§ 4.35 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY rose to call attention to the disregard of civil liberty involved in the action of the Minister of Supply when he compelled Imperial Chemical Industries to dismiss their Assistant Solicitor, Mr. J. H. Lang, on alleged grounds of security; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for bringing this matter of Mr. Lang to the attention of your Lordships' House. It seems to me to involve fundamental questions of principle. I am only sorry that apparently the majority of the Members of your Lordships' House do not seem to agree with me; otherwise there would be a better attendance. It also gives us the opportunity of discussing the recent White Paper on the Conference of Privy Counsellors referring to security methods, which is certainly a document of importance.
§ I should perhaps explain at the outset that I have a certain personal interest in the Lang case, in that many years ago Mr. Lang was a pupil of mine—and, incidentally, one of the best pupils that I ever had, a man of outstanding ability, whose subsequent career entirely justified the view which we all formed of him. Apart from two rather casual encounters with Mr. Lang since this business started, however, I have not be able to see him, and as some of your Lordships will know, I think largely as a result of this terrible business, he has had a severe operation and is now in a nursing home. That has made it quite impossible for me to check some of the facts with him, as I should have liked to do.
§ I have, however, just had the opportunity of a talk with Mrs. Lang, though very late in the day, because a letter which I sent to her on Tuesday morning from London, although it had to get only as far as Dorking, did not reach her until the midday post yesterday. And that, she tells me, is typical of what has been happening to her correspondence, Mr. Lang's correspondence, over the last two or three weeks, since this business arose. The obvious inference is that the correspondence is being interfered with. It always used to come by the first post, and letters addressed to her father, who lives in the same house, 1227 are still arriving by the first post. I should like an assurance from the Government that some security officials are not taking advantage of this situation to tamper with the post. If that is in fact being done, I suggest that it is a really outrageous business.
§ I do not want to trouble your Lordships too much with the background of this case, but I shall have to go over the facts a little. Many of them have appeared, of course, in the newspapers, and except in so far as they have been kept back from the public by the Government itself, I imagine that they are fairly well known. Mr. Lang, as I have explained, is a very able lawyer who, after some ten years in the service of Imperial Chemical Industries, was promoted to an important position as, I think, second legal adviser. In that position confidential documents passed through his hands, including, among others, secret papers relating to work which Imperial Chemical Industries was carrying through for the Ministry of Supply. Some years after entering the employment of Mr. Lang married a lady who had formerly been a member of the Communist Party, from which, according to her own statement (which I think has not been challenged at any stage in the history of this case), she had resigned some time before the marriage. She had then severed all connections with it, and has had no business whatever with that Party since. Soon after the marriage, in 1951, Mr. Lang, who had been promised promotion at I.C.I., was informed by his chief, the head of the legal department, that the Security Services were taking objection to his seeing confidential Government documents on the ground that his wife was a Communist. They declared that she was a Communist. Apparently, at that time Mr. Lang was able to satisfy his chief that his wife had severed her connection with the Communist Party, though he never denied that she had at one time been a Communist. In due course, he received his promotion, and apparently the Government representatives were satisfied because, from 1951 right down to January, 1956, he continued in that position, with confidential Government documents passing through his hands, although I understand they 1228 were only a very small fraction of the total amount of papers on which he was working.
§ It is hardly necessary to say that Mr. Lang is not a scientist, and the information came to him only as a lawyer. Most of it would be quite unintelligible to him, and only on the basis that he was thoroughly dishonest and prepared to have photographic copies made in order to pass on to the enemy, or something of that sort, could he possibly have made use of this information against the interests of this country. So for five years Mr. Lang continued happily at his work. And then, suddenly, out of the blue, so to speak, he was told by one of the deputy chairmen of I.C.I., only in January of this year, that the Government were putting "extreme pressure" (I am quoting the words used) on the company, and threatening to withdraw contracts unless Mr. Lang was prevented from having any access whatever to secret information. And this, of course, made his job quite impossible, and gave I.C.I. no alternative but to get rid of him. I must say that I.C.I. have behaved with great generosity to him. He has no complaint to make of the way they have treated him. His complaint is about the way the Government brought pressure to bear upon I.C.I. to act in the way they did. This, naturally, was a very great blow to Mr. Lang.
§ He struggled to be allowed to make his case to the Ministry, and, after a great deal of difficulty, was given an interview with Sir Cyril Musgrave, who I understand was Deputy Secretary at the Ministry. Mrs. Lang and two old friends of Mr. Lang who were both solicitors of standing, were also interviewed. Each one was interviewed separately. The four came away from the interviews with the distinct impression that Mrs. Lang's ex-association with the Communist Party was the only substantial matter which the Ministry had against Mr. Lang. Indeed, his two friends say that no other point was put to them in the questions raised on the occasion of their interviews with Sir Cyril Musgrave. Mrs. Lang, clearly, was in the same position. It is true that the Minister himself, in answering a Question put to him in another place last week, said that Mrs. Lang's association with the Communist Party was only one of the matters which were taken into consideration in her husband's case. 1229 What the others were he steadfastly refused to divulge, either to Parliament or to Mr. Lang—or so far as I know, to anyone else.
§ One of the most evil features of the present security inquisition, I think, is that its victims are not allowed to know the case which is being made against them, what the charges are. They are not told; they are given no opportunity to answer. Can anyone imagine a more terrible fate for a sensitive, honourable and patriotic man than to have his honour and patriotism traduced in this way? Here is a man who knows that he is being unjustly charged, unjustly impugned, and yet he is not allowed the elementary right of defending himself. I am quite sure that the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack, the most eminent representative of a profession which down the centuries has struggled for the preservation of this right, must feel very sensitive about it. And I hope that members of the Government on the Front Bench opposite feel sensitive about it too, because it really is a very terrible thing that a man like Mr. Lang should be charged in this way, without being given the opportunity of knowing what is the offence which he is alleged to have committed. No wonder his health has given way under it, and that he has has to undergo an operation.
§ It is true that during the course of his interview with Sir Cyril Musgrave, two further points besides Mrs. Lang's former political associations were referred to. So far as I can make out, they were raised by Mr. Lang himself, who, like an honourable man, wished to put on the table every matter which he thought could 'possibly be relevant to the position. He stated that he had in years past been a member of two societies—the British-Soviet Friendship Society and the Haldane Society, to which objection might be taken by the Security Services. He had not been a member of them for a long time past; and, in fact, he left both of them because they became, in his view, Communist-infiltrated. I shall be glad to hear from the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor that these matters were not held against Mr. Lang in the decision that was taken. The British-Soviet Friendship Society was, of course, a very flourishing institution at the time when we were comrades in arms with the Russians in the 1230 war. It has no doubt fallen under Communist domination, but membership of that Society at the time when Mr. Lang was a member, when friendship with Russia was still in no kind of way regarded as reprehensible, can hardly be regarded as any sort of offence. As to the Haldane Society, of which I myself have been a member almost since the time when it was founded in memory of the late Lord Haldane, a most distinguished predecessor of the noble and learned Viscount who now sits on the Woolsack, that Society has never been Communist controlled or dominated, though it is true that it has a number of Communists amongst its members. And thank goodness it is still possible for people to meet their fellow human beings who happen to believe in the political faith of Communism!
§ Mr. Lang evidently failed to convince Sir Cyril Musgrave that he was not a security risk, and the position was eventually reached, as I have told your Lordships, when decided that they would have to dismiss him. Mr. Lang then took what I must say I regard as a very courageous and public-spirited attitude. He decided not to take it lying down but to fight it in public. From the point of view of his own career, the less he called attention to this position the better it would have been for his success as a solicitor. Obviously he has made it very difficult for himself to get a job, but he felt that it was the first case of any importance of somebody outside the public service being treated in this way. His conscience was 100 per cent, clear, and he felt that the matter ought to be brought before his fellow citizens, so that they might be given an opportunity to judge of him. He must have realised from the start that he had not much chance of success in his fight with the Government, because in this type of case the Government, however wrong they may be proved, never admit their mistake, and it is obvious that they are not going to admit that they have made a mistake here.
§ As I said, Mr. Lang was undisturbed from 1951 to 1956, and the next matter I should like to ask the noble and learned Viscount to explain is why, after being left to work among secret papers for a whole period of five years, this decision to hound him out of his employment 1231 with Imperial Chemical Industries was come to suddenly. Is there anything new which has transpired between 1951 and 1956 which makes it necessary for this extreme step to be taken, or was it just the excitement about the disclosures about Burgess and Maclean and the mounting hysteria in the cheap Press which made officials of the Ministry of Supply fear that they might get into difficulties with the Daily Mail and the Daily Express if they did not take a line of this kind?
§ It was that case which led to the Conference of Privy Counsellors upon security. In his reply to questions in another place the Minister of Defence sheltered himself behind the findings of the Conference of which a summarised version has been published in the White Paper to which I referred at the beginning of my speech. It seems obvious that the Lang case resulted from what I submit is a completely unimaginative and ham-handled application of the findings in this important document, and I should like to take a few minutes of your Lordships' time by commenting upon them. The Report which was given by the Privy Counsellors was concerned with security arrangements to be applied in the public service and which are being applied there. The summary of the Report deals almost entirely with the public service. I find myself in general agreement with what the Privy Counsellors say, though there are a few points upon which I should like to join issue with them. My argument is not against the White Paper, but against the way in which it has been—or has not been—applied, because if the Minister had applied the recommendations in the White Paper in the way in which they were given and with complete honesty of purpose, in my view he could not have reached the decision which he did reach.
§ At a time like that through which we are living now, a time of cold war, when ideological loyalties are apt to be in conflict with national loyalties, it is not to be expected that those who do not fix their loyalties to the nation should be entrusted with secret material which is vital to the security of the nation, and I entirely agree, and I think everybody here will agree, that that matter, which is put first in the White Paper, is entitled to its precedence. In times of danger, salus populi suprema lex. This is one of the oldest 1232 and most important of all political principles: I suppose that nowadays we should call it a slogan. It is also one of the most dangerous, and that is something one must realise about this maxim. It has been used throughout the ages by fanatical patriots as a cloak for attacks upon liberty. It can be a menace to liberty. In the hands of timid, frightened and hysterical people, it can be an even greater danger. And if it is used unscrupulously, as it often has been, and often by quite honest men, then the threat to liberty is multiplied fivefold.
§ Therefore, except when the enemy is actually at the gates, my submission is that the sail's populi policy must always be subjected to a certain amount of reasonable control and checks. Unfortunately the Privy Counsellors—at any rate in the White Paper—do not go very far in the direction of dealing with checks that ought to be set up for the purpose of seeing that this matter is not allowed to run away. They suggest some improvements in the procedure relating to the appeal tribunal to which these cases may be referred, sometimes called the "Three Wise Men". I think that this was the only novel point in the recommendations, at any rate in so far as they appear in the White Paper.
