HC Deb 07 March 1927 vol 203 cc839-40
48. Mr. AMMON

asked the Prime Minister whether he will extend the prohibition against Ministers of the Crown writing for the Press to cover books and newspaper articles dealing with contemporary history and calling into question the conduct of distinguished naval officers and other servants of the Crown who are precluded from defending themselves in public by speech or publication?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

So far as the period of the Great War is concerned, it would hardly be reasonable to institute any such prohibition. A whole library has been published upon this extensive subject, to which many of the principal actors—naval, military and political—have already contributed their own versions of what occurred.


May we take it then that the verdict delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the strategy of a certain Admiral is to be taken as the considered judgment of the Government?


No, Sir. The hon. Gentleman, if he has read the preface to the book, will no doubt realise that the bulk of the book was written, and the materials collected, at the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer was out of office, and seemed very unlikely ever to obtain office again. There was a question whether the work should be finished or not, and I considered it right that the work should be finished. The question of historian's bias, if bias there be, can easily be corrected by others; and it is a matter of common knowledge that if there be a certain amount of bias in a history it is far better reading, and that it can always be corrected by allowing for the personal equation.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in respect to his first answer, whether he has in mind any intention of extending the prohibition to post-War subjects?


I do not quite understand the question. The prohibition is perfectly clear; it is a prohibition against writing articles in the Press. I answered a question about it fully the other day.


Is there not an important difference in a high officer in an important position in the Government commenting on the action of Admirals who are in the Service, and will those Admirals be allowed to reply in the public Press?


This is a free country.


Would the Prime Minister convey to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the gratitude which a great number of us feel to him for so openly criticising the bungles of 1616?


This is not the time for discussing literature.