§ Mr. PRINGLE
The House has been dealing with a personal issue in which very important questions in relation to this House have been involved. The question to which I am now going to direct the attention of the House is also a personal question, and in that personal question there are also important issues of public policy involved. On Wednesday of last week the Postmaster-General found it necessary to come down to the House and to ask your leave, Mr. Speaker, and the leave of the House, to make a personal statement. To refresh the memory of the House I intend to read' that statement. He said:My attention has been called to certain paragraphs containing vulgar and stupid personal puffs, which were sent to the Press Gallery of the House of Commons yesterday. I find, on inquiry, that they were written and sent by an officer of the Post Office. They were sent without my knowledge or authority. I never saw them until I noticed them in the newspapers this morning.I authorised the sending of copies of my Estimates speech to the Press, in the usual way, but nothing else. I am taking steps to prevent any recurrence, and nothing will be sent out in future from the General Post Office to the Press, except that which is authenticated by the signature of the Secretary or a responsible official."—["OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1923; col. 478, Vol. 167.]That statement has been amplified by an answer which the right hon. Gentleman gave at Question Time to-day. The amplification, however, does not add much to our knowledge, neither does it throw much further light upon an episode which we are entitled to assert is somewhat obscure. The statement, with the addition of this afternoon, leaves certain matters obscure in relation to this particular incident, but it also raises wider questions as to the continuance of 1320 publicity departments in certain Government offices, and the functions which these publicity departments perform. The mystery or obscurity in connection with the peccant paragraphs is a matter for the Postmaster-General to clear up. As to the attitude of the Government on the general question of publicity, I hope that the Prime Minister, or some other Minister authorised to speak on his behalf, will be able to state what the attitude of the Government is.
It is necessary before I proceed further to deal with the paragraph out of which this incident has arisen. According to the Postmaster-General's statement, there were paragraphs sent to the Press Gallery, along with his Estimate speech, which he assured the House was sent in the usual course. I am not quite sure that it was sent in the usual course. It was sent somewhat more precipitately than is the usual custom. It was sent so early that one evening paper could have it in the newspaper before it was completed in the House of Commons, so there was obviously, in the manner of sending the speech to the Press, an attention to the Press which had not been usually observed by the Postmaster-General or other Ministers. But there were two sets of paragraphs at least. There was one which was obviously intended for the evening papers, and it is very important that we should have the actual words of these paragraphs, because the right hon. Gentleman says that everything that is included in these paragraphs was a matter of public notoriety. That was the phrase which he used, and I am now going to read the paragraphs, and I hope that the House will observe the passages which, in the view of the Postmaster-General, who, of course, is a public character, are publicly notorious. This is the evening paper statement:Sir Laming Worthington-Evans in presenting the Post Office Estimates in the House of Commons this evening"—that is obviously for the evening Press—dealt with his third Departmental Budget"—an interesting word "Budget." I want the House to mark that term "Budget." I notice that the Financial Secretary is also interested in that paragraph. It is right that the Financial Secretary, who sympathises with him in this matter, should be present with him in the House, 1321 not only as a colleague but fellow lawyer to hold his hand—since he first took office in 1916. He piloted the Ministry of Munitions Estimates through Committee in 1917, and those of the War Office last year, an occasion which gave the ill-fated Sir Henry Wilson the opportunity of making his maiden speech.I cannot understand the object of dragging in that allusion.'Worthy,' as he is familiarly known in his Department,"—that is a matter of public notoriety—is not so well known outside the House. When the National Insurance Bill was introduced he was its tireless critic, and when it finally scraped through Mr. Lloyd George expressed himself as thoroughly tired of this pertinacious critic who had only held a seat in the House of Commons since 1910. But the critic by means of this one Measure had made good"—this is public notoriety again—,and when the opportunity came he was given a post.Now this is a matter of interest to the House:Mr. Lloyd George's great virtue"—we all thought that his great virtue was that he won the War—was his appreciation of ability. He had kept his eye on Worthy, and in 1916 he sent him to the Ministry of Munitions as Parliamentary Secretary. Before the War ended he had held two portfolios, and in April, 1920, he was given a seat in the Cabinet. He became Minister of War in 1921,"—
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I understand my hon. and gallant Friend's bewilderment at the fact that this was done by the Post Office, and the Intelligence Officer of the Post Office—When Mr. Churchill succeeded Lord Milner at the Colonial Office.Here is another matter of public notoriety—It was something of a compliment to the Post Office"—1322 think of that—that this shrewd Parliamentarian should have been placed at its head; for, as Lord Derby said, 'he is destined to go very far in the high offices of State in the Unionist party.'There was a possible vacancy that morning, as we know. Then there was the second edition. This is a later set of paragraphs. They are obviously intended for the morning papers. They are somewhat longer, as the morning papers have more space than the evening papers, and it is not difficult to conceive that both sets of paragraphs had the same origin:Sir Laming Worthington-Evans who introduced the Post Office Estimates is familiarly known as 'Worthy' in the House. He fell foul of Mr. Lloyd George's Insurance Bill in the very early days of his Parliamentary career. He was then only an unofficial Member, but he showed that he was not to be intimidated by rather complicated legislation. He tore the Bill to shreds with the cold and merciless logic of the lawyer, and by the time the Measure had scraped through he was fairly in the limelight as a coming political force. Mr. Lloyd George's almost feverish search for political talent was one of his most notorious characteristics"—this is somewhat different from his great virtues—and it was not surprising when in 1916 Sir Laming Worthington-Evans became Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Munitions. Before the War ended he had held two portfolios, and in 1920 he was given a seat in the Cabinet which tie retains in connection with his present office though for some years past Cabinet rank had not generally accompanied the Postmaster-Generalship. It is not generally remembered"—