§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Nigel Birch (Flint)
I have no doubt that a number of hon. Members will wish to speak on the subject of the employment of Communists and Fascists in the Civil Service and therefore I shall make my remarks brief. My hon. Friends and I have sought to raise this subject because it is of great importance. It raises many questions of vital principle and it cannot be passed over in silence. The Prime Minister indicated on Monday that he would have a further statement or an elaboration of his original statement to make to us. We only regret now that the time allotted to us is so short.
I would like to start by saying that I fully agree that a Minister has the right to dismiss a civil servant holding a confidential position if, upon secret information, the Minister believes that that man is disloyal and insecure. I would go further. I would say that the Minister had a duty to do so. I do not think that the Prime Minister has always thought like that. He certainly did not think so at the time of the dismissals in the Royal Dockyards. I certainly did think so and I think so now, and I do not think anyone can say that that attitude is wrong. I agree, too, that the danger of a Communist fifth column in this country is very great, and it is right to include in that fifth column the so-called fellow-travellers. The 40,000 inscribed members of the Communist Party are really that portion of the iceberg which shows above the water. The most dangerous part is the other seven-eighths which is underneath and therefore is not so easily seen.
I do not think that anyone who read the Canadian spy trial, or indeed has read Stalin's work on Leninism or has read much Marx, can doubt, as the Prime 3390 Minister's statement says, that such people are bound to hold loyalties which are inimical to the State. More simply put, they are traitors. I fully agree with both those propositions. Having said that, and having admitted that the measures proposed to be taken are likely to be merciful, sensible and light, the fact that we are being forced now, in this country, to put political tests upon employment in the Civil Service makes me grieve for the past and forebode the future. The problem is one of appalling difficulty. In the case of both Fascists and Communists we have people who say: "While you are the masters we will claim all the democratic rights of free speech, because on your principles you must grant them. When we are masters we will deny those rights to you because it will be right to deny them on our principles." That is a very difficult situation to deal with. The danger that I foresee is that unless the Government carry the whole country with them we may get the present subversive movement actually increased, and more of it going underground and becoming more dangerous than before.
There are several suggestions I would like to put to the Government on this matter. The first suggestion is that if people are to understand the dangers that we face in this country they must have full information. No steps were taken by the Government to publicise in this country the Canadian spy trial; rather the reverse. It is some time since that trial took place. We now get this change of policy in this country, not preceded by any further information about what has happened since that trial and what is going on now in this country. It is not unreasonable to ask the Government, either by speech now, or perhaps better still by a full statement in a White Paper, to set forth what methods have been pursued by Communists in the various countries and the methods that are being pursued here, so that we can see precisely the dangers and difficulties with which the Government are faced. That is the first and very reasonable thing to ask.
The second suggestion is this: It is immensely important not only to act with moderation and good sense but so that everybody shall know we have so acted. There are many devoted people I have 3391 no doubt in the security Services, but I have noticed what sometimes happens when one is trying to carry out a purge. Some isolated incident in a man's past is seized hold of, and because of that incident he is regarded as being something quite other than he really is. Perhaps I could put an ad hominem argument on this matter. When the Prime Minister was speaking the other day the hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Bramall) asked him how he would distinguish Socialist sheep from Communist goats. The Prime Minister, whom we all respect as one of the most loyal of men, may remember the occasion when he was photographed giving the Communist salute at an International parade.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
When the hon. Member has finished speaking will he be good enough to go to St. Stephen's Hall, where he will see Charles James Fox giving the same salute. He was a loyal Englishman.
§ Mr. Birch
It matters on what occasion the salute was given. Anyway, what I have said is a fact. Suppose we imagine the Prime Minister in a less exalted station than he now holds. Suppose he was a junior civil servant occupying a position of trust. Suppose, as is very likely, a security officer found this photograph. Is it not probable that the Prime Minister would be classed among the goats. We know as a matter of fact that would be the wrong animal, but this illustrates a danger with which we have to contend.
My suggestion here is that it should be possible to issue a clear directive on this matter to Ministries indicating the scope and the type of thing which we are combating. If the Government know what they are trying to do, it should be perfectly possible to let the country know exactly what general measures the Government are going to use in carrying it out and the type of person who will be hit by it. What can be clearly thought can be clearly expressed.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Will the hon. Member also say how he will face this individual danger, if I give him a picture showing the Duke of Windsor giving the Fascist salute in Italy, when getting off a British battleship?
§ Mr. Birch
I ask the Prime Minister for this clear directive to be given.
3392 The next point is that of being fair and of appearing to be fair, where the rights of individuals are concerned. I do not want to enlarge upon this point because the right hon. Gentleman said he would satisfy the House on this matter. I see all the difficulties but I see several ways in which the position could be met. I do not want to take up the time of the House, but we want to know from the right hon. Gentleman what he is going to do, so that we can see whether it is right and good or not.
That is all I have to say. I recognise the danger and I recognise the difficulties. I also recognise the great danger of producing the opposite effect to what we intend, as we have done over de-nazification in Germany. I believe that those dangers can be mitigated, first by the fullest information about the dangers we face, and secondly by the fullest possible information about what the Government intend to do and the way they intend to do it.
§ 2.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I am delighted that we have even this small opportunity of discussing one of the most vital issues in relation to the growth of democracy in Britain at the present moment. However one tries to balance the statement, one cannot get away from this fact—and here I quote a gallant fighter for freedom and democracy whom we used to call Josh Wedgwood in North Staffordshire, who fought in this country for freedom for those who had suffered under Fascism, for Jews and others who had suffered abroad. He said:Decisions secretly arrived at"—I underline "secretly"—threatening a man with expulsion or ruin are not the stuff democracy is made of.Consequently I find it my bounden duty to protest against this proposal.
I would remind the Prime Minister that on 26th January, 1937, on the occasion of the famous Debate on the five men who had been victimised in the Royal dockyard at Devonport, he and others who are now on the Front Bench, opposed wholeheartedly the Government of the day on this issue of secret trials and the activities of MI5 when dealing with dockyard trials. The Prime Minister said:In the main, it is that defence which has been put up through the ages by every tyrant 3393 and dictator, namely, necessity. The security of the State demands the denial of justice to these men."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January, 1937; Vol. 319, c 889–890.]I contend that we are having the same excuse on this issue as we had at the time of the dockyard trials in 1937, and I beg my colleagues on this side of the House wholeheartedly to support me on this issue, even if ultimately we have to demand an entire day for Debate on this subject. On that same day, a grand fighter for democracy—we are all delighted to know that he has come out of hospital— Mr. Arthur Greenwood—
§ Mr. Harold Davies
I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood)—moved this Resolution:'That this House, jealous of the rights and liberties of the subject, regrets the action of the Government in dismissing summarily five workmen from their employment in the Royal dockyard without informing them of what offence they were accused or'"—This is the important piece—…affording them any opportunity of making any defence; believes that such action is contrary to the principles of British justice and detrimental of the best interests of the national service …'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th January?, 1937; Vol. 319, C. 785.]That is the position as we have it today.
