BRITISH STASI AGENTS – 21 December 1999

Dr Julian Lewis rose

Several hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Dr Lewis: I am grateful to my hon. Friends for their support, especially my hon. Friends the Members for New Forest, West (Mr Swayne), for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) and for Witney – I am sorry, I mean my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Sir R. Whitney). Hon. Members will appreciate that relevant but subliminal reference.

This debate is about the Stasi archive, not the Mitrokhin-KGB archive. It is about Berlin files, not about Moscow files. It is about original documents, not about handwritten notes. Some might think it a coincidence that, only 24 hours earlier, the Government thought it necessary to rush out by means of a planted written question the news that those who have been exposed by the Mitrokhin archive and the Berlin Stasi files will not be prosecuted, but I do not think so. Whether or not that is a coincidence, it enables me to speak more openly about individual cases than I might have been able to do if a trial had been pending.

I shall not say much about Melita Norwood, because she was discovered in the Mitrokhin archive. However, it is amusing to observe that that lady, who gave away to Soviet tyranny secrets of the British atomic bomb, is often pictured wearing a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament badge – showing her desire that, although the Soviet Union should have had the bomb, this country and its democracy should have given it up unilaterally.

On 21 October 1999, in his statement on the Mitrokhin archive, the Home Secretary referred to the handwritten notes taken by Mr Mitrokhin that the Secret Intelligence Service smuggled out of Russia. Because those notes were handwritten they were, as he said,

"of no direct evidential value".

My first concern is that he conflated those notes with the original archive that has identified other would-be and actual spies – the archive in Berlin. There is no doubt that the material held in Berlin is of evidential value. It is original material and includes the reports given by agents themselves and by their handlers directly.

The Home Secretary said that it "would be wholly improper" to denounce

"people against whom allegations had been made, without evidence being put before a court of law," – [Official Report, 21 October 1999; Vol. 336, c. 587-90.]

He said that it would be improper to denounce such people if they had not been convicted. However, the question at the heart of this debate is whether or not it is a criminal offence to co-operate in times of peace with hostile intelligence agencies belonging to a democracy's potential enemies.

There is no doubt that it is a criminal offence to give aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. However, I hope that the Minister will tell us whether the Government accept that it is a criminal offence for someone actively to co-operate with the hostile intelligence service of a potential enemy, or whether they say that that is not something for which someone can be prosecuted. If the former is the answer, those people certainly should be prosecuted, and it is a disgrace that they are not being prosecuted. If it is the latter, the Government cannot have it both ways. If such an action is not a crime, it is clearly wrong to say that the activities of those people should not be exposed to public opprobrium unless and until they have been convicted in a court of law.

The Berlin Stasi archive is housed near the Alexanderplatz. It is called the Archive for the Files of the State Security Service of the German Democratic Republic. The Stasi headquarters had previously been in Normannenstrasse. So far as I have been able to find out, there are only two records of visits by British officials. In 1990, two British intelligence officers visited the Stasi headquarters and took the time to photograph each other sitting on the toilet of Erich Mielke, but they did not bother to look at the documents. A few years later, a bus load of British officials visited the former Stasi headquarters for a Christmas outing.

It appears that the only real work that has been done on the files was by a journalist, Jamie Dettmer, in the early 1990s, and by the academic, Dr Anthony Glees, in conjunction with the BBC earlier this year. That work contributed to four BBC 2 programmes that were broadcast between 19 September and 10 October this year, which brought to public attention the activities of, among others, Dr Robin Pearson, Miss Fiona Houlding and Professor Vic Allen. It is interesting to note that although we were told that five cases were being considered for prosecution, the Government have not revealed whom two of the five cases concern. Is Miss Houlding or Professor Allen involved? We know that one case involves Dr Pearson.

I first raised the fact that no one from the Security Service, the Crown Prosecution Service or the police had been in contact with Dr Glees – the man who discovered the original material – with the Leader of the House on 28 October and then with the Home Secretary on 6 December. I confirm, yet again, that no one in authority has consulted the man who discovered the primary evidence of Dr Pearson's activities. That is cause for concern.

However, on 6 December, the Home Secretary said:

"I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the records have revealed many leads in cases involving the investigation of more than 100 individuals." – [Official Report, 21 October 1999; Vol. 336, c. 555.]

I am puzzled by that statement. Unless the Home Secretary was again conflating the Mitrokhin archive, with its huge number of leads, with the Berlin Stasi archive, which does not appear to have been properly visited by members of the British security services, it is hard to understand how such an extensive investigation could be under way.

It is true that, as a result of Operation Rosewood in the United States, a copy of those KGB editions of Stasi files that were sent to Moscow exists. The American Central Intelligence Agency purchased those files from the Russians at the end of the Cold War. However, there is no reason to suppose that the material in them covers anything like all the material in Berlin, so what has been going on? How can a proper investigation be occurring if the Berlin archive has yet to be trawled properly?

