§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
The continued refusal of the Government to accredit a war correspondent to the "Daily Worker" raises a somewhat broader political issue than might at first sight appear. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for War for coming here to deal with it personally, though the dislocation of the time-table, and an important engagement which I gather he has to keep, will oblige us to be brief. Its importance is indicated by the fact that no fewer than 50 hon. Members of this House signed a petition, or an expression of opinion, addressed to the Secretary of State urging that a war correspondent should be accredited to this newspaper, including Members of such diverse views as the hon. Members for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter), Leigh (Mr. Tinker), Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) and North Cumberland (Mr. Roberts), who are notably not sympathisers with the Marxist doctrines which the "Daily Worker" propagates. There were also very strong representations from a remarkably large number of trade unions, including that to which I have the honour to belong, the National Union of Journalists.
The "Daily Worker" is a national newspaper in every ordinary sense of the phrase. The definition of a national newspaper does not depend on its political outlook or on the size of its circulation. I think the circulation of the "Daily Worker" is, actually, somewhat smaller than that of "The Times" and somewhat larger than that of the "Manchester Guardian." It is about 100,000, but I believe it is read by a very much larger number of people than that—perhaps 500,000. In other ways it is treated as an ordinary national newspaper. It enjoys the usual wholesale and retail distributive facilities, it enjoys the usual public relations facilities provided by Government Departments to all newspapers, and so forth. But at the height of the invasion of Europe, this newspaper, which campaigned so long and so energetically for the opening of the second front—a campaign with which some of us agreed and others disagreed—is debarred from being represented on that invasion front. At a time like this, the heart and guts of a newspaper lie in its reports from its own war corre- 1723 spondent at the front. In the first days of the invasion it was not so bad for the "Daily Worker." The war reports were pooled and each paper was able to draw what it wanted from the pooled reports of the correspondents. Later, however, as more correspondents were able to get across and more facilities were afforded, the pool arrangement came to an end and now each of the other papers is represented by its own men—in some cases by a large number of its own men. Any newspaper man, and perhaps any attentive reader of newspapers, will tell you that not even the best agency service can compensate a newspaper for the lack of its own war correspondent.
Why discriminate in this way against a newspaper which is wholeheartedly supporting the war effort, whatever you may think of its political views? Quite obviously this is purely political discrimination. This fact is obvious from the answer that the Secretary of State gave on 18th January, to which he referred us back more recently, an answer which boiled down to the allegation that the "Daily Worker" would not be allowed a war correspondent because members of the Communist Party could not be trusted with secrets. Men and women of all political views and opinions are serving in the Forces. There are millions of men, perhaps, with no special political views, or Conservatives, or Labour men, or Liberals, and among them are thousands of Communists. No one suggests that you could not trust a member of the Communist Party who is a sergeant in the Army or an officer in the Navy. No one suggests that you should take his uniform away and send him home because he might gain possession of some secret or other, which no doubt many people serving in an ordinary capacity in the Services can get possession of. Communists are doing all sorts of highly confidential war work. Professor Haldane is engaged on secret scientific research in connection with war inventions. The only Communist in this House has, I believe, attended many of our Secret Sessions, and I do not think anyone would presume to suggest that there has been a leakage of secret information through him. Really the position is quite anomalous and ridiculous, especially in view of the full and close friendship which I am happy to say 1724 this country now enjoys with the Soviet Union, a nation organised in accordance with the very political principles which the "Daily Worker" exists to further. No one suggests that Communists are not to be trusted as Allies. No one suggests that Premier Stalin ought to have been barred from Teheran.
I hope the Secretary of State will not revert to the isolated case of Mr. Spring-hall, which he mentioned in his reply in January, together with the name of one other member or former member of the Communist Party. It is highly illogical and unfair to condemn a whole party for actions taken by one or two individuals in it—actions which have been strongly repudiated by the party concerned. That kind of argument, if it were legitimate to use it at all, would cut both ways. There are far more men of the extreme Right in politics whom it has been found necessary to detain under 18B, than there are of the extreme Left. But no one would suggest that any ordinary national newspaper, however extremely to the Right its editorial views might be, should be deprived of the services of a war correspondent because there are one or two extreme Right-wingers in Brixton Prison. It would be absurd. Recently, as I mentioned in my question, Kemsley Newspapers were fined £100 for a deliberate and wilful breach of the security Regulations by publishing news which might be of assistance to the enemy, but I would not dream of suggesting that the "Daily Sketch" should be deprived of its war correspondents at the front and that their accreditation should be cancelled.