§ The application of the security arrangements used in connection with the public service to people outside that service who are handling secret governmental contracts and other confidential Government information is referred to only in the last paragraph, in which the question is raised of whether the procedure of the "Three Wise Men" should be used in connection with this type of case. No answer is given. The application of security procedure outside the public service obviously gives rise to a number of difficulties which are different from those which arise inside the public service and it does not appear to me that these problems fully occupied the attention of the Privy Counsellors. At any rate they did not deal with them. There are all sorts of ways in which a commercial concern is different from a Government Department. For example, there are large Government Departments in which a man who is suspected can be put on equally important work in some department where there is no security risk, but that is not the position in most branches of in- 1233 dustry. Obviously it is going to be difficult for a firm, even a big concern like Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, to dispose of Mr. Lang. Indeed, they could not do so without upsetting their arrangements in their legal department. The result was that he had to be dismissed. It is my submission that if this Lang procedure is extensively used, industrial and commercial concerns will be deprived of some of their most valuable servants and the economic efficiency of this country, al a time when it has never been more important that it should be maintained at the highest possible level, will be seriously jeopardised.
§ The Communist faith makes a strong appeal to intelligent and rather ingenuous young men, and many of our most promising young men have been through periods of it, which sometimes have lasted quite a long time. Are all these men ever after to be regarded as security risks, and are industrial concerns engaging staff to be forbidden by the security service to employ them, or forbidden to employ them in some part of a concern where Government contracts or specifications must be handled? Because if that is so, the result will be that they will not be employed at all, and obviously the industrial efficiency of those concerns will be interfered with. Or will they be given the "All clear," provided that it can be shown that they no longer maintain any sort of contact with people who were personal friends when they were members of the Communist Party? If that is so, I suggest that the situation is just as bad, because no man of decent, generous instincts will consent to have his friendships disrupted in that way at the behest of some Government Department or a member of M.I.5. What a society we are coming to if that is to be the sort of way in which we are expected to behave!
One of the most important points of the Lang case, in my submission, is that it is the first case in which this sort of problem has been raised. I submit that the matters involved are of the highest public concern. Mr. Lang has never been a Communist, and Mrs. Lang 'has long severed her connection with that Party. Therefore, they do not really come within the categories which are described in the White Paper. That is why I say that the Minister has not honestly or reasonably applied this White
Paper to the Lang case. The most important passages in the White Paper, from this point of view, are at the top of page 4, where it says:
The Conference is of the opinion that in deciding these difficult and often borderline cases, it is right to continue the practice of tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individual.
In this case, I suggest, it has not been a question of tilting the balance but of putting all the weights into one scale so that it would go down with a bang against Mr. Lang. The paragraph goes on to recommend that an individual who is living with a wife or husband who is a Communist, or a Communist sympathiser, should not, for that reason alone, he given any more secret work. This case does not fall within that passage—which is the furthest that any passage contained in this document goes with regard to association —because Mrs. Lang had ceased to be a member of the Common is t Party—indeed, she had ceased all sort of connection with Communist work as from that time. Therefore, both Mrs. Lang's case and Mr. Lang's case are outside the terms of the White Paper, and I suggest that the Minister has not, in Fact, complied with the terms which the Privy Counsellors laid down.
§ The Minister of Supply, in another place, claimed to have reached this decision himself. He did so, one presumes, on the evidence which Sir Cyril Musgrave laid before him. But since he was judging a case which had already been decided against Mr. Lang by his own officials, in his own Department, I cannot regard his decision as being an impartial one. The Department is, in fact, the prosecutor in cases of this kind, and the head of the Department, in giving judgment, is giving judgment in a case in which he himself is concerned That is an infraction of one of the most elementary principles of natural justice, and one to which I am sure the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has frequently drawn attention, and in which he must believe to the bottom of his soul.
§ It may be said that the tribunal of the three advisers provides a safeguard in respect of this particular danger. There might be some truth in that assertion if the Minister had, in fact, made use of the tribunal of the three advisers in this 1235 case; but he has flatly refused to do so. However, I do not myself regard the three advisers as being a satisfactory tribunal in this sort of case. Eminent ex-civil servants are not usually skilled in the sifting of evidence—it is not a civil servant's job to spend his life dealing with problems of evidence—and the sort of material which is brought forward by the Security Service is more in need of expert handling by people accustomed to dealing with evidence than any other material with which I am acquainted.
§ I saw a great deal of the work of M.I.5 (as it is usually called) during, my years of service in the Home Office and in the Ministry of Home Security. The quality of the report is extraordinarily uneven in character—and if one thinks about the circumstances in which it is put together, that is bound to be so. That is no criticism of the people who are making the report, but is a warning to the people who are making use of it. The people who are employed are of a diverse quality and are very different in their antecedents—they are a very heterogeneous group of people. Moreover, those very people often become emotionally involved, in a quite extraordinary way, in the cases on which they are reporting: they begin to regard it as a personal affront if anybody disagrees with them. I was astonished to find how often this sort of thing crept in. It makes the estimate which the security officer forms of a man's reliability very unreliable. So that an administrator who has to take action on the basis of an M.1.5 report may be misled both by the quality of the evidence put before him in the report and also by the bias of the reporter. I regard this as a most important matter.
§ During the late war there were a number of cases of imprisonment under Defence Regulation 18B—they will be familiar to the recollection of many of your Lordships. Sir Norman Birkett (now, of course, a Lord Justice) and later on Sir John Morris (now also a Lord Justice) were chairmen of committees which dealt with doubtful cases of people who had been detained under that Defence Regulation. Both of them were lawyers with tremendous experience and great forensic ability; indeed, their wide forensic ability was brought to bear on 1236 evidence which had satisfied administrators that men ought to be shut up. In quite a number of cases it led to the release of unhappy men who had been shut up as security risks during one of the worst wars in which this country was ever engaged, whose loyalty had been impugned in that way.
§ A well-known case which comes to my mind is that of a man who was accused of having made some sort of concrete pit in his garden for the purpose of flashing signals to enemy aircraft. When Sir Norman Birkett went into the case he found that there was a perfectly simple explanation: it was just a gardening operation which the man had been conducting. It was quite easy to prove that that was so, and t1K-, man, who had been detained for a number of months, was released. That, of course, was a bad case, but there were a number of other cases in which similar releases took place. The trouble about that man was that he had never had the allegation explained to him. If the charge had been made against him he could, at the time when he was taken up, have provided the explanation which eventually secured his release.
§ That, as I say, is the most serious charge that one makes against the whole of this security procedure. I should feel much happier if the rule had been laid down by the Privy Counsellors that one of the three advisers—preferably the chairman—should be a Common Law Judge, or at any rate a Queen's Counsel, with wide experience in the handling of evidence and that sort of thing. I should like to know why the Privy Counsellors did not insist on this. Why was the procedure, which on the whole had worked well and given satisfaction during the war years, at a time of much more acute danger, thrown overboard and this procedure by retired civil servants substituted for it? Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount, who was a member of the Conference, could tell us about that. The Privy Counsellors refer to cases where nothing may have been proved which would be accepted in a court of law. I should like to know whether the suggestion is there being made that a lawyer chairman of the tribunal would be so much influenced by the standards of the Common Law that he would be likely to take a different decision from the 1237 administrators in Whitehall—the standards of the Common Law under which the liberties of England have been secured. Were not Sir Norman Birkett and Sir John Morris eminently satisfactory chairmen of these Committees during the war? I have yet to hear of any case where they released a man from detention who was afterwards proved to have assisted the enemy.
§ On one important point I am quite sure that a legal chairman would insist, and that is that the actual charges which are made against the victims of these security allegations should be made known to them. I am sorry to keep on coming back to this point, but it is fundamental to the whole position. This is undoubtedly, as I have said, the worst feature of the present system. Mr. Lang, for example, has never known what charges were made against him, except in regard to this one matter of his wife. And when Mrs. Lang saw Sir Cyril Musgrave, she said to him, "I do not want to ruin my husband's career, as this is going to do. I will go away, leave him and live in a different part of the country altogether, so that he may go on with his career at I.C.I." Sir Cyril said to her, "It is no good your offering to do that, because it would not make a pennyworth of difference." Now that must mean that there were other charges which, if Mrs. Lang were completely out of the picture, would still mean that Mr. Lang was a security risk. If that is so, he is entitled to know what those charges are so that he can deal with them.
§ From 1951, when I.C.I. appeared to have satisfied the Minister of Supply, until January, 1956, no hint reached him that anything was wrong, and then it was only through his employers. The points were never put to Mr. Lang himself: it was put through his employers that he was regarded as a risk. Then the only charge which was actually made against him was with regard to this matter of his wife. When he saw Sir Cyril Musgrave it was just the same, and when his friends saw Sir Cyril it was just the same —the wife was the centre of the discussion. So again I ask: if there are other charges against him, what are they?
§ The case is always made that these charges cannot be brought to the knowledge of the victim without revealing the evidence, and that to reveal the evidence 1238 would reveal the source, and that to reveal the source would, of course, destroy the effectiveness of the security service. Now the Privy Counsellors deal with this point, which is obviously one of sonic substance, and it is important to notice that they do so in very guarded terms. What they actually say is that, in order not to imperil sources of information, decisions have sometimes to be taken without revealing full details of the supporting evidence. Now that is, I submit, a very guarded statement. It is also important to notice that the Privy Counsellors do not give the weight of their authority to the view that the charges themselves need not be brought to the attention of the accused. They refer only to the full details of the supporting evidence.
§ It is significant that the American Federal Courts, which have been able to play a great part in protecting the American people from the worst ravages of hysteria of McCarthyism, have always insisted that the charges must he made known to the accused, which is perhaps the most elementary of all the rules of justice. Civil liberies, of course, are written into the American Constitution, and that gives the American courts jurisdiction to hear many cases which no English court could entertain. This is perhaps the one great advantage which the written American Constitution has over our own more flexible one. But until the present unhappy age, I venture to assert, and assert with complete confidence, that no English lawyer would have believed it possible that a man could be convicted of disloyalty without being told, and told in detail, of the charges that were being, made against him, on which his conviction was based, and given the opportunity of dealing with them.
§ I could say a great deal on the subject of the security hysteria which swept over America, involving some honourable and distinguished men, such as Professor Oppenheimer and Professor Lattemore. I do not propose to do so. I think it shows signs of dying away, and the reason why it is is largely because of the stand taken by the American courts and by eminent: American lawyers, such as the Dean of the Harvard Law School, whose influence has been thrown into the scales on the side of liberty, and who has succeeded in large measure in staying this hysteria of McCarthy ism. I suppose there is no subject in the world upon which men form 1239 more divergent views than on the subject of liberty. Yesterday we had a Question addressed to the Government in the name of liberty—the liberty to use a farm in such a way as to make it, in effect, cease to be an effective agricultural unit. To-day, another aspect of liberty is before the House. The older liberties on which the political life of this country has been built up were confirmed in battles too numerous to mention, in courts, on the hustings, and in Parliament. The sort of liberty which is involved in the Lang case, which is not to have one's employment terminated except for good reason, is a sort of liberty which has only come to the fore, I suppose, in recent years.
