Keeping mum

Stephen Sedley

  • The Spycatcher Trial by Malcolm Turnbull
    Heinemann, 228 pp, £12.95, October 1988, ISBN 0 434 79156 3
  • Reform of the Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911: Government White Paper
    HMSO, 16 pp, £2.60, June 1988, ISBN 0 10 104082 2
  • Official Secrets Bill
    HMSO, 14 pp, £3.00, December 1988, ISBN 0 10 300989 2
  • Security Service Bill
    HMSO, 8 pp, £2.60, November 1988, ISBN 0 10 300789 X

‘There is among the many departments of our well-ordered state a department which would be known if we were Chinese as “The Board of Things to be Known and Not to be Known”.’ Hilaire Belloc, writing in 1925 a satire on England as he imagined it would be in 1953, accurately linked the mandarin élitism of the Civil Service with its determination to control the supply of public information. What is new in the present decade is the assumption of power by a government which shares this determination but which also has definite and disturbing ends in view. Nevertheless the formal processes of public dialogue are still in place, and White Papers and published Bills form a traditional part of them.

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