I am not prepared to give any Minister this power. I am not prepared to give the Prime Minister or any Minister in this or any other land the power which is asked for in the statement made by the Prime Minister some days ago. The Committee on Ministers' Powers, which reported in 1932 on this same subject, said:It is contrary to the first principles of freedom and justice that in any civil or criminal proceedings a man should be condemned before he is heard.What opportunity will people have under this of being heard? On this I agree wholeheartedly with what was said by the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch). The Committee also said:Although natural justice does not fall within those definite and well-recognised rules of law which English Courts of Justice enforce, we think that it is beyond doubt that there are certain canons of judicial conduct to which any persons who have to give judicial or quasi-judicial decisions ought to conform. The principles on which they rest are implicit in the rule of law.3394 Lastly:No party ought to be condemned unheard and if his right to be heard is to be a reality he must know in good time the case which he has to meet.At the same time the present Chancellor of the Exchequer made an excellent case for the defence of those five men. I ask the Prime Minister, I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield where they stand today on exactly the same issue. The issue is no different. We are being driven hysterically to a belief that the nation is in trouble from fellow-traveller Fascists and fellow-traveller Communists. I wish emphasis was put in this House on the Fascists as much as it is on the Communists at the present moment.
Democracy is not government by counting heads but government by debating and explaining. Reason must be given for everything and I am not prepared to allow some organisation like M.I.5 or some organisation attached to secret police or Scotland Yard to be able to place a stigma on a man or woman because some gossipers said "We have seen you with Billy Gallacher—Piratin or somebody like that."—[HON. MEMBERS: Order.]— I beg the pardon of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin). I beg my party to realise that unnatural power corrupts both the heart and the understanding, and I will stand and fight to the last against this, because it is a demand from my party to give to other Ministers unnatural power which would corrupt this party and ultimately destroy it. I beg hon. Members on both sides of the House not to be driven hysterically into this witch-hunting campaign but to believe that Britain has something which she can show to the world and that she believes in her own democratic system. If we want to answer Fascism and Communism, let us stand up like men and make the British system work.
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
I agree with both hon. Members who have preceded me in regretting that we have so short a time in which to Debate this very important subject. Few would deny the right of this or any other Government to take adequate steps to ensure the security of the State. Indeed, the 3395 Government would be failing in their duty if they did not do so. Once the adherence of any individual to a political creed is such that it transcends all loyalty to his own country, if that individual has access to confidential documents, clearly action must be taken and, what is more, it must be taken while there is still time.
The writing on the wall has been clear for all to see. As my hon. Friend mentioned, we have had the example of the Canadian spy trial. During the last two years or 18 months we have also watched the methods by which democracy has been extinguished in the countries of South Eastern Europe one after the other. Those examples have provided us with warnings which could not possibly be ignored. At the same time the removal of a civil servant from his post because of his political views is, at any rate in peacetime a new feature in this country, and one which raises issues of considerable constitutional importance. The Prime Minister has promised to make a full statement in answer to the Debate today, and I hope he will do so. I hope he will also give us information on a number of points of considerable substance.
In the first place I would like to know what sort of directive is issued from him to the Government Departments in respect of the implementation of the statement he made the other day. Secondly, down to what level in the Civil Service are inquiries being instituted into the political associations with the Communist party of any suspect individual? Is it to be only in the Departments directly concerned with some aspect of security, or will it extend over a much wider field? Thirdly, we are particularly interested to hear from him what safeguards exist in order to avoid victimisation, because safeguards there must be in that direction. Fourthly, what facilities are given to any suspected individual to make any statement in his own defence? It is not sufficient that effective action should be taken, it is not sufficient that justice should be done, it is no less important that justice should seem to be done, so I hope we shall have some information on these points.
I think the House will agree with me that it is clearly desirable to avoid a kind of general witch-hunt in which anybody 3396 who had ever had any association with the Communist party in the past, however temporary, becomes automatically suspect. If I understand the position correctly from the right hon. Gentleman's previous statement, it is the Minister in charge of the Department who is responsible ultimately for making effective security arrangements in that Department. That may well involve embarrassment in certain quarters. Of course it was the party opposite which told everybody at the Election that only a Socialist Britain could really get on to friendly terms with the Communists. Then there were those who, in the past, felt tempted to embrace the hammer and sickle, who even put one arm into a shirt coloured red and a second arm into another shirt coloured black, and now—as far as the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food is concerned have discarded both garments and sit respectably attired on the Treasury Bench in a Government which, we are told, is the only effective alternative to dictatorship.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich) rose——
§ Mr. J. Paton
Will the hon. Member permit me to interrupt? He has made a charge against the Minister of Food, which has been made in this House before, and I want to say here and now that that charge is completely and absolutely without a shred of truth. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh, yes, the Minister of Food has never at any time in the whole course of his life had anything whatever to do with Fascism.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I have no doubt that the Prime Minister, when he comes to reply, if he thinks fit to do so—
§ Mr. Gibson (Kennington)
Is the hon. Gentleman insisting on pursuing a witch-hunt which he himself deplored?
If the hon. Member will look at HANSARD tomorrow he will find that I said that there were those who were tempted to embrace the hammer and sickle—
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
I was under the impression that for one reason or another the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Food certainly felt tempted—if I may use that phrase—
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
Again, there are others who sit on that side of the House who owe their seats in this House to the support of Transport House at the General Election, to receipt of the Socialist ticket but who, since their election to this House in 1945, have spoken and acted in a manner which is curiously parallel with the general line of propaganda from Radio Moscow. Will these hon. Gentlemen support the Government in the action they are now taking against those who more openly admit adherence to the Communist creed? And if they support the Government in that direction, is their support welcome or distasteful to the Government? The trouble really is that for a great many people in this country the dividing line between Socialism and Communism is not at all clear. The logical conclusion of Socialism is the transfer to the State of all means of production, all means of finance and all means of exchange. That is also the objective of Communism.
§ Mr. Mott-Radclyffe
That is precisely the conclusion of Communism as well and hitherto the only real difference has been the use by the latter of unconstitutional and violent means to achieve the same ends. Incidentally, nowhere is the dividing line between Communism and Socialism less clear than it is on the Continent of Europe. We all know that the coup in Czechoslovakia was facilitated by collaboration by a section of the Czech Socialist Party with the Communists; we know in other countries, now swallowed by the Communists, that the Socialists were in many instances the willing tools of the Communists in the early stages of infiltration. The public are greatly disturbed by these events, and we ask the Prime Minister, when he winds up the Debate, to assure us in the first place that adequate steps are being taken to ensure the security of the State and, secondly, that those steps will be in accordance with the principles of British justice. Thirdly, we hope he will make a clearer 3398 statement than he has made hitherto in relation to the dividing line between the respective long-term objectives of Socialism and Communism, and lastly, that such a statement will be implemented not merely by words, but by deeds as well.
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Like other hon. Members, I am sorry that there is not a full day for this Debate, but I want to take the opportunity of nailing a couple of lies and to issue a warning to the people of this country. Of course, we understand that, instigated by the multimillionaires of America—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who feed you?"]—there is a slander campaign against the Communists in this country, and everyone indulging in it pours out his venom against the Communists. In connection with this, it may be permissible and appropriate to quote from the Scripture. Paul the Apostle—hon. Gentlemen on the other side will have heard of him—
§ Mr. Gallacher
—speaking to the Corinthians, said:…we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.What he said to the Corinthians about the early Christians could have been said about the early pioneers of Labour in connection with the Tories and Liberals in this country, and the Prime Minister knows that. It is now a combination of Tories and Tory-dominated Labour leaders who are using the same low, vile slanders against the Communists.
