§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
I rise to ask the Government some questions and, I hope, also to initiate a general discussion upon Cmd. 9715, entitled "Statement on the Findings of the Conference of Privy Councillors on Security." As the House knows, the origins of this Report lie in the debate we had in the House on 7th November, on what is now very widely known as the Burgess and Maclean case.
That resulted in a Committee of Privy Councillors, representing both sides of Parliament, engaging upon an inquiry into security procedures under the following terms of reference:To examine the security procedures now applied in the public services and to consider whether any further precautions are called for and should be taken.Although that is the very recent origin of this Report, this is only the latest chapter in what is now the lengthening story of the attempts of successive Governments since the war to safeguard the security of the State in a manner consistent with the preservation of the essential liberties of the individual.
Prior to this Report, the last major stage in the story was the announcement made in the House in March, 1948, by the then Prime Minister, my noble Friend Earl Attlee, as he now is, when he made his statement about the introduction of new security procedures which the Government of the day thought necessary as a result of the security dangers which had become evident following the end of the Second World War. We all know that since the war there have been some notable cases of the failure of our security arrangements to detect subversion or espionage until fairly late in the activities of the person concerned. There is, therefore, with that knowledge in the background, fairly general acceptance by 1256 the public that we must be constantly reviewing our security arrangements.
On the other hand, we all realise, too, that the introduction of more effective security arrangements has been making some inroads upon our democratic tradition. That is recognised in specific terms in this latest Report, where it is stated that the Conference of Privy Councillorsrecognise that some of the measures which the State is driven to take to protect its security are in some respects alien to our traditional practices.
§ Mr. Younger
One of the things I want to discover is to what extent it is an understatement. I hope that the Government will be able to give us some reassurance.
Whether it is or not, that frank admission in the White Paper is sufficient to justify the deep concern of Parliament every time a tightening of security procedure is proposed. It also justifies our asking today what the attitude of the Government is towards the problem and to warn them that we shall exercise the very closest vigilance on the way they carry out the principles laid down in the Report.
When we debate a security failure, such as the Burgess and Maclean case, the tendency is for there to be some atmosphere of alarm about security and to demand, as was the case during that debate, that some further powers should be taken, whereas today, when we come to debate the security measures themselves, I think that we shall find that the emphasis tends to be the other way—on the necessity for safeguards for the liberty of the subject. That indicates that in this difficult matter there can only be a compromise between these conflicting considerations.
I do not know whether this commands general agreement, but I believe that we have no reason to be ashamed of the compromise which we have struck on this matter in recent years. All of us have experienced about 40 years of world war and revolution with men's minds all over the world being torn between conflicting ideologies. We have lived in an age which was described by Miss Rebecca West a year or two ago as "The Age of Treason," yet I think it is commonly 1257 believed that, despite that, our public service is not riddled with disloyalty.
I think that all of us in the House believe that in the overwhelming majority our public servants, of all ranks, are loyal and reliable citizens. No doubt it may be said that that situation has been secured at a cost. There must have been some cost in the operation of our security measures to date. There must be some people with grievances, some no doubt with justifiable grievances, because there are uncertainties in this matter which seem to me inevitable. Nevertheless, both the officials who have operated the system and the public who play a very important part in security by their general attitude to the problems of espionage and subversion, both these categories, have, on the whole, kept their heads and shown considerable moderation.
When the system was tightened up in 1948 there was a debate in this House and anxieties were rightly expressed. I think I am right in saying, however, that in the eight years which have since elapsed there has been no really serious volume of complaint. There must have been individual cases of complaint, but I do not happen to have had any. Also, there may be some grievances unresolved, but the lack of any public difficulty of any kind shows that, on the whole, the compromise adopted has not been too unreasonable.
Some statistics were given to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), in a Written Answer yesterday from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, indicating that the numbers of people in the higher grades of the Civil Service who have either been dismissed or moved, or who have resigned following the better security measures introduced eight years ago, have been small. However, those figures related only to higher grades and I ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can give us precise figures or a general indication of whether the number of people affected by the regulations have been also small in the lower grades.
We know that the public service is a pyramid, with relatively few people in the top grades and far more in the lower grades. There has often been a feeling that less care is taken in the individual 1258 investigation of people in the lower grades. This may be inevitable perhaps because they are more numerous, and if there are injustices these are more likely to be at the lower end of the scale than at the top. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can tell us the figures for persons affected in the lower grades are as encouraging as those for the higher grades, I shall be grateful.
Because I think that the compromise has worked well, I am glad that in the Report no major changes are demanded. Paragraph 8 states that the main conclusion of the Conference wasthat there is nothing organically wrong or unsoundabout the present arrangements, but the paragraph continues by stating that there arecertain recommendations, the purpose of which is to strengthen the system in some respects.And adds that Her Majesty's Government have accepted them all.
I hope that those recommendations are purely procedural. They may be of a kind which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot reveal in public. I hope he can give us an assurance that there is nothing new and radical which has not been made public, and that it is true that in approving this Report we are not accepting any major changes in the system as we have known it up to date.
I am glad to note, also, that there is no demand for statutory powers. Paragraphs 18 to 20 of the Report refer to the matter which was raised in the Burgess and Maclean debate, namely, whether new powers were required to prevent suspect persons from leaving this country. The conclusion of the Conference and of the Government is that no new statutory powers should be introduced. I accept the argument in those paragraphs and I am glad that this is the conclusion.
May I say, in passing, that I never really thought that the absence of powers was the basic difficulty even in the Burgess and Maclean case. It is true that there is a certain gap in the statutory powers of the police, for the very good reason that we do not allow persons to be held indefinitely without a charge. The real difficulty in these cases, however, is not the absence of legal power so much as the difficult question of knowing how long 1259 it is wise to let investigations run when the evidence is incomplete; the desire not to alert somebody about whom inquiries are still in progress, and so on. I believe that none of those difficulties would have been affected even if the Government had decided that they would give additional statutory powers, as I am glad they are not doing.
It is important to realise, in this connection, that even if one is prepared to give the maximum of arbitrary powers to security authorities, as has been done in some other countries, this does not ensure 100 per cent. security. There could not be a better example than Nazi Germany, with the arbitrary powers given to the Gestapo and a society riddled with treason before the war and during the war and right to the finish. It is easy, by overdoing the granting of powers to security authorities, to damage the liberty of many innocent people without ensuring the apprehension and conviction of the few who are guilty.
Nevertheless, although no new powers are asked for, I think that there is one major new departure in this Report. This arises from the mere fact of committing to print and putting into an official document, a Government White Paper, a number of general propositions about security which are very wide in their character and capable of very varying application. I feel that there is some danger that this White Paper might be regarded as a kind of charter of what may legitimately be done in the name of security. A practice might arise of people saying that anything which is covered by one of these general phrases is, ipso facto, legitimate. An appeal may be made to this document in many cases where it is not appropriate. I do not think that this is a fit document to be used for any such purpose.
There are at least three major reasons for my saying that. The first is that this is not a full Report of the Conference of Privy Councillors. It is a Government statement based on the full Report which was submitted to the Government by the Privy Councillors. While I have no doubt that the Government have done their best to balance it, to reflect the attitude of the Privy Councillors the fact remains that this is only a potted edition of some parts of the full Report. I am not complaining about this, because quite clearly, 1260 the House expected some report from the Government on the outcome of the deliberations of the Conference.
The second reason why I should not like to see this White Paper used in the way I have suggested is that by its terms of reference it is strictly limited in its scope. The Report relates to security procedure in the public services and to nothing else, and it would be dangerous to try to apply its wide generalisations in any other connection. I hope I shall not be thought to be unnecessarily introducing any party point—because that is not my intention—if I call the attention of the House to the fact that during the recent debate on Cyprus the Secretary of State for the Colonies referred to one paragraph of this Report on a topic completely divorced from anything which the Privy Councillors were considering.
It is not part of my business today to say whether the sentence quoted by the right hon. Gentleman from paragraph 16, about the possibility of revealing evidence, was apt to his argument or not. It is a bad practice, however, if people get into the habit of quoting this document as though it were the British bible on security. It is not. If it is accepted by this House, as I think it will be, it is accepted on the assumption that these general phrases will be applied only in this narrow scope—that they relate to the employment of Government servants in the handling of secret information and to nothing else.
The third reason why I do not want to see this White Paper regarded as a document of general authority is that the generalisations in it are necessarily so vague that in themselves they carry very slender guarantees, if any guarantees at all, of the liberty of the subject, and that everything depends upon the way in which they are applied. In fact, in this work, general rules, general statements about the class of person who may be regarded as less than reliable, can never be a substitute for the exercise of intelligence. They can never be a substitute for discriminating knowledge on the part of the investigating authorities and for the readiness of Departmental heads and Ministers to take the very worrying and difficult decisions which they have to do in every individual case. Standing by themselves, these general statements are 1261 dangerous. I shall examine some of them in a moment.
I have read one or two letters in the Press from people, writing with the very best intentions, who are worried by this document, suggesting very precise and concrete safeguards which should have been in the White Paper. Most of them are under a misapprehension about the real problem here. The intrinsic difficulty of the problem of security lies in the fact that, unlike the operation of the criminal law, we are not concerned with convicting someone on a precise offence, in which case we demand proof beyond reasonable doubt. What we are seeking to do is to take preventive action which, we hope, we are taking before any precise offence has been committed.
The information on which we act is in most cases, I think, somewhat less than conclusive. Perhaps mainly for the reason that it is not information about a precise offence but information about the much vaguer topic of whether a person is of a type who might be likely to prove unreliable in certain hypothetical circumstances, it is very much more difficult to have conclusive evidence than to obtain proof of a specific criminal offence.
There is the additional difficulty, although I suppose it sometimes applies under the criminal law, too, that the evidence cannot be produced. People sometimes comfort themselves by saying that, after all, it is quite unlike a criminal trial. There is no inherent right on the part of anybody to be employed on highly secret matters. II is not a basic human right to be allowed to handle top secret documents, so one can be much more cavalier about it. It is true that merely to transfer someone from secret work to other work is not like sending him to prison, but it must be remembered that it may ruin a career just as effectively. Therefore, the House must take the matter very seriously.
I want to say a few words about certain of the points of doubt and danger which seem to me to arise here. The first issue that I want to discuss is what is commonly called "guilt by association." That is a phrase which has become familiar to most of us in reading the accounts of the security troubles which have occurred in the United States and the campaigns led by Senator McCarthy.
1262 This is not entirely a new thing to introduce into our security procedure. I would refer to one sentence used by Earl Attlee on the occasion in 1948 which I mentioned. Having discussed the dangers arising from the double allegiance felt by many Communists and, at any rate potential, Fascists, Earl Attlee said…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 in 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. 1704.]There was the doctrine of guilt by association being introduced.
A good deal more precision is given to it in the White Paper. For instance, paragraph 4 says:This risk from Communists is not, however, confined to party members, either open or underground, but extends to sympathisers with Communism.That is a much vaguer conception.
Paragraph 6 says:One of the chief problems of security today is thus to identify the members of the British Communist Party, to be informed of its activities and to identify that wider body of those who are both sympathetic to Communism or susceptible to Communist pressure and present a danger to security.I would say, in passing, that I find that a rather oddly expressed sentence, and I should like some comment upon it from the Home Secretary, if possible. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman talks about those who are sympathetic to Communism or susceptible to Communist pressure. He then says that they must present a danger to security, as though there was some quite separate consideration, apart from sympathy with Communism or susceptibility to Communist pressure, which constituted grounds for the decision that they were dangerous to security.
