BBC & MI5
The BBC and MI5. You tell people this and you even show them and, no matter, they STILL think you wear a “tinfoil hat”. The problem with such people is that is all they have as ammunition against what is plainly in their face and, if they were to allow themselves to acknowledge these things, they would become very ill at ease and, perhaps, would not be able to handle it.
The point is, the BBC is and always has been, what so many of us know: A “programmed” propaganda outfit of the establishment programming (in so many ways) what and how the British people and many over the world within the commonwealth and elsewhere, should think. Nevertheless, us Brits will still wave our little flags at a Royal family which is screwing us all to the wall. Even screwing the families of the very soldiers who, ignorantly, die for her, her establishment, their prized possessions (countries and corporations). Ahh if only the typical soldier had a brain huh?
TRY TO DEFINE THE CROWN?
While it is entirely undemocratic and answers to noone.
Mr Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
The debate is beginning to get to the central question, which is not the details of how we handle the security services or the official secrecy, but the constitutional relationships that are changed by the legislation that is to come before us. I believe that I am expressing an anxiety that goes far beyond the party of which I am a member about the evidence that has come to light regarding the threats to freedom by those who were supposed to defend it. Therefore, I consider that the proposals made by the Government in the Prime Minister’s speech from the Throne are far from being evidence of liberation, and offer evidence of tightening up. We should look at that first.
There is no question whatsoever—I am not seeking to blame everybody in the security services—that there have been people working in high positions in MI5 and MI6, who have used the power vested in them under the so-called well-tried mechanisms of the Maxwell Fyfe directive to undermine political democracy in Britain.
Secondly, those people have done so outside any form of ministerial control. My right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) has been Home Secretary, and others in Governments of whom I have been a part have occupied that position, and I cannot believe that they knew what was going on. If they did not know what was going on, the Maxwell Fyfe directive was wholly ineffective in its operation—and I understand it is to be weakened in the new legislation.
Thirdly, when evidence of this behaviour came to light, far from the Government pursuing the law breakers for their law breaking, they pursued the man who described the law breaking for his description of it. A Government who purport to pursue a policy of law and order made no issue of the fact that in Mr. Peter Wright‘s book—after all, he was a serious and respected member of the intelligence services—he described crimes that were committed, and made no attempt to investigate those crimes or bring him to justice. His only offence was that he wrote about them.
Then, of course, we come up against the justification for their action, and that is where the constitutional areas become most important. Anyone who has read any of the histories on these matters will know that the security services do not feel in any way responsible to the Government of the day. They believe they are responsible to the Crown. They represent the Crown in order to deal with subversion. I shall try to define the Crown and subversion in a moment.
Two new elements have rightly been brought into the debate by the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), which must be put upon the record. First of all, the British security services are supervised completely by the American security services. I know that because I had responsibilities for many years for those areas that were a part of what was called the “special relationship”. The Americans control our security services, supervise them, lay down the rules under which they operate, and warn them against people whom they regard as unreliable in Britain, because that is the condition upon which the United States makes nuclear weapons available to us.
The second threat—rather more shadowy but none the less real—is that, within a federal Europe, it is the intention of the Commission that security would be seen as a federal function, in part because the internal frontiers will cease to matter, and the Community will have to tackle what it defines as subversion on a federal basis.
The methods used by the security services must be set out. There is widespread vetting not only of civil servants, but, of course, of those in defence industries. The Clerk of the House and all the officials of the House are vetted by the security services. This was revealed in evidence submitted to the Committee of Privileges of which I am a member. That says a lot for the division between the legislature and the Executive, because the Executive vets the officials of the legislature. The BBC is vetted down to the level of anyone is involved in the preparation of current affairs or news. The research assistants of Members of Parliament are vetted. We know that from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn), who brought the matter to the House.
The security services penetrate other services and actions of our national life. I shall give three examples. Cecil King, who purported to be a newspaper proprietor or a manager, was an agent of MI5, as was Tom Driberg, a former chairman of the Labour party. Lord Rothschild, who, when I worked closely with him, I took to be an industrialist brought in to help our think tank, was actually working for MI5 throughout that period.
Massive telephone interception and the opening of letters occur. Charles II nationalised the Post Office in 1660 because he wanted to see what people were writing to one another. Therefore, the Home Secretary is carrying on a good tradition in trying to intercept postal and telephone services and to legalise it. The Home Secretary is the most appropriate person to be moving the Bill, because when I tried to make a speech in 1976 in a church in his constituency at Burford to celebrate the Levellers, he wrote to the Secretary of State for Education and Science to get the grant for the Workers’ Educational Association withdrawn. He is therefore consistent in his opposition to dissent in any century by anybody.
Hon. Douglas Hurd (Witney)
Mr Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
I have the correspondence.
Hon. Douglas Hurd (Witney)
I remember inquiring 12 years ago why the taxpayers’ money was being used to help the right hon. Gentleman support the Levellers in Burford.
