§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Harold Macmillan)
It can rarely have happened in our long Parliamentary history that the political head of a Department should have had to unfold to the House of Commons so painful a story as that which it is our duty to consider today. To understand—though not, of course, to excuse—this story, it is necessary to cast our minds back to the 1930s and to recall the kind of background against which the two principal characters grew up.
At that time all kinds of violent opinions were being expressed. The circumstances of the Spanish Civil War, with Fascists and Communists backing the rival forces, divided British and, indeed, European opinion acutely. This had a particularly disturbing effect upon young people, many of whom, we remember, thought it their duty actually to take part in these fierce revolutionary struggles.
When Hitler had made his pact with Stalin and the Second World War began, some of those who had espoused extremist views found that their ideological beliefs exerted a pull which was to prove stronger than their patriotism. This clash of loyalties was buried in 1941 by our alliance with Russia. But, when the war ended and there came an estrangement between this country and Communist Russia, it revived.
Thus it was that men could be found in Britain who could put the interests of another country before those of their own, and could commit the horrible crime of treachery. This occurred not only among criminals and degenerates, but in men holding high technical and scientific posts, among men of philosophic and literary attainments, and, finally, in these two cases, the subject of this debate, in the Foreign Service.
There are many on both sides of the House who, as Ministers or as private Members, have seen the work of the 1484 Foreign Service at home and abroad. I know they will agree with me when I say how fortunate we are in this country to have a Foreign Service of the highest quality, giving the most loyal and devoted service to the Crown and to the nation. I think that all of us today are feeling how severe is the blow that has been struck against its reputation. Our Foreign Service regards this case as a personal wound, as when something of the kind strikes at a family, or a ship, or a regiment. We must recognise, too, that this case has caused a profound shock to Parliament and to the general public, both at home and abroad.
Before dealing with the actual handling of this affair, I want to say a few words on the subject of ministerial responsibility. When what is known as the Maclean and Burgess case was entering its final phase, with the findings of the Australian Royal Commission and the publication of the White Paper, I made it clear that full ministerial responsibility must be taken by those Ministers, past and present, who presided over or were connected with the Foreign Office during all this period. This was not a mere act of quixotism or chivalry; it is a plain constitutional truth. It will be a sorry day when we try to elevate something called the Foreign Office or the Treasury or any other Department of State into a separate entity enjoying a kind of life, responsibility and power of its own, not controlled by Ministers and not subject to full Parliamentary authority.
Ministers, and Ministers alone, must bear the responsibility for what goes wrong. After all, they are not slow to take credit for anything that goes right. This does not mean that they have to accept responsibility for wrongful acts on the part of their officials of which they have no prior knowledge. But in discussing this case it is quite wrong to assert that the Foreign Office, if by that is meant "officials" made decisions of their own. Ministers are responsible and, in fact, took all the important decisions. Moreover, they took those decisions in full knowledge of all the relevant facts so far as they were known at the time.
The House will realise that both the Opposition and the present Government share the responsibility. The main acts in the drama took place while the Opposition were in power. The investigation 1485 into the leak, the narrowing of the suspicion down to Maclean, and the escape of the two traitors—that Government took a number of steps before, during and after their flight.
When the present Government succeeded in October, 1951, much had already been done to investigate the whole circumstances of the case and to improve our security measures. From that point, the responsibility rests with them.
The White Paper published on 23rd September has given a short, but, I believe, correct and objective, account of the story of these two men and of the various incidents that surround this strange drama. I have seen a large number of criticisms in the Press and elsewhere arising from the White Paper, and I fear it will be necessary to deal with them in some detail.
First, there is the general question of the amount of information given to the public. We are accused of having said too little and too late. Secondly, there are the detailed criticisms of the way the affair was dealt with throughout its various stages. The chief points at issue are, I think, as follows.
There is the question of the original appointments of Maclean and Burgess divergent as they were. There is the question of their progress in the Service. There is the question of whether, in view of certain incidents in their careers, Maclean and Burgess should have been dismissed the Service, or, at least, whether they should have been posted as they were. There is the question of the watch kept upon Maclean when he became suspect. There is the question of the escape of Maclean, and how he got warning, and whether he should have been prevented from leaving England taking Burgess with him. There is the question of the defection of Mrs. Maclean. There is a general criticism of the incompetence or inefficiency of the security measures taken both by the Foreign Office and by the Security Service.
I will try to deal with all these if I can, but before I do so perhaps the House will allow me to make one or two preliminary observations.
It has been stated that security in the Foreign Office ought to be in the hands of 1486 the Security Service. It is argued that Foreign Service officers who are dealing with security are amateurs or are doing a job for which they have no background or training. At present, as the House perhaps knows, each public Department is responsible for its own security—the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Supply, and all the other public Departments. The officials who are for the time being in charge of this work are in the closest and most constant touch with the Security Service and continually seek their advice, and I know of no case where their advice has been disregarded.
It is true that the Foreign Office officials—it is true for the Ministry of Supply or other Departments—are amateurs in the sense that they do not spend their whole careers upon this job. Nevertheless, this has a corresponding advantage, for it means that an increasing number of officers in the Service, both at home and abroad, gain some experience of security work. Security work in the Foreign Service really falls into two categories. Many hon. Members will know this well. There is what one might call the physical and technical side—the boxes, the keys, the ciphers, the precautions against listening in apparatus, and all the rest of that side of it.
Then there is what one might call the human side, involving personalities. It is argued that members of the Service itself have a natural reluctance to report adversely on or to take action against their own colleagues. But I believe—I hope the House, on reflection, will share this view—that, broadly speaking, security as well as efficiency is better safeguarded in this way and a due sense of responsibility is thus maintained.
For my part, I am not much attracted by the only other alternative, that there should be a kind of N.K.V.D. or Ogpu system in our public offices; in other words, that everybody, wherever he goes and whatever he does, high and low, should be watched by an appropriate officer of a police department.
§ Mr. Percy Daises (East Ham, North): rose—
§ Mr. Macmillan
I have a long speech to make. Perhaps I might be allowed to develop what I have to say in detail.
§ Mr. Daines
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us the status of the chief officer in charge of security at the Foreign Office?
§ Mr. Macmillan
The Permanent Under-Secretary, the Head of the Department. The status of the officer upon whom this would mainly devolve would be that of an Under-Secretary.
Having made that point, there is just one other point that I should like to make before I come to the details. All through the criticisms which have been made—I do not complain of them—I have felt a sense of impatience, and, indeed, natural impatience, that action of a precautionary kind was not taken or could not have been taken when it might still have been effective. I am bound to say that I think some of these complaints are based on a misapprehension of the rights of a citizen in a free society in time of peace. I shall revert to this point at a later stage, but I should like to mark it here.
I would only venture to add this warning. Action against employees, whether of the State or anybody else, arising from suspicion and not from proof may begin with good motives, and it may avert serious inconveniences or even disasters, but, judging from what has happened in some other countries, such a practice soon degenerates into the satisfaction of personal vendettas or a general system of tyranny, all in the name of public safety.
Now I should like to say a word on the question of the handling of publicity. It is said that the statements made either by Foreign Office spokesmen or by Ministers during all these years have been disingenuous and obscure. Why, it is asked, was not more information given earlier in greater volume and spontaneously? Of course, I do not intend to try to convince the House that everything that has been done by myself or my predecessors has been absolutely right and prudent in every detail. Happily, there is very little experience of this sort of thing in our country, and successive Ministers have not found it easy to strike just the right balance between saying too little and saying too much.
I am sure, however, that they have all been influenced by one over-riding consideration. Naturally, the disappearance of the two men opened up a large new 1488 field of investigation for the Security Service. These inquiries continued for a long time; indeed, for several years. At any stage while they were in progress a full statement would have indicated to the world the degree to which they were meeting with success. Consequently, as anyone with any experience of this kind of work knows, the investigation itself might have been compromised. If one is working on a line which may lead to success and perhaps to prosecution, the less one talks about it the better and that is what we meant by the paragraph in the White Paper when we said:Counter-espionage depends for its success on the maximum secrecy of its methods. Nor is it desirable at any moment to let the other side know how much has been discovered or guess at what means have been used to discover it.This governed the problem of the timing of public statements.
Unless we were to publish a kind of running commentary such as would have been highly prejudicial to the work of the Security Service, we had to decide on the right moment for telling what we knew of the story. Ministers may have decided wisely or unwisely, but the paramount consideration—and I want to emphasise it—was for facilitating the work of investigation in its widest sense and, above all—and perhaps this is the most important point—of not endangering valuable sources.
It is worth looking back to the way in which the case developed. When Maclean and Burgess fled in May, 1951, the first thought of those responsible had to be not how much they could tell the public, but what they could do to minimise the harm that had been done. The Security Service still had extensive inquiries to make, not merely to reconstruct the story but to improve the Service. But when Petrov defected on 3rd April, 1954, a whole new vista on the case was opened up.
On 3rd May, 1954, the Australian Government set up a Royal Commission and it was clear that the hearing of Petrov's testimony in many matters—in many matters quite unconnected with Maclean and Burgess—was to be a vital part of the work of that Commission. From then on his credibility as a witness was to be under examination. We knew in April, 1954, that the Australian Government intended to set up a Royal Commission. 1489 When, therefore the Press announced on 28th April, 1954, that Petrov possessed information bearing on the case of Burgess and Maclean, we were unable to confirm or deny the truth of that information. The statement was made in the first place on 28th April that his information was hearsay information, which, of course, it was, and was to be treated with reserve until a fuller account had been received from Australia.
Petrov let it be known that if, as soon as he said anything to the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation it was to be given publicity in this country, he would then refuse to say any more at all. This is a most important point. Since it was essential that Petrov should give his evidence before the Royal Commission, it was decided not to make any further announcements bearing on his testimony. The Report of the Royal Commission is dated 22nd August, 1955.
It was laid before the Australian Parliament and first became public on 14th September, 1955. It then became possible to answer questions which had hitherto remained unanswered and that was done by the Foreign Office spokesman in reply to questions arising out of an article in the "People" on Sunday, 18th September and the White Paper published nine days after the publication of the Royal Commission's Report.
Having made those first points, I should now like to deal with the specific questions which I mentioned earlier. Since the first three all related to the official careers of Burgess and Maclean and their progress in the Foreign Service, I will deal with them together. I should first emphasise, however, that the circumstances in which the two men entered the Service were very different. Maclean came into the Diplomatic Service before the war by a very severe competitive examination, in which he showed conspicuous ability. I have heard it said that the Civil Service Commission Board, who interview all candidates for the Service, ought to have known of Maclean's reputation for extreme Left-wing opinions while he was an undergraduate. In fact, his college authorities gave him an exceptionally good report in which no mention was made of his Left-wing views. But even supposing that the Board had known that 1490 he had expressed Communist opinions as an undergraduate—
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. In the nomenclature of politics, "Left-wing" is a connotation for this side of the House. Can I ask you, therefore, Mr. Speaker, to ask the Foreign Secretary to use plain English and refer to Communist affiliations and not Left-wing affiliations?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I said extreme Left-wing, which I think was a fair point. Perhaps the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will wait for what I was about to say.
I was about to ask the House, whether supposing the Board had known that he had expressed even Communist sympathies as an undergraduate, in those days would the House have felt that such a man should automatically be excluded from the public service? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Would the House not have regarded those leanings as one of the aberrations of youth which he might be expected to live down? It is not fair to bring in an atmosphere of today when judging events of the 1930's. It is important to realise that until and after Maclean's appointment in Cairo in 1948 the quality of his work was not only good, but outstanding among his contemporaries.
During his first fourteen years in the Service his conduct gave rise to no adverse comment. His behaviour in Cairo, which culminated in a sudden application for sick leave, at the time was interpreted as the result of a prolonged period of overwork and strain. He was regarded as a valuable member of the Service and there was every reason to suppose and to hope that he might make a full recovery from what appeared to be a sort of nervous breakdown.
The Foreign Office, like, I think, any other decent employer in the circumstances—it should be remembered that at the time there was no suspicion of any kind as to his loyalty—tried to see that a man who had served for fourteen years got the right medical treatment and had a chance of recovery. It is quite easy to say that our trusting him in that position was wrong. Perhaps it was. It is very easy to be wise after the event. But he was given a second chance, and at the end of five months' medical treatment 1491 was put at the head of the American Department.
This Department in the Foreign Office deals principally with Latin-American affairs. Major questions relating to the United States are dealt with regionally—for instance, N.A.T.O. affairs would come under the Western Organisations Department, Middle East affairs would come under the Middle Eastern Department. The United States questions which are dealt with by the American Department are largely routine, welfare of forces, visitors, and the like. The appointment implied no promotion for Maclean and provided an opportunity to watch his conduct and his health.
At this time, may I remind the House, no suspicion rested on him. As soon as he fell under suspicion, in the middle of April, 1951, one of those informed was Sir Roger Makins, now our distinguished and highly successful Ambassador in Washington. Sir Roger was then his immediate chief, being the Superintending Under-Secretary of the group into which this Department fell. It is, however, quite untrue, as has been suggested, that Sir Roger Makins was in any way responsible for the conduct of an inquiry, or that he checked or cleared Maclean. It is not the case at all and such a suggestion is false and grossly unfair to Sir Roger Makins. That is the career of Maclean up to date. Burgess's career—
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am coming to that later. It is in great detail. That is Maclean's career up to date, how he got in, how promoted, and what was his career up to the date of the suspicion.
Burgess's career in the Foreign Service was, of course, totally different from that of Maclean's. He was taken on as temporary Press Officer in the News Department of the Foreign Office, which was then housed in the Ministry of Information, in 1944. His previous career, to the extent that it was then known, gave what seemed to be a respectable background. He had served with the B.B.C. for six years.
From early 1939 until the end of 1940, Burgess worked in the special Department which, on the outbreak of war, was 1492 responsible for propaganda to neutral countries. The appointment to the News Department was temporary and did not involve establishment. In 1945, he took advantage of the opportunity open to temporary officers to apply for establishment in the junior branch of the Foreign Service. He appeared before a Civil Service Commission Board which duly recommended him for establishment.
In fairness to the Board, I ought to say that it was impressed by Burgess's excellent academic record as well as by the good reports which it received covering his employment in the B.B.C. and in the Foreign Office News Department. However, I must also say that we now know that Burgess's work while with the wartime Department, to which I have referred, had been unsatisfactory. It is, unfortunately, the case that during the war—and perhaps one can hardly wonder at it—many wartime Departments did not keep good records about their temporary staff.
The fact remains that neither the Foreign Office nor the Civil Service Commission knew of Burgess's failings. This process by which he was established was not completed until October, 1947. In the meantime, the late Mr. Hector McNeil, who was then Minister of State, asked that Burgess be appointed to his private office as a personal assistant because of his experience in drafting and general publicity work, and this was done in December, 1946.
Burgess proved useful to Mr. McNeil who recommended him for promotion to the senior branch of the Foreign Service, but as there was a good deal of doubt about his suitability for the senior branch, and as he had little experience of the ordinary duties of the Foreign Office it was decided that he should be given a thorough trial on routine work in the Far Eastern Department.
While he was working in that Department, allegations were made that during a period of leave abroad, late in 1949, he had been guilty of a serious indiscretion about intelligence matters. The charges were fully investigated by a disciplinary board, and he was severely reprimanded, informed that he would be transferred and that his prospects of promotion would be diminished.
1493 There was much discussion as to his future post. It was desirable to send him to a post where his general suitability for the Foreign Service could be properly tested. It was, therefore, decided to send him to Washington for a period of trial on routine work.
There have been suggestions that, having been guilty of serious indiscretions, he was promoted. That is not so. He remained, as he had been since his establishment, a member of the fourth grade of the junior branch of the Service. In Washington, Burgess was a failure. The Ambassador reported unfavourably both upon his office work and upon his behaviour outside, and in May, 1951, four years after his establishment and nine months after his appointment at Washington, he was recalled, and the conclusion was reached that he would have to leave the service. Until the day of Burgess's disappearance there were no grounds for suspecting that he was working against the security of the State. He had been indiscreet, but, then, indiscretion is not generally the characteristic of a secret agent.
There is one further point that I think, in fairness to the late Mr. McNeil, I ought to mention. I observe that a former Minister and Privy Councillor recently stated that he had warned McNeil about Burgess when he became his personal assistant. I am bound to say that I feel very sorry about the timing of this particular revelation.
So much for the official careers of the two men. I think that I have said enough to show that it simply is not true that they were protected by senior officials. It may be argued that their superiors ought to have known more about them, and I shall have something to say later about the subsequent improvements in the Foreign Office system of reports on the staff.
I must now deal with the other questions which I posed about the escape of the two men, the competence of the measures taken to keep Maclean under observation and how he got warning of it. To understand the problem, I must first say something of the background. It was in January, 1949—a very important date—that a report was received that certain British information had become available to the Soviet authorities 1494 a few years earlier. However, there was no indication as to how it had become available. The leak might not even have been from British sources.
Diligent inquiries were begun immediately, but the field of possibilities to be covered was very large. Further evidence—which was not available when the investigation began—gradually came to light, and it is, in fact, greatly to the credit of the security authorities that the circumstance in which that information had leaked to the Soviet Government became known at all. I cannot give the details, but it was an almost incredible act of skill that, given the magnitude of the task, how broad the possible field was and the paucity of the information available, the field was gradually narrowed down in the course of two years to one suspect, and that the right one.
The House will not expect me to give full details of the investigations, but I hope that it will accept my assurance that they were pursued with diligence and efficiency. But, even when suspicion narrowed down to Maclean, the evidence was both inconclusive and circumstantial. The best, perhaps the only, chance of obtaining evidence which could be used to support a prosecution lay in obtaining admissions from him. But there was no firm starting point for an interview with him. It was highly desirable to obtain further information about his contacts and activities which could be used as a reason for questioning him.
A watch was, therefore, put upon him for the primary purpose—indeed, the sole purpose—of securing such information. As was said in the White Paper, everything depended upon the interview, and its success depended also on the use of an element of surprise. If he were alerted to the fact that he was under investigation or suspected it, all hope of obtaining the essential confirmatory evidence would probably have gone for good.
For that reason, the decision not to watch him at Tatsfield was deliberately taken after a careful survey had been made of the technical problems involved in keeping him under observation in the neighbourhood of his home. The conclusion was that the risk that he would be put on his guard would be too great. Obviously, it is far more difficult in the country to conceal from a man the fact 1495 that he is being watched than it is to watch his movements or his contacts in London.
I should, perhaps, remind the House that in the case of Fuchs the Security Service decided to take exactly the same risk, and they were justified in the result. The object of the watch was to obtain evidence of contact or of something that he did that would be conclusive against Maclean. It was in no sense its purpose to prevent him leaving the country. It is perhaps worth remembering that there is no power to prevent a man against whom no charge can be brought from leaving this country. Whether this gap in our security ought to be closed is another question, and I will come to it in a moment.
§ Mr. David Logan (Liverpool, Scotland Division)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain how two men in responsible positions and guilty of an aggravated offence, if proved, both got leave of absence at the end of the week, and why both of them, when they were supposed to be guilty of treason, were allowed to leave the country?
§ Mr. Macmillan
The first point was, of course, that to have refused weekend leave—which would have been very unusual—would have put the man on his guard all the more. And as the object was to try to catch him in an action which would justify a charge, it was very important not to refuse leave or any other normal advantage given to the servant; and, as I have tried to explain, there is no power under the law of England to prevent a man leaving against whom the Executive is not prepared to produce a charge. Whether there ought to be I will come to in a moment, but that was the law as it then stood, and, indeed, as it stands today.
Nevertheless, it seems more than probable that Maclean somehow discovered that he was under observation. How, I do not know—we do not know. We do not know for certain. The arrest of Fuchs on 2nd February, 1950, may well have caused Maclean to wonder whether his activities in America might not eventually be uncovered. Looking back on it, we may wonder whether this event contributed to his breakdown in Cairo in April, 1950. Assuming he was suffering 1496 from a general uneasiness on this score, it would need only the slightest indication that the circle was narrowing to put him on his guard. He would have been particularly sensitive to any hint, direct or indirect, that he was under investigation. Although, therefore, the circumstances of the disappearance are certainly explainable in terms of what is called a "tip off," it is quite possible that Maclean may have taken flight with Burgess because one or other of them noticed circumstances, or a combination of circumstances—to which they would have been particularly sensitive, of course—which may have aroused their suspicions.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Did not the withdrawal of the secret documents give that "tip off," and in view of that why have we to assume that there was a third traitor here at all?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am coming to that point. That is another possibility, and I am trying to deal with all the possibilities.
Although, as I say, the circumstances are explanatory in the terms of a "tip off," they are not necessarily the effect of that. That is what I am trying to say. However, the possibility of a "tip off" had to be seriously considered and searching and protracted investigations into this possibility have been undertaken, and are proceeding even at the present time.
In this connection, the name of one man has been mentioned in the House of Commons, but not outside. I feel that all hon. Members would expect me to refer to him by name and to explain the position. He is Mr. H. A. R. Philby, who was a temporary First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington from October, 1949, to June, 1951, and had been privy to much of the investigation into the leakage. Mr. Philby had been a friend of Burgess from the time when they were fellow undergraduates at Trinity College, Cambridge. Burgess had been accommodated with Philby and his family at the latter's home in Washington from August, 1950, to April, 1951; and, of course, it will be realised that at no time before he fled was Burgess under suspicion.
It is now known that Mr. Philby had Communist associates during and after his university days. In view of the circumstances, he was asked, in July, 1951, 1497 to resign from the Foreign Service. Since that date his case has been the subject of close investigation. No evidence has been found to show that he was responsible for warning Burgess or Maclean. While in Government service he carried out his duties ably and conscientiously. I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of this country, or to identify him with the so-called "third man," if, indeed, there was one.
As regards others whose names have been in any way associated with this affair, I have made, or caused to be made, and studied myself, the most careful, rigorous and impartial investigation into each case which I have been able to have made; and I can assure the House that nobody is being in any way shielded. I am sure that my predecessors would not have hesitated to have taken the appropriate action, if they had found evidence of guilt, but, in fact, no such evidence was found. A number of Foreign Service officers who had associated, as office colleagues or outside, with Maclean and Burgess were examined by the Foreign Office Security Service. If, of course, any evidence not already available can be produced by anybody either inside or outside this House, I trust that it will be made available to the authorities.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
It is said in a newspaper this morning—though I appreciate entirely what the Foreign Secretary has said—that Philby and his family have disappeared. Does he regard that a matter of significance in all the circumstances of the case?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I have no reason to believe that they have. In fact, I think it is very improbable that they have.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
It may be that Philby has gone into hiding because of the scandalous publicity arising from certain statements.
§ Mr. Macmillan
Well, I was trying to state the case as fairly and as absolutely accurately as I can. I must emphasise, however, that on the important question of what decided the two men to escape we really have, as the hon. Member has suggested, very little evidence.
1498 As stated in the White Paper, arrangements were made to keep certain highly classified material from Maclean, but these arrangements were not as ham-handed or crude as some people may believe. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that in spite of all the precautions. Maclean—whom we now know was an experienced agent—may have become aware of them.
Suspicion has also been cast on those who were aware of the decision of the then Foreign Secretary that Maclean should be interrogated. That decision was taken on 25th May, 1951, but the evidence of Petrov suggested that the flight of the two men was planned well before that date and, therefore, that really answers the case of any suspicion falling upon those who were privy to the decision of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Sidney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I understood from the right hon. Gentleman's account of the matter earlier that right up to the day when Burgess fled this country there was no suspicion against him at all and there was no investigation on security grounds. If I have that right, can the right hon. Gentleman then say why Burgess should run away?
§ Mr. Macmillan
Well, the fact that there was no suspicion on the part of the authorities against him does not mean that he may not have been conscious of his own guilt, and, therefore, thought that the best thing was to be off. I am just stating that there was not any suspicion against him. I think that that deals with that matter. I have been asked for full details, and I think that I ought to give them.
There is then the question of Mrs. Maclean. It is said that she ought to have been prevented from going to Switzerland to live with her mother, Mrs. Dunbar. It may be said that it was naive to rely on Mrs. Maclean's assurance, and her mother's assurance, that they would keep in touch with the Security Service; and on Mrs. Maclean's alleged desire to educate the children out of England.
However, the point is that Mrs. Maclean is really of little importance. Anything she knew before Maclean left she must have got from him. She had no means of obtaining any information after he left, and whether she remained in this 1499 country or left made little difference. She could do no particular good in England; she could do no particular harm abroad. Again, the over-riding fact remains that there is no power under the law of England to prevent her from leaving this country.
Hon. Members will ask what lessons have been learned and what steps have been taken—that really is the vital point—to try to ensure that there can be no repetition of such a deplorable story. This leads me to the question of security checks. Since 1945, a check has regularly been made on all new entrants into the Foreign Office and all new temporary employees. This check is made to ensure that no adverse security record is held against candidates for employment.
