HC Deb 21 January 1953 vol 510 cc207-10
Mr. Shinwell (by Private Notice)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has considered the reasons given by the United Kingdom High Commissioner for the recent arrests of German nationals to a Press conference in Western Germany yesterday; if he was consulted before this conference was held; and if the High Commissioner's statement has his approval.

Mr. Eden

The High Commissioner has given no particular reasons for these arrests beyond drawing attention, on the basis of his necessarily preliminary study of some of the many documents seized, to the potential dangers of the Naumann group and to its possible contacts. The House will recall that I explained yesterday that these were the reasons for these arrests. The High Commissioner did not call a Press conference nor issue any state- ment, but he did discuss the matter for background information with three or four correspondents.

The High Commissioner also saw the German Federal Chancellor yesterday in order, as I indicated to this House yesterday, to discuss with him some preliminary results of the investigations still in progress.

I understand that the High Commissioner's first impression is that these preliminary results tend to confirm that the activities of the arrested men constituted a potential danger. I am awaiting an early report from him, but I have not yet been able to study any documents myself. As I told the House yesterday, I will make a full statement of the results of the investigation at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the High Commissioner invited the representatives of two British newspapers and a representative of the B.B.C. to wait upon him, and thereupon disclosed certain facts, or certain allegations, which were not disclosed by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday—in particular, as it leaked out subsequently, that Herr Naumann, who was alleged to be the ringleader of this Nazi conspiracy, had access to confidential documents which were in the possession of Dr. Blücher, who is the Vice-Chancellor in the Adenauer Government?

Was the right hon. Gentleman not aware that these disclosures were about to be made; and if not, who is actually in control of the situation? Is it the High Commissioner or is it the Foreign Office? Will the right hon. Gentleman also say why representatives of other newspapers were excluded from this interview, and who is responsible for the leak?

Mr. Eden

I think I have given the House a perfectly clear and factual account of what happened and the result of the inquiries which I made of the High Commissioner this morning. It is not an unusual or utterly unknown matter for Governments or representatives of Governments or High Commissioners to see two or three members of the Press and give them confidential background information. I am quite clear that I gave to the House yesterday all the information in my possession. I hope the House will acquit me of trying deliberately to conceal information from the House. That has never been my practice.

I said yesterday that as soon as I receive more information I will make it available. That is the position. In point of fact, no aeroplanes have been able to leave Germany with the documents which I have been expecting for several days, owing to the weather conditions. I hope to be able to make a fuller statement next week, but I do not think it is unreasonable that I should ask the House to let me see the documents before I make statements upon them.

Mr. Shinwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I, personally, acquit him unreservedly of any desire to conceal information from the House? What I am suggesting to him is that he was not placed in possession of the information which the High Commissioner has. May I ask him, moreover, in reference to his statement in reply to supplementary questions yesterday that his confidence in the Bonn Government had not diminished. how he reconciles that with the disclosure made by the High Commissioner that the alleged leader of this conspiracy had access to documents in the possession of the Vice-Chancellor in the Adenauer Government?

Mr. Eden

In reply to the second part of that question, I think perhaps I might have had notice of it, but I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the position is that Naumann was on an office mailing list for party literature, which may or may not be a desirable position in which to be. That appeared to be the basis of the stories in question, and nothing more sinister than that. He was on somebody else's mailing list: he was not supplying information.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I would point out that we have been promised a fuller statement when the right hon. Gentleman receives further information. We ought to proceed with the business.