Finally, and perhaps still more worthy of our consideration, there are the sentences in paragraphs 14 and 15. Paragraph 14 says:The Conference also makes a series of recommendations which turn on the risk presented by those in regard to whom there is no evidence that they are themselves members of the Communist Party, but evidence exists of Communist sympathies or of close association with members of the Communist Party.1263 Paragraph 15 continues:The Conference is of the opinion that in deciding these difficult and often borderline cases, it is right to continue the practice of tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individual. They recommend that an individual who is living with a wife or husband who is a Communist or a Communist sympathiser may, for that reason alone, have to be moved from secret work, and that the same principle should be applied in other cases of a like nature.The House will agree that that opens a door very wide indeed, for it relates not only to Communist sympathies on the part of the person under investigation but association with somebody—not only somebody who is a party member—who may have Communist sympathies.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
And without the second requirement of the provision in paragraph 6 to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) has already drawn attention.
§ Mr. Younger
I agree with my hon. Friend. We have to recognise that a very dangerous system could be operated while still remaining within the terms of the paragraphs that I have quoted. One of the things that we want from the Government today is an assurance about their intentions in this matter.
It is an extremely difficult thing—no doubt some of us have had sufficient experience of security work, during the war if at no other time, to know this—to reach with confidence any conclusion about people's sympathies, for they change from time to time and have a different significance from one period to another as political situations change.
We all know, for instance, that there are at any given moment many topics upon which Communist Party policy happens to coincide with the policies of many non-Communist bodies. Perhaps the most striking instance at present is that throughout almost the whole of the Arab world it is often impossible to distinguish a Communist agitator from a nationalist agitator. They may, essentially, be miles apart in motives, but the propaganda which they put out and the causes which they advocate are for the moment identical.
We have had a lot of experience of that kind in this country in the past. 1264 There has often been a suspicion in the past that the difficulties of distinguishing a Socialist—perhaps particularly a Socialist of rather Left-wing views or of a rather agitational temperament—from a Communist have proved too great for the authorities. When the matter was debated in 1948 references were made by Conservative hon. Members, then in Opposition, to an occasion when Earl Attlee, then Prime Minister, gave in Spain what was described as the Communist salute. The person who raised that matter was unaware that the Communist salute in Spain at that time was also the salute of all the elements making up the Republican side in Spain, and that there was no necessary Communist connotation to it at all. I am sure that one could find many other examples where this confusion is likely to arise.
When we come to the question of family connections, we are on very dangerous ground indeed. I suppose that all of us agree that if one came to the conclusion that a woman was very deep in the councils of the Communist Party and that she might be a grave danger if employed in the service of the State, it would be only a matter of common sense for one to have some doubts about her husband living with her in the same house.
§ Mr. Younger
My hon. Friend must have a very curious conception of relationships within families if he thinks it is possible, as a matter of common sense, absolutely to ignore family relationships of this kind.
This is not a thing newly recognised in this Report; it was also recognised in 1948. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Glenvil Hall) was at the Treasury, he was questioned on this subject and replied quite simply, and, I think, very wisely, that when considering cases of civil servants who might have Communist wives each case must be taken upon its merits and that he was not prepared to give any answer of general application.
I think that that is the sound line to adopt, though, goodness knows, it is difficult enough to carry it out in each individual case in practice. I would not like to think that the rather greater detail which is entered into in this Report compared with the statement in 1948 indicates 1265 that some sort of overall rule has now been adopted. I would like an assurance that in these family matters every case will be treated on its own merits.
At the end of paragraph 15, there is the slightly worrying phrase:…the same principle should be applied in other cases of a like nature.That means cases of a like nature with those of wife or husband. I do not know how far the Government intends that phrase to extend. Does it include brothers and sisters? Does it include lodgers? I know it is very difficult for the Government to give a precise answer, but I hope that at least they will give us an idea of their approach to this problem.
The second major point to which I want to refer relates to the problem of character defects as affecting security. This is dealt with mainly in paragraphs 10, 11 and 12 of the Report—what may be called the relation to security risks of defects of character and conduct. I suppose it is quite true, as is said here, that any defect of character or conduct may make a person somewhat more liable to Communist blackmail than an ordinary citizen. But I should have thought that, quite apart from the possibilities of blackmail, this subject of defects of character is something which is relevant to the holding of all confidential posts, whether they be in defence Ministries, in the Treasury, or in private employment such as in the banks: you cannot ignore the question of whether a man is, generally speaking, of good character or not.
In the Civil Service, as elsewhere, the problem of trying to ensure that you do not have people of bad character employed in your organisation is really not so much a question of making intelligence inquiries through security authorities as a question of good personnel management and good human relations. I believe that in no organisation, whether it be in industry, in trade, or in the Civil Service, can one have good morale if people do not know the men and women with whom they are working on a human level, and are not in a position to judge them as one citizen should judge another.
I do not think there need be any snooping or spying on one another in this at all, if the human relationships in the organisation are good. Of course, there are certain types of work where there is a very high degree of secrecy where, if 1266 there is a slight doubt in the mind of a superior about the promotion of one of his subordinates, the superior may inevitably have to give the work, as it were, the benefit of the doubt.
One really cannot make a comprehensive list of the sort of vices which are relevant to security. There is some sort of list given here in paragraph 10; it speaks of serious failings such as drunkenness, addiction to drugs, homosexuality, or any loose living. Those are not, and do not claim to be, an exhaustive list, but I do hope that the Government will not make the mistake of thinking that the sins which affect security are only what I might call the more Rabelaisian sins. I can think of other defects of character just as likely to make somebody liable to blackmail or pressure from a source as the ones mentioned there. For instance, I would have thought that a more usual and just as important matter was being seriously in debt.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The right hon. Member might carry this argument even further. Often the most effective workers in this field where one considers whether there is a threat to security are people with very strong characters, though misguided.
§ Mr. Younger
That is a fair point. One of the real problems necessarily is that some of the people liable to be most dangerous are idealists of the highest personal character and integrity who happen to be serving a different loyalty.
The only one of these defects mentioned in the Report on which I want to say a word is homosexuality, not because I think it is given undue prominence here but because, in my view, it has been given undue prominence in investigations in the United States, where it has been treated as something on quite a different plane in security from almost any other form of character defect.
I do not believe that that is right. I believe many of those who talk as though they thought it were right are really, in the words of Samuel Butler, trying toCompound for sins they are inclined to By damning those they have no mind to.It is worth reflecting, also, that in so far as there may be something to be said about homosexuality being more of a security risk than other defects, the reason lies probably in the very curious state of 1267 the criminal law relating to homosexuality, which is something to which I hope the House will be giving attention before we are very much older.
On this matter of character defects and the obligation of Departmental chiefs to know about their staffs, I hope the Government will be able to tell us something about the type of directive they are proposing to give. It is clear from the Report that they are aware that there is a danger of tale bearing and malicious gossip. If they emphasise, as they do, this responsibility resting on Departmental chiefs, they must have something in mind. If the Home Secretary can clarify it for us, I shall be very glad.
I want to emphasise how important it is that we should narrow as far as possible the field for inquiry and action in these matters. In paragraph 9 of the Report it is recognised that there are specially sensitive areas in the public service which have to be watched more carefully than others—the Foreign Service, defence, the atomic energy organisation. It is immensely important that we should limit the practice of what is called "positive vetting" and detailed inquiries sufficiently to make the process manageable for the services involved.
I believe that nothing is so much the enemy of intelligent work in these matters as mass operations. The larger the number of people the security services are called upon to investigate, the less can they ensure that every case is looked at by a highly qualified person, and the more difficult it is to give sufficient time to each inquiry.
In my view, what went wrong principally in the United States in this whole matter of security, was that they did not succeed in limiting the field in which it was essential to have a very strict measure of security; it was allowed to spread to the whole public service and far outside even to the point where actors could not get minor parts in films because they were thought at some time to have shown some Communist sympathy.
I think we ought so far as possible to avoid dismissals, particularly if there is any doubt in any case, and to use, instead, the procedure of transfer to other work. There is a reference in paragraph 13 of the Report to the possibility of blocking 1268 promotion. On that, I would like to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether he envisages that the appeal procedure which is applicable to people who are asked to resign or who are to be dismissed will also be available to those whose promotion is blocked.
I can conceive of very unhappy situations where it might be decided that the proper course to take was not dismissal or resignation, but that the person concerned could not be trusted above a certain level in the service and, therefore, the full procedure might never be put into operation. What would happen, however, is that promotion boards would never recommend him. I think it should be an instruction in the public service that if a clear decision is made that somebody is not to be promoted for this type of reason, the appeals procedure should be made available to him also.
I want the Home Secretary to tell us whether, in his view, the appeals procedure has worked well. I understand that he is not proposing to introduce anything which has not already been in operation for several years. At the end of paragraph 16 there is a reference to the widening of the terms of reference. Can he tell us what that means? Is it only a reference to the fact that in paragraph 21 it is proposed to extend the appeal procedure in some form or other to persons outside Government service who are engaged on Government contracts? If that is all it means, we welcome it.
I certainly welcome an extension of some kind of appeal procedure to industry, where industrial firms are working on matters involving State secrets. It is not really clear and perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is not himself yet clear exactly how he is to do it. Can he tell us whether, in the case of persons not employed in the Government service, it is intended that a Minister shall be the person on whom lies the responsibility for the decision? In the Civil Service itself it is the Minister who is responsible, but if the procedure is extended to people for whom he is not directly responsible, will he be answerable?
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
My right hon. Friend will appreciate that we are talking about a very restricted field. It is the easiest thing in the world for the upper ranks to find fault with the work of the craftsmen on the factory 1269 floor and to get rid of him for the flimsiest of reasons on the mere suspicion that he may be married to a member of the Communist Party, or living in sin with a woman who is a member of the Communist Party. I hope that my right hon Friend will appreciate and emphasise that this classic defence of liberty should be extended to the fitter on the factory floor and the labourer on the broom, and that it is not so extended at present. There can be the resort to all sorts of curious subterfuges to get rid of people on the flimsiest sort of suspicion. No amount of denial from the benches opposite will get over that difficulty.
§ Mr. Younger
I agree that there is a very grave danger. I was about to say that the number of persons involved, that is to say, employed in industry in relation to Government work, is probably far greater than the total number of people covering the whole of the Civil Service. 'Precisely because they are very often people in a humble station of life, they feel that they can easily be dismissed. They are not in established employment, and it may be possible to turn them out at relatively short notice, with practically no reason being given.
I recollect that the first time this topic was raised in its present form was on the occasion of some dismissals from a Royal Dockyard, in 1937. Reference to that was made in our 1948 debates. In its own way this is quite as important, and in some ways more important, than the many branches of the Civil Service, and I welcome the fact that appeal procedure of some kind is to be extended into this sphere. I hope that the Home Secretary can tell us a little more about his intention.
Those are the points I want to put to the Government. This is a distasteful subject, because it involves investigation of our fellow citizens and action which, in some cases, is certainly believed by the victim to be victimisation. But we all know that the danger exists and we must attempt to meet it rationally and efficiently. I believe that nothing can be more certain than that an inefficient security system which is not properly and rationally supported by the Government merely invites occasional glaring failures which excite public alarm and lead to spy mania and witch hunting which we saw in the United States.