On every ground of justice, common sense and democratic principle I feel that the Cabinet should reconsider this matter. We talk about the freedom of the Press. It is one of those clichés which we use rather glibly. I like to try to think out the meaning of these clichés before using them. To my mind "freedom of the Press" means not only freedom for editors and journalists to write and print what they want to; it also means, perhaps primarily, freedom for the readers of the Press, freedom for the ordinary man to buy the newspaper he wants and to find in it true news and fair comment in accordance with the political views he favours. The readers of the "Daily Worker" are comparatively few in number, but they are a highly 1725 politically conscious lot. Hon. Members and Ministers who are interested in production will know very well that many of them occupy key jobs in factories and have done an enormous amount to further production in those factories. It will hearten them tremendously if they can read in their own favouruite paper despatches from their own war correspondent at the front. I gather that this is a Cabinet decision and that the right hon. Gentleman himself is not alone responsible for it, but I hope that he will be able to tell us that he is going to discuss it again in the august company which he keeps.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I am certain that no one, I care not how capable he may be in forensic argument, could, with any ordinary body of people, provide any grounds of justification for this refusal to allow a war reporter to the "Daily Worker." Only the fact that an unjustified prejudice exists, makes it possible for the refusal to be continued. If it were not for a rotten and widespread prejudice, it would be impossible for a Minister or the Government to get away with such a piece of political discrimination. When the Minister was asked a Question about this, he made a statement, out of his deep ignorance of the Communist Party and its constitution, that a member of that party could not be trusted not to give away secrets to the party. In order to try to provide some justification for that assertion, he brought in the case of Springhall, who is serving seven years in prison because he did not let the party know what he was doing. If the party had known what he was doing, he would have been stopped straight away and he would never have been in gaol. The case was heard in camera, but sufficient came out to let us know that Springhall went to the flat of a young woman, and that this woman had a friend with her. He sat in the room with the young woman with the door partly open, and talked to her about this, that and the other, and the other person was taking notes of what he said. He is in prison because he was an utter fool. If the party had known what was going on he would have been stopped. The fact remains that nobody in the party knew what Springhall was doing.
The Minister uses that case to try to buttress up a statement that a member of the party must report secrets to the 1726 party. There never was such nonsense. I am here as a representative of the party. What is my responsibility to the party? It is to see that in this House I give the greatest service to my constituents in line with party policy. If I attended a Secret Session and gave away information to anyone, is it not clear that I would immediately endanger my position and, therefore, my value to the party and my constituents? If any member of the party dared to come to me and ask me what happened at a Secret Session, and I reported such a member to the leadership, he would be expelled from the party, or at any rate seriously dealt with. I have been at many Secret Sessions. Is it not strange that the only paper that has been called in question for reporting matters at a Secret Session is a Conservative paper? There has never been any suggestion of the "Daily Worker" having any knowledge of what has happened in a Secret Session. Suppose the "Daily Worker" did get something from a Secret Session; immediately all eyes would be turned on me. Yet there are Conservative journals that were before the court and fined, and a representative of the family which runs them sits in this House, but special attention was not paid to him or to the papers. The ban on the "Daily Worker" is an utterly impossible and unjustifiable decision. It is unspeakably mean, and no one could suggest that there is anything manly about the decision. The "Daily Worker" is the one paper in the country that is maintained by the working-class.
§ Mr. Gallacher
All wealth comes, of course from the labour of the workers, but the Press is in the hands of millionaires, and lords of one kind and another, and is run in their interests. The only national daily paper that is maintained by the pennies, sixpences and shillings of the working-class is the "Daily Worker." It is the only national daily newspaper that is maintained by the working-class, and it is refused a correspondent on grounds that cannot possibly be justified.
