HC Deb 04 June 1964 vol 695 cc1222-5
4. Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps were taken to prevent any communication between Gordon Lonsdale and George Blake during the period when they were both imprisoned in Wormwood Scrubs Prison in 1961.

24. Miss Bacon

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the further evidence now available regarding de association in Wormwood Scrubs Prison of Lonsdale and Blake, if he will make an investigation to see whether his instructions regarding these prisoners were fully carried out.

Mr. Brooke

I would refer to the Answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) on 14th May.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that there is no truth at all in the recent reports in the Sunday Times on this matter, including the statement that a senior Whitehall official had stated that there was an association between these two men? If he cannot give that assurance, will my right hon. Friend say whether he agrees with that particular senior Whitehall official that any information passed on by Blake to Lonsdale must now be out of date, including, I presume, details of the interrogation methods we ourselves used against Blake?

Mr. Brooke

I have had extensive inquiries made and I have no reason to believe that any Whitehall official made any statement that Lonsdale and Blake had communicated. As I said in my previous Answer, strict instructions were given that they should be kept apart. The recollection of those concerned suggests that they were kept apart, but I cannot, at the end of three years, prove conclusively anything one way or another. I certainly can say that even if Blake had had any chance to communicate information to Lonsdale in those few weeks when they were in Wormwood Scrubs together, it is highly doubtful whether it would have been of any interest or assistance to the Russians.

Miss Bacon

Was not the right hon. Gentleman's Answer rather evasive when he replied to me a few weeks ago saying that precautions were taken in accordance with instructions given to the Governor to prevent any communication between them? Is he aware that he did not, in fact, say that there was no communication? If there was no communication, what action will the right hon. Gentleman take in regard to the affidavits which were sworn by Mr. Andrews, who was in prison at the same time? Will the right hon. Gentleman state specifically whether or not there was any communication?

Mr. Brooke

I have no reason whatever to believe that there was any communication. On my instructions, a number of members of the prison staff who were on duty at Wormwood Scrubs at the time have been questioned and they have all affirmed that to the best of their knowledge and recollection the Governor's instructions, which emanated from me, were carried out.

The hon. Lady referred to someone who was at the time a prisoner at Wormwood Scrubs and who has made statements. He waited nearly three years before making those statements, which seems odd if he really had important knowledge to communicate. As he has been mentioned, I must say that he was a prisoner of a doubtful mental state who had been sent to Wormwood Scrubs for psychiatric investigation.

Dame Irene Ward

Since nearly all these people's evidence seems unreliable, may I ask my right hon. Friend why, when those statements were made, it was necessary to wait for Questions to be asked in the House of Commons to refute them? Why did he not immediately come out and slap down the people who caused great anxiety among the public, remembering that it is the public who need to be reassured, not the House of Commons or even my right hon. Friend? Will he slap them down when they make these statements?

Mr. Brooke

I try to show respect to the House of Commons. If I spent my time slapping down every false rumour or statement which appears in every newspaper I should be far too busy.

18. Mr. Bowles

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department now that Gordon Lonsdale has been released, what is to be the future of others who were sentenced to prison at the same time.

Mr. Brooke

It is not in my mind to recommend any remission of the sentences in question.

Mr. Bowles

Without in any way referring to the trial or the sentence, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what were the principles on which the Government acted in the Lonsdale case? He appeared to us to be the ringleader of the whole matter. Is it fair to leave the other people in prison? Why is it that Lonsdale alone of the four or so was allowed to go back to his own country?

Mr. Brooke

The Foreign Office statement on Lonsdale and Wynne made clear that the Government agreed to the exchange from humanitarian motives because of Mr. Wynne's physical condition. Surely Mr. Wynne's health since his return has confirmed the humanity of that decision. No similar circumstances arose in connection with Lonsdale's fellow spies.

Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that these cases could not possibly be more dissimilar? Whereas Lonsdale in certain lights could be regarded as a patriot, the other people for whom the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) is appealing are no more than squalid, mercenary traitors.

Mr. Brooke

Without expressing definite opinions on all that, I think that the House will agree that the case for the exchange of Lonsdale and Wynne fell entirely separately from the cases of the other four who had been convicted.