Express pointing out how serious it was and, if need be, asking the Editor to come round and talk to him about it, I cannot but believe there would have been no publication at all. My Lords, that was not done.

Another thing which I think is shown to be absolutely essential is that these "D" Notices require to be brought up to date and revised. It was argued in another place that it would be a very serious thing if these "D" Notices did not cover this kind of cable-vetting. That may well be, but it does not follow from that that one should try to extend the scope of this "D" Notice to cover that kind of cable-vetting. There should be a revised cable "D" Notice which clearly covers it, and then there could be no dispute.

The Prime Minister made a very curious statement in another place. He said that if the Government had accepted the conclusions of the Radcliffe Committee, the Government would have failed in their first duty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, col. 2078, 22/6/67.] My Lords, I find this contention quite impossible to accept. Rejecting the conclusions of the Committee does not maintain security. What is required is not persistence in unfounded allegations but recognition of the fact that the form and content of these "D" Notices is unsatisfactory, and recognition of the need to get them put right. I recognise that a Government is not bound to accept the conclusions and recommendations of a Committee appointed to go into a particular matter. Indeed, I have on one occasion moved a Motion in the other place inviting the rejection of the conclusions of a Committee; no doubt I shall hear that cast in my teeth at some time in the course of the debate to-day. But there is really no analogy with that case. All that I said on that occasion was founded upon—and my speech consisted almost entirely of—quotations from the Report itself. That forms no precedent for what has happened here.

But this I do say. Before any Government seek to reject the conclusions of a Committee that they have appointed, they must be very careful that the ground really warrants that course being taken. A heavy burden rests on this Government in relation to their rejection of the conclusions of this Committee, a Committee which was presided over by my noble and learned friend, Lord Radcliffe—than whom no man can speak with more authority on these matters; and I am glad that he is going to take part in this debate—and on which served two distinguished elder statesmen of another place. When the Committee was appointed the Prime Minister said this: What the Government are seeking to do … is to appoint a Committee, in addition to a distinguished judge, of two elder statesmen who claim the confidence of the whole House in these matters and to rely on their judgment on all these very difficult matters. Far from relying on their judgment, the Government have rejected their main conclusions. The Committee found that the article was not inaccurate in any sense that would expose it to hostile criticism. That finding has been rejected. They found that it would not be right to say that the article amounted to a breach of a "D" Notice or a breach of "D" Notice procedure and conventions. These findings the Government have rejected on the flimsy, false pretext that the Government would have been failing in their first duty if they had accepted them.

My Lords, there is one other matter on which I want to say a word or two before I sit down. At the very end of his speech in the other place—he made the last speech so that no reply was possible—the Prime Minister asserted that the relationship of Colonel Lohan and Mr. Chapman Pincher had given concern to the previous Government and that had led to specific inquiries, one of a number of questions for examination being over-close association with journalists, and especially with Mr. Chapman Pincher. He went on to say that Colonel Lohan had not been given full, positive vetting clearance.

These observations clearly reflected on Colonel Lohan. It cannot be his fault that he was not given full, positive vetting clearance; for the Government decide who is to be subjected to that. But the suggestion that he was in over-close association with journalists clearly implied that he was not discharging his duties properly. This was a very serious reflection on Colonel Lohan's character. What led the Prime Minister to make it on this privileged occasion, I do not know. But whether or not that allegation was true, that cannot affect the issues that the Radcliffe Committee had to decide. It would not affect the questions whether the article was inaccurate or whether or not there had been a breach of a "D" Notice or of a "D" Notice procedure and conventions. Colonel Lohan cannot clear his name in the courts. I am glad indeed that he is now to be given the opportunity to do so before an independent Committee.

I ask Her Majesty's Government to give an undertaking that the findings of that Committee will be made public if Colonel Lohan wants that done: for only if that is done can the injustice which he has suffered, if the allegation be false, be to some extent remedied. In view of what has happened in relation to the Radcliffe Committee, it is not, I think, too much to ask that the Government should give an undertaking not to repudiate the findings of that Committee. I beg to move for Papers.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I rise in no very contentious spirit to contribute to this debate. I have been implicated (I think that is the right word) in a number of Reports which have been made since I became a Member of your Lordships' House, and never before have I thought it right, or wise, to take part in the debates that followed on the merits or demerits of those Reports. Nor have I ever succumbed to the tempting suggestions from publicity sources outside that it would be useful if they heard my opinions upon them. I have always advised members of such Commissions or Committees to follow the same line. I do not think there is any overwhelming reason for it, but it is probably a wise practice in general: because if you have been one of a number of people who, after long discussion and debate, have come to a particular conclusion, it is rather difficult, when you come to discuss it later, to distinguish between your own individual opinions and enlargements and those which really stand for the substance of the Report.

I am departing to-day from that practice because I think the situation brought about by the Government action in the production of this White Paper has rather changed matters. I may say at once that, speaking for myself, I have much sympathy for the Prime Minister's irritation and annoyance (if he had felt them) that the charge which he had originally made against the Daily Express article was not confirmed by the Inquiry of our Committee; and if he had said that he still did not agree with what we said I should not have felt personally the least sense of chagrin. But, of course, when the matter goes further and we have what is called the "D" Notice system described and analysed in a White Paper produced with the authority of the Government which, as it is said, "rejects" all or many of the findings of the Radcliffe Report, I feel—as did my two colleagues when the debate occurred in the other place—that perhaps a small contribution is called for from us.

I want to get my nomenclature for this matter right. Of course, even the Government cannot "reject" a Report that has been made by a Committee set up for the purpose. The Report stands; though the Government can say that they do not agree with it. You might say that you did not agree with the result of last year's Cup Final, and that the referee had given the wrong decision. But it would not be much use saying that you rejected it—even if you had a loyal vote to support you.

I do not myself feel either indignation or resentment at the Government's feeling that they do not agree with this Report. It is open to them to take that line; even if the encomium that preceded the appointment of the three Privy Counsellors is not repeated when they have made their Report. But I accept that I must carry on in the knowledge that our Report, so far as its findings of fact go, does not receive the approbation of the Government. But, in fact, when we come to the recommendations, things which the Government can either accept or reject, they do accept and propose to implement nearly everything that we said; except that at first they said they were going to go for a court of appeal or arbitration machinery as between themselves and the Press, showing themselves, in that point, for a very short time wiser than us, because about a week later, as I understand the matter, that proposal was found not to work, and has been dropped. Therefore I am only going to say, without analysing the Report in any detail, one or two of the things which have occurred to me after a fairly close and interested study of the Government's White Paper.

Before I say anything on that, perhaps for the sake of the Record I may state two things about this matter which seem to me to lie at most on the fringe—some would say beyond the fringe—of the subject of our Privy Counsellors' inquiry; and that is the question of the capacities or the character, or whatever it is, of the Secretary of the Press and Broadcasting Committee, Colonel Lohan. I have no intention of travelling into that matter or its rights and wrongs, of which I know nothing, but I will say this as to its relation with our inquiry. Colonel Lohan was put before us by the Government as being one of the chief witnesses on questions of fact, and we were invited to accept the statements which he put before us as being statements which we could rely upon, subject to anything which, in our inquiries directed to him, we thought might be unsubstantiated. No hint or suggestion was made to us that Colonel Lohan was not a person—whatever the appropriate phrases are that have been introduced in this matter—about whom doubts were felt as to his suitability or capacity. Nothing was suggested to us, either about anything that has been referred to as an over-close association with journalists—a delicate line to draw in the case of a man whose duty it is to keep in close touch with journalists—or, which is perhaps the most critical thing of all, as to any (and I use the word absolutely with no significance known to me) improper association between him and Mr. Chapman Pincher.

Now, my Lords, had those things been suggested to us or put before us through Government sources, I doubt personally—and I think that this was indicated in the speech of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne—whether any of it would have had any bearing upon the conduct of our inquiry as to this particular incident; except that if we had been told that there was reason to suppose that there was an improper association between Mr. Chapman Pincher and himself it would certainly have had some bearing on this, in a sense, critical interview which took place between those two gentlemen in the restaurant in Jermyn Street on Monday, February 20. What should we have done with that issue? We should have had, I think, to have it formulated, and tried as a separate point; it might indeed have had some bearing on the facts we were asked to investigate. And there, if I may, I leave the question of the relation of these issues which have been—"introduced" is the neutral word—introduced into this question of our Report, and I hope they will be followed up in the way that most of us would expect suggestions of that sort would be followed up.

Now I want to say a word or two about what I feel about the White Paper, The "D" Notice System, because after reading it—I read it with very great care and several times—I am still left in some uncertainty as to what the purpose of it all is. It seems to me to fall into two main blocks. There are some weighty opening paragraphs about national security: and national security, my Lords, is a very real thing, but it is also a very all-embracing phrase. It can cover—it does in some aspects and in some occasions cover—the lives and safety of men. It does in many aspects cover the safety and defence and protection of this country, and I have no doubt that it can be made to cover, and can in certain contexts appropriately be made to cover, matters affecting the international position of this country. But I do not believe that any debate of this kind is much assisted by general statements about significance to security, or breach of security, or national security, unless they can be identified and probed in a way that is impossible in public debate. That is the opening of this White Paper, and to me it represents little more than good general phrases.

Then there follows a second part. It is not an attempt to re-write our Report on questions of fact, because it is much too short and much too inadequate for the purpose, but it selects and comments on certain aspects of the facts in this case; and if it brings any conviction to the reader that the actual deductions of fact that we made after hearing the witnesses were ill-judged, well, so be it. I should not myself mind if the validity of our Report were allowed to stand or fall by the pertinence of those comments.

Then we come to the third part, which is a determined attempt to argue the two main issues where we were not able to agree with the original charge as made, the alleged inaccuracy, sensational inaccuracy, of the Daily Express article and the question whether there was a breach of "D" Notices. Of course that can be argued, but I am bound to say that I think the kind of argument that is thrown up on the first issue about the alleged inaccuracy of the Daily Express article is really hardly worth the dignity of a White Paper. What were the Express saying? They were saying that it was a settled practice of Government to collect and read for certain security purposes the telegrams, cables, in the cable offices and in the G.P.O. of this country; and they were saying that that had been going on, they did not know for how long, but for a number of years.

The Government say the reasons why that article in its statements are inaccurate are as follows. They begin with a major misquotation from our Report as to what we found. They then introduce the article the Daily Express wrote on Wednesday, February 22, the day after the Prime Minister's statement—he made his charge on Tuesday, February 21. How that shows that the article of the previous day was inaccurate I do not know. They then, as a third reason, take considerable exception to what they say any intelligent reader, or any sensible reader would deduce from the article, that the Government were pursuing "Big Brother" policies and prying into the affairs of private citizens. My Lords, I do not know exactly what any ordinary reader would deduce from the content of that article, but one must not blind oneself with a mist of words about this.

Telephone tapping, the thing that was considered and reported on by the Birkett Committee of Privy Counsellors some years ago; the opening of letters; the scrutinising of cables when they are entrusted to a public service, all are forms—as most intelligence work is—of prying. It is an opprobrious phrase, prying, if you do not agree with the activity at all or with the purpose of the activity. It is a harmless phrase, if you agree with the exercise of that right, which was plainly conferred on the Government by the Act of 1920, and if you think that the exercise of that right is justified and is being done for a right national purpose. So nothing is gained and nothing is lost by introducing phrases about "Big Brother" or prying. The activity itself is a form of scrutiny.

I know that when there was a question of the opening of mail and of listening to telephones, after the Privy Counsellors' inquiry, the Government accepted recommendations for a fairly strict rule as to the way in which these powers should be exercised. But I really cannot understand the view that the Daily Express were doing something irresponsible and outrageous if they called the attention of the public to the fact that this activity was going on, an activity which was conferred by law, the possibility of which I should have thought would be familiar to every insider who deals with this matter but which I dare say was not known or not appreciated by the ordinary reader. I am bound to say, with great respect, that I think the reasons for maintaining that this article was sensationally inaccurate are hardly worth considering in a major document of this kind.

The other question is as to the meaning or construction of a "D" Notice. The Government on this, steadily gazing away from the true point, spend a great deal of time in explaining their learned legal opinion, which I am sure the Law Officers and I dare say others have expressed, that on the true wording of this "D" Notice the Daily Express article was covered by it. But what struck us when we went into it was that there was no absolute ruling on a particular "D" Notice meaning. If you take it to a lawyer, it is not an Act of Parliament; it is not a Government regulation; it is not the words of a regulation contract, such as is familiar to lawyers.

The real question is: how would the Press and the Services Press and Broadcasting Committee that issue these Notices understand and work them? How did the two secretaries in whose hands the task of interpretation has always lain—and it cannot be otherwise—how did the greatly respected Admiral Thompson, the predecessor of Colonel Lohan and Colonel Lohan himself interpret the meaning and the significance of these rather, I agree, ill-drafted and ambiguous words? It was all one way. It had always been treated as imposing no absolute ban on an activity of this kind, and as really confining itself to saying, "Do not talk about particular persons and particular cases".

It would have been absurd if we had ignored and not given effect to the evidence from the Press people. I do not say that that interpretation is one that ought to last in the interests of true security, but I do say that it was one, when we come to ask whether on this occasion the Daily Express had committed a breach of the relevant "D" Notice, we are bound to pay attention to. I see no reason for altering or regretting at all the finding we came to on that matter.

So as not to take up too much of your Lordships' time on this question, I want to say just this about the question of security in relation to "D" Notices, which is the fourth and last part of the Government's White Paper. It is a sort of lecture on how the Press should be responsible in these matters. I deprecate the idea that what is called security is the only important thing in the publicity which is indulged in by this country. In my view, security is never an absolute consideration. When we have a system of our kind, with what we believe and want to be a free Press, I think we are bound to recognise that security is one of the questions, and an important one, which always has to be weighed against others, in that free dialogue between Government and Press and people out of which our public life is built up. Therefore I think that the White Paper is on the wrong foot when it suggests, as it does from phrase to phrase, that if anybody has committed what they call a breach of security, he has done wrong.

Governments always tend to want not really a free Press, but a managed or a well-conducted Press. I do not blame them. It is part of their job. It is equally part of the job of the Press to be wary about responding to these sometimes subtle, sometimes rather obvious, inducements. Do not let us think of the Government as being powerless or ill-equipped in this issue. They have all the resources of modern public relations at their beck and call. They have all the subtle acts of pressure, the nods and the winks, the joggings of the elbow, the smile at what is called the responsible reporter and the frown at the man who does not see quite clearly the Government's point of view. There is nothing evil about this. But it is one of the conflicts that goes on between the Government—whatever Government it is—and the Press who are seeking to do their duty of telling the public the news. The Government have all these resources to play on, and they have the Official Secrets Act. If anything has been done which is not covered by that diffuse and ambiguous Act, if the Government think that that Act is not sufficiently worded to cover their true national secrets, they must face the unwelcome prospect of trying to add to it or rewording it. And they have the "D" Notices.

