HC Deb 10 March 1958 vol 584 cc16-7
28. Dr. D. Johnson

asked the Minister of Health what medical staff in the employ of the Board of Control and his Department are under the necessity of signing a declaration under the Official Secrets Act; and if he will now release them from such necessity.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "All of them", and to the second part, "No Sir".

Dr. Johnson

In view of the Minister's answer so far as it relates to those in the employ of the Board of Control, is he aware that a number of us are concerned that medical officers and others have to sign a declaration under the Official Secrets Act in hospitals where mental patients are treated, who neither on the one hand have been before the courts and can be regarded as prisoners, nor on the other hand are Service people with obligations in that respect? Secondly——

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Member might pause there and give the Minister an opportunity to answer.

Dr. Johnson

I have only a very brief question to ask, Mr. Speaker. Does my right hon. and learned Friend feel that he need apply the Official Secrets Act to medical officers when he has the British Medical Association and the right hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) at his elbow in the matter of medical secrecy?

Mr. Walker-Smith

It is not really a question of whether I do or do not need the Official Secrets Act. As I indicated on a previous occasion, the Official Secrets Act is general in its application, and the signing of declarations is merely an administrative act within the Civil Service to ensure knowledge of its application.

Mr. Dodds

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that, because of the Official Secrets Act, nursing staff are precluded from giving information about what happens inside Rampton and Moss Side?

Mr. Walker-Smith

In any event, the staff could not disclose medical reports on patients because those are confidential and, quite apart from the Official Secrets Act, could not be disclosed.

Dr. Summerskill

Am I right in saying that the provisions which obtain at Rampton with regard to the Official Secrets Act are precisely the same where there are patients who have been convicted, as obtain in prisons, where there are persons who have been convicted, and where the only difference is that one is more sick in mind than the other?

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, but this Question actually refers to my medical staff and the medical staff in the employ of the Board of Control.