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?
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 it not encouraging to find that someone at least realises the danger of Communist infiltration and is prepared to fight it?
Can my right hon. Friend say if there is any objection to officers taking steps to see that they do not serve with disloyal people under their command?