What I would say about the "D" Notices is that, by accident, they have worked on the whole very well. They have given a vast amount of protection for our national interests—I am not begging the question here—that the Government could not have got in any other way without a new Act of Parliament. But it is very important that they should not be treated as if they are guns that can be fired at the Press or instruments to be discharged at them. The tendency is always to try to make more out of the "D" Notice system than it can possibly bear or should bear. This White Paper, with its lecture in Part IV, is an example of this.

That is why it is said that the Press, when there is doubt, should always give way to the official view on the question of interpretation of "D" Notices. I do not see why they should at all. The "D" Notices are not a pattern which the Government have issued or a proprietary brand of goods. They have been produced by the Services Press and Broadcasting Committee, after the official view has been put to them as to what is needed. Sometimes they reject it; sometimes they accept it; often they reword it. I see no reason why the official view on these matters should be given a certain sacrosanct priority. Then it was said that there ought to be a court of appeal to hold up Press publication on disputed points and that there should be one of these imaginary learned and wise Privy Counsellors who would act as an arbitrator. That has fallen through, like the hot potato it is.

Lastly, they say that the "D" Notice system can exist only with complete trust on both sides. But I do not think that it is the duty of the Press to have complete trust in what is advanced to them by the Government. I think they ought to be suspicious and they ought to be aware of a certain tension between the respective functions and duties of the two sides. I should be sorry to see a system under which complete trust is given. And I would add that you cannot order complete trust by a White Paper. People will give you a measure of confidence if your acts over a period coincide with your words and if your words are found out to be true. But that has to be worked for and earned. The amount of trust that is present to-day may be deduced from the quotation that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, gave from the gentleman—I do not mention his name; it was his point of view—in the Foreign Office, who said: It is no good telling anything to Chapman Pincher, because he is the sort of chap who would write it up in his article next week if you did. That is no trust. You cannot run a system with confidence in that way.

I am sorry to have detained your Lordships for longer than I should. Although I feel no resentment at the attitude taken by the Government, I feel grave doubts about their wisdom and their observations on the nature of "D" Notices.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, we have all listened with the greatest interest to the observations which have been made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe. Naturally, I have familiarised myself with the Report and the White Paper which are the subject matter on the Motion before the House. It seems to me that they give rise to three principal questions. They are, first: Did the articles in the Daily Express do any real damage to our national security? Secondly, if so, what went wrong? And, thirdly, what ought a Government to do to see that this does not happen again in the future?

On the first question, one is naturally in a difficulty, in that one is dealing with security questions, much of which cannot be revealed. The Report said, in paragraphs 14 to 16, that the scrutiny in question forms a secret operation and, being so, we do not propose to say more about it than the minimum which is necessary to found our finding on the first issue that we have set out above. The practice involved is variously described as scrutiny, as vetting or as interception. In our language all these terms mean the same thing. It does not involve any stopping of cable transmissions or any interference with the normal speed of their onward transmission. It does involve a regular collection of copies of messages transmitted by the Post Office and other cable offices with a view to the total collected being sorted and certain defined categories of them being set aside for inspection by the intelligence agents of Her Majesty's Government. The practice is authorised in law by section 4 of the Official Secrets Act 1920 which empowers a Secretary of State by warrant to require of transmitting companies the production as he directs of the originals or copies of all telegrams tendered for transmission to or arriving by the telegraphs of each company concerned. According to the information given to us this power has been regularly exercised against transmitting companies since the coming into operation of the Act"— That is the Act of 1920— No new practice has been introduced in recent years which departs from the practices previously observed. We have ascertained that the instructions that determine which telegrams are to be put aside by the sorters for inspection are directed to the interests of security and of certain wider intelligence purposes which concern this country's international relations. In fact, only a small percentage of the total telegrams handled is put aside in this way. The fact that the incident concerned intelligence matters is partly the reason why the "D" Notice system failed to operate efficiently in this case. It is a system which is well designed to protect technical matters falling in the field of defence and defence production. The Notices can then prescribe in terms the technical performance, details and designs which the Press are asked not to publish. A "D" Notice, as your Lordships will understand, can very easily ask that capabilities of a new modern military aircraft shall not be disclosed. This gives nothing away as to what its capabilities in fact are. But it is not possible in the wider field of intelligence to specify precisely what needs to be protected. The "D" Notice would then disclose the very secrets which have to be concealed.

In the result, by agreement with the right honourable gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, who of course has read the whole of the evidence, very many passages in the evidence could not be published. As the House knows, there was also an Annex to the Report which the Commtitee themselves said should not be published. My Lords, I have read the whole of the unexpurgated evidence and the Annex, and I can only say that I agree with my right honourable friend, the Prime Minister, when he said, as indeed the White Paper itself says: The effect on national security of that publication has been to cause damage potentially grave the consequences of which cannot even now be fully assessed. I would myself think that the damage done to our national security is, at least in part, likely to be irreparable.

The second question is: what went wrong? Nobody, I suppose, would summarise the facts in exactly the same way, but perhaps I may give a short summary, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, did. The matter started, in a sense, on Wednesday, February 15, when Government officials were aware that questions were being asked about an intelligence operation. On the following day, the Thursday, Mr. Chapman Pincher's informant saw him. So the awareness of the officials was before Mr. Pincher knew anything. But this is explained by the fact that the informant had seen the Daily Mail before he saw the Daily Express. As between the Daily Mail and the Daily Express the Daily Mail had the story first.

According to Colonel Lohan, Mr. Pincher on that afternoon asked him whether there was any "D" Notice which covered Post Office telegrams being collected and taken to the Ministry of Defence. As this was not a thing that happened at all, any inquirers at the Ministry were told that it was nonsense; and Colonel Lohan said that there was no "D" Notice. On the Friday afternoon there was a meeting of officials at the Foreign Office. They all came to the conclusion that these intelligence operations, the precise nature of which they knew, were covered by "D" Notices of April 27, 1956, and October 30, 1961. The first referred to: secret intelligence or counter intelligence methods and activities in or outside the United Kingdom. The second referred to: the various methods used in the interception of foreign communications for secret intelligence purposes. As has been said, no one commits an offence by disregarding a "D" Notice. Nor—although I have seen statements to this effect—is a "D" Notice something which is imposed by the Government on the Press. On the contrary, the "D" Notices are themselves issued by the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee, of which about two-thirds of the members are themselves Press, and the others Government officials. The Notices are, in effect, an appeal to the Press not to publish certain things in the interests of national security. The officials at the Foreign Office meeting, who knew what these intelligence operations were, had no doubt then, and have no doubt now, that the "D" Notices applied; and they so informed Colonel Lohan, asking him to have the publication stopped on that ground.

My Lords, the first thing that went wrong was, I think, that Colonel Lohan was not at the meeting of officials which discussed the operation in question, its importance and whether or not it was covered by the "D" Notices. The reason for that was a very simple one. The meeting of officials, all of whom, of course, had been positively vetted and submitted to other security procedures, knew exactly what the intelligence operation was. Colonel Lohan could not be invited to such a discussion, because he had not gone through the appropriate security procedures. The second thing, I think, that went wrong was that none of the officials saw Colonel Lohan: they merely spoke to him on the telephone. I should have thought myself that in a matter of this kind it would have been desirable that someone should see Colonel Lohan.

The third thing that went wrong was the precise nature of the instructions given to Colonel Lohan on the telephone. He was to assure Mr. Pincher that the activities fell under "D" Notices, but he was to say as little as possible about the actual operations in question, and avoid any enlargement upon the fact that they were intelligence operations. I agree with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne: I think that these instructions were not making Colonel Lohan's task an easy one. For these three things the Government must, of course, accept responsibility. The fourth thing that went wrong was that Colonel Lohan, although doubtful himself whether the "D" Notices applied, never communicated that doubt to the officials. On the contrary, as the Report has found, he accepted his instructions while not telling them of his doubts. This is the sort of point that I should have thought would come out if, instead of telephoning Colonel Lohan, the officials had seen him. Both the Daily Mail and the Daily Express agreed not to publish anything before the Monday, and Colonel Lohan arranged to see them on Monday.

As your Lordships know, he first saw Mr. Chapman Pincher at lunch. He took with him the two "D" Notices and put them on the table. There is, of course, a conflict between Colonel Lohan and Mr. Pincher as to exactly what was said at the lunch. Colonel Lohan's view was that he had made it clear that he was arguing on the basis of the "D" Notices, although the discussion took a wider form. Mr. Pincher says that it was not made clear to him that Colonel Lohan was saying that the two "D" Notices applied. Colonel Lohan maintains that the sole reason why he took the two "D" Notices with him to the lunch and put them on the table was not in order to explain that they did not apply, but in order to explain that they did apply. If Mr. Pincher is right, Colonel Lohan did not carry out his instructions, and this is the fifth thing that went wrong. In the result, so far from Mr. Pincher telling his editor that Colonel Lohan had said that the "D" Notices applied, he told his editor that Colonel Lohan had said that the "D" Notices did not apply.

At about 3.30 Colonel Lohan reported to the official that the story was being referred by both papers to their senior editors because each was afraid of being "scooped" by the other. Later the Daily Mail informed Colonel Lohan that they had decided not to publish. At an editorial conference at the Daily Express, which seems to have started about 5.45 and gone on until after 6, the editor decided to publish. At about 6.30 Mr. Pincher telephoned to Colonel Lohan and, in the words of the Committee's Report: he did not tell Colonel Lohan at this time that the editor had already decided in favour of publication. If he had done so the timetable of further official action to get the story suppressed would have been advanced by several very important hours". What he did say was that he would telephone Colonel Lohan again if they decided to print the article. He explained frankly to the Committee that the reason why he did not tell Colonel Lohan they had decided to print was because he thought that if they had done so Colonel Lohan would have been bound, in fairness, to tell the Daily Mail and then they would lose their "scoop".

This was the sixth thing that went wrong, and was perhaps particularly important, because it left Colonel Lohan with the belief that if the Express did decide to print he would be told in sufficient time to enable him to report to the Chairman of the Committee and for steps to be taken at a higher level.

It was not until 9.30 that Mr. Pincher rang up Colonel Lohan to say that the story was in fact being published, and by 9.45 the article was being printed in Glasgow. Higher officials had taken no action because between 6 and 7 Colonel Lohan had reported to them that he did not think that the Daily Express would publish the story, at all events that evening, and had undertaken to tell Colonel Lohan in advance if they did decide to publish.

My Lords, thereafter there were comings and goings. Colonel Lohan had naturally told the Daily Mail when he heard at 9.30 that the Express were going to publish. At one point the Daily Express agreed to "kill" the story. Colonel Lohan then got the Daily Mail to agree in their turn not to publish it. But not long afterwards the Daily Mail telephoned Colonel Lohan to tell him that they now had in front of them a copy of the London edition of the Daily Express containing the story as a front-page "spread". So the thing had happened.

On the third question—what ought we to do to see that this does not happen again?—the Government have of course been greatly assisted by the Committee's Report. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said that their recommendations had been rejected. My Lords, that is not so at all. Of the 16 conclusions and recommendations in paragraph 81 of the Report, no fewer than 12 have been accepted without reservation by the Government, and particularly the recommendations that there should be a closer delimitation of the functions of the Secretary; that the Secretary ought to have a deputy; that the Secretary ought to be properly informed as to the facts that lie behind any "D" Notice request; that two of the three Second Permanent Under-Secretaries of State, Ministry of Defence, should cease to be members of the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee, and room should be found for representation in their place of the Permanent Under-Secretary of State, Home Office, and a Deputy Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office.

In addition, the Government are of the opinion that in future the Secretary's position should be one requiring positive vetting. The reason for this is simple. There is really a choice of three alternatives. The first is to continue the past practice of the officials' knowing what the security practices in question are, but the Secretary being unable to attend meetings or told what the intelligence procedures are because he has not been positively vetted, so that all he can do is to tell the Press that, while he does not really know what it is all about himself, he has been told by those who do know that the "D" Notices apply to it.

The second alternative recommended by at least one of the Press witnesses before the Committee of Inquiry is that the Press should be told what the intelligence practices are, or what the other security matters are, and left to judge for themselves whether the "D" Notice applies. This could not, of course, possibly be done unless the members of the Press Committee were themselves positively vetted; and I should think that, very naturally, they would be unlikely to accept a position in which detailed inquiries had to be made into their private lives. The third alternative, which would seem the best one, and which accordingly the Government propose to adopt, is that in the future the position of the Secretary should be a post for which positive vetting is required, so that he will then be in a position to say to the Press: "I know exactly what the security matters are which are required not to be published, and I can tell you of my own knowledge that the "D" Notices apply and that harm will be done to our national security if these facts are published".

With regard to the previous alternative, the Committee of Inquiry asked Colonel Lohan whether he thought that on such subjects the Press could be told the truth, and he said: Although I did not say it to him, in my own mind I would certainly not have recommended telling Chapman Pincher or his editor the truth because if I had told them the truth about this operation in three months' time as sure as I am here they would have it out in one way or the other, or they would use it in the funny way they have of going to somebody and saying 'I know that' and somebody inadvertently playing it back to them and giving them the story. I would have in no circumstances taken the risk myself of telling them the truth or advising the security service or the Foreign Office to authorise me to tell them the truth or have taken anybody along. It would have been disastrous. In addition to this, and in addition to accepting the recommendations of the Committee which I have already specified, we must see, in conjunction with editors, what, if any, further procedures would assist to prevent this from happening again; and it is for this reason that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has initiated discussions with the editors to see what can be done to this end. If the system can be strengthened—and by this I do not mean that it should be made more restrictive; on the contrary, the Government hope, if possible, to liberalise it—then we shall have profited from the incident. The Government, for their part, accept without hesitation responsibility for the defects in the "D" Notice system and errors made by officials to which I have already referred.