1270 Much of what happened in the United States could have been avoided had there been in existence a reasonable security system in the years before agitation broke out. We are prepared to support the Government in tackling this problem so far as necessary and no more; but we will, of course, watch with the closest vigilance how these procedures operate in practice, because some of the provisions to whose danger I have called attention are clearly open to abuse. What we ask the Home Secretary today is that he should give us all possible supplementary information and, above all, evidence that the Government are as conscious as are we on this side of the possible pitfalls and that they are properly concerned for the rights of the individual citizens.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)
I could not help feeling that the speech of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) was slightly overweighted on the side of the freedom of the individual, important as that is. There is one thing which is even more important, and that is the safety of the country. I very much agree with him that we need not more powerful but more efficient security services. I could wish that he had dealt with that aspect of the matter rather more than merely with the question, important though it is, of the freedom of the individual.
The right hon. Gentleman also said, as, of course, we fully recognise, that the recommendations in the White Paper and, indeed, all the matters which it discusses, are but a very small part of the subjects with which the Conference of Privy Councillors dealt. It is perfectly obvious that for security reasons that must be the case. The only thing that the White Paper could have done for the people of the country was to give them some reassurance that the tragic events with which it deals are not likely to occur again. The public would have been more satisfied if they could have had that reassurance, even the reassurance that the State was not more gravely threatened than it had been before.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted from paragraph 8 of the White Paper, which says:Against the background of this general analysis, of which only a very brief outline 1271 has been given, the Conference address themselves to an examination of the Government's security arrangements. Their main conclusion is that there is nothing organically wrong or unsound about those arrangements."Organically" is a rather vague word. The one synonym which could be found in a dictionary would be "fundamentally." Are we to believe that our security arrangements and security services have been fundamentally sound? I want to suggest that they certainly have not.
Paragraph 4 of the White Paper very truly points out that our security services, since the the war, have been faced with a type of problem quite different from that which faced them previously. Previously, as paragraph 4 points out, they had mainly to deal with the person who might be called a professional spy, an enemy generally acting for gain of a monetary or some other kind.
Since 1945, we have had to deal with a quite different type of enemy, at any rate as a rule. That is the type of man who puts a loyalty to a political ideology before his loyalty to his country. He may be a member of such a party, he may be a fellow traveller, or he may be only a sympathiser, but he is the type of man with whom we have to deal. But that is not a matter on which our security services should have had to be instructed by the Conference of Privy Councillors. It is surely elementary and something which they should have realised themselves in 1945.
§ Mr. Younger
Is the hon. and gallant Member not making much too much of this point? He is now suggesting that the security services had to be informed by the Conference of Privy Councillors of the issue to which he refers, but there can be no possible evidence of that. This is not a new issue. It goes back, beyond 1945, for at least twenty and possibly thirty years. There were people before the war who were very sincerely Nazi, and who fell into the category about which the hon. and gallant Member is talking.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux
I would not entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman about that. We have to deal with that type of agent in these days infinitely 1272 more than was the case in 1945. Certainly, 1945 was a turning point, when there were some people whom the security services should have considered and not regarded in a complacent manner, as when Nazi Germany was the principal enemy. After 1945, when our potential enemy became Russia, the security services should have regarded them if not with suspicion, then at least with an inquiring eye.
However that may be, they did not appear to appreciate that point in 1945, and, worse than that, they appeared to be absolutely incapable of learning, despite the fact that they had had some very severe lessons, which surely should have taught them. I do not want to delay the House by inflicting on it the long history of these particular cases, but there were three of them—the three atomic scientists, Nunn May, Fuchs and Pontecorvo. These cases had occurred in 1945, 1949, and 1950 respectively, and the point about all of them was that they had one thing in common. A proper inquiry into the background of these three men would have revealed the fact that in all three cases they were all utterly unfitted for the positions which they held. So far as can possibly be seen from the inquiries made afterwards, results of which came to light in this House, no such proper inquiries were made at all.
The last of these cases occurred in 1950, the case of Professor Pontecorvo, which was the worst of all, only a comparatively short time before we had the Maclean and Burgess case. Even as a result of that, apparently, our security services had not learned their lesson, because we were told in the White Paper on the Burgess and Maclean case that, in January, 1949, it was known that there was a leakage from the Foreign Office to the Russians. But no inquiries were made about the antecedents of Maclean before he joined the Foreign Office. There may have been a very great number of suspects; I do not know.
We were then told in the White Paper in April, 1950, the following year, that the suspects had been narrowed down to only two or three. That was after 16 months of intensive inquiries, we must presume, and still, although Maclean was one of these two or three suspects, no 1273 inquiries had been made into his antecedents. The following month the suspects had been narrowed to one—Maclean himself—and still no inquiries had been made. If they had been made, of course, they would have revealed the fact that he was a member of the Communist Party, and a well-known Communist sympathiser, only a very short time before he actually joined the Foreign Service. These inquiries were not made. The White Paper went on to tell us that, later, inquiries did reveal that fact after Maclean had left this country.
I would submit that, in view of these facts, it really is impossible to say that there is nothing organically wrong or unsound about our security arrangements. All I would ask of my right hon. and gallant Friend is this. Could we not have at least an assurance that a drastic overhaul of our security arrangements will be made, or rather, is now being carried out, to ensure that the people responsible for these lapses of security are not left—never mind whether they are in the upper or the lower grades—any more in positions in which they can let the country down in the same way again? I believe that if we can get this assurance from my right hon. and gallant Friend it will go further towards satisfying the people of this country than any questions of personal liberty and freedom not being interfered with, important as these are.
Finally, if we do get that assurance, we can at least feel that from now on, and as a result of these inquiries, we have reached a position when we have learned our lessons, albeit at such terrible cost to the nation.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. E. C. Redhead (Walthamstow, West)
In the light of the traditional restraints which are laid upon a Member of this House when he first addresses it, it may seem a trifle strange to elect to speak on the subject of this debate—a subject which is fraught with possibilities of a highly contentious character. It is not, however, my intention to approach the subject in a highly contentious way, and if I should seem to err in that respect, I hope that I may have the indulgence of the House on the assurance that such will be completely unintentional on my part.
I desire only to draw the attention of the House to one or two considerations in 1274 this matter which I think it is important should not be overlooked. I am facilitated in my approach by the circumstances of this debate, separated as it is by an interval of time since the matter was last discussed in this House, on 7th November last, for since then there has been the inquiry which the House itself quite properly asked for, and there has been time for reflection.
My main purpose in intervening in this debate is to make a very special plea for a dispassionate review of this problem with a sense of balance and a sense of proportion. What the House is now considering are not merely the circumstances associated with the Burgess and Maclean case, disturbing as they were—and one can appreciate that, when the matter was last debated, those disturbing revelations should have charged the atmosphere of debate with a degree of shock and anxiety—but the issue which we are discussing today is of wider character. It is not only Burgess and Maclean; it is not only the Foreign Office, detached to some extent and different as it is from the generality of Government Departments; but we are now considering recommendations which have a vital importance and effect upon a whole range of Government Departments, involving virtually the whole of the Civil Service.
I recognise, and in this I am sure that I echo the view of the overwhelming majority of civil servants themselves, who have indeed through their representative trade union bodies repeatedly made it abundantly clear, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House will be aware, that they themselves recognise, the need—the unfortunate necessity in present circumstances—to ensure that the security arrangements are vigilant, effective and adequate.
The right of the State to protect itself against potential traitors is undeniable. In anything I say I do not seek to question that right. Nor do I seek to defend, excuse or condone those who, in abuse of their trust, are caught in acts of flagrant disloyalty. Nor, indeed, do I wish to make easier the path of those who may be tempted to follow their example. But I wish to urge on the House the necessity of recognising the extreme rarity of that type of case.
It may be true that security arrangements have not hitherto sufficed to avoid 1275 some getting through the net. It is perhaps pertinent to say that other countries, whose security arrangements are much more severe, still have not found them sufficient to prevent some of their traitors—as they would think them—from getting through the net, and we, in our turn, have been only too glad to avail ourselves of the evidence provided by those traitors.
That there should be such cases is, in my submission, no ground whatever for extending security arrangements in the Civil Service, or in the public services generally, in such a way as to endanger the conditions of the whole, the majority of whom are loyal public servants. Nothing could be further from the truth, and nothing could do greater damage, than to create, by what is said or done now, the impression that the Civil Service is riddled with Communist conspiracy, or overstocked with potential traitors, moral perverts and delinquents.
It has been my privilege to know the Civil Service and have a close association with it for nearly forty years. For thirty years of that time I was proud to serve as a member. Admittedly, I did not belong to the "upper crust," which is sometimes erroneously spoken of as though it constituted the whole of the Civil Service. Mine indeed was a very much more humble grade. I mention this personal aspect only to give point to the conviction and the assertion that the Civil Service consists of a body of men and women, the overwhelming majority of which has a high regard for its duty and its loyalty to the State. Those civil servants have a high regard for the good name of the service in which they serve, and when incidents of the kind of Burgess and Maclean occur, they are as wounded and hurt in their pride in their profession as is any hon. Member of this House.
It is this vast majority which tends—in the excitement, and in the more lurid aspects of the Press accounts, when incidents of this character occur—to be overlooked in our consideration. Security is a vital and important thing, but I submit it is no less important that what we do in this regard should take due cognisance of that vast majority. The morale of these people is important. They resent the suggestion that their service is 1276 of the character that these more sensational events would suggest. They are restive under the demand that there should be ever increasing measures of security—and let us remind ourselves that this is the third operation since the end of the war.
I wish emphatically to say that this White Paper gives rise in my mind to quite serious misgivings. I appreciate that it does not purport to cover the whole of the Report of the Conference. In those circumstances, it may well be that it has suffered somewhat in the process of précis and paraphrase. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) alluded to some of the points, and I shall listen with great interest to the reply of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on behalf of the Government. I wish only to refer to one or two points. According to the White Paper, the heads of Departments are to enjoin supervising officers as to the necessity of vigilance; of reporting what they know and can discover, not merely of the political associations of those in their charge, but of the personal character and life of those individuals.
These are all perfectly proper things about which a supervising officer should know something when judging the fitness of those who work under him. But when this is done under the impetus of special instructions under this particular heading, I suggest there is a very grave danger that that which starts off with the best of motives may degenerate into the kind of thing which has poisoned the atmosphere of the public services of other countries; and I am anxious that it should not happen in this country.
We see these words used, "loose living" and "association with Communists." I have never been able to understand what is meant by that latter phrase. Indeed, if it is to be taken at its literal face value, there would be precious few hon. Members of this House who would escape high suspicion. It is not a complete answer to the assertion that these provisions, pressed in this way, will give rise to tale bearing, and informing against colleagues, to say that the ultimate decisions are taken by Ministers themselves with the help of the three advisers.
1277 I would not question for one moment the great care and impartiality with which the ultimate decisions are arrived at. But in many cases that is far too late. The damage has already been done. The poison in a man's life, both official and social, has already been introduced. The civil servant is suspended while his case is under review, and he is sent away on a period of leave. His neighbours whisper between themselves. This is not fanciful. I have handled some of the cases which have arisen in this connection, and I know what a damaging effect it can have on the minds of men whose only crime is that they thought there was reality in our principle of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
Paragraph 15 of the White Paper has already been referred to, but the last sentence is worth quoting again. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will address himself to that paragraph with the intention of giving a clear assurance about it. The paragraph states that "they"—that is the Privy Coun-cillors—recommend that an individual who is living with a wife or husband who is a Communist or a Communist sympathiser may, for that reason alone, have to be moved from secret work, and that the same principle should be applied in other cases of a like nature.That is a very dangerous doctrine. It opens up the most appalling and alarming Possibilities. It is one which, if it be implemented, must be implemented with the utmost care. I wish to know how far it is to extend.
