HC Deb 21 January 1941 vol 368 cc15-7
39 and 40. Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

asked the Secretary of State for War (1) why the letter from Lieut.-Colonel Bingham to the War Office attacking the sense of loyalty and capacity for leadership of cadets and potential officers selected by senior officers for commissions was published; what steps he intends to take to protect these men from unwarranted and unjust attacks to which, in the case of cadets, they have no right of reply where a commanding officer of a cadet training unit makes them; and whether it is intended to permit this officer to remain in charge of the training of such men, in view of his statement;

(2) whether, in view of the detrimental effects upon Army discipline of the publication of Lieut.-Colonel Bingham's attacks on fellow officers, disciplinary action in respect of this aspect of this incident will be taken against this officer; and whether he will make a statement to allay the discontent aroused by the publication of this letter?

Captain Margesson

Paragraph 547 (a) of the King's Regulations forbids an officer or soldier to publish in any form whatever, or communicate, either directly or indirectly to the Press, any military information or his views on any military subjects, without special authority. The attention of Lieut.-Colonel Bingham has been drawn to the paragraph, and a report has been called for from him. A decision as to the action to be taken will be made after the receipt of his reply.

Mr. MacMillan

Is the Secretary of State aware that not only has this officer aroused a storm of protest—certainly a justified storm—among officers at least as able as he is and more gentlemanly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]—I withdraw the last words—but has also used the name of the Prime Minister and quoted his speech in support of his views? Cannot some drastic action be taken to prevent a thing of this kind happening again?

Captain Margesson

I think my hon. Friend will agree that it is right to hear the other side as well as the case made against this officer. A report has been called for, and immediately I receive it I shall consider it and the action to be determined.

Mr. Bellenger

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman take an early opportunity of having some statement issued, because it is in the minds of a lot of the readers of that letter that there is considerable substance in what Lieut.-Colonel Bingham said? Would it not, therefore, be advisable for the War Office to take an opportunity of denying the statement?

Captain Margesson

Immediately a decision is taken a public announcement will be made on the subject.

Mr. MacMillan

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman take some action to make sure that the people responsible for the publication of that kind of letter exercise more discretion?

Captain Margesson

I regret profoundly that the letter was published, but my hon. Friend will realise that I have no powers over the Press.

Viscountess Astor

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend bear in mind that the ordinary soldiers themselves, the ordinary Tommies, think that there was a great deal of substance in the letter?

Forward to