HC Deb 14 May 1956 vol 552 cc1751-87

8.18 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

On 29th April, the Admiralty announced that Commander Lionel Crabb, R.N.V.R., was presumed dead after failing to return from an underwater trial. The statement went on to say that he did not return from a test dive which took place in connection with the trials of certain underwater apparatus in Stokes Bay, in the Portsmouth area, about a week before. Commander Crabb is the central figure in this strange episode which we are discussing in this very short debate this evening.

Therefore, I think it will be appropriate, since I suppose we must accept the conclusion of the Admiralty, if, at the start, on behalf of all of us, I were to pay a tribute to a very gallant officer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] He was, of course, awarded the George Medal in 1944 for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty. Whatever may be the circumstances in which he met his death, all of us will agree that this country would be the poorer if it were not for men like Commander Crabb.

In opening this debate, there are certain things I want to make clear about the attitude of the Opposition. First, we recognise the unfortunate necessity, in present conditions, for secret services. Every great Power has such services and, obviously, as with other defences, we cannot do without these. Also, we fully appreciate that details of the activities of these services cannot be disclosed as are the activities of other Government Departments, because to do so would make nonsense of their work. However, I must add this: Parliament accepts that situation, and refrains from pressing these matters, and, of course, Ministers, exercising their undoubted rights, refuse to give information on what I think may be regarded as certain generally accepted assumptions.

These assumptions are: first, that the operations of these services are ultimately and effectively controlled by Ministers or by a Minister; secondly, that their operations are secret; thirdly, that what they do does not embarrass us in our international relations. And perhaps one might add, fourthly, that what they do appears, as far as we can make out, to be reasonably successful—[Laughter.]—in this sense, that if there were a widespread feeling that the secret services were extremely incompetent and inept, then it would be the duty of hon. Members to raise the matter.

It is an unfortunate fact that, in the episode which we are discussing, none of these four conditions appears to have been fulfilled. The statement of the Prime Minister makes it plain—at any rate, it gives me the impression—that in this instance Ministers were not ultimately and effectively in control. Secondly, nobody could say that the operations were especially secret. Thirdly, it is a regrettable fact that there has been some embarrassment to international relations. There may be some doubt about success, but I will leave that on one side.

This is one reason why we on the Opposition benches could not be content with the statement made by the Prime Minister last week. Because, cryptic though it was, it revealed through the disclaimer of direct responsibility and through the reference to disciplinary steps, that some wrong action had been taken by a Government servant without the authority and, indeed, apparently contrary to the desires of Ministers.

Now may I say a word about Ministerial responsibility in this matter. It is the custom for Ministers to cover up any decision by a civil servant; that is to say, normally the Minister not merely takes responsibility but appears to have taken that decision himself, whether, in fact, he did so or not. Even when this is not done and, of course, there are quite a number of occasions when it would be pedantic to insist that it should be done; when, in fact, a Minister comes to the House, and says, "One of my officials made a mistake", thereby implying that he, the Minister, was not directly responsible for that mistake, nevertheless it is a sound and vital constitutional principle that the Minister takes responsibility for what has happened.

That is a principle which I venture to say is fundamental to our democracy, because if we were to depart from it, it would imply that the Civil Service in some way or other was independent and not answerable to this House. Of course, the extent to which we condemn a Minister for an act of one of his officers, or a failure by one of his officers, obviously depends on the circumstances. There are minor occasions when a Minister admits that something has gone wrong and the House accepts it and the matter is left.

Another reason why we felt that we had to discuss this matter further was that other Departments apart from the Secret Service are apparently involved. There is no doubt that the Admiralty was heavily involved. Indeed, one newspaper goes so far as to say today that the Naval Intelligence Department was probably at the centre of the whole thing, and it may be that the Home Office also was involved—

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

indicated dissent.

Mr. Gaitskell

I see the Home Secretary shaking his head, but I would draw his attention to one incident where police officers were involved.

Finally, may I explain that we are discussing this matter on this Motion with particular reference to the salary of the Prime Minister because, first, the right hon. Gentleman himself decided, in answering the Question last Wednesday, to take responsibility for this matter and, therefore, if we wanted to discuss it, that was the correct thing to do; and, secondly, if we had discussed it on the Admiralty Vote alone that would have narrowed the scope of the debate unduly.

Whatever we may feel about this incident, or series of incidents, none of us would ask that the Prime Minister should disclose what ought not to be disclosed, either because it might endanger our agents—one may as well use the word for the people in our Secret Service—or because it would involve giving information away to a foreign Power, information which, in the opinion of the Government, should be kept from a foreign Power.

Subject to this, I venture to say that it is the duty of any Opposition in this democracy of ours to probe any weakness or what appear to be blunders or mistakes in Government administration. I feel confident that if hon. Members on the other side of the Committee had been in opposition, and a similar episode had occurred, they would, in pursuance of their duty, certainly have raised the matter in the House of Commons.

Subject to the qualification, an important one, which I made about security, I very much hope that the Prime Minister will tonight say all he possibly can to clear up the matter and allay the remaining anxieties. Whether or not we divide the Committee on this issue turns, frankly, entirely on what he can say to us this evening.

I now turn the case itself. We have very little time and I certainly do not propose to go through the facts, or the apparent facts, in great detail, but the following seems reasonably clear. On 18th April, Commander Crabb went to Portsmouth and stayed at the Sallyport Hotel with another gentleman who registered in the name of Mr. Smith. The next day both of them left the hotel, Mr. Smith returning later to pay the bill and collect the luggage. From then onwards, Commander Crabb disappears. Two days later, the Portsmouth police appear at the hotel and tear out four pages of the hotel register, which of course, included the names of Commander Crabb and his companion. Ten days later the Admiralty issued the statement part of which I read to the Committee at the beginning of my remarks.

On 3rd May—four days afterwards—the Soviet Government sent a Note of protest to the British Government, and in this they made it plain that a protest had been made much earlier by the commanding officer of the Soviet ships in conversation with the chief of staff of the Portsmouth naval base. On that occasion, according to the Soviet Note, the Chief of Staff, who is Rear-Admiral Burnett, categorically rejected the possibility of the appearance of a frogman alongside the Soviet ships and stated that at the time indicated there were no operations in the port involving the use of frogmen. The comment that I feel bound to make at this point is that this was clearly completely contrary to what the Admiralty itself was to say on 30th April.

The British Government in a Note which, according to Moscow, was delivered on 9th May, and presumably, therefore, was sent before the Prime Minister made his statement to us, expressed regret for the incident, a matter which, curiously enough, the Prime Minister did not mention in his statement to us the other day. Finally, we have the Prime Minister's statement to us, which is in the recollection of all of us and to which, therefore, I need not refer in detail. That is all I propose to say about the story of these events.

I wish now to make a few comments. I do not propose to go into great detail, as the newspapers have done. I do not propose to ask every conceivable question, such as, for instance, "Where did Commander Crabb get his diving gear?", "Why was not a younger man sent down if somebody had to go?", and, "What was it that Commander Crabb was trying to find out?" All these questions, and many others, have been asked in the newspapers. I repeat that I am not concerned with anything more than the central features of this business. Nor do I propose to say much about the international aspect of the matter. As the Prime Minister has made clear to the Soviet Union, it is a very regrettable episode, but for my part I fully accept, as I am sure we all do, the Prime Minister's disclaimer of Ministerial knowledge or approval. I should like to say that I am sure that that should be accepted as complete evidence of absolute good faith by the Soviet Government as well.

