Political Correspondent

TORY MPs on the Commons Select Committee on Defence were able

yesterday to put the brakes on an investigation into ''dirty tricks''

allegations made by former Defence Ministry information officer in

Northern Ireland, Mr Colin Wallace.

At a private meeting, they agreed to wait until the Ministry of

Defence internal inquiry had made progress and then ask it to provide

papers relating to the mishandling of documents in Mr Wallace's case,

which the Ministry already had acknowledged.

Committee chairman Mr Michael Mates, Conservative MP for Hampshire

East, said no decision had been taken on when public meetings would be

held or witnesses called.

It is understood that the Ministry has indicated that its internal

inquiry will take a matter of weeks, after which the documents the

committee wants could be submitted.

Mr John McFall, Labour MP for Dumbarton, said the decisional allowed

the committee to keep its options open. He said: ''There appears to be a

lot if activity at the Ministry of Defence.''

Opposition MPs are anxious to investigate claims by Mr Wallace about

smear tactics against British politicians of both parties connected with

Northern Ireland during the mid-1970s and that disinformation was put

out about sexual malpractices at the Kincora boys' home in Belfast.

The committee avoided a vote, and left the door open for a more

wide-ranging inquiry by resolving to concentrate ''at this stage'' on

the maladministration of documents relating to Mr Wallace whose

resignation, after a disciplinary inquiry, is to be reviewed following

the discovery of certain documents in the Ministry files.

Some committee members believe the documents the Ministry submits will

raise enough questions for them to call for witnesses, who could include

the Permanent Secretary, Sir Michael Quinlan.

Others are less certain that the committee is the correct vehicle for

an inquiry into the wider- ranging allegations Mr Wallace has made.