Since 1945, all officers already employed have been so checked, but it is acknowledged that this check is not adequate—what is called the negative check—since it will only reveal persons who have already come to the notice—unfavourable notice, if you like—of the security authorities. Indeed, when applied to Maclean and Burgess, it revealed nothing about the subversive political associations of their early days. From 1951 onwards, it was recognised that more must be done to check the reliability of persons holding important positions in the public service.
At the beginning of 1952, a regular system of positive vetting was introduced. This procedure entails detailed research into the whole background of the officer concerned, including his school and university career and any previous employment before joining the Foreign Service. In a large number of cases, personal inquiries are made of university tutors, past employers and others who have personal knowledge of the candidate. Since 1952, about 900 cases, involving the senior, junior and clerical branches of the Foreign Service, have been examined. So far, there have been four cases in the Foreign Service in which an officer's political activities and associations have led to his leaving the Service altogether. In about half-a-dozen other cases it has been considered prudent to move officers to other work of less importance to the national security, or to accept their resignations.
This positive vetting procedure is not confined to the Foreign Service. It is 1500 now operated in all Government Departments having access to classified material involving the security of the State. Immediately after the disappearance of Maclean and Burgess, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, who was then Foreign Secretary, set up a committee to look into all aspects of the security arrangements in the Foreign Service. The committee was an official one, and it may perhaps be criticised on that account, but I think that it was a wise act of the right hon. Gentleman, who chose officials singularly well suited to their task—men with great records of devotion to the public service. The committee was presided over by Sir Alexander Cadogan, and Sir Nevile Bland and Sir Norman Brook, Secretary to the Cabinet, were the other members.
The committee reported in November, 1951, approving the security check, including the plans for positive vetting which had already been prepared. It recommended that vetting should be extended to all members of the senior branches and the senior grades of the junior branches of the Foreign Service. In fact, the present practice of the Foreign Service goes beyond that recommendation, since many more junior grades, which must inevitably be employed on highly classified work, are positively vetted. The committee considered not only political unreliability in itself, but the problem of character defects, which might lay an officer open to blackmail, or otherwise undermine his loyalty and sense of responsibility.
Shortly after the disappearance of Maclean and Burgess, and before the Cadogan Committee reported, fresh instructions had been issued by the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office to heads of missions and other senior officials impressing upon them the need to watch in particular the forms of behaviour among their staff likely to sap an officer's discretion or sense of responsibility or his public duty, or to expose him to undue influence or blackmail or to heighten in undue measure the tension of his existence. The committee commented on these instructions with approval and emphasised that not only the heads of missions but some junior officers in charge of sections throughout the Foreign Service, and, indeed, in other services, ought to be reminded of their 1501 responsibility for the security and personal reliability of the staffs serving under them, and instructions were issued in this sense.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question on vetting? Did he say that there was no vetting at the Foreign Office before 1945; that is to say, between 1939 and 1945 officials were not submitted to political vetting to which other people who came into the Government service had to submit?
§ Mr. Macmillan
I said it was of a negative kind. It was merely said, "Have you got anything against this man?" and the point of the positive vetting is diligent research into the previous records. In the old days, we should have been rather shocked at positive vetting, but we have had to accept it as one of the necessities of present conditions.
I want to refer to a point to which I have seen some allusion made—recruitment for the Foreign Service. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman is to raise the matter, because I saw something in one of the newspapers this morning which made me think that he might intend to do so. It is said that recruitment is kept to a closed circle, and that its members are taken too narrowly from one social group. I think I should remind the House exactly what has happened about the Foreign Service. There is so much going on that it is always difficult to remember, and the public memory is short.
During the war, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, then Foreign Secretary, gave great thought to the question of the future of the Foreign Service. He proposed a scheme to his colleagues in the Coalition Government on which much labour was spent, and this scheme made certain radical changes. The scheme was set out in a White Paper, and certain arrangements under it required an Order in Council and a Bill. All this was under the Coalition Government in 1943.
The Leader of the Opposition, the deputy Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Bevin, who subsequently became Foreign Secretary, held high positions in the Coalition Government. After the war, Mr. Bevin succeeded as Foreign Secretary 1502 and held that office, if I remember rightly, for five years. He was certainly not the man to be unduly impressed by the outward semblance of things; he went to the inner core. He was not a defender of privilege, and, at the same time, was not a man to yield to prejudice. It fell to him to implement the scheme which had been laid down by the Act of 1943. If he had not been satisfied with it, I am sure that in his five years at the Foreign Office he would not have hesitated to propose some amendment or alteration. Actually, he felt for the Foreign Service a loyalty and devotion which has been amply rewarded by the respect and affection in which his name will always be held at the Foreign Office.
It may be worth emphasising what were the major points of the Eden-Bevin reforms, if I may call them that. First, the amalgamation of the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service with the Consular Service and the Commercial Diplomatic Service into a single whole. That was the first big point. Secondly, the reorganisation of the arrangements for recruitment and training with a view to opening the service to anyone with sufficient qualifications. I ought to add, for there has been much misunderstanding on this point, that the work of selecting recruits for all except the most junior grades of the Service has for a long time been in the hands of the Civil Service Commissioners. I want to emphasise this. The Foreign Service is not a service renewing itself by co-option. Its new members have for a long time been chosen by an outside body.
It is sometimes said that the Foreign Service, like the rest of the Civil Service, is a sort of closed shop, that its failures are protected and that there is no means of getting rid of incompetent or unsuitable people. I would, however, point out, that since the introduction of the Foreign Service Act, 1943, members of the Foreign Service have not enjoyed the same degree of security as that of the rest of the Civil Service, for this Act introduced arrangements more like those of the fighting Services, which provide for compulsory retirement of established members who do not make sufficient progress to justify their retention or promotion. Fifty-nine officers have been retired under this Act in the last ten years. The House will also observe that the new scheme for the conduct of the Service and the amalgamation and other 1503 conditions applied not merely to new entrants but to existing officers who became subject to the new conditions as to postings, promotion and retirement.
The House will see that the remodelling of the Foreign Service was initiated by a Conservative Foreign Secretary and, after exhaustive inquiry, by a Coalition Government. It was implemented by a Labour Foreign Secretary only ten years ago in a Parliament which, with all its faults or merits, cannot be accused—I am speaking of the Parliament of 1945—of being too prejudiced in favour of the past or standing too rigidly upon ancient ways. Therefore, it does not seem to me that a case for a further inquiry into the recruitment and organisation of the Foreign Service has been made out.
Now, with regard to the Security Service and the Maclean case there is one point that I should like to emphasise. I spoke just now of how this information was got and how it had to be sifted. The information originally available necessitated a search in a field of about 6,000 people. That is to say, on the technical character of how this was got, there were 6,000 people each of whom might have been the man. These the Security Service eventually narrowed down to one. That in this case, unlike the Fuchs case they were unable to obtain sufficient evidence to justify a charge is, of course, to be regretted.
The difficulties in our system of law are very real. Of the skill, perseverance and loyalty of the Security Service there can be no doubt. I should like to add this tribute. It is indeed remarkable that we are able to recruit men of such high character and attainments. The rewards are not very large; the responsibilities are very great. After all, most of us gain some satisfaction in life not only from doing a job well but from the public acknowledgment of success. These men are cut off from all that. They work in secret. Most of their successes—and there are, indeed, successes—must be kept quiet. Any failure hits the headlines. For this service, then, not fame but patriotism is the spur and the reward.
On the more general aspects of security I should like to add this: I am satisfied, and I hope the House will be satisfied, that all these new arrangements which 1504 have been made have enormously strengthened the security system. I doubt whether any substantial improvement can be made within our existing system of law, on which I will say a word before I sit down; but, unfortunately, it is not sufficient to satisfy ourselves that we have taken all possible steps. We cannot ignore the fact that this incident, following upon others in the world of science, has had a serious effect upon our reputation abroad. That is inevitable. Of course, many of the allegations made by irresponsible people are so exaggerated that they carry with them their own refutation. Nevertheless, there is a real danger that a feeling might be spread among our Allies that our own reliability, hitherto regarded as a model, is no longer to be trusted.
It is of the greatest importance for our defence and our safety, depending as they do on close relations of confidence with our Allies, in the old world and in the new, that successive Governments should be known to have taken all steps within their power to stop any loopholes and to strengthen any legitimate methods of defending our vital secrets. Do not let foreign observers compare the present position with the situation as it was some time ago. I can honestly say that it is my belief that every practical means has been taken which is open to the Executive. I would, therefore, make an appeal that we should not injure our own interests by spreading abroad a false and, still more, an outdated picture of our security system as it stands today.
Before I conclude I hope the House will bear with me for one or two moments more for some final reflections. As I have already stated, we have to face a world completely changed from anything the older ones among us knew or thought possible; and what a change it is. Since 1689 in England and since 1745 in Scotland there has been no real dispute about the character of the régime. Bitter as have been political conflicts at certain times, there has been no question for all these years of serious acts of treachery to the country. We have to go back to the period of the wars of religion to find any parallel for the new ideological conflicts which divide the world and which may continue to divide it for many years to come.
It is difficult for the older ones among us to realise the new situation which 1505 Fascism, Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian methods of government have produced. It is hard for us to conceive of a son betraying his father or a father denouncing his own children. We cannot imagine a state of mind which regards spying as a virtue and treachery as a duty. We have to read again the problems that confronted the Elizabethan statesmen, Burghley and Walsingham, when the Secret Service first developed, when espionage and counter-espionage, plot and counter-plot were inseparable from international politics.
This brings us up directly against a new problem. It is really that of public security in a free society during a period of intense ideological warfare. We could, of course, reintroduce some methods and take again some powers which we abandoned long ago and we hoped had gone for ever. Even in a modified form these would have been very helpful in dealing with the case which I have had to outline to the House today. The story might easily have been unravelled if less regard had been had to the law.
Here, may I say that I was struck by a criticism which appeared recently in one of the popular papers. Why, asked this critic, was Mrs. Maclean not prevented from leaving England. This is what it said. I quote from the article:… the authorities said they would have had no legal power to stop her. There is no law for this.Then it goes on:Could not they have found one?There we have the very nub of the problem. Could not they—that is, the authorities—have found one? Hitler would have found one, of course. Mussolini would have found one. Stalin had got one.
In time of war we, too, were forced to find new measures to control the rights of the individual, but they were never very much liked here, and I do not suppose that there was any product of war more distasteful to those who had to operate them or to the general public than the powers under Regulation 18B. In recent years, however, the question of treachery, particularly treachery inspired not by motives of personal gain but by misplaced ideological convictions, has loomed much larger in our national life than at almost any time in our long history; and nowadays it is not only the bureaucracy who 1506 are the holders of our national secrets. Perhaps even more secrets are in the hands of large sections of industry and of the scientific world.
With this extension of the problem we are brought face to face with the fundamental question of liberty. How can the interests of security be maintained without damage to our traditional liberties? At what point do reasonable and necessary security measures become the repugnant attributes of the police State? In short, how do we, in modern times, achieve good security in a democratic society?
The review which I have given of the security measures taken in recent years will, I hope, convince the House that everything that it is possible to do under existing law—or everything that we can see—has been done to protect us against treason and subversion by Government servants, or by others, who have secret material. To the extent that security practices can be improved under existing laws every effort has been made to achieve it, and I believe that these measures make the recurrence of an affair such as this exceedingly improbable—I do not say that they make it impossible.
I repeat, however, that these measures do not, and in my view cannot, go beyond the letter and the spirit of the law. At any rate, before the limitations of the existing law were relaxed, were it no more than this, I think that Parliament would have to weigh very carefully the balance of advantage and disadvantage, for it would, indeed, be a tragedy if we destroyed our freedom in the effort to preserve it.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before I proceed with my speech, perhaps I may be permitted to stray beyond the bounds of order for a few moments to refer to the deeply regretted death of my right hon. Friend William Whiteley, Member for Blaydon. He was respected in all quarters of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He was a very fine Member of Parliament, a man of the most upright character, and I would say, having seen a good many Chief Whips—and I think that the Government Chief Whip will agree—that William Whiteley will stand out as one of the great Chief Whips in the House of Commons; a 1507 servant not only to his party, but a man who also had a sense of duty to the House as a whole, including the Opposition. We all deplore his passing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear. hear."]
We have heard a very able, full and competent speech by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I am sure that the House as a whole is thankful to him for the information which he has given this afternoon. I think the Government were right themselves to take the initiative in offering a debate on this matter, and that it is right that a debate should take place. It will probably be rather less exciting than one felt that it might be when the Government announced it. The atmosphere has somewhat cooled down. We are grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his speech, although I must say that while I agree with the great bulk of it—as will be apparent in the course of my observations—I am not quite as satisfied as he is with things as they are.
This is not a party political matter. We are concerned with a problem of Government and administration, and I hope that it will be handled as such throughout the debate. We, in our country, have a very great Civil Service, of which we can be proud. I do not think that there is any better in the world. I agree that the Civil Service of the Foreign Office is also one which does credit to the country, both at home and abroad. It is true that, now and again, a tradition of earlier policies and earlier biases is to be found in the Foreign Office, and it is necessary for the Secretary of State to push hard to get it altered. The Foreign Service is a very good one. Having had for a short period, contact with other foreign services, I am inclined to say that I know of none better than ours. But there is always a temptation for a Minister in charge of a Department—or a Minister who has been in charge of a Department—rather to assume that that Department is completely perfect. That, of course, would be foolish and unwise. There are always imperfections, and it is as well to bear that in mind.
The Secret Service—for which, in its wider aspects the Prime Minister is responsible—and was—is also a good one as a whole. During the greater part of the war I was Secretary of State for the 1508 Home Department and Minister of Home Security. I had a good deal to do with the Secret Services or, at least, had a good deal of knowledge from them and, although I was not in charge of them. I watched their work. Compared with the secret services of Nazi Germany ours were eminently superior. I did not think much of the Nazi secret services. I thought a great deal of our own. In the beginning of the war, they were, perhaps, a little reckless in their political judgment, and sometimes saw Communists—and even Fascists—where they did not fully exist; but my experience was that they improved as time went on.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that we all feel that this incident of Burgess and Maclean is a disgrace to our country. With him, I know that the Foreign Office—the Foreign Service as a whole—felt that it was a disgrace and a reflection upon the Service. It was also an unhappy incident for the Security Service. We are all sad about it; just as we were sad about the case of Fuchs, of Dr. Nunn May, and of Pontecorvo, cases which were, if anything, more serious even than these cases, and which might have a greater effect upon the future peace of the world even though they did not raise so much excitement.
However, we have to keep a sense of proportion about these things. If we remember the number of men employed in our public services, the number of cases of this kind are very limited. That does not mean that we should underestimate them, nor that we should not be worried about them. Each is a worrying incident, but things have occurred in this way before. After all, the noblest band of men in history had their Judas. He suffered, and I think that these men will suffer, in one way or another, in due course.
The existence of Communism and Fascism creates a new security problem. The Communist—and, indeed, the Fascist; he does not exist so much now, but he could again if our economic situation became really serious—are both different from the ordinary espionage agent, in this respect: they both have a loyalty, not to their own country but to another country or other countries. I do not know that they have a sense of guilt about this external loyalty. They may even feel that it is a virtue. If one 1509 reads the Communist daily newspaper, or reads the periodicals or other information coming one's way, one cannot help but feel that they have not the slightest feeling of obligation or loyalty to the United Kingdom—that their loyalty is to another country.
I reserve the right to disagree with my own country if I think that my own country is wrong in a given course of policy. I reserve the right to agree with other countries if I think that they are right, but I am always very suspicious of anybody, whether a Government servant or somebody else, who persistently expounds the view that our country is always wrong, and the Communist countries are always right. There is something wrong with that, and it gives rise to legitimate suspicion.
It is sometimes said that Communism is a religion. I do not think that is fair to religion. I think that in some ways it is a disease. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), some years ago, very rightly said, "The Communist party is not a party; it is an organised conspiracy". There is a great deal of truth in that.
§ Mr. Morrison
If I could think of something to quote to please my hon. Friend, I would do so, but I have not got such a quotation ready.
Nevertheless, there are some Communists who are innocent, sincere but deceived. It is the case that in the Security Service we are up against a new problem. Formerly, a man who was a national of another country was hired as a spy, or even a national of one's own country was hired as a spy—that was the game, and they were often very brave men. But the new situation of a voluntary act of service in the interests of a foreign Power against one's own country is a very serious matter for security in all sorts of ways.
Let no one think that this aspect is confined to the working classes: I do not think that anyone does think so. In fact, the cases with which we are concerned are not of that character. There have been some working-class cases, but the funny thing about the middle and upper classes, the well-to-do class, is that if they go 1510 wrong in this fashion they are, if anything, worse than other people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is so. They begin by revolting against their families and they may finish up by secretly revolting against the State. That is rather curious. What I have said about the Communists is equally true about the Fascists.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Perhaps my right hon. Friend will address himself to the point to which the Secretary of State did not address himself, namely that, generally speaking, this talk about the liberty of the subject has not been applied circumspectly to members of the working-classes; the Ministry of Supply screened, and effectively screened, persons, including members of my union, on the slenderest suspicion, and that, broadly speaking, the tests of the Foreign Office were not equitably inflicted upon the working classes.
§ Mr. Morrison
I think that there may be some truth in what my hon. Friend says. I was Minister of Supply for a few months. Some workmen were dismissed before my arrival. I had complaints from a Labour Member of Parliament, the late Arthur Jenkins, about it, and I went into it and came to the conclusion that they had been dismissed on inadequate information and on inadequate grounds. Therefore, I think there is, or that there was at any rate, some truth in what my hon. Friend says.
I agree that it would be wrong to assume that because a man is a Communist or a Fascist at university he must be necessarily guilty for life. All sorts of things happen among university undergraduates. I never studied at a university. I am a product of the elementary schools, and I am not ashamed of the fact. But all sorts of things happen at the universities. Abnormal ideas are evolved, and, indeed, sometimes university students are encouraged to evolve them because they are thought to be good for the youthful mind.
There was, for example, the motion carried at the Oxford University Debating Society that they would not fight for their King and country, and many people were understandably shocked about it. But the House may be sure that three-quarters, and may be more, of those young men did fight for their King and country when war came. So what happens at university is not conclusive either 1511 way if we were to take it as conclusive that because a man was a Communist or a Fascist in his university life, he must, therefore, be permanently held under suspicion as likely to betray secrets of State, I think that we should be degenerating into McCarthyism, because that was exactly what McCarthyism was—a probing back and the assumption that if there had been such a relationship the man must be held to be guilty.
The dates of all these incidents are revealed in the White Paper, and five Governments in all were involved—the pre-war Conservative Government, the Coalition Government, two Labour Governments and the present Government. Therefore, we are all in it. Five Governments have been concerned with these two men, and I feel that we must all do our best to help the House, but we must have due regard to security in the process. I will tell the House what I know about this matter during the short period that I held office as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
So far as I can recall, I never met Mr. Burgess. I think I met Mr. Maclean only once, and that was at a social gathering, which bears out the point that his office as Head of the American Department was not of the kind which would bring him into frequent contact with the Secretary of State. I will tell what I know. As I say, five Governments were involved, as well as a number of Ministers at the Foreign Office. Unfortunately, two of the Ministers who were at the Foreign Office during part of the time—Mr. Bevin and Mr. McNeil—have died. Nothing I shall say should be taken as criticism of them—they are not here to answer for themselves—but I may have to refer to matters which occurred during their period of office.
I will tell the story of my own part in this matter. In the middle of April, 1951, I was verbally informed, in general terms, of leakages that had occurred. At that time, it was still not known who were the informants, although suspicion narrowed down to a quite limited number of people. To the best of my recollection the names were not mentioned to me.
The Security Service arranged to investigate, and it sought and obtained full Foreign Office co-operation. I hope that no one here or outside the House 1512 will think that anybody in the higher reaches of the Foreign Office who were responsible in this matter would for one moment have sought to protect any of their colleagues from a charge of espionage. I am quite sure that they would not. That would be an unjust suspicion.
At a later date, as outlined in the White Paper, Maclean became the principal suspect, and as a consequence some top-secret papers were withheld from him. That was a decision which, no doubt, occasioned some difficulty because it might arouse suspicion. On the other hand, if the papers had continued to be supplied to him, it would have laid the authorities open to great criticism in due course if trouble arose. In all these matters we have to remember this dilemma of the security authorities. Apart from the small security branch of the Foreign Office, the wider security authorities, of course, were responsible to the Prime Minister and not to the departmental Ministers, which is quite right.
The evidence against these men at the material times right up to their departure was insufficient to warrant decisive action on charges of espionage. If they had been arrested and ultimately found innocent, that would have brought discredit both on the Foreign Office and the Security Service, and charges of goodness knows what would have been made. The evidence was insufficient. It could not justify arrest, and further evidence was needed in order to justify effective action.
There was another reason why precipitate action could not very well be taken. That was that one of the most valuable things to do in counter-espionage is not only to find out the man or the men who are responsible for espionage but to find out their contacts and the channels through which they act and from whom they receive their orders. Therefore, precipitate action might destroy the wider operation of unravelling the network of espionage against our country.
§ Mr. Daines
Could my right hon. Friend, who was Home Secretary at this time, explain why the ports were not alerted in case Maclean went; and, secondly, could my right hon. Friend explain why Maclean's passport was not withdrawn? May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that passports have been withheld from British 1513 citizens. There was the case of Dr. Burhop, who wanted to attend a scientific conference on the Continent, and his passport was withheld. My main question is, why were the ports not alerted?
§ Mr. Morrison
That is a perfectly legitimate point to raise. I am inclined to think that they ought to have been alerted, but, having said it, I do not know what one would have done effectively if they had been alerted. There is this to be said, of course, that it would have been very useful to have known immediately if they had gone and by what route. They might have been followed. Therefore, I think that my hon. Friend has raised a fair point of criticism.
With regard to the withdrawal of passports, I do not think that can be done. Of course, in war we did all sorts of things—I had a hand in them.
§ Mr. H. Macmillan
The law about passports is very complicated. I think it is possible to refuse a passport. I do not think it is possible effectively to withdraw a passport. In law the passport, it is quite true, is the property of Her Majesty, and the person who holds the passport does so as a kind of tenant, but the only way in which one could effectively get a passport back would be by applying to the court, and therefore evidence would be required to prove to the court why the passport ought to be withdrawn. Therefore, it cannot effectively be withdrawn except by the kind of evidence which would be regarded as satisfactory enough to support the bringing of a charge.
§ Mr. Morrison
There would have had to be some sort of charge, some sort of evidence given, in which case one is in a dilemma. Undoubtedly it was done in war-time. On the spur of the moment I cannot deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines), but undoubtedly it was done in war-time, when there used to be a delightful area of doubt at to who was most responsible for the passport and visa business—the Home Secretary or the Foreign Secretary. We got on as best we could. Nevertheless, there is something in what my hon. Friend says.
It is important that the contacts should be touched and the network of espionage uncovered. I would remind the House that it is not unusual—and I think this is well known—for the police even to 1514 leave at liberty a known criminal against whom they have got complete evidence and against whom they would undoubtedly secure a conviction. Sometimes the police leave him at liberty for a time in order to find his contacts and to spread the net rather wider. That is what happened in April, 1951, except that our evidence was inadequate.
The first minute that I received on this matter from the officers of the Department was on 25th May, 1951. On the same day the Security Service reported to the Prime Minister as their political chief. On that day I authorised the questioning of Maclean. The Security Service took the view that they must choose the right time for that questioning, for the reasons which I have given, and which are outlined in paragraph 10 of the White Paper, and to secure further evidence.
In the light of the Maclean and Burgess experience, I set up the committee of inquiry to which the Foreign Secretary has referred, and I was grateful to the members of that committee for the work they did, though they reported after I had ceased to be Foreign Secretary. They reported to my successor in November, 1951 and, as we have heard, further security checks were recommended, and according to the White Paper they have been put into effect.
It has been asked why Burgess was on leave. Burgess was not exactly on leave. He was in substance suspended with a view either to his resignation or dismissal after he had been heard by a disciplinary board. It was during this period that he disappeared. But I will return to the merits of these two gentlemen—if that is the right word—later.
I must say in justice to myself that the case of Burgess—that is to say, of his troubles in Washington—was not raised with me as it was hoped he would resign. It would have come to me after the disciplinary board had heard him. I think I ought to have been told earlier about the troubles of Mr. Burgess in Washington, and I am inclined to take the view that after he had been heard by the disciplinary board I should have dismissed him. Further, it must not be forgotten that even then it would not have prevented him from escaping from this country.
§ Mr. Daines
My hon. Friend said a moment ago that he set up a committee 1515 of inquiry just after he heard of the Maclean affair. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] What my right hon. Friend conveyed to me was that he was cognisant of the Maclean case only just before the setting up of the committee of inquiry. Clause 10 of the White Paper says:In January, 1949, the security authorities received a report that certain Foreign Office information had leaked to the Soviet authorities some years earlier.Was my right hon. Friend, as Foreign Secretary, informed of that by his heads of departments, or by the Security Service?