Nor do I feel, though others may differ from me on this, that this episode, serious as it is in certain aspects, and, indeed, deplorable as it was when one first heard about it, is likely to do permanent damage to our relations with the Soviet Government. We all know that the Russians are realists in these matters. There is not very much doubt that they, like other Governments, have their agents, and there have been various stories in the newspapers of similar occasions to which I will make no further reference.

I am concerned more with what appears to be the situation in the secret service and the forces which work with them because it seems to me that what has been suggested, at any rate by the Prime Minister's statement, and by what we know, reveals a very grave lack of control at home and, indeed, a most unsatisfactory state of affairs within this service.

It seems to me that a great deal turns upon the question of the level at which the decisions were taken. There was an idea at one time when the great bout of speculation was taking place in the Press that possibly the whole thing had been a private effort, that Commander Crabb, financed by a mysterious private organisation, had gone on this investigation and, indeed, that the Government had had nothing to do with it whatever.

Unfortunately—I say, "unfortunately" —the Prime Minister's statement shows, I think, conclusively that that cannot have been so. At least, if it were so, I can only say that it is a great pity that the Prime Minister did not make it clear earlier. I think that we must conclude from his statement—he will correct me if I am wrong—that presumably the Secret Service or a secret service and the Admiralty must have been mixed up in the plan from the start. Again, I ask at what sort of level was the decision taken, if a decision were taken, to make this kind of investigation. In particular, I think that the Prime Minister might be able to tell us how far this was a matter in which the Admiralty took the initiative.

Having said that, I would wish to pose, if I may, a few central questions which, I repeat, I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to answer within the limits that security permits. We all of us recall that when Mr. Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev were coming here, a very great deal of attention was concentrated upon the security precautions in connection with their visit and Questions were asked in the House about the number of guards they were to have, and so on. One presumes that in taking these precautions, which we did not criticise and which we accepted, it must have been, must it not, the duty of the Admiralty to guard the Soviet vessels?

That is one of the extraordinary features of the whole business, because if it were the Admiralty's responsibility to guard these vessels, how was it that Commander Crabb, if it was he, was able to approach these vessels? One is bound to ask the question: Was the security guard very, very inadequate or was the guard in the secret of Commander Crabb's exploit?

Again, I come back to the question of the level. It is very difficult to understand how, that being the background, this kind of exploit could have been permitted unless it had been known to some fairly high-ranking officers. I put that as a supposition, and as the honest conclusion to which at the moment, I think, we are drawn by the facts. The second question I would like to ask is, first, what steps were taken, if I may repeat it, to guard these ships? The second question is, who authorised the Admiralty statement on 29th April, which is now seen to have been at variance with the statement of the Chief of Staff at Portsmouth to the Russian admiral, and which, incidentally, was also very much at odds with the Prime Minister's later statement? The third question that I want to put to the Prime Minister is about the strange business of the Portsmouth police descending upon the Sallyport Hotel and tearing out four pages of the register.

Can the Prime Minister tell us under what authority these officers acted? I have made some inquiry into the legal position, with the help of one or two of my hon. Friends, and, as I understand, this is the position. Under the Aliens Order, it is an obligation on any hotel keeper to keep a register of all persons over 16 years old staying at the premises. It is also an obligation on any person of this kind to enter his name, nationality and date of arrival, and the keeper of the hotel has to require him to do so. Furthermore, the keeper of the hotel has to preserve the register for a year after the last entry in it, and it is, of course, open to inspection by any police officer or person authorised by the Home Secretary.

The Portsmouth police came in—in fact, they seized part of this register, although, under the Aliens Order, it was the property of the hotel keeper who is under a statutory duty to preserve it. It is indeed very hard, therefore, to see what right the police officers had to make the hotel keeper break the law in this way.

There is, of course, the additional piece of information—if it is correct—that the police officers warned the hotel keeper that if he resisted and refused to give up the register they would proceed against him the Official Secrets Act. In exactly what way would the Official Secrets Act come into this? There is, of course, provision under the Official Secrets Act under which it is an offence for a person to retain certain documents when the person having such a document in his possession or control retains it when he has no right to retain it or when it is contrary to his duty to retain it or fails to comply with any directions issued by lawful authority with regard to the return or disposal thereof". I think we ought to take that as referring to Civil Service documents and documents of that kind. I am bound to say that it is very difficult to see how a hotel register can come within that particular Section. I would ask, if I may, because this is an important point, what explanation the Prime Minister can give us. I repeat that we realise the need for a Secret Service. We realise that the members of that Service have to go about their work in queer ways, but it is a matter of enormous importance that they should not be above the law. What, then, was the law under which they operated?

The next point I wish to ask relates to the Prime Minister's statement about disciplinary steps. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us against whom and in what manner those steps have been taken? Were any steps taken, for instance, against Service personnel?

Finally, there is a question which I feel I must put out of regard for the relatives of Commander Crabb. Can the Prime Minister say whether the commander—on the assumption, of course, that he was the person involved—believed that the action which he took was fully approved, or did he realise that it was, as it were, purely a private enterprise undertaking? Did he know that there would be this very serious consequence if, in fact, it were discovered?

I will refer here against, if I may, to the statement of the British Government. or rather the letter of the British Govern- ment, to the Russian Government which seems to imply—as I say, I think out of fairness to Commander Crabb's relatives this is something that should be cleared up—that he swam to the Russian vessels without permission. The Note says: The frogman, who, as reported in the Soviet Note, was discovered from the Soviet ships swimming between the Soviet destroyers, was to all appearances Commander Crabb. His presence in the vicinity of the destroyers occurred without any permission whatever, and Her Majesty's Government express their regret for this incident. If that were true and if, in fact, he had gone to Portsmouth simply on genuine trials not connected in any way with the Soviet vessels and had, on his own initiative, swum off to them, that, I think, is something which the Government ought to make plain. If it is not so, then, of course, it is a different matter.

To draw the conclusions, such as they are, which one can from this business, it is impossible for us on the hard information available to pass any final judgment. I do not seek to do so. I would still hope, frankly, that a fuller and more reassuring explanation were forthcoming from the Prime Minister, but I must tell him that so far, by what has been published in the Press, by what he has said and by what is in the exchange of Notes with the Soviet Government, an impression has been created, first, of the most deplorable lack of co-ordination and control between the Foreign Office, the Secret Service and the Admiralty; and, secondly, that an impression of unusual technical incompetence has also been created.

The business of the hotel register, which was bound to attract public attention to the whole matter, the way in which, apparently, before Commander Crabb went to Portsmouth there was a great deal of free talk by all sorts of people, the questioning at a later stage of Commander Crabb's friends, which is reported in some of the Press—none of this, I must say, gives one much confidence in the technical efficiency of the Service. Thirdly, I think that it gives an impression of a degree of political unawareness which is almost frightening

I repeat that a lot depends on at what level these decisions were taken, but particularly in regard to the political aspects if, in fact, the decisions were taken at a high level. Then it shows, as The Times said in a very penetrating leader: irresponsibility just where irresponsibility should not exist. If, on the other hand, it was at a lower level, it suggests that the people there, the officers there, have got altogether out of hand.