When the Prime Minister yesterday said that a good picture was being given in the Press of the fighting front in Normandy, I interjected and mentioned the "Daily Worker." I said it could give a fine picture if it had a chance. The Prime Minister answered: 1727Yes, I have no doubt."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1944; Vol. 402, c. 1469.]He went on to say that lots of things were happening which would no doubt cause the hon. Gentleman pleasure, meaning myself, and the paper of which I am an admirer. How is it possible, on the basis of such a childish answer as the Minister has given, that the Communists cannot be trusted not to report secrets to the party, not to understand that the maddest thing that the Communist Party could do would be to put its members on local and national administrative bodies, or as war correspondents or in any other position, where they could be suspected or distrusted? The one sure and certain way to build up the party is to put into this House, on local administrative bodies and at the war fronts representatives who can be trusted by their fellow members or fellow reporters. That is the one guarantee for the well-being of the party. Our war correspondent in Abyssinia was recognised to be one of the finest war correspondents ever to have been at any front and he was the man selected by the war correspondents to represent all of them and to speak for all of them.
This is abominable nonsense. I do not understand how a man can get up and talk such silly senseless twaddle on such a serious question. Please understand that my party is a serious political party and that we have representatives on many county councils and local councils. We have had war correspondents in Algiers and in Abyssinia, apart from this foolish fellow who has been referred to. I do not know how to speak of such a fellow that has got into such a mess because of his weakness. He did not let the party know. He was deliberately hiding these things from the party and from his associates. Show me in this House, in any county council or local council, or on any of the war fronts, among any of the men who have been with the guerrillas, or in Yugoslavia, or Poland, facing hardships, difficulties and dangers, a man about whom anybody could turn round and say that he was a Communist and could not be trusted to take his share and to bear his part of the burden. Please let the Minister, if he is going to deny us a war correspondent, be manly enough to get up and say that it is because he 1728 does not like our politics and that it is political discrimination. Do not get up and make the pitiful answer that the Minister has made to our application.
§ Mr. Raikes (Essex, South East)
It is only fair to make it plain from the start that the decision over the "Daily Worker" is not a decision by the Secretary of State for War but, as the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) quite fairly described it, a decision by the War Cabinet, of whom the Prime Minister is the head. Therefore, whatever the rights and the wrongs of it may be, it is not simply a question of the Secretary of State for War having adopted an idiotic and foolish attitude.
§ Mr. Raikes
Of course he supports it, and I think wisely so, as I propose to show in a moment or two. I think I can carry the House with me some way on this matter. I think we would all agree that military security is paramount. I think we should all agree that the "Daily Worker" is the propaganda medium of the Communist Party. I think I shall carry with me on that point the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I think we should agree also, that, although the despatches of a war correspondent may be sincere, any military correspondent is in a position to find out secrets of a vital nature, and that even if they are not actually published in the Press he can pass them on to his editorial committee. Those things are obvious.
Now we come to the question of the "Daily Worker" itself. Both the hon. Member for Maldon and the hon. Member for West Fife—I see that the hon. Member for West Fife is preparing to pounce on me in a moment or two—referred to the case of Springhall. The case was taken in camera, so that the whole picture cannot be given, but I think it is public knowledge, although observations have not been made about it in the course of the Debate, that Springhall received from a military captain the information which he had. I understand, the captain passed on that information to Springhall because Springhall was an organiser in the Communist Party. I know nothing about what Springhall was doing in a flat with a lady.
§ Mr. Gallacher
That is absolutely incorrect, because, as organiser of the Communist Party, Springhall was committing a crime against the party in dealing with such a man.
§ Mr. Raikes
The hon. Member has borne out my point that Springhall was an organiser of the Communist Party. Whether he acted properly or improperly is another matter. The information was given to Springhall by an officer who was a member of the Communist Party, and who did so because Springhall was a Communist Party organiser. I am not suggesting that Springhall of necessity acted as the Communist Party would have desired. I am making the first point, which I think is of some importance, that there is a party a member of which serving in His Majesty's Forces feels justified, in certain circumstances, in imparting what should be vital secrets to another member of that party.
§ Mr. Raikes
I do not know of any case in which a Conservative officer has passed on information to an organiser of the Conservative Party on the ground that the organiser was someone who could receive special information in that capacity. I have carried that point only so far, but I now want to carry it a step farther. It may be said that although it may be deplorable that vital information should be passed on to an organiser of an outside body, yet provided that the body is absolutely pure and beyond reproach, very little harm, possibly, has been done. Therefore, it might well be that the risk could be taken in regard to that organisation.