§ Mr. Morrison
I said I was informed in general terms about certain problems which had arisen in the middle of April, 1951. To the best of my recollection that was the first time. I do not know, of course, what had been conveyed to earlier Foreign Secretaries. My hon. Friend has misunderstood what I said about the inquiry. It was not into the case of Burgess and Maclean specifically but into the question whether the internal arrangements affecting security were adequate. It was a useful inquiry, which I think did useful work.
I come to the record of these two men and my reasons for thinking that there is ground for some unhappiness about the way in which they were treated. Maclean was guilty of disgraceful conduct in Cairo in 1950. Apparently he got drunk, got out of hand, went to a party in a flat and proceeded to smash the place up. I do not think that overstrain and drunkenness are adequate explanations or, if they are, that they are adequate excuses for conduct of that sort on the part of an important officer of the Foreign Office serving abroad.
Both men were Communists at Cambridge, and I have dealt with that point. The White Paper says both of them were cured when they left the university. Whether that was so or not we cannot now be quite sure. The White Paper assumes that because Burgess joined the Anglo-German Club that is evidence to the effect that he was cured. I am speaking from memory, but my recollection is that the Anglo-German Club about 1935–36 was a body under some suspicion as being under Nazi influence.
§ Mr. Morrison
My right hon. Friend, being more proletarian in his language than I am, and having had a university education, says it stank with Nazis, and I am prepared to accept that. It is no defence of Burgess, in any event, that he slid from the Communists to the Anglo-German Club.
It is recorded in the White Paper, and has been stated by the Secretary of State, that early in 1950 Burgess was reported for indiscreet talk about secret matters in the later part of 1949. For that, after a hearing by a disciplinary board, he was severely reprimanded. Later—but this was not until 1950 or 1951, I am not quite sure which—there were complaints as to his work and behaviour at Washington. The State Department complained about his reckless motor driving, and he was careless with confidential papers. That situation was dealt with and he was brought home and was due for either resignation or dismissal. In my judgment, in the case of Burgess also, in view of careless talk about secret matters in 1949, a severe reprimand was not good enough. I think that in both of these cases they should, for those offences, have been dismissed.
I do not like to say this but I feel I must say it. It is not a peculiarity of the Foreign Office for it runs through the Civil Service, and the motives are, I think, in many ways meritorious. It is not a matter to be recklessly condemned. I think that in the Civil Service as a whole—whether it is more so in the Foreign Office I do not know—there is a tendency, if an officer falls down on his job or is guilty of an offence which is somewhat serious, to say, "He is an old colleague. Can we not do something about it to prevent him from being fired?"
Often what happens is that he may be transferred to other work. [HON. MEMBERS: "Promoted."] I would not say "promoted," for that is perhaps going rather far, but one never knows. He may be transferred to another State Department, and new State Departments are particularly likely to get such men. Or he may be rebuked. I think that a little sacking now and again would not do any harm. It would do some harm to the men concerned but it might do a lot of good to the rest of the Service.
1517 I think that in the Civil Service generally, and to some extent in local government—whether it is more so in the Foreign Office I do not know—there is a tendancy generally to help colleagues out of trouble. In some cases that is right but in some cases the colleagues ought to be left in trouble and ought to be fired. But do not let the House think from this that there is any legitimate charge against the Civil Service that they would seek to protect a man who had been guilty of espionage against his country.
The next question I ask myself is this: was Maclean—and therefore Burgess—tipped off, as the saying is? Or was it the cut in confidential papers which warned him? I am inclined to think that he was tipped off by somebody. If so, I wish we could find the somebody. I am inclined to think that these men were tipped off. Certainly it was a remarkable coincidence that I should have given that order on 25th May and they were missing on the night of 25th May.
I have received a letter from a respected friend of mine whose judgment of men and affairs I respect. He asks me not to give his name, although it is available to the Foreign Office if they want it and if it is any use to them. He does not want to be pursued with publicity in this matter because it is not very nice. This is what he says:I was very interested to read your remarks about Maclean and Burgess the other day because I know them both and actually lunched with Maclean the day before he disappeared. The point I wanted to mention to you was that on that day I am sure that he had no intention of leaving England in the way he did. He spoke to me so normally of his private affairs, his wife's confinement and his plans for the immediate future that I am convinced he was not then intending to leave the country. This makes me feel that subsequent to meeting me on 24th May he received some warning that he was under suspicion and immediately left the country with Burgess. It may be, therefore, that someone in the Foreign Office told him on 25th May that you had author iced him to be questioned.Of course, it was not only the Foreign Office who knew, for the Security Service knew as well. I read that letter for what it is worth as the impression of a man who lunched with Maclean that day before his departure. I am inclined to think that Maclean was tipped off by somebody who knew what was going to happen.
1518 We are much obliged to the Foreign Secretary for telling us about Mr. Philby. There are definite statements that the family are missing and no doubt if it should become of significance the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to inform the House.
I come to my conclusions. I think that any wild or extreme criticism of the Foreign Service would be unfair and would be wrong. I have met a large number of the members of the Service, as have other hon. Members without experience of Ministerial office, in other countries. It is clear that the Secretary of State must be the master of the Department, irrespective of what his political opinions may be, but the latest reforms were made as recently as war-time.
There have, of course, been roughly three stages in the history of the British Foreign Service. There was the old days, when aristocratic gentlemen became ambassadors without any pay at all. Then there was the later period when competitive recruitment had developed in part but not to its present standard. Then there were the reforms initiated by the present Prime Minister and, as has been said, largely carried out by Mr. Ernest Bevin.
The second stage of Foreign Office people have survived and their ideas are not quite the same as those of the postwar, reformed recruitment. There are survivals but time will solve that problem, and it is passing. They are largely university men—all of them I suppose in the higher reaches. That is true of the home Civil Service as well. Whether it is necessary that there should be such a high proportion of university people I do not know. Whether the products of primary and secondary education could get through I do not know. Many people who are now getting to the universities started their education in primary schools. They get through by certificates and competitive examinations—which did not happen in the early days—and enter the public service. Recruitment to the Foreign Service, so far as I know, is substantially the same in principle as recruitment to the home Departments, that is to say it is all through the Civil Service Commission. The examination is somewhat different from that for the home Departments but by and large it is not enormously different.
1519 The question I want to submit for the consideration of the Prime Minister and the Government—I was involved in earlier arguments about it—is based on the fact that the Foreign Service is separate from the home Civil Service. It is separately recruited, it maintains its own life and, I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) will agree, it is not as much subject to Treasury co-ordination as is the home Civil Service [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend thinks it is much the same. The point I want to raise is whether it is right that the Foreign Service should be entirely separate from the home Civil Service?
In the home Civil Service there are transfers between one Department and another. It is a very good thing that there should be transfers between Department and Department. That gives men a varied experience, and their knowledge becomes richer and more varied in knowledge. I readily concede the point that we must have a substantial proportion of Foreign Office people who are to be in the Foreign Office for life. There is some dilution now, however, in respect of the labour attaches, who are recruited through the Ministry of Labour, but I am not at all sure that it would not be a good thing for more men from other home Departments to be transferred to the Foreign Office and for men from the Foreign Office to be transferred to home Departments in order that they might get a wider variety of experience through the collective experience of the Foreign Office and the home Civil Service.
I suggest to the Government that in these circumstances, and in the light of these unhappy and beastly incidents, there is a case for an inquiry. I still think, in view of public apprehension, or even misunderstanding, that there should be an inquiry into recruitment to and promotion in the Foreign Office and into the administration of the Foreign Office. That should include the problem of the very heavy burden which falls on the Secretary of State in modern times. It is much heavier than it used to be, and has had grave effects on the health of more than one Secretary of State. I think that aspect ought to be looked into to see whether there could be more delegation to existing junior Ministers and for Parliament to be told about it.
1520 Such an inquiry would do no harm; if the Foreign Office emerged well out of such an inquiry that would be for the good of the Foreign Office, and, if there were improvements to be made, that would be for the good of the country. That task could be done by a Select Committee or some other suitable body.
I think the Foreign Secretary is wrong in resisting any inquiry into that matter because we should remember the heavy burden on the Foreign Secretary. It is almost impossible for him to devote the attention to administrative details and personal questions in the Department which is possible for a Minister in charge of a home Department. The Department knows that, with the consequence that it is quite possible for the Department not to take to the Secretary of State or one of the other Ministers matters which in a home Department would be taken to the Minister. That is not because the Department is trying to dodge the Minister, but because it knows that the Secretary of State is so heavily burdened that it must "chance its arm" a bit. I think these matters need looking into. Otherwise we shall have trouble over the health of future Foreign Secretaries, as we have had over the health of past Foreign Secretaries.
Secondly, there is a case for looking into security, partly in the light of the circumstances of the Burgess and Maclean case, and partly in order to be satisfied that the Security Services are good. Here we are dealing with a different story altogether. It is much more difficult to have an inquiry into the security services. It clearly cannot be a public inquiry; that would be ridiculous. Nor can it be an inquiry with a public report; that, I think, is out of the question. We cannot expose to the public view the security machine of our own or other countries. We cannot risk a divulging of the secrets either of espionage or counter-espionage. On that matter there should be investigation by a judge or judges in private, a private report being made to the Prime Minister, but I think that step ought to be taken. I hope that the Prime Minister, in his reply can give us and the country some comfort about that matter.
I do not know whether all my hon. Friends will take this view, but both fields might be covered by a Committee 1521 of Privy Councillors, representing both sides of the House, and with experience which makes them specially qualified in these matters—but inquiry there must be. We are up against a new problem in these matters. The country will not be satisfied without an inquiry of some sort, covering an adequate field, for our country has a right to know that adequate action is being taken arising out of an experience which is disturbing and worrying to us all.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Colonel Alan Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
The two speeches to which we have listened this afternoon will undoubtedly have impressed the House. Although we may not agree with everything that has been said, I think it most desirable that the debate should open with such thorough speeches, one from each side.
It seems to me that there are three main issues before us. The first I do not think has been mentioned so far in Parliament or in the Press, but it may be a vital link in the whole story, or mystery. What connection is there between Guy Burgess and Dr. Otto John, the West German security chief, who defected to the Communists in 1954? Otto John was chief legal adviser to Lufthansa before the war and became a member of the Canaris Group, which plotted the death of Hitler.
When that went wrong his brother was executed by the Gestapo and he escaped through Spain and came to London about the end of 1944. In the last months of that year he worked for the B.B.C. Later he was employed in the Foreign Office and afterwards by a London law firm. He returned to Germany in 1949 and was appointed president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution—which is a high falutin' way of saying, the security machine watching and reporting on neo-Nazi activities. That appointment was made with the consent of the British and American Governments.
Is it a fact—my information is that it is in the B.B.C. offices and, later, in the Foreign Office—that there is information to the effect that Otto John was a close associate of Guy Burgess? I hope that my right hon. Friend will answer that, if he can, when he replies. They certainly had all too much in common outside their public duties.
1522 As head of the counter-Communist intelligence in Bonn, John would have received information from British and United States sources. It is known that he was in touch with a number of what might be called double agents, agents working each way. Did Otto John maintain his contact with Burgess? If he did, he could have been very useful indeed to him and Maclean, and possibly also to Mrs. Maclean. I believe that the Government have the information that can answer this question, and I hope that if possible, if security will permit, something may be said on that point.
The second vital issue affects the internal administration of the Foreign Office, to which both right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have already referred in some detail. I should like to say straightaway that I have not the slightest reflection to make on any of the right hon. Gentlemen who have held the important and difficult office of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In spite of anything that I may say, I hope that that is fully realised.
The Fighting Services have a system of regular confidential reports on officers. They are made annually—in the Navy, I believe, it is sometimes six-monthly—and they give their seniors a clear picture not only of their ability, but also of their moral character and behaviour and that is very important. Excessive drinking is a weakness that would be recorded.
The Foreign Office, I understand, has a similar system of reports. I asked my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary in two Questions the other day if he would place in the Library a copy of these forms, which he very kindly did. But I also asked what arrangements existed in his Department for the submission of confidential reports on personnel. On behalf of the Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary replied:The heads of Foreign Service missions abroad and of departments in the Foreign Office report regularly on their staffs on printed forms which vary for each branch of the Service.… A report on each member of the senior branch of the Service is sent in at least every two years. For new entrants to the branch reports are submitted every six months during the period of probation. Reports on all other branches are sent in at least once a year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 35.]1523 So we have the clear statement that there is a comprehensive system of reporting on forms for the purpose in the Foreign Office in much the same way as in the Services.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
Was the hon. and gallant Member told how or on what date the forms to which he has referred were introduced?
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
No, I was not; I did not ask for that. I asked what the system was at the moment. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member that the date is of some importance in this case.
From that reply given by my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary arise questions of great importance, questions that must be answered by the Government if they will do so. Who reported on Burgess and Maclean, and what was written about them? There are these different forms, particularly the one which is called F.2 and which deals with Branch A and the first four grades of Branch B in the Foreign Service. That one has a section which calls for reliability reports, contact with foreigners reports and social behaviour reports, and at the end a large space is left for a detailed pen picture—that is the actual wording—of the officer reported upon.
The reporting on officers of any branch of Service, including the Foreign Office, is a most distasteful job for the senior officer who has to do it. That makes it all the more important that there must be a man of moral courage to say what is correct. In the Fighting Services, the officer reported upon has to sign the report himself, but as far as I can make out from the Foreign Office forms, the officer reported upon does not have to sign. That makes it much easier for the officer making the report to be absolutely frank than if he had to show it to the man, human nature being what it is. It does away with any excuse for moral cowardice.
Was there a report on Burgess and Maclean? Was their behaviour, or misbehaviour, recorded, and what was said? Was this very important item of information included: that in 1940, I understand, Maclean was associating with the representative in London of the Tass Agency? Everybody knows that the Tass 1524 Agency, in any country where there has been an inquiry, has been proved to be the centerpiece of an espionage system. Was that known at the time? It seems to me that a very great deal depends upon the answer to that question.
The third issue arises from a statement made by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister in March, 1948. He was explaining the proposals of the then Labour Government for screening State employees. Very briefly, not giving the whole details, the right hon. Gentleman said:I have said that there are certain duties of such secrecy that the State is not justified in employing in connection with them anyone whose reliability is in doubt.Experience, both in this country and elsewhere, has shown that membership of, and other forms of continuing association with, the Communist Party may involve the acceptance by the individual of a loyalty, which in certain circumstances can be inimical to the State.The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:The Government have … reached the conclusion that the only prudent course to adopt is to ensure that no one who is known to be a member of the Communist Party, or to be associated with it in such a way as to raise legitimate doubts about his or her reliability, is employed in connection with work, the nature of which is vital to the security of the State"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 1703–4.]That is a very prudent, very comprehensive and very desirable state of affairs, which the right hon. Gentleman deserves full credit for bringing into effect.
But why was the principle laid down by the Prime Minister of that time and not carried out, apparently, in the case of Burgess and Maclean? Both were known to have past associations with Communists, and while in Paris in 1938 Maclean made no secret of his sympathy with the Spanish Communist Party. In the same year, as has been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), Burgess underwent the mysterious conversion into pro-Nazism. But both were undoubtedlyemployed in connection with work, the nature of which is vital to the security of the State.Both had access to secret papers, and it is known now that Maclean was making microfilms of them for the Russians. How and why were they exempted from the screening which was supposed to have been applied to all servants of the State, 1525 as laid down by the Prime Minister of that day in 1948? It is much more important to probe these things than to chase individuals in the security department.
There is, however, one thing that Parliament can and should do, and I think that this debate will bring it out more clearly than before. There should be sufficient money and staff for the security services to do their jobs properly. I believe that they have been starved of these things. The worst thing that could happen would be for the Burgess-Maclean incident—I call it no more—to develop into a party wrangle. I see no signs of that happening and I am quite convinced that the House would not lower itself by doing it on such a vitally important matter for the country.
Parliament's duty is to ensure that such a thing cannot happen again. After all, it is a truism, but it is quite true to say, that what has happened has happened; but that is no reason why those who have been proved incompetent should be employed in high office any longer. What this House wants—and, I believe, the country as well—is reassurance and evidence that such things cannot occur again reasonably. It is no good saying that something is utterly impossible, but we want to be reasonably sure that that cannot happen again.
I doubt whether, so long as the men who were responsible for security at that time remain in high positions, the confidence of the country will be maintained. Let us, however, keep our consideration of the matter on the high level at which it has started, I beg the House with great humility, for it is not a matter for party wrangling, is not a matter of personalities, but a matter of the national interest and of the best possible safeguarding of our beloved country.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I shall try, in saying what I have to say, to keep the debate on the high level that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) has set for us back benchers in following those two excellent speeches from the Front Benches, the speech of the Foreign Secretary and the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison).
1526 Indeed, as a Labour back bencher who has from time to time criticised the Foreign Secretary, and the Prime Minister, too, I should like to congratulate the Foreign Secretary, for the second half of his speech, which dealt with the tremendous problem of the combination of freedom and public security in a world of clashing ideologies, was a classic statement of principle which we can all, I hope, agree upon and accept. It can do nothing but good that that statement of principle was made. However, the first half of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a completely unsuccessful effort to explain away his own White Paper, and that is something which we must discuss.
I think it is rather futile to waste our time holding an inquest on Burgess and Maclean. What we ought to consider today are the lessons we can learn for the future from that lamentable incident. I shall try to confine most of my remarks to that problem, but I think that in this debate we are faced with two opposite difficulties. Certainly, there is a danger that we shall encourage witch hunting, and, goodness knows, at one part of the Foreign Secretary's speech I was slightly afraid. That was when he said that we had to consider our allies in what we did. I hope he did not mean that he thought our allies, the Americans, had been more successful in dealing with these problems than we have.
I am sure he did not mean it, because if we have shown a degree of lassitude they have shown an extreme in loyalty tests which, I think, has done more damage to their liberties and to the strength of America in the world than Burgess and Maclean have done to us. Think of the State Department. Think of the panic efforts to impose loyalty there by elaborate code! Think of the effect of the feeling that officials could not risk writing what they really meant in their diplomatic messages for fear of being read aloud at a Congressional inquiry. That is an object lesson of the dangers of extreme panic about security.
But there is another side to this. We must see that the cause of McCarthyism was not so much the effect of the fear of espionage as the popular suspicion that for political reasons either politicians or high officials were covering up the signs of people in privileged places. Indeed, I believe that if the Truman Administration had gone into matters thoroughly and 1527 had been seen not to have been covering up matters, then the McCarthy hysteria might have been prevented beforehand. Therefore, it seems to me absolutely essential in this Burgess and Maclean case that any suspicion of covering up, any suspicion, not of these two, but of other people, being covered who were responsible for the fact that they could do what they did must be removed. Frankly, neither the White Paper nor the Foreign Secretary's speech has wholly removed those suspicions from my mind.
I was very glad that the Foreign Secretary said that we have to remember that security does not apply only to a couple of thousand high officials in Whitehall who are dealing with secret documents. It applies to the tens of thousands of industrial workers, especially those in aircraft factories. They are subject to security, too.
When I was listening to my right hon. Friend's description of his perturbation of mind when considering the case of Maclean, to his description of what was the real agony of making up his mind whether the man should be kept on, and when I considered all the trouble that was taken for Maclean, I could not help recollecting an incident brought to my attention last August of a constituent of mine, an aircraft factory worker in Coventry. He was sent for by the personnel manager and was told that he was a security risk because he was a member of the local branch of the Communist Party. He was dismissed from the factory overnight. There was no court of appeal for him. There were not "three wise men" to consider his case. There was no sort of protection for him. He was chucked out because of an untrue allegation.
I do not want to argue the case, because I am dealing with it elsewhere, and I acknowledge that the Minister of Supply has been very helpful, but it made me think, and I made some inquiries. We have to face the fact that security covers all our aircraft factories and that literally scores of people are now being moved from one position to another, very often without their knowing why, and having their careers blighted by security charges. I wonder whether the procedure in other cases is based on as idle gossip as the accusation against my constituent, from which I am trying to liberate him.
1528 I say to the Foreign Secretary and to the Prime Minister that the faintest suspicion that security regulations are enforced ruthlessly on the small fry in the factories but with infinitely greater restraint and conscientiousness the higher up a man is—that suspicion is utterly destructive of democracy in this country. I must say that I wish my constituent had received the amount of licence which was accorded to Burgess and Maclean. My constituent was completely innocent, but was thrown out on common gossip. There was not the care taken over him that was taken over these two men in highly key positions. The thoroughness and care taken in their cases contrasts with the rough treatment accorded to an aircraft factory worker who talked one night out of school.
Therefore, I say that our major preoccupation must be to see—if we are to have security regulations, as we must—that they are imposed with the most ruthless equality. No. That is wrong. They should be imposed with greater severity the higher one goes. Surely those who have official State secrets in their hands, those who have access to secret documents, must accept a severer interpretation of security than workers in aircraft factories. If some of them say, "We are such sensitive souls, and our talents, though very great, are not the sort of talents which can thrive in a world of red tape security," then they must be told they must go elsewhere. They must be told that their genius must be dispensed with.
But although security is essential, we ought to keep its range as small as possible, and it must be enforced most of all in areas like the Foreign Office or the three Services. With that as a background let us consider the White Paper on Burgess and Maclean. I start with the last paragraph of it, which tells us why we could not be told.Counter-espionage … depends for its success upon the maximum secrecy of its methodsit says.
I had better declare my interest in this subject. During the war I was a temporary member of the Foreign Office, and so directly responsible to the present Prime Minister. I was also a member of a secret department and at one time 1529 responsible to the present Foreign Secretary in Algiers. When I talk of secrets and security, therefore, I talk with some personal experience. I know perfectly well that much of what I learned about it is now out of date—the type of security which we accepted and which included the steaming open of one's letter and the tapping of one's telephone conversations—not unusual things to happen, I then supposed, when one had secrets.
I am sure the Prime Minister will know what I mean when I tell him that in a secret department the greatest temptation in the world is to use secrecy not in the national interest but in the Departmental interest, or in the personal interest, to "cover up". Every politician, every Minister, every general is tempted at some time or another to suppress information, not because it is helpful to the enemy but because it may be harmful to his future reputation or to a friend—or to that organisation to which he belongs. Every ambassador, also, is constantly tempted to suppress information which seems to contradict the way in which he is running the policy of our country in his area.
But secret departments are the worst because they are subject to no Parliamentary control. The Prime Minister technically is responsible for the Secret Service, but it is clear from the Burgess and Maclean case that the Service did not bother to tell many Cabinet Ministers what it was doing. I gather that the Foreign Secretary hardly knew before 25th May, and I gather that the Prime Minister of the time was not told, although the Secret Service was responsible to him, that for two years it had been investigating somebody at the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I said that the Prime Minister was told at the time I was told—on 25th May, to the best of my recollection.
§ Mr. Crossman
Therefore, for two years our counter-intelligence had been doing an elaborate investigation of 6,000 people. The investigation was narrowed down to one person, in the course of two years; of all this the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary were told nothing. That may be perfectly all right. I know enough about secret departments 1530 to know how much they resent telling politicians anything at all, because they regard politicians as very "leaky" people and very dangerous people to whom to tell secrets. The trouble, of course, is that secret departments are not responsible to Parliament.
Despite the Foreign Secretary's commendation of their patriotism, which I do not deny, I say that there is nothing more morally corrupting than the power to lie because it is claimed to be in the nation's interest, or to keep secrets by saying that it is in the nation's interest. That corrupts. And that is why these Secret Departments, in the very essence of their nature, are liable to the moral corruption of constantly using national security to "cover up." They do it either out of rivalry with another Department—a rivalry on which Secret Service organisations seem to spend most of their time—or because a friend has gone wrong and someone wants to cover the matter up. Therefore, when someone quotes this paragraph from the White Paper, I as an old member of the gang do not believe a word of it. That is just what the Minister was bound to say if those concerned were "covering up."
I admit that The Times has been getting rather extreme of late in its judgment on all sorts of issues, but on Saturday, in a leading article headed "The Ostriches," I think it got matters roughly right. It said:As the authorities no doubt calculated when holding back information for so long, many targets for criticism have now moved on … The suspicion is bound to be that, after the early days when the interests of secrecy had to be heeded, there were political reasons for putting off information in the hope that the storm would blow itself out.This, of course, is confirmed by the Foreign Secretary's speech today.
The right hon. Gentleman was just a bit short about the Petrov case, but those of us who have read the Petrov material know that Petrov provided no evidence whatsoever except hearsay evidence. At least nothing else has been published. He said what he had to say, for £5,000. I gather from an extraordinary passage in the Foreign Secretary's speech that Petrov refused to talk if his revelations were published in Britain. Presumably, he wanted to sell his information to a newspaper, because he then would be paid for the articles, whereas if what he 1531 had to say was reported as straight news he would not get the money.