I must say this to the Prime Minister, and I know he will accept it: it is his burden and responsibility to look after the Secret Service. These matters of which I have spoken and the reflections on the efficiency of Service co-ordination, and so on, which I have mentioned are essentially matters for the Prime Minister. I would ask him, is he satisfied in the light of what has happened with the staffing of the security services? What steps is he taking, or has he taken, to prevent this sort of thing happening again? Is he satisfied—I am sure he will not take offence at this at all—that he, the Prime Minister of the day, who has these enormous responsibilities over the whole field of government, is really in a position to be the only Minister to keep an adequate control on the Secret Service? Can he, in fact, do this job as it should be done directly himself?

Those are the questions we should like the Prime Minister to answer bearing in mind, I repeat, the security aspect, which cannot be overlooked. I have tried to put our case and our anxieties on this in as responsible a manner as I can. I realise to the full the delicate nature of the subject we are discussing very briefly this evening, but, while we must be careful and while we must be cautious, democracy also must be made to work. We, as the Parliament in a democracy, have the right to have our fears allayed, our anxieties extinguished; or at any rate we have the right to be satisfied that the Government are taking steps to put matters right.

8.49 p.m.

The Prime Minister(Sir Anthony Eden)

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) has reminded us—and rightly reminded us, if I may say so—that it is a very rare proceeding to refuse to disclose public events or events which have become talked about merely on the ground that in the Government's judgment it is not in the public interest to do so.

Of course, we live, as we all know, in an age of publicity, and in some quarters it seems to be thought that there is nothing which should be withheld from public examination, discussion and debate. That was not, I was glad to note, the right hon. Gentleman's position tonight. Nonetheless, Parliament has preserved the long-established convention that a responsible Minister may decline to give information, if, in his judgment, it is not in the public interest to do so.

We are dealing tonight, I must say frankly to the House, with circumstances in which no Government here or in any other country, I believe, would say more than I am prepared to say to the House tonight; nor is there anything contrary to our practice, as the House knows, in taking this action. It is often done in defence. A classic example was the atomic bomb, where the whole expenditure—£100 million—was concealed in the Estimates for a number of years.

Similarly in international affairs—let me say this, because the right hon. Gentleman asked a question—it is often contrary to the public interest to disclose the details of correspondence with a foreign Government or to reveal the course of negotiations with a foreign Government leading up to treaties or other agreements, and it is in any event the immemorial custom not to publish the receipt of a Note until the reply has been returned and received by the Power which sent the Note. I shall have something more to say about that in a moment.

Again, to take our domestic affairs, there are many things which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary, for instance, is not obliged to state publicity. He has not to disclose the grounds on which he has decided to deport an alien or those on which he grants or refuses a certificate of naturalisation. I say this to show that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman; I think we are in agreement that there can be no dispute about the general principle that there are certain things which it is against the national interest to disclose.

The right hon. Gentleman has spoken very freely about the secret services and speculated about their control, their organisation, and their efficiency. I am sorry to have to say that I am not prepared to discuss those matters in the House. It is easy—and I am not complaining—for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest or imply that all is not well. I could not answer him, because I could not answer him either generally or in detail without disclosing matters which, as he must recognise, must remain secret. That is why it is not the practice and it never has been the practice to discuss these matters openly in the House, and I am not prepared to break that precedent.

I think it must be clear that it must be left to the discretion of Ministers to decide these matters. Only the Minister can judge; his discretion in this particular respect is absolute. It should be clear from this practice that the Minister cannot disclose the reasons for his decision. Obviously, if he were to disclose his reasons, it would be disclosing what he judged to be contrary itself to the public interest.

That is certainly the position in this instance, and therefore on this particular aspect of the matter I must tell the House now that I have not one word more to say than I announced on Wednesday. But I should like to comment on the second part of the statement which I made in the House last week and to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.

I then took the exceptional course of making it plain that what was done was done without the authority of Her Majesty's Ministers. That, of course, includes all Her Majesty's Ministers and all aspects of this affair. We all know, in fact, that many actions are taken by servants of the Crown for which the authority of Ministers is not asked and, of course, that must always be so in any complex society such as ours today. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct in saying that on these occasions it is nonetheless accepted that Ministers of the Government, collectively, are responsible to Parliament for the actions of officials.

I pondered long before I departed from that axiom in this case, and I think that the Committee is, perhaps—if I may say so, entitled to know more of this topic in the light of what the right hon. Gentleman said. In this instance there were special circumstances which, I judged, compelled me to state that what happened, or was thought to have happened, had been done without the authority of Ministers.

At that time my colleagues and I had been conducting important discussions with the Soviet leaders. We were completely unaware of any episode of this kind. Had I not made that clear publicly, doubt would inevitably have been thrown on the sincerity of our position during those discussions. That is a very serious and a very exceptional situation, but it explains to the House why, on that account, I thought it right to take the very unusual course I did of making that statement.

That brings me to the third part of the statement which I made last week and to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. Having made it clear that what was done without the authority of Ministers I also found it necessary to let it be known that disciplinary steps were being taken. That in itself is, in part, an answer to what the right hon. Gentleman has just said. It shows that the Government are determined that the proper measures of control and authority should be exercised by Ministers in all matters of this kind.

It has been suggested—and this was another point which the right hon. Gentleman made and it has been made very much of, too, in the Press—that by not informing the House on Wednesday last of our receipt of the Russian Note and of our reply thereto I was in some way holding back information of which the House ought to have been made aware. Of course, that was not so. The Soviet Note was delivered to the Foreign Office by messenger on Friday night, 4th May. The Foreign Secretary being away ill, I myself approved the answer to the Soviet Government on Wednesday morning. Of course, I was aware when I spoke to the House on Wednesday that the Soviet Government could not by then have received our reply. It would have been discourteous, to say the least, to have disclosed diplomatic correspondence in such circumstances, and I did not do so. So far as I know that has been the absolutely normal practice followed by all civilised Governments from the beginning of time.

At the same time, as the Committee will see, there is nothing in the least inconsistent between the reply we have given to the Soviet Government and my statement to the House. I carefully compared the two myself. The only difference —and it is a difference—is that the reply to the Soviet Note deals with the actual queries raised in the Soviet communciation, whereas my reply to the House was couched as a Parliamentary Answer.

Now, as to the later publication of the Note, I realised, of course, that the Soviet Government might publish both communications. Of course, I understood that. But even so, I submit to the Committee that it would not have been possible for me to communicate either the facts or the texts of the Notes in advance of the receipt of our reply by the Soviet Government.

But in this business I do not rest only on the national interest. The national interest is of first importance to us in the House of Commons, but there is also in this business a very important international interest, and I confess that all I care for is that the outcome of our discussions with the Soviet leaders should in truth prove to be, as I have said, the beginning of a beginning. I intend to safeguard that possibility at all costs. I believe that that is also in the minds of the Soviet leaders, and it is for that reason that I deplore this debate and will say no more.

