HL Deb 29 June 1987 vol 488 cc28-9

2.52 p.m.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will clarify the circumstances in which the then Attorney-General proposed to the Cabinet Secretary that the Metropolitan Police be asked to go to No. 10 Downing Street in connection with the disclosure of the Law Officer's letter in the Westland affair.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Havers)

My Lords, I have nothing to add to what has already been said in another place in answer to Questions and statements.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack tell this House specifically whether or not he threatened, proposed or suggested that the Metropolitan Police should be used in the Westland affair in order to investigate the leak of the letter from the person who was then his right honourable friend the Solicitor-General?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, that Question has been answered many times in the other House. I repeat that I have nothing to add.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor aware that some Members of this House find this Question very distasteful? Furthermore, there has been a general election in which I understand that the Government were returned with over 13 million votes. The people have had a chance to discuss Westland and whatever flowed from it. Any Questions raised now are all a load of rubbish.

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, with his customary good sense the noble Lord has pointed to the very small number of letters that I ever received from any of the general public.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, I omitted to congratulate the noble and learned Lord on answering his first Starred Question. I warn him that it will not be the last. May I ask the noble and learned Lord whether or not he agrees that the advice given by Law Officers bears special confidentiality, that adequate safeguards should be taken to protect it, and that that applies to Ministers as well?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord suspects me of over-optimism, which I do not think I have. What the noble and learned Lord said came out very clearly during the course of many debates, Questions and Answers in the other House. The whole cause was the leak of a Law Officer's letter, and even the Prime Minister made it quite clear that she disapproved of that. As the noble and learned Lord knows from when, years ago, he sat in the chair that I recently occupied, it is very rare. Fortunately it is a very rare occurrence.

Lord Kinnaird

My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that the noble Lord opposite who asked this Question reminds me of the late lamented Lord Wigg, in that he also was always trying to stir up trouble? Would it not be more interesting if he were to delve a little further into history and ask us why we sank the Spanish Armada?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, one of the privileges of my first two weeks as a Member of your Lordships' House was that I received a very good briefing about certain of your Lordships.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, I am delighted to learn that the noble and learned Lord already knows the characters of Members of this House and their objectives in being here. If there were no intention of sending the constabulary to No. 10 Downing Street, why has Granada Television not been prosecuted for the programme that it broadcast on 30th March 1987 in which this specific allegation was made?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, the noble Lord will know that the only prosecution open to me which I can think of would have been under Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act, and I suspect that I should have had little, if any, support.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, is not all this water under the bridge and have not we all a lot of work to do?

The Lord Chancellor

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, because this happened over 18 months ago. For my part, I am bored stiff with it.