HC Deb 30 July 1962 vol 664 cc367-78

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. 1. Fraser.]

8.30 a.m.

Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)

I want to make a protest about what is happening at the present time. Some of my hon. Friends have been waiting here all night to raise points to which Ministers have been expecting to reply. I see, for instance, the Joint Undersecretary of State for the Home Department here—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is some difficulty about this. I do not know quite to whom the protest is directed, but I cannot debate the matter of accepting the Closure Motion. I have no power to do it. I must leave the hon. Lady to her remedy.

Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

While I appreciate that we are guided by you, Mr. Speaker, surely we are in a position to debate the Closure, to debate whether it is appropriate or not at this time. I rather gathered—and this is what my hon. Friend was referring to—

Mr. Speaker

No. I think that the hon. Member, with due respect to him, is in some little confusion. There can be no opportunity to debate now in any form whether or not the Closure Motion should have been made and accepted. That would require quite different means. There is no opportunity to discuss that proposition now. We are consuming the time of the hon. Member who has the Adjournment.

Miss Bacon

This is a disgraceful move by the Government.

Sir B. Janner

May I seek your guidance on this matter, Mr. Speaker? By what means is it possible, when we have stayed here all night to raise matters of extreme importance to the country and to us all, for us to be protected against this kind of action by the Government? Is there any method at all—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I cannot let the hon. Member do this now. It is not fair to the hon. Member who has the Adjournment. If the hon. Member chooses to put upon the Order Paper an appropriate Motion for the purpose, he can, but not now.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Further to the point of order. I should like your advice, Mr. Speaker, on how we can protect ourselves, particularly those of us who have stayed all night, and how we can protect our constituents, upon matters on which we wish to speak, particularly since the next day's business of the House has not been in jeopardy. It seems to me that the Government, by moving the Closure, have treated the House and our constituents with utter contempt.

Mr. Speaker

The fact is that the Closure has now happened, and it is not fair to the hon. Member who has the Adjournment to go on trying to discuss the matter now by irregular points of order.

Miss Bacon

May I ask your advice, Mr. Speaker? I think that you have just said that we could put a Motion on the Order Paper, but, as you will appreciate, the House is going into recess very shortly, and the matter which was to come next for debate was the pay of probation officers, upon which an Order will probably be laid during the Recess. Therefore, the House will have no opportunity whatsoever of discussing the matter. What can hon. Members do in these circumstances?

Mr. Speaker

I think that what happens is that I call Dr. King, whose time is being used up.

Miss Bacon


Miss Herbison

A real disgrace. It is what this Government always do.

8.38 a.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

The trade unionist whose case I wish to raise is employed at a Southampton factory, is a tool maker, President of the Southampton Trades Council, a man of good character. A trades union official writes to me of him: I found him impeccable in character and tireless in"—

Sir B. Janner

On a point of order. This is an extremely serious matter, Mr. Speaker. I want to draw your attention to this fact. I was intending to raise a matter last Monday, and I was requested by the Minister responsible to be good enough to leave it to this Monday. I have stayed here all might to air this matter and the Minister is here for the purpose of answering the debate. Surely there must be a rule by which this kind of thing cannot be allowed? I ask your guidance. What can we do about it?

Mr. Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot discuss these matters on points of order now because we are consuming the time of the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King).

Dr. King

Mr. Ware is a Communist, and he openly campaigns for the Communist Party, and because he is a Communist he has been dismissed by his employers following representations by the Atomic Energy Authority, for which the Parliamentary Secretary is responsible. He has appealed to the Minister for Science, and his appeal has been turned down. It is true that he has been offered alternative employment in Reading, but his main roots, his home, his friends and his life are in Southampton, and he believes—and I believe with him—that it is wrong that he should have to leave his work in Southampton merely because he is a Communist.

The sacking of the man for being a Communist has called forth protests from his trade union, from the Trades Councils of Southampton of Totton and of the Mid-Southern Federation, and from the National Council of Civil Liberties, and I associate myself wholeheartedly with those protests. I loathe Mr. Ware's political opinions, but I fight for his right, as a free citizen in a free country, carrying out perfectly legal activities in his own spare time, not to be victimised for so doing by losing his job.