9.2 p.m.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

May I say this by way of preface? The Soviet Government is the last Government on earth to make an incident out of this affair. But, listening to the Prime Minister this evening, I would personally have been quite content if he had stopped short at the first part of his statement last week. If he had said that this was a matter of public security, I do not think anybody could have questioned him on his judgment.

The Prime Minister, however, went on to open all sorts of speculative fields, as he has done in the Press. Incidentally, it seems a paradox that only the public Press can discuss this matter more fully than Parliament. The Prime Minister can apparently get up and say, as he said tonight, "I have nothing to say," and Parliament is gagged at once. But the public Press is allowed to chase all sorts of hares and to question all sorts of people.

Where, possibly, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has made a mistake is in saying that he was going to take disciplinary action and not telling the House what that action was to be. We may be stopped from questioning the Prime Minister, I understand, because of public security considerations, but surely Parliament has a right to ask the Prime Minister whether he is acting rightly in taking disciplinary action against some person or persons unknown.

After all, Parliament is the protector of the individual, and, for all we know, the Prime Minister may be making a mistake, as the Government have done before, notably in the Burgess and Maclean case, which to a certain extent disclosed similar errors of judgment on the part of officials, and Parliament has no method of redress. All that can happen is that a committee of Privy Councillors is set up, some whitewashing statement is made, and Parliament has to accept it

I do not want to question the Prime Minister any more than my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) did about the public security issue. What I say to the Prime Minister is this. Having been in charge of a Service Department myself, I should like to know whether he is quite sure that Ministers, and Service Ministers particularly, have complete control over their Secret Service, their Intelligence, as he led us to believe in what he said tonight. I should not be at all surprised if Service Ministers, in particular, do not know what their Intelligence does. Yet they are asked to take complete responsibility, even to signing for the expenditure of these secret service sections of their Departments, without knowing one iota of what is happening.

If we are to have a Secret Service, surely it should be secret. In this case, it has been nothing of the sort; the newspapers have been allowed to speculate. The Prime Minister may say we would surely not ask him to exercise any control over the public Press. He asks Parliament to be discreet; why does he not ask the newspapers to act in the same way? Every morning, as the Prime Minister knows, there is a conference at the Foreign Office which journalists are able to attend and question the official spokesmen. Why, therefore, can the Prime Minister, or somebody else, not make sure that not only is Parliament stopped from pursuing these matters fully, but, also, that some restraint is exercised by the public Press, especially the popular Press, which may do a great deal of damage to international and national security?

Obviously, we cannot pursue this matter further by asking the Prime Minister to divulge what actually did happen; but, in spite of what he said, the public are disturbed at something happening which ought not to have happened, and the public is further of the opinion—as, I think, are many hon. Members of this Committee—that neither the Prime Minister nor his Departmental Ministers have over the Secret Service that control which Parliament voting the money would expect.

I would, therefore, ask the Prime Minister whether he can take some action to ensure that bureaucrats and public officials do not cut right across the policy of the Government of the day and cause international tension, as might have been possible in this case, which has enabled the Soviet Government to hold this country and Her Majesty's Government up to ridicule.

9.7 p.m.

Sir Patrick Specs (Kensington, South)

I want to say a few words tonight on the constitutional aspect of this debate. I am old enough, and I have been long enough a Member of the House, to have been present on many an occasion when the House desired to get information from Ministers of the Crown and the Ministers claimed they were quite unable to answer on the ground of public security. Time after time, when that has happened, that has been an end of the matter. This is the first time in my experience that a responsible Opposition has, through a most responsible leader, in a most responsible speech, none the less done what I consider to be a most irresponsible thing. It has followed the line which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) condemns in the Press. It has tried to get information on a matter of public security by baiting the Prime Minister by a series of questions.

I very nearly rose on a point of order when the debate began, because I believe that this debate is contrary to all our precedents. I do not believe that ever before, when a solemn answer has been given on one day of the week that to give information to the House will be against public policy and against the public interest, has the matter been carried further—still less, by a planned debate of this nature.

Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think this Chamber is the Reichstag?

Sir P. Spens

Once the responsible Minister of the Crown, accepting full responsibility upon himself, has said it is impossible to give the public information because public security is involved, it behoves no other responsible citizen, be he inside or outside this Committee, to attempt to carry the matter further in this way. It is the responsibility of Ministers, and always has been, to give such a considered answer when the occasion arises. Until this debate was opened tonight, that practice had never been challenged in the way in which it is being challenged tonight.

Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)


Sir P. Spens

Let me finish.

Responsibility lies with Ministers of the Crown for the safety of the country. It does not matter who the Ministers are. When they are in office and they make a statement that it is impossible to give information because to do so would be against public security, it is hopeless for the House, by a series of questions, by digging at the Minister concerned, to try to get him to go against his considered opinion. There was not one single question which was asked of the Prime Minister tonight, by either of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which had it been answered would not have resulted in my right hon. Friend disclosing the very thing that he has said he will not disclose.

Mr. Chapman

What about the police?

Sir P. Spens

The police are just as much a matter of public security as anything else. There is nobody who has lived as long as I have, and who has had as much to do with the law as I have, who does not know that time after time the police have to take action in1 the interests of public security.

Mr. Chapman

They are above the law.

Sir P. Spens

Of course, they are not above the law—they are right within the law. They are acting on their orders, but the orders which are given to them have been given them and cannot be disclosed for reasons of public security.

This goes to the very root of democracy. We have a General Election and we elect a Government, and we put into the seat of Government men whom the country chooses and trusts. They are responsible for the safety and security of the country. When they give their considered view that the details of something cannot be disclosed because it is a question of public security, then I say that every responsible citizen, inside the House and outside, must accept that, and accept it willingly, as the very basis of public security.

9.13 p.m.

Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)

The Prime Minister's statement that it was deplorable that there should be a debate has been answered by the very responsible manner in which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition raised the debate. Had we not raised this subject, we as an Opposition would have been guilty of a grave dereliction of duty in not probing a little further into this affair.

The Prime Minister says that he cannot answer certain questions—of course, he cannot. We agree there are many questions he cannot answer.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

But there are some questions which he can answer.

Mr. Dugdale

Yes, there are some questions which he can answer. Some of the questions which my right hon. Friend asked him he could answer.

The thing we are concerned with is what appears to be the great lack of coordination between different Departments. What was the aim of this operation? Its aim, apparently, was to get information for the Navy, and yet the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth did not want the operation to take place. Surely he must have had some say. Surely somebody pays attention to what he says. When it was known, as it was known—it must have been known—by the Admiralty that this operation was to take place, surely the information should have been conveyed to the First Lord of the Admiralty.

The Prime Minister says that the First Lord of the Admiralty did not know. Naturally, I accept the Prime Minister's word for it. but that is a deplorable state of affairs when it is the First Lord of the Admiralty who has to make political decisions, if he has to do anything at all in the Admiralty. Surely he should be the person to make the decision.

How do we know that the naval officers at Portsmouth did know about it? Commander Crabb asked to borrow equipment from H. M. S. "Vernon" and he was refused. It was said there, "We shall not lend you the equipment". Obviously, he wanted to get accommodation of the most convenient character, and, naturally, he would have stayed in an Admiralty establishment, or else in a private house belonging to an officer of the Admiralty, if he could, but the Admiralty did not want him to do so, and the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, did not want him to. So he had to resort to this extraordinary business of staying in an hotel, and signing the register, while his companion signed it with the wrong name.