I shall spend a few moments on the material that has been found in the Berlin archive to give an idea of what we are contending with. I shall quote some extracts from the file on Dr Robin Pearson. There is a note on 25 August 1978 stating that Armin – the code name for Dr Pearson – was given

"DM500 on his departure as expenses for his work in Edinburgh for the security office".

As a result of a meeting held on 28 to 30 March 1980 with Dr Pearson in Budapest, there is a note stating that he

"is to be given ... secret ink for handwriting."

The note continues:

"He is to be asked whether he possesses the necessary technical skills for one-way radio transmission to which he will be introduced later. He is to be given DM500."

That is additional to the money mentioned in the first note that I quoted.

On 22 September 1980, there is a note on the file which reports the results of Dr Pearson's spying on others – he is a university lecturer. It states:

"YYY has finished studies and stay in Leipzig; meant to get a post at MoD or NATO, but failed security check. Her teachers and father were questioned. Questions too about alcohol and the nature of her relationship with her boyfriend. YYY was one of the students at Leipzig at the same time as A" – 

A, of course, is Dr Pearson.

"Her boyfriend had been at Leipzig with A and had developed a relationship with a Russian girl who was now keen to move to the UK. A passes on two surnames of fellow students; one had been vetted for six months. A says there is a crisis in the relationship between the two .... A has given information about students of whom one is an intermediary with the British Embassy Berlin, one an MoD translator, one at the MoD vetted for six months and on Chinese studies at Leeds."

As a result of a meeting in the German Democratic Republic with his controller from 9 to 17 August 1982, it is noted on Dr Pearson's file that the transmission of radio signals should begin that year or, if necessary, in January 1983. As a result of a meeting in Paris with his controller from 12 to 13 March 1981, the note on his file states:

"The most effective goal would be an operation against NATO headquarters predicated upon a post in Brussels, for example the EEC, or in Paris or the Federal Republic. The minimum goal is work in London against the Ministry of Defence."

Finally, as a result of a meeting as late as 23 to 29 August 1987, there is a note which states:

"A declared himself ready to look for students at York University who were operationally interesting and might be won over for us. We have his agreement to use his flat, his address and his telephone to support our Kundschafters."

– Kundschafters are deep-penetration agents –

"A is ready if we need him to serve as the representative of a British flag."

That is when someone pretends to be the representative of a friendly intelligence service to get information that can then be passed on to a hostile intelligence service. The note continues:

"It has been agreed to retain contact with him via Gerd who as instructor will come into the operation."

There is much more material of that kind but time does not permit me to go into it.

I conclude by asking some questions, of which I would like to have given the Minister advance notice. When I heard that I had secured the debate, I asked my office to ring the Minister's office to ask whether he would like time to give advance notice of my questions. I did not have the courtesy of a response; I renewed the invitation today but that invitation has similarly not been responded to. That is a pity; it means that the Minister will read a prepared speech, but in so far as he has flexibility and information at his disposal, I hope that he will respond to the following points.

First, is it a crime to collaborate with a hostile intelligence agency in peacetime; to try to recruit agents among students who could then go on to be in sensitive positions; to be a deep-penetration agent oneself – it is clear from the files that both Fiona Houlding and Robin Pearson actively agreed to do that – and to spy on one's colleagues, especially those who might then be travelling at that time to central and eastern Europe and thus to put them in harm's way, which the files bring out clearly in the case of Dr Pearson? Is that a crime? If it is a crime, why are those people not being prosecuted? If it is not a crime, why are they not being denounced? The excuse of having to wait for them to be convicted in a court clearly would not apply.

Secondly, who are the other two who have now been let off in time for Christmas? Thirdly, why has there been no contact with Dr Glees, the man who is best able to brief the security services about the material that he found and which they should have looked for much earlier? Fourthly, why does there appear to have been no proper visit to the Berlin archive by the appropriate authorities to investigate what material is available?

Fifthly, how could a prominent Stalinist such as Professor Vic Allen Get away with meeting a succession of Stasi controllers in London, when everyone knew that he was a prime candidate to engage in such activity? I take little pride in pointing out that I drew attention to Professor Allen's record and proclivities in a letter published in The Times in mid-1985. He had a record as long as your arm for subversive affiliations and activities, both in this country and previously in Nigeria.

Finally, what about the 100 leads from the Berlin archive who are supposedly still being investigated? Are they still being investigated – or have 105 people been amnestied for Christmas, rather than just five?

In conclusion, if the Home Secretary and his team spent a little less time posing in pubs with Conservative defectors and a little more time tracking traitors and uncovering them, this country could have more confidence that those who seek to betray it will be shamed, exposed and, if appropriate, prosecuted.