Mr Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
The right hon. Gentleman, with the sort of naivety that adds to his charm, confesses to the charge that I laid against him, that when he heard I was to speak at a church in Burford about the Levellers, he wrote to the Secretary of State for Education and Science to try to bring pressure to bear so as to withdraw a grant from the WEA that had invited me. He has confirmed my argument, and he is consistent. He does not believe in dissent in any century, including the present one.
The other area in which the security services have operated is in redefining subversion. There is no doubt that the phrase that became popular during the miners’ strike of “the enemy within” had been defined much earlier by the security services. The enemy within includes the trade union movement and many members of the Labour party and peace movement. That definition was undoubtedly one of the factors that led to the attempt to destroy Harold Wilson. In my opinion, it was also used, but for different reasons, to remove the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), because the security services thought that he was too weak.
The methods used by the security services include the collection of damaging information and fabricating misinformation—as with the forging of Ted Short‘s bank account, which was leaked to Chapman Pincher. So much for lifelong confidentiality, when the security services regularly use certain journalists to feed out damaging information to destroy people they do not like. One cannot overlook the fact that Peter Wright confirmed Anthony Nutting‘s claim that Sir Anthony Eden ordered the assassination of another head of state, President Nasser. Anthony Nutting confirmed on television what Wright had written.
The question one must now ask is, what safeguards will there be under the new Act? Supposing Ted Short, as Lord President, had appealed to discover whether his bank account had been forged, to whom would his appeal have gone? Would it have gone to the Cabinet? No. Would it have gone to the Prime Minister? No. It would have gone to a commissioner appointed for the purpose by a previous Government.
When Bruce Kent‘s telephone was tapped, what safeguards would have existed then? If he had written to whoever it may have been and asked, “Is my phone being tapped?”, the only answer he would have received was not whether his phone was being tapped but whether the security services were abusing their rights—and those rights are covered by warrant and by a commission. The victims do not know what is being done to them, and the perpetrators do not wish to make complaints that might reveal the crimes they are perpetrating. The exceptions are one or two people such as Clive Ponting and Cathy Massiter, who were moved by their consciences, to act.
I turn to the matter of lifelong confidentiality to the Crown, which presumably should have bound Peter Wright. Who is the Crown? Did the Queen tell Peter Wright to try to destroy the Prime Minister? Obviously not. Did the Prime Minister tell Peter Wright to destroy himself? Obviously not. Did the Home Secretary tell Peter Wright to try to destroy the Government? Obviously not. The Crown is the code name we use for those central areas of Government in defence, intelligence and international relations—a state within the state—that the Government, and, I regret to say, previous Governments, did not wish to be subject to parliamentary scrutiny or discussion. The Crown is a term used to cover a concrete emplacement surrounded by barbed wire that the Home Secretary thinks needs fresh protection. It is not that he intends it to be subject to public scrutiny.
I asked the Home Secretary whether Ministers, who, after all, are Crown servants, will be covered by the new rules. It will be difficult to bind the Prime Minister to lifelong confidentiality as Bernard Ingham, on her instruction, breaches it at 11 o’clock every morning for the benefit of selected lobby correspondents who never make clear what has gone on. Are we really saying that anyone who is elected to Parliament, who becomes a Minister and discovers things he believes that it is in the public interest should be made known, will be bound to confidentiality for life? Or will anybody else? I have cited Ministers as they are uniquely accountable to those who elect them.
The reality is that there is nothing different about security. In its proper sense, security is part of the country’s defence forces, and no one denies that the country needs defence forces. But contrast the way security is treated with the other parts of the defence forces. Every year Parliament debates defence policy, but it never debates security policy—I am not talking about security operations. Parliament never discusses the definition of a subversive person—which is currently based on a phrase written years ago by a civil servant for Lord Harris in the House of Lords. We have never discussed whether as a Parliament we believe that being a member of CND makes a person subversive. That was decided by the Ministry of Defence, which told Cathy Massiter to bug Bruce Kent.
Parliament debates defence policy and votes a budget for the country’s defence establishment. It does not know the budget of the security establishment. Parliament knows the Chiefs of the Defence Staff and can ask parliamentary questions about defence matters. The issue is only confused by those who say that we cannot be told about individual security operations. Of course nobody wants to know a rumour that a bomber is coming to London. We do not want a parliamentary question that leads to the Minister responsible replying, “We think that a bomber is staying at a Bayswater hotel.” That is not the point at issue. The question is whether a state within the state, employing people with no feeling of responsibility to the Government elected by the people of this country, can continue as it is.
The Government wish to conceal information because that suits their book. I dare say that all Governments will want to conceal information—[Interruption.] It is not my purpose to make a party point. I hope that hon. Members will give me some credit. I am trying to raise a matter that is of equal concern in all parts of the House and to every elector. It would not alter matters very much if my right hon. and hon. Friends were occupying the Government Benches and those of hon. Gentlemen were seated on the Opposition Benches. I am clear about that. If hon. Gentlemen will look at the record, they will find that, as a Cabinet Minister, I raised the same questions on the Labour party’s national executive and submitted a memorandum that warned of the dangers. That was 10 years ago.