All that Petrov said was what he picked up in gossip from somebody else. The hearsay blew up into a major scandal and the Petrov case forced publication here. There is reason to believe that we would have had no White Paper if the Petrov case had not forced publication upon the Government. That worries me and makes we wonder a little, and that wonder is increased when I look at the White Paper itself.
The Foreign Secretary very properly said that he believed in Ministerial responsibility. All right. Let him be responsible for this. It is easy to talk about Ministerial responsibility if it consists only of being noble—and staying in office. Ministerial responsibility to me means taking the punishment if something outrageous is done. If the Foreign Secretary takes responsibility for this, the only decent thing to do is to resign.
The White Paper, as it stands, far from defending the Foreign Office, puts it deeper into the mire. If, after four years, this tissue of palpable half-truths and contradictions is the best that the Government can produce, the impression of "covering up" is more strongly substantiated than ever. Those responsible are very highly intelligent people, and if this is the best that they can do there must be some reason for what they are doing being so completely unconvincing.
Paragraphs 10 and 11 of the White Paper give elaborate reasons why these people were allowed to get away. We are told in paragraph 11 that it is possible that Maclean… observed that he was no longer receiving certain types of secret papers.The Government are now saying, "We were not quite so ham-handed as that in denying secret papers." But if Maclean had been a spy for 16 years, and if the chief reason for his being a spy was removed from him, I do not see how one could stop his access to top secret material without his noticing it. If he was denied the papers that must surely have tipped him off. We are told, by the way, in an earlier paragraph of the White Paper, that he was given a job in the American Department in order to give him an unimportant rôle where he might rehabilitate himself. But the Head 1532 of the American Department seems to have had access to the most secret types of papers. Anyway, Maclean is tipped off by not having the papers. Then comes the problem of whether to search his house or not. We are solemnly told that his house cannot be searched, or that there must be no suggestion of it for fear he runs away.
It was not uncommon, during the war, for a man to be suspected. I dare say that the Prime Minister was responsible for us when we did certain things. When we had a person under suspicion and he was denied secret papers all we did was to say to him, "I warn you that you are under suspicion. Of course, you are not guilty. We are only investigating, but one way in which your guilt will be proved will be if you 'skedaddle.'" We found it a very effective way of keeping people still while investigation was going on.
Am I now to believe that Maclean could not be detained at the ports if he had been warned that his flight would prove his guilt? Anybody knows that that could have been done, and we ask ourselves why that was not done in this case. Why, in this case, was there such solicitude about the lady? I know that she was going to have a baby, but such solicitude is not always shown. I know of times when people have been treated rather roughly. This was an astonishingly tender treatment.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)
This is very interesting. The hon. Gentleman is making points to which I will try to reply later, but the parallel which he is making between wartime and the case of Maclean is not, of course, a true parallel. The control which we had over the ports during the war was quite different from the control of the ports under the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), when he was Foreign Secretary.
The hon. Member may have other information, but I believe it to be true, and the legal opinion given to me has always been that there has been no power within the Government of this country to stop British people at the docks. That was the problem, both in respect of Maclean and of Mrs. Maclean. For the latter, I take personal responsibility, for it was my own decision in her case. I 1533 had all the papers and I came to the conclusion that I had neither the possibility of stopping, nor the right to stop, Mrs. Maclean.
§ Mr. Crossman
I entirely agree about Mrs. Maclean. I do not see why she should not have joined her husband, but I was talking about a search of the house not being made because she was expecting a baby.
My suspicions are nearly all based on this paragraph. It is not a question of the ports. It is a question of whether we could not have kept Maclean from going by telling him frankly that he was under suspicion. I assume that he had already been tipped off by not having the secret papers. I now ask why we might not have tried saying to him, "Maclean, you are under investigation, and if you move that proves your guilt." I think he would have stayed in that case. At least, it would have been a risk worth taking, whereas, this way, it was certain what would happen. You tip him off, you do not keep a watch on him, you allow him a long week-end. After that it is certain that he will "skedaddle." whereas, by my method, we might possibly have bluffed him into staying.
I would remind the Prime Minister, if he has Dr. Fuchs in his mind, that at the critical moment the police bluffed Fuchs into a confession before they actually had the evidence in their hands. I am asking myself, therefore, why that was not done in this case, when we had already withdrawn the papers and had, therefore, warned Maclean of his plight. It still puzzles me.
The Foreign Secretary made it clear to us that one of our difficulties was that M.I.5, the counter-intelligence organisation, is not responsible for the actions which are taken. It is responsible for advising each Government Department upon the records and the personalities of the people there, but the actions are left to the Department in question. Therefore, we can never know whether the Foreign Office was not sufficiently strongly advised by M.I.5 or whether, despite the advice, something held it back from taking the necessary action.
That brings me to my own suspicion—Maclean belonged to the élite of the élite; he was one of the inner group of really gifted men, one of the half-dozen 1534 stars for top promotion; an intimate friend, a confidant, a man who spent long evenings with half-a-dozen people who are now in key positions. I am not blaming anyone. I am only saying that if a man has been desperately misjudged, if risks are taken for him—and, of course, risks were taken for Maclean; if a risk is taken and it does not come off, then certain people are not very anxious to have the extent of the risk they took on his behalf exposed.
We find a striking sentence at the beginning of the White Paper about Maclean's conduct:Maclean was guilty of serious misconduct and suffered a form of breakdown which was attributed to overwork and excessive drinking.Surely it is clear that the excessive drinking was the result and not the cause? Anybody looking at this can see that the man was suffering from a terrible psychological strain, the strain of being a traitor. He had those two loyalties which drove him into drink and drove him into treason. [Interruption.] [An HON. MEMBER: "Wise after the event."] Very well. I say this to the Prime Minister: it is rumoured that before he went Maclean hinted to certain close friends that he was under a terrible strain. I have even been told that he gave broad hints as to what the strain was; and I am further told that his friends regarded all this merely as signs of nervous breakdown. The trouble is that we cannot investigate these rumours. If there had been a full investigation, we could have found out from his Foreign Office confidantes exactly what Maclean said in his confidential talks.
The curse of the policy of the White Paper, the policy of concealment, has been that those rumours have grown and grown in this country. And not unreasonably, for someone has to explain why, when suspicion had narrowed down to one man, there was this curious hesitation to take the risk which was taken with Dr. Fuchs. We are not talking about ports now; we are talking about facing Maclean with it and breaking him down. We are talking about the long shot which came off with Fuchs. Why was it not tried with Maclean?
I do not think that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will think me unfair when I say that, at least until recently, the Foreign Office has been under 1535 one great difficulty, the defect of its virtue. It has a sense of exclusiveness about it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South hinted at this. I believe there is a sense in the Foreign Office that when a chap has become a member of the club, he can do no wrong. Everybody outside, of course, knows nothing about foreign policy. Even if The Times correspondent has been a long time in a place where the ambassador has been working only one month, the ambassador apparently is capable of telling the expert truth in his telegrams, but The Times can say nothing of value. I accuse the Foreign Office of the kind of exclusiveness shown by those who are defending a privileged position somewhat precariously.
This is a peculiarity of the Foreign Office. As I have said, during the war I was a member of a secret auxiliary department for psychological warfare, attached to the Foreign Office. The Prime Minister knows, because he was in charge of our department, that we had to obey the security rules. It was a nuisance that we could not telephone over an ordinary line the content of a secret document but, instead, had to use a "scramble." It was a nuisance that we could not recruit certain people. I may have thought—indeed, I did think—that the security regulations which prevented me from recruiting those people were wrong, but I had to observe them.
It was much more irritating when I found that although we had to keep the regulations, the Foreign Office next door did not have to bother about them. The Foreign Office was too high and mighty. It was infra dig. for the Foreign Office to abide by the common laws of security. The Prime Minister laughs, but he knows that this was a fact—
§ The Prime Ministerindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head again I will say one of the unpleasant things which I did not mean to say. There was a difference in the security treatment of the auxiliary department and of the Foreign Office—between the types of people we could recruit and the types recruited by the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office was allowed certain moral types which were forbidden to us. That has now been admitted by the Secretary of State for 1536 Foreign Affairs when he revealed that those types have been dismissed since 1952. Yet they were there in 1945 and during the war.
I could go into detail about this disparity. There was a curious perverted liberalism which tolerated as eccentricity inside the Foreign Office conduct which would have been condemned if anybody else had done the same thing outside the Foreign Office. The plain fact about this case is that the security officer ought not to have come into this question at all. For even if these men had not been suspected of any relationship with Russia, they were unfit to be members of the Foreign Office. Yet they were permitted to be members of the Foreign Office.
What did the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs say? That the Foreign Office felt this as a personal wound. I could not agree more. It was a personal wound requiring to be "covered up." In a sense, it was the tradition of the Foreign Office which had been jeopardised by Maclean and Burgess. They had been allowed an eccentricity and it had turned out to be treason. Of course, the Foreign Office was extremely upset when what it had regarded as Donald Maclean's funny way of "talking Left-wing" turned out to be treason.
As for the other fellow, I am amazed that the Foreign Office could consider accepting him as a member when they knew all about him. I am amazed that the Foreign Office considered a man of that type, a man who had been noted in his previous secret department as a "no good" as brilliant, irresponsible, utterly "gabby," the very type who should not be allowed anywhere near a secret paper. How did he get in?
It was mentioned that Hector McNeil was the Minister. I appreciate the way in which the right hon. Gentleman made this reference. But I want to add that it is the job of senior civil servants to advise young Ministers. Was there any advice given to Hector McNeil that another type of personal private secretary might be better than Burgess? No, something much queerer occurred. The Foreign Office accepted Burgess not for the "A" but for the "B" class. His mind was absolutely first-rate, he was a brilliant fellow, wonderful at languages. The deficiencies in Burgess were moral. Are we to be told that "A" class means 1537 that people are moral, but that "B" class people are immoral?
What is even queerer is that when Hector McNeil asked whether Burgess could be put up into the "A" class the request was resisted. Why? If the grounds were failings of personal character he should not have been either "A" or "B"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or 'C' or 'D'."] As an hon. Friend says, or "C" or "D," and if he was merely being judged on his intellectual merits, he should have been in the A class or nowhere.
This is proof that the Foreign Office was worried about Burgess, but not worried enough, because he had already got his foot inside the door of the élite. There we have the two of them, Maclean right in the élite of the élite and Burgess pushing his way up by means of some somewhat unsavoury personal connections which perhaps got him in in the first place. A competent establishment officer should have forbidden Burgess ever to have been appointed, and should certainly have thought twice about giving Maclean, only three months after his nervous breakdown—notice that it was only three months after the breakdown—the appointment as a head of a department.
It is no good the Foreign Secretary or the Prime Minister, or, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South, telling me that I am a suspicious type of person. Perhaps I am, and perhaps I understand this, because I lived in this sort of world. But the average man in the street, when told that this is a true and satisfactory explanation, knows perfectly well that whatever clever men produced this type of bunkum, it is always for the same reason. In Britain, influential people do not want to have too much interrogation or inquiry into what went on in the Foreign Office élite.
The crime in the Foreign Office was, first, to turn a blind eye to Maclean's deficiencies for far too long; to prefer private friendship and belief in him to public duty, and then when he had gone, to prefer Departmental loyalty to duty to this country. We are a democracy and we really have the right to know the facts when something has gone wrong.
I want, in conclusion, to say two things briefly about the proposals for an inquiry which have come from this side of the 1538 House. First of all, I will say a word about our proposals for an inquiry into security. After the Foreign Secretary's speech I feel much less need for this inquiry than I did before the debate. But, then, I never believed that security was the main problem in this case. The main problem is the establishment of the Foreign Office, and the conduct that was committed in the Foreign Office.
Still on security, I have one point to make in addition to what my right hon. Friend said. I think the Foreign Secretary was absolutely right in saying that we are back in the Elizabethan age and that treason has become a possibility; I would say that it is a possibility for every thoughtful man. Everyone who faces the world's dilemmas today finds his national loyalties in conflict with others. We have talked about Russia, but there might be a conflict between our national loyalty and American interests. The Russians are not the only people who have secret services. I can conceive of a time when an Englishman might think it his duty to pass information on to America, feeling he had a moral duty to do so, and then, later, he might well be proved to be a traitor if the world went the wrong way for him.
The Foreign Secretary is right. This is a basic problem. Surely, then, the Prime Minister will agree that policemen are really no good for this job. We have to detect the type of person who is not a common criminal. Such a person is not detectable in the ordinary way; he is not a spy selling himself for money. For this task one has to have an understanding of Marxism and other philosophic problems of the modern world. I should feel a great deal more confident if I had been told that we are to have a heads of M.I.5 not ex-policemen but people who have studied deeply the ideologies of the modern world and can put themselves in the place of young men and know what they are feeling. We want a new type of person for this task. The less we have of security the better, provided that the quality of it is really first-rate.
Secondly, I would remind the House that this searching for spies is really a relatively small part of security. Nine-tenths of security means security against carelessness, security to prevent information going to the enemy, either because of their technical power to break down 1539 our codes, because of documents being left about, or because of careless talk; and it should be that way, for we get nine-tenths of our information about the other side by reading their newspapers, by doing things which can be done in public, or by using techniques for getting inside which are not known to them.
This means that the Foreign Office, like every other part of the Civil Service, must have strict rules about carelessness and cannot go on saying, "We are too talented and sensitive to work under security rules." As a matter of fact, it is a great relief to have security rules. Those of us who had the secret for ten weeks before D-day thanked God for security. There it was, a corset to keep us safe. If we put the documents back in the safe, we were safe. If we telephoned on the correct line, we could not be court-martialled.
It is untrue to say that this type of security, if sensibly enforced, is demoralising. If there is not too much of it, and every regulation makes sense, the Foreign Office should not think it infra dig. to be like an ordinary officer in the Army or an aircraft worker, who is subject to this sort of thing. I hope that what the Foreign Secretary means is that the Foreign Office did learn this lesson in 1951 and has already accepted the need to observe security regulations.
As for security against the spy, I think that this issue is relatively unimportant. The number of people to whom this sort of thing will be applied in our country is small. Our great danger is that of getting so panicky about the relatively small problem of searching out spies in the Foreign Office that we shall neglect the big problem of setting up a security organisation against leaks.
The final point is this. The real problem of the Foreign Office is not security at all, but whether the reforms which were introduced ten years ago were soundly based and have produced the right results. I may be told that they were introduced ten years ago and that it is much too early for another inquiry. I should have thought that the period of ten years was just about right and that it was, therefore. Just about time to look at the effect. As The Foreign Secretary reminded us, this was. after all, a Coalition reform. Again, we are looking at the matter as a Council of State and not as parties. What did the 1540 reform do? It cut the Foreign Office off from the rest of the Civil Service and made it autonomous, and, at the same time, sadly undermined the specialised services inside the Foreign Office.
I was very struck by three excellent articles in the Manchester Guardian last week—three thoughtful articles—on this subject. My tentative conclusion is that we got the worst of both worlds. We certainly lost by the diminution of the specialised services; and we probably gained nothing, instead. The autonomy granted to it only increased the arrogance of the Foreign Office and the jealousy of the rest of the Civil Service. That was the result of giving the Foreign Office this privileged position.
I should like to see the Foreign Office part of the Civil Service along with everybody else, but encouragement to foster the specialist services, which it requires just as every other Department requires them. I do not see that the case for cutting it off has been proved in any way, nor, if I may say so to some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway, do I believe that the so-called democratisation of the Foreign Office has had any of the effects which Ernest Bevin hoped for.
Let us be candid. If we take 100 boys from lesser grammar schools, we do not take 100 people who are less snobbish than those from larger grammar schools. What we have done generally—I am glad we have done it—is to take the best from the secondary and smaller grammar schools in rather larger quantities and so reduce the high proportion of the old public school. But if anybody thinks that that is democratisation, that is not the case. It very often happens that a person who comes up from below and enters the Foreign Office, with its august position, in order to obtain the protective colouring required, becomes more Foreign Office than the rest. Indeed, in my little experience of going round embassies, I have found that, on the whole, the man from the smaller grammar school is even more Foreign Office than those who came from the kind of school from which I come. Therefore, do not let us talk too much about the effect of democratisation on the Foreign Office. I do not think there has been any democratisation, and if there had been, I am not sure that it would have the effect we desired.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Is there not a slight difficulty there? If one were to insist upon comparatively high academic requirements, would it not be slightly difficult to recruit pupils from secondary modern schools?
§ Mr. Crossman
I did not suggest that it should be exclusively from secondary modern schools. I do not think that anybody seriously maintains that we should recruit for the Foreign Office any differently than for the rest of the Civil Service, that is to say, predominantly from the universities. I said that the effect of the democratisation was merely that we took recruits from slightly lesser known grammar schools as well as from the better ones.
I suggest to the Prime Minister that there is really a case for looking at the position again after ten years and seeing how it is working; for seeing whether we should not put back the Foreign Office as part of the Civil Service; for seeing that security arrangements are accepted and not thought to be infra dig. I beg everyone to realise that the best sort of security is to choose one's civil servants correctly, and to trust them. Nothing is more disastrous than to believe that one will catch a lot of spies by being terrified of one's civil servants. The method of recruitment must be made correct; the discipline of the office must be made correct; the heads of Departments must be people who know their stuff; the establishments officer must be correct. If all those things are done, we will have a Civil Service far more loyal than we would have if we introduced American loyalty tests.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
Like the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), I should declare that during the war I was connected with some of the Intelligence departments of this country. I confess, to my surprise, that I agreed with a great deal of what the hon. Member had to say. This is the first time I have found myself in so much agreement with him. Having said that, I must also say that I do not think that he was altogether fair to the Foreign Office. He omitted to point out that the Foreign Office had already decided to get rid of Burgess before he fled from this country. I also feel that the hon. Member was somewhat 1542 wise after the event. If he and some of the other critics had been as wise at the time as they now are, they would have been very useful members of our Intelligence Services.
I cannot agree with the hon. Member when he says that the debate should be entirely dominated by the Foreign Office and conditions of Foreign Office recruitment. After all, both the individuals concerned might have been employed by any other Department of State. We ought, therefore, to give consideration to the adequacy of our security services as well as to conditions of recruitment for the Foreign Office. The debate is very much to be welcomed, because, during the past four years, our secret services have been very much maligned. Some wild and irresponsible charges have been made against them, and not being able to answer or refute the charges has put them very much in the same position as the unfortunate patient of a garrulous dentist who carries on a conversation with the patient who is not able to answer back.
The Secret Service does not come out of this affair too badly. Sufficient credit has not been given to M.I.5 for the fact that it was on the tracks of Maclean when he left the country. Indeed, it was probably because M.I.5 was trailing him that he bolted. But for M.I/'s investigations Maclean might still be in the Foreign Office, still be betraying his country and still be passing secrets to foreign Powers. M.I.5 ought to be given considerable credit for the fact that out of 6,000 possibles they had spotted who it was who was responsible for this leakage of information. As the Secretary of State said in his opening remarks, it is indeed easy to be wise after the event. It is easy now to ask why the two men were not more carefully watched and why they were allowed to leave the country.
I do not believe that those critics and others appreciate to the full the difficulties which face a Security Service in a free society. As paragraph 26 of the White Paper points out:In some countries … Maclean would have been arrested first and questioned afterwards.We do not do that sort of thing in this country. The difficulties are immense. If one is carefully and closely to watch a suspect—and Maclean was only a suspect 1543 —the difficulties of not arousing his suspicion are tremendous. It was the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Daines) who asked why Maclean's passport was not withdrawn. I can think of no more certain way of arousing a suspect's own suspicion than to withdraw his passport.
§ Mr. Daines
The hon. Member rather misunderstands the inference of what I said. I was saying that the order should have gone to the ports, so that if Maclean had got to the ports, he could have been held there and had his passport withdrawn. That was done in the case of Dr. Burhop. He had his passport withdrawn.
§ Mr. Speir
I misunderstood the hon. Member. What I wanted to emphasise was that there are immense difficulties in the way of keeping a 24-hour watch on a suspect without his knowledge, and that, unlike in a police State, the resources of our security services are comparatively limited. As has been already emphasised, the great point now is to see that all the gaps in our system have been adequately dealt with. Everyone is agreed that what we want to do is to make sure that the lessons of this unfortunate case have been properly learned. I was very glad indeed to hear from the Secretary of State that our system of vetting for confidential employment, not only in the Foreign Office, but in other Government Departments, has been tightened up. I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East when he says that it is just as important that we should have a proper system of vetting for employment in secret research work in industry. He spoke about one of his constituents who had been removed because he was a branch secretary of the Communist Party.
§ Mr. Speir
I find it difficult to believe that he was removed if the information was really false, because in my experience the security services have been very careful indeed in the advice which they have given. It is my belief that they have all too often given the benefit of the doubt to the individual. In these conditions of cold war we just cannot afford to take any risks.
Although I do not want to see a McCarthy attitude growing up in this 1544 country, although we do not want any kind of witch hunting and although there is no need for panic action, there is a need for tightening up the arrangements for vetting all those connected with confidential employment, be it Government employment or otherwise. Anyone with doubtful affiliations should not be given confidential employment. After all, today there are plenty of other jobs available. I hope that the vetting will, therefore, be carried out in a thorough and fearless fashion.
While talking about the work of our Intelligence Services, I should like to put in a plea for greater support for some of them, whether they deal with counterespionage or otherwise. At present, economy is in the air and every Government Department is being urged to cut expenditure as much as possible. I am convinced that it would be false economy of the worst kind now to reduce our expenditure on our Intelligence Services. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) when he says that he considers that the Intelligence Services have, in the past, been kept far too short of funds to enable them to carry out their proper work.
There is, of course, the difficulty which the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) mentioned, and that is that so much of the work of our Intelligence Services is not known to the public, or to Parliament. That is obviously so because their work is of a secret nature and has to be carried out behind the scenes. It is quite true that since the war a great deal has been published about their activities; some of us think that far too much has, in fact, been published. However, for all that, a great deal still remains unpublished, and I hope that it will continue to remain unpublished. But discretion has one very definite disadvantage. It is that Parliament and the public cannot assess the true value of these Intelligence Services.
I agree that it would reassure the House and the country if an inquiry were held at the present time into the adequacy of our Intelligence Services. It certainly seems to me that some of those services could be considerably improved. To give one small example, it is fairly obvious that the work of our forces in Cyprus 1545 has been handicapped and hindered by lack of adequate intelligence.
§ Mr. Speir
Bad policy may enter into it, but there has also been a lack of adequate intelligence, as there was, first of all, in Kenya and originally, too, in Malaya. Bad intelligence means that our men are killed and wounded unnecessarily. I believe that we could improve our Intelligence Services all over the world. At the moment they are being neglected and skimped, and I should like the Government to give an assurance that they intend to see that, whatever economies are made, they will not be false economies so far as the Intelligence Services are concerned.
It is quite clear from what is going on in the Far East, the Middle East, the Near East, in Europe, and, indeed, all over the world, that, in spite of the welcome smiles now emanating from Moscow, the Communists are still waging a ruthless cold war. A cold war is, very largely, an intelligence war; and I hope that the Government will note that fact and will act accordingly.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
It seemed to me that the Foreign Secretary in opening this debate was not primarily speaking to this House in confidence. He was trying, if I understood his speech and its tone aright, to reassure the people of England that although we have been through a difficult time, we have now got the issue under control and that, from now on, everything will be all right. That, shortly, seemed to me to be the message that he was trying to give to the House and the country.
Quite frankly, nobody that I have met believes in either the content or the essence of the White Paper, and that goes for the men in the pubs, the factories, the workshops and the clubs. It is, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), an attempt to cover up something within a circle of associates in the Foreign Office, to protect somebody from the follies of misjudgment, mismanagement and neglect.
Unless there is an independent inquiry into the workings of the espionage and security services of the Foreign Office, the thinking man in the street will not 1546 be reassured. We have moved on a long way since 1867. We have moved on from the initial conditions qualifying entry into the Foreign Service; we have moved on into another world populated by opponents of a cunning and vicious nature—into a world of Communism whose methods and policies, and the way in which they must be fought, do not yet seem to be fully understood in some circles in Whitehall.
I think we can say that at this moment civilisation as we know it is poised on a fine point of judgment in time, and what we may or may not do within the next few decades may well decide whether the world goes Communist or not. What in its most simple entity is the Communist doctrine? It is a belief in the sovereignty of man over the sovereignty of God. That is what gives it its faith. It attracts to its ranks, by virtue of its faith, liberal and progressive thinkers, eccentrics, people with grudges and those who either on account of physical or mental failings are political or moral outcasts. That is why it recruited to itself Burgess and Maclean. I beg the House not to misinterpret or to misunderstand the full force of the threat and challenge of this danger.