The system, with its merits and faults, has developed over a long period, and the Government inherited it in its present condition. It is right that, in co-operation with the Press, the Government should now overhaul it. On their side, the Press have shown a great and encouraging willingness to discuss these matters with the Government. It is now necessary that a new start should be made. The Government are sure that a revitalised "D" Notice system will continue to be successful in playing its essential role of protecting the nation's secrets while preserving the essential freedom of the Press.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, has expressed to your Lordships his view of these questions and, as I have already said, we have all listened with interest to the observations of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Radcliffe. I was not going to say anything on the accuracy of the article, but as he has rather stressed the point perhaps I should just point out, first, that there seems to be an impression about that the Committee of Inquiry were asked to say whether they thought that a particular statement made by the Prime Minister in another place that the article was sensational and inaccurate was right or not, and, secondly, whether the "D" Notice applied.

Of course this is quite inaccurate. The terms of reference of the Committee did not refer to either of these questions. The terms of reference of the Committee were: To examine the circumstances surrounding the publication of an article in the Daily Express of 21st February entitled 'Cable vetting sensation' in relation to the 'D' Notice system; and to consider what improvements, if any, are required in that system in order to maintain it as a voluntary system based on mutual trust and confidence between the Government and Press in the interests alike of the freedom of the Press and of the security of the State". The Report states that the article was not inaccurate in any sense that could expose it to hostile criticism on that score". The Government, on the other hand, take the view that the sensational treatment of the article and its inaccuracy of detail did combine to create, or tended to create, a grossly false impression.

I am not sure that these two things are necessarily irreconcilable. Reading the Report, I can see what the Committee had in mind; namely, taking, on the one hand, those facts which the author of the article knew as to what the practices were, what he said about them in describing them was not inaccurate. But of course there was a good deal more in the article than that. In the first place it referred to the practice as: A sensation, a new controversy, a Parliamentary flashpoint revealed yesterday, a "Big Brother" intrusion into privacy disclosed last night. This was simply entirely untrue. The Daily Express had had the story since the previous Thursday. They had all been arguing about it, they had had their lunch on the Monday and nothing of any kind was "disclosed last night". That was something which was completely untrue, deliberately put into the article in order to make it appear more sensational than it was, and not, of course, fitting in very well with their case before the Committee, which was that the "D" Notice did not apply because they were not revealing anything that everybody had not known for years. However, I will not pursue that further, although there are other comments which could be made of the way in which the article was written.

I had not intended to say anything on this subject, but perhaps I should say a word about the difficult question of the "D" Notices themselves. It might be inferred from a great deal that has been said by the Press about the White Paper that the Committee had given the Government an unequivocal answer on the question whether the "D" Notices applied or not. What the Committee in fact said was that the question whether there was a breach of the "D" Notices is not a question that allows of a simple answer based on a mere reading of the words of the Notices. Prima facie, we should have said that an interception of cables in the way that we have described was clearly a form of 'secret intelligence or counter intelligence methods and activities in the United Kingdom'—the very phrase used in the Notice of April 1956. It is difficult to see from a mere reading of the words how they can fail to be apt for the present purpose". That was, and is, the view of the officials who knew the facts. That was, and is, the view of the Law Officers and of the Government. That was the view of the experienced Daily Mail defence corresspondent who told the Committee: I have known this 'D' Notice for a very long time, I know the terms of this, and I assumed, as I would in any story of this kind, that it was a matter which had to be referred to the 'D' Notice Committee or its Secretary". But the Committee say that the obvious meaning of the words of the "D" Notice has become overlaid by interpretations of the meaning of the phrase 'secret methods and activities' and that the "impression" (that is the word they use) they have formed is that the Notice has by now come to be interpreted in this limited sense by the Press. They add: But we are bound to say that if that is all that it is intended to mean, its purport could have been and could now be expressed in much simpler and shorter words. Indeed, we were left by our witnesses in very considerable uncertainty whether, according to this interpretation, there is any such thing today as a secret intelligence method. The practices of opening mail, of inspecting telegrams, of tapping telephones, are common knowledge in the sense that it is widely known that they can be resorted to. But then it is no secret either that there are complicated and ingenious listening and visual devices to which at any rate some intelligence agencies resort. We cannot believe that it was really intended by the Services Press and Broadcasting Committee that it is only the employment by our intelligence services of really unknown and hitherto undiscovered devices that is to be protected from description. The Committee add: We invite the attention of the Committee to this question and to the desirability of rewriting the 'D' Notice of April 1956 as a whole. It is possible that its current operation gives less protection to intelligence methods and activities than the agencies responsible can fairly require. It is not altogether satisfactory to reply on silence only when the story touches particular cases and persons because it is often impossible for those not behind the scenes to know in time whether the story they print does touch upon this restriction or not. That requires a knowledge of the whole secret operation; and although, if he is alive to the possibility, an editor may be able to obtain assistance from prior consultation with the secretary, it is too much to expect that in such cases the security services should be ready to pass out information as to what is really going on. My Lords, the Government propose to accept the advice given them to have that "D" Notice re-worded, but they will of course have to consider further with the Press a position which they find difficult to accept, and that is the view that, however many times it is re-worded, the Press are always entitled to read into it something completely different from the ordinary meaning of the words.

Of the "D" Notice of October, 1961, interception of foreign communications for secret intelligence purposes, the Committee say: We should ourselves have supposed, as readers of the Notice, that the words in question apply more naturally to other possible methods of interception than to the scrutiny of incoming and outgoing cables". They accept that the word "interception" was properly used. They accept that the words "for secret intelligence purposes" apply. This leaves only the three words, "of foreign communications". I suppose it must be a matter of opinion, but the Government remain of the view that cables from this country to foreign countries, or from foreign countries to here, are foreign communications. I have not in fact discovered in the Report why the Committee were of the opinion that cables from this country to foreign countries and foreign countries to this country were not foreign communications. It is apparently on those three words that this particular issue entirely depends.

I do not propose to say anything about personalities and I do not propose to refer to Colonel Lohan. As your Lordships now know, there is to be an appropriate impartial procedure, and I am sure that the less said about this the better. What it all comes to is that a very unfortunate thing has happened which was not the fault of any one person. We must all learn from our mistakes. The Government were responsible for some of them. What matters is the future. It is the Government's belief that it is to the advantage of both our national interests and those of a free Press to agree together on such steps in relation to "D" Notices as will meet the legitimate objects of both.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose, save in two matters, to follow the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor in his, if I may say so, somewhat painstaking selection of small points on which the Government seek to justify their present position. But there are a few observations of a more general character that I would, with great temerity, venture to address to your Lordships. Before I commence to do so, I must, if I may, pick up a rather curious point that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made, I am sure ex improviso, when he said that the Privy Counsellors' Committee had not after all been asked any questions as to whether the Prime Minister's grave charge against the Daily Express was true or not.

What the Prime Minister said in another place was that this Committee was to be asked to investigate all matters. Of course, it is very inconvenient when people answer questions that they have not been asked, but the fact is that in this case the Privy Counsellors' Committee did answer that particular question, whether it had been expressly posed or not, and it is difficult to see how in the public interest the Privy Counsellors' Committee could possibly have avoided passing upon the very grave charges that had been made by the Prime Minister against those responsible for the Daily Express. For the rest, I would venture perhaps to say that the public may not be so much concerned with the detailed analysis of what went wrong before the Daily Express article was published as with the far more important public question of what went wrong in regard to the Government's attitude to the Report of the Committee of Privy Counsellors which they had themselves appointed.

Before I make the general observations that I wanted to make, I should perhaps mention two matters, because it is possible that some might think they lead to my having some personal interest in the matter under discussion in your Lordships' House. One is that although speaking now in a personal capacity I happen to be a director of a company that publishes two national newspapers, not ones mentioned in the course of this inquiry but no doubt ones which are affected by the operation of the "D" Notice system, although of course that is a matter of an editorial character which would never come before a board of directors. It might be thought from my association with the Press that in any dispute between the Press and the Government I would be pre-disposed to favour the Press, and it is perfectly true that I would. In any matter concerning the public ventilation of matters which a newspaper considered it in the public interest to disclose but which the Government wished to keep secret, my first inclination would be to support the full information of the public, although of course other factors might lead me to a different conclusion at the end of the day.

The second matter is that about two years ago I presided over a body called a Joint Working Party, set up by that law reform organisation called Justice to study the law relating to the Press. It was a reasonably high-powered body which contained, among other members, one who is a Member of your Lordships' House and very familiar with security matters. In the course of our study, mainly concerned with the law of libel and the rest, we naturally investigated the operation of the Official Secrets Acts, which are the statutory basis in the end behind the whole "D" Notice system, and the administration of the "D" Notice system itself.

The conclusion that we reached was that the law was being too much used—not by this Government but by preceding Governments; we were inquiring into the law shortly after this Government came into office, but we were concerned with the whole history of the matter—for the purpose of suppressing the ventilation of matters which Governments or Government Departments thought were politically embarrassing; and we felt that the Official Secrets Acts ought to be confined, as indeed they were originally intended to be, to matters directly affecting the military security of the State and matters of our foreign relations. We said, if I may venture to read it: The disclosure or improper use of the most harmless document can lead to a prosecution. We feel that this does not make for good Government: it can lead to protection of inefficiency and malpractice, stifle the needful exposure of public scandals and prevent the remedying of individual injustices. The scrutiny of Post Office cables, like telephone tapping, is of course a matter of the utmost political sensitivity. The great British public, quite wrongly and unrealistically as I think, simply hates the very idea of it. But all Governments have to do it, and, perhaps not unnaturally, all Governments dislike having the public reminded of the fact that it is being done.

The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said that the first question was whether the article gave rise to any danger to security, and, if I may say so, as to that he rather hid himself behind a smokescreen of security itself. He said, "Of course, my lips are sealed. Evidence was given before the Privy Counsellors' Committee but it was not possible to publish this in the Report." But the noble Lord, Lord Radcliffe, was well aware of the evidence which had been given before he and his fellow Privy Counsellors drew up their Report, and he remained still aware, I have no doubt, and mindful of that evidence before he came to give the weighty speech he has addressed to your Lordships this afternoon. It may well be that your Lordships will prefer his view as to the security aspects of this matter.

In any event, is this question of security one which really depends on the evidence, secret or not, which was given to the Privy Counsellors' Committee? Or is it one which arises simply on the terms of the Daily Express article itself? Was there anything in the article which disclosed something which was not already well known, which had not already been going on for many years as part of the normal operation of the security services of this country? One might imagine that foreign agents operating in this country would not be unaware at least of the risk of some sort of surveillance of this kind. They would hardly be less sophisticated than we are, and they would hardly be unmindful of the inquiry which took place under Lord Birkett—was it ten years or so ago? How anybody's life could have been imperilled by the Daily Express article—and that is the whole point of this matter, not the secret evidence that was given—giving publicity, fresh publicity it is true, to this 40-yearsold practice, as seems to have been most regrettably suggested in another place, I have not yet heard plausibly explained by anybody. I hope that the noble Lord who is going to deal with these matters in reply from the Government Bench will throw some light upon that grave allegation.

On the other hand—this is most understandable, and here one has the greatest sympathy with the Government—this kind of publicity, whether it is for telephone tapping or cable vetting or interception of letters, would no doubt have attracted, unfairly as I think, the criticism of many ill-informed people. One cannot help wondering whether, in the terms of that extract from the Justice Report which I have just read out, this was really a proper case for procedures based ultimately, as these "D" Notice procedures are, on the Official Secrets Acts. Indeed, as was frankly said in another place, there was no evidence whatever that any offence had been committed by the Daily Express in regard to what they had published. What then was the complaint?

As to the "D" Notices, here again perhaps your Lordships would allow me to read what the Justice Working Party said. Our inquiry into the matter, of course, was a completely superficial one compared with that contemplated by the Privy Counsellors, but we heard a good deal of evidence, and we heard it quite calmly, because at that time there was no heat of controversy in regard to the matter. The Working Party said: We were impressed by the virtual unanimity of the views expressed to us on matters affecting national defence and security and by the strong evidence of the good personal relationship and feeling of mutual confidence which exists between the Press and the Secretary of the Committee."— that was Colonel Lohan. The possibility of any serious conflict between the law and the Press in matters vitally affecting national security appears to be small. The advantages of the flexible relations that exist are such that we have no suggestions to make to improve the present situation. Then the Lord Chancellor says that his next question is: what went wrong? I suppose the view that one might take of what went wrong depends largely on the view that one takes of the evidence that was given before the Committee, small extracts from which have been selected by the Lord Chancellor. I would venture to say that nothing that the Lord Chancellor has said in his speech this afternoon can in any way displace the weighty comments which were addressed to your Lordships' House by Lord Radcliffe himself.

Coupled with this implication that lives might have been endangered, was, it seemed to me, an attack on Sir Max Aitken, Mr. Derek Marks and Mr. Chapman Pincher, with a scarcely veiled innuendo against their patriotism. Although the Radcliffe Committee found nothing to justify those criticisms, no apology has been made; and that, I think, must be a matter for deep regret. I recall something of the same kind a little while ago, perhaps two or three years ago, in regard to the bank rate. But when I hear imputations against the patriotism of men like Sir Max Aitken, I remind myself that if it had not been for the distinguished Battle of Britain pilots, of whom Sir Max was not the least distinguished, those of us who, like myself, were fortunate enough during the war to have safe and comfortable positions behind some desk in some Government office might not have been in our present positions to-day.

Instead of any apology, somehow or other the attack got shifted to the unfortunate head of Colonel Lohan. I am not quite clear as to the relevance of the attack upon him. We are told to-day that his loyalty was never in question. But it was said in another place that he had never been positively vetted. That at the time was widely regarded, and was calculated to be so regarded, as a smear—all too common a weapon on both sides in public life nowadays.

It had not occurred to us on the Justice Working Party when we saw him and considered the operation of this Committee that the Secretary of the Committee should be positively vetted. The members of the Committee, at all events the lay members who constitute the majority of the Committee, are not themselves positively vetted, and it was not at that time clear that their Secretary should be positively vetted. Perhaps he should have been. That had not previously been suggested. But I hope the intention in making this post one the occupant of which must be positively vetted, does not constitute the Secretary of the Committee the person who has the ultimate right to decide and whose ipso dixit is to settle whether or not something may be published in the newspapers. That form of censorship would lead to a breakdown of the operation of this Committee. It is the Committee which makes decisions of that kind; the Secretary carries them out, and interprets them and conveys them to the newspapers concerned.

So far as the implication of a smear on Colonel Lohan is concerned, perhaps it ought to be said that the mere fact that somebody has not been positively vetted involves no kind of personal disparagement, as seems to have been implied. Although I once held Cabinet office myself, and in that capacity and in other offices often had to deal with quite secret matters, I have never been positively vetted; and I rather suspect that few Members of your Lordships' House have been subjected to this process. Until we have, and have been rejected, perhaps we, like Colonel Lohan, are not compelled to hang down our heads in shame.