Let it be clear that I fully support the security procedures as laid down by successive Governments and especially as set out in the recent most enlightened of all documents on this matter, the Radcliffe Report. Free Britain has a right to defend herself against those who would destroy our freedom. Earl Attlee was right when he said, on 25th March, 1948: There must be secrets of Government, particularly in relation to defence … and those secrets must be preserved. But he went on: There is no action being taken against opinion. … It is limited to excluding from secret work those who cannot be trusted."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1948; Vol. 448, c. 3421.] It is, however, possible in the name of security, as Madame Roland found it was in the name of liberty, to commit crimes. Without security there can be no freedom, and without freedom there can be no security; and somewhere in between those two statements lies the delicate balance of truth, justice and right, and without the vigilance of Parliament security can easily degenerate into tyranny as liberty can easily become licence.

The Radcliffe Report rightly says: The activities of the Communist Party in Britain are not of the same order as a threat to security. … It is not the policy of the party to give its members, open or secret, any encouragement to undertake espionage. … The real task of security, says the Radcliffe Report, is to find not Communists, but Russian agents. These exist. They will not always be Communists. Indeed, I would imagine that the first step an agent would take if he is a Communist would be to tear up his party card.

But Mr. Ware openly flaunts his Communism. He fought against the Labour Party in the last municipal elections in Southampton. He does not hide his political creed. The factory in which he works has two parts. One is engaged on security work and one on ordinary non-security work; and Mr. Ware works in the non-security part. The security section is, rightly, guarded. Its security precautions have to satisfy the Atomic Energy Authority. Mr. Ware could not possibly enter this section. He has never tried to.

Indeed, the only comment that security made when his appeal was heard by a single civil servant seems to be that Mr. Ware eats lunch in the factory canteen where there are also workers from the security part having lunch. This seems to be almost a favourite gambit of security officers. Some years ago, when I protested in the House against the sacking of a girl from the Foreign Office because her husband was a Communist, she was a waitress in a canteen, and M.I.5 has lurid visions of cloak and dagger activities taking place in works canteens.

But Mr. Ware is a trade unionist. If he were a spy seeking information from other members of his branch who work in the security part of the factory, he could get it at branch meetings or anywhere in Southampton if, indeed, anyone would give it to him. If once we extend security precautions outside a security job, where are we to stop? The logical extension of this is to place Mr. Ware in complete isolation, to ban the Communist Party and to drive it underground. If the security precautions at the security part of the factory are inadequate let the Government make the firm tighten them up. But there is no suggestion that this is the case.

When a man is faced with dismissal from Government office he has the right of appeal to the "three wise men"—the advisers. He has also the right, as Earl Attlee said in column 3423 in the debate of 25th March, 1948, to ask for people to speak for him. This used to be applied only to Government personnel and only when they deny that they are Communists. But the Privy Councillors' Report of 1956 said, in paragraph 31, that this appeal ought also to be the right not only of Government servants but of those employed by Government contractors.

Mr. Ware, on the other hand, was refused such a right of appeal. Instead, his case was heard by one man in secret. He was not allowed to have a friend with him and this, I would have thought, was an elementary right of a man facing dismissal for his political beliefs. He was refused even a copy of the record of the interview, and his union, the A.E.U. was also refused a copy.

All that was at stake at the interview was whether he had access to security information. The geography of the factory itself and its security arrangements are known. Why the secret trial? What was there in his examination a copy of which could not have been given to him or to his union without endangering the safety of Britain?

The Privy Councillors, in their 1956 Report, said: It is also important to convince public opinion that the measures taken and the pro- cedures in force will not be exercised unreasonably. The Radcliffe Report confirmed this. It pointed out that the free world must take risks which are the price of freedom and are part of the price we pay for having a social and political system which men want to defend. The Report rightly boasts of … the public tradition that an individual is entitled to a fair hearing in respect of any accusation entertained against him irrespective of political or public convenience. I believe that all these considerations have been flouted in Mr. Ware's case. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will mot seek to avoid responsibility by saying that it is the firm which has dismissed him. The sequence of events is dear. The Atomic Energy Authority informed the firm that Mr. Ware was a Communist and must not have access to secret information. The firm's immediate reaction was to take the safest possible step it could by sending him straight out of the factory and later telling him that he could not work there any more. The Minister has approved of this action, of which he was the prime mover.

The Labour Movement, of which I am proud to be a member, grew up through years of political victimisation, and, indeed, partly because of it. In the olden days men were sacked because they were militant trade unionists. I do not want to see that happen in this country again. Mr. Ware has already been dismissed once by the firm for selling Daily Worker raffle tickets in the factory, although other raffle tickets were openly sold. His union managed to get (him reinstated then.