It conjures up possibilities of this kind. A civil servant with long service and an impeccable official record may have a son or daughter who, in youthful indiscretion, and against parental desires, joins the Communist Party. Incidents of that kind will happen even in the best regulated of households. Is such an incident to make that civil servant suspect in his official conduct? Is that man not only to suffer opprobrium in the process of the investigation of his background but also to be caught under the equally nebulous and questionable paragraph which talks of the possibility of unfavourable effects upon an officer's promotion prospects?
I do not wish to weary the House, or to take advantage of its indulgence, by traversing all the points which raise serious doubts in this matter. The last 1278 point to which I want to refer is in relation to the so-called appeal tribunal of three advisers. The White Paper recommends that its facilities should be extended to those who are affected by these processes outside Government employment. To my hon. Friends who may draw some comfort and reassurance from that recommendation, I would say that they should be cautious in their acceptance of it until they examine its effect.
I do not wish to say one word in criticism of the eminent gentlemen who constitute the tribunal. I have no shadow of doubt that they struggle hard, with complete impartiality, to be fair in all the cases which come before them. But there is one fact which hon. Members must remember. An unhappy officer may be innocent of any intention of acting disloyally; he may have been the victim of a whispered allegation by someone who has seen him talking to a Communist, or reading the Daily Worker, and has drawn the worst possible conclusion; or it may be that he is suspected of having associations which cast doubts upon his reliability. He may then elect to go before the tribunal. But he does not know upon what evidence the allegation is based; he is not allowed to know that evidence. What is more, he is not allowed any form of advocacy or representation.
I know that there are difficulties about the situation. The Civil Service trade unions have repeatedly pressed upon successive Governments the view that in these circumstances men who find themselves in such a situation, which may jeopardise the whole of their official careers or even bring them to an end, should have the opportunity of advice and representation by their appropriate trade union. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will consider that point. I submit that it constitutes a very serious deficiency in these arrangements.
Eloquent tribute is frequently paid to the Civil Service. It is often referred to—I think with justice—as the finest Civil Service in the world. If the tangible expression of that high regard is not as clearly evidenced in certain respects as it should be, I nevertheless hope that in this regard both this House and the Government will treat the Civil Service as if they really believed in that tribute. I say that because it is important to have 1279 regard to a body of men and women who constitute an honourable profession; who are as loyal as any other section of the community, and are entitled, not merely on their own behalf, to expect the most meticulous care to be taken in this matter by the Government, as their employer, but also to expect the Government to set a standard and example in upholding the traditional concepts of human freedom and civil liberty which exist in this country.
If I have transgressed in any way, either through the length of my speech or in anything that I have said, I can only ask the House to pardon me. I have done so only because I should have regarded myself as lacking in my duty if I had not sought to speak thus for an honourable and loyal Civil Service.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)
I am extremely happy to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because it affords me very considerable pleasure to be able to offer the congratulations of the House to the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead). We heard from him one of the most remarkable maiden speeches which we have had the good fortune to hear within the lifetime of this Parliament. The hon. Member speaks with such an ease and assurance, and a knowledge of his subject, that bad he not told us that he was addressing the House for the first time, I should not have recognised his speech as a maiden speech.
The hon. Member follows a number of distinguished predecessors at Waltham-stow, West, and, therefore, carries a heavy responsibility. I would remind the House that both his immediate predecessors in due course made their way to the Upper House—and it may be that he will complete the hat trick. We shall all be very glad to hear the hon. Member speaking in this House upon any future occasion, and I hope that his promotion to the Upper Chamber will be long delayed.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) criticised the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) for having—as he put it—overweighted the importance of the liberty of the subject. I cannot subscribe to my hon. and gallant Friend's criticism. In my view, 1280 it is impossible to overweight the importance of the liberty of the subject in a matter such as this. We in Parliament have no heavier responsibility than to ensure that as few inroads as possible are made into individual liberty. Our prime duty is to protect the individual against the Executive.
Therefore, in common with the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West, I view some of the statements in this White Paper with misgivings. It is a masterpiece of understatement to say that the procedure envisaged and involved is alien to our traditional principles. In many respects it runs counter to practices which have been built up in this country over hundreds of years, in the fight for liberty. We naturally regard these steps with alarm. Today, we have an increasing number of instances of decisions being made behind locked doors—decisions which affect one of our fellow subjects, very often without his even knowing what has been decided.
I want to examine one or two more of the sentences which occur in this White Paper. Paragraph 15 says:…it is right to continue the practice of tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individual.That is contrary to the long-established practice of giving the accused person the benefit of the doubt. It means that the balance is to be tilted against the individual.
While no one denies that the powers which are sought by the Executive in this White Paper are essential upon the grounds of security, it is absolutely vital that we should ensure that those powers are operated in accordance with the principles of natural justice. It does not come within the four walls of what I have always understood to be natural justice to tilt the balance against the individual. If there is any tilting to be done at all in the balancing or juggling, it should certainly not be against the individual. The scales of justice should weigh evenly, but if they are to be tilted they should not be tilted in favour of the Executive.
The White Paper goes on to say:…in order not to imperil sources of information, decisions have sometimes to be taken without revealing full details of the supporting evidence.1281 That raises a number of difficult points. First, who decides whether or not it is a case which can be dealt with on the ordinary basis of evidence? If the matter is not properly safeguarded it will become a common practice not to bother about evidence at all, but always to shelter behind this idea that the sources cannot be revealed. In a large number of cases, it simply is not true. There are many cases where it is quite possible to reveal sources of information or to give evidence without endangering the security of the State.
Dozens of cases were tried during the war, in both civil and military courts, where the sources of information were given in evidence; some of them were tried at the Old Bailey with a jury, so that the twelve members of the jury went at large into the world afterwards knowing perfectly well what had happened, and in most of those cases never was there any question of not producing the sources of information. Indeed, as they were dealt with under the ordinary processes of criminal law, the sources of information had to be disclosed. In a great number of cases it can be done without danger. I agree that there are cases in which it cannot be done, but it should not be thought to become the common practice that because this sort of rule exists, every case should he dealt with on the basis of not revealing sources of information.
On this paragraph, I am concerned about taking cases as proved against a man on standards which would not be accepted in a court of law. Again, one agrees that there may be cases in which that is essential, but they must be kept to the very minimum, and wherever the ordinary standards which would be acceptable to a court of law could be adopted without danger to the security that ought to be done.
There is one other point with which I want to deal and which is not strictly within the White Paper, but which I should like the Government to consider. As I have said, there are today far too many cases of decisions being made behind locked doors. In addition, there are other cases involving another procedure which is akin to the subject under discussion today. There have been raised in this House two or three cases of National Service men who have been 1282 selected for a potential officers' course, and who, before that course is completed and they go before the War Office selection board for a commission, are suddenly notified that they are no longer on the potential officers' course and coat the reason is a suspicion of association with Communism.
These are very unfortunate cases, because in these cases there is no appeal tribunal. I have discussed with the War Office a case of a young man who went to Oxford before doing his National Service. While he was at Oxford he joined a Communist organisation or club. When on National Service he suffered this very fate, that he was not allowed to go before a War Office selection board and was never given any reason. When he went to his commanding officer and asked why, the commanding officer said, "I do not know. It is an instruction from the War Office. I have only had one or two similar cases before. The only ground that one can suppose is security." That is all the man was told.
Many young men join foolish clubs when they are undergraduates, but it is most unfortunate if they are to be branded for the rest of their lives merely because they have done so. In that procedure there is no kind of appeal, nor is the man concerned officially informed. He is simply withdrawn from the officers' course and returned to his unit. In such cases a man ought to be given an opportunity at least to defend himself. He ought to be brought not necessarily before a tribunal, but at least a competent authority which could give him the opportunity of explaining whether he is still tainted with the organisation which he had joined as an undergraduate. I hope that the Government will consider that point, because it deserves the consideration of this House.
We all recognise that some of these powers have to exist, but we have our prime duty to see that they are exercised only in cases of extreme urgency. We are here to defend our liberties as far as we possibly can, and we must never surrender them more than is absolutely essential for the security of the State.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
I have often heard the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) during the time that I have 1283 been in the House, and more often than not I have failed to agree with him, but today I agree with most that he has said. He has touched on some very important matters indeed.
I am one who regards this White Paper as being almost wholly a deplorable document. I am very sorry indeed that my right hon. Friends the Members for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) and Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) have subscribed to it. I am not so surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Jowitt, did so. Those who subscribe to this policy are here setting their hands to a further incursion into the liberty of the subject of a most serious nature.
We should remember the experiences in other countries, including countries which are regarded as part of the free world. As an example of how far one can go in these matters, I am reminded of the story told to me by a friend of mine who was a year or two ago a lecturer for a time at Princeton University and who had the astonishing experience of discovering there that in their security procedure they had found it desirable to incorporate into the University of Princeton members of the F.B.I. with the object of observing the behaviour of the students of that University. Further than that, he told me that they had reached the stage where the distinction of being awarded a Fulbright scholarship was no longer achieved on the basis purely of academic distinction. It had become very important to pass the security checks with the attached F.B.I. before being awarded that scholarship. I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House would consider features of that kind to be undesirable in Great Britain.
Much of what I am going to say has been said in an admirable manner, which I could not possibly emulate, in the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) who, I think, put the case perfectly. I wanted to remind the House of what has happened in the past to people on the lower levels of the Civil Service under the procedure that has been employed by successive Governments. If the House is going to approve this document, we might as well realise clearly what we are approving, and I should like just briefly to give three examples of what has 1284 happened to individuals who have been proceeded against under this security procedure.
The first is the case of a Post Office engineer in the city of Manchester who, so far as I could discover, was certainly not engaged in work that could be regarded as highly secret. Nevertheless, he was suspended from his job and hailed before the "three wise men" to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) has referred. Incidentally, I said a little earlier that I was rather disappointed that my right hon. Friends had subscribed to this present document, but I may say that I am particularly surprised that the document envisages no change in the rights of any individual brought before the tribunal to be represented by an advocate or by a trade union representative.
We have all had experience of people who have had to appear before a judicial or a quasi-judicial tribunal of any kind. They may be brilliant men in their own sphere but have no ability adequately to express themselves when appearing before a tribunal such as this, although the consequences to their future may be immensely serious if their case is not properly deployed and properly heard. I hope that even now my right hon. and hon. Friends will pursue this so that while we are reconsidering the procedure we might at the very least see that a man brought before the tribunal has the right to representation.
The man from the Post Office to whom I refer took the line, rightly or wrongly. that his political views were a matter for himself alone. When he got to the tribunal he asked in what way he was supposed to have failed in his duties, and what were the charges against him. The tribunal, which is bound by certain terms of reference, was obliged to tell him that all it could put to him, and all that he was called upon to answer, was the question, "Are you or are you not a Communist?" He refused to reply. In short, he took rather the same kind of line that Paul Robeson is taking in the United States at the present time.