If the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, had really wanted this to take place, surely he would have given some help to Commander Crabb. Apparently, no help was given. If he did not want it to take place he would have conveyed his disapproval to the Admiralty. It seems very strange that one of the high rank of the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, should not be able somehow or another to reach a member of the Board of Admiralty. I cannot understand where the stoppage took place en route, but, apparently, there was a stoppage somewhere, and, apparently, the information never reached the Board of Admiralty.

These are some of the things for which we condemn the Government. I do not say we want to know about them. We shall not ask any questions about them. [HON. MEMBER: "Oh, no"] We will not. However, we do ask the Prime Minister to see that the Admiralty and the Secret Service are reorganised in such a way that these things do not occur again. Plainly, there has been a stoppage in the flow of information which should have flowed to the top, where decision lies, and it is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to see that this sort of thing does not happen again.

The right hon. Gentleman says that he is not responsible for the details of Secret Service work. Of course he is not, and we do not want to ask him questions about them, but we do say he has the responsibility for choosing the people who should be at the top of the Secret Service, and we want to know that he has confidence in their judgment. We want to know, in particular, that when he says that disciplinary action has been taken it has been taken not against junior people but against those at the top for failing to control those below them. Perhaps these things have been done. I do not know. However, it seems to me likely that they may not have been done.

A few years ago there was a case which was called the Crichel Down case. It was a very different type of case, but as in this case a Minister was apparently misled by his officials and got into a great deal of difficulty. He had the courage to accept responsibility, and he resigned. His action was very creditable indeed, and we on this side of the Committee respect him for it, as, I think, many hon. Friends of his opposite do.

I think that the Prime Minister should have given us a very much clearer explanation, and that he must reassure us, if we are to rest content with what he says, that steps are being taken so to reorganise both the Secret Service and the Admiralty that this sort of thing can never happen again.

9.19 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) was deploring the publicity that this unfortunate episode has obtained in the Press. I am sure we all agree with him about that. However, I am sure we should not all agree with him when he suggests that it might have been obviated by a hint from Ministers. I think that would have been deplored by most people. The fault for that publicity lies mainly, I am sorry to say, with the members of the various secret services concerned.

In former times it was the first rule for all members of those services that the nature of their work must never be disclosed to another man or woman. In fact, it was their duty to carry the secrets of their adventures and triumphs with them to the grave. Unfortunately, lately there have been some people who have not been living up to that tradition, but have been cashing in on their knowledge of secret work in the form of film rights, newspaper articles and books. Of course, if they do that, they cannot complain too much when equal publicity is given to their blunders and failures

It was only last November that we were debating in the House another episode which concerned one of our secret services, in that case our security service. We were debating the failure in the Burgess and Maclean case, a failure which seemed all the worse when taken in conjunction with the previous cases of Dr. Nunn May, Dr. Fuchs, and Professor Pontecorvo, which led us, in conjunction, to feel that we were engaged in dealing with a new type of enemy agent —the man who works, not for the old reason of personal gain, but because he puts loyalty to a political ideology before loyalty to his own country.

I believe that it would be wrong for us to lose faith in the services that are at present in the dock—that is to say, our positive espionage work—because, after all, this particular case, unlike the case of Burgess and Maclean, is, I suggest—there is certainly nothing to suggest otherwise—an isolated case. I do not think that on the strength of that we have any right to condemn our positive espionage services, whatever they may be, as inefficient

Indeed, in answer to the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), who did criticise them for inefficiency, I should like to condense what I wanted to say by quoting to him some remarks which were made about them by one of the very best known counter-espionage officers in Germany. He was the head of the German counter-espionage forces in Holland during the last war—a man who was himself responsible for one of the greatest disasters that ever befell our own underground forces. His name was Giske, and what he had to say about them was this: I was now facing my own problem. to peer westwards and discover what secret enemy activity was taking place beneath those stars. on those dark waters, and in the air above them—activity of an enemy famous for his long experience and unexcelled in his skill at the conduct of underground warfare. We had a whole series of instructive lessons the previous year in France, Norway and Greece, which had shown me clearly what it might mean to face the experienced toughness of the British Secret Service in combination with an élite of Dutch volunteers willing to risk their lives From that, I do not mean that I am trying to excuse the conduct of the operation which we have under discussion tonight. It would be impossible to do so. It seems to me that it was approved mistakenly and rashly and was ineptly carried out. Indeed, one feels alarmed for the higher direction of whatever service might be concerned when we consider that, after all, although initiative is one of the greatest qualities required in any such service, it seems incredible that such an operation could have been sanctioned except by the head of whatever organisation it was. It is strange and unfortunate that it was done even by such a person without informing someone of still more importance.

To the non-technical critic it seems that the positive information that might be obtained would in no way be commensurate with the seriousness of the act and the natural embarrassment to international relations which would follow. Lower down the scale in the planning and conduct of the operation, Commander Crabb was of an age where he should hardly have been chosen for an operation so hazardous and difficult. The entry in the hotel register and the clumsy attempt at deletion suggest a quality in trade craft to which it is best not to refer.

I referred just now to the embarrassment to international relations which such a failure might cause. I am certain that no stronger phrase would be here applicable. After all, the duty of every intelligence service is to obtain information about the war potential of other countries and it is the duty of secret intelligence services to obtain such information secretly. Every major Power, ourselves, the United States, Russia and all the rest, as the right hon. Member for Leeds, South said, employs such services and such services have been employed since the beginning of history.

Other weapons have come and gone. In the course of a few hundred years we have seen the bow and arrow give way to the cannon ball and gunpowder, and from that we have gone to high explosive, aircraft, tanks, poison gas and guided missiles, to the final horror of the hydrogen bomb; but espionage has remained constant and an essential branch of war. The spy—the secret agent it is better to call him—has remained and has always been the oldest of all weapons, indeed, dating from 3,400 years ago, as we can read in Joshua, Chapter 2: …Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly…. For that reason, I am absolutely convinced that the Russians will attach very little importance to this episode. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South said so in so many words. I think that the Russians will be very little irritated by it, just as they will not expect us to be particularly irritated by the episode of Burgess and Maclean.

The two episodes were the same in that they were a normal— I think I can use the word "normal"—use of espionage. They differed in that the Russian employment of Burgess and Maclean was brilliantly successful, whereas our effort to inspect the hull of the Russian cruiser was not. They differed in another respect, namely, that the Russian Government did know of the employment of Burgess and Maclean, whereas my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not know of the employment of Commander Crabb.

It is perfectly obvious that the Russians have neither the right, nor are they likely, to object—I do not think that that is putting it too high—even in their hearts to what has happened. This unfortunate episode is, therefore, not in the least likely in any way to impair the value of the Russian visit to this country, nor in any way to detract from the magnificent job which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has done, not merely in organising that visit, but in the brilliant manner in which he conducted the negotiations here.

Finally, I want to add my tribute to the central figure of this operation. Whoever may have employed Commander Crabb, he obeyed his orders, he was a patriot and he was a brave man. In paying my tribute to him I would like to think that I am also paying it to all the thousands of other men of his profession, the other agents who have served and died for this country.

