HC Deb 29 November 1955 vol 546 cc2120-1
49. Mr. A. Henderson

asked the Prime Minister whether he will take steps to ensure that official pronouncements containing personal criticisms of Heads of Governments are made at Ministerial level.

The Prime Minister

It is certainly desirable that important statements on behalf of Her Majesty's Government should not be made without proper authority. Ministers are already aware of this.

Mr. Henderson

Whilst agreeing that a correction of the assertions made by the Soviet leaders in their speeches in India was necessary, is it not most undesirable that a Departmental statement made by an anonymous official should contain personal imputations on the Prime Minister of another country, and are any steps being taken to prevent a recurrence of that?

The Prime Minister

This was an impromptu reply to a question, but, Mr. Speaker, perhaps the official concerned would have been wiser to have asked for notice. Personally, I think it is doubtful whether anyone but Ministers should be asked to make these impromptu replies. That is an aspect of the question which I think we ought now to consider. Even Ministers have sometimes to be careful.

Mr. Alport

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many people who welcome this return to robustness on the part of the Foreign Office?

The Prime Minister

I will be very careful not to deal with the merits of the answer at all. It is just a question of whether an official should be put in the position of making an impromptu answer of this kind, and my view is that, on the whole, he should not.

Mr. Paget

Is it correct that Marshal Bulganin informed an astonished Indian audience that we had sent Hitler's divisions to invade them, and does not that sort of observation call for comment?

Mr. Speaker

I do not think that the Prime Minister can be held responsible for what Marshal Bulganin says in India.