This question of the Communists cannot be dissociated from the Economic Survey. Read paragraph 285. We are told that unless we get dollar aid, this country goes down. We are told that Britain is an economic cripple, and that unless it gets dollar crutches it is unable to stand on its own feet. I say it is a lie. There is not a word of truth in it. The people of this country have been through hardships of every kind, generation after generation. The workers of this country are not cripples, but are strong and resolute, and will show it in the years to come. But, so long as we are dependent on America, we cannot possibly get out of the crisis. Is it possible to balance our payments 3399 while we are dependent on America? It is utterly impossible. The only alternative to an ad verse balance is to exchange goods with the Dominions, with countries of Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union.
I make this firm declaration, and it will be made before the workers in every part of the country; the Communist Party fights for the complete independence and economic prosperity of this country, while the Tories and Labour leaders are selling this country to the big dollar boys of America.
§ Mr. Gallacher
There is a suggestion that not only are we disloyal, but that we take orders from another country. This is always brought up. There is not a word of truth in it. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Gallacher
Of course, those who make the charge never attempt to prove it. It is an axiom of law in this country that if a charge is made against anyone, the one who makes the charge has the responsibility for providing evidence to prove it. The Leader of the House time and time again at conferences made charges against the Communist Party, such as taking money and orders from abroad. When he was at the Home Office he had everything at his disposal. He could open letters, and knew what was going on. When he was at the Home Office the present Secretary of State for War repeatedly challenged him, asking, "Can you produce an iota of evidence to substantiate what you have been saying in the past?", but not an iota was produced.
I have to prove a negative, and perhaps hon. Members will bear with me if I take a peculiar, but, I think, a very effective way of proving the negative. The Bolshevik Revolution took place in November, 1917. Here is the OFFICIAL REPORT of the House of Commons for 3400 1916, Dr. Addison speaking. He says that the Clyde Workers Committee, of which I was Chairman, was pursuing…a policy of holding up the production of the most important munitions of war in the Clyde district, with the object, I am informed, of compelling the Government to repeal the Military Service Act…
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
May I ask if it has been considered whether these men are not guilty of assisting the King's enemies, and thereby guilty of high treason?
Yes, the whole matter is being considered."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1916; Vol. 81, c. 564–6.]
Will the Prime Minister tell me who I was taking orders from then? —From no one. But from whom was I getting advice and encouragement? From the Leader of the House. Here is something of the kind he was writing to encourage me, and other young lads:These are trying times for those of us who are capable of resisting the militarists chloroform. We must keep ourselves free from all this slaughter of workers by workers. We must not be ashamed to avow our innermost conviction. We must preserve our souls. Our internationalism must remain intact and untarnished.I supported that in 1915, and I support it today. What about the right hon. Gentleman? Not only was the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House supporting that then, but he, Snowden, MacDonald and the anti-war Socialists here in London sent their dear friend the late Bruce Glasier up to Glasgow to meet the Clyde Workers Committee. J. M. Messer was there, and Arthur McManus and Tom Clark. They are gone. But the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) was there, and I was there. Bruce Glasier begged us in their names, literally with tears in his eyes, to make a strike against conscription and save the young lads from being drawn into the Army. Can the right hon. Gentleman deny that?
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
Yes. Any assertion that I was personally associated with that particular effort is utterly untrue. I was not high enough up in the councils of the Labour and Socialist Movement at that time to be so involved. I had nothing whatever to do with the Clyde Workers Committee. I was against the first world war, bitterly against it, and stood against it, and I see no reason still for differing in my opinion about it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
But the right hon. Gentleman was the leader of the London group in opposition to the war. I know he was the leader of the London group, and I know for whom Bruce Glasier spoke, for he came up and told us who it was, lie represented—
§ Mr. Gallacher
No, not the I.L.P.—those who were against the war and conscientious objectors. We made a fight against conscription; the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs was deported, and I was put into gaol. I there met the Secretary of State for Scotland who, when he was of military age, had refused to give any service for his country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear. It is his country now, but then it was not his country, and so he refused to give military service. Hundreds of other lads went to gaol incited by the writings of the right hon. Gentleman, and encouraged by the writings of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman himself dodged the Army and then dodged the gaol by taking a job as a market gardener. What a record.
§ Mr. Nally (Bilston)
On a point of Order. Could I have your Ruling, Mr. Speaker? A charge has been made—in my view a serious charge—namely, that a right hon. Member of this House dodged—that was the word—military service when it was his obligation to accept it, and, having dodged gaol as a consequence of his act, took up some other service. Is that the kind of charge which can properly be made in this House?
§ Mr. Speaker
It seems to me that, while it may not be in the best of taste, it is not out of Order.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I do not think there is much good taste in connection with a letter which I got this morning. A young girl in a job was seen reading the "Daily Worker." Someone reported it. Those at the head of the business called her in and asked her if she was a member of the Communist Party. When she at once said "Yes," she was sacked on the spot. I am not concerned with good taste, but I am concerned very much with good working-class politics. Everything I have said is true.
3402 The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary was a delegate with me at the Leeds Conference in 1917 for the setting up of workers and soldiers councils in this country. Now he is in a state of nervous jitters because of the committees of action in Czechoslovakia. I give a warning to the Members of this House, to the miners and to the other people of the country: This is not a simple thing, the removal of a few Communists here and there. When the Communists were attacked in 1925 and the 12 Communist leaders were sent to goal, that was part of the preparations for the attack on the miners which followed at the beginning of the following year, and the miners went down after terrible sufferings. It is not without significance that we have a deplorable Economic Survey, an attack upon the Communists, and at the conference yesterday at the Central Hall, Mr. Sam Watson saying he would support, if necessary, a reduction of miners' wages.
I ask the Prime Minister, "Is this attack on the Communists, backed by a State department, connected with a demand from Marshall that wages in this country must come down?" Mr. Watson does not get that idea out of the air. He is a member of the executive of the Miners' Union and of the Labour Party, and he is also closely associated with the Minister of Fuel and Power. Whenever he comes to London he has consultations with Marshall's labour official at the American Embassy, Mr. Sam Berger. What advice does he get? What instructions do they give him? Do the miners ever get to know what takes place between him and the labour official of Marshall at the American Embassy?
§ Mr. Gallacher
They elected Sam Watson, but they often elect people who do not always represent their best interests. They elected Ramsay MacDonald, and when we said that Ramsay MacDonald was pursuing a policy which meant betrayal of the working class, the Leader of the House was white-washing MacDonald and presenting him as the greatest leader that this country had ever known. There is a warning which I must give to the people. This attack on the Communists cannot be disassociated from those who talk of war. The other day the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mrs. Jean Mann) 3403 asked the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) who was going to make atomic and bacteriological war on this country. She made a very good answer, to which this can be added: Every day in the Press of America there is talk of making an attack on Russia before the Russians can recover from the wounds of the last war. Is that correct? I ask the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman)—
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member is asking a question of me and, of course, I cannot say whether it was correct or not.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I said the hon, Member for East Coventry. Is it correct that American statesmen are continually suggesting that war should be made against Russia before Russia has recovered from the wounds of the last war? That is a foul, vicious and cowardly thought. It is typical of gangsterism, and big multimillionaires in America are typical gangsters. I ask the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House—the man who wanted to keep his conscience clean and his internationalism intact—are they now lined up with the Du Ponts, the Rockefellers, the Morgans and the Vandenbergs and all that follow them over here, preparing, as they are preparing, for an attack upon the working-class of Eastern Europe and the working-class of the Soviet Union? America is talking about bacteriological warfare—[An HON. MEMBER: "Russia is talking."] There has been never a mention anywhere of Russia making war on us or on any other country.