Let us turn for a moment to the "Daily Worker" itself. If, in the course of a great war, you turn your coat once, that is perhaps understandable; if you turn your coat twice, it becomes a little bit doubtful; but any organisation or paper which has turned its coat politically three times in regard to this war and in the course of this war lays itself open to certain doubts. Let me remind the House of the facts. Here is what the "Daily Worker" said on 4th September, 1939:It is a war that can and must be won, and the people can win it. Fascism and its friends have brought this war upon us.1730 One month later, the war still going on, this is what we have:The continuance of the war in Western Europe under these conditions is now a deadly menace to the interests of the people in all countries. We demand that negotiations be immediately opened for the establishment of peace in Europe.One month after the war against Fascism had started. During that month a certain country, which was not Great Britain, took certain rather unexpected steps. Outside influence could have been the only cause of the "Daily Worker" eating its own words after one month.
§ Mr. Driberg
If the hon. Member is talking about past records of newspapers in the war against Fascism, may I point out to him that many of the newspapers have a far blacker record than the "Daily Worker," and if he is going to drag up the past like that, then surely they should be deprived of their war correspondents?
§ Mr. Raikes
Is the hon. Member suggesting there is one newspaper, Conservative, Liberal or Labour, which supported the war when the war broke out in September, 1939, which at any period since then has turned round and said that this war is nonsense and that we have to make peace?
§ Mr. Raikes
Does the hon. Member suggest, and let him be accurate—we may as well have a little accuracy—that in any period since the war broke out in September, 1939, the period with which I am dealing, Goebbels or anybody else has been offered space in the Kemsley Press or any other Press? I demand an answer.
§ Mr. Driberg
The hon. Member was unfortunate or unwise enough to use the phrase "The war against Fascism"—which has been going on a good deal longer than that.
§ Mr. Raikes
The hon. Member for Maldon said I was unfortunate enough to refer to the war against Fascism. I used 1731 that phrase simply because I was quoting from the description of the war, after it had started, in the "Daily Worker," and I think that even the meanest intelligence might have grasped that, therefore, we are dealing with a war which was already in operation at that time.
§ Mr. Pritt (Hammersmith, North)
Would the hon. Member suggest that the "Daily Telegraph," for example, should be deprived of its war correspondent because in the latter part of 1939, and the early part of 1940, it clamoured for war against the Soviet Union, which was destined to tear the guts out of the German army for us?
§ Mr. Raikes
I merely observe, in passing, in regard to that, that since this war had been entered into in 1939 in defence of small nationalities, any criticism against any country at any period of the war that was engaged in aggression against small nationalities appears to me to have been justified morally at the time when such suggestions were made.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There is this important point. The "Daily Worker" was for the war against Fascism. In the month to which the hon. Member refers a book was published for American circulation by a member of the Government, Lord Lloyd, with a preface by the then Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax, protesting before high heaven that this was not a war against Fascism, that they had no intention of making it a war against Fascism and that the Government had not done so. That is why the "Daily Worker" took the attitude it did take.
