He would not confirm that nine Conservative MPs had made representations to him about the bail jumping bankrupt and any that had done had not acted improperly.
Challenging Sir Nicholas on the number of MPs who had approached him, John Fraser, a Labour law spokesman, said: 'Doesn't that indicate there is one course of advocacy for those who are rich and donate to the Tory Party and another course of conduct for others?'
The Attorney said he received a large number of representations from MPs, ministers and the public, sometimes in private, in relation to a great many prosecutions. 'I have no reason to believe that any representations made to me in relation to this case were improperly made.
'If any representation is made to me, it will be carefully and dispassionately examined in the appropriate quarters . . . It is not my policy to publish, where the individual has chosen not to publish, the nature of the representations made.'
David Winnick, Labour MP for Walsall North, later complained to the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd, that Sir Nicholas had refused to expand on the affair in written answers beyond stating that seven Tory MPs had made representations. By doing so he had effectively blocked further questions because the Table Office, responsible for deciding whether MPs' questions are in order, would not accept them on a subject after a minister had refused to answer. Sir Nicholas had undermined the job of MPs, Mr Winnick said. 'They're hiding something and I think it is disgraceful that the Attorney should be a party this.'
Miss Boothroyd said issues relating to the Table Office should be raised with her privately.
The Speaker had her own gentle complaint to make against Welsh MPs after questions on the affairs of the Principality overran the 40- minute allocation. Replying to Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP for Islington North, who lost a chance to press for aid for Western Sahara, Miss Boothroyd said: 'There was a region of the country asking questions which often is inclined, if I may say so, to be rather long-winded.'
Labour Welshmen had been trying to wrong-foot John Redwood on his first Question Time outing as Secretary of State for Wales. Mr Redwood, MP for Wokingham in Surrey, came to the job with the reputation of being a right-wing automaton, but demonstrated that he has adopted at least one technique from his leftish predecessor, David Hunt.
Rod Richards, Tory MP for Clwyd NW, prompted Mr Redwood. Recalling that on previous question times, Mr Hunt 'had some good news to impart . . . I wonder perhaps whether Mr Redwood intends to continue in this way and whether he has some good news for us today, perhaps to do with inward investment?'
'These unscripted questions are always dangerous,' Mr Redwood replied to laughter. 'It so happens that I do have something that Mr Richards might welcome. Aiwa of Japan is going to announce today a pounds 27m expansion at the Penyfan industrial estate at Crumlin, in Gwent . . . that's 480 possible new jobs by 1996.' It so happened, too, that the Welsh Office had a press release prepared detailing the Welsh Development Agency role in supplying a factory extension.
The second day of the defence debate produced a statement from Jonathan Aitken, the defence minister, on nuclear weapons testing which might not be easily recognised in Washington, where Britain has been lobbying hard for a resumption of the explosions.
Responding to a Labour demand for an immediate ban, Mr Aitken said that far from being in the vanguard of those opposed to testing, the Government was 'wholly in favour of a comprehensive test ban treaty as a long-term goal'.
David Clarke, Labour's defence spokesman, was 'naive' in suggesting a linkage between testing and proliferation. 'It is possible to develop and deploy a cheap and dirty nuclear device without testing at all.' It was the 'international priesthood of nuclear specialists' who were most supportive of testing for reasons of safety and credibility.
Mr Aitken acknowledged that Britain's nuclear programme was 'to some extent' dependent on the outcome of President Clinton's review of testing. But Menzies Campbell, for the Liberal Democrats, said it was rather more than that. If the US determined there should be no more tests, Britain would lose its test site.
Mr Aitken revealed that he spent the weekend dipping into Diaries, the jottings of his friend and predecessor as defence procurement minister, Alan Clark. 'I really must seem a very dull, impecunious, unimaginative successor,' he said, owning up to 'faintly envious feelings' over Mr Clark's lifestyle: 'Such as the fact that I don't regularly speed down the motorway to Kent at 140mph in my Porsche for assignations in my medieval castle.' Mr Aitken's South Thanet constituency and Mr Clark's Saltwood Castle are both in east Kent.
'What I found really riveting was my predecessor's work-style within the department. As he himself might have put it, in his day at the MoD, the actualite was always highly mouvemente.' There was more an echo of the literary fantasies of Harold Robbins than the 'the life of our dear old MoD'.Reuse content