HL Deb 19 May 1982 vol 430 cc795-6WA
Lord Nugent of Guildford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they can yet make a statement about the recent report by the Security Commission into security procedures and practices in the public service; and whether the Commission's report will be published.

Baroness Young

In a statement which my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor repeated to the House on 26th March 1981, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced that, after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition in another place, she had asked the Security Commission to conduct a review of security procedures and practices in the public service and to consider what changes, if any, were required.

The commission has completed its task and submitted its report. The Government are most grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, and his noble colleagues, Lord Bridge of Harwich and Lord Allen of Abbeydale, for their thorough and painstaking work. After careful consideration, the Government have concluded, albeit with some regret, that it would not be in the national interest to publish this report since substantial portions of it concern the most sensitive aspects of security procedures. By the same token an expurgated version of the report would give a misleading impression of it. The Government therefore propose to publish tomorrow, as a Command Paper, as full a statement as possible, consistent with national security, about the commission's findings. I am authorised to say that Lord Diplock and his colleagues are content with this course, and they believe it to be the right course to follow in the circumstances.

This is the first comprehensive review of security procedures which has taken place since the Report of the Committee on Security Procedures in the Public Service, known as the Radcliffe Report, was published in April 1962. Like Radcliffe, the commission have taken "security" in their terms of reference to mean the safeguarding of such information in the possession of the Government as would by its unauthorised disclosure cause injury to the interests of the country. Their report does not cover the protection of government buildings or their contents or vital installations against sabotage or terrorist attack, although it does cover physical precautions for denying access to classified information by unauthorised persons.

The report is generally reassuring. Subject to the commission's views about the need for an urgent evaluation of the risks involved in electronic information processing and the means of countering them, Lord Diplock and his colleagues conclude that the security procedures, as they have been applied since Radcliffe and considerably modified and updated since, have worked well and can be relied upon to prevent infiltration of any of those bodies dealing with particularly sensitive security issues of the kind which took place in the 1930s and 1940s. Nevertheless, they make a number of recommendations which the Government accept (subject in a few instances to further necessary inquiries) and will implement as soon as possible.

House adjourned at twenty minutes past nine o'clock.