We are told that Russia is infiltrating. I was speaking at Manchester, with the editor of the "Daily Worker," on Sunday night. One hundred and two members of the audience filled in forms and joined the Communist Party. That shows how they feel about it. I ask the Prime Minister, the Leader of the House or any of the hon. Members on the other side, when too odd people join the Communist Party, if that is Stalin infiltrating into this country? When we put before people a real working-class policy, and show how this country can rise to its own feet without dollar aid, and how, if it gets rid of the Tories and the capitalist class the people can go forward in progress and prosperity—when people believe and 3404 accept that, is that Stalin infiltrating into this country?
America wants to make war against the Soviet Union and to use Britain as a forward base. Is that correct? We have had discussions in this House on the Air, the Army and the Navy Estimates, and we cannot disassociate them from attacks on the Communist Party. According to the military and naval experts in this House, we have to have dispersal; our war potential has to go to Canada or Australia, and the Government and the Royal Family to Ottawa, while the people are left to perish. By the time such a war finished, this country would be a mass of radio-active mud. Will the hon. Member for East Coventry or any of the others go to his constituents and say, "We are prepared to hand over Britain as a forward base for the American monopoly capitalists to attack Europe and Russia? The Communists fight against that, therefore, we must attack the Communists"?
They dare not tell the truth, so they talk about democracy. If they want to talk about democracy, let them talk to Marshall and his crowd. If Marshall wants to give relief, let him give it to the millions of Negroes and poor whites in America who have a lower standard of life than we have; if they want to talk about freedom let them talk about freedom for the millions in America who are not allowed to vote. Do not talk to me about democracy.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. With the greatest respect, we have insufficient time for this Debate. May I ask your advice for other hon. Members who wish to make a speech in this Debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am afraid that time is limited. I have been trying to cut speeches as short as possible. We have five minutes left now before the right hon. Gentleman is due to rise in his place.
§ Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. An hon. Member opposite who represents one of the universities was heard to say that it is a gross breach of privilege. May I draw attention to the fact that it was the hon. Member opposite, and his colleagues, who had two days to debate the university 3405 vote, while my hon. Friend on this side of the House cannot be given half an hour to debate—
§ Mr. Speaker
Is that intended to be a reflection on me for not allowing more time on this Debate? If so, that is a most improper remark.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask whether, in view of the fact that there are many points of view to be expressed in this Debate—I in particular wish to express a view from the public services—and the length of time taken up by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) in his historical references and diversions, it is possible to give us a little more time to debate this matter?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is quite impossible. After all, that would be taking away time from hon. Members who have been waiting here and have had the time allotted to them. It is perfectly true that I knew that an hour and a half was a short time for this Debate. Originally, I had put it down for the last hour and a half, so that there could be no question arising. But then I was asked to put it on earlier. Therefore 3.3o is the limit, and I am afraid must remain the limit.
§ Mr. Bowles (Nuneaton)
Further to that point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As I happen to be one of the Members who have the Adjournment, I am prepared to give up my half hour for the prolongation of this Debate.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
Further to that point of Order. Would not the wish of the House be met if the Leader of the House would take this opportunity to say that he would be prepared to reconsider his decision and give proper time for a Debate on this most important constitutional issue after Easter?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I would only say that, if it had not been for these interruptions, I would have finished by now. I must remark that my historical references are very important, although the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) will not understand them. They are to show that I have remained true to principle 3406 all the time. That is a strange idea, no doubt, to the hon. Member for Rugby, and he would not appreciate it.
I wish to warn the Members of this House, the workers of this country and the people of the country as a whole. We must break the American fetters before it is too late. We must build up this country and make it strong, resolute and independent, standing on its own feet, and not as an economic cripple. That can be done, but it can only be done—and I commend this to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House; it was inherent in their election campaign—not by attacking the Communists, but by attacking the Tories and the capitalist and the landlord classes. It can only be done by pursuing a Socialist policy, by building up a planned economy, based on that Socialist policy, which will give the people of this country peace and economic progress.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I am afraid that many of the things I would like to have said today have become impossible to say, because, for the last half hour we have discussed everything but the issue which is before the House and there will not be time. It would be very interesting to go into the biographies of members of the Labour Party and the trade unions. It would be very interesting to pursue all the historical references made by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). But however interesting it might be, it is not the subject we want to debate today. We want to debate today the statement made last Monday by the Prime Minister.
I heard that statement, as probably did many other hon. Members, with a mixture of profound sorrow and deep relief—sorrow that at this stage of English politics we have to introduce any kind of political discrimination in respect of employment in the public service, but relief because of the evidence that the Government were not going to allow the undermining and the destruction of democracy from within which we have witnessed in State after State in Eastern Europe during these last two years. I conclude that the Government are right in this matter. It is not they who distinguish against the Communists and Fascists. It is the Communists and Fasciscts who differentiate themselves from 3407 the rest of organised society by repudiating the very basis upon which that society rests.
I say that the Communist objective, defined in the Communist Manifesto, which is the Communist Bible, is "the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." The last paragraph of the Communist Manifesto shows that that is the declared Communist aim. Communist method consists in the penetration and infiltration into the existing organs of society, with a view to the overthrow of that society. And thirdly, Communist morality. Marx proclaimed—and anybody who feels the temptation to become a Communist should read Marx—that no morality can be accepted by any Communist unless it proceeds from a class basis. No morality is binding upon a Communist which does not proceed from a class basis, says Marx. I say the Communist objective, the Communist method, and the Communist morality make them dangerous to any existing society, and that society is entitled to take measures for its own defence.
May I add one word for the benefit of the hon. Members opposite. If they will look at this week's "Tribune," of which the distinguished editor is sitting opposite, they will find these words written by Mr. Gedge from Prague, and I commend them to every hon. Member of this House:No democratic Socialist who saw what happened here"—and Mr. Gedge was there—
§ Mr. Brown
No democratic Socialist who saw what happened here could characterise the decision to clear Communists out of confederated State employment as anything but an absolutely essential though unpleasant precaution.For that reason I was relieved at the statement of the Prime Minister, but I feel the apprehension and the fear that every Englishman feels of even the possibility of injustice being done in this connection. That. I think, is the view of people of this country. There are possibilities here—and it is to this point particularly that I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman—there are possibilities of spies and informers. There 3408 are possibilities of tale bearing and backchat and personal spite. There are possibilities of injustices, and we want all the guarantees we can get against those things.
