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Civil Servants (Disclosures)

Volume 163: debated on Monday 4 December 1989

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To ask the Attorney-General if he will make it his policy to institute criminal proceedings against any civil servant who improperly discloses the advice given by the Law Officers to the Government.

Does the Attorney-General believe Sir Leon Brittan when he asserts that Mr. Powell and Mr. Ingham quite improperly abused his letter? Why do they remain so powerful in the government of Britain unless, as probably on Rover and certainly in the dismissal of her Chancellor and the nature of the Chancellor's leaving the Government, the Prime Minister did that which if I were so indelicate as to mention it, Mr. Speaker, you would suspend me for five days?

I responded to a similar question on 8 May and on subsequent occasions, and there is nothing that I can usefully add to what I said to the hon. Gentleman then. Nothing that I can say will influence the hon. Gentleman, but I question whether there is anything to be gained by sending his pitcher to that well again.

Is it not about time that we had a statute of limitations on this question?

A statute of limitations is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, but the statute of limitations has been amended so often that it is almost incomprehensibly complicated as it is.

In terms of criminal proceedings, will the Attorney-General consider the application of the law of corruption and bribery as it may apply to the giving of concealed sweetners on the authority of an ex-Government Minister? Bearing in mind that corruption does not mean dishonesty but merely doing an act which the law forbids as tending to corrupt—including the offering of an inducement for doing or forbearing to do anything in respect of a transaction in which a public body is concerned—and that the Attorney-General's consent is necessary for a prosecution, will he refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions the involvement of any person in the giving of concealed incentives to British Aerospace to ascertain whether there is a prima facie case for prosecution?

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. and learned Gentleman who asked such a carefully prepared and learned question, but it does not arise out of the question on the Order Paper. If it did, I should deny every one of the premises upon which it is based.