It is now known that both Burgess and Maclean were watched from their university days onwards and up to the time that they entered the Foreign Service. It is well known that men with these peculiar weaknesses are the subject of political blackmail and can be used in the chancellories of the world against their own country. It is known that the Communists use such men to their own advantage.
Until we get in our security services, whether M.I.5 or anywhere else, a new type of mind conditioned to the forces with which it has to deal, we shall never be able to combat the challenge which the Communist doctrine offers to the free world. It has used and will use in every country into which it goes every progressive movement, whether it be the British-Soviet Society, the National Council of Women,* this or that front, the British Peace Committee or any other organisation, to infiltrate and to start world movements in order to take Western civilisation and democracy off their guard.
* [See OFFICIAL REPORT, Friday, 11th November, 1955; Col. 2133.]1547 Some very cryptic things have been said today about the American system of security. We know what happened in the case of Burgess and Maclean. I take the view that neither of these men should ever have been employed in the Foreign Office in view of the reports which were forthcoming about their conduct. I have inquired into this matter very carefully and have read much about it, and it seems to me that what was known about both Burgess and Maclean was more than enough to justify, not the penalty of resignation, but the penalty of their expulsion before they had held their posts for even a year. Maclean's habit of getting habitually drunk and of letting off steam in pubs and clubs are things which should not have been tolerated for one moment. They would not have been tolerated in some pubs and clubs that I have known. Maclean would quickly have been put in his place.
This country is faced with the responsibility of looking again at the method of recruitment to the Foreign Service from this numerically small circle of people coming from the public schools. From my slight contact with the foreign embassies, I cannot say from whence the different secretaries have come or to what kind of school they went, and neither do I know what sort of background they had; but to my way of thinking there is something wrong with our great public schools. For instance, I cannot understand why they do not send more men into the scientific industrial professions where they are so badly needed.
When these boys have gone through the schools and the universities, having received a good education in the arts and graces, and then look round for something to do, do they qualify by virtue of examinations for the Civil Service or the Foreign Service? Do they qualify on the basis of a desire to make a career; because of an impetus within themselves to do something good for the country? Do they wish to make a career for themselves, or do they qualify because they want something to do? If after they are trained in the skills and arts and graces, they enter the service for the sake of something to do, the country has no use for them, because inevitably they will fail in whatever job they take on.
1548 If the accusations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East are substantiated, there is something seriously wrong with our methods of selection, recruitment, entry, promotion and general direction. I heard the Foreign Secretary, when discussing security arrangements, refer to reports from the ambassador downwards about his staff. Today the world is so locked in the conflict of a cold war that every possible contingency has to be covered. Who investigates the top man in the first place, or is he never investigated?
It is all very well saying, as has been said today, that our liberty is a precious thing which we must not discard when making sure that our freedom is not destroyed. But, in a world where such forces are ranged against us, can we seriously depend on our archaic laws ill deciding whether or not we shall arrest or interrogate a person on suspicion? Does that position hold good in modern politics and in the atmosphere of a cold war as we know it?
History can teach us some sharp and potent lessons about what has been going on in international modern politics since 1939. The United States have been mentioned several times in this debate. Let us take the case of Alger Hiss. He was first brought to the notice of President Roosevelt in 1939 by Adolph Berle, and at that time President Roosevelt pooh-poohed the idea and said that it was impossible. The activities of Alger Hiss were further brought to the notice of President Truman and the same thing happened. But who or what was Alger Hiss? He was one of the First Secretaries in the American State Department.
When we realise what tremendous power these people can wield, when we remember what happened at Yalta and how it affected the politics of Europe and elsewhere, especially the United States and Britain, when we remember the penalties that Yalta imposed on the foreign policies of the Western world, and when we realise that behind President Roosevelt sat Alger Hiss—a self-confessed perjurer and Soviet espionage agent—that is a very sobering thought.
We do not desire McCarthyism in this country. But, in defence of our liberties and our people, we have the right to ask for an inquiry into the Foreign Office and our security services and the way they work. I do not think we can depend any 1549 longer upon the established system and the methods we have known. One can trace back to 1951, when the Burgess and Maclean case first broke, a period of three or four years when the matter was toned down. Nothing was heard about it until the Petrov trial in Australia, and one begins to wonder why this matter was not dealt with in the meantime.
Inquiries may have been conducted by our security services. Inquiries may have been conducted by the F.B.I. in the United States. Although the advice of Adolph Berle was not taken, they may have been going on. But it was the Petrov trial which brought the Burgess and Maclean case to the light of day, and let no hon. Member imagine that Petrov was not a brave man. The Soviet espionage system does not forget its enemies. The clearest example I can give to the House is that of the murder of Trotsky in Mexico. After fifteen years of patient waiting on their part a manservant in his house, an employee of the Soviet espionage system, took a pickaxe and murdered Trotsky.
Other murders have taken place throughout Europe, because we are dealing with a Government which does not recognise the sanctity of human life or the human soul, a Government which has condemned people to death, not by hundreds but by millions, a Government which has forced through policies that have resulted in the death of millions. That is the kind of thing with which we are faced in the world today. That is why I cannot speak too strongly in condemnation of the Foreign Office and their handling of this matter.
Whoever is covering up whom and on what pretext, whether because of the membership of a circle or a club, or because of good fellowship or whatever it may be, they must think again and think quickly. Make no mistake about it, the Soviet protects those it values. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) read out a letter from a friend of his who dined with Burgess and Maclean the night before they escaped and who at that time had no idea, nor was he given any idea, that Maclean was going to escape, this escape had been engineered for at least a month in advance. If a man who is valuable to the Soviet services might talk and give 1550 people away, he is taken care of and got out of the country. This thing did not just happen in a day. That is where our security services were wrong. The escape must have taken at least a month to organise.
§ Mr. Daines
Surely my hon. Friend would agree that before Maclean went he would have to get permission from the party in order to make sure that he would gain entry into Czechoslovakia or Russia?
§ Mr. Tomney
That is right; so the escape was not organised overnight. It must have been organised one or two months in advance.
I have seen the same pattern repeated all over the world. I was in Japan with the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) at this time last year. We saw a strike of municipal employees. I watched them march along the streets, and I saw the same technique used there as in Western capitals—the cheer leaders; the coaches going along; the loudspeaker vans; the band at the assembly point; the full battery of loudspeakers; the flags and bunting. I have known of the valuable work done by labour attaches in that part of the world because they understand the forces at work.
The labour attachés, introduced by the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, were probably the last and best innovation of the Foreign Office reform in 1947. I should like to see them established in all our embassies. If we are to have a balanced view about the forces with which we must contend, it is essential that we consider statements of persons who know the point of view of the man-in-the-street. Otherwise we shall not obtain a proper assessment of what is going on. In my view, it is absolutely essential that the Foreign Office consider this. It should establish labour attachés in every capital. That is an urgent and absolute necessity; not just in order to study labour problems or give advice about industrial problems, but in order to keep a matter-of-fact workaday eye on the world at large.
I now want to say a word or two about Burgess and Maclean and their conduct in the Foreign Office. I am not going to take part in any witch-hunting, but I will give the Under-Secretary, if he will 1551 see me privately, the names and sources where I got my information. My first question is this: is it or is it not the fact that, on the first day when Maclean entered the Foreign Office, he declared to a colleague that he was a member of the Communist Party? My second question is this: why have M.I.5 not yet interviewed members of the Washington staff of the Foreign Office who were directly associated with Burgess and Maclean? Why have they not been interviewed? [An HON. MEMBER: "And grilled."]
The third point, and on this I am prepared to give names and dates if necessary, is that I have always taken the view that a secret service should be absolutely secret and that most of its members should not be known to each other. To be successful, it has to work in an atmosphere of great secrecy. I do not know, and the public at large do not know, how the members of M.I.5 are recruited, whether they are more military or more intelligence, whether they are ex-policemen or retired generals, but, if they are, it will not do.
In the circumstances of the ideological war with which we are now dealing, we want a new type of man, the type of man who understands the principles and ideology of Marxism, a man who can interpret and read the minds of the men with whom he has to deal. When Petrov finally defected, the man with him was a member of the Australian Secret Service, who had worked for two years to get the desired result—and got it. That is why I want to know more about M.I.5.
I take the view that this service would be better vested in a special branch or super-special branch of Scotland Yard. I cannot for the life of me see how any Department in Whitehall can use its own security forces which are attached to each particular Department. It is tantamount to saying that each atomic plant in this country shall have one security man in each department, all perhaps conflicting, all having different friendships and loyalties. I take the view that this job should be a professional job, that the pay and pensions should be adequate, and that the staff should be recruited from the best type of man available.
This Service is supposed to be secret. I travelled back from Thailand last year by air, and we had to stay in Rome overnight. On the same plane was a man 1552 who had been to China. He was the general manager in London of a large mercantile and commercial bank. I know nothing at all about mercantile and commercial banking, but I struck up an acquaintance with him and I had a long talk with him while flying half-way across the world. When we stayed in Rome, at the breakfast table next morning he said "The man at the next table is M.I.5." "How on earth do you know?" I asked. "Because he told me," he replied.
If that is so—and this information can be checked, because the details of the flight can be checked—it is stupid police folly. Let us make no mistake about it. Our military destiny is tied up with N.A.T.O., and the United States is the strongest and most permanent member of N.A.T.O. The Burgess and Maclean issue has made a tremendous impact on the United States security service. Unless we are prepared to put our house in much better order than is envisaged by the Foreign Secretary, I am afraid that our journey from now on will not be very happy.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I have been chiefly impressed in this debate, apart from the length of the speeches, by the loyalty, which I have always heard of and read about previously, of political chiefs to the Service they represent or the Department to which they are responsible. The loyalty which they have shown, tributes to which I have listened to here today for the first time, has impressed me, although I well appreciate the constitutional position of the Minister who is responsible for the Department.
I have wondered sometimes if some of the more junior civil servants—not the heads of Departments, with whom I have no acquaintance whatsoever—who make criticisms of their political chiefs should not sometimes take a lesson from those political chiefs who have to stand here and answer for some of their misdoings. No one in this House desires that there should be any witch-hunting in this matter. As has been said by many speakers, no one supports the kind of system which is found in other countries, under which individuals can be harried and bullied by committees set up to investigate their behaviour; but the ramifications of a conspiracy are extremely 1553 difficult to trace. They might range throughout the whole body politic.
Therefore, there must be a sufficient, sensible and proper investigation into the background of those persons who have undertaken the Government's service. There must be—and I was glad to thear the Foreign Secretary say so—these positive checks, but I wonder whether, in the positive checks that are now made, when inquiries are made about certain people, answers in writing are obtained, or whether they are purely oral. That is something which, I feel sure, would add further to the investigations which must be made into a person's background.
We cannot escape the obvious conclusion that this is a story of incompetence. The law has been mentioned on several occasions, and it has been stated that there is no law by which these people could have been prevented from leaving the country. It was said by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man) that there was no law to prevent them leaving the ports. Why was there no guard on the ports? Is it really seriously suggested, if somebody had been guarding the ports, had been looking out for these people and had been warned that they might take it into their heads to try to escape, that when they arrived at Southampton to board the packet for St. Malo and were approached by a security officer and asked their business, they would have been able to march on board and sail away to St. Malo, having informed the security officer that that was what they intended to do?
Is it seriously suggested that no pretext could have been made whereby these people could have been taken back to London and have been required to answer questions on certain matters of which, by their flight, they had shown they were guilty, and which we now know to be treasonable activities? Surely, the technicality of arrest, mentioned by my right hon. Friend, is not in this case a real answer. The real answer was that no one thought that these men were going to flee. It was thought that security had been such that these men were not aware of what was happening. It was a grave story of incompetence.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
My point is that, in these circumstances, the ports should have been watched. If it was thought that these people might flee, if they were known to have had some association, these steps should have been taken.
§ Mr. Daines
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, as the interrogation had been ordered by the Foreign Secretary, even the fact of applying for a weekend pass was suspicious and should have sounded the alarm?
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I agree to this extent. If there had been this thorough investigation and one had eventually reached the conclusion that this man out of some 6,000 should be investigated, then not to have taken the proper and sensible precautions seems to be an incredible piece of bungling.
It is quite clear, from what has been said by some people who seemed to know them or their acquaintances well, that these two persons were people who must at all times have been an extreme risk. Apparently, they had "chips on their shoulders" of various kinds which one would have thought straightaway would have led their superiors to suspect that they were persons who were not proper or suitable to hold such responsible jobs.
Our good fortune has been that in the immediate past we have not had persons who have been in control of various public matters, or in responsible positions, whose loyalties have got across the frontiers. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that since 1689 and the wars of religion there have been no such circumstances; but in fact there have been. In the history of our relations with Ireland there were persons such as Erskine Childers. There always have been, and always will be, people whose loyalties conflict, who do not put patriotism as the highest of loyalties. In this House it seems wrong to suggest that, because it is only a new phenomena, people might in fact be putting disloyalty ahead of patriotism, and that the security people were not in fact aware of the matter.
Then after the flight comes the story, which has been adquately dealt with, of the information which was being supplied. It seems to me that what must be hidden is the source of the information or knowledge about what the Government may know of Burgess and Maclean—that 1555 is, of course, vitally important—but not the extent. Surely, if inevitably we compromised the source by revealing the extent, that would be dangerous; but what danger was there in telling the House or the country immediately after the flight all the matters that have now been told us so very much later on?
The inadequacy of the White Paper has also been discussed. Mention has been made of how in paragraph 3 it talks about Maclean being the head of the American Department and says that it does not deal with major problems of Anglo-American relations. Paragraph 11 says that one explanation may be that Maclean observed that he was no longer receiving certain types of secret papers.
It appears, once again, to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to the people in the clubs and pubs that here there has been some covering up by bureaucracy. The story has been heard, and read of, of Departments where the bureaucrats have attempted to "cover up" after initial mistakes have been made, and it has been suggested that there is a feeling among the people who are in the same Service that they must assist those who have made the error to prevent them being entirely shown up.
I agree that we cannot have, and would not want to have, in this country a secret service having any executive power. It must rest upon the criminal law and the executive power of the police. If we had a secret service which had full executive power obviously it would degenerate into something which nobody in this country would want. Security is the real part of the problem, and this is a matter in which security was bad. I have listened to what most hon. Members have said about the Foreign Service and these people who are members of it. I do not agree with much that has been said.
It appears to me that security is the failure here. In security it is not so much money or measures that matter. What matters is having the right man at the head of the Security Service to ensure that the best security this country can have is provided.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
I must say that after a beginning with which I did not agree I found much in what the hon. Member for 1556 Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) said later with which I did agree. I thought that the statement by the Foreign Secretary on the rights of a person under suspicion was much preferable to the opening statements in the speech of the hon. Member. However, my remarks will be concerned not with the security side of the matter but with the question of the personnel with whom we are concerned in the Foreign Office.
It has already been suggested that the Foreign Office ought to be grouped together with the Civil Service as a whole. As a matter of principle, I am inclined to agree with that suggestion. I take roughly the same line about the wartime reforms as that taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). In principle, it is a sound idea that the Foreign Service should be part of the Civil Service as a whole; but there will be practical difficulties. One of the difficulties which has faced the Civil Service as a whole in recent years has been that of getting the right people for the administrative class, which corresponds to the branch in the Foreign Service—Branch "A"—to which Maclean belonged. The situation has already been stated by the Civil Service Commissioners to be one of considerable difficulty, but if I can believe recent reports it has this year become extremely bad, so bad that the number of candidates acceptable has not been equal to the number of vacancies.
In the Foreign Service, on the other hand, if one can take the evidence of an article in the Observer yesterday, there seem to have been this year quite sufficient candidates for the vacancies. Even if one skims away half of them with the first qualifying examination and assumes that they were not serious candidates, there were still ample to fill the vacancies. If we merge the Foreign Service with the Civil Service as a whole, let us make no mistake that very shortly we shall run into an acute problem of staffing the upper branches of the Foreign Service.
This difficulty is not confined to the Civil Service. It is one that concerns all, or nearly all, the public services. There are just a few exceptions. When business is booming and attracting people with the offer of high salaries and extraordinarily good prospects, we find difficulty in attracting scientists to the public services and administrative people 1557 to the first division of the Civil Service. There is difficulty in attracting all the officers we need for the Armed Services. There is difficulty in staffing the local government services. We cannot get sanitary inspectors, and we cannot get the specialists such as tax inspectors for the Civil Service, because industry and commerce are booming and offering far better prospects. That is the difficulty behind the whole question of staffing. That will be immensely emphasised for the Foreign Service once we link the Foreign Service with the Civil Service as a whole.
What I wanted to talk about was not so much that general problem which the public services in general are facing as a result of the present economic situation, but rather the intake of the upper branch of the Foreign Service. They are, of course, university recruits like those for the first division of the Civil Service. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, I was struck by the articles that appeared recently in the Manchester Guardian. One of the points they made was the extreme variety of interests for the Foreign Service now. They used a phrase like "Atoms, oil, international payments" to illustrate the new and highly technical interests that the Service now has to deal with. Again, like my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East, I was struck by the fact that the reforms of the war years had destroyed a number of sources of expert knowledge without replacing them properly. But, in general, we have been producing rather more of these experts in languages and the affairs of particular regions, and these experts in matters of "atoms, oil and international payments," than we formerly did. Since the war the universities have given far more attention to these things, with the establishment and development of the schools of African and Oriental languages—at London University, for instance—and more attention to the Slav languages and cultures elsewhere. We have far more people who can be considered as replacements than we had formerly.
There is, however, very little sign that the Foreign Office has been making use of these new sources. Since the war recruitment to Branch A seems to have been exactly of the sort that would justify the accusations of inbreeding and so on 1558 that are currently being made. I have not the figures for this year, but from 1945 to 1954—up to and including last year's intake—426 appointments were made to the senior division of the Foreign Service. Leaving aside figures and turning to percentages, I find that 77 per cent. of those appointments were to graduates of Oxford or Cambridge; 5 per cent. to graduates of London; 5 per cent. to Scottish graduates; 1 per cent. to graduates of all provincial universities; a very small percentage to graduates of universities outside this island—Ireland and New Zealand, for instance—and 8 per cent. to candidates who had no university education at all.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
To present a fair picture, perhaps the hon. Member would give similar figures of the candidates?
§ Mr. MacPherson
That point was made previously, and the Joint Under-Secretary answered it in a way which completely destroyed his own case. He said that the high Oxford and Cambridge figures reflected the high number of applicants from those universities, but the figures he gave for 1954 proved exactly the opposite. In 1954, of 30 vacancies in the senior branch, 28 were filled by Oxford and Cambridge graduates. The hon. Gentleman stated that there were 287 applicants, of whom 221 came from Oxford and Cambridge. Now, 221 is not to 287 as 28 is to 30 but as 23 is to 30. In other words, the proportion of Oxford and Cambridge appointments in the one year for which we have figures was very much greater than the proportion of Oxford and Cambridge applicants. I think that that answers the hon. Member for Farnham.
I mention those figures because they give some shadow of backing to the suggestion that the Foreign Office is a kind of club, that there is a certain exclusiveness about it. After passing through a university one assumes that one will be thrown among people of all sorts of different types of education and coming from other types of universities. In the Foreign Office, however, appointees come from Oxford and Cambridge and are put right into the middle of a group of people who also come from those two institutions. That must lead to some possibility of inbreeding, of narrowness of interest, 1559 of loyalty to the club from time to time—to put it mildly—becoming an obstacle to one's greater loyalties.
I must say that I do not think it at all likely that this intake reflects in any serious way the intellectual requirements of the Foreign Office. I should not imagine that there is all that difference, intellectually, between the products of Oxford and Cambridge on one hand and those of London University and the provincial and Scottish universities on the other. Nor would anyone suggest that there is any ground for thinking that there is any wide divergence in the moral qualities and characters of the graduates. But, despite the fact that recruitment is farmed out to the Civil Service Selection Board—as it should be—there is still far too narrow a range of intake. That must be bad for the Service and must have played some part in creating some of the difficulties to which we have been addressing ourselves this afternoon.
During the period from 1945 to 1954 to which I have referred, there has been a great influx of people from the elementary schools, and the maintained secondary schools coming under the public authorities, into the universities generally—but mainly into the provincial and Scottish universities. In spite of that huge influx, the high figures for Oxford and Cambridge have continued. No sign of it has been reflected in the appointments to the Foreign Office. I regret this. I think that it is one of the things that make a case for an inquiry into the methods of appointment, the sources of appointment and, indeed, into the methods of training after a man has entered the foreign service.
On the previous occasion to which I have referred, the Joint Under-Secretary seemed to be rather complacent and said that he was quite sure that the best candidates were obtained. I suggest very strongly that, however good the present candidates are, the Service would be improved as a whole if they came from more varied sources, had more varied experience, were of more varied types and had more varied backgrounds. The hon. Gentleman said that there was no need to widen the source of recruitment. I doubt it. I think an inquiry might well look into the possibility of widening the sources of recruitment.
1560 We have to remember that the reality of some of the popular feeling about these things lies in the fact that it is popular feeling. If people think that the people in the Foreign Service spend a lot of time drinking cocktails and that sort of thing, and are the type to whom this comes naturally because of their social background, the habit is developed of thinking of diplomats, and of the Foreign Office generally, as being rather different from the rest of the people. That is rather unhealthy. If there were two universities dominating the intake into the Foreign Service, I would far rather they were Liverpool and Bristol, for example, than Oxford and Cambridge.
Admirable institutions though they are, of our 16 or 17 universities Oxford and Cambridge are the two which, to the ordinary man in the street, are a little more distant and represent a life rather different from his own—much more than do the provincial universities. There is undoubtedly a great deal of loose talk about the way in which diplomats live, but there is a strong case for trying positively to improve the understanding of diplomats by the people in general and of the people in general by diplomats. As long as we adhere to the present very narrow intake, there are potential difficulties. In addition, we are losing an immense amount. The wider our net is cast—I do not think that it is necessarily a matter of democratisation, which the hon. Member for Coventry, East, was talking about—provided we keep to the approved standards, the more variety and the better and stronger as a whole will be the Service that we shall build up.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) made an exceedingly thoughtful speech, with much of which I am in full agreement. He said that the wider our net is cast the better Service we would get. But I reach different conclusions from those that he reached. For instance, I am quite certain that the Foreign Office is making every effort to cast its net wider. Then is the hon. Gentleman really saying that the Civil Service Commissioners are actively prejudiced in favour of Oxford and Cambridge? I know that he is not saying that, so he need not trouble to deny it. I 1561 am sure that he would not dream of saying so. If one admits that only educational examinations and personal qualifications are taken into consideration, if one admits that examinations are conducted fairly, and efforts are being constantly made to interest the provincial universities, I do not think that the burden of his charge is so heavy as he makes it out to be.
With regard to Oxford and Cambridge, I do not know exactly the proportions, but the vast majority of the undergraduates of those universities are maintained by grants from Government or public bodies. My experience of the Diplomatic Service is not extensive, but I certainly know a number of its members. Last year, I went with a Parliamentary delegation to the Far East and saw a great deal of three Embassies in Tokyo, Bangkok and Rangoon. I was deeply struck—and I am very glad to have an opportunity of paying this tribute—by the exceedingly high standard of integrated efficiency typical of each of those three Missions, and I was immensely struck by the wide variety of social background of the members of those Missions. I am talking not only about the senior branch. I could not have been more favourably impressed than I was.
My opinion was backed up in each of those three capitals when I talked to English businessmen and British citizens resident there. All of them said that the foreign nationals there were constantly expressing envy of our Foreign Service and saying that they wished their missions were as efficient and as representative. I am sorry that this debate has so much taken the tone of an attack on the Foreign Service. We must avoid complacency, but—
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson
I am sure that the hon. Member will not take it that I am attacking the Foreign Service. I am trying to suggest how we can improve it. We are continually doing that in public life in this country, without necessarily attacking something which we want to improve. It is not simply a matter of the social background when one talks about Oxford and Cambridge, although that is important. I think that the proportion of maintained scholars is probably less at these two institutions than the hon. Member thinks. Apart from social questions, there is the purely 1562 intellectual question of people coming from the same kind of intellectual channel. These two universities are like each other and different from the universities of Leeds or Glasgow. The channel they come from is the same kind intellectually, apart altogether from the social side.
§ Mr. Nicholson
The hon. Gentleman is very disarming. I was not accusing him of making an unfair or unreasonable attack. I was thinking of the speech made by the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), which I regarded as most unhelpful. I do not want to be led away by the hon. Gentleman into the question of intellectual channels. I think that everyone bears the stamp of the institution at which he was educated, but I think that social background is perhaps one of the most important things.
I was saying that I believe that it is the experience of hon. Members in this House that wherever they go, or almost everywhere they go, they find that the British Mission in a foreign capital has the highest reputation of any mission. It is a great pity, as I have said, that this debate has taken that particular trend.