§ But whether we are dealing with old-fashioned liberties or modern ones, they are all of fundamental importance to us. Liberty has been the most fundamental of all our political conceptions and the greatest inspirer of our national development. Are we reaching a point when we are no longer sensitive to obvious infractions of liberty? It is because I feel that this matter ought to be dealt with in your Lordships' House that I bring this Motion about Mr. Lang's case before your Lordships this afternoon. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords. I feel that after the masterly and moving speech made by my noble friend Lord Chorley, there is hardly anything to say. I should like to congratulate him on that fine exposition of the case which appeals to us. I think this is a matter on which we shall find a great measure of agreement in this House. Fortunately, the issue of personal liberty is not an issue which divides Parties. The charge that either one is for or one is against does not arise here, or has not arisen here, in the same way as it has arisen in other parts of the world. I myself would say that most of us would agree with the declaration made by the then Prime Minister in 1948, and with its application. The then Prime Minister, when this matter first arose in 1948 and when there were a great many false estimates of the intentions of the Russians, directing our policy said:The first thing to be done is to see that the civil servant "—1240 we were not dealing at that moment with the outside employee—concerned should be informed. He should not be merely informed that he is suspected, but should be given, as far as possible, chapter and verse, saying, 'You are a member of this organisation; you did this or that; can you explain it?' He ought to have the case put before him clearly.That is the statement which we all cordially support. So far as I am concerned, I am perfectly satisfied with the declaration made by the Labour Party itself only a few days ago which, speaking now of the other side—that is to say, the non-Government employees—said workers in private employment on secret defence contracts are also involved. It said:There should be an advisory board for private industry similar to that provided in the Civil Service. Any civil servant or industrial worker brought before this board should be confronted with a precise charge unless the Minister personally has decided otherwise.Nobody likes prying into these matters. We are all agreed that spies and saboteurs are a danger, and that we should wish to destroy them. Nobody on any side would wilfully sacrifice those ideals of liberty to which my noble friend has referred. On all this we are agreed.
But I should like now to speak briefly on one or two points of rather wider import, though no subject can be wider than that of liberty. The first point I wish to emphasise is the question put by my noble friend to the Lord Chancellor. Mr. Lang's career was known. He is bound by many disciplines. He is a solicitor he is accustomed to respecting the confidence of his clients. The man was an intelligence officer, having been first an N.C.O. and then receiving a commission in the Intelligence Corps. That is a pretty rigid training. He has never given any dissatisfaction—on the contrary, he is received with applause and given a position of importance in I.C.I. He is a man who, by everything that we know of him, is deserving of public applause. M.I. 5, a Department which is becoming (I am going to mention for a moment this dangerous aspect) a sort of parallel Government, say to I.C.I., in 1951: "You must 'sack' Mr. Lang." I.C.I. say—and this is the story as I heard it; I think it is true—" He is a valuable servant; we cannot ' sack ' Mr. Lang." Mr. Duncan Sandys, who is the Minister of Supply, is satisfied to leave it at that. Year by year, 1241 pressure is applied to get rid of Mr. Lang, but because of his value to the firm, I.C.I. say: "We will not get rid of Mr. Lang." And Mr. Selwyn Lloyd did not insist.
We come then to the present day, and Mr. Lang is again declared a security risk. This time, I.C.I. say to him: "We are very sorry; we cannot find any other work for you. You are dismissed and discharged. You are discharged for association of some kind with the Communist Party "—a charge which is utterly untrue. That is the situation. It is really necessary for the Lord Chancellor in his reply to tell us the answer to this question: Has something new come to the knowledge of the security authorities, or is it merely that they are taking old cases of people who were "acquitted" and, so to speak, re-trying and re-charging them on some new standard? I believe that the real anxiety to-day about this matter is not that the standards that were laid down by the Government of my noble friend, Lord Attlee, are being enforced; the real danger is that a new standard is being introduced either of greater rigidity or involving more considerations of another kind. It is this point on which I wish to say a few words.
There is a class of mind which objects to unorthodoxy in opinion. Anyone like me who has been in the junior ranks in two wars, knows perfectly well that no one will advance an intelligent Socialist argument in the mess because the Colonel says: "We do not want any of that damned nonsense here."
§ SEVERAL NOBLE LORDS: Hear, hear!
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
The colonel continued: "We have no politics here; we are all Conservatives." But the major question we have to consider is the public weal. Is this a good thing from the point of view of the public? Mr. Lang was a member of the Haldane Society. I knew Lord Haldane, in those old times. He would certainly have been shocked to know that to be associated with a society called after him was a reason for discharge from public service. I believe that Mr. Lang belonged to the Left Book Club. I believe that he also belonged to the Anglo-Soviet Society, which existed to promote the interchange of friendly visits between ourselves and the Russians. It seems queer to charge Mr. Lang with this gross offence when every plane and 1242 ship departing Eastwards from our country is carrying guests to the Soviet Union. Mr. Sandys himself has visited the country and said something friendly about their achievements. Is it right to curtail or forbid this kind of thing?
I want to add this about Lord Attlee's Administration. In Lord Attlee's Administration, the principles he laid down were accepted. A Question was asked the other day in another place as to how many people had suffered under these rules, enforced in the interest of security. The figures are most surprising. Out of 10,000 people—5,000 administrative officers and 3,000 to 4,000 higher executive officers—from 1951 to 1955 the figure of those dismissed was nil. There were transferred four in 1951, two in 1954 and one in 1955. One resigned. That is a most comforting figure. I have confidence in the people who will exercise a discretion (a rather irksome and unwelcome discretion), but who will exercise it with that amount of judgment.
I felt that we had solved a difficult problem in a satisfactory way, but now we find that someone who has been "acquitted" comes up again and is "condemned." Why? The Lord Chancellor must answer that question. I am sure he will. It is awkward that he should be speaking at the end of the debate. It would he better to be in Committee, when we could really cross-examine the chief witness. We all realise that the Secret Service collect information. They can collect information—anyone can cardindex—but we say that the Secret Service must not evaluate the information. There must be some Minister who will come to this House or to another place and say: "I myself have investigated this case and although, for reasons of public security and safety, and the stability of the Secret Service, I cannot tell you more about it, I am convinced that it is not safe to employ this man." If we could have that, if the Lord Chancellor would say that—there is another difficulty that I should like to put later—it would be something to help us.
I asked someone who had been under investigation. I said "What happened?" He said: "I was sent for by the head of the department or the personnel chief." I said "What did he say to you? Did he give you any information? Did he say I am sorry to say that it is reported 1243 that you have joined the Junior Imperial League and are suspected of Fascist tendencies'?". "Not at all. He did nothing of the kind. What he said was: 'Now, come, come! What did you think of Mr. Bulganin's visit? He is an old rogue, is he not? They are twisters.'" This conversation went on and that was the end of the whole thing. Then, a few weeks later, he is told: "On account of some unknown reasons, you will be discharged." That is why I am so grateful and happy that my noble friend has brought this matter forward to-day. The one safeguard against encroachment by this empire is Parliamentary debate, and this House itself can perform a most valuable function, because I believe that fundamentally we are all at one in our desire to preserve human liberty.
Here is a suggestion that I have to make. The danger is public passion. We have read of the days of Titus Oates. Such things are not impossible to-day. At least one Member of your Lordships' House lost his head over Titus Oates. The Press can set up a wave of suspicion, of public rage. It is extraordinary that several noble gentlemen have been given Peerages because of their position in the Press—there is Lord Kemsley. What is the name of the Daily Mail man?
§ NOBLE LORDS: Lord Rothermere.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Lord Rothermere and Lord Beaverbrook. These gentlemen have been directed to attend at this place and perform their duty, and they have failed to do so in accordance with their Writ of Summons. It would be far better that these people should come here. Then they could put forward all their doubts, all their ideas for the protection of the State, and we could ask them questions: we could find out what is at the back of it all and could do a great deal towards safeguarding our country. But instead of that, they, too, believe in anonymity, and somebody else writes on their behalf. But I think it is high time that you, my Lord Chancellor, should use the power which Lord Chancellors have used in the past, to tell these gentlemen to come here and attend to their duty. Then we might see whether we could not get something done to puncture these inflated public passions.
1244 Now, my Lords, I am going to produce one or two pieces of evidence from one witness of a most authoritative nature, from, I think you will agree, a quite surprising quarter. In America, the campaign against spies has been a political affair. It has been going on for a long time, and there has been a great wave of passion which has resulted in there being set up in Congress a sort of parallel court of inquiry to the courts. (Here we adopt what one may call the Russian method: we do not tell the accused anything: he is just disposed of.) The man who knew more about this in America than anybody, the man who was Secretary of State to Mr. Truman, Mr. Dean Acheson has written a book entitled An American Vista. I will read only a few short passages, if your Lordships will allow me. It cheers our heart and will do more to restore our old friendship and admiration for America than anything that I have read for a long time.
This is what Mr. Acheson says, in full confession, at the beginning:The (Security) practices had their root in the President's executive orders"—and he gives the official numbers—I was an officer of that Administration and shared with it the responsibility for what I am now convinced was a grave mistake and a failure to foresee consequences that were inevitable.Then Mr. Acheson gives one or two illustrations. This is the point which really appeals to me more than anything else. I have not the legal knowledge of my noble friend, but it is a terrible thing if the mind of this country is going to be moulded into something, whether it is a Communist model, a Tory model, or anything else. We must be free if our country is to be strong. We must be free in mind. That is the lesson.
Let me read one or two passages and, first of all, this one:Finally, in our summation of what is wrong, there is one comprehensive evil—the sum of all the others: it is compulsion towards conformity.That is what Mr. Dean Acheson himself said. Now I will read one other passage:'The greatest dangers to liberty,' said Mr. Justice Brandeis, 'lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning, but without understanding.'I have travelled a great deal and I have been a grateful guest in many Legations 1245 and Embassies, but what I have: noticed often is the difference in the ideas in the Legation or Embassy from the common talk in the country itself. I have been to Moscow, and I will tell your Lordships that you will not get a better assessment of the situation than if you go, for example, to the Indonesian Embassy or to the Indian Embassy, where you will find someone who is detached and who has been free from this horrible "mould" which we were talking about the other day. We were told that anybody who wanted to go into the Diplomatic Service had his past raked over; that people would go down to his professor and say, "Did you know young Jones when he was learning the differential calculus? "—whatever that may be. "Did he say anything that seemed extreme?" In that way you are apt to produce a wonderful regiment of young gentlemen with bowler hats and rolled un umbrellas, who say "Good morning to you" and "I couldn't care less," and give other proof of possessing the higher culture, but who have not got the courage to think intelligently, about the problems that confront us. On the matter of the scientists I cannot speak, because I am not a scientist, but it is perfectly obvious that if the scientist is to do his best work in his laboratory you must not have somebody looking over his shoulder or somebody making a note of what he says to somebody else. If you do that, how can he do his work?
If your Lordships will allow me, I will read just one further passage from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, of April, 1955:Discovery of scientific truth is too unpredictable to allow anybody to say exactly what has been lost to American science through the unnecessary restriction of communication and the distraction and harassment generated, by a security system made more extreme than realism requires from an obsession with loyalty.It says that both scientists and generals of great practical experience have asserted that if the post-war security provisions had obtained during the war, it would not have been possible to achieve anything approaching the great success achieved in war time in scientific research. So that it is on the ground of the efficiency of our country that I plead for liberty. Really, it is on the ground of old-time sentiment. In those days we read Rupert Brooke or Tom Kettle or 1246 Shelley. All that has got nothing to do with the modern world. But, after all, one has these dangerous, seditious instincts which are eradicable when one gets on in life.