I saw a letter in The Times the other day from a distinguished ex-Law Officer of the Crown suggesting that where slanderous statements were made in Parliament it should be possible to bring an action in the courts, the person against whom the action was brought having the right to say in his defence if he could, to prove in his defence if he could, not that what he said was true but that he believed what he said to be true, that he believed it on reasonable grounds and that he spoke without malice. I have the greatest respect for the author of that suggestion, but I do not agree with it. I think it is necessary to the proper discharge of the duties of Parliament, of public business in this House and in another place, that what we say here should be absolutely privileged. But noblesse oblige; if we are to continue to enjoy that privilege without grave public disquiet arising in regard to it we must be sure that it is not abused. What has happened in this case, I feel bound to say, must be a matter for very grave regret.

I now pass from all that to say a word about the use of committees, such as in this case the Committee of the Privy Counsellors. I suppose that there is no country which makes such a considerable use as we do of committees of one kind or another, to investigate or inquire into this or that. Apart from the tribunals which are set up, I think under the Act of 1921, for the most part these committees have no kind of statutory authority; they are the invention of expediency. Even the Royal Commission itself has no clearly enforceable legal authority. But in the peculiar, informal, ad hoc way in which we do things in this country, these Commissions and Committees have on innumerable occasions performed the most useful function of getting matters out of the Party political battle, enabling the Civil Service to remain detached, and informing the public at the end of the day in an objective way. It would be a great misfortune if what had happened here were to lead to any diminution in the use of this sort of machinery or any greater reluctance—and there must always be some reluctance on the part of people in public life—to share in the machinery. The pity of it is that this may be the result.

The noble and learned Viscount who moved the Motion made an oblique reference—it was not taken up by the Lord Chancellor—to an occasion when a Report of a Committee presided over by Lord Devlin was rejected by the Government of the day. The only relevance of that would be based on the proposition that two wrongs make a right. I deplored the rejection of Lord Devlin's Report, just as I deplore the rejection of this Report. But I would be the last person to say that the conclusions of ad hoc Committees of this kind must inevitably bind the Government of the day—of course not. That depends entirely on the purpose for which the Committee is set up.

A Committee may be set up simply to advise. Then the Government and Parliament have the responsibility of deciding whether to accept or reject the advice. It may be set up merely to find certain facts. Then again the Government are responsible for deciding what action ought to be taken; but it reaches its decision on an informed basis as to the facts. Or, finally, it may be that some matter—which as the Prime Minister said was the case here—which ought not to be involved in the Party political squabble has in fact got involved in it and, in consequence, the leaders of the opposing Parties agree that some ad hoc Committee should be set up—not simply to inquire, not merely to advise, but to give a judgment. That was this case. And that was the precise language which the Prime Minister used in another place when he said that it was proposed to establish this Committee "to give a judgment" about all these important matters.

The object of that sort of procedure, an admirable procedure which has been of great value to us in the past, is to take out of the realm of Party politics something the rights and wrongs of which ought to be calmly assessed and adjudicated without the use of Party Whips. That means, of course, that the judgment, when it comes, must be accepted. But, in this case the Government seem to have used the Party Whips to overthrow the judgment in so far as they can—although as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, has pointed out, the Report of the Committee stands—and to have a kind of retrial in which the Government act as prosecutor, jury and judge as well.

I am not going to waste your Lordships' time, commenting on this pettifogging White Paper. I would only remind your Lordships of this. When matters of fact have to be decided by hearing evidence, by hearing witnesses, all experience shows that it is necessary to hear them, to see them, to watch their demeanour under questioning, their facility, their hesitation. You cannot tell from reading the transcript of a shorthand note whether a witness can look you in the eye, nor whether his voice has in it the ring of truth. The Report of the Privy Counsellors' Committee which did see them, did listen to these witnesses, did consider the weight attached to their evidence, is good enough for me.

My Lords, this has been a sorry and disagreeable business. At the end of the day we shall be, and I hope we may be, well rid of it.

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in the somewhat unusual position of agreeing with a good deal of what the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said in his speech in moving this Motion—at any rate with the early part of it, and particularly with his criticisms of the attitudes of some officials as disclosed in the evidence before the Committee. I also found myself in a good deal of agreement, though not entirely, with the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe. This I would expect, since I have had the honour and pleasure of knowing him for a long while and I greatly admire his judgment. During the war, when I succeeded him as Controller of News and Censorship, on his becoming Director-General of the Ministry of Information, I had the great advantage of seeing how sharp a balance he was able to maintain between the national needs of security and the not less essential needs of freedom of the Press.

I even found myself—and this is much more unusual—agreeing with at any rate some parts of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, had to say, particularly when he quoted the investigations and report by Justice on the great danger—and it is a very great danger—that the "D" Notice system will be used, not in regard to serious security matters but in regard to matters which really only concern the convenience of Government Departments.

I want to widen the discussion a little, and I would begin by asking whether the "D" Notice system, about which we have heard so much over past weeks, is necessarily, as it is usually assumed to be, an absolute essential of national security. America, which has much bigger and better secrets than we possess in this age, manages to get along perfectly well without any such system. I have just come back from the United States, and in the course of a three months' visit I spent a good deal of time talking to newspaper editors, publishers and Washington correspondents on this and kindred matters.

I confess that I spent some of my time trying to persuade them of the advantages of our "D" Notice system. I doubt perhaps whether I should have done so if I had been there at the present time. They rejected it on the grounds that, inevitably, the "D" Notice system tends to become too formalistic, too semi-legalistic, and that their own system, which tends to rely on informal discussions between officers, Ministers and members of the Press is much more adequate. Certainly it cannot be pretended that the absence of a "D" Notice system leads in America to the revelation of all sorts of secrets which are improper and dangerous.

A very interesting book has recently been written by Mr. James Reston—one of the best known of all Washington correspondents—called The Artillery of the Press, in which he specifies a number of cases in which important matters were known to the Press and, for good or ill, were not disclosed. He says, for example, that the fact the U.2s were being flown over Russia by the Americans from a base in Pakistan was known to him and other journalists more than a year before one of them was shot down. He refers to the, to me, almost incredible silence of the American Press on many of the events and preparations leading up to the Bay of Pigs affair. He reports—and I am certain perfectly accurately—that after that affair was over, although not before, President Kennedy himself said that he could only have wished that the American Press had been less responsible and had given a great deal more publicity; and that if it had done so America might have escaped much trouble.

The absence of a "D" Notice system does not prevent the safeguarding of security in the United States. It does not even prevent the American Press, sometimes, from going far too far, as in the Bay of Pigs affair, in falling in with the ideas of Ministers or officials. And that is always a great danger in any Press security system, as it is in the "D" Notice system. But if we decide, as, in the main, opinion in this country seems to decide, that something like a "D" Notice system is desirable, then I think it is worth while looking at its disadvantages as well as at its advantages.

One of its big disadvantages, as was shown in this instance, is that the "D" Notice sets out to put down, in language which is often imprecise, guidance instructions to the Press which may be open to several interpretations. It is a fallible instrument, because what happens, as happened in this case, is that if the semi-legalistic arguments that go on about the proper interpretation of "D" Notices fail to succeed, they also tend to invalidate further arguments on a wider basis which are then put forward. I think it cannot be doubted that the fact that the "D" Notice has originally been put forward as the case for stopping the Express story but was not accepted invalidated such subsequent arguments as Colonel Lohan put forward. They were regarded simply as a cover-up for a failure in trying to impose a "D" Notice restriction which was not legitimate.

During the war I well remember that we sought to supplement the "D" Notices, in certain circumstances, by confidential guidance letters to the Press which were not meant to be so formal or explicit as the "D" Notice itself, and which gave a general background against which the Press could reach a solid judgment. My recollection—though I may be wrong in this—is that the idea of these confidential letters arose following discussions between the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, and myself at a time when the commando raids were taking place, and when a number of questions which were not covered strictly by security arose; particularly, and with great force, at the time of the Dieppe raid. It was a general rule of censorship, which of course was voluntary during the war, that if something had appeared on the German radio then it could be republished in this country. And your Lordships will appreciate that at the time of the commando raids and the Dieppe raid there was great danger that the significance of these raids would be enormously inflated on the German radio. If that was copied in British papers and then repeated, what the Germans presumably wanted—that is, to persuade many of the underground forces to come out and show themselves—would succeed.

I can think of no occasion on which these confidential guidance background letters, although they did not have the force of "D" Notices, failed to be effective. Indeed, my opposite number in America, Mr. Byron Price, when he had no support from an Official Secrets Act or a "D" Notice system, later copied the system of confidential guidance notices and found them extremely effective. It is true that this system has been taken over, and to some extent incorporated in, the present post-war system; but it seems to me that a great mistake has been made in incorporating the two systems so fully that, judged from the evidence given by some members of the Committee, there now seems to be no clear distinction or difference between a guidance letter and a "D" Notice, and both are sent out on the authority of the Committee.

It seems to me that it would be well worth while to consider a re-look at this, and whether the possibility of issuing guidance notices of this type—and this matter of cable-vetting might well have been one occasion—would give editors a background knowledge which would enable them, as honourable and patriotic men, which they are, to decide what they should do, without falling into the semi-legalistic traps of the "D" Notice. I think it possible that those letters should be divorced from the Committee as such, and perhaps issued by the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Defence—who happens also to be Chairman of the Committee—in his capacity as the permanent head at the Ministry of Defence, to which a great deal of the security matters must go.

Looking at the actual events, the Express story itself, I think it is necessary to remember that the Express is a politically-obsessed newspaper. It is always on the lookout for political threats, for political flies in the amber. Indeed, it is significant that in his evidence Derek Marks said that when he was informed that Colonel Lohan had said that he had been under pressure, and he was asked what he thought of this, he replied that his immediate assumption was that it would be political pressure; whereas, in fact, as Colonel Lohan's own evidence shows, it was the pressure of other work. Colonel Lohan himself said: This is what I meant about pressure, and not political pressure, of which there never was any". But the Express assumed that there were political reasons and political pressures to try to prevent the publication of this story, and that they had got hold of a very useful stick with which to beat the Government. And, as Members of this House will, I feel sure, agree, when the Express is in full hunt it does not allow facts or the too-prolonged search for truth to stay its pace, as will be remembered in the Profumo affair,* when it came out with the most scandalous and totally unfounded allegations against the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Carrington. I hope that your Lordships, in considering this Report and the particular issues in which it finds the Daily Express "Not guilty", will not assume from that that the Express is to be regarded as "whiter than white". It is certainly not in many of its preoccupations. But it was because, I think, those concerned felt they had a political story which could be used to beat the Government with that, having, as they believed, and had good cause to believe, shown that the "D" notice did not apply, they went all out and went into those exaggerations which are referred to in the Government's White Paper.

But I think one also has to realise that in looking at this matter the Government, too, tend to look at it politically. If your Lordships read the Government White Paper, paragraph 22, on page 9, you will find reference to their charge that the story was inaccurate. The White Paper goes on to say: … it was also intended to convey, and succeeded in conveying, the impression that the Government were responsible for introducing new invasions of privacy or for distorting existing procedures to this end. These imputations are in no way borne out by the facts". Of course they are not; and of course those imputations were made. But they had nothing whatever to do with security. In fact, one might say that the more inaccurate and exaggerated the Express story was, as in these particulars it was, the less a danger to security it could be.

* Note: See subsequent intervention by Lord Francis-Williams, col. 825.

But I think that part of the disagreement between the White Paper and the Radcliffe Report arises from the fact that, perhaps inevitably, reading the story as a whole the Government could not help feeling, and to some extent quite rightly and correctly, that a procedure which had been in existence for a long time was being taken up and distorted for political purposes; whereas the Radcliffe Committee, looking at the matter from the point of view of its terms of reference, could equally quite rightly and properly believe that in actual security matters there was no great untruth and no great danger. This, I think, makes quite clear the need, if it is possible—and it is not always possible—to try to keep politics, and particularly any suspicion of political pressures, out of such a matter as this. It is also necessary to accept the fact that there is a quite genuine conflict of interest between Press and Government. The Press is not an arm of the Government, and it would be a very bad day for British democracy if it was ever assumed to be; and no Committee or body of officials, whatever security matters or other matters they might be dealing with, should assume that it is, as some of the officials in this affair, as is shown by the evidence, quite clearly tended to assume.

I do not want to say anything personal about Colonel Lohan, whom I do not know. From what I understand he is a man who has carried through a difficult job with great enthusiasm and considerable ability. But I want to suggest that it is a mistake to think of the secretary-ship of the "D" Notice Committee as a public relations post. Colonel Lohan was sent to that post after being a Deputy Director of Public Relations at the Ministry of Defence. Now that he has resigned a temporary successor has been found, also from the public relations staff of the Ministry of Defence. But, my Lords, the qualities required for a successful secretary of such a Committee are quite different from those required for a successful public relations officer, who lives, and quite properly lives, in a world of cosy luncheons and what was referred to, I think, in some of this evidence, as "the 'old boy' network". That is quite the wrong kind of approach, and quite the wrong kind of qualifications required by the secretary of a Committee of this kind, which ought to be dealing in as objective a manner as is attainable with the interpretation of "D" Notices, and without any of this jollying, poking-in-the-ribs and, "Do believe me, old boy" sort of line.

While I am referring to public relations, may I say how shocking seemed to me to be the misuse of public relations officers which was disclosed in some of this evidence, and to which the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, referred in his opening remarks. Your Lordships will find from that evidence that when the Post Office and the Ministry of Defence were rung up and inquiries made of them, the public relations people were instructed to say that the story was completely untrue, that it was ludicrous and that it was ridiculous. Now all those statements were lies; and, although the public relations men who were asked to put them out may not have known so, those who gave them those instructions must have known that they were lies. Moreover, they were very ineffective and ineffectual lies, because they were soon to be disclosed to be so; and, in fact, Mr. Pincher, in another contact with the Post Office, was informed that there was something in his story and that it was worth his while working on it.

My Lords, not only were they ineffectual lies, but once information officers in Government service are given instructions that in the line of duty they should lie to the Press, then the whole basis on which such relations between information services of any kind and the Press rests is undermined. It seems to me a shocking misuse of an information service. I hope that one result, at least, of this affair will be that firm instructions will go out to all Departments that they are not to regard it as right and proper that superior officers should instruct information officers to indulge in deliberate lying. It may be the case—it often must be—that information officers are not able to tell the full truth. But although they may not be able to tell the whole truth, at least they should see that what they do say is the truth, even though it may be a limited truth. And when they cannot go further, they should say that they can make no comment.