While we must avoid complacency, it is not only unjust and unfair but shortsighted and inimical to the best interests of this country if it goes out to the world that the House of Commons has spent the best part of a day in attacking a service that is the envy of every other nation in the world. There have certainly been these mistakes over Maclean and Burgess, but the fact remains—and I say it categorically—that our Foreign Service is varied in its personnel, is democratic in the sense that in all ranks its members are drawn from the most diverse social background, is efficient, and is envied. While not attempting to cover up what has happened, I do beg the House to keep a sense of proportion and a sense of balance.
Something was said by the Foreign Secretary about members of the Foreign Service having fewer of the rights of the ordinary citizens than do members of the rest of the Civil Service. He referred to the committee which gets rid of people who are considered unsuitable. I believe that if the confidence which has been a little shaken is to be fully restored, the work of that committee will have to go further, and I think that members of the 1563 Foreign Service will have to accept a further diminution of their rights.
I was struck by the fact that the Foreign Secretary seemed to think that there was very little intermediate stage between retaining a man in the Foreign Office and prosecuting him. I believe that more use should be made of transfer to other branches of the Civil Service. There are two criteria. The first is reliability, and the second is vulnerability. I am not talking about political reliability, but about reliability of character.
In the course of our lives we meet many people—we are probably very often of that type ourselves—who are very well-meaning, but are not of the strongest character, and because of that they are bound to be weak links in any chain. They may be indiscreet; they may contract unfortunate marriages, and they may mix in questionable circles in foreign capitals. I believe that members of the Foreign Service, because they have a position which is highly responsible and exceedingly honourable, must be prepared to accept to a greater extent than they do at present transfer to other branches of the Civil Service if their characters are thought to be weak.
So far as vulnerability is concerned, there have been references to the unfortunate habits of Burgess and various people. Without delivering moral judgment, we must face the fact that people who are perverted in their tastes are extremely vulnerable to blackmail. I did not know Burgess well. I met him once or twice. At one time, he was the B.B.C. representative who arranged the speakers for "The Week in Westminster." One had only to look at his eyes to see that he was an unreliable and shifty type, brilliant though he was. I believe that if in those days there had been the same careful scrutiny of people's character, habits and background as there is today he would not have been in the Foreign Office for one week.
Apart from that trend in the debate, which I deplore, there has also been the undertone, voiced by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney), of general anxiety so far as our security services are concerned. This debate may indeed have done good if it calls the attention of the Government and of public 1564 opinion to the grave uneasiness which is felt by people who "know their stuff" about the way in which we are dealing with the Communist menace in this country. By "people who do know their stuff" I mean people like the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North and many of his friends. Our security services are necessarily shrouded in secrecy, and no one demands an open inquiry to bring all their methods to light.
This debate will have done good if it shows the Government that there is keen anxiety. It will have done harm if, to public opinion throughout the world, it reflects serious anxiety over the Foreign Service. I start where I began: do not make any mistake about it, we have the finest Foreign Service in the world. It is democratic, varied, efficient and the envy and object of respect of every other people.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
I did not have the advantage of hearing the early stages of this debate, but I am tempted to intervene by certain observations which I heard in the speeches latterly delivered. I listened with great interest to the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson), and with a great deal that he said I agree. But I found difficulty in finding the connection between what my hon. Friend had to say and the particular issue of security with which, I understand, the House is concerned in this debate.
It may well be that the Foreign Office suffers from not having as widely representative an establishment as one would wish, but I should have thought that it would be a difficult case to argue that one consequence of that was that its position in terms of security was, by that circumstance, in any way endangered or diminished.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson
I do not think there was any suggestion at any time that the debate was concerned entirely with security. Indeed, it seems to me that one of the advantages of a debate like this is that we can try to look forward and deal with positive suggestions for reform rather than concentrate simply on the individual issue that causes the debate. On the question which my hon. Friend has raised about the connection 1565 between the type of personnel in the Foreign Office and security, I think he probably did not have the advantage of hearing the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man), who went into that fairly fully.
§ Mr. Irvine
I am obliged. I made my observation regarding my hon. Friend's remarks only in order that the position might be made clear.
In considering the whole extraordinary and almost incredible story of Maclean and Burgess, I feel that it is a great mistake to attach too much importance to the detail of their escape and to the detail of the manner in which they were able to evade the authorities. There was, obviously, some bungling. There was, quite clearly, a failure to keep the watch that should have been kept and to put upon them the restraints which, in the light of events, it is quite clear would have been desirable.
But there is another side of the picture which compels us to recognise how extraordinarily difficult it must be to ensure that two people of that type and character and with those objectives are not able to escape. It is a task involving considerable difficulties indeed. I am reminded of the story of Gilbert Chesterton—I think it is "The Man Who Was Thursday"—which begins, if my recollection is aright, with a picture of twelve anarchists, or it may be more. One by one, as each chapter of the story unfolds, an anarchist turns out to be a detective. In the last and culminating chapter the position is reached where they are all standing at the end of a pier at some point on our coast. The last anarchist who has been discovered to be a detective looks round upon his colleagues and says, "But where are the anarchists?" The reply comes back, "There aren't any anarchists. We are just a lot of bally policemen looking at each other."
There is no doubt that in all these affairs it is easy to criticise and deride the forces of security. The advantages are with the culprit who is seeking to get away and the disadvantages are with those who are trying to prevent him from doing so and who, at the same time, are obliged to keep within the law and obliged to avoid the danger of letting it be known prematurely that a man is suspect. Therefore, for my part, I would think it 1566 is quite wrong to found any serious criticism of the Security Services upon the details and circumstances of the escape of these two men.
The anxiety that I feel about this whole affair relates not to that but to what appears to me to be a far more important matter, namely, the breakdown which the incident appears to reveal in the intuitive sense and judgment of the associates and superiors of these men in the Foreign Office. That is what causes anxiety, not any trouble in the mechanics of the matter and not, in my view, any particular detail of the Security Service. But that it should have been possible for two people of this kind, of whom we now know all that we do, to remain so long in the Foreign Office and hold at one time or another positions of considerable importance, suggests that there was the most astounding breakdown in what one had always liked to think was the traditional faculty in the Foreign Service to distinguish between the good and the evil and between the sensible and the foolish.
§ Mr. Irvine
That is a parallel I do not intend to follow. That is the matter that gives rise to anxiety.
I can only conclude, however, that the breakdown of intuitive sense in the Department cannot have been as bad as at first sight it appears to have been. It must have been widely known within the Department that these two were undesirable men.
If one takes that view, if one takes the view that it must have been apparent long before these two men escaped that they were undesirable types—if one takes the view, in other words, that there cannot have been such a complete breakdown in the intuitive perspicacity and judgment of the Department that their true character was not known within it—one turns to the reason why the judgment which must have existed about these men was not exposed and made public and why action was not taken. I can only assume that the reason for that was the deeply rooted desire in the Department amongst the civil servants there to be loyal to each other.
One feels, then, that the real lesson to be learnt from this incident is not that the security services were necessarily 1567 gravely at fault, or necessarily that there was as complete a breakdown in the intuitive perspicacity and judgment of members of the Service as at first sight appeared, but that we are dealing with the consequence of men in a great Department feeling that their obligations to each other and to the Department were such that the truth should not be revealed. It is a difficult thing, of course, to suggest what is the proper remedy for that. It may well be that in this context the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs have particular relevance.
§ Mr. Nicholson
Would not the alternative explanation, and the more reasonable one, be that there was anxiety to secure evidence for a prosecution? Is not that conceivable?
§ Mr. Irvine
I should have thought that that was an unlikely explanation of what occurred. The suggestion that crimes can go on being committed indefinitely because it is thought undesirable to check them for fear that there is insufficient evidence is a line of thought, and of inaction, that is full of danger. We are speaking about conjectures here, and for my part I do not know any of the persons concerned, but I should certainly say that it is very unlikely that the explanation for this incident is to be found in the reluctance of persons to take action before there was sufficient accumulation of evidence. It may have played a part, but it does not seem to me to go to the root of the matter.
I think that, in the last analysis, when the matter is traced to its source, probably the real root of the trouble here is a kind of inverted virtue on the part of the Department. I think that the sense of loyalty and of keeping together was carried to the point where things which should not have been allowed to continue in the public interest were allowed to continue. It may well be that the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs are particularly relevant to this point, and that the mistake—because that is what it is—of too intense a loyalty to a Department and to one's colleagues in a Department, to the point where it is not compatible with loyalty to the highest national interests, can be treated best by expanding the sources of recruitment into 1568 the Department. To find the remedy for that is a very difficult task, and for the moment I am not able to think of another than the remedy which my hon. Friend has suggested.
I would say, in conclusion that one further lesson, which I have no doubt is felt in all parts of the House, of all this is that an incident of this kind must not be allowed to be made the occasion or the excuse for any kind of illiberal witch-hunting and pursuit. I am not at all sure that the most valuable outcome of a debate like this may not prove to be the insistence by the House as a whole that that shall not be. I speak as one who prefers contention in political life, but perhaps we are discussing today a theme upon which Members in all parts of the House can find a very large measure of agreement.
We do not want in this country any processes which can be regarded as witch-hunting. At the same time, we can, perhaps, agree that an example has been provided here of how loyalty among colleagues in a Department has been carried to the point where the national interest has been adversely affected. If there be any substance in that view, offered to the House only after consideration of all the aspects of this extraordinary case, we may be confident that no section of the community will be quicker to learn the lesson than the Civil Service itself and the Foreign Office in particular.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)
The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) has, I think, exonerated the security services, although possibly he may have been referring to this case only. I do wish I could agree. All of us who have had the honour to serve in any of the security services of this country and two have already spoken today—would like to take that view. I cannot, and it cannot be doing any service, I am sure, in the long run to the branch of this great Service whose reputation is at stake in this debate to try to minimise what I feel is the seriousness of the matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) and the Foreign Secretary both referred to the extreme new difficulties which are now faced by our security services thanks to the fact that agents can now often be recruited not 1569 only by giving them money, not only by threatening them, not only by any of the old-established ways, but by appealing to their ideology. It is very true indeed. What I contend, what has been suggested by many hon. Members in the debate, and what is certainly suggested in the White Paper, is that since the war, at any rate, our Security Service has been going the wrong way about it to detect those people.
This particular failure by the Security Service in the case of Burgess and Maclean is bad enough in itself, but I maintain that it cannot be considered in isolation. As I see it, it is the culmination of a series of failures, which were far more damaging to the safety of this country than this one. I refer to the cases of the three Russian agents engaged on atomic research in this country, that is to say, Dr. Alan Nunn May in 1946, Dr. Fuchs in 1949, and Professor Pontecorvo in 1950. I hope that the House will bear with me for a few minutes while I say a few words about each of them, for that leads to the point I am anxious to make.
The first of these three agents and traitors, the least considerable and the least harmful, was Alan Nunn May. At Cambridge he was definitely recognised as a Communist. When he left there he went to Russia on a visit, and when he came back he joined the editorial board of the Scientific Worker, which is the official journal of the National Association of Scientific Workers, and which at that time, I think it would be quite fair to say, included many Communists amongst its directors.
I am not suggesting that for these reasons Nunn May should not have been employed on atomic research in this country. After all, in those days, in the 'thirties, it was not so very uncommon to have those views when one was an undergraduate. What is more, when Nunn May was engaged by Tube Alloys, the cover-name used for atomic research in those days, any person who was a strong pro-Russian was considered also to be strongly anti-Hitler. When, however, after the war our actual enemy, Germany, changed to potential enemy, Russia, men like that in such vital positions should have been considered by our security services not, perhaps, with suspicion but, at any rate, with a very inquiring eye.
I do not think that too much blame can be attached in the first case, but the 1570 point is that, as a result, our security services apparently made no sort of inquiries about the antecedents and background of other atomic scientists who were working for us. If they had done so, they would have found a very much more important man, Dr. Klaus Fuchs. They would have found that he was a refugee in this country from Nazi persecution in Germany in his youth, that he had been a member of the Communist Party all his adult life, that all his brothers and sisters were Communists, that he had been reported to the Chief Constable of Bristol as a Communist, and that his name had been found in the note-book of one of the chief suspects in the Canada spy trial. Yet, apparently, none of these facts was discovered by our security services, and it was only three years later, when word came from America, that we were able to get busy on him. One would have thought that after that, at least, our Security Service would have been alerted in this kind of case, but not a bit of it.
We then come to the worst of the three cases, that of Professor Pontecorvo, which followed very soon afterwards. Professor Bruno Pontecorvo, like Fuchs, was in his youth a victim of Fascist persecution, this time in Italy. He had a brother there who was a well-known and active Communist. He had a sister who was married to a professed Communist, and his first cousin was a member of the Central Committee of the Italian Communist Party. After those two earlier examples, it was nothing short of shameful that our security services knew nothing at all about this.
After Pontecorvo had escaped and Questions were raised in the House, these were the kind of replies that were given. On 23rd October, 1950, in answer to a supplementary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll), the then Minister of Supply, the right hon. Member for Vauhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss), said that Pontecorvo… has been screened several times during the last few years by our security officers.In answer to a further question, the right hon. Gentleman said:… according to the security officers, the screenings were particularly satisfactory."—[OFFICAL REPORT, 23rd October, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 2489.]1571 How easily satisfied some people can be, particularly when we recall that, according to a further reply by the right hon. Gentleman that day, there had been since the Fuchs case a certain tightening up of the system. I wonder what it amounted to. Heaven knows what it was like before.
Early in 1950, apparently alarmed by the Fuchs trial, Pontecorvo himself went to some of the security authorities and told them that he had Communist relations in Italy and had recently seen them when he had been over there. At about the same time we received a report from Sweden saying definitely that both Pontecorvo and his wife were Communists. Pontecorvo continued to carry out his highly secret work, and in July of that year he blithely set forth with all his family for a motor tour of Italy. He did not come back on the day that he was due to return. Instead, he wrote a letter to the atomic station at Harwell, where he was employed, telling those in authority there that he could not come back on time because his car had broken down. The reply given by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall in the House of Commons on 6th November, in answer to a Question, wasDr. Pontecorvo's leave expired on 31st August. On this date he had written a note to Harwell, received on 4th September, saying that he had trouble with his car…In reply to a further Question, the right hon. Gentleman said of Dr. Pontecorvo,… the reasons for this man over-staying his leave seemed quite normal. He had a motor-car breakdown, and was asked to visit some people in Switzerland, and it was, naturally, only about a week afterwards that those at Harwell became worried about him."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 567–81.]"Normal" and "natural." Ye gods! All I can say is that if our security authorities consider that sort of behaviour in the case of a man of Pontecorvo's antecedents and background normal and natural, none of them is fit to hold his job.
I am sorry to have inflicted this old history on the House at such length, but it leads me to the point that I want to make—that these three top-grade Russian agents, all atomic scientists, men varying very widely in every way, in character and upbringing and so on, had one thing in common. It is that if, when the poten- 1572 tial enemy became Russia instead of Germany after the war, our security authorities had carried out even the most cursory investigations into their backgrounds, all three would have been found utterly unfit for their jobs. It seems barely credible to me that, after all that, the same thing should have happened in the case of Maclean; but in fact it did.
Maclean was of about the same age as the three and was at Cambridge with Nunn May. He was then recognised as a Communist. He went into the Foreign Service immediately afterwards. But although we are told in the White Paper that in January, 1949, knowledge came to those concerned that information was being sent from our Foreign Office to the Russians andhighy secret but widespread and protracted inquiries were begun,those widespread inquiries were not spread widely enough even then to include Maclean's background just before he joined the Foreign Service.
A year and a half later, in April, 1950, the inquiries were not even spread as widely as that, when, in fact, the suspects had been narrowed down to two or three of whom, of course, he was one. They were not even spread widely enough to include his background immediately before he joined the Foreign Service when the suspects had been narrowed down to one—he himself—because paragraph 4 of the White Paper states that the information was obtained only after Maclean had escaped.
Therefore, it amounts to this—that all this time the security services have been neglecting what should be the chief channel of their inquiries, because, as has been said, these spies are now recruited very frequently for ideological reasons rather than for what I might call the old-fashioned reasons. These facts are not in doubt. They are stated in the wretched White Paper, but the White Paper also discloses that in many other ways our security services did not prove up to the job. Paragraph 26, which has been enlarged upon in the debate today, states that no watch was set on Maclean, except in London, as it would have been too dangerous and would have been likely to have alerted him, because he lived in a quiet country area. Surely our Security Service is not going to confess that its trade craft has fallen to that level?
1573 Of course nobody who knows anything about this subject imagines that such a watch is kept by the village policeman doffing his uniform and putting on a bowler hat and a tweed suit above his uniform boots and following somebody down a country lane. There are other methods, and the fact that apparently no watch of any kind was placed on Maclean during the week-end in which he escaped is nothing short of shameful.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) agreed to the interrogation on that Friday morning of 25th May. Maclean had asked for and obtained leave for the following Saturday morning. Therefore he was not due in the Foreign Office between the Friday evening and the Monday morning. Whatever may have been the reason why he went when he did, whether it had been arranged long before or suddenly we do not yet know, but it must have been obvious to our security authorities and those in charge that this week-end was the danger period. Yet, as I said, not a step was taken to keep any surveillance on him throughout that period.
It has been said once or twice in this debate that the chief value of a secret service is that it should be secret. Unfortunately that excellent maxim has been so consistently flouted since the war by amateur authors cashing in on their experiences and breaking into print as a result of two or three years' temporary service in one of our great Services in wartime that we can well afford a slight risk of loss of secrecy once more in a good cause. The cause I am suggesting is an inquiry into our Security Service.
I do not feel that whitewashing will satisfy the people of this country about this case. Their faith in our Security Service has been sadly shaken, and it must be our first resolve to try to restore it at all costs. The same thing applies to their faith in our Foreign Service. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson) said that the public confidence had been a little shaken for the first time by this case. That was a triumph of understatement in view of what people are thinking.
Our Foreign Service has always received the criticism from which, to a large extent, our Security Service has been free. It has been accused of being too much 1574 divorced from reality, of having too many receptions and cocktail parties, of being staffed by too many old school ties. Yet even its more severe critics in their wildest moment have never before this case suggested that it harboured traitors, and now people know that it did and they believe that it still may do so.
The only way in which we can be fairly sure of reassuring the people of this country, both as regards the efficiency of our security arrangements and about what has happened in this case, is to appoint a committee of inquiry. I would suggest that it should be a committee formed of the judicial members of the Privy Council, sitting in secret and reporting to the Prime Minister. That would go far to reassure our people who deserve reassurance. Therefore, most earnestly I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the decision that it is not necessary to hold any such inquiry.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
I find myself in cordial agreement with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux). I hope that there will be a judicial inquiry along the lines he advocated and mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) earlier in the debate. This debate will be a sham exercise unless it is followed by such an inquiry.
We want an inquiry into the recruitment and staffing of the Foreign Office. We also want an inquiry into the efficiency of our Security Service. Those should be two separate and distinct inquiries. It may be found necessary to have a different form of inquiry in each case since exactly the same security considerations do not apply to an investigation into the staffing and recruitment of the Foreign Office as would obviously and necessarily apply to an examination of our Secret Service. Unless there is an inquiry people will remain profoundly dissatisfied with the official pronouncement made on the subject by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
I will not go as far back as did the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central. I will go back only to 1951. In the light of what the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said today, I 1575 have come to the conclusion that if Burgess and Maclean had not left the country all that would have happened would have been that Burgess would have been asked to resign on pain of dismissal and would probably have resigned in that way. Maclean might still have been carrying on in some capacity in the Foreign Office because, up to the time of his disappearance, there was still no evidence against him to justify proceedings under the Official Secrets Act.
When these two men disappeared, the first statement on the subject was made on 11th June, 1951, in this House. I suggested on that occasion that it looked as if perhaps their immediate dismissal might be justified. I was told that it would be premature to come to a conclusion about it one way or the other. The House seemed to accept that, and as the White Paper reveals, one year afterwards these two men were suspended—almost a week after they had disappeared. It took a week for somebody to make up his mind that they ought to be suspended. After they had been suspended they were still kept on the Foreign Office list because a decision to terminate their appointments was not taken until 1st June, 1952, with effect as from 1st June, 1951.
That struck me at the time as very odd and I asked a Question about the delay of one year and when it was finally decided to dispense definitely and permanently with the services of these men. This is the reply I received from the right hon. Gentleman who is now Minister of State at the Foreign Office:It is because the search of them was continuing. Indeed, the search is still continuing. But, having been absent without leave for a year, my right hon. Friend has considered that as a disciplinary measure their appointments should be terminated and that they should be dismissed the Service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1952; Vol. 503, c. 417.]In July, 1952, a year afterwards, somebody had taken the terrible decision that the time had come when the appointments of these two men should be terminated.
I merely mention that because it is symptomatic of the attitude, atmosphere or spirit which apparently prevailed in the Foreign Office at the time, and still 1576 prevails. As a matter of fact, I was so flabbergasted and breathless at that reply that I was unable to ask another Question about the subject for eighteen months.
On 25th January, 1954, I decided to take the plunge again. I asked the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Supply what was going on, and he said that investigations were continuing, but no detailed account of their nature could be given without prejudicing the chance of their success. I was then told, in another blinding revelation of the obvious, that if I presumed that these two men were behind the Iron Curtain I should probably be right. It will be noted that even then the right hon. Gentleman was not committing himself to anything.
Anyhow, I waited another year. On 31st January, 1955, I asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affiairs what was going on. The right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of State replied that he had no statement to make at that moment—this is the illuminating sentence—the reason being that he would not wish to make a statement based on inadequate information and insufficient researches seeing that the investigation was still being pursued.
So at the beginning of this year no statement could be made, research was still going on, the information was inadequate, and there was "nothing more to say at the moment." The Foreign Secretary was asked about it on 27th April—"Nothing to add." One of the Joint Under-Secretaries was asked about it on 20th June—"Nothing to add."
Then we got a White Paper which virtually had nothing to add to what everybody already knew, and we have today had an eloquent speech, full of interesting political philosophy, by the Foreign Secretary which adds nothing at all to what anyone who has been following this matter with his own unaided resources has been able to discover.
In those circumstances, it is not at all surprising that the White Paper has met a unanimity of obloquy rare in the history of White Papers issued by any Government since White Papers have been issued, whatever that date might have been. It has been condemned everywhere. I will not weary the House by detailing the journals from which these 1577 comments on the White Paper have been extracted:… disingenuous reticence … buckets of whitewash … paucity of information … cover-up to protect men guilty of supplying successive Ministries with incomplete information … admission of failure … an insult to any reasonable man's intelligence.…Those are quotations from comments made by papers representing almost every shade of political opinion and thought in this country. I quote them because they bear out what I believe every speaker in the debate has tried to adopt as the tone of his speech—the non-party political approach that we have been trying to make towards the very serious problem which has been exposed by the events in the Burgess and Maclean case. Very many Governments are involved, perhaps ever since the time when Maclean entered the Foreign Service. It is idle and unprofitable now to apportion blame, and I am glad we have not wasted our time trying to do so.
There is one quotation which I should like framed and hung in every department of the Foreign Office. It is from "Gulliver's Travels":Providence never intended to make the management of public affairs a mystery to be comprehended by a few persons of sublime genius.I should like that quotation hung in every Government Department, but particularly in the Foreign Office, because there, over the years, has been created a kind of order which I can only describe by saying that they have tended to regard themselves as a new Samurai of twentieth century England. It is an attitude of mind which has been stressed by previous speakers. What is wrong with the Foreign Office is not only the inefficiency of its security services—that is one of the issues—but the attitude of mind and spirit of the place, which makes it an extremely awkward problem for any Government to deal with satisfactorily.
The point that I want very seriously to make is that there is a reluctance, from which many Governments have suffered—the present Government suffer from it—to tell the people the truth and the whole truth. The people will know how to judge all right if they are told what the truth is. Never was there a more intelligent or fair-minded public than is now to be found in this country. What have we to be afraid of? Why not on every possible occasion give the benefit of the doubt 1578 to the principle that, as far as possible, the people of this country should be told the truth and the whole truth?
One of the difficulties about the matter over the past few years has been the reluctance to tell the people the truth. That is responsible for all the omissions from the White Paper, the evasions in answers to Questions in this House and in another place, and the stupid situations in which successive Governments have found themselves involved as a result of following the Foreign Office tradition that the world will come to an end if ordinary people are told a little too much.
I will not go through the White Paper in detail. That would be a waste of time at the present stage. I merely want to draw attention to two or three points, and I will do so very briefly. On the Friday before Maclean had his Saturday morning off, just at the time when everything was approaching a climax, and after it had been decided that there should be questions—incidentally, it was not even known that Maclean was missing until the Monday, as has been pointed out by previous speakers—the senior security officer, who knew that Maclean was under observation, saw him go off in a taxi-cab but had no instructions to stop him. What sort of security arrangement is that?