There is one other thing I want to say. The real danger of this Secret Service empire lies in its strength. These security people—do not think that they are humble fellows who put a helmet under their arm and say: "From information received … I asked the prisoner what was his name, and he said 'George', or words to that effect." That is not at all the type of man you have; you have a man who is determined to maintain his power.
I should like to remind the Lord Chancellor of a very happy occasion for me, when I first made his acquaintance at the Official Secrets Committee, 1939. What we were dealing with was this. Mr. Duncan Sandys had been trying to expose the shocking state of anti-aircraft defence. He was right, absolutely right, and somebody in the War Office got the bright idea that in collecting his information he had offended against the Official Secrets Act. 'The result was that Mr. Sandys was ordered to attend a court-martial in his own regiment. Mr. Sandys has relatives, and he has relatives who have a sense of the instincts and traditions of this country, and Mr. Sandys, like Mr. Lang, said, "I will fight." That occasioned the Sandys Committee. We all agreed, presented a unanimous report, and told the War Office "where they get off"; and the result was we heard no more about it. That was one instance—one of the first I remember. But let me take another—that of Crabb, which is a recent one. I know nothing about Crabb. The sensational 'thing about the Crabb case is not this ingenious man—whether he is living or dead, nobody knows; the sensational thing is that an operation so inept and so dangerous could be carried through without the knowledge of the Government and without the consent of the Government. If that is not a warning against the Secret Service, I do not know what is.
Finally I will take the case of Casement. I remember Casement; I knew Casement. I met him at the house of Mr. Charles Roberts, and I am pleased to think that that old gentleman is still alive. Casement and Mr. Charles 1247 Roberts had done one of the finest jobs in the world, cleaning up the horrors of the business of rubber tapping in Brazil. Casement was a brave man, and from his point of view a good man. He was an Irish patriot. But he was a traitor and he was executed. We had to do it. There he was, and we were at war, and we had to do what was done. The worst of it followed. I was a young man —that was about 1919. In the Lobbies people whispered "You know, of course, do you not?", and it was circulated that he was a pervert. This was put about by the Intelligence Department, the Secret Service. We all said. "Isn't that awful?". Now, forty years since that occurred, this same Department refuses to permit the publication of the papers which might re-establish or destroy-I do not know—the reputation of this famous Irishman. They say, "What does it matter?". It matters in the interests of integrity and it also matters in our relations with the Irish people. But what it proves is the might of the Secret Service.
My Lords, I hope I have not done anything to ruffle the sunny calm which normally prevails on both sides of this House, but I do want to ask the Lord Chancellor this question: will he assure me, first of all, that in this Lang case he has personal knowledge either of an offence or of some reason why a man who was acquitted should now be "condemned;" and secondly, whether there is some machinery which would provide for private employees the protection to which they are entitled.
§ LORD STRANG
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships more than a few moments, but after the learned exposition you have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and what I might call the fireworks from the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, including I think a totally unrecognisable caricature of the British Foreign Service, I propose to present to your Lordships only one or two simple and obvious considerations. Indeed, they are quite platitudinous.
In this question of security there are two propositions. The first proposition is this: that there are State secrets which, in the interests of security, it is the duty of the Government to safeguard, whether those secrets are in the hands of public servants or whether they are in the hands 1248 of employees of private firms. The second proposition is that there is unfortunately a continuous attempt by certain foreign Powers to acquire these secrets by every means at their disposal.
Broadly speaking there are two ways of protecting State secrets. There are two types of security. There is what one might call mechanical security and what one might call personal security. By mechanical security one means the rules and regulations for the custody of papers, the use of safes, locks and keys, the proper construction of those means of security, the need to watch over the security of cyphers, and that kind of thing. But that mechanical security is not sufficient, and the thought that haunts the minds of those who are responsible for security—and I can speak from experience—however perfect their rules and regulations may be and however modern and up-to-date their equipment may be, is that there is always the possibility that there is somewhere some person with access to secrets hidden away in some part of the machine who may be disclosing those secrets to unauthorised persons. That is the real problem that faces the security authorities.
The methods by which certain foreign Powers organise espionage in foreign countries are, or ought to be, well enough known. This has been the subject of two exhaustive and extensive studies by Royal Commissions, one in Canada and one in Australia. In Canada the matter was studied after the affair of Gouzenco, the employee of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa. In Australia the Royal Commission met after the affair of Petrov. The reports of these two Royal Commissions are included in two large volumes, and if I may I would commend those volumes to your Lordships' attention, because they are fascinating and frightening productions. There is no reason whatever to think that the methods employed, in Canada with a great deal of success and in Australia with a good deal less success, are not being employed in other places, including this country.
There are two things which emerge from the Reports of those two Royal Commissions. The first is the thoroughness with which personal contacts with likely agents are exploited by the foreign spy network, and that is done as often 1249 as not through seemingly innocent cultural and suchlike international organisations. That is the first point. The second point is that the danger comes not so much from open members of the Communist Party as from secret members of the Communist Party, people who either entirely conceal their Communist affiliations or who pretend to have renounced them. That point is made again and again in these Reports.
I am not competent, nor would it be proper for me to speak of the methods employed by the security authorities in carrying out their very difficult and responsible duty for the protection of State secrets. But it is clear enough that in reaching the conclusion that this or that person is unreliable from the point of view of security they sometimes have to rely (this has been said already) on evidence which cannot, for security reasons, be disclosed; and sometimes they have to rest on a suspicion which, however substantial it may be, cannot amount to certainty. If it were a question of a prosecution for an offence under the Official Secrets Acts that suspicion would not be sufficient. But what is in question in this kind of case is not an alleged breach of the law or a prosecution; what is in question is a decision by Ministers that such and such a person is not one to whom it would be safe or prudent to confide important State secrets. That is the only quest on at issue.
That seems to me, my Lords, to be the kind of decision which responsible Ministers have a right to take, and, indeed, it is a decision which they have a duty to take in all proper cases in the national interest. And before coming to that decision, before coming to that conclusion, they also have a duty which is no less important, and that is to satisfy themselves, in all honour and conscience, that, on the evidence submitted to them by the authorities, the suspicion is substantial enough to justify the executive or administrative decision they take. At the same time, when responsible Ministers assert that they have satisfied them-selves, in all honour and conscience, as to this, they are entitled to expect that their word should be treated with every respect. Finally. I would just add this. I, myself, think that in the case of employees of private firms there should 1250 be safeguards matatis mutandis, should be analogous to those which are afforded in the case of civil servants. Those safeguards for civil servants are very considerable, aid my view is that they should be extended to employees of private firms.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I can assure you that you will not have from me "the fireworks," as they have been described, of my noble friend Lord Stansgate. And I cannot of course, attempt to vie with my noble friend Lord Chorley so far as his learned speech is concerned. But I think one can say that it is generally recognised that espionage work goes on, in peace and in war, on behalf of most Governments. Our own Government, so far as our own nationals are concerned, have their own machine. The Home Office, for example, has had its spies and informers ever since those notorious instances of the early part of the last century, particularly in regard to those persons who hold Left Wing views. I happen to know that one of the first things Miss Susan Lawrence did when she went to the Home Office in 1929 was to send for her own dossier. And as everyone knows, Miss Susan Lawrence was an ultra-respectable and, in some ways, conservative person.
To-day, now that Communism has risen to world power, and avowedly aims at world domination, we are living in perilous times, and the first duty of the State is to protect us and safeguard our security. We must never forget that Communism demands from its adherents loyalty to an alien Power overriding the duty to the Communist's own State and Government. It follows, therefore, that we must have trustworthy people in positions of responsibility, and especially those engaged in secret work. I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister reached his decision in regard to Mr. Lang in good faith on the evidence placed before him. And before I go further, may I say that I do not know either Mr. or Mrs. Lana; nor have I had any contact with them in any way.
The first point I want to make is that the manner in which information, true or otherwise, is obtained is almost completely ignored in the Government's White Paper. And yet if one reflects for a moment, one will see that this is the most 1251 vital part in the decision subsequently reached by the Minister. To-day, various Departments are employing retired police officers who, on instructions, check up and report on suspected persons. No one can deny the importance of collecting information and keeping it secret. But to accept that information without corroboration—information often, in the nature of things, from hearsay, tittle-tattle or gossip—is to assume that a retired police officer can never make a mistake, that he is quite impartial and fully capable of skilfully testing and weighing, with strict fairness, statements that may be made to him.
I ask: is it right, is it proper, is it just, to use information gathered in that way to ruin a man's career and brand him as a quasi-traitor, without confronting him with those who have borne witness against him? Is it not the very cornerstone of civilised government that every man is entitled to a fair and impartial trial? Legal textbooks assure us that in England every man is presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty. His guilt has to be proved. That principle is affirmed by Dr. Glanville Williams in the Hamlyn Lectures, delivered last year, although he went on to say:This golden thread, as Lord Sankey expressed it, runs through the web of English criminal law.Dr. Glanville Williams added:Unhappily, Parliament regards the principle with indifference, one might almost say with contempt.It is because it appears on the evidence so far available, that Mr. Lang has not had a fair or impartial trial that the "golden thread" (to use Lord Sankey's words) has apparently been treated with indifference, if not with contempt. My noble friend Lord Chorley, in my humble opinion, has rendered a public service in bringing Mr. Lane's case to the attention of your Lordships this afternoon.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, when I came to the House this afternoon I had no intention of intervening in this debate. The reason I have decided to do so is probably, I think, the reason that also operated in the mind of my noble friend Lord Strang: the fear that, if we did not intervene, that fact might be misunderstood as indicating some lack of belief 1252 in the bona fides of the Government in this case. I have known the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, now for over forty years, since we first met when we were undergraduates at Oxford. Neither then nor at any subsequent stage in his career, or in my career, have I doubted for one moment that his heart was in the right place.
I have known the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, not quite so long, but very nearly. In passing, I must say that never dreamed that the noble Viscount had suffered so much as he indicated by a compulsion to conformity. That thought had not hitherto occurred to me, but I am certain that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, when he comes to reply, will not complain that the two noble Lords should have brought this important subject before the House. If I have no doubt that the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is in the right place, I think it is only fair to add that neither have I any doubt that the hearts of the Privy Counsellors who held this inquiry were also in their right places. I do not think for one moment that Lord Chorley would himself claim that he has more liberal and civilised views in this matter than, we will say, the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, or Mr. Herbert Morrison, both of whom sat among the Privy Counsellors, who came to a unanimous conclusion.
