HC Deb 10 November 1942 vol 383 cc2261-2
63. Mr. Stokes

asked the First Lord of tht Admiralty how many of the 530 enemy submarines, sunk or damaged, come within the category sunk, captured, or damaged beyond repair; and how-many within the category damaged but escaped?

The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander)

I regret that it would not be in the public interest to disclose the details asked for by my hon. Friend. I can say, however, that the figure mentioned by my hon. Friend has now increased to 570.

Mr. Stokes

Will the First Lord of the Admiralty explain why it is impossible to tell us what the Germans must know? Are the British public the only people who are not allowed to know the facts?

Mr. Alexander

There are reasons why the Staff consider that these facts should not be disclosed. For example, I think the enemy quite failed to apprehend that we had sufficient shipping tonnage to carry on operations during the last few days.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Does the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman at Preston on 24th January still hold good, namely, that twice as many submarines have been killed as those claimed?

Mr. Alexander

I do not remember making any such statement.

Sir A. Southby

It was in a public speech.

Mr. Clement Davies

Why was the information in regard to the numbers sunk or damaged withheld from the House of Commons and revealed to people outside?

Mr. Alexander

I have been too long a Member of this House ever to wish to appear discourteous, and I should regret very much if hon. Members thought that to be the case. I did not give in that statement any of the information for which hon. Members had asked and which should not be given in public. I have looked very carefully into that point in the papers. I shall endeavour to give the House at all times as full information as possible, both in public and in Secret Session.

Mr. McGovern

Are Ministers or Parliamentary Secretaries to be allowed to make disclosures of what are commonly regarded as secret matters while Members are brought before the Privileges Committee of the House for referring to those statements?