Here I wish to say a thing with which not everyone will agree, especially the hon. Member for West Fife, because I am going to quote Trotsky. The raw material upon which the judgment will take place on this case will presumably be material gathered by the security services. The facts and information will presumably be gathered by the Security Service—M.I.5 or whatever it is called. Now, Trotsky once observed that the police mind, although extremely accurate, was often highly stupid. In matters of this kind it is not only the facts that must be looked at: it is the assessment of the facts against a background of political judgment, and against the capacity to estimate the character of the man with whom one is dealing. At one end of the scale we will get a man who, righteously indignant at some social wrong, gets up and, as the Americans say, "shoots his mouth off" about it, but who has no more intention of betraying his country or being disloyal to his employer, the State, than you or I or anyone else. But at the other end, we get the man who is prepared to sell State secrets to a foreign Power, who is prepared to pass copies of documents from Government offices to No. 16, King Street. I have in my hand a letter from a civil servant whom I have known since my youth. He writes to me because I am an old friend, and says:I was shocked to hear during the war of a lady temporarily in the Service who said to a colleague whom she thought was safe, 'I always take an extra carbon of anything that might interest the party.'I submit that at a time when things are critical, to say the least of it, we cannot have people wandering about taking carbon copies of confidential information and passing it on to the headquarters of any political party whatever. Therefore, I say that the assessment of the facts is even more important sometimes than the facts themselves.
Let us take another example. There are many organisations in England which experienced politicians know to be no more than Communist "front" organisations. There is the National Council for the Protection of Civil Liberties. The only liberty that that body ever seems to 3409 me to defend is the liberty of Communists to take other people's liberty away. There are all kinds of organisations with high-sounding titles, to which many quite innocent people are inadvertently attracted and only learn what they really are at a later point in time. Therefore, I say that it is not only the bare facts produced by the military intelligence that we have to look at, but also the assessment of those facts against a broad political background, and with some reference to the character of the person who is being dealt with.
Now, I ask myself what is the appropriate machine for dealing with these cases. On this, Sir, I do not want to be dogmatic, because there are two or three ways of achieving an object which I think all of us would like to achieve. For example, we had at an earlier stage a Committee which functioned, I think on the whole, very well, called the Political Honours Committee. I want to suggest a committee interposed between the individual whose conduct is in question and the point of final decision. I do not want an appeal tribunal because, if we had one, its results would have to be final, and if they were final, then the Minister responsible to the House could shelter behind the appeal tribunal, and effective Parliamentary control of the Minister would disappear. I want an advisory committee, active after the reports have been received, but operating before the Minister reaches judgment, and giving to the Minister, not merely the facts produced by the intelligence, but an assessment of what those facts mean in the light of the known record, the known character, of the individual concerned. If that happens, I think that there is very much less chance of this thing going wrong than would otherwise be the case.
There are one or two other things I want to say. We must try to secure uniformity of judgment on this matter. It would be a great tragedy, in my view, if the standard applied in one Department to one category of civil servants was different from the standard applied in another Department to another category of civil servants. Therefore, I want to urge that steps should be taken to correlate the judgments as between one Department and another before steps are taken to transfer or dismiss anybody.
3410 Another suggestion which the Prime Minister might like to consider is that it might be possible to have in each Department a committee of three or four "persons of standing." I use that phrase to convey the idea of highly responsible public servants whose judgment would be respected by their colleagues, and who would not be thought to have any interest whatever in doing anybody clown. It might be possible to comprise that committee from a panel nominated by the staff and official sides of the Whitley Council, which represents the Administration and the employees alike. However it is composed, the principle is more important—the principle of subjecting the facts to assessment before a decision is made.
The last thing I want to say is that I have had some contact with public servants in the last few days, and I would like to tell the House that, while I think that, within the accepted premises of democracy, it would not have been possible to get civil servants to agree to any kind of political discrimination at all, when these premises are rejected and we are dealing with new and largely alien-inspired influences in Britain, which openly proclaim that they intend to rend our society to pieces if they can, civil servants agree that then society is entitled to defend itself. While there is sorrow in the public service—deep sorrow, as my hon. colleague on the other side knows—that we have to do this kind of thing at all, there is also the firm determination that what happened in Czechoslovakia and other European countries shall not happen here because of the weakness and unwillingness of democracy to take the needful precautions.
§ Mr. Platts-Mills
Does the hon. Member suggest that he speaks for any of the members of his own union when he speaks in that fashion?
§ Mr. Brown
I think that shortly, if they have not done so already, the facts will demonstrate that I do speak for my union. I will not pursue that, because I would be committing the same error as the hon. Member before me, but I should be delighted to do so. Possibly, the newspapers will tell the hon. Gentleman in May that there is not a Communist left on the executive committee of my organisation. I say that, while the public service is sad about this, it recognises that 3411 the Government is right in laying it down that we ought not to employ in important positions in the public service people upon whose loyalty we cannot utterly rely.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Acland (Gravesend)
Yesterday I asked the Prime Minister a question on quite a small point relating to this whole business, namely, whether it would not be possible to guarantee the incomes of people dismissed under this procedure which we are now discussing. I have been asked by some of my hon. Friends in this House whether my idea is that we ought to mollycoddle Fascists and Communists. Not at all, though I think it is important that we should not be drawn further than we need be towards a position in which we are unable to defend ourselves except by saying that we are not doing to the Communists and Fascists anything half as bad as Communists and Fascists would do to us if they had the power. That is a poor defence; and there is therefore something to be said for treating these people well. But I am much more concerned with Social Democrats than with Communists or Fascists.
It is idle to deny that the subject we are discussing has brought a certain amount of real concern to the very best and most sensitive democratic Socialists up and down our country. The argument on our side is, of course, that the procedure proposed by the Government is not a victimisation of anybody. Nobody is prevented from expressing his opinion in speech or in writing; nobody is locked up in gaol; nobody is "bumped off," or "taken for a ride" by secret police. There is nothing of that kind; all that is done is that certain people whose attitude towards life has been well described by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) are not to be allowed to work in certain very small areas of the public service where the top secrets are known. That is all that happens.
People ask whether there can be a tribunal before whom they appear. I do not want to offer any comment on the kind of committee suggested by the hon. Member for Rugby, but I am sure he will agree with me that there cannot be a tribunal which passes a legal judgment through a legal proceeding, because it is always impossible to prove that any 3412 man is a Communist or a Fascist, particularly when he is very keen to disguise the true nature of his political opinions, and his resulting standards of morality and loyalty. Therefore, we cannot have a tribunal in the legal sense of the word.
Now the arguments brought against Social Democrats up and down the country where Communists are trying to chisel away support from this party are that we are depriving a man of his job, and that that is victimisation. These arguments take place in a part of our national life where victimisation, by depriving a man of his job, is something pretty well known, and which, if not a daily experience, is, at any rate, a matter of living memory. Therefore, I venture to suggest to the Prime Minister that the proposal I have made would not really cost much in money, and it would not do much harm even in giving what we might describe as "undesirable people" a little bit more rope. But it would, do enormous good, in depriving our opponents of a good arguing point against us, if it were made clear that anyone dismissed from the Service—I do not mean, of course, anyone who is moved from one branch of the Service to another; that is quite a different thing—without the chance of getting other Government employment, would not be deprived of his means of living. That would prevent those who are against us from making use of an argument which they are, in fact, making use of today.