I am going to deal, in the course of my remarks, with many points made by the noble Lord, and I will not fail to yield to him later if he wishes me to do so, but I think he would like to hear first what I wish to say in this matter. When I saw the terms of the Motion on the Order Paper I noticed the mention of "disregard of civil liberty". If, as the noble Lord, Lord Burden, assumed, it were true that this man had been convicted of any criminal offence without a trial, that would be a monstrous denial of liberty; but of course nothing of the sort has happened. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, referred again and again to such things as, "What are the charges?", "these serious offences", and "the prosecution for gross offences", and so forth; but none of that has any truth at all. He has not been found guilty of any criminal offence whatsoever, and if anybody were to say outside this House such things as some noble Lords have 1253 said this afternoon, that he has been convicted of disloyalty and that he is a quasi-traitor, they would certainly find themselves liable to a serious action for libel. What has happened here is not that Mr. Lang has been convicted of any offence, but that the Government do not consider that he is a suitable person to see confidential information.
I am completely in agreement with noble Lords who say, truly, that such a decision may have serious personal consequences for the man himself. That is one of the problems that was so carefully considered by this Conference of Privy Counsellors of all Parties. Of course, the man may suffer what we should all consider grave disadvantages; but when we are considering such words as "civil liberty" surely we ought to draw a distinction between convicting a man of a criminal offence without a trial and finding that he must not continue in a particular job. I am sure that noble Lords in all quarters would agree that there is the greatest distinction between these things. I do not think that any noble Lord who has spoken doubts for one moment the bona fides of the Ministers concerned in believing that this man is a security risk in the sense that have described. They say that the Government are acting not on proof, but on suspicion; but are a Government never to act on suspicion in a matter of this kind?
I remember the first time I ever spoke on a matter of this sort—it was, I suppose, nearly twenty years ago in another place —when the question arose of the dismissal of certain dockyard employees who were suspected of tampering with the machinery in submarines. I defended the Government's right, and, indeed, their duty to act on suspicion where the safety of the lives of their sailors was involved. I gave an example. Suppose you had young children in your house and a servant looking after them, and there had been two or three mysterious fires unaccounted for in the nursery; would anyone say that the prudent parent would not he right in getting rid of that servant on suspicion, even if nothing whatsoever could be proved against her? Of course that would be the action taken.
This is a matter which was dealt with specifically by the Privy Counsellors in the passage which has been quoted. I 1254 should like to quote one passage from paragraph 14 before coming to paragraph 15:The Conference also makes a series of recommendations which turn on the risk presented by those in regard to whom there is no evidence that they are themselves members of the Communist Party, but evidence exists of Communist sympathies or of close association with members of the Communist Party.Then in paragraph 15:The Conference is also of the opinion that in deciding these difficult and often borderline cases, it is right to continue the practice of tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individual.No one is so heartless as to suppose that that will not sometimes cause hardship to the individual, but I do not think that many people would doubt that the Conference of Privy Counsellors from all Parties were right in the statements which I have quoted.
In his criticism of the security organisations the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, referred to war-time experience of Regulation 18B. All of us who remember that time were very conscious of the risk under Regulation 18B, and I think that we very much approved of the setting up of the tribunals or committees to which the noble Lord referred and which were presided over by members of the legal profession, some of whom later became Lords Justices. I remember one over which for a time my right honourable and learned friend the present Minister of Defence presided. I agree with the noble Lord in what he says as to the advantages of a lawyer in such a position. But what is he saying? He said that they came to the conclusion that, in certain circumstances, those men ought not to be kept behind bars under Defence Regulation 18B. But the committee never decided that they should be thereafter placed in receipt of confidential information on secret matters. In that event their decision might have been entirely different.
The noble Lord, Lord Strang, made a speech with which I agree so completely that it is only the fact that he made it from the Cross-Benches that makes it desirable for somebody to support it and say the same thing from the Government Benches. Let me amplify, in order to confirm, one important point that the noble Lord, Lord Strang, made. He referred to the 1255 Report of the Canadian Royal Commission. At one time it was my duty to preside at an inquiry by my Party into the dangers of Communism and Fascism in this country. I studied with some care this Report of the Canadian Royal Commission, which came out shortly before. It exactly bore out what the noble Lord, Lord Strang, said. I would refer to one particular passage in it. I have not brought the Report with me, so I cannot quote verbatim, but in the Blue Book there is set out a telegram or message from the chief of this espionage system in Moscow to his principal agent in Canada. It says: "Mr. So and So, whom you propose as an agent, is useless for our purpose, for he is already well-known as a Red." I beg noble Lords in every quarter to realise the significance of that. The greatest danger is not from those who are openly members of the Communist Party; very much more dangerous may be those who claim either never to have been members of the Communist Party or to have severed all connection with it.
I was puzzled at one or two points in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate. I could not be sure whether he was saying to us that Communists are not a danger, or that he was satisfied that this man was not a Communist and had no connection with them. If he meant the former, I do not think anybody will agree with him. If he meant the latter—which I assume he did—he is entitled to give his view. But he and I know nothing of the particular facts of this case. Why should we assume that all those who approached this case and who were in a position to make decisions approached it with different ideas of liberty from those we ourselves entertain? I am certainly not prepared to make any such assumption. I see that some people outside have taken the point that it is a terrible thing if a man should lose his job on security grounds, on the ground that his wife is reasonably suspected of Communist sympathies. It seems to me that anybody who takes that line shows himself to be completely ignorant both of Communism and of marriage. I wonder whether anyone to-day really thinks that the error that the Government have made in the past is that of being too suspicious. Do they really think that that is the lesson of 1256 the case of Pontecorvo, of the case of Fuchs, or the case that we debated more recently, of Burgess and Maclean?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I would point out that it is interesting that he should mention those cases, when not one of them was caught up in this new net.
§ LORD CONESFORD
That is why I am rejoicing that the present Government at this present time are taking greater care. I did not rejoice in the the case of Burgess and Maclean—and I gave my views upon that clearly in an earlier debate. I cannot think that the fact that the Government have occasionally been caught napping, as they have (it was not this Government, but the Government of the day) is a ground for wishing them to be caught napping in the future.
§ LORD BURDEN
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but would he not agree, on reflection, that it is a terrible thing to mention the names of Pontecorvo and these other people and to relate it to the present case that we are considering?
§ LORD CONESFORD
I am much obliged to (if I may so call him) my old friend from another place for making it possible for me to deny any such implication. Let me say at once that in my view—and I made it clear at the beginning of my speech—it would be utterly wrong to suggest that this man, Mr. Lang, is guilty of any offence whatsoever; nor is it necessary for the Government to say that he is. The question is the bona fides of the Government in believing that there are grounds for thinking him to be a security risk. The reason why I mentioned these other cases was to show that Governments had no tendency whatsoever to tilt the balance unreasonably against the suspect. As I say, I am grateful to the noble Lord for guarding me against any implication that I am accusing Mr. Lang of anything whatsoever.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
There seems to be some confusion, and it is probably in my own mind. The cases of Fuchs, Pontecorvo and Burgess and Maclean all failed to be discovered by this new machine. Why is the noble Lord advocating the use of a machine which failed to protect us in those three cases?
§ LORD CONESFORD
I very much hope that the machine is being continuously improved. I am not saying for one moment—and I am sure that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will not say—that the machine is now perfect. But surely that is not a reason for disregarding the machine altogether and constantly taking risks against the security of the State. That is my proposition.
I am sorry to have detained your Lordships for so long, but I believe that, though the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and those who have followed him, were entirely right and justified in bringing this important master before this House—because there are features in these cases which inevitably trouble us—it would be entirely wrong to suggest that there is any prima facie evidence whatsoever that the Government have acted wrongly in this case. Nobody has challenged their bona fide belief that this was a security risk; and I say that, if it was a security risk, the Government were not only entitled but under a duty to act as they did.
§ 6.19 p.m.
§ Loan SILKIN
My Lords, like the noble Lord who has just spoken, I had no intention of speaking in this debate, but my noble friend Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, who had intended to speak, has unfortunately been called away. I am sure that the whole House will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Chorley for having introduced this Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, ha; said that my noble friend's heart is in the right place, and I am sure that we all recognise that. But I think, also, that his sympathies are in the right place. Ever since I have known him—not quite so long as the noble Lord—he has been a champion of freedom and civil liberty. It is right that when any question or any suspicion of art infringement of civil liberty should be raised, there should be a discussion in this House. I was going to say that we were grateful to the noble Lord if for no other reason than that it produced what the noble Lord described —I am sorry he did describe it in that way—as the "fireworks" of my noble friend. I hope we shall frequently hear speeches of that kind from another champion of freedom and liberty.
Some of us are a little disturbed about this case because we feel that there may 1258 be an element of intolerance in the matter. We want to be quite satisfied that there is no question of action having been taken because of dislike of certain political views. I think the criterion which the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and the noble Lord. Lord Conesford, have placed before us, that the security of the State must be paramount, would be accepted by everybody. I, for one, would be prepared to go further, and say that, in a matter of this kind, it is no good waiting until disloyal action has actually been carried out. It is in the nature of this kind of case——and I say this to my noble friend— that the State has to take action before the danger has arisen, and inevitably it has to take action on suspicion. I accept that. But, having said that, we must he absolutely certain that this is a genuine suspicion based on solid grounds, and not merely on some such grounds as we have been informed of in the present case.
The difficulty of most of us is that we do not know what are the grounds of suspicion against Mr. Lang. What we do know—and this is the only thing that has been publicly disclosed—is that he has a wife who, up to a year before he was married, was a member of the Communist Party, and that he himself has been associated with certain organisations which I must confess in themselves do not necessary strike me as being very dangerous. That is all we know, and inevitably the suspicion must be aroused in our minds that there may be something in the nature of intolerance of political views involved in this.
Now I do not know, and I do not want to go beyond this. I echo the words of my noble friend Lord Stansgate. If we could he assured that, in this case and in every other case, the Minister concerned, having investigated the case of suspicion himself, then takes personal responsibility, one would feel to a considerable degree reconciled to the situation. If, coupled with that, the person who is under suspicion has the opportunity of hearing what were the grounds of suspicion and of answering them before a tribunal in whom we could all feel confidence, then I think the reconciliation between public safety and the freedom of the individual would be as well met as one can hope to have it met in these difficult circumstances. I should he grateful if the noble and learned Viscount who is to reply could give us that general 1259 assurance: first, that every case of this kind is personally investigated by the Minister who takes full responsibility for the decision, and, secondly, that there is the opportunity for the person who is under suspicion —I do not use the word "charged," because I agree with the noble Lord that he has not been charged —of meeting any of the grounds that have been put and alleged against him.
That does not quite dispose of the matter, because in this case there is in fact no tribunal before whom Mr. Lang could have appeared. It is true that the Report of the Privy Counsellors contemplates some such tribunal, but so far as I know there is nobody before whom he could appear at the present time. Therefore, so far as we know, he has had no opportunity of rebutting the suspicions which have been raised against him. Secondly, I think there is a case for further examination of the kind of body which has the responsibility of examining the allegations. I recognise that the White Paper is not this afternoon under consideration—we are discussing the case of Lang. But it may well be that the proper course, in the case of a person who is not a civil servant, is not necessarily to submit him to the same kind of tribunal as in the case of a civil servant. I do not think that this is the kind of case which necessarily lends itself to examination and cross-examination in the way in which it would take place if he were being charged. But I do feel that there should be an element of legal experience in the tribunal, so that even where suspicion is involved the inquiry should be carried out by people who are accustomed to weighing evidence, who would look at this question objectively and satisfy themselves that there are reasonable and proper grounds in the public interest for the suspicions, which will have, as is recognised, serious consequences for the person who is involved, even if it should turn out that those suspicions are ill-founded.