We now learn from the White Paper that the Foreign Office was aware for two years and three months before the disappearance of the two men that secret information had leaked out. Then suspicions narrowed down to two or three people, and somewhere about that period, so careful were those concerned not to give Maclean any warning that he was under observation that it was decided to deny him access to secret papers which would normally have gone to him in the course of his duties. Of course, anyone as intelligent and as competent as Maclean had been certified to be by Sir Roger Makins and others who had had him under observation would have easily smelled a rat, to put it no higher, as soon as secret documents were being withdrawn from his observation.
Even when Maclean had disappeared and investigators rushed to his home at Tatsfield, they did not trouble to examine the mass of papers which he had left behind. It may well be that Maclean had extracted anything that might be of value 1579 or which might have created suspicion. After Burgess was recalled to London and was on the way out, as has been made clear by preceeding speakers, he made a telephone call to the United States and talked to some unknown person. That is known because he left a friend of his to pay the bill of £7.
Here was a man in that very short period since his return to this country with a view to having some disciplinary action taken against him making a long telephone call to the United States to somebody or other and apparently nobody was concerned about what he was doing or what his intentions were.
I will say for the British Security Service—and I agree with a great deal of what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan)—that within a few days of the disappearance the British Security Service had all the facts of the tip-off.
I do not want to take up the time of the House, but let me now come to the situation that existed in the middle of April, 1951, when, according to the White Paper, the field of suspicion had been narrowed to two or three persons. The Government cannot even make up their minds whether it was two or three. Why is there this "or"? Either the field had been narrowed down to three persons, or it had not. Let us have a little more precision. Let us at last depart from the verbal gymnastics in which, whoever it is who draws up these documents, is so proficient. Had the field of suspicion been narrowed by mid-April to three persons? That is a simple question which I hope can be answered. Why play around with "two or three"?
I said that but for the fact that Burgess and Maclean disappeared, the Security Service might still have not had any firm evidence against them. The reason for that is very simple and is tacitly admitted by the White Paper. It is that even by April, 1951, and possibly since, there was… no legally admissible evidence to support a prosecution under the Official Secrets Acts.That is from paragraph 10.
Are we to allow the security of the country to hang in the balance until legally admissible evidence to support a prosecution under the Official Secrets Acts is available? It is quite obvious that the 1580 Foreign Office Security Service and the Foreign Secretary himself could have had powers and sufficient information on which to act which would have enabled the Foreign Secretary, without any prosecution under the Official Secrets Acts, to take steps to ensure that the security of the country was not endangered in future. If we are to rely on prosecutions under the Official Secrets Acts, then goodness knows in what difficulties and imbroglios we shall find ourselves.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
Is the hon. and gallant Member suggesting that these two men should have been arrested, without a charge being levelled against them under the Official Secrets Acts?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
No. All I am suggesting is that these two men, for reasons quite apart from the Official Secrets Acts, proved themselves unfitted to be in the Foreign Office. Why, therefore, do we have to wait for the accumulation of sufficient evidence under the Official Secrets Acts to get rid of some drunks, homosexuals, or people temperamentally unfitted by reason of their characters to occupy any position in any Government Department?
That is the point I am trying to make and surely it is not a point which is difficult to comprehend even by the most ignorant members of the general population who must not be told too much by the Foreign Office about what is going on. It is said that the field had been narrowed down to two or three persons. Let us assume that what the White Paper means is that the suspicions had been narrowed down to three persons. We still do not know whether one of the three was Burgess. We have not yet been told that.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. R. H. Turton)
The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) should remember what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He said that no suspicion rested upon Burgess at the time of his disappearance. Clearly, the hon. and gallant Member did not listen to my right hon. Friend's speech.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I did hear him say that, but I hope that the Under-Secretary will also recall that I referred to that point earlier when I suggested that had he not disappeared, Burgess would 1581 still be in the country and probably reemployed in some other Government Department. All that would have happened would have been that he would have been asked to resign.
We are now left with two people whose identity is not yet disclosed. Three people came under suspicion, one was Maclean and the other two did not include Burgess. Why is there such great reluctance by the Foreign Office to say what has happened to those two people?
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)
Does my hon. and gallant Friend think that it is the job of a Government Department to smear people on suspicion?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I will come to that point in a moment. There is a very simple answer to it and hon. Members will have an answer to that criticism. I am not asking the Foreign Office to mention any names, but why is it that they will not disclose and have not yet disclosed how many people have been asked to resign, have been dismissed, or transferred to other positions as a result of, or following, the inquiries arising from the Maclean-Burgess disappearance?
§ Mr. Turton
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave the exact number in his speech. Perhaps, again, the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton was not present when the speech was made.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I listened as carefully as I could to the speech of the Foreign Secretary, and I apologise if I did not catch that figure. However, the right hon. Gentleman has added one little crumb of information to the inadequate information provided in the White Paper. When the speech of the Foreign Secretary is carefully analysed, as it can only be carefully analysed when we see it in print tomorrow, the general public will see how very little he added to what was already known to anyone who has been following the matter.
I now come to the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary about Mr. Philby, but before dealing with them I will deal with the question of smear referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). One of the things which deliberately encourages the spreading of what we all deplore and know as McCarthyism is the reluctance on the part of the Government to disclose informa- 1582 tion. The withholding of information creates the very risks which we all want to avoid and which every decent-minded person deplores, the risk of suspicion and distrust in which McCarthyism flourishes.
If only the Government had had the courage to take the people of this country into their confidence four years ago! There is nothing in the White Paper, except the disappearance of Mrs. Maclean, which could not have been disclosed four years ago. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) pointed out, the Petrov trial added little or nothing to the known facts. Nothing has happened in the past four years to suggest that it would have been contrary to the public interest if this White Paper had been published four years ago.
§ Mr. Daines
Before my hon. and gallant Friend leaves the case of Mr. Philby, I would point out that in the course of a Question, which was greatly publicised, he made what was tantamount to a charge against that gentleman. The House is in a privileged position, and I think that my hon. and gallant Friend owes it to the House to give the source of that information.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I was saying that the information given by the Foreign Secretary in the course of today's debate has added little or nothing to what was already known, and that it is the withholding of information which creates an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
We had to wait four years before the Government made a statement. The hon. Member—
§ Mr. Daines
On a point of order. My hon. and gallant Friend has made what amounts to a charge against an individual who cannot defend himself in this House. I repeat that he owes it to the House to give the source of his information, or should withdraw the charge.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
The question of what I owe or do not owe to the House is a matter not to be decided by my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Dailies), but by the House as a whole and by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and the general public outside. However, let us—
§ Mr. Peyton
Further to that point of order. Would you care, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to enlighten the hon. and gallant Gentleman on what he owes to yourself and the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
That is not a point of order. The hon. and gallant Member is himself responsible for any statement he makes in the House.
§ Mr. Tomney
Will you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, give the hon. and gallant Member directions that he should inform the House?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I cannot give any such directions. Every hon. Member is responsible for any statement he makes in the House, and the hon. and gallant Member is likewise responsible in this case.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I am very glad, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you have helped to dispel the queer illusions which exist in the minds of some hon. Members as to what you can and cannot direct.
I made as careful a note as I possibly could of what the Foreign Secretary said in his speech. He said, "There are still inquiries being made. The name of one man"—I am quoting as accurately as possible—"has been mentioned in the House of Commons, but not outside." I hope that I am not quoting the right hon. Gentleman inaccurately. My first comment on that is that in itself the statement is inaccurate, because the name of this man has been mentioned outside the House of Commons. Not only has it been mentioned, but it has appeared in print.
I have now had sent to me a copy of the American newspaper the Sunday News of 23rd October, that is to say, the Sunday before the House resumed after the Summer Recess, from which I extract the following quotation from a long article entitled, "Identify 'Third Man' who helped spying officials flee Britain." The quotation which I wish to extract from this article reads as follows—and do not forget that this article was published on 23rd October, that is to say, two or three days before the House resumed: 1584Although the Foreign Office is dead sure Philby triggered the 25th May, 1951, flight of Burgess and Maclean, his only punishment was being fired.In view of the fact that the name of Mr. Philby had already been reproduced in print outside the House, I do not think it is quite accurate for the Foreign Secretary, if he was sufficiently well-informed in the matter, to suggest that the name of one man has been mentioned here and not outside. That is just not an accurate representation of the position.
§ Mr. R. Brooman-White (Rutherglen)
I wish to ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to clear up one point. He has a great deal of information about this. Has that name been mentioned outside the House in this country in any circumstances which would leave the way open for legal action by the man whose name has been smeared?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
I am dealing with the statement of the Foreign Secretary. I did not know what he was going to say. All I know is that a little while ago the Foreign Secretary said, in a very carefully prepared part of his speech, that the name of one man has been mentioned in the House and not outside. I produce evidence to indicate that when the name of this man was mentioned in the House it had already appeared in print outside.
The Foreign Secretary went on to say that he had been privy to much of the investigation into the leakage. I do not quarrel with that. I expect that is an accurate statement of the case, because it was part of his duty, in the position he occupied at Washington, to discharge certain responsibilities in connection with security. But what the Foreign Secretary went on to say was that Mr. Philby was a friend of Burgess at Trinity College, Cambridge; that he had Communist associations during and after his university days, and that in those circumstances he was asked to resign from the Foreign Office on 1st July, 1951.
I suggest that this part of the Foreign Secretary's speech is on a par with the verbal gymnastics that were displayed in another place by a Government spokesman and is not as frank as it ought to be. The only interpretation I can place on these remarks—if I am quoting the right hon. Gentleman correctly—is that because of these Communist associations 1585 with Burgess during their university careers, and their Communist associations after their university days, Philby was asked to resign from the Foreign Service on 1st July, 1951.
Then the Foreign Secretary went on to say that, since that date, he has been the subject of the closest investigation. I have no doubt that that is so. I have dealt with the point previously, namely, that if the Foreign Office is to keep on investigating people until it has sufficient evidence under the Official Secrets Act to prosecute, it may well be that all kinds of people will be able to get away with all kinds of things.
§ The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Anthony Nutting)
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman has based a great deal of his case on the statement that certain statements appeared in the American Press before the House of Commons met on 25th October, can he confirm or deny that the statements from the American Press of 23rd October to which he has referred were based on disclosures which had already been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself to newspapers in this country? I was myself in the United States on 23rd October, and read various Press reports which referred to Mr. Philby, and these Press reports were based on allegations made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself in this country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
The very simple answer to that is this. While it is true that the name of an hon. Member is mentioned in this particular article, that hon. Member is not myself, and I do not know—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is the date?"] It is 23rd October, 1955; that is the date of the article. According to some articles in unspecified American newspapers on unspecified dates, the right hon. Gentleman has suggested that I mentioned the name of Mr. Philby. If that is so, I should be very pleased to examine these particular periodicals. At the moment, I personally have no knowledge whatever of any articles appearing in the American Press to that effect, and, therefore, I am not able to answer the right hon. Gentleman or make any withdrawal based upon the statement which he has just made.
What I was in the course of saying was that the Foreign Secretary himself has 1586 said that since that date—1st July, 1951—Mr. Philby has been subject to the closest investigation, and that there was no evidence to show that he was responsible for warning Burgess and Maclean, but that, while he was in the Government service, he carried out his duties competently and conscientiously. I have given way far too much, but I am willing to give way once again.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
Could the hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether he heard the name of Mr. Philby at any time before he happened to read it in an article in an American paper?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Yes, the name has been the subject of comment for months and months past in this country. The name has been literally hawked about. As a matter of fact, if the hon. Gentleman takes the trouble, he will see that one paper, the Daily Sketch, published a special interview with Mr. Philby, which appeared, I think, in the issue of 3rd October last. It must not be suggested that the American article to which I have referred, while it may be the first mention in print possibly associating Mr. Philby with the third man, is necessarily the first mention or discussion of his name in this country.
The Foreign Secretary went on to say that he has no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby had at any time betrayed the interests of this country, or identified himself with the so-called third man, "if indeed there was one." Now we are entering into the field of imagination, because I am not quite sure what the Foreign Secretary meant when he talked about the so-called third man, "if indeed there was one." Everything depends on what the Foreign Secretary meant, or what he intended to convey, when he read out the very carefully prepared section of the speech which he gave to the House earlier today. Is he trying, or does he wish, to suggest that of the three people to whom the field of suspicion had been narrowed down by mid-April, 1951, Mr. Philby was not one? If so, will he please say so? A statement about that would help to clarify the position.
I am very sorry that after considering as carefully as I possibly could the note that I made of what the Foreign Secretry said, I cannot depart from the terms of the supplementary Question that I put 1587 to the Prime Minister on 25th October last. That is a quite serious statement to make, but I make it because I am absolutely convinced that I am serving the public interest by forcing the Government, and in particular the Foreign Secretary, to provide much more information than has been provided hitherto.
It may be that I have some other information which, as it involves what was said by Secret Service agents, I cannot quote in this House. What I suggest to the Government is that the case for some inquiry, first, into the staffing arrangements of the Foreign Office, and, secondly, into our security services, has been made out. It will be found, if both these inquiries are embarked upon, that many people will be induced to give information, especially to a private inquiry which we hope will be made by a High Court judge, into the Secret Service. Perhaps people will be more willing to give information than they have been up to now.
§ Mr. Nutting
May I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman to be good enough to forward to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary the evidence upon which he is basing his charges against Mr. Philby? I quite understand the reluctance of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to bring that evidence before the House of Commons, but perhaps he would be good enough to forward it to my right hon. Friend.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
No. I am prepared to forward that information to a judicial member of the Privy Council—a High Court judge—who, as has been suggested from this side of the House, should carry out an investigation into the operations of the Secret Service and who should report to the Prime Minister in a private report. Surely that is not an unreasonable offer to make.
All I want to say, and I must rapidly draw to a conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Before I draw to a conclusion, I want to say that I will not be gagged by anybody in this House or outside in the performance of my duty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Say it outside."] Even Mr. Philby has not asked for it to be repeated outside. Let us leave it at that for the time being.
1588 In the course of carrying out what I believe to be my public duty as a Member of Parliament I say quite deliberately—and I think that when the verbal niceties of the Foreign Secretary's statement are examined in the OFFICIAL REPORT tomorrow it will be found that I am justified—that I will not make any withdrawal at all at present. The whole tendency of the debate has been to stress the importance of this two-pronged inquiry, first, into the staffing and recruitment of the Foreign Office and, secondly, into our security arrangements.
The whole of the debate will have been a complete waste of time unless it is followed by one or both of the inquiries which quite a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House are very anxious to see instituted at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Daines
In spite of the intervention of the Minister of State, I think that my hon. and gallant Friend owes the House an answer. The only evidence he has brought against Mr. Philby is a quotation from the American Press which emanated, apparently, from a British Member of Parliament. He is a lawyer, and knows that that is not evidence, and I think he should withdraw what he said.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Brooman-White (Rutherglen)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) has been somewhat diffuse, and a little difficult to follow. I shall turn my attention to one phrase only, in which he brushed aside the whole speech—which was welcomed on both sides—of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary as "interesting political philosophy." My right hon. Friend's main theme was that in the conditions of the post-war world we are again facing a security problem which has not had to be faced since the wars of religion. We are dealing with the extremely difficult and delicate balance which has to be struck between the needs of national security and the rights of individual liberty.
We must have constant and difficult decisions to make as to how far any action is justified on suspicion. After listening to the hon. and gallant Member, one is at least quite clear where he stands on that. He is in favour of acting on suspicion, of smearing on suspicion, by 1589 directing public suspicion on to an individual against whom nothing at all has been proved. We must leave it to his own conscience to straighten out what that may cost in personal suffering to the wife, children and friends of the person involved.
Other and serious issues have been raised. The hon. and gallant Member, in his conclusion, stressed that, apart from the general question of balance between liberty and security, there were the problems of whether or not there should be an investigation into the efficiency of the security services; and whether or not there should be further investigation into personnel and staffing, promotion and security arrangements within the Foreign Service. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Brixton is in favour of bath such inquiries. I differ from him. I do not see that any case has been made out for either.
There has been public agitation, and that public agitation is admittedly a serious factor. The aftermath of the Press comments, ably stimulated, or followed, by the hon. and gallant Member, has given rise to a public uneasiness and—I agree—a public demand for some kind of action. But is action justified just because there has been a good Press story? Has any stronger case been made out? Let us be very careful about the ground on which we are to act.
We know that public anxiety arising out of the Algar Hiss affair caused widespread uneasiness and was followed by disastrous repercussions in the United States. It is very easy to say that it cannot happen here. In a very minor way this is our Algar Hiss affair, and the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member have shown how near to the wind it is possible even for the House of Commons to sail.
Let us be quite sure before we embark on investigations. There are four quite separate issues, and they have been confusion in the public mind and in the hon. and gallant Gentleman's statement. Firstly, there is the question of Burgess and Maclean being Soviet agents—ought it to have been found out earlier? Then, that they had certain Communist contacts in the university—should more direct security action have been taken on those grounds? Thirdly, there is the case that they were personally undesirable—that 1590 raises the disciplinary aspect in the Foreign Service. Finally, there is the question of whether or not the Government ought not to have said more, and said it earlier in their statements.
I will try quite briefly to deal with each of these four headings. The first is: what is the ground for demanding at present stage that there should be an investigation into the security services? Public interest has been aroused, but let us try to see this in proportion. Surely, what the public has seen is only one corner of the battlefield on which there is unceasing conflict between the rival intelligence services of the great Powers. They have seen one corner of one action, and even in that we were not doing so badly. We have been told that a six thousand to one chance was just coming off. Out of 6,000 suspects, the security services were about to take action against one man to whom it had been narrowed down.
Reviewing the field as a whole, is the public interest which has been aroused in this sufficient grounds for demanding an inquiry into the security services?
Can one envisage, without knowing, whether we are doing well or badly? Indeed, how well we may be doing nobody outside the smallest possible group ought to know. One sees from Soviet statements that many prominent people, members of Communist Governments and the like, who have fallen from popular favour have been, or are said to have been, in touch with the allied or Western intelligence services. Even if 1 per cent. of that is true, we are doing all right.
If there had been no recent public outcry or clamour about espionage cases, I should be a great deal more worried. If nothing had been heard of Soviet agents, I should have thought that there might be more cause for alarm. All this outcry has arisen because in one case there was a near miss. We have been told that the trap was just about to close on these people. If it had closed, it would have been a great success for us, because under interrogation they might have divulged a great deal of valuable information about the Russian security services. In fact, it just missed and they got away. Is that sufficient ground for demanding a searching inquiry into the security services? I do not think that it is.
1591 We all know roughly what happens when there is a Government inquiry. The Department under investigation starts preparations to defend itself against the investigation to show that it has not done so badly after all. We all know that. We have seen it happen in various Government Departments. A great number of people start spending their time preparing to give evidence and to answer questions. And in order to do that they have to stop getting on with the day to day job which they should be doing.
I entirely agree with everything that has been said on both sides of the House as to the need to give adequate facilities and the best possible personnel to the security services. I do not think that because they have failed to make an arrest in this case there are adequate grounds for an inquiry, which can do no other than impede their day-to-day work. This is not justified unless there is, over the whole field, a feeling that they are falling down on their job. That feeling must arise in informed circles; it cannot be found in this House or in the popular Press.
§ Mr. Daines
On that point, did the hon. Gentleman read a very interesting article in the Observer a week or two ago by a man who was a Russian espionage agent, according to the article, against Germany until 1947? He pointed out that the withdrawal of these men to Russia was quite contrary to the usual Russian practice, and he therefore suggested that it was because of fear of interrogation and break down and of information being given that they took that action. If that is so, surely it is a very important reason for an inquiry to be held?
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I do not agree that that follows. I said that we scored a near miss. It bears out my point that had we had these people in time it would have been a great success. Let us see this thing in proportion.
I am not concerned to protect the security services against the inquiry. I am only concerned to see that we do not lose more in trying to create efficiency than we gain. The Soviet services with whom the Western services are in competition, have great advantages. On the repressive side, they have the full machinery of a police state. On the 1592 offensive side, they have the system of a nation which sets the greatest virtue on under-cover work. Their national heroes of the past were all men who, in Lenin's phrase, had "To know hunger, work illegally, and be anonymous." All their thinking is geared to that sort of thing. That gives them an advantage. They all understand that sort of work. Their Intelligence services probably have much more money and resources than our people.
But they have a weakness. Periodically, quite frequently, they indulge in purges and blood-letting, which must be just about as debilitating as medieval medicine. To knock off the heads of the Soviet Chief of Secret Police and his various assistants may be good for promotion, but it cannot lead to the efficient functioning of the Department. Unless a very strong case is made, I am not in favour of messing around in a similar though milder way in that Department of our own against whom there is no solid ground for suspecting that on balance it is not doing fairly well. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary paid the Security Services an eloquent tribute—and only he and the Chiefs of Staff and a few others are in a position to see the picture as a whole and to measure the successes it has been achieving.
Let me pass to the second point. During their undergraduate days, these men had Communist associates. There is no crime in that. Indeed, the only thing that has been proved against Mr. Philby is that he had Burgess staying with him and he had certain Communist friends. He may not have been very wise in his choice of friends, but what hon. Member of this House could say that all his friends were people against whom no shadow of suspicion could ever be cast? That point has been adequately dealt with.
I should like to come to the question of the staffing of the Foreign Office departments and the question, which has been cogently argued from both sides of of the House, as to whether at this stage there is a case for further investigation and reform of the Foreign Office administrative machine. I think it was the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) who said that there was public uneasiness because there was a feeling 1593 that the personal judgment of the senior members of the Foreign Office had been at fault.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
That is an important point. It is obviously true that the judgment was at fault.
§ Mr. Hobson
The record of Burgess was well known before ever he went into the Foreign Office. That is the gravamen of the charge of many hon. Members on this side and on the hon. Member's own side of the House. We want to know what people were doing ever to start the man.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
The point I was making is that after the war there was a great change in the whole system with the reforms instituted by Mr. Ernest Bevin—the great change in the whole structure of the Foreign Service, the bringing in of a consular service, and the rest of it. The numbers were vastly increased. In those circumstances, it is quite obvious that the senior personnel must have lost some of the contact which had previously existed between members of the Foreign Service and that they had lost the intimate touch with and the intimate knowledge of their subordinate staff. It may well be that the Foreign Office was slow in reorganising itself, in instituting the system of confidential reports and similar things which have now been instituted; but again one must say that the reasons which have been given today seem convincingly to carry the point that the necessary reforms have now been made. In present circumstances, the difficulties arising from that major reorganisation have been overcome. To my mind, no evidence has been advanced to the contrary. Time is running short and I must abbreviate my remarks.
The whole tenor of the debate has been to stress the extremely difficult problems in striking the right balance between security and individual liberty. I am sure that the feeling of the country and of the House is behind the Government in ensuring that we do not depart from our traditional attention to the rights of the individual and the maintenance of personal liberty.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Robens (Blyth)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) has resisted the proposal put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) that there should be a judicial inquiry into the Security Service, and he produced as his main argument for that that the Maclean incident was a "near-miss," that the Security Service had narrowed down to Maclean an inquiry in which there had been 6,000 suspects, and that Maclean just escaped the trap at the last moment. I suggest that it is for that very reason that there ought to be a judicial inquiry.
It must be remembered that the attitude of our allies throughout the world, and particularly the United States of America, to the exchange of atomic secrets is conditioned by their fear of or confidence in our security arrangements and our ability to ensure that their secrets, imparted to us as friendly and co-operative allies, will not go to a foreign Power because of either the laxity or the inefficiency of our Security Service. Therefore, the proposal to have a judicial inquiry is one which, I hope, the Prime Minister will not lightly turn aside tonight. I hope that he will undertake to give it some consideration.
What we want is security without McCarthyism. I very much regret that one of my hon. Friends mentioned in the debate the name of an individual other than Maclean and Burgess, because that is exactly what happened in the United States. It was because the United States Administration refused themselves to inquire into a number of rumours and allegations about their security that McCarthyism arose, and if the Truman Administration had not brushed aside the allegations which were being made and had examined their own security arrangements, then McCarthyism could never have been born. McCarthy stepped into the vacuum created by the refusal of the United States Administration to look into their own arrangements. We ought to learn from the lessons of the United States and the case of Alger Hiss.
I agree with the Foreign Secretary that the standard of our Foreign Service is high, and that the Foreign Service is one of which we can be very proud. It is all the more to be regretted that we have the case of Burgess and Maclean. The 1595 case has often been referred to as the mystery of the missing diplomats, but it has not been a mystery for many years now, and reading the White Paper is rather like reading the back-files of one of our daily newspapers. The story has not been added to today, except that the Foreign Secretary termed them "traitors," and that it has become clear that they are behind the Iron Curtain, and, presumably, working for a foreign Government.
The Foreign Secretary said he accepted the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, and none of us would want to depart from that doctrine, but the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility, to be accepted to the full, presupposes that it is the duty of Ministers' advisers—and that it should have been the duty of Ministers' advisers in the past—to keep Ministers informed of what it is important they should know. It is strange that the Security Service can have investigated 6,000 suspects and yet the first time my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South, who was then the Foreign Secretary, knew anything about this was on the very day Maclean and Burgess left this country.