§ Mr. Scollan
Is the hon. Gentleman asking the House to believe that the Government ought to pay the full salaries of those who are dismissed because they cannot be trusted? If that is the case, then everybody will claim to be Communists in the hope of getting their pay for nothing.
§ Sir R. Acland
I quite appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point, and if there were longer time, I would like to answer it, although I think he knows quite well that it is not really a valid argument.
I will conclude my remarks by putting forward one point which I would like the Prime Minister to consider. He must know that there is anxiety among his followers lest at some future time, under another Government, this same procedure, which I suppose will not now result in the dismissal of more than 20 or 30 3413 individuals at the outside—[An HON. MEMBER: "How does the hon. Gentleman know?"]—should be used in order to dismiss enormous numbers of Social Democrats. That is a very real anxiety throughout the party which the Prime Minister leads. If the Prime Minister will adopt the suggestion I have put to him, that those who are dismissed be safeguarded until such time as they find employment of a comparable nature, he will go a very long way towards dispelling that anxiety amongst the ranks of his own party.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) has performed a great public service in using the Adjournment to raise this subject. He has performed a further service in raising the matter in the form that he did. The issue here is so important that I hope a day will be granted to debate it properly. The issue is of importance to every democratic country throughout Europe. It is an issue which every country has been compelled to deal with, and different countries have dealt with it by different forms of legislation. In this country, we are introducing a political offence for the first time. The real problem is not the offence, because we can always deal with a man who commits an offence; the new problem is that, for the first time, democracy is confronted with a political attitude of mind. Democracy is confronted for the first time with the problem of someone preaching a democratic doctrine and holding himself out to be a democrat, but seeking by these means to worm under the foundations of the State. That is a completely new problem.
Tyranny has always been the same. There is a very interesting obituary in "The Times" today, which is worthy of consideration. It is the obituary of Professor Berdyaev, who started his career as a young Marxist. He was expelled from Czarist Russia for being a revolutionary, and very early after that he became the exact opposite, a Christian libertarian. He became one of the most distinguished Russian thinkers of the day, and his books are well known throughout the world. When he adopted the new point of view, he was appointed, by Lenin of all people, to the chair of philosophy in Moscow University; but the Bolsheviks expelled him, and he had to spend the 3414 rest of his life in Paris. There are two tyrannies, the tyranny of the Left and the tyranny of the Right, but both are exactly the same. The tragedy is that they compel free countries to act as tyrants and adopt the instrument of tyrants. In war it is quite clear that totalitarian countries seek to impose totalitarian methods upon the democracies. The democracies today are confronted for the first time with the problem of having totalitarian machinery and methods imposed on them in peace time.
§ Mr. Piratin
Will the hon. and learned Member say who forced the Government to introduce the present persecution and tyrannous policy in the Gold Coast?
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris
That is not relevant to the argument I am putting forward. One of the tragedies is this, and I hope that it will not be thought that I am using the word in a party sense; it is the decline of liberal thought and outlook in Europe. There has been a marked deterioration in tolerance of opinion and thought in every country alike, and it has been forced upon those countries today which cherish tolerance of opinion 'and thought.
That is the problem for solution—how to proclaim a new instrument to meet that situation. What instrument is to be used to meet that situation? We are asked to hand this power over to the Government—and whether the Government scheme is a good one or a bad one, I am not arguing at the moment—and to hand power over to the Executive without even discussion in this House, except on the Adjournment. Is not this a question for the country? It is important that this subject should be debated in the country, and that the people should discuss what the executive is to operate, for if we wish to make democracy safe and to make democracy work, we can do so only by making it enlightened. It can only be free if it knows what it wants to be free about. Is there a better means of achieving that purpose than by open discussion in this House as to what instrument we are to create and use?
Let there be discussions; let us not allow power to be handed to the Executive without discussion, however impartially and however well they may execute it. It is not a power which should be handed over without Parliament and the country 3415 knowing what they are doing. That is the plea I make first and foremost. I am not going to discuss the issue, which is a big one, involving the Statutes of different countries, and I do not wish to take up too much time and to deprive others of the opportunity of speaking. I am pleading with the Government that, in the interests of the democracy of this country and of the traditions of this House, there should be ample opportunity for free discussion of the problem.
§ 3.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
I intervene only for a very few minutes and for one purpose. The attendance which we see around us now, at such a time and on such a day, and the number of people who have risen to their feet as soon as any speaker has sat down, shows the great interest and importance attached to this subject on all sides of the House. When the question of time for Debate was raised last Thursday, the Lord President of the Council seemed to think that a demand or a request for time for a Debate indicated hostility to the actions of the Government. I only want to make quite plain that it is perfectly possible and indeed, in the case of my hon. Friends and myself, it is the fact, that one can support, and support strongly, the action of the Government and yet feel it is a subject which should be fully ventilated in Debate in this House.
The action—the generous action if I may say so—of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles) has enabled three more speakers to participate; but I cannot feel, that that will finally satisfy either this House or the country to whom we are responsible. It is because I feel—and I feel it all the more strongly as a result of the Debate this afternoon—that more time may be required, that I wish to have on record the attitude of my right hon. and hon. Friends and of myself in order that there may be no room for misunderstanding or misrepresentation.
When the Prime Minister made his statement, I said at the time that I considered the proposed action of the Government to be a wise precaution. That, I think, is the view of all of us on these benches. We do not—we must not—feel alarmed, but at the same time nobody in the situation in which we live can afford not to be a realist. We cannot imagine 3416 that any Government worthy of the trust of this country or any Minister really fulfilling his responsibility to this House, could afford at this moment to allow people of whose trustworthiness he himself was not convinced, to have access to information which might be of vital consequence to the people of this country.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not the case that at the General Election the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House made it absolutely clear that the people they did not trust were the Tories, with never a word about the proletariat?
§ Mr. Stanley
I have said a good deal in the past, and I shall say a good deal in the future, about the difference between what was said to the people by the party opposite at the General Election and what they have done to the people since the General Election; but this is not the moment for that, and I shall not be led off by that kind of interjection on a matter which, frankly, I consider of immense importance, and which cuts right across purely party differences in this House.
We support the action that the Government have taken, but we cannot be blind —no one in this House can be—to the difficulties and dangers which may be created. I do not often agree—perhaps I never shall again—with the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), but I do agree with him when he says that a great many of the descriptions applied to the proposed action of the Government are not only exaggerations, but grotesque exaggerations. The life, the liberty and the property of the individual are not involved; in a vast number of cases it may merely involve the transference of a man from one job to another within the same service; and even in the minority of cases where no alternative employment can be found in the Government Service, no obstacles are placed in the way of his earning a living outside the Government Service. Therefore, do let us avoid some of the exaggerations I have heard. Even so, we cannot deny that this does involve some interference by the Government with the individual, on the ground of his political opinion. And, justified as it may be, essential as it may be, we all desire to see that every possible safeguard is introduced to ensure that this right, so novel in peacetime, should not be ill-used, unwisely used, or unfairly used.
