HC Deb 24 July 1986 vol 102 cc323-4W
Sir Edward Gardner

asked the Attorney-General if he will make a statement on those aspects of the fourth report from the Defence Committee on Westland plc., the Government's decision-making, which fall within his responsibilities.

The Attorney-General

The Select Committee state that if, when I authorised an offer of immunity from prosecution to one of the officials concerned in the Head of the Home Civil Service's inquiry into the circumstances of the disclosure of the Solicitor General's letter of 6 January, I was able at that stage to say that under no circumstances would I have prosecuted the official concerned, I must have known, and must have learnt from the head of the Home Civil Service, that the disclosure had been authorised.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that at the time then I advised that an inquiry be instituted I did not know by whom the disclosure had been made or that it had been authorised by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry or at all.

At the time when I granted immunity to the official concerned, while I had reason to believe that the disclosure had been made by the official concerned and that the official concerned had acted in complete good faith, I was not aware of the full circumstances. It was important that the inquiry should discover as fully as possible the circumstances in which the disclosure came to be made, and should provide those concerned with the opportunity of giving their accounts of their part in the affair. It was clear that the testimony of the official in question would be vital to the inquiry, and I judged it right that possible impediment to full co-operation in the inquiry should be removed. I was and am satisfied that that in no way interfered with the course of justice: the facts as disclosed in the inquiry confirmed my judgment that there would have been no question of proceeding against the official concerned.

As the Select Committee recognises, I was not told of the direct involvement of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry until 22 January.