The secret agent in war, though not always in peace, is the bravest man of all. The ordinary soldier, sailor and airman face danger willingly, but they face it in comradeship. The secret agent faces it alone. The soldier, the sailor and the airman face death willingly, but death is the worst thing they face. To the secret agent who is captured death is probably not to him the ultimate sacrifice which he hopes to avoid, but the merciful relief for which he prays. So I hope very much that though this unfortunate episode, the last in Commander Crabb's life, may be forgotten as soon as possible, he and his former record will never be forgotten.

9.32 p.m.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

If the obituary notice in The Times is to be believed, Commander Crabb rejoined the Royal Navy over a year ago. So I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) in paying a tribute to the memory of a very gallant officer.

When I listened to the concluding words of the Prime Minister, I felt that this was a masterly exposition by a great Parliamentarian. The right hon. Gentleman had control of the House and was saying to us that the national interest must be paramount but, over and above that, the one thing he wanted is to get agreement with the Russians. That is the recipe of the Prime Minister tonight, his excuse for trying to rescue his party from a difficult position—[An HON. MEMBER: "Try to rescue yourself."] I shall come to that in a moment, with no holds barred.

Those noble words were not the words of the hand-out issued by the Conservative Party Central Office of his Perth speech last week. There the right hon. Gentleman could not resist a cheap party jibe. The Prime Minister said: To be strong you do not need to be mute; to be firm, you do not need to be rude. There, of course, the Prime Minister was not talking about Anglo-Soviet relations as something that transcended even the national interest; the right hon. Gentleman was seeking to make party capital at the lowest possible level. I do not complain of that but, of course, if the right hon. Gentleman says that at Perth and then makes the peroration that he does tonight, perhaps I shall be forgiven if the thought passes through my mind—he is an able Parliamentarian but he is also a complete humbug. What the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) said spelled out for the right hon. Gentleman that neither the First Lord nor the First Sea Lord should be holding their present offices; because, without pressing the Government on any point of secrecy, it is undeniable that on the night of 29th April a senior member of the Board of Admiralty, either political or naval, must have authorised the statement that Commander Crabb had met his death. If, therefore, a Service Department has to disclose to the country and to the world that operations have been undertaken at a delicate stage of international negotiations without the knowledge or consent of either the political or the Service chiefs, then either or both, without waiting for any prompting from Conservative back benchers, should tender their resignations to the Prime Minister.

The central point of this story is not what Commander Crabb was up to or who instructed him, but the communiqué of the night of 29th April, because there the Admiralty, without being pressed and without any Press prompting, volunteered the information that it was responsible for what happened to Commander Crabb.

There is one other very serious matter which I ask the Prime Minister to believe that I feel about as sincerely as he does. I am desperately concerned about the state of the defences of this country. I believe our defences to be deplorably weak in all aspects, despite the fact that very large sums of public money have been spent. It is my belief, as I watch the continuous stream of propaganda that is being poured out, that the Admiralty is fighting a rearguard action to justify an annual expenditure of £350 million.

What did Commander Crabb and those who instructed him hope to find out? Surely it was in the hope of trying to justify the Admiralty view that is being put across to the public that the Russian fleet is a menace, which justifies the maintaining of our expensive naval forces. I believe that such an undertaking places the public interest in jeopardy, for decisions as to how defence expenditure is to be made are a matter for calm and deliberate choice. Therefore, from every point of view this opera- tion and the Government's attitude must be condemned.

Turning to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), I must say that I really was shocked. He is a learned and highly respected Member of this House. I am very loath indeed to say this, but the arguments that he used were the kind of arguments that a lickspittle in the Nazi Party would have used if he had wanted to curry favour with Hitler.

9.37 p.m.

Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)

The main burden of the speech of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) rested on his criticism that the lack of further information from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister prevented hon. Members from being able to do what the Press is able to do. namely, to probe and speculate. I think that criticism has been very completely answered by the speeches which have been delivered from both sides of the Committee, in which speculation has run riot.

I should like to make an appeal. This is a period of restraint and of appeals for restraint, and I think that nothing but good could come if we followed that example after the debate is concluded. I would go further and ask that the whole theme be muted down. We have paid our tributes to a gallant man, and I think that thereafter the whole story should be allowed to lapse into the shadows which are its proper background.

My reasons for asking that are as follows. First, let us be realists. I think that most hon. Members who have spoken tonight have recognised that we are not by any means the only nation with a secret service. All nations have secret services, and the job of these services is to get secret information. Believe me, the Russians are no amateurs in this. Can that be why they are so little worried by the whole incident?

I was greatly puzzled to discover from the speech by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) whether he felt that this was a matter of great irritation internationally or that it would count for nothing at all. At the beginning of his speech he said the first thing, and at the end he said the second.

It seems to me that the Russian leaders have treated the incident in its proper proportion. It is true that a protest was made and an apology was sent, but they appear to be much more prepared to allow the matter to fade into the background where it belongs than are our Press and the Opposition tonight. The longer this matter goes on the more chance is there of friction being developed—international friction which, I believe, both sides of the House are anxious to dispel.

There is no doubt that the visit of the two Russian leaders did good. In this matter protocol has been followed properly in the relationship and the messages which have passed between the two countries. Is it for this reason that one of the newspapers was able to write that Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev were too pleased with the London visit to make an issue out of this curious and unexpected lapse? That is the answer. I think, to the right hon. Gentleman who was so worried, in the speech to which we listened this evening, as to whether in fact international friction had been created.

Mr. Chapman

Did not the Prime Minister end by saying that what he cared for most was that this matter should not disturb international relations and, therefore, on that account, refused to talk about the matter any further?

Sir J. Hutchison

I am saying that that is the proper way to treat it. The more we argue about a thing like this the more we tend to upset international relations.

The other reason why I think that this matter should be treated with restraint and, indeed, with oblivion is that this thirst for unusual and rather obscure knowledge does nothing but harm to the Secret Service itself. Either we have a Secret Service or we do not. If we are going to have one, do not let us go on trying to persuade it to do a sort of striptease act and cast aside one veil after another. The methods and organisation of the Secret Service are very important matters, and the more we discuss and probe them, the more we tend to reveal, as would have happened if my right hon. Friend had been led on a little further, and that does nothing but damage to the service. We are making the task of those who are serving and those engaged on a delicate and sometimes dangerous task all the more difficult. Discussion and limelight can do nothing but harm, and limelight is the very last thing that anyone employed in this sort of work could possibly want to have.

What good, then, is this debate going to do? If it were a question of showing up gaucherie—and there has been gaucherie—that has been noted and will be put right. If it was disciplinary action that was wanted, that has already been announced, and surely the right hon. Gentleman will accept that if disciplinary action is used it will be used on the person on whom it should fall and not on someone else. [An HON. MEMBER: "Which one?"] There can be no purpose in using disciplinary action in any other way. If, on the other hand, the purpose is to diminish the stature of the Prime Minister, the debate has failed, or if hon. Gentlemen opposite are seeking for another Minister's head on a charger, then the debate will equally have failed. There can be no good purpose in deepening this probe any further, and I hope that the matter will be allowed to fade into oblivion.

