HC Deb 20 April 1994 vol 241 cc541-2W
Mr. Streeter

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what the criteria will be for authorising publications by former members of the security and intelligence agencies, following the passage of the Intelligence Services Bill[Lords].

Mr. Hurd

Former employees of the security and intelligence agencies who wish to publish books or articles, give interviews to the media or provide information for other writers or historians are bound by a duty of confidence to the Crown and are subject to section 1(1) of the Official Secrets Act 1989. These obligations are made clear to people when they take up employment with the agencies and when they leave. No former member of the agencies need be in any doubt about his obligations. The same arrangements would apply to a person notified under section 1(1)(b) of the OSA with respect to the period while the notification is or was in force. On 21 December 1988 at column 538 my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten), then Minister of State, Home Office, set out the procedures for authorising disclosures under section 1(1) of what is now the Official Secrets Act 1989. He made it clear that such authorisation would be given only in exceptional circumstances.

The need to protect sensitive information is fully recognised in the Intelligence Services Bill, as it is in the Security Service Act 1989. The Bill defines strictly the circumstances under which information may properly be disclosed by the intelligence services including disclosure of records in accordance with the Public Records Act 1958 and 1967, which of course applies only to matters over 30 years old.

Authorisation for publication or other disclosure will accordingly be especially rare and exceptional with regard to events which happened less than 30 years ago. In any case where a former member of the security and intelligence agencies or a person notified under section 1 (1) (b) as described above wishes to publish or otherwise disclose material relating to his official duties, whether older than 30 years or not, he will need to apply to his former employer for authority to disclose. But there may, in the case of older material, be more likelihood that there will be no objection to disclosure. Any applications made in good faith would be looked at on their individual merits, and would still be judged on whether disclosure of any particular piece of information would jeopardise national security, whether directly or indirectly. If not, the service would be able so to inform the prospective author and give him authority to make the disclosure, so that it would not be contrary to section 1 (1) of the Official Secrets Act 1989 nor in breach of his civil duty of confidence. Authorisation would imply only that there were no concerns about national security. It would not imply that the Crown had endorsed the publication or confirmed the accuracy of its contents. The Crown would reserve the right not to give authorisation in cases where an officer had committed breaches of the criminal law or his civil obligations.

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