§ Mr. Raikes
It is rather interesting. If the reason why the "Daily Worker" changed over between September and October was a book written by Lord Lloyd, with a preface by Lord Halifax, they might at least have explained that reason, instead of making it coincide with the partition of Poland between Russia and Germany. I have finished with 1939. I must be brief, but I have been interrupted, and I think the picture has to go just a stage further. We have in a certain thing we have received to-day, "Gagged by Grigg", a most moving statement from the Editor of the "Daily Worker":Every day we work with might and main to do the job expected of us, conscious of our duty to the men at the front.1732 In May, 1940, we turn to the "Daily Worker" again. This was the time when our men in France were facing an even harder task than they are facing now. They were forced to retreat with the enemy on every side and this was the effort which the "Daily Worker" sent out to our people in France to read:The rulers have nothing but fear of a people's victory. If you are one of the common people, whether German, French or British, there will be no victory for you, only death, suffering and starvation.That was on 20th May, 1940. That was what was said to our men fighting in France. On 22nd May, 1940, it was stated:The 'Daily Worker' has repeatedly declared that this war is not in the interests of the people.Then times changed, and someone else was attacked, and came into the war, and the "Daily Worker" changed, not because Britain's task was greater, or a less easy one, but because someone outside Britain was attacked. My concluding observation is simply this. If you happen to be dealing in ordinary life with a repentant gentleman, who has been convicted of stealing some of your money, you might, if you are a Christian, give him another job, but you would give him a job that kept him rather a long way away from your own private safe. What you happen to be dealing with is a so-called repentant newspaper, which in the course of this war at one period was engaged in propaganda, of which I say quite deliberately that if it had done anything—and mercifully it did nothing—would have weakened the morale of our people at home and of our Fighting Forces abroad. If it is repentant I think that, under present conditions, the Government are wise to give it the chance once again of being published, and showing signs of its repentance, but not to give it an opportunity of discovering secrets which might, if it changed its mind again, affect not mere money or capital, but the lives and blood of the men who are fighting for us.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
I am glad to see one member of the Liberal Party here, because I propose to make a Liberal speech. The principles of Liberalism very largely made this country great. When they are abandoned, this country will cease to be great, just as when they were abandoned by the Liberal Party 1733 the Liberal Party was almost completely destroyed. I agree with my hon. Friend who has just spoken, that the principle of military security must come first in this matter, but one must also say a word about the political implications. As a Liberal for the moment, the political implications of this ban will be two. In the first place, the circulation of the "Daily Worker" is likely to go up by 100,000. In the second place, I think the membership of the Communist Party will very largely increase. Not even the advantage of a war correspondent in Normandy is likely to equal that of a good grievance. I am very strongly anti-Communist in my views, being for the moment a good Liberal, and I oppose the ban as likely to strengthen the Communist Party and its organ.
The Secretary of State for War is not a Conservative. On the contrary, he is a promoted civil servant and I give him credit for that. As a keeper of the political seraglio for so many years he has long since had his political opinions carefully removed. But the trouble is that he has the reputation of being a Conservative—an honour which he does not deserve. Every time he imposes a ban against the "Daily Worker'" he loses Conservatives some votes in the country, which is most unjust.
I fully accept the view that this is, in fact, not a political decision, but that the Secretary of State for War was persuaded by his security people to impose this ban. I do not want to say a word against our security organisation. They have a very thankless task, and they perform a very necessary function, but it is very important that the great offices of State should not be ruled by the security organisation. I have had some opportunity of seeing their judgments about individuals known to me personally but with whom I did not agree politically, and I consider that very often their judgment is bad. So far from being ruled by them, I think the Secretary of State might well take a Leaf out of the book of the individual who said.God bless those artful folk who ingeniously contrive to add up two and two and make the answer M.1.5.One cannot be ruled by these too-simple men.
The Communist Party has a record, which my hon. Friend the Member for 1734 South East Essex (Mr. Raikes) has clearly and punctiliously exposed to the House. I agree with his general view of the Communist Party. It is true that when certain hon. Members, no doubt with perfect sincerity, were running a campaign for "a people's Government for a people's peace," at our critical period in 1940, the Communists, in the main, were concerned that the other people should win. That confuses the simple men in M.1.5: they think that the Communist Party is unreliable. But the Communist Paryt is the most reliable party in this country. One can always tell what they will do. There are no exceptions, except for a certain gentleman, about whom I have heard for the first time to-day, who was led away by his amorous instincts. They change sides with meticulous consistency. They are politically most reliable. One can tell at once what they are going to do. This time they are on our side. I am all for taking allies where I find them, whether they consist of Communists or of others who are prepared to help the war effort. So I am not altogether convinced that any real harm would come, in this particular instance, from allowing the "Daily Worker" to have a war correspondent, subject to one condition. That is, that he should be carefully investigated by the security organisation, and judged on his merits as a man. No general and absolute ban should be imposed. If they do not like the man who is put up, let them reject him.
