This is a debate without precedent in the annals of this House. It arises from disclosures which have shocked the moral conscience of the nation. There is the clear evidence of a sordid underworld network, the extent of which cannot yet be measured and which we cannot debate today because of proceedings elsewhere.
I believe that the feelings that have been aroused throughout the nation axe similarly echoed in this House and that there are many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who are as sick at heart by what has been disclosed as those on this side of the House. There is the personal and family tragedy of a man lately our colleague here. However much we condemn him—and we must condemn him—that is not the issue today.
What concerns us directly is that the former Secretary of State for War, faced with rumours and innuendoes that could not be ignored, chose deliberately to lie to this House, and in circumstances in which this House allows freedom of personal statement without question or debate on the premise that what is said is said in good faith.
What does concern us, too, is the question whether any other Minister in any sense connived at this action through foreknowledge or, being in a position to ascertain the truth, failed to take the steps that were necessary to fulfil the duty that he owed to the House.
What concerns us, also, is whether a man in a position of high trust, privy to the most secret information available to a Government, through a continuing association with this squalid network, imperilled our national security or created conditions in which a continuing risk to our security was allowed to remain.
We are not here as a court of morals, though the nation as a whole cannot escape the responsibility so to act. But questions affecting national security, questions affecting the duty of Ministers to this House, must be pressed and probed today, and this debate, in one form or another, must continue until the truth is known so far as it can ever be known.
Much has been known to hon. Members and to the Press for many months. Many of us have witnessed the ceaseless interweaving of innuendo and rumour. We on this side of the House knew what was being said. I feel that I must begin by recounting to the House the facts about the information which reached us, the conception we held of the duty of an Opposition in such matters, and the action we took. We did not canvass or propagate rumours about personal conduct, but where security questions were raised, and, later, where there was a question of the inaccuracy of statements made in this House, we felt that we had a clear duty, and any other Opposition would have had that same duty.
Already, in February, the rumours to which I have referred were so pervasive, so widely canvassed in the Press, that there was a danger of a widespread cynicism developing about our public life, about our Government, about this House, none the less damaging for the inability of the Press, through fear of libel action, to publish those facts. Moreover, the legal inhibitions which function here to prevent publication do not operate abroad, and already, months ago, salacious and damaging stories were appearing in overseas publications.
I say quite frankly to the House that, rightly or wrongly, we did everything in our power to prevent this becoming a matter of public discussion or a matter for party controversy. Many of my hon. Friends will confirm that we did all in our power to dissuade them from tabling Questions or, in some cases, to persuade them, in more than one case pretty roughly, to withdraw Questions which were already on the Order Paper.
Then, on 21st March, the question was raised in the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. This was, of course, followed by the meeting of the Secretary of State for War with five Ministers and then by the Secretary of State's personal statement made in the House that Friday morning with the full and public support of the entire Government, including the Prime Minister.
The following Monday—and I must recount in full what happened—my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was invited by the B.B.C. to appear on "Panorama". In that programme he said, quite flatly, that in his view both Ivanov, the Soviet naval attaché, and Ward were security risks. This statement provoked Ward the next day into telephoning the House and leaving a message for my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley to ring him. My hon. Friend arranged for that telephone conversation to be monitored. During the course of the talk, Ward asked my hon. Friend if he could come and meet him at the House. So they met in the evening at the House. The meeting was, in fact, witnessed, and my hon. Friend later prepared a full memorandum of what Ward had said.
During the course of the talk Ward mentioned that he had once written to me and had a reply. On my files being searched, I found that he had written to me last November, as had hundreds of others, during the time of the Cuba crisis. His letter purported to describe a high-level interview with the Foreign Office aimed, in what I think was the most crucial 24-hour period, at changing Britain's Cuba policy on the basis of an independent initiative by Her Majesty's Government.
In the letter, Ward said that he knew about this, and he gave very full and circumstantial details about the approach to the Foreign Office and what happened after it arrived. He said that he knew about it.
…because I was the intermediary…
on behalf of the Soviet Embassy. I do not think that up to that moment anyone suspected that the Ward mentioned by the former Secretary of State as the chief witness, as it were, in his statement, was, in fact, a self-confessed Soviet intermediary.
I will not trouble the House with the full text of this letter, because the facts of this particular case have come out in the Press during the last few days—the initiative by Ivanov, the activities of Ward, the approach via Lord Astor and then Lord Arran to the Foreign Secretary, and the turn-down of the proposal.
At the time I received the letter, I did not think it to be of any account. All of us are used at times of crisis to hearing from individuals who claim, or have claimed, to save the peace of the world. I thought that it was one of those letters and it received an appropriate reply. But now, of course, it had to be reread in the light of the former Secretary of State's reference to his friendship with Ward.