I also hope that in future, if Ministers are to intervene, as the Foreign Secretary did late at night—and I have great respect and admiration for the Foreign Secretary: I feel that in other matters he has been given a very rough ride in various sections of the Press—they should be advised to go through the proper channels. If they wish to take up a matter which is appearing in the news pages of a newspaper, they should speak to the editor and not seek to go over his head and apply to the proprietor. It seems to me to be completely wrong, and almost certain to be ineffective, to set aside the professional status of the editor. It was so in this case; since Sir Max Aitken did not known what on earth the Foreign Secretary was talking about. Anybody who knows anything about the running of a newspaper would not expect that he would know anything about it, and would have sought to speak to the editor. In any case, I think it better that, if possible, any such intervention should be made on the official, rather than on the political, level because of the constant fear that such interventions are made for political rather than genuine purposes.

My Lords, I think that is about all I have to say on this matter. I would emphasise, in conclusion, that it has always to be remembered, both by Governments and by the Press, that there is, as I have said, a difference of interest between them. The difference of interest was stated in classic form in an issue of The Times in February, 1852, under Delane who said: We cannot admit that a newspaper's purpose is to share the labours of statesmanship or that it is bound by the same limitations, the same duties, the same liabilities as that of Ministers of the Crown. The purposes and duties of the two powers are constantly separate, generally independent and sometimes diametrically opposed. He concluded: The Press lives by disclosure. And so it does. Of course, there are restrictions to that right and power to disclose. One of the most important of them, accepted as such by all newspaper editors, is the necessity not to do anything which will cause serious damage to the national security. But if that is recognised—and if the need for the Press always to probe those requests that are made to it is also recognised—then there is a possibility that either the "D" Notice system or something to supersede it can be made to work. The system cannot be made to work if there is suspicion, sometimes justified, on the part of the Press that it is simply being sought to use it in the way I have described or if there is the sort of attitude in the official mind that was disclosed in some of the evidence in this case.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, I have some irrelevant interests to disclose. I am the chairman of the trustees of a national newspaper and as a lawyer I have from time to time advised some of the parties in this unhappy dispute. None of this has any relevance, and what I am going to say this afternoon will bring no satisfaction to any of the persons concerned. The first thing I should like to say is that I have not been a Member of your Lordships' House for very long, and every time I have attended a debate I have found it a satisfying one. I must confess that this is the first debate that I have found to be somewhat disappointing. I had hoped that we would rise above the level of recrimination and dispute that occupied this affair in the other place; but I am not sure that we have succeeded in doing so.

I know that where people have been born and trained as politicians it must be that the "Old Adam" will emerge. It was characteristic of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who was not born and trained as a politician, that he was able to make an entirely non-political speech. I shall not join in the strictures passed upon his speech, that he dealt with small points, because in the course of it the noble and learned Lord made one splendid statement. He said—and I think this a[...] memorable utterance—that there had been mistakes made and that some of them had been made by the Government. That is a statement that needs to be underlined and one that I would regard as the most important pronouncement that has been made on this subject to date: there have been mistakes and some of them have been made by the Government. That that admission has been made, I think brings this debate to a somewhat higher level.

My own feeling is that the whole of this tragic dispute arises from the undue intrusion into these matters of political animus. If you come to examine the situation closely, I think you find that what is most horrible about the whole affair is the vast amount of distrust entertained by each side of the other. To select only one personality—and I echo the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross—nobody who knows Sir Max Aitken (and I know him only slightly) would entertain the slightest doubts about his patronism. I think it great nonsense to suggest that it may be a type of patronism that some people regard as specialised; it springs from wells as deep and clear and sincere as any. That calls to be said.

It also calls to be said that the element of distrust and suspicion which existed on both sides reflects a most unfortunate aspect of the relations between the Press and the Government. What caused a lot of trouble is the quite blind faith, the naïve belief, apparently existing in some circles, that this distrust is not there. That is very much reflected in the terms of reference of the noble Viscount's Committee. They were asked to consider a matter and to report in the light of the good faith and confidence that exists between the Government and the Press. I entertain grave doubts whether at the moment there is any undue amount of good faith existing between the Government and the Press—and, for that matter, good will. Nor am I sure that it ought to exist. I do not believe that it is remotely necessary for good will to exist between the Press and the Government. Civilised behaviour should exist; good manners should exist; but good will—that is quite a different commodity. That suggests an element of favouritism; that you are going to get a better report today because of something you may have done or said yesterday. I do not believe that in any relations with the Press good will is a commodity upon which you should or can rely.

I do not believe, therefore, that a "D" Notice system, based on the existence of good will, is a sensible method of devising such a system. I think one needs to devise a system that works without good will. The fault of this particular matter was that there was no good will, and the system failed on that account. If I may say so, I cannot find myself in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, when he says that the most important element to consider was not the matters leading up to the inquiry, not the matters leading up to the White Paper, but the inquiry on the White Paper itself. I believe this to be very far secondary to the matters that led up to the inquiry into the White Paper.

There are two matters to which I should like to direct your Lordships' attention, and which I think demonstrate clearly the unhappy state of affairs which had been arrived at by this time. The first touches on what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, a few moments ago in the course, if I may say so, of an extremely interesting and, at times, very profound speech. The noble Lord reminded us that the Foreign Secretary had made a personal appeal to Sir Max Aitken and asked him to intervene in a particular matter. It would have been utterly wrong to expect any newspaper not to publish something because the Foreign Secretary asked them not to publish it. That would be entirely wrong. That would be an imposition of the sort of censorship which we pride ourselves on not having in this country. But I believe it to be utterly wrong that any newspaper should not defer to a request from the Foreign Secretary of this country to postpone publication for a while until a situation had been resolved in a matter which had been in operation for forty years. I think there can be no possible excuse for that. I think it can be due only to the bad relations existing between the newspaper and the Government and it could be due only to circumstances that reflect the greatest discredit on both sides.

If the Foreign Secretary personally intervenes in a matter, and says that in his belief there are circumstances which may compromise national security; that he had been told so by his officials; that he does not himself know all the circumstances but his own officials believe that this situation exists, then it seems to me we are nearing anarchy if we live in a country where that request is not immediately deferred to. Never let it be said that I should wish to urge that the Foreign Secretary, or any other Member of the Government, has the right to persuade anyone to withhold publication. But I do say, and I say again with emphasis, that it is entirely wrong that a state of affairs should be arrived at where the Foreign Secretary, of whatever political Party, having made an appeal of that kind, that that appeal should not be assented to and acceded to at once, and without argument. That may be my own personal view and your Lordships may not share it, but I believe that is what must exist in a civilised country if ordinary Government is to continue.

My Lords, I come to the second matter to which I should like to refer. Here may I say I share the view that nothing more should be said about Colonel Lohan. I think that Colonel Lohan should be treated in a way which I hope will be determined by an independent inquiry. I do not think that a private person's name should be drawn into a public debate without his having an opportunity to answer the matter. That does not mean that his public actions may not be a matter of comment. I would refer your Lordships to page 94 of the Report, because I think there is one relevant passage which also demonstrates the sorry situation which had arisen between the newspaper and the Government. If you read page 94, your Lordships will find that in the course of an innumerable number of telephone conversations (and I must say that special pay should be given to those Members of your Lordships' House who have to read this evidence, a purgatorial task!) between Colonel Lohan and Mr. Chapman Pincher we get to one where Colonel Lohan rings up Mr. Chapman Pincher; and Mr. Chapman Pincher says, My dear boy, get off the telephone; I must get on with my writing; you are only holding things up. Colonel Lohan was the representative of Her Majesty's Government. He was urging on a newspaper that there was a matter about to be published which might compromise national security, and this was the reception he received. I regard it as nothing but an outrage.


My Lords, I am loathe to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, but it is quite wrong to say that Colonel Lohan represented Her Majesty's Government. He is the servant and secretary of a committee, the majority of which are members of the Press.


My Lords, I should hesitate to be drawn into a controversial argument with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, but if Colonel Lohan is not a representative of Her Majesty's Government, I do not know in what capacity he was urging on the newspapers that evening that they ought not to publish that story. It certainly was not as a representative of the Press.


My Lords, I think it is important to get this quite clear. Colonel Lohan was urging it as secretary of a committee which draws up "D" Notices which are normally suggested to it by officials, but which then have to be approved by members of the Press represented on that committee. Therefore they go out with the authority of a committee on which the Press is represented, and which has an opportunity to decide whether or not they should go. It is part, if I may say so, of the whole muddle of this business that too many people have tended to regard Colonel Lohan as a servant of the Government when he was nothing of the kind.


My Lords, I hope that I shall not be accused of undue obstinacy if I remain totally unrepentant. Throughout every word of these proceedings, it is implicit and explicit that Colonel Lohan was regarded by the newspapers as a spokesman of the Government. This debate makes not an atom of sense unless one accepts that fact. Whether or not he was secretary of a society that had to defer to another committee that had to refer to some other body, I cannot say; but it is perfectly clear from this Report in what capacity he was regarded by the various parties to the dispute, and that I think makes it possible for my point to have total validity.

The point I wish to make is that, as he was speaking in order to induce a newspaper not to publish something, and speaking on behalf of the Government, an exchange of that kind was discreditable to everyone concerned; and it shows, if I may say so, that the whole system had collapsed. It shows that the whole system is not one on which we can rely in the absence of good will. It shows that it is a system which has to rely on good will; and when good will is not there it is one which it is very dangerous to expect to work at all times. I believe that the two examples I have culled from this Report demonstrate things far more important than whether the Government saw fit to publish a White Paper or not.

May I say that my own view is that the White Paper was a mistake. I think that the only people to whom it was not open to venture criticism of the noble Viscount's Report were the Government. Everyone else in this House, myself and everyone not sitting on the Government Benches, can deliver a tirade of criticism, because that is what a public Report is for. The Government, I think, are in an inhibited position in this matter. That is a personal view, but I do not think it a very important matter. I regard as much more important and as a matter which, if I may say so, ought to have received careful consideration in the noble Viscount's Report, the state of affairs which had been reached and was revealed by this situation. It is not the publication of this particular Report; it is not a question of whether this had been going on for 40 years or 400 years. It is that a relationship had been achieved between the Government and newspapers where contemptuous treatment of this kind could be accorded to the Government, and where a total sense of responsibility appears to have disappeared.

This, I think, was projected by a further unhappy suggestion. I do not know whether in relation to this particular disclosure there was a danger to British lives; I cannot say, I have no information on the subject. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, doubted the possibility and ridiculed it, and he may well be right. But I think that if the Government of the day asserts as a fact their belief that there is a danger to British lives, it would be a very brave and a very confident person who would be prepared to state to the contrary without knowledge of the circumstances upon which the Government statement was based. I believe there are certain Government activities that totally transcend political considerations. I think this is one of them. I do not think it lies in the mouth of anyone to tell a Government whether or not they are right in believing that British lives are in danger in any part of the world. I would not be prepared to enter into a debate. The assertion may be right or wrong, the speculations may be entirely fanciful. Of one thing I am perfectly sure, that is, that they are entirely honest. I think that again it reflects the very unhappy situation at which we have arrived when this sort of comment can be made, even in your Lordships' House. I think this a most unfortunate state of affairs. But it gives us an opportunity of looking at considerations away and beyond this actual Report, if I may venture to say so.

Here I should like to say a word about the noble Viscount's Report. First I would say this. The noble Viscount has been a legend throughout my professional life. As I do not think he is very much older than I am, that of itself is a testimony to his extraordinary abilities and skill. The speech he made this afternoon was a speech of remarkable force and sincerity. It disclosed a passionate, fervent belief in principles of liberty and the danger which a State entertains at the hands of the Government, particularly in relation to the Press. These are principles which I believe many of us would share. Whether they are principles that made the noble Viscount an ideal person to adjudicate in a dispute of this kind I must also, with complete candour, venture to doubt. Those principles could not have been arrived at between the date when he was appointed to investigate this matter and this afternoon. They are principles that he must have entertained all his life. He obviously has a deep suspicion of the Government in relation to newspapers. He said, and he said possibly with justice, that "D" Notices were frequently used in a coercive fashion. He believed there was a danger that "D" Notices might be used to stifle freedom of speech.


My Lords, I did not, with respect, say "the Government", I said "Government". There is a difference.


My Lords, may I say that I completely and gratefully accept that. I am sure that there is no more fair-minded man than the noble Viscount. I have had an opportunity of reading and seeing his Reports on other matters. It is an impertinence for anyone in my humble position in relation to the law to pay any tribute to him, but I think it right to say that what he said this afternoon reveals built-in beliefs, built-in notions and a built-in philosophy that must have made it very difficult for him to deal with this matter.


My Lords, the noble Lord will bear in mind that during the War my noble friend Lord Radcliffe established the best relationship between the Government and the Press at the Ministry of Information that has ever existed.


My Lords, I will bear that in mind. I endorse it and applaud it. I am grateful for the noble Lord's intervention, because it shows that obviously there was a long history of relations between the Press and the Government which had been experienced by the noble Viscount which had brought him to his present libertarian view, which I totally share and which I would go beyond. But it does not in the least compromise my observation that I doubt very much whether he could bring the objectivity—and there is no one fairer-minded, as I have said—to this investigation that it needed to have.

This was a petty little investigation about a dispute which some of us might have thought should not have been investigated at all. It turned on a constructional point, and that is hardly a matter for a Committee of Inquiry. There must be an infinite number of views about how you construe a "D" Notice. I do not know very much about "D" Notices, but I know that when you get lawyers at work inevitably you get a variety of views about how to construct the document—a will or a "D" Notice. I doubt very much whether a national inquiry is the proper method of dealing with a point of construction. I say this because obviously people were carried away by righteous indignation.

I should like to say a word about the Prime Minister. I said that I entertained no doubt about the patriotism of some people. I certainly entertain no doubt at all about the patriotism of the Prime Minister. I believe that much that has happened in this matter is due to that patriotism. I do not know of any matter that would arouse his ire more and inflame his judgment more than a matter that he thought touched on national security and our national interests. I believe that much that has happened in this matter is due to the influence on his mind of that fervent consideration.

I would say something of more practical importance, and say it with mild resentment. Some months ago I was a participating member of the Royal Commision which investigated tribunals of inquiry. After months of assiduous work and frequent meetings, we produced a short and speedy Report. We presented it to the nation and to the Government. The Committee was chaired brilliantly by Lord Justice Salmon—who did most of the work, if I may say so. In our Report we recommended the principles and procedures to be operated in relation to tribunals. If one were to seek for a classic instance of a tribunal which has transgressed every one of those principles and procedures, the tribunal which the noble Viscount has just concluded would be the one I should take. I do not know why he did it. He had available to him this small document. I am sure that the Government would even have relieved him of the necessity of paying 5s. for it.