But I feel that the principles of Liberalism are at stake. I, for one, am prepared, being a good Conservative, to try to preserve the principles of our Constitution, which have made us great. If we go on this line, there is no telling where it may lead us to. It may be that the Communists will increase their Parliamentary representation some day—I do not know: they may do so—and if they get the idea that it is legitimate to discriminate on political lines, however mistaken that idea may be, it may happen that they would make even greater departures from the principles of Liberalism than the Secretary of State and his august superiors have done on this occasion.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Sir James Grigg)
As my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) said, the hon. Member for Maldon 1735 (Mr. Driberg) made a very studiously moderate presentation of his case. I caught myself wondering whether it was an instance of fellow-feeling making us wondrous kind; the fellow-feeling arising from the fact that we were both in a china shop yesterday, when a bull—perhaps I should say a Papal bull—from Ipswich got loose.
§ Sir J. Grigg
I think that is about the lot. Perhaps the House will bear with me if I go back to the original decision in this case. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt) put down a Question to me for 18th January. On that date he was not in his place to ask the Question, so my answer was circulated as a written answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT. From that day until the hon. Member for Maldon asked his Question on 27th June, although there had been abundant opportunities for raising the matter, the only mention in this House was a Question asked by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton), on 2nd March, to which the Prime Minister answered:The decision to which my hon. Friend refers in this Question was not a decision of the Secretary of State for War, but a decision of His Majesty's Government. The ruling covers all three Services, and there is no intention of changing it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1944; Vol. 397, c. 1572.]But a good deal occurred outside. It is true that the Press, as a whole, ignored the matter, practically the only notice, apart from the "Daily Worker," being occasional references in that paper which tries to make Nonconformist Liberalism look as much like Communism as possible. But the "Daily Worker" was a host in itself. It proceeded to organise a campaign that has never quite stopped. It has had a reference nearly every day. It has represented the decision as a personal act of spite on my part, although my original answer made it quite clear that it was a concerted decision on the part of His Majesty's Government. Every day it has produced a list of bodies that have sent in protests against the decision, and, from the unanimity of the phrasing of the protests, one can surmise that they have been organised by the "Daily Worker" itself, or by the Communist Party, of which it is the official organ.
1736 The culmination of the campaign is the pamphlet "Gagged by Grigg" referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex. To that I have two alternative defences, as the lawyers say. First, they have not been gagged, because they are perfectly at liberty to get anything they like from the agencies—there are agencies over there, and the great majority of the papers of this country, I should say, get their war news from the agencies. I know that the hon. Member for Maldon said that that was not the same thing, but let us get it right—they have not been gagged. Alternatively, they were not gagged by Grigg, but by all the Members of the War Cabinet.
§ Sir J. Grigg
Certainly I agree with it and support it. But the whole campaign has represented this as an act of personal spite on my part, and anyone reading this document will find every other Government Department lauded and represented as being as helpful as they can, consistent with the barbarism of the Secretary of State for War.
§ Sir J. Grigg
In any case, I would not give dates of that sort. Then, at an early stage in this matter, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) organised a petition to me from Members of this House. I have the list of names here. The hon. Member for Maldon pointed out some of the names. He reminded us of the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter). I do not think he mentioned the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), the hon. Member for Nelson and Collie (Mr. Silverman), and, of course, himself, and the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith. I could give him another signatory—the hon. Lady who represents the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). It was not until 27th 1737 June that any of these hon. Members, even the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith, raised the matter in this House, which was, I think, the appropriate place to raise it. Six months had gone by before this frightful grievance, about which the "Daily Worker" complains, was raised. What could the reason be? I suggest that it was that it suited the "Daily Worker" to represent it as a personal act of spite on my part and that it was extremely anxious not to have the fact elicited that it was a decision of the War Cabinet.
§ Mr. Driberg
It was not the "Daily Worker" which caused the Question to be put in June. I put it down, on my own initiative, because the matter was brought to my mind very forcibly by that other court case.
§ Sir J. Grigg
I never made any suggestion which was intended to cast aspersions on the hon. Member. When it was raised on 27th June, my answer was a refusal to reconsider the decision, and, naturally, I was authorised to give that answer. In the course of some supplementaries, the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell) accused me of being actuated by personal and political prejudices, and, in another supplementary on another Question, he suggested that I was an admirer of Mussolini. Perhaps the House will bear with me if, like a Prime Minister with one of his former private secretaries 20 years ago, I claim the right to make out a case for myself.
