§ 18. Mr. Morgan
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals he has to release to the Public Record Office the papers held by his Department relating to the arrival, interrogation and incarceration of Rudolf Hess between 1941 and the Nuremberg trials.
§ Madam Speaker
Order. I hope that the House will settle down. It is difficult for Ministers and for those hon. Members who are asking questions and it is difficult for me to hear.
§ Mr. Hurd
I propose to release to the Public Record Office virtually all the papers relating to the arrival, interrogation and incarceration of Rudolf Hess between 1941 and the Nuremberg trials previously withheld by my Department. The first batch of papers to be released is being transferred to the PRO this week. The remainder should be released by July.
§ Mr. Morgan
I welcome the main part of the Foreign Secretary's reply, but what does he mean by "virtually"? Is he aware that a promise was made to historians last autumn, long before the Prime Minister's, that the Hess file would be released to the PRO in the spring? It was not. The Prime Minister subsequently made it clear that he intended to practise more open government, hut, in spite of that, the Government have become more closed. How does the Foreign Secretary intend to communicate to the historians who read the file when it is eventually released which parts he has withheld by the process of weeding? What is it that the Government have to hide?
§ Mr. Hurd
The hon. Gentleman is rather grudging in his welcome to what is a substantial move forward, although it has not come so fast as he would have wished. So far. I have agreed to the withholding of only one paper —for reasons which have nothing to do with the substance of the Hess question. There are certain records which still pose a risk to national security—[Interruption.] Of course there are. I have said that we are reviewing withholding. I have said that the process will not amount to a sudden avalanche. The hon. Gentleman, who takes an interest in these matters, will find as the months progress and the review continues that it is producing a substantial advance for the benefit of historians, and one far greater than has been contemplated before by any Government.