asked the Secretary of State for War why an official allegation has been made that the Official Secrets Act has been contravened in consequence of the receipt by the Civil Service Clerical Association of information as to the staggering of hours of certain civilian staffs in his Department; what action is to be taken against the official responsible for this information, as such information is constantly passed to recognised staff associations by their Departmental representatives and is devoid of security information which could be of use to the enemy and such action makes it difficult for recognised staff associations effectively to discharge their trade union functions.
I think the hon. Member has misunderstood the position. There is no intention whatever of interfering with the right of staff associations to discharge their trade union functions. The question is simply whether a Government employee is entitled, without authority, to send his association a copy of, or to communicate the contents of, documents and letters to which he has had access in the course of his official duties. To this question, whatever the documents involved, the answer must be "No." The ultimate sanction for the current War Office instructions on this matter is, of course, the Official Secrets Acts, but in the type of case which this appears to be there is not, and never has been, any intention of asking for a prosecution under those Acts. The case will be investigated and dealt with as an ordinary matter of office discipline.
Is not the Minister aware that it is common practice in Government Departments to deal with matters affecting staff conditions and conditions of work, in documents which are, technically and officially, secret, and that if the individual is not at liberty to communicate the substance of them to his union, and his union is not free to act on that information when they get it, it constitutes an effective estoppel on action? If he wants to take effective action—
The hon. Gentleman has made more of a long and connected argument than a supplementary question. He cannot expect a reply to that. It would be too long. If he had put his question more shortly he would have got a reply.