The decision, as I have said over and over again, was by the Government as a whole, and nobody can suppose that any prejudice on the part of a mere political tyro like me—and I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) for reminding the House that I am a political tyro—could be decisive in a decision of the War Cabinet; but, apart from that, I do not think that personal prejudices have played any part in producing my own decision on this matter. It is perfectly true that the "Daily Worker" has never been an admirer of me. It has, even before this incident, continually accused me, quite falsely, I must say, of being hostile to our Russian Allies. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith has written a special pamphlet devoted to it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case, and is it not on record, that the Minister once said "I am not against the Soviet Union"?
§ Sir J. Grigg
I was answering a Question whether I was hostile to the Soviet Union, put, I think, by the hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith, and I said, "I am certainly not against the Soviet Union, but I certainly am pro-British."
§ Mr. Gallacher
If the Minister had been pro-British he would have been an Ally of the Soviet Union.
§ Sir J. Grigg
It is quite true that there have been some cases on which I had correspondence with the hon. and learned Member. His information seemed to me to be derived from unauthorised disclosures to himself on the part of some soldier or other sent through the "Daily Worker."
§ Mr. Pritt
If the Minister says that about me, let me say that never, in any one of the hundreds of letters I have written to him, have they originated in any way from the "Daily Worker." They have been about authorised or unauthorised disclosures by troops alone, and if they had not been made, the injustices complained of would have been even worse than they were.
§ Sir J. Grigg
Well, then, an authorised disclosure. It is also true that a good deal of the correspondence with my hon. and learned Friend has been in relation to people who got into trouble for breaches of discipline, but none of these would accuse me of being personally prejudiced against the "Daily Worker," or against him, even though their writings may take on a sour and perhaps abusive tone. When I was in India, I got used to the polemical methods of the Congress Party, one of the most totalitarian bodies in the world.
§ Mr. Gallacher
What is the use of making a digression like that? At a time like this, does it show anything in the nature of political sense to make a digression like that and attack the Congress Party?
§ Sir J. Grigg
Having been abused by the "Daily Worker" every day for the 1739 last six months, I think even the hon. Member for West Fife will not say I am not to be allowed to make my defence in my own way. If I remember aright, the "Daily Worker" has, on occasion, used my alleged hostility to the Congress Party as an instance of my prejudice against the workers. I will produce the reference if necessary. Anyhow, I can assure the hon. Member for West Fife that the utterances of the "Daily Worker" are mother's milk compared to the utterances of the organ of the Congress Party, and yet, while in India I found no difficulty in maintaining good private relations with my opponents. I am not likely to change my view at my time of life, and, anyway, I can answer for myself. As for political prejudice, I have to confess that I take a narrower view of the appropriate sphere of the State in enterprise than do hon. Members opposite, because, as the hon. Member for Oxford reminded the House, after being a civil servant for many years, I stood for East Cardiff as a non-party candidate and was adopted as their official candidate by both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. The local Labour Party——
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
Will you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, tell us what this has got to do with this discussion? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the arrangement by which he was allowed to talk on this matter was an arrangement made in good faith by myself, on the understanding that the Debate would be finished in about half an hour? The Debate has now gone on for practically an hour.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
I am perfectly well aware of the position, but I am also aware that almost all speeches are shorter if there are no interruptions. In so far as the Minister's speech is concerned, the Minister has just as much right as anybody to defend himself in this House.
§ Sir J. Grigg
I will hurry to the end of my remarks. I quite realise that the hon. Member made an arrangement to his discomfort and to my advantage, and I will try not to abuse it. On the same occasion, I had the support of the local Communist Party. There is not much here on which to base an accusation of totalitarian 1740 propensities. Indeed I do not think that anybody can have a greater hatred of totalitarianism. I am by temperament an individualist and have been all my life. I have been a civil servant long enough to know that all State activity is interference and that it is by no means universally true, that interference is a good thing in itself. While I was in India I was accused—again by the Congress Party—of being, with the late Lord Snowden and Sir Walter Layton, one of the only three living believers in laissez-faire. That particular accusation was not true, but it does show an absence of any bias towards totalitarianism. But, beyond all that, no one who saw the humiliations of the abortive sanctions against Italy, and of Munich, from 5,000 miles away, and in the midst of an Indian political party which spent its time, somewhat inconsistently, in abusing Britain and the British for their exploitation and tyranny, and sneering at them for their decadence and feebleness—no one, I say, who had that grisly experience could ever have anything but a burning hatred of all forms of totalitarianism. If to have that, is to be politically prejudiced, I confess to being prejudiced. But have not hon. Members opposite, and indeed, hon. Members on all sides of the House, the same prejudices? I hope and believe so, and I am interested to note that the Labour Party has continued to reject all the appeals of the Communist Party for affiliation.
