HC Deb 01 August 1961 vol 645 cc1141-2
Q2. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied that the methods of classifying documents of interest to potential enemies are sufficient to enable spot checks carried out for security reasons to detect immediately their absence from the files; and whether departmental staffs are large enough to ensure the effective operation of the system.

The Prime Minister

Each Department of Government is responsible for the proper custody of the classified documents in its charge, and for ensuring that adequate staff exists to carry out the necessary checks. I am satisfied that Departments are conscious of this responsibility. The classification of documents is one of the aspects of security in the public service which I understand the Radcliffe Committee will be considering.

Dame Irene Ward

While regretting that I could not quite hear my right hon. Friend's reply, has he noticed that in certain cases recently where prosecutions have been taken against employees the employees seem to have been able to extract documents without their absence being noticed? What I am really asking my right hon. Friend is whether he thinks that under the system the documents are properly numbered? If there were a spot check, would the absence of the documents be noted? If so, is it not peculiar that in so many circumstances where there have been prosecutions the people have had these documents out and their absence does not appear to have been observed?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend asked me a question about classification. That is one point. A separate point is to ensure the proper custody of the documents. That is the duty of Departments, and any errors are very much to be regretted. I am hoping that the Radcliffe Report will enable us to find methods of tightening up anything that is amiss.

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