HC Deb 02 December 1959 vol 614 cc1161-2
14. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the adverse effect upon Commonwealth Forces of non-European origin, he will issue an order forbidding officers on the active list to make public statements in favour of racial discrimination.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)

The regulations already forbid serving officers to make public statements on political subjects.

Mr. Zilliacus

Is not the Minister aware that on 20th November Field Marshal Lord Montgomery made a speech supporting apartheid which created a deplorable impression? In view of this, coming on top of the Government's vote at the General Assembly and their spotty record in Africa, will the Minister make it clear that the Government repudiate the views of Field Marshal Lord Montgomery.

Mr. Soames

No, Sir. The question of field marshals making statements is another matter, which is raised by the hon. Member in his next Question.

Mr. Strachey

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that a field marshal is on the active list? Would it not be a good thing to remind this one that he had better confine his remarks to military matters, about which he may know something?

Mr. Soames

No, Sir. The question of field marshals on half pay comes up in the next Question.

15. Mr. Zilliacus

asked the Secretary of State for War to what extent field marshals are required to observe the rules binding on other officers on the active list in respect of public statements; and whether he will revise the regulations so as to permit of taking retired field marshals off the active list.

Mr. Soames

It has long been established that a field marshal retires, in fact though not in form, when he gives up his last appointment. He is then at liberty to give expression to his views on political matters, being treated in this respect in the same way as retired officers of the forces, on whom, happily, no restriction is placed.

Mr. Zilliacus

Could not steps be taken, by retiring field marshals from the active list when they wish to speak politically, to make it perfectly clear that they do not involve Government responsibility in any way? Alternatively—I appreciate the magnitude and difficulty of the task which I am inviting the right hon. Gentleman to perform—could he induce Field Marshal Lord Montgomery to temper valour with discretion when speaking on delicate topics in public?

Mr. Soames

Field Marshal Lord Montgomery has his rights as I have set them out. It is not for me to interfere.

Mr. Mellish

Is it not obvious that it is the field marshal who is barmy and not us?

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