HC Deb 20 February 1917 vol 90 cc1160-3

asked the Prime Minister if he can now state the result of the inquiry into the circumstances of the interview given by Sir Douglas Haig to a French journal; and what action the Government propose to take in the matter?

55. Mr. DILLON

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether his attention has been called to the conflicting versions of the alleged interview with Sir Douglas Haig published in different newspapers; and whether, in view of the character of the interview and the public interest attaching to it, he will cause a correct official version to be printed and circulated?


Sir Douglas Haig has from time to time seen various influential gentlemen, both journalists and others, from Allied and neutral countries. On this occasion he met several important French journalists, with whom he had a frank conversation, in which he gave them his general views on the situation. In the present instance proofs of the interview were sent to General Headquarters, but owing to the action of a subordinate they were not submitted to Sir Douglas Haig himself.


The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my question. What I asked was whether, in view of the conflicting versions of the alleged interview with Sir Douglas Haig, and of the extraordinary interest attaching to that interview, the Government are prepared to circulate an authentic copy of that interview?


My answer probably was not clear, but it did answer the hon. Gentleman's question. There were two or three interviews. All of them were sent to headquarters, but unfortunately none of them was submitted to Sir Douglas Haig himself.


How long was the interview kept back by the Press Bureau before publication, and were any steps taken to consult the War Cabinet or Sir Douglas Haig with regard to it?


I believe that they were delayed by the Press Bureau, but I am not sure, and I do not know for what length of time. The War Cabinet knew nothing about it until we saw it in the newspapers, and we at once took steps to find out what had happened.


Is it not a fact that under King's Regulation 452 no officer in the Army is permitted to give interviews to representatives of newspapers for publication, without having first of all communicated with the War Office, and submitted them to the War Office; and, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman replies that that was hot done in this case, will he answer the last part of my question as to what action the Government propose to take in this matter?


I am not sure what the Regulations are exactly, but it is quite obvious that it has been the custom, both during the existence of this Government and of the preceding Government, that influential representatives of our Allies should be allowed to see the Commander-in-Chief both of the Army and of the Navy. I do not think that that is in itself an undesirable practice.


May I ask if it was not until two days after this interview had appeared in the British Press that the Press Bureau issued a notice to the newspapers of this country that they were not to publish any report of the interview, and that that notice was not received until Saturday, three days after it had actually appeared in the newspapers?


I cannot answer that definitely. If the hon. Member chooses to put the question down I will answer it.


Was one of the interviews actually initialled by Sir Douglas Haig's Chief of Staff? If so, which of them was it, because if one of them was initialled it would be the authentic interview.


I have already said that the interviews were submitted to the General Staff. I do not think that they were seen by the Chief of the Staff. It is evident that the General Staff saw them, and were therefore responsible for them. I venture to say to the House that as this question affects on the one hand the Commander-in-Chief and on the other influential representatives of our Allies, I do not think it in the public interest that it should be discussed further.


How were two conflicting reports of the same interview allowed to pass the Press Censor, and, having regard to the King's Regulation which I has been referred to 'by my hon. Friend, may we assume that Sir Douglas Haig in giving the interview had authority from the highest quarters in the Army?


rose——[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]