Mr. Robeson's passport is being withheld by the United States authorities. He could have it if he made a declaration of his political beliefs, but he refuses to do so. So did this young man in the city of Manchester. He may have been 1285 unwise to do so, but the fact is that he refused to answer as to his political beliefs. He said that it was not a matter for anyone but himself and again asked what the charges were against him as to his work. However, the tribunal is not there to go into such matters, and nothing further could be done. He was told that the tribunal found him not fit to occupy the position he held, and he was relegated to an inferior position, with consequent loss of earnings.
The second case concerns a man who for a period of six months in 1953 was employed as a temporary assistant in-formation officer in the Air Ministry. He writes:I realise of course that there is a need for security measures in a Service Ministry, and I could have no objection to inquiries into my loyalty if they did not violate my right to live a private life. It would therefore seem to me entirely reasonable that, in the interval between my interview and my appointment, my reliability should be questioned, and I would not expect to be appointed if there were any doubt of it.After he was appointed, however, along to his lodgings came an officer from Scotland Yard who inquired of his landlady about his personal habits and asked whether she knew anything about his politics. It went further than that. This man hailed from the Midlands. The police of the Midland county from which he came also inquired in his town of tradesmen, of friends and of members of the family—all in a manner calculated to raise in the minds of people who knew him suspicions of the wildest kind. The man had no opportunity at all of hearing about it or knowing about it—in fact, he discovered only by accident that these enquiries were being made. Surely such a procedure is quite deplorable, and I suspect that, although I have chosen to refer briefly this afternoon to three cases which happened to come to my notice, this has gone on in a very large number of cases concerning quite humble people—not people in what my hon. Friend referred to as the highest crust of the Civil Service.
The third case is one to which I have previously referred in the House and concerns the new procedure adopted by the Conservative Government in 1952. Of course, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West has said, this is the third development in security procedure since the war. One procedure 1286 was laid down in 1948 by the Labour Government, and about that I had serious misgivings at the time. But let it be clearly understood that the procedure embarked on in 1952 went much further than that of 1948, while the present White Paper envisages a very much more serious extension of the procedure than was the case in the other two.
Let hon. Members consider the kind of questions that people have to answer in these matters. This case concerns a man employed in the Risley atomic energy undertaking. He had to fill in a questionnaire and was asked by the security officer questions of the following kind. There were the elementary questions about date and place of birth; all addresses since birth, with dates of removal; all schools and colleges attended, full-time and part-time, since the age of four; all occupations, employers and their addresses and departments in which employed since leaving school at age of 15; and addresses of all societies of which a member—including such things as his allotment association. Indeed, he was questioned as to where the plot on the allotment was. He had to say what church he attended and give full details of his interests and activities there. He had to give full information regarding the great amount of general work he had organised and taken part in with others in the church. He was asked about the function of the church. He was alsoQuestioned persistently as to whether I had any political affiliations, whether a Communist, Fascist or belonging to any such society.He was asked when he was married and how long he was likely to remain at his present address; height, colour of hair and eyes, verification of signature, etc. He was then asked similar questions concerning his father and mother, each brother and sister, half-brother and half-sister; about his wife, his wife's parents, brothers, sisters and so on.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)
One would need an encyclopaedic knowledge to answer all that.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Further, he was asked the name of the head of his department; asked to give his frank opinion of the head of his department, how he got on with him; what politics were discussed 1287 in the office by members of the staff. He was asked about the general political viewpoint of the office, and whether any of the office staff held extreme views politically.
I have referred to that case before in the House, I know, but all these are matters of extreme seriousness, and I hope that we are to hear from the Home Secretary—and from any other spokesman on the Front Bench on this side—a little more than we have heard so far in support of this document, in order to justify this extension of the powers of the Executive into the affairs of the individual.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Dame Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I should like to make one brief observation about the very pungent speech we heard from the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead). He was a little pessimistic about the Civil Service and its reaction to the White Paper. I happen to represent a very large number of civil servants. I do not mean to say that they are my voters. They are my constituents. No doubt a great many of them voted against me. A great many civil servants also reside in the constituency of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary.
These civil servants are a very hardworking, happy and courageous body. I do not think they will be unduly disturbed by the introduction of this White Paper with its outline of the further security measures which the Government have in mind. I have such an admiration, as most hon. Members have, for the Civil Service and the Foreign Service that I think those Services will be just as anxious as we are to protect the security of the State. It gave a wrong impression for the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West to assume, however charmingly he put it, that the whole Civil Service would be unduly disturbed by the measures proposed by the Government.
I want to re-emphasise one of the points made by the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) which has not been sufficiently emphasised. At the end of the war, because Russia had been our ally for a number of years and then subsequently became a potential enemy, all Departments of the 1288 national administrative machine contained a large number of Communist sympathisers. It was a very difficult task for the Socialist Government, having regard to the views held in this country about the liberty of the subject, to ensure that those who were our friends during the war and who in peace became our enemies, were not retained in positions in which secret information became available which, if used improperly, might endanger the State.
The then Socialist Prime Minister, now the noble Earl Attlee, appointed three advisers to help him over some of those difficulties with which the Labour Government found themselves faced at the time. If I remember rightly, he asserted, what I am sure would be whole-heartedly supported by the House, that he was certainly not going to tolerate a Third International in this country. I know very little about the work of the security machinery, but it must have caused grave concern when Burgess, whose Communist leanings and sympathies were very well known in London, became an established member of the Foreign Service in 1947. I have no doubt that it was a very difficult decision for the Socialist Government to take to appoint those advisers, but the "three advisers" machinery arose out of the very real danger with which the security of the nation was faced after the change-over to a potential enemy of our friendly ally, Russia.
I rather regret that that point has not been sufficiently emphasised in the country. There is no doubt that people were and still are seriously perturbed about what was known as the Burgess-Maclean incident; the more we clear it up, the better will people be pleased. That is why I welcomed the all-party Conference of Privy Councillors and the decisions that it has come to. Indeed, though I take full advantage of the liberty-of-the-subject ideal, in my view it is very wise to tilt one's security in favour of the State, because, if the State is infiltrated and penetrated, that is the end of the individual liberty of the subject.
I have only one other point to make and this is my only opportunity for making it. It is a difficult point, but I want it put on the record. I am sorry that it will have to be replied to by the Home Secretary because it is not exactly his responsibility.
1289 I refer to paragraphs 10, 11 and 12 of the White Paper, which I fully support. I think the country will be wholeheartedly behind the Government in the implications of these three paragraphs. If I try, in all humility, to interpret the views of the country, I think I can say that people were more shocked by the behaviour of Maclean while he was in Cairo than they were to know that we had a traitor inside the Foreign Service. The country has a great appreciation of the dignity of the Foreign Service and a great pride in it. People found it absolutely inexplicable that a man who behaved as Maclean did—this was outlined in very great detail on the last debate by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens)—should have been retained in the Foreign Service and in such an important post.
The Government have never satisfactorily cleared up this matter. Believe me, it is most important in the future interests of the Foreign Service, for which we all have such an admiration, that the matter should be cleared up. That is why I want to put it on record today. This matter is linked up with the three paragraphs of the White Paper. What has never been cleared up is whether it was the responsibility of the Ambassador, the chief establishment officer, or of the Foreign Secretary of the day, that Maclean, after a period of rehabilitation, was re-employed by the Foreign Service. I tried to elicit the information about the Ambassador in a Question the other day addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, from whom I got a very dusty answer. The answer was that, in fact, all that the Ambassador had done was to report on the condition of Maclean's breakdown. If that is so, I assume that the Ambassador did not suggest that after rehabilitation Maclean should be re-employed.
It narrows down to the other two, the Establishment Department and the chief establishment officer or at political level. I have met and admired during my experience many of the chief establishment officers in our Foreign Service. Was it the decision of the Establishment Department and of the chief establishment officer of the day? If it was his decision, and if it was not taken at any other level at all, I want to know whether there had been an alteration in the Establishment Department. Has whoever was 1290 responsible been removed from his position of responsibility? I do not think that it is in the interests of a sound and secure Foreign Service to recommend the retention of a man of the character of Maclean.
I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend appreciates that the Government, by not giving an answer, have implicated everyone. That is most unfair to the Foreign Service and to those who are not culpable. If it was not the Establishment Department at the Foreign Office, was it political interference? I put the question directly. I appreciate that when we are discussing these great matters of security it is in the national interest that both sides of the House should be agreed, but speaking as a mere woman, I must say that sometimes this "old boy" business gets me down, and I want to know who took the decision about Maclean.
If it were a political decision, is it not fair that that should be stated? I do not want to know the name of the Minister; I am not interested in that. I want to be sure that in dealing with such matters, which affect character and reliability, no political interference or influence can be exercised from one side of the House or the other to retain people in posts for which they are not suited.
I say to my right hon. and gallant Friend, with all the emphasis which I can command, that the Government have left a very nasty taste in the mouths of the people of this country by not telling them how and why Maclean was retained in his post. Reference has been made to the lower ranks, and I remember asking the Postmaster-General about a young girl who had gone, full of life, into the Post Office, and had not declared that in one of her previous jobs she had been in trouble over some cash. That was a child of seventeen. Did the Postmaster-General exercise discretion on her behalf? Not a bit of it. Out of the service of the Post Office she had to go. If we are to show mercy and justice over the very grave and appalling behaviour of Maclean—I myself see no reason for that—then other Departments ought to exercise mercy and justice, too.
People always put this point to me: they do not understand how Maclean could have been retained in our distinguished and admirable Foreign Service. We admire the men and women 1291 of impeccable character who serve in the Foreign Service all over the world, and, apart from this one instance, I do not think one of them would subscribe to a suggestion that Maclean should have been retained. It is not only a question of his being given a second chance. Imagine his meeting, in Washington, the former first secretary of the French Embassy in Cairo after such an incident had occurred? I know enough about the Foreign Service to realise what a bad impression that would make.
I hope that before these events are brought to a conclusion we shall be told who was culpable and whether the individual was moved by the votes of the people or by the process of the Government working on sound security principles.
I support the White Paper. Everybody is happier that we have got our new arrangements and that we can emerge from a bad dream and work forward in our own traditions for the security and protection of the State as a whole.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
Like many other hon. Members, I have looked with a certain distaste at the White Paper and at some of the processes it recommends, but we must recognise that an extremely serious problem exists and that serious cases of traitorous behaviour to the country have happened. It is essential that we should try to segregate what is really serious and try to deal with it, and that we should not allow our suspicions to wander over a general field, spreading unnecessary alarm and bringing unnecessary injustice to all sorts of people who may prove to be entirely innocent.
I agree very much with the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward); it seems to me that at least in the Burgess and Maclean case the main fault was not the security, but in the ordinary handling of the people involved. It certainly surprised me that Maclean, as I understand it, was almost pressed to return to work in the Foreign Office after the incidents in Cairo.
I am surprised, therefore, at the wording of paragraph 10 of the White Paper, which seems to imply that the serious 1292 thing about such failings as drunkenness or addiction to drugs, or loose living generally, is that they lay a man open to blackmail. Surely these are serious things in themselves—things which a superior officer or the establishments Department in the Government service ought to know about, quite apart from any question of blackmail.
The hon. Lady has asked a number of questions of the Government. She asked who was responsible for allowing Burgess and Maclean to continue in the Foreign Office. That is a question for the Government to answer, but I would hazard a suggestion that it is probably difficult to pin responsibility on any one individual. When we are dealing with people in the higher grades like this, there are probably a great many people, including the man's political superiors, who have a say in the matter.
Surely the lesson to be learned is that the management of the public service is extremely important, and in this case at least it broke down. However important security may be in other respects, that is an important matter quite apart from security.
