HC Deb 25 June 1941 vol 372 cc1042-5
44. Mr. Neil Maclean

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that an election sheet published in Greenock, on behalf of the Communist candidate, contains serious allegations against a prominent Member of the War Cabinet; that he is, or has been, seeking to have candidates nominated at all by-elections on a programme demanding an immediate peace with Germany; that this publication states that the source of the information is a speech delivered at a meeting in Glasgow by a Member of this House referring to proposals made to him by the Member of the War Cabinet at an interview last year; whether he will have this investigated; and whether he will inform the House of his intentions as to taking action in the matter?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

The Question refers to an account, published in a Communist circular, of a speech by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), relating to conversations with Lord Beaverbrook. Lord Beaverbrook received in February, 1940, from the hon. Member for Shettleston for exclusive publication in his newspapers an account of the so-called Tavistock Peace Plan. A conversation followed on 5th March, 1940'. The hon. Member for Shettleston invited Lord Beaverbrook to support the Plan. A written statement seeking support and signed by Lord Tavistock was submitted on 6th March. Lord Beaverbrook replied on 8th March, 1940, as follows: DEAR LORD TAVISTOCK. Very many thanks for your letter. I have never felt any anxiety in regard to the wisdom and the certainty of continuing the war. I am a supporter of Mr. Chamberlain, and I believe in his war policy. If Peace becomes a possibility, I feel sure he will do everything m his power to promote it. At the same time I-am much obliged to you for writing me about your negotiations. Yours sincerely, BEAVERBROOK

Mr. Maclean

Is no further action to be taken in regard to the very serious allegations that are contained in that by-election sheet, which is circulating very extensively in the West of Scotland, as it is causing considerable disturbance there over what are the opinions of men like Lord Beaverbrook with regard to the war?

The Prime Minister

As to legal action, I can say nothing, but it is very common in by-elections for a lot of untruthful and tendentious statements to be put into circulation, and I should myself doubt whether any importance should be attached to such malicious vapourings.

Mr. Garro Jones

Could the Prime Minister state whether these statements are made by way of allegation or by way of collateral security for the policy which was advocated by the Communist party until a few days ago?

The Prime Minister

Wide as is the sphere over which I am called upon to cast an eye, I am glad to say that it has nothing to do with the point mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Mr. McGovern

May I ask the Prime Minister whether any attempt is being made to suggest that the statements are untrue? While I have no objection to any explanation being given, the statements appearing in that sheet are completely truthful.

The Prime Minister

I am assured that they are untrue. The hon. Gentleman, I understand, was present at a private conversation and more than a year afterwards gave his own version of the conversation which passed. In those circumstances I should think the utmost distrust should be placed upon any statement of the hon. Gentleman's.

Mr. Maxton

If this were to become a matter of public controversy—personally, I do not see the importance of it now—the word of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) would not go unsupported.

Mr. Maclean

In view of the statement that has been made by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), I think this matter ought to be further investigated. I do not see that the Reply of the Prime Minister covers the points that are in my Question. I was willing to accept the Reply given, but after what has been stated from below the Gangway I think the matter requires to be further investigated. I have asked for that investigation in the Question, and I want to know whether it will be undertaken.

The Prime Minister

No Sir, I see no need at all for further inquiries. A newspaper proprietor sees all sorts of people and hears all sorts of views, because that is his business, and I suppose that from time to time he gets ill-used by inventions being put about as to what has passed at private conversations.