Once we tolerate punishment of a man on alleged security grounds but really for opinions he has a legal right to hold, we are on a slipperly slope. There is no doubt that tirade unionists in Southampton believe this has happened to Mr. Ware. He is not in a security job. He has no access to security information. His political opinions are bad and dangerous but they have to be met by argument and reason and not by taking his job away. I say this, even knowing that if the Communists were in control they would have no hesitation in taking away the jobs or even the existence of those of whose political opinions they disapprove. Mr. Ware has a fine war record. He served in the Royal Navy and helped to preserve the very freedom which we are debating now.

I realise that a free society has continually to decide the limits of toleration; how far we can give political freedom to those of the extreme Right or Left who would take it from us if they got into power. Recent abuses of freedom have brought this very much to our minds. We made an inroad into freedom when we gave the Government the right to dismiss untrustworthy Communists from security positions. We were right to do so. But the House has a duty to see that that right is not abused, that the men dismissed are, indeed, untrustworthy, and that they are, indeed, in security positions.

I believe that Parliament and the trade union movement must always be on guard against the abuse of power. It is because I believe that we are considering such an abuse that I urge the Minister to reinstate Mr. Ware in the job from which, I believe, he has been unnecessarily dismissed. It is because I believe that the Radcliffe Report is right when it says that the central threat to British security lies further back than the British Communist Party that I urge the Minister to see that his Department avoids the public disquiet and sense of injustice which have undoubtedly been aroused over this case and which can handicap his Department in its real work, that of achieving security for British defence and for our free way of life.

8.47 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Science (Mr. Denzil Freeth)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) for giving me sufficient time in which to reply to the case which he has so eloquently put forward with such devotion to the interests of his constituent, after sitting up all night to do so.

I think that we are agreed about the salient points of this case, namely, that Mr. Ware was employed for just over two years by a firm in Southampton which does secret work for the Atomic Energy Authority, and that he was employed in that part of the factory where no secret work was carried on. I must, however. emphasise that the nature of the secret work at this factory has changed recently.

I am not able to reveal to the hon. Gentleman the character of the change, or the additional security precautions which it became necessary to introduce, but I assure him that it was as a result of these changes that the Atomic Energy Authority sent the letter of 28th May to Mr. Ware explaining the policy of the Government in security matters, informing him of the provisional notice to the company, and outlining to him the steps he could take to appeal either to the independent tribunal known as the "Three Advisers", or to the Minister, or to both. Mr. Ware appealed to my noble Friend.

The hon. Gentleman touched on Earl Attlee's statement of 15th March, 1948, which set out the principles on which the Government's attitude to security is still based. It is, to paraphrase Earl Attlee's words, that Communists should not be permitted to be associated with secret work, since there is no way of distinguishing between a member of the Communist Party whose loyalty to this country is assured, and another member of the Communist Party whose loyalty is not. The Atomic Energy Authority is, by ministerial direction, in exactly the same position as a Government Department.

When it has to let a contract for work to be done outside its own stations it follows the security procedures outlined in the White Paper, Cmnd. 1681, issued earlier this year. Where a contractor undertakes such work for the Authority he must also undertake to effect certain measures set out in detail in a security clause, itself included as a standard condition in all Government contracts which have a classified content. This clause provides for the exclusion from access to classified information of any person who does not need such access for the proper performance of the contract or whom the Authority has required to be excluded. It gives the Authority the right to be supplied with full particulars of all persons who might have access to classified information, to inspect the security arrangements of the firm in question, to control the placing of subcontracts, and so on. Any failure to carry out these security requirements gives the Authority the right to terminate the contract.

This provision in the standard clause means that if the Authority has reason to suppose that someone who might have access to secret information is a Communist, or has Communist sympathies to such an extent as to raise legitimate doubts as to his reliability, the Authority is entitled, under the contract with the firm, to name that person, and to give notice to the firm that that person should not have access to, or be in a position to have access to, any secret information. That notice of the Authority to the firm is only provisional, and is subject to confirmation or annulment by my noble Friend. But that is the only judicial function which my noble Friend possesses in such cases.

I now revert to the case of Mr. Ware. The arrangements at the firm in question for segregating the classified area from the unclassified area were wholly satisfactory during the period after Mr. Ware joined the firm, and the Authority was satisfied that it was possible for the classified work, and the information upon which it depended, to be strictly confined to that section of the factory. In course of time, however, as I said earlier, the nature of the secret work changed, and it became necessary to review the arrangements.

It was in these circumstances that the Authority felt bound to give provisional notice under the terms of its contract that there must be no disclosure of secret matters to Mr. Ware. It was because the company did not consider that it was able to guarantee that Mr. Ware, working in the non-secret part of the factory, would not be able to obtain knowledge of the secret work being carried out in the classified area, that it gave provisional notice to him and suspended him on full pay, pending consideration of any representations which he might make.