It is important that we should try to keep the procedure which the Conference of Privy Councillors has recommended down to the minimum numbers of cases and grades. We should restrict it to people who are liable to come in contact with secret documents and other secret information which, if they were to leak out, would be severely damaging to the country.
Like other hon. Members, I do not feel at all happy about some of the things which have happened to lower grade personnel in the service. I can hardly believe that some of the instances about which I and others have heard, such as the treatment of people in the Post Office, have been necessary on security grounds. Nor am I happy about the appeal procedure in these cases. The more I look at the matter the more convinced I am that the British system of law and the course of justice is extremely good, and once we get away from that and into rather vague realms of suspicion, of allegations which are not proved and of evidence which is not produced, we inevitably get into difficulties. I do not deny that we must face these difficulties or that the problem exists; of course it 1293 does. But I suggest that we should keep the procedure down to the minimum and to the really important cases.
I go further and say that such cases ought to be dealt with drastically especially in the upper, higher grades of the public service. But I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) in thinking that in some cases even in the higher grades—not in all cases, but in some—the evidence could be made more generally available. I think the procedure, without being legalistic, could be fairer to those involved. Inevitably, people who come under this sort of suspicion suffer a great deal though they may not be guilty. It is extremely difficult to safeguard them against injustice.
I have had inquiries addressed to me, as no doubt have other hon. Members as to whether a certain man has had any Communist affiliations. If one feels that he has had Communist affiliations at one time or another, or has taken an interest in Marxism or perhaps joined a Communist club, does one say, "Yes; he has had affiliations with Communism"? One knows full well that it may be magnified into something much more serious than was in fact the case. It is difficult for the people supplying the information as well as for those about whom it is supplied. The more there is a regular and understood procedure, and the more that it is brought into the open, where it can be understood, the better.
Furthermore, there is the effect on a man's family and relations. Even though they are quite innocent, they are almost bound to suffer through inquiries of this kind, for news gets about. If a man loses promotion or is moved in his work, everybody knows about it and, apart from the effect on his character, the whole family is bound to suffer also. If we are to get drastic enough action in the serious cases, let us be sure that we catch only the guilty.
As the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) said, what really matters is how the procedure outlined in the White Paper is to be applied. Would it be possible for the House to be given a report as to the procedure and practice which grows up in the Civil Service when the recommendations of the Conference of Privy Councillors come to be 1294 applied? We ought to now how the procedure is being handled, and I should have thought that it would be possible from time to time to get that type of information.
I sympathise very much with the Conference which investigated these matters. But it has, perhaps, been rather too impressed by the dangers of Communism as such. After all, Communism is not illegal in this country; it is not a crime to be a Communist in opinion. What is a crime is to give information away to a foreign Power. I am not sure that this point comes out sufficiently clearly in the White Paper. Communism may possibly lead a man in that direction, but it is not in itself an offence. It is important that this should be clearly stated in the House. I should like to feel more certain than I do now that when investigations take place we are kept informed as to how the procedure is working and whether as much justice as possible is given to the people concerned.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
I am sure that hon. Members on both sides would tend to agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that this procedure should be kept as narrow as possible and in a very limited sphere. I would certainly agree with the hon. Member also that the conduct of Maclean in particular was scandalous, but I think the hon. Member would agree that it might perhaps be even more dangerous to make this a kind of court of morals. This is an unfortunate procedure even as far as it goes in dealing with matters of public security, but if we were to introduce the extra element of morality it would be extended even more dangerously.
§ Mr. Grimond
I agree entirely. What I was trying to say was that a lot of the Maclean trouble should have been solved in the ordinary processes of the Department as a matter of personnel handling.
§ Mr. Gower
I certainly would not disagree with that.
Last week-end, a friend of mine remarked with reference to these matters that he was surprised at the concern which had been expressed. He said that public servants are in a far stronger position than one of his own employees, whom he could dismiss even if he did not 1295 like the look of his face or simply if he thought the man was a Communist. Our feeling is that the State should be the best of all employers and should set a particularly high example of employment. Furthermore, public servants usually enjoy stability of employment. It is the kind of employment which goes through their whole career. For these reasons we have taken a particular view of the problem, and that is why we need to examine very closely such a procedure as this.
The wording in paragraph 15 of the White Paper is the kind of thing I have in mind. It is the sort of wording we do not want to see often in this country when it says:to continue the practice of tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individual.We reject that doctrine generally. It is one that we can suffer only in extraordinary circumstances. I disagree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux). I think it is our duty to place far more emphasis on the right of the individual than on the safety of the State, except when that safety is obviously a primary consideration. That may have been the case after the war, and perhaps still is, but both sides of this House surely hope that those conditions will not always obtain. If there is at present an emphasis upon the danger from Communism, there are patent reasons for it. It is feasible that at other times other groups would represent a similar danger.
Examples of the doctrine to which I have referred—"tilting the balance" and paying more attention to the security of the State than to the individual—have happened before, and generally speaking those have not been the happiest periods in our history. The happiest times have been when the balance has been tilted the other way. When we recall the great efforts that were made in the supreme emergency of the last war, particularly to preserve the freedom of the individual, even when it was a difficult thing to do, we can recognise the dangers of pressing this doctrine too far today.
It is a pity that we are not considering tonight a Bill which is subject to amendment. My right hon. and gallant Friend 1296 has, I am sure, already satisfied himself that it would be extremely difficult to get a Bill through in this form. There should be room for reconsideration. In this tribunal, why should there not be a limited right of representation by solicitor or counsel? There is precedent for this, even where secrets of State are concerned. It should be by no means impossible to allow a person or civil servant who is questioned as to his integrity to have the right to be represented by an advocate. I hope that the need for this kind of thing will be limited in time. I hope too that if any slight amendment of the kind I have mentioned is possible, full attention will be given to it.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
Like some of my hon. Friends, I watched the Home Secretary dealing last night with questions sent him by people all over the country. In the questions I shall put to him tonight, I hope he will be able to answer as charmingly and attractively as he did then.
I welcome the spirit in which the House has approached this problem. It is a great tribute to the good sense and wisdom of hon. Members that we should be able to debate this matter without any sense of excitement, quite coolly and calmly and with due regard to the rights of individuals. I am also grateful that security in this country has never become a matter of party dispute. One of the gravest difficulties in the United States—it arose from the long period in opposition of the Republican Party, looking desperately for an issue—was that it did become a matter of party dispute and was thus inflated and inflamed until clear thinking on security matters was made very difficult.
I want briefly to deal with the three main issues which seem to arise from the White Paper. The first is the objective of security. In most defence White Papers there is some kind of reference to what the defence policy is designed to defend. It is very unfortunate that the Government's White Paper completely lacks any recognition of the dilemma which is inevitable when a free society tries to protect itself from subversion. That dilemma has been dealt with by every hon. Member who has spoken in the debate. We are all aware of it; the natural liberal instincts of us all set against the necessities of protection. 1297 Yet there is no mention of that in the White Paper.
I fear that a civil servant seeking to defend himself before "the three wise men" of the tribunal would find very little in this, the only published document to which he could refer, which would support him in his claim that he was only pursuing a normal independence of thought. I regret that is the case, because of course the real security of a free society lies in its freedom.
Many hon. Members who thought in the past that we could get greater security by tightening up the machinery ought to look at the Soviet Union, which, in my sincere submission, with all its security measures, is far less secure than we are in this country. Our security in the long run rests on the consent of the governed to be governed. If we were ever to try to substitute enforced uniformity of thought that would do the greatest possible damage to our free interests. I therefore start by noting the lack of any reference to this matter in the White Paper.
Now we come to the second subject, not the objective we are trying to achieve, but the nature of the danger that is feared. The White Paper lists three dangers. It lists, first, the man with a character defect. Secondly, it lists the man who is a Communist and, thirdly, the man who is a Communist sympathiser. I want to say straight away that I absolutely agree with hon. Members who this afternoon have said that character defects should really find no place in a White Paper on security.
I want to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman a perfectly straight question on this subject. He may not be able to answer now, but I hope he will not think it an improper question. Is there any known case of a spy who has been a spy solely because of blackmail which was made possible by his own character defects? There is an extremely interesting report on this matter which was published in the United States and quoted by Dean Acheson in his book which really deserves great and serious study. He quotes Mr. Seth Richardson, the Assistant Attorney-General in the Hoover Administration and chairman of the Loyalty Review Board, who said:Not one single case or evidence directed towards a case of espionage has been disclosed in that record.1298 I believe it is a very common illusion to suppose that many spies become spies because of blackmail. I should like to know whether there are any examples at all in the knowledge of the Government due to that cause.
The second question one comes to is that of the Communist Party member. I think that any Government considering security would be bound to regard a Communist Party member as a person, in the present state of the world, unfit for obvious reasons to be entrusted with security information which was essential to the State. But the much wider issue, and the one in which I think there is most criticism of the Government, is the question of Communist sympathisers.
There is a very great difference between regarding a man as unreliable because of what he thinks and regarding him as unreliable because of what he has done. My view is that, far from increasing the security of the State, if we had a lot of police inquiries, a lot of dossiers and files designed to show what men in the Civil Service have thought in the past or think now, we would be likely to encourage such great caution on the part of those civil servants that their capacity for free thought and independent inquiry would be seriously harmed and, as a result, the State would lose some of the benefit of their services. To take an exaggerated example, far from dismissing any member of the Foreign Office who had read Karl Marx, my inclination would be to dismiss anyone who had not read Karl Marx.
§ Mr. Benn
As my right hon. Friend says, that would be a very drastic step to take. Then we come up against the question of character defect and the ma's living with somebody who is supposed to be a Communist sympathiser. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend forgets that if a civil servant whose wife was a Communist sympathiser left his wife he might be in trouble on the ground of character defect. I think the answer to the extremists on security is ridicule. I hope that the sense of humour which is supposed to be one of our British characteristics will always prevent us from becoming too absurd in our inquiries into the views of civil servants.
§ Mr. Benn
My hon. Friend quite rightly says that the White Paper shows little trace of humour and, one may think, in some ways even less wisdom. We come to the third part of the problem. The safeguarding of the free society was the first, and the second was the dangers to which we are exposed. Now we come to the methods to be employed by the Government in searching out security risks. It has already been pointed out, and I think it is worth re-emphasising, that the loyalty boards are not designed in order to catch spies, but it is purely preventive work—Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doingsin its true sense is what the security board is designed to do. Therefore, we are only undertaking all these inquiries to expose certain people who might be dangerous to us.
What happens, so far as one can make out from hon. Members who have spoken, and we all have experience of this, is that the police make inquiries to find out all about a man, all that is good, bad and indifferent. That all goes down higgledy-piggledy into the record, depending on the judgment of the man who compiles the record. It is made available to the board which decides whether the man is suitable to be employed further or not. Then we come to the stage when the man is informed of the decision, and he has an opportunity of appealing to "the three wise men." Here I think there are very grave defects in the machinery provided by the White Paper.
It is argued that one cannot have an accused person interrogating witnesses because they might be doing secret work for the security forces. That might be true if a Communist is confronted with non-Communist police spies. At such a hearing the value of the police agents would at once disappear. But if they cannot be cross-examined by the accused himself, is that any bar to their being cross-examined by someone acting for the accused? We come back to the question of the right of advocacy on behalf of someone who is brought before the board.
