HC Deb 07 March 1928 vol 214 cc1115-7

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether the records of the Foreign Office show that Sir Eyre Crowe or Mr. Gregory had grounds to believe that the Zinovieff letter would be published on 24th or 25th October?

11 and 12. Colonel WEDGWOOD

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether there is any record in the Foreign Office indicating who decided to circulate the Zinovieff letter to the War Office, etc., on 22nd October, 1924; was it marked secret and confidential; and to whom was it to be shown at the War Office;

(2) if there is any record at the Foreign Office showing that Sir Eyre Crowe knew, at the time of the conference at mid-day on 24th October, 1924, when the decision was taken to send the reply to the Zinovieff letter, that the letter itself was in the hands of the Press and might be published the following day?


The Government have undertaken to afford an opportunity to the House for a, discussion on the Report of the Board of Inquiry appointed to investigate certain statements affecting civil servants, a portion of which Report deals with the Zinovieff letter. I think it would be better to deal with the subject of these questions in the course of that Debate, rather than by way of question and answer.


Would it not be as well that we should know, before the Debate, what information the Foreign Office has at its disposal, more particularly as to who gave the orders or initialed the authority to circulate that document on the 22nd to the War Office, and, further, the definite information as to whether Sir Eyre Crowe did or did not know, when he sent the Zinovieff letter to the Press with the reply, that that information was already in the hands of the "Daily Mail"?


The Opposition have asked for a Debate, and the Government have been glad to accede to their request; and I can assure the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that all the information at the disposal of the present Government will be given during the Debate, and any questions asked will be answered at that time. There is great difficulty in anticipating the Debate.


Is it the usual practice to refuse to answer questions put on the Paper because a Debate happens to be taking place at some later date?


We are not refusing to answer questions. Any question will be answered during the Debate. It is not as if the Debate will be very long postponed. It will take place at a very easy date.


Seeing that only half-a-day is allotted for the discussion, would it not be advisable, for the elucidation of this important matter, to give specific answers to these questions now?

46. Mr. MAXTON

asked the Prime Minister whether he will appoint a Committee to inquire how the secret and confidential document, circulated to the War Office, Admiralty, Home Office and Foreign Office, and known as the Zinovieff letter, was communicated to the Press on 24th October, 1924; and whether either of the two communications to the Press was made by a civil, military or naval servant of the Crown?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)

I think it would be better to await the discussion on the Report of the Board of Inquiry appointed to investigate certain statements affecting civil servants, during the course of which the matters raised in the question can be fully dealt with.


Does the Prime Minister realise that he has robbed one of his own followers of the chance of asking a supplementary question?