HC Deb 11 April 1951 vol 486 cc1018-20
49. Mr. A. R. W. Low

asked the Minister of Defence which generals and admirals he or the other Service Ministers have reproved for making political speeches in the past three months.

Mr. Shinwell

None, Sir.

Mr. Low

If that is the case, why should it be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to say at a divisional Labour Party meeting, ten days ago, "I am becoming more and more reluctant to speak on public platforms, because it seems to me that all the speaking nowadays is being done by generals and admirals. In fact, I can hardly get a word in edgeways."? Was it not really irresponsible for the right hon. Gentleman to splash about like that?

Mr. Shinwell

I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman would not care to deprive me of an occasional splash. As for my reluctance to speak on public platforms, well, we have to give the Conservative Party a chance sometimes.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been drawn to a speech made by Sir Richard Gale who is in charge of training in the British Army, in which he is alleged to have said in Washington, "We have not had a chance to shoot any bloody Russians so far, so let us have it"? If his attention has been drawn to that, what does he propose to do about it?

Mr. Shinwell

Yes, Sir, my attention has been drawn to the report of a speech alleged to have been made by Sir Richard Gale. There is, I understand, a Question about it on the Order Paper to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, which is to be answered next Tuesday.

Mr. Bellenger

Will my right hon. Friend deny the allegation that he is becoming more and more reluctant to speak on public platforms?

Mr. Shinwell

Well, I did make an exception this morning.

Brigadier Clarke

Does the Minister realise that the country appreciates his reluctance to speak on public platforms?

Mr. Shinwell

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has some reason to say that.

52. Mr. Shepherd

asked the Minister of Defence what specific instructions he proposes to give covering pronouncements by serving officers on questions of policy.

Mr. Shinwell

No fresh instructions are contemplated as this matter is covered by the existing King's Regulations for all three Services.

Mr. Shepherd

Is it not obvious that the regulations are not being obeyed and that these incursions into policy make foreign relations very difficult and also bring within the realm of controversy the Services which ought to be kept out of it?

Mr. Shinwell

If the regulations have not been obeyed, it does not necessarily follow that there is anything wrong with the regulations.

Mr. Snow

Can my right hon. Friend tell us what is the position of British admirals who appear not to hold appointments and yet appear on the Active List, some of whom do not appear to hesitate to write rather controversial letters to "The Times"?

Mr. Shinwell

Obviously, if an officer is retired and is no longer on the active list, we cannot control his speech-making.

Commander Noble

Would the Minister point out that Admirals of the Fleet are never retired?

Mr. Shinwell

Although that is so, they are not actually in the service of His Majesty, and I doubt very much if I could control their utterances.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Does the Minister realise what a strain is put upon some of these military officers when, for 25 years, the Socialist Party and, for five years, His Majesty's Ministers have been denouncing many aspects of military affairs?

Mr. Shinwell

I do not know whether they are suffering from any strain, but they look quite healthy to me.