D-notice system to be 'thoroughly' reviewed

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A 'THOROUGH REVIEW' is to be undertaken of the D-notice system, under which the media takes advice on a voluntary basis from the Government on security matters. The decision follows a meeting last week of the Defence and Broadcasting Committee which runs the D-notice system.

The committee is headed by Sir Christopher France, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, and includes representatives of the main broadcasting organisations, and the national and regional press.

The committee said yesterday members had 'discussed how the D-notice system might develop in the light of world events and of government policy on greater openness. They decided there should be a thorough review of the whole system.' Archie Hamilton, Minister of State for the Armed Forces, told Dr David Clark, the Labour defence spokesman, in a Commons written answer, that the review should be completed by next spring.

The system consists of eight standing D-notices which cover a wide range of defence and security-related issues on which the media can seek advice. They range from nuclear weapons, ciphers and communications, to war measures and civil defence, photography of defence installations and the security and intelligence services.

The committee sometimes issues advice on coverage but its views have no legal backing. The end of the Cold War and the Government's declared willingness to encourage more openness have prompted the review. Mr Hamilton said the committee had decided to 'enlarge' the annual review of D-notices.

'It will consider the purpose, scope and operation of the system in the light of the changed international scene and of the Government's commitment to greater openness,' he said.