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State Security

Volume 115: debated on Tuesday 5 May 1987

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3.45 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the implications for the conduct of Her Majesty's Government's legal action in the Australian courts as a result of the publication in newspapers in the United States of details from Mr Peter Wright's book regarding the security services."

On Sunday the Washington Post published an account of extracts from the Wright book. Thus Americans can read in their country information about what occurred here arising from activities of the British security services which British citizens cannot read in their own country because of the legal action taken in Australia and other action, to which apparently I am not allowed to refer.

The piece which appeared in the Washington Post has been syndicated throughout the United States and Canada to some 400 other papers and journals. The story which was published in the Washington Post dealt as well with the alleged plot by a number of MI5 officials to undermine the Government of the day. But prior to that Government being elected in 1974 the article quoted Mr. Wright as saying:
"The plan was simple. In the run-up to the election … MI5 would arrange for details of the intelligence about leading Labour Party figures, but especially Wilson, to be leaked to sympathetic press men … word of the material contained in MI5 files, and the fact that Wilson was considered a security risk, would be passed around."

These are the most serious allegations that could be made against officials who are meant to be politically neutral. There are very serious allegations regarding the fact that Mr. Wright believes that MI5 was involved after the election in undermining an elected Government. What, then, about the definition of subversion which states that those who undermine parliamentary democracy are a security risk. The very people involved in the security services were apparently doing their best to undermine parliamentary democracy.

I believe that this is a matter which should receive urgent consideration. Surely it is totally unsatisfactory for all these matters to be aired in the United States press when this House is denied the opportunity to discuss issues which go right to the heart of our system of parliamentary democracy. I believe that it is necessary for a debate to take place. The excuses of former officials that we have read in the British press to justify their actions of 10 years ago to try to undermine and subvert a British Government are most flimsy. For all those reasons, I believe that a debate is absolutely essential.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the implications for the conduct of Her Majesty's Government's legal action in the Australian courts as a result of the publication in newspapers in the United States of details of Mr. Peter Wright's book regarding the security services."

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I regret that I do not consider the matter that he has raised as appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20, and I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House.