I say there is something wrong about a security system that works within a vacuum and works without some consideration of the responsibilities of its political chief. About 6,000 suspects were being dealt with over a long period. Therefore, it seems to me that the Secretary of State should have been informed a very long time before that that this investigation was going on.
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) when he says that Burgess and Maclean as such are not important any longer. What is important is the lessons to be learned from them. Two things emerge. One is the question of establishment within the Foreign Office. It does not matter what the Foreign Secretary may have said earlier today, or indeed what the Prime Minister will say later, the fact is that the public and many people in the House are quite sure that within the Foreign Office there is a close circle of "cover up" for one's friends.
§ Mr. Nuttingindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Robens
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but if that is not the case how can it be that a couple of drunks, a couple of homosexuals well-known in the City, could for so long occupy important 1596 posts in the Foreign Office? There is no commercial organisation anywhere that would not have fired them years ago. [Interruption.] The Prime Minister appears to be asking who put them there. The right hon. Gentleman is making a mistake in turning this into a political party issue. Maclean went into the Foreign Office in 1935. This is not a question of when these people were engaged. This is a question of the establishment of the Foreign Office, because the Prime Minister does not make these appointments.
The Foreign Secretary does not make all these appointments. The appointments are recommended to Ministers on the basis of the advice of their advisers. The Minister does not go through the list and say, "We will now promote Jack Jones as head of the Department." He takes advice. I repeat that there is a feeling in the House and among the public outside that there is this "cover up" within the Foreign Office and I say that this is a matter which ought to be investigated.
§ Mr. Nuttingindicated dissent.
§ Mr. Robens
The right hon. Gentleman goes on shaking his head. Let us have a look at Maclean and at one incident in Cairo.
What happened? What does the White Paper say happened? It says:In May, 1950, while serving at His Majesty's Embassy, Cairo, Maclean was guilty of serious misconduct and suffered a form of breakdown which was attributed to overwork and excessive drinking.What are the facts about one case? I will not deal with all of them—about a fight that he had with an Egyptian guard, about the breaking of an Embassy colleague's leg on a boating trip.
Maclean and a friend, both in a drunken state, went into the flat of a girl who was the librarian of the United States Embassy in Cairo. She was absent. They forced their way in and then began to drink all that was available. Having done that, they pushed a lot of the girl's clothing down the lavatory, they smashed the table and they knocked into the bath a heavy slab of marble fixed as a shelf over the radiator. It broke the bath. They returned to a flat in the same building belonging to a colleague. Maclean was with a man friend, and he had homosexual tendencies when in drink.
1597 As the Minister of State shook his head, I am now giving the facts. As I was saying, they returned to the flat belonging to a colleague in the same building. They collapsed on a bed and fell asleep. It was here in the evening that subsequently his wife found Maclean and, with help from a sister, half-dragged a completely sodden husband downstairs to a car and took him home.
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling me that everybody in the Embassy did not know about that incident? Is he suggesting that this White Paper reveals one-half of that shocking story? It was not the only incident, but what happened to him? This poor, overstrained, overworked gentleman came back to this country, was given six months' leave of absence, and then was given the job in the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Robens
I am not allocating blame to individuals. I am saying that within the Foreign Office there is a close circle of covering up. I repeat to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Secretary that it does not matter how many times either stands at that Box and says that it is not so. I do not believe that the public will accept that this is not the fact.
Disgraceful behaviour of the kind in which Maclean indulged, not only in Cairo but in Washington and in this city, which was well known within the Foreign Office, ought to have been dealt with years ago and he should have been sacked. So I say that there is a need for two inquiries—
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Before my right hon. Friend leaves that point, will he ask somebody representing the Foreign Office whether the facts of that incident were ever brought to the notice of the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? If he was not acquainted with those facts it is wrong to ask the Minister to "carry the can" in the last resort. Ministerial responsibility depends upon knowledge being brought to the political head, and I say that it was not brought.
§ Mr. Robens
That is the point I have been making, that if the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility is accepted, and I accept it, it is the responsibility of the Departmental advisers to keep the Minister fully informed. I was asking whether these facts were known to the 1598 individuals concerned, because I am suggesting that they were not.
I say, therefore, that there should be two inquiries. There should be one into recruitment for the Foreign Office. There should be an investigation of what has happened since the changes decided upon in 1943, whether they have broadened the basis of recruitment, whether a close circle exists or not and in what way covering up takes place. That kind of inquiry could be made easily by a number of methods which the Prime Minister can envisage for himself—either by Privy Councillors, by a Select Committee or by some other method. If we want to wipe out of the public mind the idea that there is any covering up inside the Foreign Office, then we must have an inquiry in which these facts can be brought out.
The second inquiry should be in relation to security and this could not be carried out by a Select Committee of this House. We suggest that it should be done by way of a judicial inquiry, the judges reporting to the political head of security, who is the Prime Minister. If the right hon. Gentleman refuses such an inquiry, the report of which obviously would be private, other than to himself and his immediate advisers, then we shall fall into the same error as the United States Administration fell into, and we shall make things unhappy for many people for several years.
Of Burgess, what is it that the security people were able to say? Nothing at all. Indeed, but for the fact that he left this country, Burgess might easily he working at the B.B.C. today. He would have been fired from the Foreign Office because he was due to be fired. Here again, we had the same type of individual. All these things were well known.
I repeat that the Prime Minister should be prepared to have some sort of inquiry, not necessarily on the lines we indicate, although what we have advocated seems to us to be the best way to do it. We contend that only a searching inquiry can reveal why both men were not dismissed the Service as completely unreliable and unfitted to represent their country at home or abroad.
Another interesting thing is that while these men were protected and excuses were made for their drunkenness and perversions, ordinary working men who had Communist affiliations were kicked out of their jobs almost at a moment's notice. 1599 Does this mean that there is one law for a Communist sympathiser from Bermondsey and another for a Communist sympathiser from Cambridge University?
These are matters that trouble us and trouble the general public, and we believe that only inquiries on the lines that we have indicated will do anything at all to allay public disquiet about them. I hope that the Prime Minister will not turn them lightly aside, but will recognise that he has a duty to the House and the country, and will be prepared to accept the suggestions about inquiries made by the Opposition.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Sir Anthony Eden)
I can at least assure the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) that I shall not lightly turn aside any suggestions which have been made in this debate, which, I must frankly say, is the one out of my thirty years' experience of the House of Commons in which I take part with the greatest personal regret.
It so happens that nearly all my public life has lain in work with the Foreign Office. For ten years I was Foreign Secretary, which is a long time by any standard. It was in 1926, just after the Locarno Treaties, that I first worked there. I have known individually, as many right hon. Gentlemen have known, many of the leading members of the Foreign Service. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) was one of my predecessors as Under-Secretary.
I must start by saying that this has been a very sad day for the Foreign Service, and a very sad day for our country, too, because the reputation of the Foreign Service is part of our national reputation. Personally, I think we could have done no other than offer and hold this debate in view of all that has happened.
I do not want to stress the personal side of it too much, but I should like to say how much I agree with one observation which fell from the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), that whatever mistakes there might or might not have been in this business, one thing which is quite certain is that nobody at the Foreign Office at any time, no senior official or other official, tried to cover up any form of disloyalty to the State.
1600 It is very important that we should have that clearly in our minds. I do not think that anything the right hon. Gentleman said was meant in any way to deny that, but this is something that goes out beyond the confines of our discussion, and I think that for the reputation of our Service, which is still very high in the world, we ought to make that absolutely plain. If mistakes were made, they were not that kind of mistake; they were not mistakes even remotely tinged with disloyalty.
Before I come to the subject of the debate, I want for a moment to refer to what was said by the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South at the beginning of his speech. From our side of the House I should like to say a word about Will Whiteley, because although he was Chief Whip of the Opposition and earlier Chief Whip of the Government, I am sure that it would be true to say that he had countless friends on this side of the House and not a single enemy. It is men like him who do the toiling and work in this Chamber quietly who do so much to make our Parliamentary institutions possible. We should salute his memory from both sides of the House in that spirit, a great Parliamentarian though he was silent.
Now I return to the questions I have been asked and to the debate. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South said something about the duties of the Foreign Secretary and how heavy they were. I do not at all deny that. How could I? But they are heavy in a way somewhat different from other Departments of State. The Foreign Office is essentially a policy-making Department and therefore the Foreign Secretary's duties are a strain, because at any hour of the day and most hours of the night he may be asked to make some decision which affects policy. That does not happen in the same way in other great administrative Departments.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman meant to give the impression—if he did, I should like to correct it—that on that account Foreign Secretaries do not give pretty close attention to the personnel of their office, both at home and abroad. They do, and all important appointments both at home and abroad, certainly in my experience, were brought to me. That brings me to say a word on the subject of the Foreign Service as it is now and the reforms of which the 1601 hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) spoke.
Perhaps the purposes or the context of those reforms are not yet entirely understood. What happened was that before 1919 there was a Foreign Office in London and a Diplomatic Service, entirely separate. In that year they were brought together. Before they were brought together, it can be fairly said that they had a certain fairly close affiliation with the rest of the Civil Service. They were as part of the Civil Service before the two joined together. Then in 1943 we added to those two organisations—the Foreign Office as it then was and the Diplomatic Service—two numerically very large organisations, the Consular and Commercial and Diplomatic. We made the whole into one single Service.
One or two hon. Members in the debate have suggested that that was not a very good plan and that we should go back to considering putting the Foreign Service as it was, making it part of the Civil Service. Frankly, I think that that is absolutely unworkable, and I should like to tell the House why. The first reason is that members of this amalgamated Foreign Service undertook thereby to accept service either at home or abroad. That is something which cannot be asked of anybody who is in the Civil Service today. In fact, at the moment in the Foreign Office there are three abroad to one at home. The larger proportion is still overseas. So any question of merging them with the Civil Service more closely must be ruled out.
As a matter of fact, there are very considerable temporary exchanges—and that is all to the good—exchanges with the Commonwealth Relations Office, with the Board of Trade and with the Ministry of Labour. Those are all helpful and, over and above that, today individuals do sometimes transfer from the Foreign Office to other Departments, or vice versa. That has been going on ever since the reforms were instituted. I am frankly a believer in those reforms—naturally—and I think that they are having their effect on the working of the Foreign Service.
When I asked the Cabinet to approve those reforms, my main concern then was to prevent the continuation of the Foreign Service in its various Departments, to prevent having a Foreign Office that did 1602 not go abroad, a Diplomatic Service which operated entirely abroad, a Consular Service again abroad and a Commercial Service yet something else. That seemed utterly wrong in these modern times and it seemed that the thing to do was to bring all four Services together and to make it possible for members of all four to move from one to the other according to where they were best fitted to go.
I am quite sure that that conception is still the right one, and that it is right for someone in the Consular Service, if he shows the particular quality, to become an ambassador, as some have in recent years, or for someone in Grade A of the Foreign Service, to do a good consular job in some post, probably learning a great deal more of the aspect of commercial matters than he would otherwise be able to do.
Therefore, my strong advice to the House on all that is not to touch these arrangements yet. We must give the matter a little time to see how it is going to work out. I do not want now anything in the nature of a formal review of how these changes—some of which have been in force for only a very few years—are, in fact, working out. But that does not prevent us from taking any action we think fit at any time to make adjustments as they seem necessary as these reforms develop.
I say frankly that I deeply regret—and I know that the whole House does—that Mr. Bevin is not now here to take part in this debate tonight. I am revealing nothing which is not known to many people when I say that we had many discussions on this question of reforms when Mr. Bevin succeeded me at the Foreign Office I believe that they must be given a full trial. When that has been done, and, if the House is not satisfied with their working, then by all means let us have a review, but I do not want to have that review now after such a short spell of experiment.
I will now deal with some of the questions which have been asked about Maclean, and to which the right hon. Member for Blyth added. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) asked whether there were any reports on Maclean. Yes, most certainly there were, and they were uniformly good until 1603 Cairo, in May, 1950, that is to say, until he had been 18 months in Cairo.
Several people have said tonight that the behaviour in Cairo was so bad. There had been the drinking bouts, which the right hon. Member for Blyth described with a wealth of detail. I, of course, did not know about them at the time. I was not in the Government. I make no complaint; there is no reason why I should. Several right hon. and hon. Members have asked why, after all that, he was not dismissed the Service. That is an arguable proposition, and I have no doubt that it was weighed very carefully in the Foreign Office at the time.
I am not going to say what I would have done if I had been Foreign Secretary and had had to take that decision. I think that it would have been an apallingly difficult decision to take. The House must remember, in all fairness, that up to that time there was no hint or the remotest suspicion of treason, or of anything remotely resembling it. Therefore, what the House is asking us to say is, was it wrong that this man who had a brilliant record should be given a second chance? It is a subject on which I should hate to be dogmatic in the abstract now, just looking back on what has happened since. I believe that there are a great many employers who would take on a man a second time. I have known in regiments somebody who had a pretty bad go and who, perhaps, lost a stripe as a result; but he may have come back not so long after and proved himself in action with his comrades.
I am not asking the House to judge this—thank God I do not have to judge it—and all I can say is that I think it is rather harsh to say that there is nothing to be said at all in favour of giving anybody a second chance. I think that is a doctrine that this House should hesitate about before it lays it down. As for his leave, it was not three months, as someone said, it was five months' leave that he had; and after that a medical examination.
I have been asked a number of questions about the private contacts of Burgess and Maclean. Many of them I cannot answer, because I do not know the answer. But this I can say. It was as a consequence of this that we were led in 1952, following on the examination which, quite 1604 rightly if I may say so, was set in train by the previous Government, to adopt this whole series of measures which we have taken.
I was interested to watch the mood of the House this afternoon as my right hon. Friend described those measures—the "positive vetting," as it is called. Personally, I think it is right, and I think it is inevitable. But I do not pretend that I like it very much—going along to the tutor of someone and saying, "What did you really think of So-and-so when he was in your college at So-and-so?" It is very disagreeable to the ordinary British instinct. But I think we just had to do that much.
§ Mr. C. Pannellrose—
§ The Prime Minister
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not interrupt me, unless it is very important. Let me get on a little further and I will then give way. I want to be sure that I shall be able to finish tonight—not like the other night when I could not; but that was my fault.
What I was saying was that I think this was the minimum we had to do, and also the maximum, in fact, that we could do within the existing law. And therefore I believe that we have acted rightly in the spirit of what the House would wish.
Now let me answer another question that I was asked. There is no reason to suppose, I am told, that there is any connection between the departure of Burgess and the defection of Otto John. That does not mean to say that we know everything about these things, but that is our information. I was asked also something which is more important—and I think that we must get this clear if we can—why was not the Fuchs treatment applied to Maclean? My answer, after elaborate researches, is that I think it was applied to Maclean in exactly the same way. As I understand it, what the Government at that time, the Foreign Office at that time, were trying to get was evidence with which to confront Maclean as Fuchs was confronted with evidence—not complete evidence, but enough evidence to have a chance to get him to confess more.
As I understand it, the trouble about Maclean was that there was not anything like the amount of evidence to enable him to be treated on that subject as 1605 Fuchs had been treated. But it was hoped, by using this method, to get enough evidence against Maclean to treat him specifically as Fuchs was treated, and the intention was exactly the same in the Maclean case as in the Fuchs case. I think that is right, and I think that is necessary, but what the hon. Gentleman was—
§ Mr. Crossman
Surely, the trouble is that Fuchs was not "tipped off" whereas in the case of Maclean, if we understand aright, the denial of secret papers to Maclean gave him warning?
§ The Prime Minister
I wonder. I know the hon. Gentleman said that—I am afraid that I am not familiar with all the details of what secret papers were stopped and what were allowed to go through. It could have tipped him off, but I imagine that it was very intelligently done. I would rather doubt—though I do not know—whether that was what tipped him off. I was rather puzzled when the hon. Gentleman went on to ask why the Government at that time did not warn the ports and withdraw the passports.
§ The Prime Minister
Well, somebody else did. That, most certainly, would have alerted him completely. It would have been a most fatal step to take, because if we had alerted the ports all round the country—and they are very numerous—it must have been known to a very large number of people, and would certainly have got back in due course to Maclean. Personally, if I may put my view, I think the Government were right not to warn the ports and not to withdraw the passports, but were right to try to treat him as they treated the Fuchs case. I am sorry that, though it worked in the Fuchs case, it did not work in this one.
I should like to say one final word about the question of the present arrangements in respect of the Foreign Office. I say this deliberately, after having spent, I can assure the House, very much more time on this topic than I would have wished over the last year. I am convinced, as Prime Minister, that the Foreign Office is now following a correct and careful security procedure, and that its standards are of the very highest, 1606 either in this or any other country. That does not guarantee us against future disasters, but it does give the strongest assurance that I can give to the House, with all the responsibilities that rest on me, that we have done all that we can do within the law.
Now I want to connect with that the Security Service and say something about it. My right hon. Friend spoke of the creditable piece of detection by which the Security Service got on the trail of a spy. Unfortunately, I cannot explain in detail how the Security Service followed Maclean's activities and eventually detected them. I admit—and one has to say this to the House—that this is something that has been concealed from the House and must continue to be concealed, for good reasons. I cannot and I shall not reveal the methods and sources on which our Security Service relies, but there is one thing that I can say that might help the House about this.
The Foreign Secretary mentioned the initial information on which the Security Service was working in 1949. I think it is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman was not informed until the spring of 1951, the reason for that, as I understand it, being that even then—and I have to be careful how I express this—the shred of evidence was pretty thin when they informed him. Before then, it was of very little value. However that may be, my right hon. Friend referred to the fact that during that period after 1949, over a long period, a field of investigation was opened which covered 6,000 people and they narrowed it down to one. That indicates the complexity of the inquiry and the care and patience with which it was pursued. It also indicates the continuing information on which it rested. More than that I am not prepared to say.
In this case, as in every other case of counter-espionage, it is, of course, essential not to let the others know what you know. As one hon. Gentleman rightly said, we must not let them know all we know lest that might guide them to know how we know it. That was the problem which there has been throughout this case. I cannot say any more about that than that this consideration played a continuing part throughout all the years when we have been dealing with this case.
Some hon. Members of this House may have had the experience which I once had 1607 of dealing in military operations, as I think the right hon. Gentleman had, with mining and counter-mining. You try to do the best you can so that the other fellow shall not hear or see what you are doing, and he does the same. That is the closest parallel to espionage and counterespionage, and in both exercises silence is the essence of success. I still look forward, though without much confidence, to a debate in the Soviet Parliament on the defection of Mr. Petrov.
The truth is that there are one or two Ministers who are responsible and who can judge the current record of the Security Service on the basis of facts and figures; but, in the nature of things, we cannot disclose all that. Too many people would like to know, but there is one test which can be applied, and I think the House would perhaps like to have it applied. It was touched on gently earlier in the debate—what they achieved in the war.
Curiously enough, this record can be quite accurately assessed and measured, because, of course, it can be checked against the German records captured at the end of the war. Unfortunately, we cannot do that in the other case. It may be discussed because it is a closed chapter. I can say in general terms that, as checked against German intelligence, the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct. The counterespionage achievement of our Security Service during the was was quite outstanding.
I want to give a practical illustration of this which may interest the House. The Normandy landing in 1944, in which some hon. Members probably took part, achieved a complete tactical surprise. We know that not only because of what happened at the time but from the German records which now make it quite clear. That could never have happened if our Security Service here had not achieved such outstanding success in purging away enemy spies from the home base from which it was launched. Hon. Members know—hon. Gentlemen have referred to it—how many people, how many soldiers, knew; yet the base was so purified that in fact nothing at all was gained by the enemy.
That is perhaps the greatest tribute to the Security Service that there has been, 1608 and it deserves credit for it. It is a remarkable record. I do not know—I cannot go into our record against Communist spies since the war, but I think on the whole that the result will compare not unfavourably.
Now I come to the question of an inquiry into the Security Service. I do not think that there is need for such an inquiry, but I will make a suggestion. I should like to say why I do not think it is really necessary. Following the Fuchs case, and in part as a result of the criticism of our security organisation, an official inquiry was made in 1950—that was not referred to by my right hon. Friend—when the Socialist Government were in office. It was a secret inquiry. Its report was secret, but I think I can tell the House that the conclusion of the report was that the Security Service was found to be well equipped, well organised and capable of adapting itself to its admittedly quite different tasks, as several hon. Members have said. I have no doubt that that is true and that we can have confidence in the Security Service.
As the Foreign Secretary explained earlier this afternoon, for many generations past, perhaps for centuries past, it has happily been unnecessary to question the loyalty of men and women in the public service. Perhaps—and I admit this to the hon. Member for Coventry, East; I think perhaps there is something in this—that induced a certain tendency to feel that it cannot happen here. That, I think, may well be true. Perhaps we were a little laggard to realise the danger for that reason, but there is no doubt at all, and I really can assure the House of this, that any such comfortable illusion was finally shattered by the disappearance of Maclean.
No time was wasted once the extent of the threat was understood. There has been a progressive tightening of security measures throughout the public service. The Foreign Secretary has described the positive vetting, and I do not want to go into that any further, except to say that I think those proposals go as far and are as stringent as this House would be willing to approve without encroaching on those principles which hitherto Parliament has most jealously guarded, and, I think, rightly guarded.
Let me conclude with this observation. This debate has shown that this is not a 1609 matter which concerns only the political party which happens to be in office. We are all agreed about that. We are all agreed to see that every justifiable precaution is taken to ensure that men and women in the public service shall not work against the security of the State. I would, therefore, propose—as I have proposed to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—that we should convene a small, informal conference of Privy Councillors from both sides of the House.
I say Privy Councillors not, I beg the House to believe, because we think that we are better than any other people, but because it is those who actually dealt with these matters who, I think, can now usefull discuss them further. I propose that we should examine together—if the House were willing that we should do so—the security procedures which are now applied in the public service; and also consider whether any further precautions can properly be taken to reduce the risk of treachery such as that which we have been discussing today.
That is the offer I make. I do not ask for an immediate answer, but I would ask the House to ponder it. In certain measure, I think that it covers all the suggestions made this afternoon, but behind it there is a larger question, and I want to close by putting this to the House.
§ Mr. Tomney
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that all the Privy Councilors connected with the Foreign Office would be on that Committee?
§ The Prime Minister
No—that would be discussed between the two sides of the House. What I suggest is that a number of Privy Councillors who have had experience of this—not necessarily Foreign Office experience, but other experience as well—should be appointed, perhaps two or three, as would be agreed on both sides, to examine this matter together to see whether there is anything further we can do within the law—or whether, in fact, there are any changes in the law which Parliament must be asked to face.
That is the concluding comment that I wish to make in the last few minutes, because I have given a great deal of thought to this very difficult question. Behind all that the House has been discussing this afternoon, behind the anxieties, the fears—to some extent the confusion—there is a larger question, and it is this. How far 1610 are we to go in pursuit of greater security at the cost of the essential liberties of the British people? That is why I have suggested Privy Councillors—who are not judges. This is not, I think, a matter for judges, but for Parliament. The only reason that I said Privy Councillors is that they are Members of Parliament. It is essentially Parliament's decision.
For instance, it has been suggested that Burgess and Maclean should not have been allowed to escape. All right. Under the law as it stands today they could not have been prevented from escaping, unless a charge could have been preferred. No charge could be preferred. Now, would the House like that law altered? Would the House agree that the law should allow any British subject to be detained on suspicion? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But we have to face these questions. When there is no evidence on which a man can be charged, would the House be willing that people should be held indefinitely by the police while evidence is collected against them? In this case, as we now know, detention would have been justified; but some hon. Gentlemen think, too easily, that because that was so it would always be justified. It is not so in the least. Who could tell then, at the time when the right hon. Gentleman rightly took his decision to take the action he did, whether Maclean was innocent or guilty? No one knew. British justice over the centuries has been based on the principle that a man is to be presumed innocent until he can be proved guilty. Are we going to abandon that principle? Perhaps, worst of all, are we to make an exception for political offences?
In this debate I have said something in defence of the Security Service because I think that it has been criticised, but the last thing that I would wish to see in this country is the Security Service having the power to do some of the things which some of our friends of the Press do not seem to realise would flow from what they advocate.
It may be true—it probably is true—that if the Security Service had those powers, Burgess and Maclean would not be where they are today. I think that is true. I think that if the right hon. Gentleman had had the power—and Burgess and Maclean is not the only case; we have had problems of this kind, he and 1611 I; certainly I have had them many times arise—if he had had those powers, they would not be where they are today. But what would have been the consequences, if he had had these powers, to British freedom and the rights which this House so far has always been determined to defend? I want to make one thing quite clear before I sit down. I would never be willing to be Prime Minister of a Government which asked those powers of this House.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.