9.44 p.m.

Mr. R. H. S. Crossman (Coventry, East)

I think that the best answer given to the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) was given by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux). I think that my right hon. and hon. Friends will agree with me when I say that it is no disparagement of them to say that no speech was more full of intimate, expert knowledge. Here was someone who knew what he was talking about, someone very close to Intelligence who could be spendidly frank, splendidly indiscreet and really tell the Prime Minister what was wrong. We need only to read that speech in HANSARD tomorrow to see the very serious problems which we raised, and they are not to do, as the hon. and gallant Member rightly says, with the Secret Service.

I want to concentrate on the part played by the Admiralty in this affair. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) partly raised this point, and I want to go on from where he left off. With regard to the communiquéé of 29th April, is it really said that the First Lord of the Admiralty or the gentlemen down here did not know about it? Is it said that they had absolutely no knowledge of it, and that it is the sort of thing for which, if one has no knowledge of it, one refuses responsibility?

I can appreciate refusing responsibility for an act of the Secret Service, but I cannot understand shelving the responsibility for issuing a public communiqué which has been proved to be a lie, a deceit, issued by the Admiralty in grave contradiction to what had been stated to the Russian visiting admiral. This is not a question of the Secret Service, but either of the incompetence or lies of Ministers. Either they did not know that the communiqué was being issued and the services trusted them so little that even at that late hour they did not inform the Minister of the disasters going on, ostensibly under their responsibility, or they knew and they were not telling the whole truth.

I must say that the more I heard in this unctious debate about national and international safety, the more I gravely suspected that there were some party interests being defended. I began to suspect that when the Prime Minister took over the matter. It was a very convenient way to prevent questions being put to representatives of the Admiralty who might have defended themselves very much worse than the Prime Minister who, whatever his other defects, is a brilliant Parliamentarian. His was a magnificent performance. He thought only of international interests.

The right hon. Gentleman never dreamed of considering the problem of the First Sea Lord, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Civil Lord or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty. Nothing to do with them. The right hon. Gentleman was thinking solely in terms of international interests. He was not thinking about the unfortunate Home Secretary. What has it got to do with Anglo-Russian interests to discover that those four pages were torn out of the register? Nothing whatever. Have we heard why the police went to the hotel? No, this is all in the realm of international interest. But it is not at all.

I support one other thing said by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I think it is very hard lines on people who work in secret departments. When something goes wrong they are blamed. If this business had gone right, would there have been all this talk of disciplinary action? Supposing that Commander Crabb had come back safely from the mission, should we then have had the Prime Minister outraged by what he had done? What odious hypocrisy. There would have been medals for success. But when there is a slip-up, and Ministers are in trouble, then we have all the security and all the hocus-pocus about "I cannot tell you." Because somebody who is a politician and also an official is in trouble, the cover-up starts.

I think that the people of this country have a perfect right, when they suspect something as dirty as that, to express their anxieties. Of course, we cannot ultimately know the truth, but is it really the Opposition's fault that this matter has come to light? There has been a deluge of publicity on the Secret Service from the Admiralty. The Admiralty did that and the Prime Minister then contradicted the Admiralty and made matters worse confounded by giving his own peculiar version of his own self-sacrifice. He said that if any Minister had known, if any responsible civil servant had known, they would never have dreamt of allowing this to happen. I wonder.

We have lived for a long period in the cold war. Speeches have been made in this House describing the Russians as the enemy, and saying that there is no possibility of negotiating with them. Speeches were made by the Prime Minister, a short time ago, describing as appeasement what he is now doing. For years we have lived in an atmosphere in which the idea of treating the Russians not as an enemy to be spied on was positively disloyal. I cannot find it surprising that some members of the Secret Service have not caught up with the change of front of the Government, which, suddenly, is all enamoured of negotiation.

I can remember the time when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) first suggested a high-level conference and his Tory colleagues howled him down and tried to sabotage the conference. They succeeded in preventing us having a conference for years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I suspect that some members of the Secret Service, and possibly some high officials in the Admiralty, are just a bit old-fashioned. They are still living in the cold war and taking seriously the directive of the Tory Government when they came to power. Even some of my colleagues have constantly told me that the Russians must be regarded simply and solely as enemies of civilisation who understand nothing but the language of strength, and with whom it is hopeless to believe that the word "peace" is possible. If that is true, what is wrong with sending frogmen under their cruisers? If it is not true, some hon. Members opposite will have to withdraw thousands of words they have been speaking in the last ten years.

Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)

Surely the hon. Member will agree that in the last three years there has been a change of Government in Russia and a different policy there.

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Member and I are in surprising agreement on this subject. We probably agree with the right hon. Member for Woodford who tells us that the Russians ought to join in the spirit of N.A.T.O. The hon. Member and I agree at the moment, but other hon. Members opposite will only agree two years later. That is the point I am making. He and I have gone far on this subject, but the Prime Minister was not one of the advance guard, nor were the other right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench. They were by no means in the advance guard, and it ill becomes them to rebuke members of the Civil Service who just do not understand the new world of international co-operation in which the Prime Minister so fervently believes.

If the Prime Minister believes that it was outrageous to send that frogman, then there are one or two other outrageous things which he might polish up at the same time. We seem to be still scared stiff of the Russians disarming for fear they might be tricking us into something. If it is really a crime to send a frogman underneath their ships

and the Prime Minister has dismissed those who are responsible, I begin to see other changes which might be made in our foreign policy. If they are now our friends, I hope there will be full support for the speech of the right hon. Member for Woodford at Aachen, but I have not heard a word of support from the Prime Minister for that. The Prime Minister says that we must treat the Russians as allies in the noble venture of resisting aggression all round. If that is the Prime Minister's new spirit, I see great beginnings in this debate—but, of course, I do not believe a word of it. I know that this is a cover-up. I know perfectly well that if it had been successful and the whole affair had not leaked out, no disciplinary action would have been taken whatever. I know that this is merely the blundering of a politician in the Admiralty. [HON. MEMBERS: "And the First Lord ".I We will not mention the First Lord.

That is the whole problem; that is why we have all these solicitudes for international relations in order to cover up one of the biggest bungles ever committed by a Service Department.

Mr. Gaitskell

To mark our disapproval of what the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) so well described as "this ill-conceived and unhappy operation," and in protest against the Prime Minister's complete refusal to answer any of our questions, many of which, in our opinion at least, could well have been answered without endangering public security at all, we shall be obliged to divide the Committee.

I beg to move, That Class 1, Vote 4, Treasury and Subordinate Departments, and Navy Estimates, Vote 12, Admiralty Office, be reduced by £5.

Question put, That a further sum, not exceeding £15, be granted for the said Services:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 229, Noes 316.