§ Mr. Gallacher
What has that to do with the "Daily Worker"? That is a question between us and the Labour Party.
§ Sir J. Grigg
I will come to that. I would remind hon Members opposite of the terms of my original answer, whch contains the reasons for the decisions, and the reasons are perfectly good today.In view of the paramount importance of security measures in connection with military operations, His Majesty's Government"—not the Secretary of State for War—are not prepared to accord special facilities to this newspaper, which is the propagandist medium of the Communist Party of Great Britain. In recent times some of its members or adherents have shown that they are ready to subordinate the security of the State to the purposes of the Organisation. I have, therefore, caused a letter to be sent to the Editor of the "Daily Worker," which reads as follows:1741'It is desired to affirm the right to reject any candidate for the position of Accredited Correspondent to the Armed Forces without stating any reason. Such decisions are taken in the light of the overriding necessity to safeguard secret military information, and particularly that relating to future military operations.It is for these reasons that your candidates have been rejected in the past. The question has recently been considered again and you are hereby informed that no correspondent of the "Daily Worker" will be regarded as suitable for the position of Accredited Correspondent to the Armed Forces. Accredited Correspondents receive military information and facilities not available to other members of the Press or of the public. Recent experience, drawn in part from the cases of D. F. Springhall and O. L. Uren, has made it clear that members and adherents of the Communist Party cannot be trusted not to communicate secret information to the Communist Party. It is in the light of this that the decision of His Majesty's Government has been taken.The hon. Member for Maldon said he hoped that I would not refer to the Springhall case. I must refer to the Springhall and Uren cases. I cannot dislose details of these, but I can say that I believe that hon. Members would be horrified if they knew them. All I can say at present is that the prompt arrest of Springhall and his accomplice prevented the leakage of further information about the experimental development of important equipment which, if disclosed to the enemy at that time, would have jeopardised future operations.
§ Sir J. Grigg
I will come to that later. Captain Uren certainly passed on information of a highly secret character which he had acquired, and only could have acquired, in the course of his official duties, and he gave this information to Springhall, not as an individual, but because he was an official of the Communist Party. It has been suggested that, as war correspondents have to submit their despatches for censorship, the censors could be relied on to prevent publication of secret information by the "Daily Worker." The danger lies not so much in the publication—Springhall did not publish the information he gathered—but in the unauthorised collection of these vital secrets for an unknown purpose. An 1742 accredited war correspondent must inevitably communicate, or at any rate is in a position to communicate, to his editor much secret information which is not for publication. The editorial staff of the "Daily Worker" includes a number of long-established members of the Communist Party, and it is to these persons that His Majesty's Government are not prepared that knowledge of forthcoming operations should be entrusted. The decision was taken on grounds of security, and security in effect means the lives of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and merchant seamen.
The hon. Member for Maldon says—and the hon. Member for West Fife made the same point—why not treat everybody alike? What about this case of the Kemsley newspapers? I will tell the House about this. The disclosure here was the fact that three battalions, all of which it was permissible to mention separately, were in a single brigade. The newspapers in question took the view that the Censor was being unreasonable, and, to test their view, defied him. The Censor's view was upheld by the Courts. I cannot imagine that the particular newspapers will embark on a policy of defying the Censor. If they did it would be a matter of which no Government could fail to take notice. And I assure the House that whatever the newspaper, the decision of the Government will be arrived at in the interests of security. Whatever is done is done in the interests of security, in spite of the sneers of the hon. Member for Oxford.
§ Mr. Hogg rose——
§ Sir J. Grigg
I withdraw it. It will be arrived at in the interest of security, which, I repeat, is not a mere act of tyranny on the part of some special organisation or special Gestapo, but means minimising the danger to the lives of those who are enduring so much for us.