HC Deb 06 March 1928 vol 161 cc213-4
18. Major BARNETT

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in the case of Mr. E. F. Wise, C.B., acting Assistant Secretary at the Board of Trade, who has resigned from His Majesty's Civil Service in order to act as economic adviser in respect of foreign trade to the central union of the Soviet Russian co-operative societies (centrosoyus) and as a director of their London offices, he will say whether this gentleman has had official access to documents setting forth the claims of British subjects whose properties in Russia have been confiscated and disclosing their sources of information in that country; and whether he will be at liberty to communicate the confidential knowledge so obtained to his new employers and the Russian Soviet Government?


Mr. Wise, who was temporarily attached to the Board of Trade, has not been employed in the Russian Claims Department which deals with the claims to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers. But as a member of the staff of the British Delegation at The Hague, Mr. Wise was in pos- session of information compiled by that Department. No civil servant is ever at liberty to communicate any confidential information. This is expressly prohibited by the Official Secrets Act; and I am sure my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that the standard required of the British Civil Service in this matter has always been loyally maintained.


Is the House to understand that the right hon. Gentleman approves of such appointments, and are civil servants, after they have occupied confidential positions like this one, at liberty to sell their services to the highest bidder?


Before that question is answered, may I ask whether it is not a fact that Mr. Wise has served with great distinction and helpfulness to his country not only at the Ministry of Food, but in other Departments, and has not this appointment been generally welcomed by all who desire to see an early resumption of trade between this country and Russia?


In regard to Mr. Wise's services as a civil servant, I entirely agree with what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Platting (Mr. Clynes). As far as I have known, the services of Mr. Wise have always been good services. As to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for South-Vest St. Pancras (Major Barnett), it is not for the Government either to approve or disapprove of appointments accepted by civil servants who have resigned. I would deprecate most sincerely the suggestion that any civil servant who leaves the public service, and takes up a. private appointment, is going to use confidential information for any purpose connected with it.

Forward to