I should like to make it clear that while we on this side have some apprehensions about the matter and we should like to feel reassured, we are in no doubt at all that it is the duty of the Government to take action in a case where the safety of the State is involved and where important secrets are in danger of being divulged. We do not necessarily criticise the 1260 Government for having taken that action, but we should like to have the reassurances for which my noble friends and I have asked.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, when anyone has had, as I have had, the honour of addressing your Lordships rather more than fifty times in an afternoon, I do not know whether it is proper to ask for consideration from your Lordships or for your Lordships. But, with that difficulty, I should like to approach this matter in two compartments: first, to deal with the general aspect of the matter, and in the course of that give the answer to one of the matters with which the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, asked me to deal—namely, the question of what I should call, for want of a better word, the appellate procedure outside the Service—and then to deal with the facts of the Lang case and try to answer questions that have been put to me.
It is important that one should say something of the Government's attitude towards security, because that attitude, in the case of contractors' employees, as indeed of employees of the State itself, is governed by two considerations. The first and foremost consideration is the safeguarding of the national security; and the second, which is dependent on the satisfaction of the first, is to ensure that the democratic rights of individuals are impaired to the least extent possible. In that regard, I want to emphasise what my noble friend. Lord Conesford, has said already, that this is not a question of guilt or innocence of a particular charge which can be proved or disproved in a court of law. A person is denied access to secret defence information because in the careful and considered opinion of reasonable men there is doubt as to his reliability. This is a matter of judgment which must be made in the light of the available evidence. Again, it must be realised that some of this evidence comes from highly secret sources which have been built up over a long period and which must not be jeopardised. It follows, therefore, that all the reasons for the doubts about a person's reliability cannot normally be conveyed to him.
It is important that this matter should be seen in its proper perspective. The Government have a responsibility to see 1261 that no injustice is done to an individual, but they also have the overriding responsibility to ensure that the national security is not endangered. 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.
It would be undignified and undesirable if, in a debate of this sort, we were to indulge in a competition about our love for liberty; but, as I am answering the debate, it is only fair that your Lordships should remember that I was one of the main movers in the Convention of Human Rights to which fifteen European States acceded. I do not yield to anyone in my love for that subject, but what I do say is that civil liberty does not involve a right of access to secret Government information; and, in some cases, such denial of access may leave a firm with no alternative but to dismiss a man because he cannot be offered other suitable work. The Government recognise that this involves hardship, but the number of cases where dismissal has resulted has, so far, been very small and it is hoped that they will continue to be rare.
If I may respectfully say so—and I mean these words—the general position has never beer better described than by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, on March 15, 1948, when he made his statement in dealing with this matter inside the Government service. The noble Earl said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 448, 1703]:I desire to make a statement in regard to certain matters of employment in the Civil Service. In answers to Questions on the subject of the transfer or dismissal of certain Government servants, I have said that there are certain duties of such secrecy that the State is not justified in employing in connection with them anyone"—I ask the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, to note these following words—whose reliability is in doubt.I agree with the noble Earl. This is not a question of proving an offence. This is a case where one says, "If there is any doubt about you, then no Government worthy of the name can allow you to have access to its secret information". That is the way the doubt lies. That is the difficulty. That is why this is a difficult subject. That is why anyone who has had to consider it is sore in heart after having to consider it.
1262 The noble Lord knows me well enough to know that I am not trying to make a false point. This is one of the difficulties of modern government. It arises only, as has been said again and again, in situations and times when we have this conflict between ideology and natural national patriotism and feeling. Fortunately, it does not occur often, but, when it does—and the noble Lord, with his knowledge of history, will accept this view—it presents one of the most difficult problems of government that can be presented to any Government or to the most liberal mind.
I am sorry I interrupted my reading of the noble Earl's speech, but it was the point about "whose reliability is in doubt" that I wanted the noble Lord to have in mind. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, went on:Experience, both in this country and elsewhere, has shown that membership of, and other forms of continuing association with, the Communist Party may involve the acceptance by the individual of a loyalty, which in certain circumstances can be inimical to the State…. It is not suggested that in matters affecting the security of the State all those who adhere to the Communist Party would allow themselves thus to forget their primary loyalty to the State. But there is no way of distinguishing such people from those who, if opportunity offered, would be prepared to endanger the security of the State in the interests of another Power. The Government have, therefore, reached the conclusion that the only prudent course to adopt is to ensure that no one is known to be a member of the Communist Party, or to he associated with it in such a way as to raise legitimate doubts about his or her reliability, is employed in connection with work, the nature of which is vital to the security of the State.The same rule will govern the employment of those who are known to be actively associated with Fascist organisations. I should emphasise that this action is being taken solely on security grounds. The State is not concerned with the political views, as such, of its servants, and as far as possible alternative employment on the wide range of non-secret Government work will be found for those who are deemed for the reason indicated to be unsuitable for secret work. It may, however, happen that it is impossible to find suitable employment elsewhere in the Civil Service for individuals with specialist qualifications and in such cases there may be no alternative to refusal of employment or dismissal,I say that I respectfully agree and I think the premises on which the noble Earl made that statement would be accepted, on reflection, by everyone in your Lordships' House. I do not want to make any debating point against the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, who argued his case before your Lordships so frankly; but 1263 it was after that statement that the machinery of the three advisers came into operation, and if Dod is right the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, was a member of the Government of the noble Earl from 1946 to 1950, so for two years the procedure of the three advisers was operating during his ministerial time.
§ LORD CHORLEY
The three advisers have not passed on this case at all; it has not been submitted to them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is not the point I am on. The point I am on is that the noble Lord asked, why did the Committee of Privy Counsellors, of which I had the honour to be chairman, accept the machinery of the three advisers and not find a better one? It is only a partial answer, but it is a fair answer, that it was a machinery which was set up by a Government of which the noble Lord was a member, and accepted by him for two years during his membership of the Government. That gives the machinery the support of the Government and of the noble Lord.
I do not claim too much for it; it has a certain imprimatur: we were taking an accepted machinery, and one that had been tried out. Indeed, I think the noble Viscount. Lord Stansgate, answered his noble friend, because he produced figures which were the result of that machinery and which he said were most satisfactory figures. This is not one of the major points, but the point the noble Lord put to me to-day, not only as the one who was to reply to this debate but as chairman of the Conference of Privy Counsellors, was why we had not invented a new machinery. With great respect, I do not think that the noble Lord has made out any case against the existing machinery and, as I say, I crave in aid the figures that Lord Stansgate quoted in that regard.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
May I intervene? What has been said has no reference to the case of Mr. Lang. He was not employed by the Government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount is a very old controversialist. When I begin by saying that I am going to deal first with the general position and then deal with Mr. Lang, I do not think he need be at all afraid that I shall not deal with him.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am sorry; I say no more. I want to say only one word to the noble Lord, Lord Burden, who obviously feels strongly about this matter. I think he was in the difficulty that he was confusing (I do not use the word in any offensive fashion) the commission of an offence with the need to keep Government secrets within a circle that is sacrosanct. I should like him to consider the matter. I do not know whether he has the White Paper summarising the Privy Counsellors' suggestions and the statement and the findings. At the beginning of paragraph 16, which I think has already been referred to, it does put the difficulty again. It says:The Conference recognise that some of the measures which the State is driven to take to protect its security are in some respects alien to our traditional practices. Thus, in order not to imperil sources of information, decisions have sometimes to be taken without revealing full details of the supporting evidence. Again, it is sometimes necessary to refuse to employ a man on secret duties, or in those cases where no alternative work can be found for him in the public service, to refuse to employ him at all, because after the fullest investigation doubts about his reliability remain, even although nothing may have been proved against him on standards which would be accepted in a Court of Law. The Conference agree regretfully that these countermeasures, although they are distasteful in some respects, are essential if the security of the State is to be ensured.That is a summary of the views of two of my colleagues, the Leader of the House and the Home Secretary, in addition to myself, and three members of the Party on the Benches opposite—the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, Mr. Herbert Morrison and Mr. George Strauss. It is not for me to praise a body which includes myself, but I consider that Conference to have been a fair cross-section of opinion in this country. They set out the difficulty which I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Burden, sufficiently realised—does the noble Lord wish me to give way?
§ LORD BURDEN
May I thank the noble and learned Viscount? I noted that and I was aware of it, but what I was trying to do, perhaps not so happily as it might have been done, was to challenge the methods of getting the information—whether the right people were employed. Everyone knows how a 1265 slant can be given to even the most innocent things in this world, and that is the vital point I want to get back to. I do not wish to pursue it any more if the noble and learned Lord Chancellor would undertake to look at it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. I wanted first of all to deal with the postulates in which one has to work in this field. I think that that half-paragraph sets them out fairly. With regard to the personnel and the ability of those who work, in our Government (and I think I can speak for the Government of which the noble Viscount was a member, and any Government of which I am a member) we are constantly trying to take every possible step to improve the standard of these conditions. I personally have no reason to think that the standard is a low one.
My Lords, I have put the general position, and I want now to come to the point of security procedure in relation to industrial firma engaged on secret Government contracts. The general policy is the same as that applied to public servants —namely, to prevent persons adjudged to be security risks from having access to secret matters. Government interest in the employment of Communists or Communist sympathisers in defence industry is confined to the question of access to secrets. I wanted to say that, because it is known that numbers of Communists are, in fact, employed in the aircraft and other defence industries—for example, on production lines; but so long as these men are employed on work that does not give them access to secrets we, the Government, are not concerned.
Formally, the policy is implemented by imposing a special contractual condition which enables the secret matters of a secret contract to be defined, and which gives to the responsible Minister (I emphasise the words "responsible Minister" because noble Lords have been doubful whether it really came to the Minister; it does.) the power to call for a list of employees who, it is proposed, shall be given access to secret material and to direct the contractor that particular named persons should not be given access. I do not think I need trouble your Lordships with the whole of the terms of the contract which contain that provision; I have tried to summarise it 1266 fairly. What I do say is that a Government would be lunatic that did not put a provision of this kind into its secret defence contracts; it would not deserve to survive a day longer. These are essential protections to any Government that is contracting. Before the Lang case, I may add, the formal remedy had been applied in only nine cases. So that we are not dealing with the sort of thing where it has been recklessly used—only nine cases.
Now I come to the first point that the noble Viscount put to me. So far, there has been no right of appeal by the employee concerned. His only remedy has been to take up the flutter through political channels, whereas his opposite number in the Civil Service has had the opportunity of stating his case to the three advisers. I shall in a moment announce what the Government suggest in that regard, but first I want to make this point clear: the three advisers advise the Minister as to the extent or degree of Communist association, but the action to be taken is a matter for the Minister which the Minister takes himself.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Does the Minister have access to the information in detail that has been before the three advisers?