I thought it my duty to bring it immediately to the attention of the Prime Minister, who might not know that this Secretary of State for War was associat- ing with a self-confessed Soviet intermediary. I did not mention the letter or the action I took on it either to the Press or even to my colleagues.
By this time I had received from my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley a note about his very long conversation with Ward. I shall not weary the House with this. It is a nauseating document, taking the lid off a corner of the London underworld of vice, dope, marijuana, blackmail and counter-blackmail, violence, petty crime, together with references to Mr. Profumo and the Soviet attaché. Quite frankly, I felt when I read it that if it were published as a fiction paperback in America hon. Members would have thrown it away, not only for what it contained, but as being overdrawn and beyond belief even as credible fiction.
As I was myself going to Washington I asked my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Newport (Sir F. Soskice), as a former Attorney-General, to examine the document and, if necessary, question my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley to see if, prima facie, it should be sent to the Prime Minister. When I got back from Washington some days later my right hon. and learned Friend reported that it should certainly be sent to the Prime Minister and it was duly transmitted to the right hon. Gentleman through the respective Chief Whips.
Again, knowledge of this was kept to the four of us concerned on this side of the House, and not a word reached the Press then or subsequently until the most recent events. I think that the House must realise this: one word from us on this side in this House and we should have released an explosion as great as we have seen in the last fortnight. But we decided that, although the documents in our possession were, in a sense, dynamite, and would have touched off such an explosion, it was our duty, as a responsible Opposition, to hand over all this information to the Prime Minister, who has first responsibility for security, and not to make public use of them.
The implication of this was, of course, that the Prime Minister would handle his side of the matter with a corresponding sense of responsibility. He replied to me on 17th April. I have wondered whether I should quote these letters, but I think that it is all right because, indeed, some have already been printed in the public Press. I do not complain, because this matter is one of public concern, and I know that the Prime Minister does not object to my quoting from them. Not all of them, in any case, were marked confidential.
The right hon. Gentleman wrote:
My Chief Whip has given to me the letter and enclosure from you dated April 9 and dealing with George Wigg's conversation with a Mr. Stephen Ward.
I will ask the appropriate authorities to have an examination made of this information and will get in touch with you later on if this seems necessary.
I think that the House will note a somewhat casual approach to a very serious allegation. Above all, there is the reference to "a" Mr. Stephen Ward, as though Ward were an unknown person. After all, five Ministers had spent half the night just before that with the then Secretary of State and Ward had been quoted as the chief witness to them of the respectability of the Secretary of State's proceedings. Yet we have this reference to "a" Mr. Stephen Ward, as though he were an unknown person in whom neither the Government nor the security services could take any possible interest.
This one word—indeed, the letter as a whole—was symptomatic of the indolent nonchalance of the Prime Minister's attitude to this: the attitude of "what has this to do with me?" That is an attitude which we have seen since, as well. Some weeks later, having heard nothing from him, I tried again, and on 14th May he wrote to me:
There seems to be nothing in the papers you sent which requires me to take any action.
Nine days later, on 23rd May, I received a further letter from Ward, who wrote also to the Home Secretary complaining of police inquiries directed towards his patients and saying that, because of these inquiries, he now felt it no longer necessary to conceal the fact that Mr. Profumo had lied to the House. I immediately sent this letter, also, to the Prime Minister and learnt, at the same time, that Ward had sent a summary of the letter he sent to the Home Secretary to the entire British Press. From this moment it was a matter of common knowledge, though even so, for the reasons I have mentioned, the Press did not publish that summary.
The following Monday I asked to see the Prime Minister to discuss not this letter from Ward, but the right hon. Gentleman's own letter of 14th May, in which he said that no further action would be taken on the original material. The right hon. Gentleman and I were accompanied at this conversation by the Patronage Secretary and by the Opposition Chief Whip. The right hon. Gentleman maintained the attitude expressed in his letter. Nor did Ward's letter to the Home Secretary seem to make any impression on him in this respect. I say frankly to the House that I was completely dissatisfied with the reply I had from the Prime Minister and with the position and I drew a very sharp contrast with the Prime Minister I had served under, Earl Attlee.
I told the Prime Minister that John Belcher had been crucified, his career broken, for no other crime than his unwise choice of social contacts, though at no time in the case had there been any suggestion of any risk or breach of security. I told the Prime Minister that on that occasion Lord Attlee sent for the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Jowitt, late at night for a report, calling him in within minutes of the allegations reaching him. In fact, the allegations turned out to be totally false, but on that occasion the whole machinery of the law was put to the task, and I know very well that Mr. Belcher's staff at the Board of Trade—the civil servants with whom he was in contact—were subjected to the most brutal investigation by the police. No one complained about that. But in this case all we got from the Prime Minister was that no action seemed to be called for.