Division No. 181.] AYES [9.56 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Balfour, A. Boardman, H.
Albu, A. H. Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Bowden, H. w. (Leicester, S.W.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Bowles, F. G.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Benson, G. Boyd, T. C.
Anderson, Frank Beswick, F. Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth
Awbery, S. S. Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Brock way, A. F.
Bacon, Miss Alice Blackburn, F. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.
Baird, J. Blenkinsop, A. Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Irving, S. (Dartford) Pryde, D. J.
Burke, W. A. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Janner, B. Rankin, John
Butler, Mr. Joyce (Wood Green) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Redhead, E. C.
Callaghan, L. J. Jeger, George (Goole) Reeves, J.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. Pncs, S.) Reid, William
Champion, A. J. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Chapman, W. D. Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Clunie, J. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras. N.)
Coldrick, W. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Ross, William
Collins, V, J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley
Corbet, Mrt. Freda Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Short, E. W.
Cove, W. G. Kenyon, C. Shurmer, P, L. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Cronin, I. D. Lawson, G. M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Crossman, R. H. S. Ledger, R. J. Skeffington, A. M.
Daines, P. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Lever, Harold (Cheatham) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Snow, J. W.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lewis, Arthur Sorensen, R. W.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lindgren, G. S. Sparks, J. A.
Deer, G. Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Steele, T.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Logan, D. G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Delargy, H. J. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)
Dodds, N. N. MacColl, J. E. Stones, W. (Consett)
Donnelly, D. L. Mcinnes, J. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) McKay, John (Wallsend) Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McLeavy, Frank Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C).
Edelman, M. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Mahon, Simon Swingler, S. T.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sylvester, G. O.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mason, Roy Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mayhew, C. P. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) Mellish, R. J. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Fernyhough, E. Messer, Sir F. Timmons, J.
Finch, H. J. Mikardo, Ian Tomney, F.
Fletcher, Eric Mitchison, G. R. Turner-Samuels, M.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Monslow, W. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Moody, A. S. Viant, S. P.
Gibson, C. W. Mort, D. L. Warbey, W. N.
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. p. C. Moss, R. Watkins, T. E.
Greenwood, Anthony Moyle, A. Weitzman, D.
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mulley, F. W. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Grey, C. F. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) West, D. G.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly) Oliver, G. H. Wheeldon, W. E.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Oram A. E. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hale, Leslie Orbach, M. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Clenvil (Coin Valley) Oswald, T, Wigg, George
Hamilton, W. W. Owen, W. J. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Hannan, W. Paget, R. T. Wilkins, W. A.
Hastings, S. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Willey, Frederick
Hayman, F. H. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Williams, David (Neath)
Healey, Denis Palmer, A. M. F. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Pargiter, G. A. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Herbison, Miss M. Parker, J. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hobson, C. R. Parkin, B. T. Winterbottom, Richard
Houghton, Douglas Paton, J. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Plummer, Sir Leslie Woof, R. E.
Howell, Denis (All Saints) Popplewell, E. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Zilliacus, K.
Hunter, A. E. Probert, A. R.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Proctor, W. T. TELLERS FOR THE AYESL:
Mr. Simmons and Mr. Holmes.
Agnew, Cmdr, P. G. Baldwin, A. E. Biggs-Davison, J. A.
Aitken, W. T. Balniel, Lord Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Banks, Col. C. Bishop, F. P.
Alport, C. J. M. Barber, Anthony Black, C. W.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Barlow, Sir John Body, R. F.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Barter, John Boothby, Sir Robert
Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J. Baxter, Sir Beverley Bossom, Sir A. C.
Arbuthnot, John Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.
Armstrong, C. W. Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Boyle, Sir Edward
Ashton, H. Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Braine, B. R.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Bennett, Dr. Reginald Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)
Atkins, H. E. Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Bidgood, J. C. Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry
Brooman-White, R. C. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Molson, A. H. E.
Bryan, P. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Moore, Sir Thomas
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T. Holland-Martin, C. J. Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hope, Lord John Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Burden, F. F. A. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Nabarro, G. D. N.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Horobin, Sir Ian Nairn, D. L. S.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A,(Saffron Walden) Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Neave, Airey
Campbell, Sir David Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Nicholls, Harmar
Carr, Robert Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Cary, Sir Robert Howard, John (Test) Nicolson, N. (B' n' m' th, E. & Chr' ch)
Channon, H. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Nield, Basil (Chester)
Chichester-Clark, R. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Oakshott, H. D.
Cole, Norman Hulbert, Sir Norman O'Neill, Hn. Phellm (Co. Antrim, N.)
Conant, Ma). Sir Roger Hurd, A. R. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh.W.) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Hyde, Montgomery Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H. Osborne, C.
Crouch, R. F. Iremonger, T. L. Page, R. G.
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Cunningham, Knox Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Partridge, E.
Currie, C. B. H. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Peyton, J. W. W.
Dance, J. C. G. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement(Montgomery) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
D' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Pitman, I. J.
Deedes, W. F. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Pitt, Miss E. M.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Pott, H. P.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Joseph, Sir Keith Powell, J. Enoch
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. MOA. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Doughty, C. J. A. Kaberry, D. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Drayson, G. B. Keegan, D. Profumo, J. D.
du Cann, E. D. L. Kerby, Capt. H. B. Raikes, Sir Victor
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Kerr, H. W. Ramsden, J. E.
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Kershaw, J. A. Rawlinson, Peter
Duthie, W. S Kimball, M. Redmayne, M.
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Kirk, P. M. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir A.(Warwick & L'm'tn) Lagden, G- W. Remnant, Hon. P.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lambert, Hon. C. Renton, D. L. M.
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lambton, Viscount Ridsdale, J. E.
Erroll, F. J. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Rippon, A. G. F.
Farey-Jones, F. W. Langford-Holt, J. A. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Fell, A. Leather, E. H. C. Robertson, Sir David
Finlay, Graeme Leavey, J. A. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Fisher, Nigel Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Roper, Sir Harold
Fleetwood- Hesketh, R, F. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Russell, R. S.
Fort, R. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Foster, John Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Linstead, Sir H. N. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Llewellyn, D. T. Sharpies, R. C.
Freeth, D. K. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. G. (Sutton Coldfield) Shepherd, William
Gammans, Sir David Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.
Garner-Evans, E. H. Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
George, J. C. (Pollok) Longden, Gilbert Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Gibson-Watt, D. Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Soames, Capt. C.
Glover, D. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Spearman, A. C. M.
Godber, J. B. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Speir, R. M.
Cough, C. F. H. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Cower, H. R. McAdden, S. J, Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Graham, Sir Fergus Macdonald, Sir Peter Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Grant, w, (Woodside) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Stevens, Geoffrey
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Green, A. McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Steward, sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Gresham Cooke, R. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Studholme, H. G.
Gurden, Harold Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley) Summers, G. S (Aylesbury)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Maddan, Martin Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Maitland, Cdr. j. F. W. (Horncastle) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Teeling, W.
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Markham, Major Sir Frank Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Marlowe, A. A. H. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Marples, A. E. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Marshall, Douglas Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Mathew, R. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Hay, John Maude, Angus Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Turner, H. F. L.
Heald, Rt. Hon, Sir Lionel Mawby, R. L. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Medllcott, Sir Frank Vane, W. M. F.
Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth) Wills, C. (Bridgwater)
Vickers, Milt J. H. Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Vosper, D. F. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold Wood, Hon. R.
Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.) Webbe, sir H. Woollam, John Victor
Walker-Smith, D. C. Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Wall, Major Patrick Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Ward, Hon. George (Worcester) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Heath and Mr. Galbraith.

Question put and agreed to.

Original Question again proposed.

It being after Ten o'clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.