§ THF LORD CHANCELLOR
I think it would be perfectly possible for him, if he had any doubts, to get it, or certainly ask the three advisers to come and tell him on what they made the, assessment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No; I was making it clear that it is the Minister's decision. The three advisers only advise him as to their view of the correctness of the assessment of association—I am trying to put it shortly. Take the case of a civil servant. It has been decided that he is a security risk. He controverts that—in some cases he does not; but assuming he does, he appeals to the three advisers. The Minister then has put before him the three advisers assessment of the rightness or wrongness of the degree of, association alleged against the man. And. I suppose that if he had any doubts about the matter, he could ask the three advisers.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
This is very important indeed. The noble and learned Viscount said "it has been decided" that the man is a security risk; decided by whom?
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
Has the evidence come before the Minister first and has he assessed it and said, "I think this man is a security risk"? And can the man then appeal to the advisers? Is that the position?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is the position. There are many cases where he does not appeal to the advisers: he accepts the decision that he is a security risk, and either goes or accepts transfer. But if he does not do that he can appeal to the advisers. The advisers then have not only the original evidence on which the original decision was reached, but also his evidence and the evidence of anyone he cares to call. The advisers then make their assessment and transmit that to the Minister. So the Minister is not judging the same thing again; he is judging on everything put before the advisers. I will only say this to the noble Viscount: I hope he will not press me too far, because one loses the thread.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
If the Minister in this particular case has seen the evidence, then we shall be entitled to ask the Minister or his spokesman, the Lord Chancellor, whether new evidence has been adduced between the time Mr. Lang was "acquitted" and the time he was dismissed.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
He was never acquitted and I will deal with that when I come to the Lang part. I will not miss it. I do ask the noble Viscount to interrupt me if he thinks I am missing it, because it is not my intention.
I was dealing with the general position, because it is right that that should be put out. I was saying that in industrial cases the Government's part is confined to directing which persons shall not have access to Government secrets, a right and a duty which they must fulfil. The actions taken by the firm to conform with this direction remain its responsibility; it is for the firm to decide whether a man 1268 can he employed on other work or must be dismissed. This principle was stated by the Minister of Supply in the House of Commons on June 11, when he said:Ministers have a solemn responsibility to safeguard State secrets and, in the course of that responsibility, not only have the right but the duty to exclude from access to those secrets people whom they do not think suitable.My Lords, the White Paper to which I have referred, summarising the findings of the Report of the Privy Counsellors Conference on Security, was mostly concerned, as I think was stated by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, with Civil Service matters. As he said, paragraph 21 deals with these questions of the provision of appeal machinery for contractors' employees. And it is implicit that the same criteria for judging security risks should apply to contractors' employees as to public servants. Thus evidence of Communist sympathies or close association with Party members (noted in paragraph 14 of the White Paper), living with a Communist or Communist sympathiser (which is mentioned in paragraph 15), and character defects (mentioned in paragraph 10), will be factors to be taken into account in industrial cases as in the Civil Service.
Similarly, the practice of (and I am quoting paragraph 15 of the White Paper)tilting the balance in favour of offering greater protection to the security of the State rather than in the direction of safeguarding the rights of the individualshould apply in industry as in the Civil Service. In borderline cases we must throw in some grains of common sense to bring down the scales on the side of public security. Paragraph 21 reported the Conference's view that they favoured an appeal machinery in certain types of cases, and their recommendation that discussions should take place on this aspect with the National Joint Advisory Council.
Here, if I may have the attention of the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, for a moment, I am coming to the specific answer to the first point he put to me. These discussions with the National Joint Council have taken place, and I am in a position to state that, in the light of them, the Government have decided to give effect to this particular recommendation of the Conference of Privy Counsellors—namely that contractors' employees who, 1269 as a result of a directive by a Minister, are dismissed, or in his opinion are liable to suffer financial loss, should have the same rights. So the "Three Wise Men" procedure will be applied to contractors' employees—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
No, for reasons which I will give to your Lordships in a moment. The noble Viscount asked me whether that procedure was going to be applied to contractors' employees. The answer is that it is, because the decision, as I have said, will still remain with Ministers. The employees will have the right of going to the tribunal of advisers.
Now I come to Mr. Lang's case. I must make the same statement as ray right honourable friend the Minister of Supply made. That is (OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 554 (No. 167), col. 19):I am not prepared, for reasons the House will appreciate, to make public the information available to Her Majesty's Government. But I can say that Her Majesty's Government have followed the recommendations of the Conference of Privy Counsellors on security. Mrs. Lang's political associations were one of a number of matters taken into consideration.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Perhaps the noble Viscount will wait for just one moment.
These are the limits which Government security always imposes. I cannot, arty more than can my right honourable friend the Minister, make public information which might have the effect which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, mentioned—that is, of disclosing sources, and therefore making that security machinery less effective. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, always likes an historical allusion, and I will now give him one which I have always thought very important and illuminating on this matter. As he may remember, when the great Duke of Wellington was very hard-pressed in the Peninsular War, his chief intelligence officer, Major Colquhoun Grant, was captured by the French: and the Duke said at that time, when he was very short of men, "I would rather lose a brigade than 1270 Colquhoun Grant." I put it to the noble Viscount—he has been the head of a Service Ministry and has himself served with the greatest distinction in the Forces —that no Government can give information which would make more difficult, or undermine, the work of their Security Services.
Now I want to come to the point which was specifically put to me by Lord Chorley—I think I am putting it fairly: I ask him to correct me if I am not. He asked why, if Mr. Lang was adjudged a security risk, was action not taken earlier before he had access to secrets. Therefore, it is necessary to go into some detail as to the time factor. This case first arose when I.C.I. asked the Government in May, 1951, for a security clearance for Mr. Lang. In July, 1951, they were told that a clearance could not be given. It was subsequently hoped, on the basis of assurance from the company, that Mr. Lang could, consistently with his employment, he denied access to Government secrets. There was some foundation for this hope, since steps are normally taken to ensure that contract documents themselves do not reveal the really secret information which is conveyed to nominated and cleared technical officers. But: it eventually became clear to the company that it was impossible for a man in Mr. Lang's position to be kept completely away from Government secrets. It was not until November of last year that I.C.I. finally reported their inability to deny him access; and it was on the basis of this report that the Government decided to take action.
Thus, both the Government and the company were concerned to try to reconcile the avoidance of security risks with Mr. Lang's continued employment. It was only when it became clear that they could not be reconciled that drastic action was taken. It may therefore be argued that risks were run in this case over a period of years, but this can be regarded as the price paid to avoid too hasty a decision that might interfere with an individual's career. But I do put this point —and I am sure noble Lords will agree with me: that to give a man clearance for all secret informal on is an equally great responsibility to that involved in refusing such clearance. That is a fact of government which again I state without fear of contradiction.
1271 Let me now go on with the facts. After consideration, a letter was sent to the company by the Treasury Solicitor on January 4, 1956.
§ LORD CHORLEY
Before the noble and learned Viscount passes from this question of the space of time between 1951 and 1955, may I say that I take it that what he said comes to this: that there was nothing new against Mr. Lang in the interval. I am not sure that the noble and learned Viscount made that clear.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
He was a security risk in 1951. Between 1951 and 1955, it was hoped that he would be kept away from Government secrets —that was what came to be understood as a probability. At the end of 1955, I.C.I. found that it was impossible to keep him from Government secrets. Therefore, the present situation arose; that was, as I have said, in November, 1955. It is a fair point that both the Government and I.C.I. had tried, by seeing that this man was, so far as they could see, not in touch with Government defence secrets, to keep the position, and to let him keep his job. When it was found that he could not be kept from defence secrets, then the position arose with which I am just going to deal. That was in November, 1955.
As I was saying, after consideration, a letter was sent to the company by the Treasury Solicitor on January 4, 1956. That is not much delay: from November, 1955, to January 4, 1956. This letter criticised the firm's handling of the situation, indicating that since there was no chance of Mr. Lang's acquiring any further secret information in connection with current contracts, which were nearing completion, no practical purpose would be served by issuing a formal notice in respect of these contracts requiring that secret matters should not be disclosed to Mr. Lang. That was with regard to current contracts. The letter went on to say:On the other hand, to wait until further secret contracts have been negotiated and signed when, as you point out in your letter, the process of negotiation may well result in secret information coming into the hand of the individual concerned, would be to take an unjustifiable risk. In these circumstances, I have been instructed to inform you that the responsible Ministers regard it as an essential condition to the placing of further secret 1272 contracts with your company that you should be able to undertake that this individual will not have access to secret information disclosed in connection with such contracts.That was the position. I have read the relevant part of the letter, and the Treasury Solicitor made it perfectly clear what the position was with regard to the future, and that Mr. Lang was not to be brought into touch with any future contracts.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount is now on a most vital point. Can he assure us that the action taken in November, 1955, was on the evidence which had been accumulated (I will not say whether rightly or wrongly) in 1951, or had any further evidence against Mr. Lang accumulated between 1951 and 1955?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am not going to go into the amount of evidence, or when it accumulated or what happened, for the reasons I have given. But I say that there is no question, as the noble Viscount put it, of this man having been "acquitted" in 1951. This man was a security risk in 1951, and it was hoped that he would be kept from vital defence information. It was only in November, 1955, that the I.C.I. made it clear that they had failed to keep him from vital information. When that was made clear, the Treasury Solicitor wrote to I.C.I. and said that that was a position which could not be tolerated. When Mr. Lang was informed by the I.C.I. of the Government decision, he submitted written representations and requested an interview. He was seen by Sir Cyril Musgrave, the Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Supply, and, at his request, Mrs. Lang and three of his friends were also interviewed by Sir Cyril.
I have been asked why Mr. Lang's case was not considered by the three advisers. At the time of the original decision on Mr. Lang's case, the White Paper published after the Report of the Conference of Privy Counsellors had not been published; but when Mr. Lang asked for the opportunity to state his case Sir Cyril Musgrave wrote to him drawing his attention to paragraph 51 of the White Paper and asking him whether he would prefer to wait until it was known whether machinery for cases like his to be put to the three advisers would be put into 1273 effect, which might be some time (that was put fairly to him in writing), or whether he would prefer an interview with Sir Cyril Musgrave as representative of the Ministers. Mr. Lang elected to see Sir Cyril Musgrave. After the interview he wrote to say,Whatever the outcome, I feel that at least I have had a lair opportunity of stating my case.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, I suppose that a dossier exists on Sir Cyril Musgrave, as well as about every other employee, and that he himself has to have regard to his reputation for security and safety.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I have known the noble Viscount for a long time and I do not think that I could get annoyed with hint; but if anything was calculated to make me annoyed with him that is the sort of remark which would do so. Of course, he does not think about it: he commits himself to this language over cases with the minimum of thought. I have known him to do it time and time again.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am coming back to the point. The noble Viscount's remark applies to every senior member of the Civil Service, because every single one, from the Under-Secretary upwards, comes into contact with confidential documents, and is to that extent subject to security. For the noble Viscount to say, even in that irresponsible way, that all the senior ranks of the Civil Service find it impossible to give an unbiased judgment is to suggest utter nonsense, which I think he will regret saying.
