HC Deb 17 February 1960 vol 617 cc1258-60
7. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs under what circumstances certain authors have had access to Special Operations Executive Reports covered by the Official Secrets Acts; whether he is aware that they have used them in such a way as to injure the reputation of agents who have been tried and acquitted; and whether, in order to stop the publication of secret reports which cannot be checked and the consequent abuse of the Official Secrets Act, the authorised history of Special Operations Executive will be immediately commenced.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to her on 6th June, 1956, by my right hon. Friend the then Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I am not aware that the information disclosed in the single instance to which he referred was used for the purpose which the hon. Lady suggests.

With regard to the second part of the Question, I do not accept the implication that the Official Secrets Act has been abused. As regards the publication of an authorised history of the Special Operations Executive, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State informed my hon. Friend on 11th December, 1958, the question is being examined. That is still the position.

Dame Irene Ward

Discounting the problem of unauthorised people being in possession of secret reports, may I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether, if a libel action is brought against an author who has quoted from a secret report of which he should not be in possession and the case goes to court, the proper document will be available, supplied by the Foreign Office, for the complainant to clear his character?

Mr. Lloyd

I would like notice of that question.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Would my right hon. and learned Friend not agree that enough harm has already been done by these amateur cloak and dagger people who have ignored the Official Secrets Act and cashed in on their limited wartime experience? Will my right hon. and learned Friend deny them any further encouragement by refusing absolutely to authorise an official history of what is supposed to be a secret organisation?

Mr. Lloyd

I am well aware of my hon. and gallant Friend's views about this matter, remembering his supplementary question of 15th December, 1958. I certainly will bear his views in mind.

Mr. F. Noel-Baker

Will not the Foreign Secretary take the opportunity to comment on the wild allegations which have been made? A great number of the people connected with this work gave distinguished and gallant service during the war. Surely, he will not let that supplementary question pass without comment.

Mr. Lloyd

I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that many people did very gallant work in this connection.

Mr. Speaker


Dame Irene Ward

On a point of order. Would it be in order for me to ask the Foreign Secretary if he is aware that the Prime Minister has authorised publication of an official history?