HC Deb 20 October 1954 vol 531 cc1199-201
43. Mr. H. Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware of the statement made in the United States of America by the Governor of Hong Kong criticising the recent visit to China of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West, and whether he will instruct officials of his Department to refrain from political controversy.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have seen Press reports of the statement to which the right hon. Member refers. Whilst I agree that it is undesirable that Governors, though they are not, of course, officials of the Colonial Office, should engage in political controversy affecting the United Kingdom, I do not feel that any instructions to them are necessary.

Mr. Wilson

In view of this case, would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it would be better for the Governor of Hong Kong to spend his time governing Hong Kong instead of going to the United States on lecture tours arranged by Her Majesty's Government and, on arriving there, beginning by indulging in political controversy of this kind?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

In view of the difficulties of Hong Kong, I think a visit by the Governor to the United States is very helpful. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman did not actually read the details of what the Governor said. I did. He said: I did say that I thought the visit was unfortunate. I also said that I thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was responsible and sincere. In reply to a further question as to whether I thought the same of the others, I replied that I did not know them and had never met them, and therefore I was not in a position to say.

Mr. J. Griffiths

The Governor is not just an official, but he is appointed by the Secretary of State. Would not the right hon. Gentleman say quite plainly that he deprecates any Governor making comments on British politics?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

If the right hon. Gentleman will read my answer he will see that I said that it is undesirable that Governors should engage in political controversy.

Mr. Alport

If my right hon. Friend accepts the principle suggested by the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths), would he not agree that it should be reciprocal and that politicians should refrain from making unnecessary and critical comments on Governors?

Mr. S. Silverman

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Governor of Hong Kong, like the Governor of any other Colonial Territory, is Representative and Vice-Regent in that area of Her Majesty, and that if the Governor goes in that capacity to any other country he goes cloaked with that authority and prestige?

Is it not also the case that if he uses that occasion in order to make political statements and criticisms of other people he is doing the one thing which has always been regarded under our constitution as wrong, that is, to drag the Crown into political controversy?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I would not dissent from what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I would remind the House, in fairness to the Governor, that he was no doubt approached from the point of view of the reaction in the Colony which he governs. While I stick to what I said, that it is undesirable, that point should be borne in mind.

Mr. Assheton

Is it not extremely important that the people of the United States of America should appreciate the great difficulties now of Hong Kong owing to the embargo and that it is extraordinarily valuable that those people should be well-informed?