§ VISCOUNT STANSGATE
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount has given us a pleasant character sketch, but I will leave that for a moment and ask a plain question. Here is a man condemned to lose his job. The noble and learned Viscount knows why but will not tell us. 1274 The second thing is that this man has never been before any authority who is not himself susceptible to security control.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
But there is also the point, which the noble Viscount left out of his speech, that after Mr. Lang had been before Sir Cyril Musgrave he wrote,Whatever the outcome, I feel that at least I have had a fair opportunity of stating my case.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If it means nothing at all to the noble Viscount, it means a lot to the ordinary reasonable men on whom this country depends. That was the situation.
Let me read a report in The Times of June 7, of what Mr. Lang said:Asked whether he had been given the opportunity of putting his case before the tribunal of three advisers mentioned in the statement on the findings of the conference of Privy Counsellors on security Mr. Lang said he had not. Sir Cyril Musgrave had asked him what he thought of the tribunal and had said that the last paragraph of the statement which suggested that access to the same tribunal should be extended to persons outside Government employment' really referred to his case. I said quite candidly I considered the tribunal was nothing more than a `blind' he said. It had no degree of justice or substance at all. As a member of the public, he did not think it applicable to him.Therefore, the answer to the question is that Mr. Lang was given an opportunity —though at the expense of some delay, which I have already admitted—of using appeal machinery then in contemplation. But lie chose—and the noble Viscount really ought to remember this before he begins making attacks on people with such complete irresponsibility—to conduct his case by personal interview with Sir Cyril Musgrave, rather than wait. Since then he has expressed the view that the tribunal is only "a blind". Yet today the noble Viscount complains that he had not been before the tribunal which the noble Viscount described.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I apologise to the noble Viscount if I am wrong: but I am not going to argue on that point. The inquiries made by Sir Cyril Musgrave followed the same course as those of the three advisers. He con- 1275 ducted his inquiries on the same lines as do the three advisers. He then tendered his advice to Ministers, who took their decisions. The Ministers therefore had before them all the facts and considerations necessary to reach a fair judgment. His report was carefully considered by the two Ministers involved. A reference now to the three advisers could only cover the same ground and would serve no useful purpose. Therefore, if I may sum up, Mr. Lang's case is one that would be covered by the new machinery, but since he preferred to adopt the alternative course, there would be no point in putting his case to the three advisers.
I only want to repeat what I think I have already said, quoting my right honourable friend the Minister. In considering this matter, Mrs. Lang's past political associations were one of a number of factors taken into account, and, as I have said, the evidence cannot be disclosed. As I have indicated, I am afraid more than once, this is not a question of conviction; it is a question of whether a person should be refused access to Government papers. I would add this, in conclusion. The noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, and I do not pull our punches when we argue, and I hope he will take anything I have said in the way that I always have, and always will, take what he says. However, I just want to put this point to him. As I said before, the conflict between national security and the rights of the individual is a perennial one. I think that we were right, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, was right, in saying that it has a special difficulty when there are these extreme ideological waves which come over natural, national instincts. In these circumstances a balance must be struck, and we shall always argue as to where the balance should be struck. But I believe that it must be struck by a Minister who is responsible to Parliament; whose decision it is; who can be questioned in Parliament; and who, together with the Government—with all the reservations that have to be made—if Parliament is not satisfied is there to be shot at. I know the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for putting the matter to a judicial body. But I put against that—and it is a serious matter, because he is raising great issues, as he knows—that in this field it is better, 1276 rather than to push it on to a judicial or quasi judicial body, for responsibility to rest fairly and squarely on the Minister.
The other point that I would put to the noble Lord—and I put it with great diffidence—is that, deeply sensible as I am, and as I claim I have a right to be, to the call and need of liberty, there is the other side. There is the security of the State, and there is this lap of ideological blemishes on the ordinary morality of mankind. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, to remember that in some things, however unpalatable this may be, moderation is an end in itself. I know, just as well as the noble Lord does, that Westminster is white with the bones of the political reputations of the few people who have ever sought moderation as an end in itself. But sometimes responsible people, considering the problems of the Government of their country, must accept moderation as an end in itself. That is what I ask noble Lords to do here. I have given one further advance in the direction that noble Lords want by saying that the Government accept this application of the three advisers to industrial cases. I do not think anyone could say that the White Paper is unconscious of the difficulties of the matter. But I do ask noble Lords to remember the other side of it, and on that not to do anything which will destroy a balance on which national security may well depend.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, it is very late, and I should like to bring this debate to a conclusion without saying anything more; but a number of important speeches have been made and I do not feel it would be fair either to Mr. Lang or to the cause which I have been attempting to espouse this afternoon if I were to go away without saying something further. I appreciate, and I entirely agree with, a great deal of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Strang, the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and others of your Lordships who have spoken against my Motion this afternoon. I imagine that in a way it is a question of balance: the noble Lords, Lord Strang and Lord Conesford, feel that you need 100 per cent. security—that is really what it comes to—and I think that you can purchase security at too high a price.
1277 Professor Toynbee, in his great work A Study of History, has shown hew those States which put too high a premium on security go down before those States which are prepared to live rather more adventurously. I feel that if 100 per cent. security of the State is to be purchased by the dismissal of citizens of the greatest value, as Mr. Lang is, we shall go the way of those other nations about which Professor Toynbee has written. If our foreign policy is honest, decent and forward looking, the treason which is committed by your Burgesses and Macleans cannot, in the long march of history, have any really evil effect. It is quite clear that the betrayals of Nunn May and Fuchs and these other people did not really assist the Russians to explode a hydrogen bomb, and certainly did not assist them to explode is more than a week or two before they would have done, because they were well on with the job. Their technologists, we are now told by everybody who goes to Russia, are just as well advanced as ours. All this apparatus of security is being built up and is really becoming a danger to the community, because we take the whole thing altogether too seriously.
I agree that the Minister in this case has brought the best of his knowledge and ability to bear on the case and given a bona fide decision. I should not for a moment say otherwise, and I did not for one moment suggest otherwise. All that I am saying is that a Minister like that is not capable of handling the sort of material which is provided for him by M.I.5 in the way that a competent, experienced judge is, and as judges did during the war. It is quite true that the procedure of the "Three Wise Men" was laid down by the Labour Government under the noble Earl, Lord Attlee. Up to a point, especially inside the Civil Service, I think it is reasonably good procedure. All that I said was that I should prefer that one of the "Three Wise Men" should be a judge or lawyer with the sort of experience that I have described.
My noble friend Lord Burden painted out the sort of material which comes in through the security services. Everybody who has had anything to do with it knows that what he is saying is absolutely true. It does not mean that the men who are bringing it in are not giving their evidence 1278 to the best of their ability. The noble and learned Viscount, when he was practising, at the Bar, has seen an hone policeman go into the witness box and he has himself broken him clown by cross-examination so that the value of that man's evidence W as nil. The Minister, in this case, and the other Ministers who pass on cases of this sort, are just accepting the proofs of these witnesses. They are laid before them on paper, just as counsel who is opening a case, say, for the prosecution, has the proof before him. When the cross-examination is over—cross-examination conducted by a man of ability like the noble and learned Viscount when he WAS practising at the Bar—the evidence is completely disintegrated. The case against this type of procedure is that that security is not provided for.
I may have used the word "charges". I am not using the word in any technical sense, and I appreciate perfectly well that we are not here concerned with cases of criminal charges against Mr. Lang and these other people. But the charges made against them are, in the eyes of their fellow citizens, a great deal more heinous than many criminal charges. I would myself much sooner be convicted of half the offences in Archbold's Criminal Pleading and Practice than of the sort of accusation which is brought against Mr. Lang's honour and loyalty by the accusations which are made against him by the Ministry of Defence, in the way that we have heard this afternoon. I am distressed that the noble and learned Viscount should say that it is not possible, without an infringement of the security of the country, to tell the wretched man what the charges against him are. The charges are not the same as the evidence, and I think that point appears perfectly clearly in the White Paper itself. I was sorry that the noble and learned Viscount (lid not deal with it.
I hope that I was sufficiently clear in my opening statement when I said that in general I am in entire agreement with the White Paper. My complaint is that the Minister has not followed the White Paper effectively. Here and there there may be parts of the White Paper which are open to objection, but, generally speaking, I agree with it, and I agree with the statement which the noble and 1279 learned Viscount read from the statement of Mr. Attlee, as he then was, on the matter. But Mr. Attlee was dealing with people who were either Communists or associated with Communists. Mr. Lang has never been a Communist and has never associated with Communists—his wife had ceased to be a member of the Communist Party and had entirely severed her connection with the whole thing before he married her. Is there any doubt—because it seems to me that this is what we are coming to—honestly held by the Minister such as to justify bringing pressure to bear on the man's employers in order to get him dismissed? I really cannot accept that as being a position which is either honourable or reasonable.
Obviously, it must be a decision of the Minister. I accept that. The decision of the Home Secretary on these cases during the war had to be referred to the Birkett Committee or the Morris Committee. They reported back to the Home Secretary, and he had to take the final decision. But the Home Secretary took the final decision knowing that men who had spent their lives in sifting evidence had brought their experience and intelligence to bear on this point. It was not a question of Mr. Justice Birkett ordering that the 18B men should be released. All he did was to report on the evidence which had satisfied some administrators at an earlier stage that the man should be locked up, when, on effective scrutiny, that evidence disintegrated just in the manner the policeman's evidence disintegrated in the way I described earlier. In those circumstances, Mr. Justice Birkett would advise the Home Secretary to order the release of the man. That same sort of procedure might well be followed here, and I am sorry that the noble and learned Viscount could not accept it.
There is one further point on which I feel that the Government are behaving with a complete absence of magnanimity. I do not know whether Mr. Lang wants his case brought before the "Three Wise Men" or not. But if the noble and learned Viscount had himself been confronted with the same sort of situation 1280 in January or February of this year, and had been told that there was a possibility, sometime later in the year, of this policy being adopted, and had then suddenly found the charge revived against him, after hearing nothing whatever about it for five months, would he not have said, "I know in my own mind that I am innocent of this business. I can satisfy the man at the Ministry of Defence if only I can see him. If he is a decent man he will tell me what he has against me, and I can satisfy him"? Surely, it was the most reasonable thing in the world that Mr. Lang should say, "I should like to come and see you, hear what is against me, and satisfy you." He failed to satisfy Sir Cyril Musgrave. He failed because the only point made against him when he was there was in respect of his wife. He has never had the opportunity of dealing with these other points to which the noble and learned Viscount referred.
I suggest that a man of magnanimity would say, "Look here, if you wish to have your case looked at by the 'Three Wise Men,' you shall have it." I am quite sure that the late Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill—in whom I think magnanimity was the greatest of all his qualities, qualities of courage, perseverance and the other things to which the country owes so much; in a sense dwarfed by this great quality of magnanimity—would say, "Let the man have the chance of his case being considered by these people." I do not know whether Mr. Lang wants it or not, but I am distressed to feel that the noble and learned Viscount, who I know is a lover of liberty and has a passion for the Common Law,. should not feel it in his heart, on behalf of the Government which he represents so ably, to say that this man shall have the opportunity of clearing himself of these charges. It would be absurd for me to ask your Lordships to divide on this question this evening. There are very few of your Lordships left here, and the vote would have little meaning one way or another. In those circumstances, I ask your Lordships' permission to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.