3417 Although we on this side of the House support the Government, we feel keenly upon the question of possible safeguards. I myself—and I think my hon. Friends will agree with me—cannot see that, if this measure is to be effective, it is possible to have any safeguards which detract from the ultimate authority and responsibility of the Minister concerned. He is responsible to this House of Commons for the maintenance of the secrecy and security of his Department; he has to answer to us for any default in that, his duty; and I do not see how he could be made answerable to us if, in fact, his decision were to be over-ridden by the decision of some outside body, or some other individual not responsible to this House or to the Government of the day. Therefore, I would not agree with any proposed tribunal, or individual, which sought to take authority from the Minister concerned. Apart from that, I can see many ways—and some have been suggested this afternoon—by which individuals, or committees if you like, may not fetter the Minister, but could advise and assist him. It is because we want to explore the possibility of that kind of assistance, and 'because we want to know the extent of the field to be covered, that we who in this matter support the Government desire the most ample time for a Debate.
Finally, I say to the Prime Minister: I cannot help feeling that, even though his statement may, as I hope, on many of these points meet our demands, so long as there is an unsatisfied desire for debate of this matter among Members of this House, so long may there be a rankling feeling of opposition. Here is a case where I believe that the Government are absolutely secure in their answer. They are absolutely right in what they are doing and they therefore have no reason to fear the amplest debate in this House.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
The fact that we are having this Debate and the fact of the things that have been expressed show how strongly we stand in this country for the rights of conscience and the rights of freedom of expression. I made the statement, not because I was seeking to be given more rights for the Government—those rights already exist—but in order that there might be no con- 3418 cealment in the matter. We have nothing whatever to conceal.
In this Debate we have had some extremely reasonable speeches, such as those from the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), from the hon. Member who opened the Debate and from the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). I was rather sorry that the Debate went off on a political line. The hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) obviously led the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) right away into the wilderness. I am not going to comment upon the speech of the hon. Member for West Fife. It consisted of violent attacks of all kinds, and the usual Communist statements alleging that everything the Government have done was done at the orders of American millionaires, and all the rest of it. He was very careful not to deal with the real issue and the real fact of Communist infiltration. In fact, as in all these matters, the Communist patter is very much the same. One always knows what the Communists' line is going to be, because they always denounce someone else for doing what they themselves are going to do. In the same way, when we have all this talk of aggression and pressure, one knows that it is the ordinary sort of dust storm that is kicked up by Communists.
Today we are considering a matter of very high importance, and that is our Civil Service. Our Civil Service has a very high tradition, unequalled in the whole world. In our attitude towards our Civil Service we have always taken the line that we take today: the civil servant may hold any political views that he likes. How happy they would be in Eastern Europe if their civil servants could do the same. We always demand from our civil servants a loyalty to the State, and that they should serve the Government of the day, whatever its political colour. That undertaking is carried out with exemplary loyalty. Any departure from this system would mean that adoption of a spoils system, and would destroy our Civil Service. That loyalty is the basis of our system. No one should enter that Service unless he is prepared to be loyal.
The civil servant holds office at the pleasure of the Crown. He can he dismissed. There is no remedy at law if he is dismissed if his conduct and efficiency do not come up to standard. Further, he has no right to occupy a particular 3419 office and to be in a particular Department. Even promotion does not come of right. A man can be transferred from any part of the Civil Service. I put those facts because we might as well be clear what the facts are. Dismissal means forfeiture of pension rights. Pension rights in the Civil Service are not on a contributory basis. They are acquired after a certain amount of service. If someone is dismissed or leaves the Service before those rights have accrued, he has no remedy. There are certain exceptional cases where some technicians who have already come under a university scheme carry on with the university scheme in the Civil Service, but the general rule is as I have stated. I cannot for a moment accept the rather naive suggestion of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) that we should somehow or other guarantee a life pension to everyone as a reward for being a Communist.
Let us look at the matter broadly, because the reliability of the members of the Civil Service and their position extends over the whole field of the Civil Service. Naturally in promotions and postings responsible officers always have to consider whether a man is fit for the job. For instance, if someone is to be put in a place where a very high measure of discretion is needed, they would not appoint someone who was known to be a talker and could not keep secrets. He would be employed somewhere else. The man in charge of the Department is responsible, and obviously he would not employ a talker. In the same way, a person may he dismissed for various reasons. Dealing with the point made by the hon. Member for Gravesend, suppose a man is dismissed because he has become a hopeless drunkard. I do not say that he is either more or less entitled to a perpetual pension than someone who has become a Communist. The only reason for the dismissal is that the man cannot do the job.
Why do we have to make the present announcement? It is because of the existence of people in this country who hold a different loyalty from that of the majority of the citizens of this country and from those who enter the Civil Service. They fall into two groups.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Member for West Fife has made my point. What he chooses to call "working class" generally appears to us to be an alien bureaucracy. The fact is that these parties are undemocratic and do not accept the obligations of loyalty, and, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Rugby, they do not accept the ordinary morality that enables us to deal with each other in our ordinary business in the world—
§ The Prime Minister
As a matter of fact, these things are confessed by the more honest type of Communist. If we ask him, he will tell us that his loyalty is not to this country but that he has an outside loyalty. He is quite frank and honest about it. Well, he can hold that view, but it inhibits him from serving loyally in the Civil Service in this country.
We cannot escape the impact of events that are happening all over the world—the overthrowing of democratic institutions one way or another, by force, by fraud and by infiltration. We can watch the pattern of Communist methods all over the world. We have seen one country after another going down under them. We have the very vivid illustration of the Canadian case. I entirely agree with the hon. Member who said that it deserves careful reading. I thought that it had been given a pretty fair amount of publicity, but I will look and see if it should be given any more, because it is extremely interesting. We can trace in that both the Communist and the "fellow-traveller" and also the innocent person who is brought, in the expressive language of the report of the Russian secret service agent, "into the net." He is gradually dragged in, a little way first of all, until he is too hopelessly enmeshed and his loyalty is undermined. We have, therefore, to look at this attacking from within, and it is the duty of any Government to take action.
In addition to all these classes of pro-fessed Fascists and Communists, there are also the crypto-Communists. The question was asked whether we could have a list of the bands or organisations, but any one who has had experience of Communist activities over a number of years will know the number of disguises in which Communists appear, with a litter of 3421 "Friends" of various countries—that is the general title. Therefore, one cannot lay down something quite as simply as that.
There must be secrets of Government, particularly in relation to defence, but there are other secrets as well, and as long as we are in a world where there is a possibility of war, we must have defences, and those secrets must be preserved. Therefore, we have to look very closely to see if we are sufficiently guarded in these matters. However, whatever policy is adopted must be wisely administered and, as an hon. and gallant Member opposite said, moderately administered. Let me say that there is no truth in a rumour which has been going round that every policeman has been asked his political opinions. That is the kind of story which is put out. I agree, too, that there should be no general purge, no general witch hunt. Therefore, we need an extremely clear directive, and that very clear directive will be given.
§ The Prime Minister
I will consider that. I do not think that as a general rule one publishes these directives. I doubt it, but I will look into the matter. There is no action being taken against opinion. Anyone can hold any opinions as such, but where those opinions have brought people into close connection with or membership of organisations, and it is known that that leads to subversive action, then one has to deal with it. It is limited to excluding from secret work those who cannot be trusted. I should have thought that the hon. Member for West Fife would have been astounded at the moderation of this decision, which proposes to keep Communists in the State service except in a very limited number of posts. I hope he will send a full account of these statements to other countries with which he is in sympathy.
