How ‘shattered and appalled’ Margaret Thatcher tried to ban Spycatcher | Politics | News | EUROtoday

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Spycatcher by Paul Greengrass and Peter Wright.

Spycatcher by Paul Greengrass and Peter Wright. (Image: Getty)

An “utterly shattered” Margaret Thatcher led frantic makes an attempt to ban the notorious MI5 memoir Spycatcher, newly-declassified paperwork reveal right this moment.

The Iron Lady wished retired spy Peter Wright’s tell-tale work stored out of bookshops after telling ministers how appalled she was by his “revelations”.

Files seen for the primary time element how her Eighties Government labored feverishly in personal to shut each loophole the guide might slip by means of.

They obtained a court docket order which stopped it popping out in Britain however have been struggling to cease its publication overseas.

Maggie’s ministers feared librarians from America – the place it was a best-seller- would possibly convey copies into Britain for knowledgeable convention.

Senior Tories have been so paranoid they have been even warned a few single copy being accessible to learn by inmates at a jail library.

The Tory chief wrote on one secret memo: “I am utterly shattered by the revelations in the book. The consequences of publication would be enormous.”

Wright penned Spycatcher after retiring from a 20-year MI5 profession to stay on Tasmania, off the Australian coast.

Tories seen it as a cash-for-secrets betrayal by somebody who would – on British soil – have been prosecuted below the Official Secrets Act.

His account included since-discredited claims that MI5 chief Roger Hollis was a Russian agent and that British spies plotted towards Labour Premier Harold Wilson.

Papers from the Eighties, revealed on the National Archives in Kew, present how fearful the Government grew to become when an Australian version was deliberate.

Mrs Thatcher’s expression of shock was hand-written on an October 1986 memo from her Cabinet Secretary Sir Robert Armstrong.

Sir Robert mentioned the work was “potentially embarrassing” and will “cause damage politically and to the standing of the Security Service.”

He added: “The guide incorporates some items of fantasy and lots of mistaken opinions and inaccuracies.”

“It may be that we shall not in the end prevent publication but it is important to do all we can to prevent it.”

When Britain sought an injunction in the Australian High Court, Wright’s lawyer Malcolm Turnbull said Maggie should set up an inquiry to look at “old spooks wanting to tell their stories”.

Turnbull – who went on to become Australian Prime Minister – proposed an out-of-court settlement negotiated by media tycoon Kerry Packer.

But a letter from diplomat Christopher Mallaby to Nigel Wicks, principal private secretary at No 10, said bluntly: “HMG do not set up enquiries at the bidding of the likes of Turnbull”.

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Wicks agreed, replying: “Settlement of the case on the terms put forward by Mr Turnbull was out of the question.”

Wright gained the case and a subsequent enchantment was rejected – leaving Britain to focus on methods of stopping its circulation at dwelling.

Arts Minister Richard Luce wrote to Attorney General Sir Patrick Mayhew, demanding a warning to libraries that stocking the guide can be contempt of court docket.

“In two weeks’ time there will be a major international library conference with many American librarians coming over for it.”

“We know that at least one British Librarian has arranged to receive a copy of ‘Spycatcher’ from a colleague for his library.”

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“A firm line now will weaken the resolve of all but the most obdurate of left wing authorities.”

Mr Luce had acquired a letter from George Cunningham, chief govt of the Libraries Association, saying members feared they have been breaking the regulation by stocking the guide.

He added: “I understand, incidentally, that a copy of the book is held by the library of one of our maximum security prisons and is being made available to prisoners wishing to read it.”

Sir Patrick wrote to Mrs Thatcher, explaining how he wished Bernard Weatherill, Speaker of the House of Commons, to clamp down on dialogue of its contents in Parliament.

He said any MP should be declared “out of order” if they quoted the book at a time when it was “sub judice” because of the UK court order ban.

“The Speaker was not only entitled to enforce but had a duty to enforce the sub judice rule,” he said.

Maggie also faced the headache of passages being circulated by Government stationer HMSO as part of its official report on European Parliament business.

Mr Wicks wrote telling her: “We risk looking foolish if some extracts are distributed by the Government agency, HMSO.”

She writes on his memo: “Yes, we must do everything we can to ensure that one hand of govt. does not distribute what the other hand is trying to stop.”

The files reveal how ministers told British consular staff in countries including New Zealand, Jordan, Singapore and South Africa to monitor book sales carefully.

But our man in Pretoria telegrammed back: “Spycatcher has appeared on sale here. Prospects of interim injunction to prevent sales doubtful. Chance of final interdict in our favour remote.”

From Canberra, the ambassador wrote: “We would be made to look bad losers hell bent on punishing a frail (sic) old man whose right to publish had been upheld by the courts.”

“We ought to seem not solely decided but additionally vindictive.”

Sir Robert wished to freeze the civil service pensions of those that offered official secrets and techniques however the measure was rejected as being too difficult.

In whole, the Government spent an estimated £2 million on its doomed bid to forestall readers seeing a duplicate of or extracts from Peter Wright’s guide.

After shedding the Australian court docket case, ministers did not cease UK newspapers publishing sections of the guide.

Eventually, the courts dominated that the guide could possibly be revealed in Britain and by the point he died aged 78 in 1995, Wright had change into a millionaire.