HC Deb 20 July 1944 vol 402 cc325-6
22 Sir Percy Harris

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why it was considered necessary by the Government to insist on the Bethnal Green shelter case being held in camera.

Mr. H. Morrison

On the information before me at the time the proceedings began, I felt bound to take the view that it would be contrary to the public interest that the case should be heard otherwise than in camera. I regret that, for a similar reason, I do not feel able to indi- cate the specific grounds on which that decision was based.

Sir P. Harris

Is it not a fact that this incident took place over 18 months ago, and that the borough council have made it quite clear that there was no suggestion of panic? Does my right hon. Friend not realise the bad impression that it makes to interfere with publicity in the courts, particularly in a neighbourhood where many people have suffered bereavement?

Mr. Morrison

I understand the point of view of my right hon. Friend. It would have involved the full discussion of a large amount of detail of what happens at either an air-raid incident or an incident connected with possible air-raid incidents. If that detail were published it would be information useful to the enemy. On balance, I came to the conclusion that it ought not to be published. The learned judge, however, gave his judgment in public, and, to that extent, the public has been informed. I noticed that my right hon. Friend accused me in the Press of hushing up the case. [Interruption.] That is the headline, and that is what he is reported to have said. He knows me well enough to know that I would not hush up a case.

Commander Bower

Is not this only another example of that passion for secrecy, without which we contrived to win the last war in less time than this one?

Mr. Morrison

My hon. and gallant Friend, not for the first time in his life, is quite wrong.

Mr. Austin Hopkinson

Can the right hon. Gentleman give a definite assurance that the intention was not to protect the people mainly responsible?

Mr. Morrison

I assure the hon. Member that there was no wish whatever to protect anybody who might have been criticised if the affair had been public—not in the least. I think that this House knows me well enough to know that I do not protect people if they are guilty of inefficiency or of wrong conduct.