In it we recommend certain simple rules. One which we recommended very emphatically was that ad hoc committees should not be established. We passed, not strictures, but rather sorrowful reflections upon the Denning Committee, which has become part of English history. We said that that sort of Committee was not the sort which ought to exist to investigate national dilemmas and problems. We then said that ad hoc committees in general were highly undesirable. We said that committees should be formed, if there was a matter of national importance or of national misgivings, under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act or, if they were formed by any other means, that they should adopt the procedures we recommended.

The first procedure we recommended, one which I think will be welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, who has the interest of the Press so keenly at heart, was that all proceedings should be in public. We stated in the clearest and most eloquent terms—for which I hasten to say I had no responsibility—that it was impossible to conduct an investigation of this kind into a question of national importance unless the proceedings took place in public. There was absolutely no reason why the proceedings of this particular inquiry should not have taken place in public. There were certain security aspects of it, but they did not come into the issue at all, and I cannot believe that if there had been security matters that needed to be dealt with in private they could not have been the subject of closed sessions of the shortest time necessary. But our fervent recommendation was that the proceedings should take place in public.

Furthermore, we recommended that everybody should have an opportunity of instructing counsel, particularly the tribunal. We recommended that there should be preliminary sessions, when procedures would be determined and it would be decided who should have counsel and how they should be appointed, and that a properly appointed counsel, usually instructed by the official solicitor, should act on behalf of the tribunal.

I do not believe that some of the conclusions reached in this report would have been reached if our procedures had been adopted. For instance, it is ironically the case that long submissions were made to this tribunal by counsel on behalf of certain parties who had the nous and initiative to ask whether they could have counsel, though it does not appear that any general opportunity was afforded anyone to decide whether or not they wanted counsel; and long submissions were addressed to the Committee on the meaning of a "D" Notice on behalf of interested parties. It does not appear that any submissions were addressed to this tribunal as to the meaning of "D" Notices on behalf of the Government. I do not believe anyone trained in law and having occupied high judicial offices, like the noble and learned Viscount, will say that it is irrelevant whether or not a tribunal is to receive the benefit of submissions by counsel. It must obviously be highly relevant.


My Lords, the Government were asked whether they wished to be represented by counsel and said that they did not. The Government submitted arguments about the effect and meaning of "D" Notices.


My Lords, that appears to me to make it worse. Once a tribunal has been appointed, I do not think that anybody should be asked as to the procedure which should be adopted. This is a matter for the tribunal. The tribunal should have extended a public opportunity for everybody concerned to decide whether or not they wanted counsel. If the Government said they did not want counsel, that should have been said in public. It should appear in the Report. What in fact happened was that the proceedings took place totally in private. The evidence was then published as a decision apparently of the Government and not of the tribunal, and everybody enjoyed the very worst of both worlds.

I will not dilate at length on the other enormities committed by that tribunal in relation to our impeccable Report. All I will say is that I hope that in future—and the Government here are obviously as much to blame as anyone else—regard will be paid to the unpaid labours of a number of virtuous gentlemen who worked for many months to produce a Report of this kind. If I may be serious on this subject, may I say that it is quite wrong that when people, at the request of the Government, have produced a working method and defined a system for dealing with these things, no regard should be paid to that system. What our investigations, when sitting as a Royal Commission, established was how thoroughly undesirable privacy was, how important it was to have proper representation, how important it was that witnesses should know in advance the case against them and a multitude of other matters which changed the whole character of inquiries of this kind. To none of these was even lip-service extended.

This was due to another factor which we find too much in our affairs—the seeming importance of haste. It was apparently regarded as a necessity to arrive at a most speedy conclusion, whether wrong or right, instead of giving a little time to be sure of arriving at a right conclusion. All too often we sacrifice care and solicitude for the real considerations of a matter because there is some bogus consideration of speed. In a matter of this kind speed is of little importance. It did not matter whether we had waited for another two months to know whether or not the Daily Express had been guilty of some mistake in what they had written to the public. What did matter was that we should get the right answer.

The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has properly said that mistakes were made on all sides. That is abundantly clear. I think that this is an unhappy story. Its unhappiness rests much more in the antecedent circumstances than in what happened afterwards. I believe, if I may end on an optimistic note, that if we learn from our mistakes, much may emerge from this that is of real value. I believe that we can find a new procedure. I believe that the "D" Notice procedure wants to be looked at carefully. I believe that we want to ensure that certain actions are recognised by everybody as transcending the political arena. If all these things are at long length achieved, then the proceedings in your Lordships' House this afternoon and the proceedings in another place for a multitude of hours will not have been wasted, and some good will come from them after all.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitated to intervene in your Lordships' debate this afternoon, especially since I knew we were to hear the views of noble and learned Lords far more eminent and experienced than I. Nevertheless, I decided, I hope correctly, that it was perhaps right that someone of my age group should voice his opinion on some aspects of this affair, since, after all, it is my generation who will be governing this country in twenty years' time, and I trust that my generation may learn from some of the mistakes that have been made this time. I shall be brief.

Having studied with great care all the evidence that is available to the public, I think it is perfectly clear that here is a case of administrative incompetence which amounts, in some instances, to negligence on the part of both Ministers and their officials. Having been positively vetted myself, having assisted the security authorities in the positive vetting of others, and having worked for over four years in a Whitehall Department, I know a little about how the system works. Like many others, I find it quite incredible that Colonel Lohan's post was not a positively-vetted one. It is, of course, not strictly accurate to suggest, as I believe the Prime Minister did, that the Colonel was not positively vetted; he had been in a previous appointment. I do not understand how Colonel Lohan could possibly be expected to carry out his sensitive duties effectively if he was not entirely trusted by his colleagues; and if there was the slightest doubt about his reliability—and we now know there was none on the grounds of security—why was he allowed to continue in the post?

I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will explain to your Lordships why the Colonel's positive vetting was not followed through to completion in 1965. Was it because of complaints about one of the referees whom the Colonel had named? Was it because the gentleman named was of too high a standing? And is it true that the positive vetting official was afraid to approach this gentleman, and asked the Colonel to suggest another name? I would remind your Lordships that Colonel Lohan was perfectly entitled to nominate anyone he wished.

I should also like to ask Her Majesty's Government why the Ministry of Defence did not immediately get in touch with Colonel Lohan after they had received the initial inquiry from Mr. Pincher. It seems to me that Colonel Lohan was placed in an impossible position by the authorities. They insisted, rightly no doubt, that the "D" Notices applied. Yet at the same time he was instructed, as we all know, in no circumstances to push this aspect too far, for fear of arousing Mr. Pincher's suspicions still further. And when the cable vetting story broke, what happened? I would endorse the remarks of Colonel Lohan when he says in the Spectator: No Department wanted to carry the can for cable vetting—quite irrespective of security considerations; they had a thundering row about responsibilty which no one wanted to acknowledge. I further believe that Mr. Charles Pannell, when speaking in the debate in another place, hit the nail on the head when he commented: In effect, this man"— that is, Colonel Lohan— was a sort of lesser breed within the law, obviously not one of the old-boy network."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 22/6/67; col. 2012.] This, my Lords, I must say is true of what happens in the Civil Service when things go wrong. And this is not all. Is it now to become Government practice (I am sure it is not, but I want to put the question) to blacken a civil servant for political expediency? Just what was meant by those words: … an overclose relationship with Mr. Pincher and other journalists"? Colonel Lohan has a right to know.

I should now like to turn for a moment to consider the parts played in this affair by some Ministers. While I agree that the circumstances were perhaps somewhat unusual, it can hardly be said that the Foreign Secretary emerges in a particularly favourable light. Now some noble Lords may well say to themselves: "Poor George! It was not his fault". But I do not entirely agree. He holds the position of Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and, as such, he had a direct responsibility for what happened. He failed—although I agree entirely with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, on this particular point. But, what is the position of that gallant colonel, the Paymaster General, in all this? I always understood that he was the watchdog over matters of this sort. It seems to me that he failed as well.

But, my Lords, most important of all is the way the matter has been handled by the Prime Minister. He did eventually admit in another place—and I listened to him—that very many things had gone wrong, and he accepted his share of the responsibility. But, surely, on matters affecting the security of the Realm it is upon the Prime Minister, and upon him alone, that the responsibility ultimately falls. I understand that the Prime Minister prides himself upon his relations with the Press. But has there ever been an occasion when there has been such universal condemnation of the Prime Minister's handling of the matter? I need not remind your Lordships of Press comments that were made after the debate in another place. Finally, I believe that my right honourable friend the Leader of the Opposition in another place is to be congratulated on having persuaded the Prime Minister to set up an independent inquiry, so giving Colonel Lohan, who has rendered most valuable service to the nation, an opportunity to clear his name.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to support, quite briefly, the Motion and the speech made by my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne earlier. I think your Lordships would all agree that we have had some interesting speeches this afternoon, and were there no other justification for the Motion the speech that we have listened to from the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, would provide one. The noble and learned Viscount is in a better position to speak on the subject of "D" Notices and on this particular affair than anyone else, and I, for my part, am quite prepared to leave the matter there for your Lordships to make up your own minds as to the rights or wrongs in this matter in the light of what he has said.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodman (I am sorry to see he has left his seat), said that he was disappointed in this debate, and particularly disappointed that most of the speeches, except, curiously enough, that of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, had been motivated by political animus. I should not have thought that anybody could have accused the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, of that. I think that anybody who listened to his speech earlier this afternoon will not easily forget it, or will have failed to be impressed by it. The qualities which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, sees as defects in the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, seem to me to be just those qualities which most qualified him to conduct the inquiry. I do not think the noble Lord will find there are many of your Lordships who will think his criticisms of Lord Radcliffe or his inquiry were very convincing. Perhaps I could say: a brave try in rather difficult circumstances.

It seems to me that in the controversy which has followed the publication of the Radcliffe Report, in a great many speeches in another place and in articles in the Press, there has been a very pronounced tendency to forget what the central issue really was. It was, first and foremost, and still is, a question of the security of this country, and it is in the light of that criterion that all of us should judge the subsequent events.

It so happens that there are many of your Lordships who know more about security than I do, but I have had a certain amount of experience of the subject for—much to my regret; and, if I may remind your Lordships, to my personal discomfiture—in the four years that I was First Lord of the Admiralty there were two notorious security cases: there was that of Lonsdale and Gee, and subsequently, a year or so later, that of Vassall. Indeed, earlier this afternoon Lord Radcliffe told your Lordships that he had been the Chairman of some tribunals and committees dealing with security; and I was the subject of one of the tribunals over which he presided. As a result, I became much more concerned in the security aspects of Admiralty work, and in helping to put matters right where they had gone wrong, and in setting up new procedures, than would otherwise have been the case with a Service Minister, and certainly much more than would have been the case with any other Minister not connected with Defence affairs.

Your Lordships will also remember that these two cases were the subject of enormous Press coverage. Here may I say in passing (and I think I partly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams) that I think it was the Prime Minister who, in another place, suggested that the Daily Express article would not have been published but for political bias, and that it was unlikely that under a Conservative Government any mention of the subject would have been made in that newspaper. I must say that my own experience of the Daily Express has not exactly led me to that conclusion. I do not recollect—and I have a very vivid recollection—that I was treated any differently because I was a Conservative than I should have been had I been a Member of the Labour Party.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I just want to intervene on a point of correction. In referring to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I referred by a slip of the tongue to the Profumo case. I meant, of course, the Vassall case.


Well, my Lords, I expect I am obliged to the noble Lord. It was a thoroughly disagreeable experience, but I am the last to suppose it would have been right for the Daily Express to treat me, or any other Minister in a like position, differently because of his or my political views. And, of course, I do not believe for one moment that they would have done so.

At that time there was a good deal of sensational and inaccurate reporting, particularly in the Vassall episode. It would have been impossible, and not right, not to blame the Press for some of it. But inevitably—and this is the point I seek to make in bringing all this up—there must be large areas of which the newspapers are unaware. When dealing with security it is very difficult, as the noble and learned Lord has said, to tell the whole truth; and indeed one of the cardinal rules is that the fewer people who know about secret things the better it is. So I think a great deal of what was written at the time of the Vassall case was written out of sheer ignorance—ignorance of the facts and ignorance of how security works.

This leads me to the conclusion—and I am reinforced by what has happened in the past few weeks—that one cannot conduct an intelligent debate on security, or matters affecting security, in public. Only half the story will come out. If more than half comes out, it may then be damaging to national security, and no good comes out of these public discussions, either to the country or to the individuals concerned. When issue of this sort are discussed, particularly discussed in another place, the kind of result which is likely to emerge has been seen and has been amply borne out in the case of Colonel Lohan.

I think everybody will welcome the acceptance by the Prime Minister of Mr. Heath's suggestion that there should be an impartial inquiry in which Colonel Lohan may make his case known. I therefore think, in the light of all this, that the Prime Minister was absolutely right, after the initial exchange in the House of Commons, to set up the inquiry under Lord Radcliffe, who was helped by two senior and respected Privy Counsellors. They could hear all the evidence not made public; they could see the people concerned; they could evaluate that evidence, and all three of them have an unrivalled experience in Government and in Departments which dealt with security matters.

Your Lordships do not need to be reminded of the conclusions to which that Committee came. They found that the Daily Express articles were not inaccurate in any sense that could expose it to hostile criticism on that score; and they found that, though the wording of the "D" Notice was cryptic, they did not think that there was any breach of it or any editorial decision to defy the "D" Notice procedure. My Lords, I am bound to say that I think it a great pity that the Prime Minister did not at once accept the Report. Nobody would have thought one whit the worse of him for that; indeed, it is a curious English characteristic that in some odd way admission of an indiscretion or of bad judgment usually endears that person to his audience and to the public at large. I am deeply sorry that the Prime Minister did not find it possible to do that. I think it was a grave mistake; and from that has followed the unhappy chapter of events upon which I have no intention of commenting this afternoon.

The only other matter which concerns security is whether or not any improvement is possible, or necessary, in the "D" Notice procedure. Lord Radcliffe has made it clear in his Report that, although there are minor modifications to that procedure, on the whole he does not believe it is possible to devise anything better. In so far as I am able to judge, I would agree wholeheartedly with that. I think it says a great deal for the Press that, in spite of the temptations to get a good story and to publish it; in spite of the confusion which appears, at any rate to some extent, to have existed about the exact interpretation of some of the "D" Notices; in spite of the intense competition which exists between newspapers anxious for circulation and readership, there has been so little trouble in this difficult area of national security and "D" Notices. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that anything that has happened in the last few months, or in the last few years, shows that this "D" Notice procedure has broken down.

