HC Deb 21 March 1940 vol 358 cc2133-4
Mr. Herbert Morrison (Hackney, South)

With your permission, Sir, and the leave of the House, I desire to make a personal statement with regard to the Private Notice Question which I put to the Minister of Supply yesterday. The House will remember that I was placed in a rather difficult position—possibly the Minister was as well—by the statement of the Minister that a letter had been sent to me bearing on the matter; and as the reply to the Question referred to the letter I was in a difficulty because the letter had not been received by me. The Minister said: I am sorry if the letter addressed to the right hon. Gentleman by me and handed in in the precincts of the House yesterday has not yet reached him, but there will be an opportunity of dealing with matters in that letter otherwise than by a private notice Question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1940; col. 1978, Vol. 358.] I gave notice of the Private Notice Question during the morning of the preceding day, as I wanted to give the Minister every possible time to prepare his reply. The letter which the Minister stated, and stated rightly as far as I understand, was handed in in the precincts of the House did not actually reach me until yesterday afternoon. I was in the House all Tuesday, but there was evidently some fault in the delivery arrangements. The letter was posted, catching the 11.30 post at night. I have shown the envelope to the Minister. Consequently, the letter was not in my possession at the time the Question was answered yesterday afternoon. I thought it right to make that explanation because frankly I was in a position of considerable difficulty in dealing with the matters referred to in the letter as I had not received the letter.

I would only refer to one other matter, and that is that the Minister said, in the course of his statement, that he would desire that I should produce the witnesses who gave me the information with regard to Captain Ullman. The Minister knows that on 26th February, when I gave him the information about Captain Ullman and the visiting card, I told him that the people who gave me the information in this matter, as, indeed, is often the case, had told me that they could not be brought into the matter for economic reasons and because of, probably, victimisation in one way or another. That is a common experience in such cases, and I had to respect the conditions under which the information was given to me. I will, of course, make further inquiries and see my informants again. If it is possible for them to change their minds, nobody will be more pleased than I shall. I am sure the House will understand that Members are often given information which they have every reason to believe is bona fide, but for economic reasons and because of possible victimisation the informants cannot possibly reveal themselves or permit themselves to be revealed. The Minister sent me a somewhat long letter which I will consider and study, and I will reply in due course or pursue the matter in connection with the discussion on the Defence Regulations, or otherwise.