Let us take the two methods of appeal open to Mr. Ware. One was to write to the three advisers, and Mr. Ware, on 8th July, wrote to my noble Friend stating that he now felt disposed to make an appeal to the three advisers. But I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that this course would have been inappropriate in Mr. Ware's case, since the duty of the three advisers would be limited to advising the Minister whether there were reasonable grounds for supposing that Mr. Ware had, in fact, Communist sympathies—and this Mr. Ware has never denied, as he is a member of the Communist Party.

Therefore, the terms of reference of the three advisers, which were given to the House on 29th January, 1957, made any appeal by Mr. Ware to them inappropriate. However, Mr. Ware appealed to my noble Friend and, in accordance with normal procedure, on 22nd June he was seen by a senior civil servant appointed by my noble Friend to hear his case. The fact that he was asked to come alone is accounted for by the fact that things might be said at the interview which it was not right and proper for a third person to hear.

At the interview Mr. Ware made a very full and frank statement, his main contention being that no work involving security took place in that section of the factory where he was employed, and that he had no connection at all with the secret work being carried on in the classified area. He maintained that the company had always been within the terms of the contract, and that it was so still.

My noble Friend considered with great care the representations Mr. Wade made. He had, however, to take into account four basic facts. First, Mr. Ware has never disputed that he is a member of the Communist Party—and I agree with all the hon. Member said about his open and honourable conduct in this matter. Secondly, it is Government policy, and has been the policy of successive Governments since 1948, that Communists should not be employed either on secret work or in connection with secret work.

The third basic fact is that Mr. Ware's employers are required by the terms of their contract with the Authority to ensure that any person named by the Authority, as Mr. Ware was, is not in a position to acquire any information about the secret work being carried on at the Southampton factory. If the firm cannot ensure this, it is liable to have its contract ended by the Authority. Fourthly, the company had stated that it was not able to guarantee that any parson employed in the non-secret part of the factory would not be able to obtain some knowledge of the secret work in the classified area.

It was not for my noble Friend to decide whether or not the firm was right in maintaining this position, namely, that it was impossible to ensure that a person employed in the non-secret pant of the factory could not obtain some knowledge of the secret work. That must be a matter for the firm to decide and this principle was stated by the former Lord Chancellor in another place on 21st June, 1956, when he said: …it is for the firm to decide whether a man can be employed on other work or must be dismissed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 21st June, 1956; Vol. 197, c. 1267–8.] I think that it is worth pointing out that the firm did offer Mr. Ware alternative employment at its Reading factory and that it has been as generous as it could be. I understand the reasons why Mr. Ware did not want to go to Reading, but I think it worth putting on record that in addition to the customary week's pay in lieu of notice he was given a further sum equivalent to two weeks' pay.

My noble Friend considered all the facts which I have set out, but he came to the conclusion that the Atomic Energy Authority had acted scrupulously in accordance with security procedure as laid down, and that the Authority had not been actuated by malice towards Mr. Ware. The incident of the Daily Worker raffle tickets had nothing whatever to do with the case. On the facts as stated he came to what is, to my mind, the inescapable conclusion that the Authority was absolutely right in declaring that Mr. Ware was a Communist, which he admitted, and in demanding, in view of the nature of the work in the secret part of the factory, that the firm should guarantee to it that nobody working in the secret part could obtain any information about the work carried on in the classified area. Therefore, he upheld the decision of the Authority.

I would emphasise that my noble Friend was not required, indeed he was not empowered to sit in judgment on the decision of the firm that it could only give effect to the notice by the Authority by dismissing Mr. Ware or offering him employment elsewhere. As the former Lord Chancellor said in another place in the debate to which I have already referred: No man has a right to know his country's secrets; and in pursuance of their responsibility for the nation's safety, the Government are within their rights in requiring him to be denied access to them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 21st June, 1956; Vol 197, c. 1261.1 I know that the hon. Member will agree that the foremost consideration must be the safeguarding of the national security. I fully agree that it is wholly regrettable that from time to time this causes hardship to the individual. But this is a case where there is no malice towards Mr. Ware. It was purely a question of whether it could be guaranteed that he would not have access to confidential information in the job in which he was working until recently. I am perfectly certain that to maintain a state of security must be the first duty of the Government and it was with this end alone in view that the actions of the Atomic Energy Authority were taken as was also my noble Friend's decision to uphold those actions.