In the affairs in which I was concerned the Press were not giving information away in defiance of the "D" Notice. They were berating the Government of the day because spies had passed on secret information to our potential enemies. The two cases had nothing in common. And I think it right that we should record a tribute to the Press for their observance of the regulations, and for the way in which they have conducted themselves over the years in matters of security—subject, of course, to the remarks that Lord Radcliffe has made about security and freedom of expression, which I think are very important.

This has, I think, been a very unhappy affair, but I feel that we can at any rate take comfort from two things: first, that the Radcliffe Committee have cleared the newspaper and the journalist concerned of any intention to defy the "D" Notice procedure; and, secondly, that the procedure has been found adequate, and that it has been so well regarded over these past years.


My Lords, may I make one remark? The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, apparently thought that something I had said was an imputation of political animus against Lord Radcliffe. May I say that nothing that I said was intended to convey any such suggestion, and there is no man in the whole wide world against whom that suggestion could be less levelled.


My Lords, I am sure that I do not wish to impute to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, anything he did not say; and if the shorthand writer has managed to get down anything of what the noble Lord said, I shall be happy to read it to-morrow.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, for once I find myself taking part without any feeling of pleasure at all in a debate in your Lordships' House. This whole affair, which began as a serious matter affecting the security of this country, has degenerated into an acrimonious public debate in which personalities have begun to obscure the real issues. A great deal of Parliamentary time has been expended in debating the subject, and column upon column of newsprint has been taken up in discussing it. At the level of personal drama one might fairly say that the whole matter has been played out and that the sooner we leave it and direct our minds to more important matters the better. But this would be to fall into the trap of allowing surface irrelevancies to conceal the very real importance of the case.

This importance is that, quite apart from the question of actual damage to the country's safety, it has raised an important question of the relationship between the Government and the Press in a free society. This is indeed a matter of crucial importance to anyone with a concern about the working of democracy. But—as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said of the cases in which he was involved—the public discussion over this case, in which the detailed background is necessarily not a matter of public knowledge, has to a very large extent been a debate in the dark. A great deal of what has been said or chosen for comment, apparently at random, out of a mass of evidence has been based on supposition or suspicion, and always with a necessarily limited knowledge of the real issues involved. Much of the debate has been speculative, over-dramatised and confused, and in this confusion some wounding blows have been aimed blindly in all directions. It is perhaps time we took a deep breath and a pause for some intelligent reflection, and time that we swept aside some of the fascinating irrelevancies and made some attempt to see this matter in its proper proportions.

In the debate so far, not only in your Lordships' House but in another place and in the country as a whole—there has been comment and criticism and analysis by many who claim expert knowledge or experience of some aspect or other of this problem. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I outline very briefly my own credentials for attempting to cast a little wan light into what has become a dark and apparently sinister situation. I was, as your Lordships will know, for over twenty years a professional soldier. In that time, especially in later years, I was much involved in secret work, and indeed spent several years engaged in Intelligence.

When I left the Army in 1961 to join The Times newspaper as its Defence Correspondent, I became responsible for the custody at The Times of "D" Notices and for their interpretation within the newspaper when there was any doubt about stories affecting defence and security. Since joining Her Majesty's Government in 1964 I have been a Minister of State at the Foreign Office, until very recently with responsibility for defence matters so far as they concerned the Foreign Office. I say all this not to claim any special knowledge or authority in this case (I have none that is not a reflection of the collective responsibility of government) but simply to indicate that I speak in this debate to-day both as a member of Her Majesty's Government and as one with some special knowledge of the matters that I intend to speak about. My intention is to concentrate on the real issues in this case and to leave out of the reckoning, so far as is consistent with my responsibility to reply adequately to your Lordships' debate, the extraneous matters of people and personalities.

As the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, said earlier in the debate—and indeed the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, reflected and repeated this remark—the important matter here is the matter of national security. I think that the basic question we should ask ourselves and try to answer is very largely that contained in the original terms of reference of the Committee presided over by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe; that is, if I may paraphrase for the sake of brevity, to examine the circumstances surrounding the publication of the article in the Daily Express and to consider what improvements, if any, were needed in the "D" Notice system.

I think here it might be useful to underline what has been said before in this debate, which is that there has grown up in many minds a very widely held misconception of what the terms of reference actually were. When the Radcliffe Committee sat, it decided to ask itself three questions: first, is this article an inaccurate account of the facts with which it purports to deal?; second, is it a breach of any one or more of the "D" Notices?; third, is it contrary to anything that can be called the procedure or conventions of the "D" Notice system?

Indeed, these may be cogent and intelligent questions to ask, and it may be that the Committee felt that they needed the answers to them in order to arrive at their conclusions. But I am bound to point out that they were questions formulated by the Committee itself, and it appears that one of the results of approaching the problem in this way was that the nature of the Committee and its deliberations was subtly transformed. Instead of being a fact-finding committee concerned with establishing the truth in the face of the mass of often conflicting evidence, it seemed to become a quasi-judicial tribunal in which the Daily Express and its Defence Correspondent were regarded as being, for all practical purposes, on trial. They were represented by counsel, witnesses were cross-examined and submissions were made.

Now, my Lords, I say this in no criticism of the noble Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, and the two distinguished Privy Counsellors who assisted him. They were clearly guided throughout all this by fundamental principles of equity, and above all by the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence; and indeed the Government have said, and I am pleased to repeat it here, that we are in debt to these three distinguished gentlemen for the lucid account they have produced of the whole affair. But I am bound to say also that their approach was not, and is not, the approach of Her Majesty's Government. "D" Notices are not legal documents. We are not dealing with an offence on the part of the newspaper or its Defence Correspondent, or on the part of those concerned in trying to prevent publication. We are dealing with a case where a voluntary system—based on co-operation and selfdenial—broke down and allowed the publication of material which the Government considered, and still consider, it was harmful to the national interest to disclose.

I must record my belief here that the Radcliffe Committee, in its altogether admirable preoccupation with the character of the newspaper and its correspondents, failed, in my view, to resolve a number of obvious and important conflicts of evidence. But our main concern is not to dig any deeper into this or to belabour those who were concerned in this failure of communication. What we want to do is to prevent its happening again and to draw some constructive lessons from it.

For this reason I do not propose to concern myself in any more detail than my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor did with the question of the accuracy of the story that appeared in the Daily Express, although I must confess—since the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, has had such a quietly sardonic time with the Government's White Paper—that I found it extremely puzzling, when I read the Report of the Radcliffe Committee, to see that on page 4 they set out to answer as one of the three principal issues the question of whether the article was an inaccurate account of the facts, and on page 5 they concluded that it was not necessary to say whether the Daily Express article was accurate in all points of detail. I must confess that I still find this rather strange. After all, either the article was accurate or it was not. So far as matters of fact are concerned, there was one total inaccuracy concerning the date on which the story had been, as they say, "disclosed". However, I do not myself regard this as a matter of much gravity. What was much more grave was the treatment of the story.

As my noble and learned friend has said, it is possible, as many propagandists have effectively discovered, to construct an edifice of misleading and tendentious comment upon a slender foundation of basic fact. However, as I have suggested, I am less concerned with the accuracy of the story than with its effect, and in my turn I should like to ask the two questions which I think are vital in this case. One of them is the same as that of the Radcliffe Committee—was this story a breach of any one of the "D" Notices? I think it would pay us to look a little more closely into that than we have done so far. The second of my questions goes wider and deeper—did the story damage this country?

So far as the first question is concerned I must, if your Lordships will bear with me, draw to some small extent upon my own experience. The Radcliffe Committee, as your Lordships well know and as my noble and learned friend has underlined, concluded that there was no simple answer to the question of whether there had been a breach of the "D" Notice. I must say that my own view is that there has never been, and is not now, the slightest doubt about the answer. As I have said, when I was Defence Correspondent of The Times I was in charge of the "D" Notices held by that newspaper. I was familiar with their contents and the two "D" Notices under discussion in this case were well known to me. Indeed, I remember the crucial one of 1961 very well, as it was the first "D" Notice I received as Defence Correspondent of The Times. Perhaps I may say also—and I think this is relevant—that as a result of my various activities before joining The Times I was also aware of the operations which formed the basis of Mr. Chapman Pincher's story, and I must say very solemnly that I personally was never in the slightest doubt that mention of these operations would have been clearly and unmistakably in conflict with the "D" Notices concerned.

I am not a lawyer, still less a distinguished Judge, and I defer to the noble and learned Lords who have spoken to-day on matters of law. But I do understand the English language. I do not even ask your Lordships to accept my judgment on these matters. Let us look simply at the basic facts which are there for everyone to see and let us draw our own conclusions about them. The "D" Notice of April, 1956, asks newspapers among other things to make no reference to secret intelligence or counter intelligence methods and activities in or outside the United Kingdom. Let us look at Mr. Chapman Pincher's story as it is reproduced in the Report of the Radcliffe Committee. Can there be any doubt in the mind of any reasonable man who speaks the English language that this story was about secret intelligence or counter intelligence methods and activities in the United Kingdom?

I do not even ask noble Lords to arrive at a conclusion on this unaided. Let us call in aid the words used in the story by the correspondent himself, the man who wrote the story. This is what he said: The probe is conducted under a special warrant signed by a Secretary of State under Section 4 of the Official Secrets Act and regularly renewed to keep it valid. Its purpose is to provide intelligence for the security, military, and criminal investigation departments. A regular check on cables may reveal the activities of persons or organisations suspected of operating against the national interest. Those are the words of the Defence Correspondent of the Daily Express himself. My Lords, it seems to me perverse and totally incomprehensible that a correspondent who is himself by way of being a master of the English language can describe in such clear terms a secret activity which he specifically claims to be for intelligence or counter intelligence purposes and can at the same time claim that it is not in breach of the "D" Notice asking newspapers to make no reference to exactly those matters. This seems to me to be on its own clearly conclusive enough.

But let us look at the second "D" Notice of October, 1961. This "D" Notice asks newspapers among other things to make no reference to the various methods used in the interception of foreign communications for secret intelligence purposes". And then let us look back again at the Daily Express story and ask ourselves a few simple, childish questions.


My Lords, if the noble Lord is going to do this—it has all been dealt with fully in the Radcliffe Report—I think, although it will take a long time, he should read out the whole of the "D" Notices, including appendices, which do affect the meaning, and perhaps he would refer to The Times' view of these "D" Notices at the same time.


My Lords, the full "D" Notices are not even published in the Radcliffe Report. Extracts only are published, and I am using the Radcliffe Report as my authority.


My Lords, the noble Lord should read the whole of the extracts, which affect the meaning.


My Lords, it would take a long time and I think it would not add to the argument of the noble Viscount if I were to do so. I am ready to do so, but they are there for your Lordships to read. What the "D" Notice does among other things is to ask the newspapers not to refer to the various methods used in the interception of foreign communications for secret intelligence purposes". Nothing else in the "D" Notice invalidates that. Let us look back at the Daily Express story. What is this story about? Is it about interception? Yes, of course. Is it about secret intelligence? There can be no possible doubt of that. Does it concern foreign communications? Unless words have lost their meaning completely, of course it does. I fail to see how anyone, simply on the basis of a reasonable interpretation of the English language, can seriously argue that this story and the "D" Notices of 1956 and 1961 were not in conflict.

My Lords, I regret having to disagree so unequivocally with the findings of the distinguished Radcliffe Committee and others, including the noble Viscount opposite, who commented on this important matter. I do not suggest for one moment that the newspaper had any evil intent in doing what they did, still less that they were deliberately bent on damaging the security of the country. But no good is done to their case, or to the cause of simple truth, by begging these questions of fact.

Of course it can be, and has been, argued that long and familiar use had eroded the force of these "D" Notices, and that they were interpreted differently by the Press, on the one hand, and by the Government, on the other. My Lords, this may be so, but the fact remains that the "D" Notices in question did cover, and were intended to cover, the activities which were the subject of the Daily Express story. Where there is a difference of interpretation it is customary for newspapers to seek the advice of the Secretary of the "D" Notice Committee. On this occasion his advice was sought. The Secretary was clearly instructed in the very early stages of the affair of the official view that the "D" Notice did apply, and what happened after that was a matter of misunderstanding, of confusion and total failure of communication.

I should like to deal now briefly with the matter that I regard as being much more important: in the writing of these matters was any serious harm done to the safety of this country and its people? It is very easy to answer that question, but it is harder, even in your Lordships' House, to explain and to justify the answer. National security is not simply a matter of preventing the agents of enemies and potential enemies from divining our secrets or damaging our safety in more positive ways. We ourselves must seek information. We must take part in the important and constant battle of intelligence and counter-intelligence, a battle which is no less closely connected with our welfare and our survival. The development of a sudden gap in our intelligence effort can be as damaging and as dangerous as the appearance of a sudden gap in our counter-intelligence effort.

It may be to some people an unattractive and even repulsive thought, but it is upon the foundation of these hidden activities that the structure of our safe and free society to a very large part rests. I can only say, with the full knowledge of many facts that cannot be made public, that the publication of the story in the Daily Express on Tuesday, February 21, did positive harm to our national security, the extent of which we may never be able to assess.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, were, I think, if I may be so bold, being over-simplistic in their comments on security. This seems a strange criticism to make of the noble Viscount, but I think perhaps the reason he gave this impression, to me at any rate, was that he insisted on using this euphemism "security". What we are talking about is not an empty word or phrase. We are talking not of security as some kind of Whitehall operation or counter-operation. We are talking of the ultimate safety of the lives and liberty of the people of this country, and in a sovereign nation State I can think of very few considerations that would outweigh that particular concern. While I respect, and indeed share, the liberal philosophy of the noble Viscount, I can only say that if he does not regard the survival and freedom of this country as the paramount responsibility of government then I can only respectfully disagree with him.

I feel bound to say of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross (he has had to leave, but I feel bound to say this in his absence) that I detected in his dismissal of the Government's White Paper traces of an intellectual arrogance that did less than justice to his case. Ridicule is no substitute for reasoned argument, and if the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, does not understand that people's lives are constantly at stake in intelligence operations, and if he does not understand that the revelation of intelligence matters can endanger those lives, then I am profoundly surprised. But he must know, and your Lordships will know, that no amount of the biting irony of which he is such a eloquent master will provoke me into discussing these matters in your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I must rise to say that I rather resent this slight on the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross.