When one considers that the Government sent in the police to remove the Zircon film, and the prosecutions of Tisdall and Ponting, one realises that the real conflict concerns both sides of the House and those who elect us. We have heard much about the oxygen of publicity for Sinn Fein. Democracy lives by the oxygen of information. If one cuts off the oxygen of information and releases instead the poisonous gas of secrecy, misinformation and news management, one destroys the basis on which this House safeguards our people. The House of Commons is the real guarantor of the liberties of the people, not those individuals in little offices who have their own ideas about who is subversive and who engage in bugging, blackmailing and in destroying the reputations of those whom they do not like.
Democracy’s second safeguard is conscience. There is no substitute in law, administrative action or court ruling for the person, be they man or woman, who says, “What is being done is wrong and I shall speak my mind and take the consequences.” If one removes the safeguard of conscience from people who, in the course of their work, may come across something they feel it would be in the public interest to divulge—whether one gaols them, punishes them, or makes them into public villains—they would only be doing what we told the Germans at the Nuremberg trials they should have done, which was to disregard unjust orders—[HON. MEMBERS: “No!”] Of course that is what the Nuremberg trials were all about.
Parliament must protect these principles. In many ways I share the view of the hon. Member for Thanet, South. Next week I shall have been here 38 years. I have never known a House of Commons that has been so craven in surrendering one of its rights after another—surrendering powers to the EEC, accepting 120 foreign bases, and now, in the name of security, handing over even greater powers to the Executive. If we do not stand up here and now it will be too late—
Mr Tony Benn (Chesterfield)
I am approaching my last sentence.
We must make a stand here and now or we shall find that, in the name of freedom, we are surrendering our liberties.
WHO THE HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE? WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY? AND WHY ARE THEY IMMUNE TO LAW?
BECAUSE ROTHSCHILD’S A JEW? AND THEREFORE, BRINGING CHARGES WOULD BE DEEMED ANTI-SEMITIC?
Mr Graham Allen (Nottingham North)
Sir Patrick Mayhew (Tunbridge Wells)
Mr Michael Fallon (Darlington)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend find it extraordinary that, even after yesterday’s outrage, the Opposition still do not support the need to uphold the duty of confidentiality of those who work in our security service in order to defend the country from terrorism and subversion?
Sir Patrick Mayhew (Tunbridge Wells)
I very much agree with what my hon. Friend has said. There seems to be a certain ambivalence in the attitude of Opposition Members to that litigation. I venture to suggest that if we were not prepared to incur the cost of litigation to uphold the duty to which my hon. Friend has referred, the cost would very soon be more than money.
TRY TO DEFINE THE CROWN?
SO WHO THE HELL IS IT THAT ARE PROSECUTING US?
AN UNKNOWN, CENTRAL STATE WITHIN A STATE, SUBJECT TO NO-ONE AND SUBJECT TO NO PARLIAMENTARY SCRUTINY?
AND THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE WANTS TO DO WHAT? PROSECUTE WHO? FOR WHAT?
WHO IS PROSECUTING US?
As for this piece of absolute trash:
Sir John Morris (Aberavon)
I, too, wholeheartedly welcome the Attorney-General back to his place in the House.
What is the prime consideration in relation to prosecutions? Is it damage to national security, or is it political embarrassment? Does the Attorney-General maintain consistency in his approach to Miss Tisdall and Mr. Ponting and to others such as Mr. West, Mr. Pincher, Lord Rothschild and the security men who may have leaked information to those people? Has not section 2 of the Official Secrets Act been virtually put out to grass and replaced in practical terms as a damage limitation exercise by actions for breach of confidentiality?
Mr Michael Havers (Wimbledon)
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his kind remarks. He used the word prosecutions, not for the first time during my questions. In fact, the proceedings in Australia are civil proceedings. There is no way in which we can prosecute under the Official Secrets Act in another country. With regard to the action in Australia, the principle has been brought out clearly today that it is the Government’s determination to establish that once a man joins a service in which he promises to keep secret for the rest of his life all that he finds, that principle should be upheld.
So you cannot prosecute in another Commonwealth country where the Queen is the Head of State? Her Majesty had her Governor General destroy the Government of Gough Whitlam in 1975!
So Her Majesty can do that but Her Majesty cannot prosecute in Australia, an individual who has broken the law relating to her Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act? Didn’t we just say it is the CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE?
Then if the CROWN can’t prosecute certain people then what sort of CROWN is this?
I’ll tell you what sort of CROWN it is: It is a CROWN, within which ROTHSCHILD plays a very significant part alongside his lackey Lizzie!
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