As a result of this interview, the Prime Minister, on 30th May, wrote a further letter to me in which he said:
I have been thinking about our talk on Monday. I am sure in my own mind that the security aspect of the Ward case has been fully and efficiently watched, but I think it important that you should be in no doubt about it.
The right hon. Gentleman told me of his decision to invite the Lord Chancellor to make an inquiry and require the information necessary from the police and the security authorities, and to report back to him.
I repeat what he said in his letter:
I am sure in my own mind that the security aspect of the Ward case has been
fully and efficiently watched, but I think it important that you should be in no doubt about it.
So Lord Dilhorne was set to work right through the Recess in order to satisfy the Leader of the Opposition who, inconveniently, was not so easy to satisfy as the Prime Minister, who was in charge of the nation's security.
This was the Thursday before the Recess. In the afternoon, I saw the Prime Minister across the Floor of the House in his place for Questions. I pushed across to him a hastily scribbled note saying that in my view he should immediately announce the commission with which he had entrusted the Lord Chancellor, in order to allay public anxiety, which was very great, because he knew that the Press had already received the Ward statement. I received an acknowledgment from the Prime Minister's secretary later that evening—the Prime Minister, of course, was going away.
In fact, it was only last Monday, ten days later, when the storm had broken, that the Prime Minister, by this time very much on the defensive, did announce that the Lord Chancellor had been asked to make these inquiries. I ask why did he not announce it at the time he wrote to me about it. The Times, last Tuesday, had the answer—because the Prime Minister was gambling on the issue never seeing the light of day.
This has been the right hon. Gentleman's attitude right through. After the Vassall case he felt that he could not stand another serious security case involving a Ministerial resignation, and he gambled desperately and hoped that nothing would ever come out. For political reasons he was gambling with national security. I think that this is why he was at such pains to demonstrate to me his unflappability and his unconcern.
Now I will tell the House exactly what our attitude was on the basis of the material that had reached us. Our attitude was not that there was any evidence of a leak of secret information. Let us be clear on this: whether there was a breach of security at any time, whether there was a leak of information, is something we shall never know. There cannot beany assurance on this point and I shall later explain why. There is no means now of finding out.
From that point of view, the inquiries of both the security authorities and the Lord Chancellor were bound to be fruitless, because the Prime Minister does not know whether there was any leak at all. He cannot know. What we were concerned with was clear evidence that, leaks or no leaks, there was a standing condition of a security risk as long as the Secretary of State for War was part of this quadrilateral made up of Miss Keeler, Ward, the self-confessed Soviet intermediary, and Ivanov, the Soviet attaché.
I did not myself think Ward to be a spy. He was too unstable for the Soviet authorities, who usually make use of better material; but he was undoubtedly a tool, an instrument, and his unique access to people in high places made him useful to them. But for a Secretary of State, a member of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet, with full access to all military secrets and to the military secrets of our allies, to be part of this dingy quadrilateral reveals a degree of security risk that no Prime Minister could tolerate for one moment after the facts were conveyed to him. I hope, at any rate, that there will be general agreement on that question throughout the House—that no Prime Minister could tolerate this condition of security risk for one moment after the facts were conveyed to him.
It was on 27th March that I gave the Prime Minister the information to which I have referred, eleven weeks before my insistence on an inquiry eventually forced the matter into the open—I think that there is common agreement that this matter was forced into the open as a result of the Lord Chancellor sending for the former Secretary of State for War. There were eleven weeks between then and the Prime Minister's receiving even my material—and I would hope that he was receiving material before I handed in any on this question.
Nor was it the first material that he had had. What I have to ask him is—and I hope that the Prime Minister or his Parliamentary Private Secretary will take full note of the questions being put to him, because we shall want a straight answer to every one of these questions before the debate ends—first, why did he not accept the Secretary of State's resignation when he knew the degree of security risk? Was it offered by the Secretary of State and refused by the Prime Minister? If it was not offered, why did the Prime Minister not demand that resignation? We cannot escape the conclusion that the answer to this question is that politics, and not security, came first, and because a born gambler does not operate that way.
