HL Deb 07 March 1983 vol 440 cc1-3

2.36 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they see any security implications in the appointment of a member of the Communist Party to be an assistant secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Young)

My Lords, procedures introduced following the Radcliffe Committee Report in 1962 ensure that trade union officials who are believed to hold Communist views are denied access to sensitive information. The Government are satisfied that these procedures work effectively.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, while I thank my noble friend the Leader of the House for her very encouraging reply, may I ask whether this particular question has been referred to the Security Commission since the publication of the Radcliffe Report, which is now more than 20 years ago?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I have no doubt that the Security Commission takes note of this Question and what lies behind it.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for her reply, is it not important that we should get this matter into perspective and draw a very careful distinction between cases of breaches of security committed by people in public service—such as Prime, Aldridge, Ritchie and others—and cases such as the vice-chairman of a trade union? Are we not in danger, if this is pursued too far, of getting into a McCarthy witch hunt, which is totally alien to everything we know in this country?

Baroness Young

My Lords, I am glad to confirm that the Government cannot and would not wish to interfere with the internal affairs of independent trade unions. But where those officials are identified as having Communist views, then the procedures which I have identified will apply.

Lord Renton

My Lords, is not the important point for consideration the question of whether the loyalties of Communists are first to this country or first to Communism and to international Communism?

Baroness Young

My Lords, one must draw a distinction between civil servants who are thought to hold Communist views. No one who is thought to hold Communist views or, indeed, to be a member of a Fascist organisation, would be employed on work that is vital to the security of the state. In the case of the official of a union, the procedures identified—and which were proposed by the Radcliffe Committee and accepted by the Government—will come into play.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the noble Baroness the Leader of the House not agree that it is a fundamental responsibility of any Government to see that matters which are highly secret are kept that way in the interest of the ordinary citizens of this country, and that such action must be taken almost every minute of every day? Also, can the noble Baroness say that, whenever this nation of ours has been sadly betrayed over the past 50 years, any members of the Communist Party were involved—or were some of them not accepted members of what is known as the establishment from some of our universities?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the answer to the first question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, is that the security of the state is, of course, a matter of extreme importance and always will be. I cannot comment on the noble Lord's second question because it was not sufficiently clear what it was that he was asking.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, is the noble Baroness the Leader of the House able or willing to explain why, when she speaks about the misdeeds of Communists and Fascists, the Opposition do not (according to their cheers) object to the misdeeds of Communists but do object to the mention of the misdeeds of Fascists?

Baroness Young

My Lords, when we come to read Hansard—and I hope that the noble Viscount will do so as well—I believe that the noble Viscount will recognise that what I said was that no one who is thought to hold either Communist or Fascist views will be employed on work of a sensitive nature.

Baroness Wootton of Abinger

My Lords, has not the scope of the Question been somewhat improperly enlarged? The Question was, were there any security implications in the appointment of a member of the Communist Party. We are now talking about people who are thought to hold Communist views, are we not? Is that not an unjustifiable enlargement?

Baroness Young

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, is quite right on a narrow definition of the Question, but I thought it was appropriate in these circumstances to make clear that there is a distinction between those who are officials of a trade union and other civil servants.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, in view of the apparent confusion in his mind, perhaps it will be a good idea if the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, will also read again what was said by my noble friend Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos.

Viscount St. Davids

Happily, my Lords.

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