HC Deb 28 January 1941 vol 368 cc417-8
46. Viscountess Astor

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the publication of Sir Robert Vansittart's "Black Record," he will state the conditions under which serving civil servants are free to publish their political views; and, in particular, whether they must be submitted in advance of publication?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

Civil servants are required by the terms of a Treasury circular, of which I am sending a copy to my hon. Friend, to obtain the previous consent of the head of their Department to publication of a book or other work the subject matter of which is connected with their official duties or those of other public servants, and to submit to him in advance the version which is to be published.

Viscountess Astor

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether Sir Robert Vansittart submitted this to anybody, if so, to whom he submitted it, and whether he thinks it a good plan?

The Prime Minister

Sir Robert Vansittart, I am informed, consulted the late Secretary of State about his broadcasts, and the latter gave him his permission. The present publication is a reprint of the broadcasts which have already appeared in the Press. Lord Halifax was aware of this development. I might add that the varying reproductions in the Press gave a partial impression which the publication corrects, though the publication naturally reaches only a small part of the public who have already heard the broadcasts. In regard to the last part of the Supplementary Question, I think that it was quite proper that publication should be made after the regular formalities had been complied with, although, of course, it does not express any opinion except that of the very able public servant who was responsible for it.

Viscountess Astor

Is it a new policy of the Government that civil servants should make political broadcasts?

Mr. J. J. Davidson

Before they are published in the "Times"?

Mr. Ellis Smith

Is it not a fact that the gentleman has proved himself more British than some other people?

Mr. Henry Strauss

Is it not a fact that on the subject of Germany the views of Sir Robert Vansittart have been proved generally right, while the views of the Noble Lady have been almost invariably wrong?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter of opinion.

Viscountess Astor

It is entirely wrong.