HL Deb 08 December 1981 vol 425 cc1257-8

2.44 p.m.

The Marquess of Tweeddale

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they would agree that the granting of what amounts to legal aid to Mr. Gordon Kirby by the Foreign Office in his libel suit against Private Eye has given rise to justifiable public disquiet.

The Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the answer to the Question of the noble Marquess is, "No". The circumstances leading to Mr. Kirby's action arose entirely from his performance of his official duties. In that situation, disquiet would in our view be justified if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had failed to stand behind its employee in his efforts to clear his name.

The Marquess of Tweeddale

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. May I ask him whether he thinks that at a time when cuts are being made in such essential services as the BBC overseas broadcasts it is justifiable to lay out public money in this way, particularly when, as I understand it, this laying out of public money will be necessary only if the extremely damaging allegations of Private Eye in respect of Mr. Kirby are proved to be founded?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, naturally we do think that the expenditure is justified, otherwise we should not have agreed to it.