Order, order!


My Lords, on a point of Order, I am afraid that the noble Lord must not speak from a Bishops' Bench. He must put his point of view from some other place.


My Lords, I rather resent this reflection on the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross. I worked with him on security problems during the war, and there can be no question of his position.


My Lords, I do not know whether the noble Lord was present when Lord Shawcross made his speech. If he was not—


I heard almost the whole of it.


Then the noble Lord will know that it was a most hard-hitting speech, and I am sure the noble Lord—


That is no excuse for casting reflections on his patriotism.


My Lords, I really must protest. I cast no reflections on the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shaw-cross. I have said that I thought his speech had a ring of intellectual arrogance about it. This is a value judgment; not an aspersion. And I have said that if he does not know that lives are at stake in intelligence operations, I am profoundly surprised. That is all I have said, and I fail to see that this is any reflection on the noble and learned Lord.

My Lords, much play has been made about a remark contained in the evidence of a Foreign Office official in which he commented on the reliability of Mr. Chapman Pincher as a journalist; and it was even suggested by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, that this was symptomatic of a breakdown on trust between the Government and the Press. I do not wish to comment on the opinion of the Foreign Office official; nor do I comment on Mr. Chapman Pincher. But to put things in a slightly better perspective perhaps I might quote, again with emphasis, the following extract from the evidence of the Secretary of the "D" Notices Committee, Colonel Lohan. It occurs in a passage already referred to by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack.

Colonel Lohan said: Although I did not say it to him, in my own mind I would certainly not have recommended telling Chapman Pincher or his editor the truth, because if one had told them the truth about this operation in three months' time, as sure as I am here, they would have had it out in one way or the other. I mention that simply to put into perspective the remarks that were made by an equally respected Foreign Office official.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, has suggested that no action was taken over the crucial weekend of these transactions and that this argues some official dereliction of duty. I must reject this utterly.


My Lords, again I do not think the noble Lord has got it right. I said that no action was taken with the Daily Express over that weekend.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble and learned Viscount—that no action was taken with the Daily Express over the crucial weekend, and that this argued some official dereliction of duty. I really must say without going into all the details of this, that the Foreign Office were in constant daily touch with the Secretary of the "D" Notices Committee, their link with the Daily Express, over the weekend. They were assured by him that the matter was under control, and they therefore concluded that there was no need for intervention at a higher level. This may or may not have been an error of judgment, but it was not dereliction of duty.

Since Colonel Lohan has once more entered—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say has been dragged—into the debate, perhaps I may make one more point on the speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shawcross, when he accused my right honourable friend the Prime Minister of a smear in another place against Colonel Lohan. This is an unworthy imputation that might just marginally itself qualify for that ugly epithet "smear". If the noble and learned Lord will study the OFFICIAL REPORT, as I am sure he will, he will see that my right honourable friend was asked a direct question on this subject in another place, and he answered it as briefly as he possibly could.

The noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, has asked a number of direct questions about Colonel Lohan. In my view, it would be inappropriate for me to answer these in your Lordships' House. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, Colonel Lohan is now to be given the opportunity to show in what respects any Government's statements have, in his view, been unfair. So far as other points made by the noble Lord, Lord Napier and Ettrick, are concerned, I do not propose to reply in any detail to what I thought were rather intemperate remarks about Ministers and civil servants involved in this case. The Government have accepted a share in the blame for what has happened, and I, for one, think that the time has come to put a stop to these endless recriminations.

I should like to conclude by saying, in what I hope is a more constructive vein, that we must now, as I suggested earlier, look to the future to see whether we can find some way of preventing a recurrence of anything like these unfortunate events, and also of repairing the damage that has been done to the basic relationship in these matters between the Government and the Press. I am happy to underline what the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has said about the tributes which are due to the behaviour of the Press of this country. It sets itself and it maintains standards of accuracy, integrity and responsibility as high as it is possible to find anywhere in the world. Indeed, I have found that the best of the British Press is the envy of journalists, politicians, businessmen and officials everywhere in the world. My own experience of British newspapermen, whether dealing with them here or in the foreign capitals of the world, is that they are considerate and co-operative, and that their standards of accuracy and reliability survive the most arduous difficulties about their deadlines and their communication problems.

If I may be allowed one criticism, which I have been waiting for a long time to make, it is that there is perhaps too great an obsession in Fleet Street, and in the newspaper world generally, with the concept of the "scoop", the exclusive story. Indeed, I believe that had it not been for this curious aberration, much of the difficulty in the affairs that we have been debating might never have arisen. Newspapermen seem unable to believe that, so far as the general public is concerned, hardly anyone cares, or even notices, whether the story which he reads in his newspaper is also appearing in other newspapers. The myth of the exclusive, the "beat", the "scoop", is in my view a part of the mystique of journalism, and the only people who really care about "scoops" are other journalists.

Having expressed this mild and personal criticism, I should like to return to the great basic qualities of the British Press—its freedom and its vigilance. It is right, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, said, that the newspapers, and indeed the reporters on radio and television, should keep a careful eye on the activities of Government and should be free within the limits of national security to report and comment on them without fear. No Government of this country, of whatever complexion, would last long if it did anything to erode that freedom or to obstruct that vigilance; nor would it deserve to last long. But the value of the Press to a democratic society is built not on the single pillar of freedom, but on the twin pillars of freedom and responsibility.

In return for its freedom the Press must undertake a self-denying ordinance under which it refrains from publishing the stories which might damage the safety of our country, however fascinating the details of those stories may be. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, may have said in his speech about what takes place in other countries, I believe that there should be in this country, to ensure that this restraint is effectively exercised, some system by which the Government can let the Press know, without disclosing secret details, what matters there are the appearance of which in the Press would do real damage.

Let us not be deluded by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, into thinking that there are no security "leaks" in the United States. I am not referring now to matters of embarrassment to this political Party, or to that politician, or to one Government or another. These are matters to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Shaw-cross, has referred. No Government has the right to ask the Press to deny itself comment in these areas. It is, however, the right, and indeed the duty, of the Government to ask the Press not to reveal or draw attention to methods, activities and operations which might be of actual value to a potential enemy. It was to forge this link between Government, which has the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the nation, and a free and democratic Press that the "D" Notice system was introduced. In the past, as the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has said, this system has worked, perhaps not perfectly but adequately. Most newspapers have been consistently co-operative. There have been breakdowns in the "D" Notice system, but none as serious as the one we have been debating to-day. We must now see what is needed to guard against this happening again.

The Government, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said, accept the recommendations made in the Radcliffe Report about possible improvements to the system. Indeed, the ground covered by the Report on this matter is very much the same as in the paper the Government submitted to the Radcliffe Committee on the subject. We are not on any controversial ground here. We accept that the two "D" Notices in question should be redrafted and, as the Government submission to the Radcliffe Committee shows, the redrafting of all "D" Notices had begun and had been in hand for some time before this affair began. The Government and the Committee are in agreement about the need for changes in the representation on the official side of the Committee and about a clearer delineation of the functions of the Secretary.

As I have come back for a moment to the question of the Secretary of the "D" Notice Committee, perhaps it would be useful for the Record, and for your Lordships, to know what exactly is proposed in allowing some procedure to emerge for Colonel Lohan, the present Secretary of the "D" Notice Committee, to make his own points and to state his own case. As the Lord Chancellor has suggested, the Prime Minister has set in motion an appropriate impartial procedure to enable Colonel Lohan, if he so wishes, to deal with Government statements which he considers to be unfair. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the best interests of everybody concerned will now be served by letting this procedure develop quickly and impartially, without any further public discussion of personalities, and, I hope, without any further statements being asked for or made till the task is completed.

Finally, I turn to the question of how to make the system work better and, above all, how to restore confidence in it. This question has already been discussed between representatives of the Press and the Prime Minister. The basic problem is that there may be occasions, as in the present case, when it may not be possible to explain to a newspaper exactly how and why a particular story offends against a "D" Notice without revealing the real background and the secret details which the "D" Notice is designed to protect. It is, in the end—and I make no apology for repeating this phrase, which seems to have caused a certain amount of sardonic mirth in some quarters—a matter of trust.

It has been suggested that it is the Government which, by its reaction to this particular case, has damaged this trust. I must confess that I find this hard to follow. It would of course have been easy for the Government to avoid an unpleasant and raging political controversy and to avoid also the almost universal criticism in the Press caused by this affair by handling this matter in some other way—perhaps, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, by keeping quiet. He suggested, I believe, that when the Radcliffe Report had been submitted the Prime Minister would have been well advised to accept it, to keep quiet, and keep his head down.

But, my Lords, it is the responsibility of the Government, and ultimately of the Prime Minister, to decide when the security of the country has been put at risk. That responsibility outweighs any short-term considerations of political advantage or public popularity. In this case the Government has chosen, in the face of much criticism, to bring into the open the whole complicated web of misunderstanding, misconception, error of judgment and failure of communication that resulted in this unfortunate case. In doing so, it has taken its share of the responsibility for what went wrong, and were it has disagreed with the findings of the Radcliffe Committee it has said so.

I believe that no Government of courage and integrity would have taken any other course, and I am confident that when the more sensational and exaggerated aspects of this case have been forgotten we shall have done much to reinforce the independence of the Press in this country and to perpetuate their absolute freedom to publish what they think is right. The only thing that any of us asks—and we have the right to ask it—is that the Press shall publish nothing that damages the real and lasting interests of this country. This is a principle which, in the past, the Press in this country have scrupulously observed; and I, for one, am confident that they will do so in the future.

7.8 p.m.


My Lords, when the noble Lord began his speech he said that this was an acrimonious public debate, and that we must direct our minds to more important matters. Until now I should have thought that nobody could possibly have called the debate which we have had "acrimonious" at all. Then the noble Lord went on to say that he would put the matter in proper perspective and proportion. I must say I thought that showed a certain degree of mental arrogance. If he would like to know whether he was able to do it, I would say that he failed dismally in his task. Then he thought fit, before echoing all the points made by the Prime Minister, and speaking with his master's voice, to attack the way in which the Radcliffe Committee had functioned. He said that instead of its being a fact-finding Committee, it had tried the offence of breaking the "D" Notice system. Who had made the charge that the system had been broken but the Prime Minister? The Radcliffe Committee was a fact-finding Committee—it is no use the noble Lord shaking his head. One finding of fact was that the article was not inaccurate.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount allow me to say that in my view—and this can only be a view—that is a statement of opinion, not a finding of fact.


The noble Lord had perhaps better learn to distinguish between findings of fact and questions of law; and this was a finding of fact by this Committee. If you like to say that it is an opinion of the Committee you may, but the noble Lord said that it was not a fact-finding Committee. In fact it did find facts. Then the noble Lord said, quite rightly, that the approach of that Committee was not the approach of Her Majesty's Government. I entirely agree. The Committee was an impartial, fact-finding body, doing its best to find out where the truth lay in this matter. The Government's attitude throughout this matter has been quite different. I will not take up time in replying to the noble Lord's observations about the application of the "D" Notice. It was very valiant of him at this late stage to try to establish once again that there had been a breach of the "D" Notice. He spoke with his authority as a former Defence Correspondent of The Times. We know that The Times' view on this is that there was no breach. We know what was the view of the other newspapers, and the noble Lord does not convince anybody in this House by just taking one part of the printed "D" Notice, ignoring the appendix, and ignoring the observations made in regard to it in the Radcliffe Committee's Report.

Then the noble Lord went on to give us a general lecture on matters of security and the treatment of the story. He solemnly said that in his own view there had been a breach. He said that it was harder to justify that this breach endangered security, and he told us that he had some qualifications for speaking on that subject. He may not know it, but I have, too, and I would not find it possible myself, on what knowledge I have, to adhere to or support the view that a report of the collection of cables under the Official Secrets Act 1920 could possibly endanger or put lives at stake.

Of course, it is true to say that lives are at stake in some Intelligence operations. No one will dispute that. But here we are concerned with a report of something which has been happening since 1920, and of which many people have known, and it really is no use the noble Lord seeking at this late stage to revive the idea, which was at one time thrown out, that this publication had in fact endangered men's lives. I am sorry to have had to take that attitude to that speech, because I think that throughout this has been a very useful debate. Although these are matters of considerable controversy on which there is bound to be disagreement, I think the debate has served a useful purpose.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, found the debate disappointing. I hope he is not so disappointed now, and perhaps not so disappointed as I was by parts of his speech. Parts of his speech came as a very great disappointment, particularly when he attacked my noble and learned friend for the way in which the Committee had functioned. If there ever was a Report which had come out which would tempt me to put on white paper, if I could not put them in a White Paper, my views rejecting its conclusions it would be the Report of the Council on Tribunals and Inquiries of which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was a member. Really, if the recommendations of that Council had been followed my noble and learned friend Lord Radcliffe would still be sitting investigating this matter, and probably until next September, and what pod would that have done? I was disappointed in the noble Lord's speech on that ground.

I was also disappointed in his criticism of Sir Max Aitken for not responding immediately to the request of the Foreign Secretary. I am sure that it was a mistake by the Foreign Secretary to speak, or endeavour to speak, at that time to anyone else but the editor, because the proprietors of a newspaper would not know anything about the matter. When you read the evidence of what happened in that conversation, it was a wonderful example of their both being completely at cross-purposes. Neither of them understood what the other was talking about. Sir Max had no idea what the story was to which reference was being made, and so they were both completely at cross-purposes. I am sure that if that approach had been made in the calm of daylight on the Monday, or even earlier than that, by the Foreign Secretary direct to the editor by letter (leave out this question of "D" Notices) saying, "I hear you have got this story. Come and see me before you publish it, because I have some things I want to tell you about it", there would have been an immediate response to it.

I think we have had a useful debate. I was very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, suggest that really we might get on better without any "D" Notices at all. I doubt that. I hope that the "D" Notice system will continue to function, and will function satisfactorily. But I think one thing emerges out of this debate. I say to the Government: when these questions arise do not be entrammelled by the red tape surrounding "D" Notices. If a matter of this sort must be dealt with urgently, why not have a direct approach? It may be that if Ministers approach some editors they will be suspicious that it is done for political motives. But, really, it ought to be possible for Ministers to convince editors that the approach is not made on political grounds; and the belief should be held by Ministers and the Government service of what is, in fact, the case—that those engaged in journalism are just as patriotic as anyone else. Having initiated this debate, I believe that it has served a useful purpose. I quite agree that it is an unhappy story which I hope will not be repeated. I think that what has been said to-day may lead to a better system in future. I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.