HC Deb 27 May 1941 vol 371 cc1701-3
38. Major Vyvyan Adams

asked the Minister of Information, now that it is clear that the Duke of Hamilton never had any written communication from the prisoner Hess, how it came about that a statement, containing this erroneous allegation, was broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information (Mr. Harold Nicolson)

The statement broadcast by the B.B.C. was based on information supplied by the Ministry of Information to the B.B.C. and the Press which has since been found to be erroneous. The true facts are those stated in the Reply given on 22nd May by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air to the hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew (Major Lloyd).

Major Adams

Why could not this extremely damaging statement have been verified?

Mr. Nicolson

It was verified and then found to be incorrect.

Major Adams

Was it sent out without an attempt to find out what the real position was?

Mr. Nicolson

My right hon. Friend much regrets that more careful verification was not made.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister aware that a Member of this House has made a statement that he was in the company of the Duke of Hamilton when the Duke met Hess, and that Hess was attracted by the Duke and that the Duke was attracted by Hess?

Major Adams

Does my hon. Friend realise the seriousness of this kind of allegation which might be broadcast about anybody, humble or important? Does he not think that it is extremely dangerous to a man's personal characer that these statements should be made without verification?

Mr. Nicolson

There is no question of any imputation on the Duke of Hamilton's personal conduct. He has acted with the utmost circumspection and carefulness. For any statement for which my Ministry is responsible which may have led to any doubts about his integrity we must apologise, and we do so now.

Mr. Gallacher

On a point of Order. A statement has been made in the Press by a Member of this House in which he said that another Member of the House informed him and other Members at Westminster that he was with the Duke of Hamilton when the Duke met Hess at the Olympic Games. Is it not necessary that some inquiries should be made into that?

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air made a definite statement the other day on this matter, and that really finishes it.

44. Mr. Gallacher

asked the Prime Minister why Rudolf Hess is being treated as a prisoner of war in view of the fact that he has no rank or status in the German army?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

The answer is because, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, this is the most convenient and appropriate classification for the man in question at the present time.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of all the circumstances surrounding this case, would it not be desirable to put this man on trial as an alien entering this country without a passport or as a German spy in a military uniform, or are the Government afraid to do that?

The Prime Minister

I think that we must be the judges of what is the best method to adopt. I think that the House, better than the hon. Gentleman, can judge whether we are afraid or not.