HL Deb 21 April 1977 vol 382 cc318-9

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to make a Statement relating to a matter which arose in the House last night during the course of the debate on Public Records and about which the Prime Minister has been questioned this afternoon in another place.

During the debate, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, stated that he had been asked whether the surviving evidential material submitted during the inquiry he conducted into the Profumo affair could be destroyed. He told the House that he agreed in the circumstances to this being done. I have discussed this matter with the noble and learned Lord this afternoon and he has authorised me to inform the House that, when he added last night that the evidence had been destroyed, he assumed and inferred from the circumstances I have mentioned that this had been done. In fact it was not done, and as the Prime Minister said in another place this afternoon the documents in question are in the Cabinet Office. Lord Denning has asked me to say how sorry he is that he drew the wrong inference and that he is glad to know that the documents have not been destroyed.


My Lords, on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House, may I say that we are very grateful to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for putting the record right. It is important in a matter of this kind that the record should be absolutely correct.


My Lords, I also should like to say that it is a very good thing that the record should have been put straight. But I should like just to put the question—and it is only a question—whether there is any point, in the circumstances, in hanging on to this record any more. Could it not be destroyed now? After all, Mr. Profumo has now been, so to speak, rehabilitated. The evidence was, I think, given on the understanding that it would never be quoted as coming from the man who gave it. I suppose that there is always a conceivable possibility of leaks, which might be distressing to some people. Is there any point in hanging on to the document, and why should it not be destroyed? I only put the question.


My Lords, there is no doubt that the documents in question were, and are, public documents and the question as to their disposal does not, of course, arise at this stage. It will not arise until 30 years have elapsed, under the provisions of the 1958 Act. So in the circumstances the question is wholly hypothetical and it will be for the Government of the day, and, indeed, the Lord Chancellor of the day when the matter comes to be determined, to answer the question posed by the noble Lord.