I must now ask the Prime Minister how often he met the Secretary of State to discuss any of these questions during the past two years. Perhaps he will tell us the dates and what transpired. I am sure that he must realise that his was the responsibility in this matter and that this particular responsibility cannot be delegated to other Ministers. He had the responsibility, both as head of the security services and as the Prime Minister who appoints, and, indeed, sacks, Ministers who do not prove satisfactory. But for eleven weeks, to my certain knowledge—and this is clear from the letters I have quoted and it must have been for longer than that—the Prime Minister refused to accept that there was a security risk.
Does he now accept that there was a security risk during that period? I hope that he will tell us this, because on television on Thursday night Lord Hailsham said to Mr. McKenzie:
Well, of course there's a security problem. Don't be so silly. A Secretary of State cannot have a woman shared with a spy—if he was a spy—without giving rise to a security risk. The question is not whether there was a security risk, but whether there was an actual breach of security—be sensible.
Lord Poole, on Saturday, said:
As we now know, there was from the start a security risk—a serious security risk.
Does the Prime Minister accept that now, because he did not do so the last time I met him?
This risk had been there for more than two years and no amount of the Press briefing which we have had in the last two or three days, no amount of Cabinet manoeuvring, no committee meetings upstairs, will disguise the fact that there opposite me is the man responsible for this continuing risk.
We shall be told, we have been told, and we may expect this to be the central theme of the Prime Minister's speech, that, of course, there was a risk, but
there was no leak. That is what the Press has been assiduously briefed to say in the last 24 hours. How do we know that there was no leak? We cannot know; we shall never know. Unless the security forces knew about the relationship with this foursome—Ward, Ivanov, the Secretary of State for War and Miss Keeler—unless they tapped every telephone call to any of the four, unless they monitored every conversation between them or any pair of them, no one can know what information was handed over from one person to another. No one can know this. Yet the Prime Minister told me in his letter of 30th May, only a few days ago:
I am sure in my own mind that the security aspect of the Ward case has been fully and efficiently watched.
Were they watched? He has to tell us this. The Prime Minister knows that it is a standing instruction in the security services that no Minister can be followed without the Prime Minister's express permission. Was it given in this case and, if so, will the Prime Minister tell us on what date permission was given to follow the Secretary of State for War? If the House accepts, as Lord Hailsham accepts and as Lord Poole accepts, that there was a continuing security risk as long as these two were meeting, the Prime Minister's statement that they were being efficiently watched cannot apply unless he gave his assent to the Secretary of State being watched.
When we say that there was a security risk we mean that through a personal defect of character, or a perverted political or other loyalty, or through the possibility of intolerable pressure, or through cupidity or financial need, or through a personal or family relationship, an individual is more liable than his fellows to disclose information. That is what we mean by a security risk. To diagnose such cases is the whole basis of security work. Civil servants, War Office clerks, engineers in Admiralty establishments, or workers in Ministry of Aviation contractors' works, are frequently moved on the initiative of the security authorities if any security risk condition such as I have defined is found.
Only two days ago we read that an Oxford undergraduate was barred from the University O.T.C. on a security initiative because his mother was born in Moscow. [Laughter.] This is quite serious. This is the job of the security authorities where they find a risk of this kind; it is their job to go to the employer or the commanding officer of the individual concerned and to see that the individual is moved out of harm's way as far as secret information is concerned.
The Prime Minister, indeed the whole Cabinet—because they are all in this now, including the Minister of Health—need to have their attention drawn to Command 9715, the Statement on the Findings of the Conference of Privy Councillors on Security, as it were the official text, the bible, of security work. In paragraph 10, the White Paper says:
The Conference recognise that today great importance must be paid to character defects, as factors tending to make a man unreliable or expose him to blackmail, or influence by foreign agents. There is a duty on Departments to inform themselves of serious failings such as drunkenness, addiction to drugs, homosexuality or any loose living that may seriously affect a man's reliability.
In paragraph 12, the Conference said:
While confining themselves to the security aspect of these defects of character and conduct the Conference also record the view that in individual cases or in certain sections of the public service, a serious character defect may appropriately be the determining factor in a decision to dismiss a particular individual or to transfer him to other work.
Does this rule apply only to clerks, to civil servants, to workers in Government laboratories, or is there some reason why Secretaries of State are exempt from this condition? Does the Prime Minister accept the same responsibility as the head of any other Department to
dismiss…or transfer…to other work
anyone who is found to have a security defect?
In a case like this, it is only too clear to the House that there are at least two obvious ways in which a security risk can become more of a risk and be translated into a reality. The first, of course, is if Ivanov, directly or through Ward, had asked the girl to put security questions to the Secretary of State for War. This has been alleged by her. It has been alleged that Ivanov, through Ward, asked her to put questions to the Secretary of State for War. She said that she never put them. However this maybe, the possibility was there.