Secondly, it is said that we cannot have a public trial and, in most cases, men are not charged but are brought up on suspicion. Is there any reason why a private trial should not be made more effective and more in accord with judicial procedures which we have in this country? 1300 I put these points most sincerely to the Government because I believe that, when the immediate pressures of the Communist world relax, sooner or later all these practices will have to be replaced by our traditional practices.
I finish with a quotation from a man who was jointly responsible for security measures in the United States with President Truman, Dean Acheson, a very distinguished American and, I believe, a very great American Secretary of State. He referred to the three Presidential executive orders made in the years 1947, 1950 and 1953 which were adopted to deal with exactly this problem, and he devotes a great chapter to the problem in which he finishes with these words:I was an officer of that Administration and share with it the responsibility for what I am now convinced was a grave mistake and a failure to foresee consequences which were inevitable. That responsibility canont be escaped or obscured.With such an authority to support me, I ask the Government to look again at the White Paper before it becomes the established practice of this country.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I should like to take the opportunity of touching on a few of the points which have been made in the debate, particularly about the procedure which has been laid down. I do not wholly agree with the arguments which have been addressed to the House that the Government have not provided adequate measures in this White Paper.
Before I do that, however I want to deal with a matter which, I believe, is also of very great importance and which has not been referred to so far. The terms of reference provided for the Conference of Privy Councillors were:To examine the security procedures now applied in the public services and to consider whether any further precautions are called for and should be taken.I am most deeply concerned about the personnel employed in our secret services at present. I believe that if they are not very careful the Government will lose now, or very soon, some of the best intelligence men, foreigners and Englishmen, employed in those services; and for this reason. Quite rightly, as a general principle, the Civil Service works not so much on suitability but upon the standard of service which has been sot over 1301 years and by the precedents which thereby are retained in its traditions.
It so happens that the men who are employed upon security work may be temporary civil servants, not permanent civil servants. This work may be the only work they do, and they may come from any country in the world. There is real danger at the moment that in the quite proper comb out of the Civil Service in order to try to get rid of a certain number in each Department for economy reasons we may so purge ourselves as to lose some of the most useful men.
In one of our intelligence services there are several men who are under notice to go within the next few months. One of these is one of the greatest coding experts in the world. I need not say more than that a man with remarkable knowledge of cipher and coding work, whose entire adult life has been devoted to intelligence work, and who has been working for the past ten years in the service of this country, is a man who is irreplaceable. When I tell the House that he is a temporary civil servant with a salary of only £550 a year the House can see how easy it is to lose somebody really valuable.
I turn to the question of the further precautions which, I believe, should be taken. There are in this country and in the Middle East a number of men with life-long experience, aliens and Englishmen, who can be of the greatest assistance to us at present in strengthening our security services in the Middle East. I know none of those services, but I know that there are people, certainly the Turks, and people of other nations, who are highly critical of the extent and scope of our security measures in that part of the world in the light of the upheavals that have recently taken place and are taking place there.
I hope, therefore, that in considering these questions of security we shall apply this principle, that for this work suitability shall be the sole and supreme test, and realise that we cannot take into account questions of precedence and promotion which apply to the normal grades of the Civil Service; and that we shall see that we do secure and retain suitable men in our security services, thus protecting our interests and ensuring the maintenance of the great reputation our intelligence services in the past have won.
1302 I wish now to say why I support the White Paper, even paragraphs 15 and 16, which have been so severely criticised. I think it is well known that I have myself been associated with a wide range of recommendations in the rule of law, on reforms in administrative law and in tribunals, and in many other matters associated with the liberty of the subject. Why is it, then, that, broadly speaking, I think it is right to say that the security of the State may mean that one jeopardises some of the most precious assets of the liberty of the subject? It is for this reason.
In the Secret Service, in espionage and in security work, it is well known that, as distinct from a person who has mere access to certain documents, a man employed takes, and understands that he takes, what may be described as the trade risk that he will never in a court of law or before an adequate tribunal be able to explain his dismissal or have it explained. He realises that. It is a risk of his occupation. In ordinary circumstances of employment, an employer, if he dismisses a man, has not to assign reasons for the dismissal: none whatsoever. One can employ an office boy or a domestic servant or a factory worker and may dismiss him and give no reason.
There is no obligation as such upon the Civil Service to state reasons for dismissal. I think it is an admirable precedent that it has so developed that, in fact, it does give reasons. It is admirable that there is a tribunal to which dismissed civil servants can go, and before which the reasons, such as they are, can be stated. I agree with the argument made that if we set up a tribunal we should by all means make it effective. We must, therefore, give a right of representation by solicitor and counsel. I must agree with that.
However, in security I am by no means sure there ought to have been any such tribunal or any right given of representation or of reasons to be stated, for this is really a question of the policy of the Minister. If one is deciding between one spy and another, or upon the employment of one person or another on a task of secret diplomacy, it is not really a question of whether he has given so many years of service or not; it is a question of whether he is the most suitable person for the job. If a man wants to take up 1303 employment of that sort he must accept all the dangers associated with it, including the possible loss of employment.
I think it is important that that view should be expressed in the House, even although it is one I express with great misgivings because of my own very strong feelings about the principle of the liberty of the individual and of fair treatment. All I am really saying is that it is a question of an understood and accepted risk, and that it is a matter within the determination of the Minister in charge.
This White Paper, of course, touches only the fringe of the subject. I hope Ministers gave deep and anxious thought to the whole scope of our security services. I hope they bore in mind the importance of seeing that the finest men and women, not only English subjects but subjects of other countries who are friendly disposed to us, are able to be employed and to continue to be employed satisfactorily, and judged not by the yardstick of the Civil Service, on the basis of the length of their employment, but entirely by their suitability individually for the work which we wish them to do for the security and benefit of our country.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Houghton (Sowerby)
The close interest which has been taken on both sides of the House in this White Paper, and also the anxieties expressed on both sides of the House, lead me to make a suggestion to the Home Secretary about future action.
This is one of the concluding chapters in the affair of Burgess and Maclean. I did not seek to intervene in the earlier debates on them for two reasons. One was that I had a representative post on the Civil Service National Whitley Council, and the second was that I worked in close association with Burgess for three years. I have always found it very difficult to believe a great deal of what was said about him. I certainly wish to associate myself with the comments made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), that the trouble about Burgess was not the failure of our security arrangements but the failure of his superior officers to judge him courageously and objectively on his behaviour.
1304 I worked with Burgess for long enough to know his habits. Anyone who had close contact with him could have realised not only his brilliant intellect but the defects of his conduct and behaviour and could have judged how unreliable he might become in certain circumstances. Therefore, I say that there was a failure of the normal operation of judging people on the part of superior officers. A weakness in public administration is the failure of members of one class to judge objectively and courageously members of the same class. I should not be at all surprised if that was not the real explanation of what happened in this case.
The truth is that most of this trouble comes from university graduates. It is not the humdrum civil servant with the bowler hat and umbrella, who catches the 5.20 from Victoria, who is the unreliable civil servant. He is not the one for whom this White Paper is published. It seems that life in universities encourages riotous living and love of social life and parties, and these people come into the Civil Service infected with their experiences as undergraduates. I hope that that is neither preaching a class war nor being unfair to university-trained civil servants, but the belief in the Civil Service is that all these people hang together, that they do not let each other down, and that they all gather round and shield their own class from the critical gaze of those who might expect better of them.
There is no doubt that a lower-grade civil servant stands much greater risk of being bundled out for unsuitability or undesirable behaviour than does a member of the administrative class. There is not the slightest doubt about that, and I speak from long experience in connection with the public service. Defects in conduct and character are, of course, important, not only in relation to security risk but to suitability to be retained in the public service. Certain standards are required in the public service and should be insisted upon, but we have to be careful not to make the cure worse than the disease.
Another weakness of administration is the speed with which general conclusions are drawn from particular oases. I could give many examples of how elaborate precautions have been taken in public administration to close gaps or guard against weaknesses or difficulties which 1305 have appeared only rarely or even, in some oases, only once. In the White Paper there is scarcely a generalisation for which a plausible defence cannot be found. One might say, "Look at all of them. Yes, that seems reasonable. The country must not be put in jeopardy. The public service must be like Caesar's wife," and so on. But when we come to apply these things we run into difficulties.
The Civil Service is now being asked to accept new conditions which will expose civil servants and their personal lives and associations to closer observation and scrutiny. It may not be so difficult to impose new conditions when recruiting new people to the public service. After all, those who apply to enter the public service, can expect to satisfy all reasonable requirements and tests of their suitability and reliability, but these new principles will be applied to serving civil servants. We can all imagine what we should feel like if we had been in an occupation, trusted servants in a responsible sphere of the public administration, if, in applying the new conditions laid down in the White Paper, offensive tests and interrogations were to follow.
We should ask ourselves how paragraph 15 of the White Paper is to be applied. Does it mean knocking at the door and asking to see our wives when we are not at home and an interrogating officer saying, "I have come to find out whether you are a Communist sympathiser. I know you will not want to discuss this on the doorstep, so please may I come in"? Is the House going to stand for that?
Throughout the White Paper we shall see difficulties of application. I suggest to the Home Secretary that when the procedure mentioned in paragraph 17 of the White Paper has been completed, the result of it should be published in another White Paper for the information of hon. Members. The difficulty about White Papers and documents of this kind is that the House parts with them, having expressed doubts and anxieties and approval and satisfaction and varying opinions about them, and then leaves it to the National Whitley Council to work out the rules and regulations which will give effect to what are then judged to be the decisions of the House.
1306 One can understand that the representatives of the staffs of the Civil Service feel themselves at a great disadvantage in trying to reach agreement with the Official Side of the National Whitley Council on difficult matters of this kind upon which it can be said, "The House has decided, Parliament has approved the White Paper, and this is the framework within which our discussions and hope of agreement must take place."
Criticism has been made of the existing procedure regarding the "three wise men" and the ban on trade union or legal representation on behalf of an accused officer. Reasons were given for it at the time, but probably the House would wish to examine it afresh and wish to see all the new rules and regulations when they have gone through the machinery of the National Whitley Council to discover whether the House can then recognise the application of the principles embodied in the White Paper of which we shall shortly be asked to approve.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
We are having a general discussion of the White Paper on the Third Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill. The House is being given no opportunity at all, as far as I understand it, to express approval or disapproval of the White Paper, except individually.
§ Mr. Houghton
I accept that that is the technical position, but certain conclusions will be drawn from the fact that the debate has taken place. I agree that we must not get those conclusions wrong.
I am trying to impress upon the House that the next step is the discussion of the new rules mentioned in paragraph 17 of the White Paper, which states:The measures necessary to carry out these recommendations will involve alterations in existing procedures. These alterations will be notified to the staff associations concerned and an opportunity given for representation to be made before the alterations are promulgated in full.I am asking that the Home Secretary should assure the House that when the time comes for the promulgation of the new and more comprehensive regulations, they shall be published in a further White Paper so that the House may see them and, if it sees fit, provide a further short period of parliamentary time to 1307 discuss them. At the moment, the Civil Service is in no position to offset the general conditions which may be laid down by the Government—with some tacit consent, and no more, of the House—as a basis for negotiation and discussion on these new regulations. I hope sincerely that this will prove possible, because it would be a reassurance to the public service.