I think myself there is a prima facie case against members of Communist and Fascist organisations that they have a divided loyalty which is far more difficult in the cases where the person is not actually a member, and, therefore, the very greatest care must be taken. I must stress that we want the very greatest, care. The hon. Member for Rugby 3422 pointed out that one cannot act on statements of fact; they have to be assessed very carefully. One has to see that people have a wide enough knowledge. For instance, the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Birch) had not quite enough knowledge; if he had had a little more knowledge, he would not have suggested that I made the Communist salute in Spain, because that salute was common to all the Republicans, whether Catholics or Communists or anybody else, at that time. That shows how necessary it is to have statements of fact assessed by people with knowledge.
In a great many of these cases that come up there is no question of dismissal. Wherever the individual can be used usefully in other Departments, he will be so used, but there may be certain cases of technicians who cannot be employed anywhere else. In such cases there is no option but dismissal. The procedure must be fair to the individual. It must be fair to the State. Equally, it must be fair to other civil servants. That is a point worth bearing in mind. If there are people engaged in secret work, it is extremely difficult for them to work if there are other people with whom they have to work in a team whom they cannot trust; therefore, they are entitled to know that the people with whom they are to work can be trusted.
In regard to information, there are the security authorities. It is easy to raise prejudice against them, and I quite agree that we must have the greatest care, and I am perfectly well aware, as is everyone, that there have been cases of extreme stupidity in the past. I hope and believe we have reformed that a good deal, but they deal with difficult and responsible work, and I know that members of that service would welcome there being every possible safeguard. Remember, the security services are not the judges in this matter. They are not the deciding factor. They provide information; they may advise in regard to something, but the actual decision must be taken by the responsible Minister.
Suppose there is a case in which there is room to suspect disloyalty. The first thing to be done is to see that the civil servant concerned is informed. He should not be merely informed that he is suspected, but should be given, as far as possible, chapter and verse, saying, 3423 "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 perfectly clearly. Secondly, he must be given the opportunity of studying that case, and then given the opportunity of putting in his reply, and also of making his reply. That then goes before the Departmental head, who must consider whether it is a matter in which action must be taken. He must then go to the Minister, and, whatever we think of Ministers, they have a pretty fair knowledge of psychology, as they have been in this House for some time. They will have a broad view; we have to take a broad view of these things. They will look at the whole of the evidence and consider whether or not there is a prima facie case for transferring this man on these grounds or, it may be, even for dismissing him.
Then we want something beyond the Minister to assist him. We are, therefore, proposing a further safeguard. We are setting up an advisory body of three retired civil servants. I hope to give the names some time, and I am quite sure they will be names which will inspire confidence in the Civil Service. If the Minister considers there is a prima facie case, he will send the whole of the evidence before this body. Before this body the person concerned will be able to appear and make his case. He will also be able to ask other people to speak for him. The whole of this will be sifted very carefully, wherever the information comes from, by this advisory body; and the advisory body will then send their advice to the Minister. The Minister will then have to decide on the whole of the case as to whether he takes their advice, or rejects their advice, or what action he proposes to take. That, I think, gives the opportunity people ought to have of stating their case. It is quite impossible —and everyone will realise that it is—that we should give in detail exactly the sources of information. If we do that, we destroy anything like an effective security service. But it is our intention to do this with the greatest possible tenderness for the individual, consistent with the security of the community and, as I have said, the security of the fellow members of the Civil Service.
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
I hope that this procedure, 3424 unless the individual in question desires otherwise, will be kept absolutely secret, so that the system may have the great advantage that no public stigma of any kind will be attached to any individual removed or dismissed, because, after all, he is not subject to a judicial process.
§ The Prime Minister
Exactly. One does not want to damnify the people. That is why we have to watch this very carefully.
A further point made from the other side was that we ought to try to get uniformity of practice. I think the fact that this comes before this advisory body will build up uniformity of practice as between different Departments, which will be of the greatest value. I do not think that there is going to be anything like a great number of dismissals. There will be some, and they will be dismissals of persons who are perfectly honest and fanatical in their belief in Communism. I am not passing moral judgment on them. I say that, owing to the fact that they have a different loyalty, they cannot serve the State. In the majority of instances, all that will be necessary will be a transfer to another Department. There, again, it is a matter between the individual and the Department—and let me stress that this is not something new. Obviously, in the running of a great State, consideration has to be given to the suitability of a particular individual for this post or that post.
As this matter has come up, I thought it fair to make a general statement to the House and to the country; otherwise it might come up over the case of some individual, and it might act hardly against the individual Minister. I am bound to say that we are living in very anxious times, and we do know the way this kind of method is pursued by the Communists. It is not for me to say whether we should have a further Debate on that. That is a matter that can be considered through the usual channels. The Government have shown that they have nothing to hide in this matter. They want the whole thing fully discussed. I think that we should discuss it as a very difficult problem of Government. I deplore the fact that we have moved into an age in which there are these subversive parties. They are the enemies of democracy and free speech, and if they creep into the Civil 3425 Service, they are the enemies of the freedom of the Civil Service and the Government Service I am not going to deal with the irrelevancies put forward by the hon. Member for West Fife. He can accuse me of many things, but he can never accuse me of approving of the Communist Party.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
The procedure which the Prime Minister has outlined to the House, and which, in my judgment, is very good and right, entirely falls under the umbrella of the Civil Service. There is a different aspect of this question. If there is a number of dismissals, there may be Press reports and Questions asked in Parliament. Is there any provision in the procedure which the right hon. Gentleman intends to adopt for a report to the House of Commons and to the public as to the administration?
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think that ought to be done. I do not want to have these things dragged out. I think that in some cases where a man is to be dismissed, he can be given the option of resigning. One does not want to hinder people getting other posts or anything, and I think that if we had publication of the whole thing, it would cause far more disturbance than anything else.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich)
May I ask the Prime Minister one question with regard to the advisory body? Would it be possible to report the terms of reference to the House, so that it may be on the records, and so that it cannot be enlarged at any future time under another Government without the knowledge of the House?
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think there is any point in that, because the reference is simply to advise the Minister. But I will look into that point.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown
I wish to thank the Prime Minister for his statement, but I would like to ask whether it would be within the competence of the proposed advisory body of retired civil servants to send, not only for the papers that would be supplied, but also for the man himself?
§ Sir Waldron Smithers (Orpington)
Would the Prime Minister consider bearing in mind for future consideration the question of a Secret Session of this House?
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
May I ask whether it will be obligatory on the Minister to disclose whether his final decision is in conformity with the advice of the tribunal or against it, because that would be a very valuable check in itself? Also, is it still true that this will affect Fascists as well as Communists, because to the best of my recollection I do not think the Prime Minister has mentioned Fascists throughout his speech.
§ The Prime Minister
The hon. Member is mistaken, I mentioned Fascists several times. It would be quite wrong to disclose whether the decision of the Minister conforms with the advice of the tribunal. That would be setting up the tribunal, as a final authority, and the point is that the Minister must be responsible. He is responsible whether he takes the advice or not.