asked the Secretary of State for War whether the official statements made by Colonel Ambrose Keevil, Commander. Mid and East Surrey Home Guard Sector, to the effect that there would be a very severe screening of all men who apply to join the Home Guard, were made with his knowledge and consent; and how the checking and screening will be carried out.
There is no intention of carrying out any special procedure in respect of candidates for enrolment in the Home Guard. The records of certain Home Guard officers and men who may in the course of their duties have access to secret documents or plans will be checked: this conforms with the present procedure in the Services. I had no prior knowledge of Colonel Keevil's statement.
I cannot, of course, in any way prevent, nor would I wish to, local commanders from discussing matters with the Press. At the same time, obviously I cannot be responsible for everything that such officers may say.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the country will be relieved to hear that severe screening is not taking place as it is in the case of the National Union of Railwaymen?
Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that he disclaims responsibility for the calling of Press conferences on matters affecting the War Office and organisations pertaining to the War Office by officers in the Home Guard?
I in no way disclaimed responsibility. What I said was that I cannot possibly know on every occasion when such conferences are called. In my opinion it is a good thing if officers responsible for organisations of this type keep in touch with the Press, but I cannot possibly have pre-knowledge of what they will say.
Is the right hon. Gentleman sure that when Colonel Keevil called this conference he was calling it in his capacity as a Home Guard commander and not in his capacity as President of the East Surrey Conservative Association?
If the hon. Gentleman is insinuating that this is some Tory appointment, let me say that in actual fact Colonel Keevil was earmarked for this post on 3rd September last. I am satisfied that he called the conference entirely in his capacity as Sector Commander of the Home Guard.