I conclude by saying that I am sure that no one in this House, and I hope no one outside, will think that he sees in this White Paper a portrait of the Civil Service or a portrait of any but the rarest misfits and undesirables who have passed all the tests and all the conditions for entering the public service. As my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) said, in his remarkable eloquent maiden speech, the House will wish, notwithstanding the attention it is having to give to the White Paper, to renew its confidence in the public service generally. The House will wish to assure the service that nothing will be done which will give undue offence to the public service in carrying out the recommendations of the Conference on the further measures to be taken on security grounds.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
We have had an interesting debate and some valuable speeches. I wish particularly to add my congratulations to those offered to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Redhead) on what everyone will agree was a thoughtful and informative maiden speech. I echo the view of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) that we shall look forward to his interventions in future if they are of the standard which he offered today.
I could not help thinking, as the hon. Gentleman was speaking, that the original statement about security was made by his predecessor in this House, the present Earl Attlee. One thing which has impressed itself upon me during the debate has been that it is a sequel to the one held on 7th November and that the White Paper is a sequel to the one which the then Foreign Secretary presented on the 1308 disappearance of the two former Foreign Office officials.
It is obvious from many of the speeches today that many hon. Members are of the opinion that there is to be a big departure from the policy followed by successive Governments. I assure the House as sincerely as possible that there is no departure from the policy which successive Governments have laid down.
The impression conveyed to me by most of the speeches during the debate on 7th November was that what really disturbed hon. Members was a real anxiety that there was a defect in our security system which was having serious effects. In other words, that the menace threatening this country was what I call the ideological traitor. I do not think I am misinterpreting the impression which that debate gave.
Indeed, it was because of the general feeling then that this inquiry was held. It was urged upon us by hon. Members in all parts of the House that something was radically wrong. That suggestion was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney). The impression made upon me at the time was that the anxiety about security was uppermost in the mind of hon. Members and not the fear that we were riding roughshod over the liberties of the people. To put it another way, not that we were doing too much but that we were doing too little. The real worry was that we were being too liberal in our approach to the problem. This was why we had the inquiry.
The Conference included two of my right hon. Friends as well as myself, a former Home Secretary and my noble Friend, who is peculiarly concerned with certain aspects of security. I hope I can say, whilst preserving due modesty, that the composition of the Conference was such that we might expect it to inspire some confidence in this House. It was greatly strengthened by the addition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South, who is not only a former Home Secretary but a former Foreign Secretary, as well. In addition, we had the benefit of the noble Lord, 1309 Earl Jowitt, and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. G. R. Strauss) who, in his former capacity, as Minister of Supply, had such a wide experience of the problems with which the Conference had to deal.
It is obvious that we could not publish the full Report. As my right hon. Friend said in answer to a question, we have published in the White Paper as much as it is proper to do. I admit that it is extremely difficult to produce a White Paper of this kind since it is undesirable to disclose so much of the material, but I hope it will give satisfaction to those who, on 7th November, expressed doubts as to the security services.
It is true that the Conference recommended certain changes which were designed to strengthen our security system. As the White Paper states, the Conference was satisfied on the general issue that there was nothing organically wrong with our security services, and I hope that this will allay the anxiety of those who have the impression that there is something fundamentally unsound with the system.
On the suggestion that we are taking much wider powers, may I point out that several speakers in the debate last Friday suggested that we should take far wider powers for detaining suspects than we have at present. On that issue the Conference gave a definite and authoritative answer. It recommended strongly that there should be no amendment of the law in that respect, and with this I am sure that the whole House will agree.
There is little doubt in any quarter of the House about the menace which we are seeking to combat. However it may be well to remind hon. Members of what the Conference said. It upheld the view, first publicly stated by Lord Attlee, in 1948, that one of the main dangers to security is presented by the Communist whose faith overrides his normal loyalties to his country, and induces the belief that it is justifiable to hand over secret information to the party or to a Communist foreign Power. As I said just now, no departure at all has been made from that.
I hope, therefore, that it is common ground that the Government are right in pursuing the policy adopted by successive Governments in recent years of making it one of their main objects to ensure that 1310 Communists and, I would emphasise, those associated with them—paragraph 15 has come in for some criticism, but I would emphasise "those associated with them"—are not employed in the Civil Service where they are in a position to get hold of secret information. Another important point to be remembered is "where they are in a position to get hold of secret information." That is a view which, I think, is accepted not only in this House but by most people outside.
I remember an article in the Daily Worker which followed the publication of the White Paper. The White Paper brought down the wrath of the Daily Worker. What brought down that wrath was not the threat to the rights of private citizens, or the incursion into the private lives of individuals. It was that, for convenience and brevity, we explained in paragraph 5 that the term "Communism" was used throughout the White Paper to cover Communism and Fascism alike. That is what really annoyed the Daily Worker, but we were, of course, right to use that term for brevity.
I have thought it right to remind the House of these two findings of the Conference because, on the face of it, they are a complete answer to most of the points made in the debate last November. They have established that the policy followed by successive Governments during the last eight years has been right and that the procedures to give effect to that policy are sound.
There has been more emphasis today on a rather different point. Previously, the House was far more concerned as to whether we had got the security which we ought to have for the safety of the country. Today, there has been far greater emphasis—I am not complaining about it; I am merely stating the fact—on the fact that we are apparently paying too little attention to the rights of the private individual. Doubts have been expressed today about the justification for the recommendations in the White Paper designed to strengthen the present security system.
It is a very understandable reaction to question the need for measures, some of which are certainly alien to our liberal traditions, and for that reason adopted with considerable reluctance. However, I should like to make three points in reply to those who may still feel that such 1311 measures are unnecessary. First, however distasteful were the measures which successive Governments over the last few years have had to take, we cannot sit back and do nothing while our security is imperilled by a menace, the existence of which is accepted on all sides.
Secondly, while some of our countermeasures, it is true, are alien to our liberal traditions, so is the menace which they set out to circumvent. That is a point that we must never forget. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the November debate, Communism has set progress back three centuries. We are now, thanks to Communist activities, back in the age when a man who holds this new creed thinks it loyal to be disloyal and has no scruple about betraying his own country. We are, therefore, driven into adopting steps which we take only because of protecting the liberal traditions that we in this country hold dear.
Thirdly, while I do not for a moment under-rate the hardship of those who, because they are adjudged to be the dupes of the Communist creed, are moved to other work or, if it is impossible to find non-secret work for them, lose their appointments in the Civil Service, I should like to make one comment on that. Hard as their lot is, we can all make a shrewd guess as to what their lot would have been had they been employed in the Civil Service of a Communist Power, and it had been discovered that they belonged to or sympathised with a movement holding views about Communism analogous to those which Communists hold about democratic government.
I do not propose to discuss the recommendations of the Conference in detail—it would take a very long time to do so—but I think the House would wish me to deal with one general point. The White Paper says, on the one hand, that it is sometimes necessary to refuse to employ a man on secret duties because, after the fullest investigation, doubts about his reliability remain, and, on the other, that in deciding borderline cases i: is right to continue the practice—I say "to continue the practice" deliberately—of tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individual.
1312 The Conference had no intention of suggesting that anything short of the fullest possible investigation should be made in an endeavour to resolve doubts or of denying to a civil servant the right and opportunity to state his case. It is frequently very difficult to decide whether the State is justified in trusting a man with its secrets. I can assure the House—I say this with knowledge—that the very greatest care is taken at all stages to make a fair and honest appraisal of the facts. The problem is sometimes to judge the state of a man's mind now, or to judge how he would react to a particular situation in the future.
Nor can we afford to neglect the danger of a man who, himself completely innocent, constitutes a risk to security because, for example, he has relatives behind the Iron Curtain. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Vauxhall drew attention to that kind of risk during the debate on atomic energy in April, 1954. I am sure he was right and that we must treat persons of that character as security risks.
I am equally certain that the Conference of Privy Councillors was right in enjoining us to watch the risk to security which may be caused by the man under the influence of a close relative who is a Communist. In any such case, of course, we shall do our best to see that the man who has to be taken off secret work gets employment in some other branch of the Civil Service.
The second general point that I would make is that it must never be supposed that when we are dealing with cases of this kind, any more than when we are dealing with the other case to which the Conference referred—the civil servant with a serious character defect—we shall work to set rules. The suggestions in the White Paper are purely examples of the sort of defects which might be looked at, and, of course, it is vitally important that that should be known. The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) asked me whether I had ever known of a spy who had become one because of character defects.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am sorry; I have not got an example of one of those, but I could tell the hon. Member of quite a number who came to serious trouble because of very serious defects, 1313 though I have not got a case of blackmail in mind at the moment. I could not give an example of blackmail without some research, but for people coming to what I might call a "sticky end" because of character defects, I could give a number of examples. It is a well-known fact that many of the finest spies were chosen because they were the type of person who might encourage character defects, if I may put it that way.
Therefore, character defects of one form or another are of tremendous importance. I am not saying that spying and blackmail necessarily go together; there can be the blackmailing of a person who was not exactly a spy. In any case, it is a danger, though only one of the many dangers which are obvious weaknesses, I should have thought, in any system of security. Furthermore, I am certain that still the best protection we can give to the individual is to continue to rely upon the resolve of Ministers to consider these cases on their merits and to reach in each case the best judgment which it is possible for a human being to reach.
Questions have been asked of me today about the terms of reference mentioned in paragraph 16 of the White Paper. It is important to remember that in this particular case, as in so many, the staff side would be involved and consultation will have to take place with them. As soon as this has been done, the House will be informed. I do want to make this perfectly clear: it is not altogether against the interests of the individual involved when the powers and terms of reference are extended, because it may enable far more information about a particular person to be obtained which could well be to his advantage. It does not necessarily work one way. In any case, it will be the subject of discussions with the staff side, and then the House will be informed.
Thirdly, I would like to emphasise that the greatest care is taken in investigating all cases of suspects. I assure the House that an adverse decision is not reached except after the most careful evaluation of all considerations telling in favour—this is very important—telling in favour of as well as against the suspected person. Speaking with knowledge, may I say that I have the greatest confidence in the skill and experience of our security services. 1314 May I say, further, that there is no danger in this country of witch-hunting for the sake of witch-hunting. It is obvious, of course, that there is a great deal of information which cannot in any circumstances be disclosed; every hon. Gentleman in every part of the House appreciates that.
Most of the attack on our security services has not been that they were too severe, but that they were not severe enough. The effect of the debate on 7th November was not to criticise the security services because of the ghastly methods they used, but to suggest they were not really strong enough.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) asked for some figures about purging. I have the figures for the last five years. The total of those purged was 62. Of those, nine were in the higher executive or higher ranks, and 53 were in the lower ranks. That is a total of 62 out of a non-industrial figure of 650,000 and an industrial figure of 400,000.
I do not think that those results bear out any attack on the Civil Service. I am very happy, as we all are, to endorse what has been said today about the Civil Service, and I feel that those figures give some indication of the position. On the whole, there is no laxness in the security services, but it could not possibly be held against them that the security services were making life intolerable for many people. I think those figures prove that.
The White Paper, has, in my submission, established three propositions: first, that our policy of regarding the Communist and Communist sympathiser as a menace to our security is the right policy for any Government to follow; secondly, that our existing procedures are fundamentally sound; thirdly, that in following our policy and in applying our procedures it is right that the Government should continue, as they mean to do, within the limits imposed by this new menace to our national way of life, to pay due regard to the position of the individual.
I submit that with these propositions established, on the findings of this very responsible body, and with the assurance that the Government intend to do all that they can to prevent their policies and procedures impinging unfairly on human rights, the House can rest content with the findings of the inquiry.