Oral Answers to Questions — Security Services

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th May 1963.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton 12:00 am, 16th May 1963

asked the Prime Minister if he will take the necessary steps to safeguard the British security services from interference, following the recent attempt to disrupt their communications.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the security arrangements for intelligence services in view of the disruption caused by telephone calls and unauthorised entry into some of their offices; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the blocking of telephone lines at Intelligence headquarters and the unauthorised entry of people into these offices.

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I am glad to say that reports on this subject have been much exaggerated. Nevertheless, I very much deplore, as I am sure will all responsible people, any attempt, however unsuccessful it may be, to hamper and impede the important and necessary work of our security services. Steps have been taken to minimise the effectiveness of any such attempts.

Photo of Mr Arthur Henderson Mr Arthur Henderson , Rowley Regis and Tipton

Can the Prime Minister say, from the information available to him, whether these represent interferences on the part of irresponsible people, as against a serious campaign of subversion and espionage?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

I do not think that they are very serious. I have been given the information that at the beginning of this month an anonymous caller telephoned one of the buildings used by the security services on about eight occasions. The duration of each call was a few seconds only. The calls were either abusive or obscene. On another occasion there was the story of a reporter who declined to give his name and called at the address and who asked for an interview. These calls were on matters of that order of significance. They were a nuisance rather than a danger.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Can the Prime Minister assist the House by telling hon. Members whether these headquarters are of importance or not? If they are not of importance, one could understand that these calls do not matter. But after the recent revelations about what goes on in the security services of the country I do not think that we ought to be complacent about this. If these headquarters are of importance, should not the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he is taking effective steps to keep the numbers secret so that even obscene callers do not interfere with the work there?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

With regard to the second part of what worries the right hon. Gentleman, I will give the most specific assurance. With regard to the first part, it may perhaps be found possible to get over the difficulty by changing the numbers.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

The Prime Minister has said that these reports are exaggerated. Can he tell the House whether it is or is not true that, according to the Guardian, there was an occasion on which the whole of the 40 telephone lines of Military Intelligence were blocked for eight hours, with the result that they could not take incoming or outgoing calls? Will the Prime Minister say whether this happened or not, and, secondly, whether any steps have been taken to prevent that happening in future?

Photo of Mr Harold Macmillan Mr Harold Macmillan , Bromley

What did happen was that over a period of about one and a half hours on eight occasions these calls to which I have just referred were made.