HC Deb 19 February 1952 vol 496 cc7-9
7. Mr. George Wigg

asked the Secretary of State for War whether the official statements made by Colonel Ambrose Keevil, Commander. Mid and East Surrey Home Guard Sector, to the effect that there would be a very severe screening of all men who apply to join the Home Guard, were made with his knowledge and consent; and how the checking and screening will be carried out.

Mr. Head

There is no intention of carrying out any special procedure in respect of candidates for enrolment in the Home Guard. The records of certain Home Guard officers and men who may in the course of their duties have access to secret documents or plans will be checked: this conforms with the present procedure in the Services. I had no prior knowledge of Colonel Keevil's statement.

Mr. Wigg

Can the Minister explain how it was that Colonel Keevil came to call this Press conference and that such wide publicity was given to it, particularly bearing in mind that the conference covered the right hon. Gentleman's own constituency?

Mr. Head

As a matter of detail, it was not held in my constituency—

Mr. Wigg


Mr. Head

I cannot, of course, in any way prevent, nor would I wish to, local commanders from discussing matters with the Press. At the same time, obviously I cannot be responsible for everything that such officers may say.

Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the country will be relieved to hear that severe screening is not taking place as it is in the case of the National Union of Railwaymen?

Mr. E. Shinwell

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he disclaims responsibility for the calling of Press conferences on matters affecting the War Office and organisations pertaining to the War Office by officers in the Home Guard?

Mr. Head

I in no way disclaimed responsibility. What I said was that I cannot possibly know on every occasion when such conferences are called. In my opinion it is a good thing if officers responsible for organisations of this type keep in touch with the Press, but I cannot possibly have pre-knowledge of what they will say.

Sir Waldron Smithers

Is it not encouraging to find that someone at least realises the danger of Communist infiltration and is prepared to fight it?

Mr. Wigg

Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that when Colonel Keevil called this conference he was calling it in his capacity as a Home Guard commander and not in his capacity as President of the East Surrey Conservative Association?

Hon. Members


Mr. Head

If the hon. Gentleman is insinuating that this is some Tory appointment, let me say that in actual fact Colonel Keevil was earmarked for this post on 3rd September last. I am satisfied that he called the conference entirely in his capacity as Sector Commander of the Home Guard.

Mr. Charles Doughty

Can my right hon. Friend say if there is any objection to officers taking steps to see that they do not serve with disloyal people under their command?

10. Mr. Wigg

asked the Secretary of State for War the number of registrations for the Home Guard, men and women being shown separately, received by 21st January, 1952; and on the latest day for which the figures are available.

Mr. Head

Home Guard registration cards received by my Department numbered 3,354 by 21st January, 1952, and 28,120 by 18th February, 1952. These were all sent in by men.

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