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Sensitive Information (Publication)

Volume 982: debated on Tuesday 15 April 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with arrangements for preventing sensitive information relating to contracts for air defence systems and battlefield communications systems being made public knowledge.

Yes, but, as my hon. Friend said in his reply to my hon. Friend on 17 March, security matters are kept under constant review.

While I am partially reassured by that reply may I ask my hon. Friend whether he does not think that the sort of information that appeared in the International Defence Review about our country's radar defences—picked up by other publications and widely disseminated—is conducive to the national interest? If not, will he and his right hon. Friend look into this matter and try to institute new rules and safeguards which will ensure that such sensitive information does not become public property?

I am satisfied that in the case on which my hon. Friend based his question there was no question of national security being compromised. My hon. Friend will be aware that in many specialised journals—particularly those dealing with defence—a remarkable degree of detailed knowledge is published and distributed widely around the world. The only question that that fact raises in my mind is whether the Ministry of Defence in the recent past has not been guilty of revealing less information than is to be found in many published sources. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will feel that we have now taken steps to reverse that trend with the publication of the White Paper last week.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is no suggestion that any contractor working in this country has been responsible for a leak of this nature, particularly in view of the involvement of the Plessey company which is an important employer in my constituency.