HC Deb 11 November 1954 vol 532 cc1388-90
25. Mr. Morley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assistance was given by his Department to the United States authorities in the prosecution of Mr. Owen Lattimore; and if he will make a statement.

37. Mr. Wyatt

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the nature of the assistance given in Britain to the United States authorities in the preparation of a legal action against Professor Owen Lattimore; and why this assistance was given.

41. Dr. King

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assistance his Department has given the United States Government in collecting evidence against Owen Lattimore.

44. Mr. Warbey

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to give statutory authority to the arrangement whereby the police in this country give assistance to the police of other countries in making inquiries in criminal cases.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)

I would refer the hon. Members to the answers which I gave to a series of Questions on the subject on 28th October. I would only add that I see no occasion for the introduction of legislation in the sense suggested by the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey).

Mr. Morley

Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that his answer to the previous Questions showed that on two separate occasions British police interrogated British publishers in order to secure evidence which could be used in the prosecution of Mr. Lattimore? Is he aware that the use of the British police to assist political persecution of this kind is very much disliked by the British public, and will he give instructions that this sort of thing is not to occur again?

Major Lloyd-George

The hon. Gentleman will see from my answer that instructions have been given by me which I am certain will make it impossible for this kind of thing to happen again.

Mr. Wyatt

The Minister said that this was an arrangement come to with regard to criminal cases. Surely the Metropolitan Police should have realised that it is not an ordinary part of police duty in a criminal case to ask questions of publishers to find out how many copies of a book have been published. Surely it is within the knowledge of any intelligent Metropolitan police officer that Dr. Lattimore was simply being used as a pawn in a political squabble in the United States of America. No action should have been taken in the first place.

Major Lloyd-George

I can only repeat what I said in answer to the previous Questions, that this was treated as a routine matter.

Mr. Wyatt

It should not have been.

Major Lloyd-George

That may be so, but it was treated as a routine matter. As a result, an instruction was issued which I think will make it impossible for such action to happen again.

Mr. H. Morrison

May we take it that in this case the police officers concerned did not consult the Home Office or the Home Secretary, and is it not the view of the Home Secretary that he should have been consulted? Is it now laid down clearly that in cases of this character the Commissioner, or the officer of the Metropolitan Police concerned, is required to submit the matter to the Home Office for instructions?

Major Lloyd-George

I said in my original answer that the Home Office were not consulted in this matter at all, but I think I can say that the effect of the instructions which have been issued will be to make it impossible for this kind of thing to occur again.

Dr. King

While welcoming the tone of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's answer, may I ask whether he is aware that his previous answers have shown that British police officers assisted in collecting evidence against a man whose only offence is that he had different views about China from other people in America? Does he not agree that that is contrary to the spirit and tradition of the Home Office?

Major Lloyd-George

That point does not arise. The matter was treated as an inquiry into a case of perjury, but should have been referred to a higher level. I can only repeat that instructions have now been given, the effect of which will be to avoid this happening in the future.

Mr. Warbey

Has the right hon. and gallant Gentleman seen the excellent leading article in the "Manchester Guardian" calling attention to the difficulty of determining in regard to perjury and other cases whether these are genuine criminal cases or examples of political persecution? Would it not be better to have these matters defined in a legal document making clear the types of case in which assistance can be given and the exact procedure to be followed?

Major Lloyd-George

I am not a lawyer, but I imagine that that would be an extremely difficult document to draw up. I think it is best to leave the matter as it is now. Any cases of this sort will be referred to the Minister.