HC Deb 31 July 1923 vol 167 cc1270-2
63. Mr. LAWSON

asked the Post master-General who drafted the paragraphs, particularly referring to himself, which were handed to the Press on Tuesday last; and on whose instructions they were sent out?


asked the Postmaster-General whether any official in his Department has been reprimanded or discharged in connection with the statement supplied to the Press on Tuesday last describing his past activities; and, if any officer has been so dealt with, will he give to the House the name and status of such official?


As I informed the House on Wednesday last, I had not seen the statement referred to, which was issued without my knowledge or authority. It was drafted and sent out by the Intelligence Officer of the Post Office, who acted on his own responsibility. I have caused the Intelligence Officer to be informed that in issuing this statement he acted without authority and contrary to my wishes, and instructions have been given to him that no communication is to be issued to the Press without the sanction of the Secretary or a responsible officer of the Department.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in this statement there are certain new and intimate details concerning himself which have been revealed to the public, and that the public are asking how the official came into possession of these facts; and in view of the public dissatisfaction in the matter, is he prepared to have an inquiry into the whole matter, and so give satisfaction all round?


So far as I know, there is not a single matter referred to in any of these statements which is not a matter of public notoriety. The hon. Member will realise that I am not defending the statements, but when he says that these are facts that show intimate knowledge, or can only be known from intimate information, that is not, in fact, the case, because every single one of these facts are, as I say, on public record. However, the hon. Member will have an opportunity later in the afternoon of raising this question, and there is nothing I wish for more than the opportunity of replying.


What are the duties of an intelligence officer?


It is rather unusual to give this information in reply to a supplementary question, but the duties of an intelligence officer are briefly as follow:

  1. (a) To prepare and issue to the Press generally information as to the Post Office services available to the public and the means of making use of them.
  2. (b) To issue to the local Press statements as to the development of, or changes in, the local Post Office services, such as the establishment of new telephone exchanges, extensions of trunk call facilities, etc.
  3. (c) To receive representatives of the Press who require information on the Department's activities, and to obtain and supply such information as may properly be given.
  4. (d) To issue corrections of information appearing in the Press which may be misleading to the public.


If that be an accurate statement of the duties of this officer, how does it come about that the present officer takes upon himself the responsibility of issuing biographical notices of his chief?


That is precisely what has been objected to by myself and the officials of the Post Office, and he had no right to do anything of the sort.


He was doing it for you.


Why did he not do it before?