Have not the security authorities made full inquiries? How often have the security authorities—and starting when—made inquiries of Miss Keeler as to the pressures put on her to obtain secret information from Profumo? We shall never really know the truth about this. For one thing, she has been terrified by suggestions that she will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act, and this makes even her somewhat unreliable attitude to the truth perhaps even less dependable than it might have been. Here is the first point: that there was clearly the possibility—I am putting it no higher than this—that this relationship could have been used by Ivanov for getting secret information.
Secondly, there was the open exposure to blackmail. Blackmail has been used before in espionage cases. It was used in the case of Vassall, as the House will recall. Here the possibilities were infinite, because the disclosure of a photograph or a sound recording would have meant total ruin for the victim. I am not saying that this blackmail happened. We do not know. The White Paper on Security, which I have just quoted, is merely concerned with the risk that these things can happen; and one man was given the responsibility by the House for seeing that these risks were not allowed to continue, and that man was the Prime Minister. The security services, the Radcliff Report told us, are always very sensitive to the possibility of blackmail.
There is another question which I want to put to the Prime Minister here. Even if there were no leak—and it is clear, I think, that none of us can ever know whether there was, although the Government are clinging desperately to the argument that they do not think that there was—one issue is, as I have said, this long continuing security risk from another point of view: because Soviet espionage in this country is not directed only to the transmission of secrets. Perhaps of even greater importance to them is the effort which they make to sow in the United States deep doubts about the efficiency of the British security services.
I wonder whether any hon. Member for one moment can doubt that in the episode which we are debating today the Soviet espionage authorities have been handed a triumphant success, not least by the failure of the Prime Minister to take action when the facts were made available to him. This is a question which the Prime Minister must answer: does he or does he not think that there was a continuing security risk, and what effect does he think that this has had on our relations with our allies?
I come to one further quite direct question to the Prime Minister and to the House—because I think that all the House, and certainly hon. Members opposite, equally with us, will demand a full answer from the Prime Minister. I want to put it to him that we must have a full disclosure in the debate today of what is going on. We want to know whether there are any more revelations to come. Have we had all that the Government now know? Or is there more still being held back in the hope, the desperate gamble, that it will not come out in some other way? Is this the whole story that we have now, or is it only that part of the iceberg which is visible above the surface of the water?
I say directly to the Prime Minister that if he purports today to give the House a full statement of everything that is known to him, and if, during the course of the next week or two, or the next month or two, there are more revelations, the House will hold him guilty, too, of misleading the House about the true facts in this situation.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister courteously sent me a copy of the Lord Chancellor's report to him. May I say that in one sense it put me in something of a difficulty. Clearly, I cannot quote it, because it is not being laid on the Table of the House. I feel, equally, that I cannot use any of the facts contained in it, but, equally, I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree that I cannot be muzzled or gagged by the fact that I have seen it. It contains much information which was already public knowledge, or, at any rate, was fairly widely known, and I feel it right, therefore, to put to the Prime Minister today those questions which can be put on the basis of knowledge otherwise available to me. Indeed, I may say that these questions had already been pretty fully worked out in my mind before I saw the Lord Chancellor's report.
This means that I have already put to the Prime Minister, and will be putting to him, some questions to which I now know the answer on the basis of the Lord Chancellor's report. I will not give the answers. I will leave it to the Prime Minister to give the answers, because it is right that he should decide how much of the Lord Chancellor's report can be disclosed.
First, as to Ivanov. His activities, we are told by the Prime Minister, were fully and efficiently watched. His contacts were wide. He took full advantage of this sector of London society. Why, then, was he not declared persona non grata by the Government?
Secondly, I want to ask the Prime Minister on what date was a full security watch placed on Ward's flat? The Prime Minister told us that Ward's side of this was fully and efficiently watched. He said that in a letter to me. Thus, he will not mind telling us on what date the watch on Ward's fiat began and on what date, if any, it ended. If it were fully and efficiently watched, there must have been a watch. Will he tell us the date on which it began? He knows that I know the answer to that question.
Thirdly, when did the Prime Minister himself—I think that this is central to the whole issue—first hear these rumours about the Secretary of State and the girl? On what date? I hope that he will tell us this, because it is fundamental. The House must be told the precise date.
Fourthly, who told the right hon. Gentleman? The information which I have had is that it was not, in fact, the security services, that it was a top executive of a newspaper group who had just bought one of the sets of the Keeler memoirs and who came to Admiralty House specifically on the security issue and informed the Prime Minister's staff of Miss Keeler's association with Mr. Profumo; and, of course, with Edgecombe and with Gordon and with Ivanov. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm this and will he give the date?
Next, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us this? On receipt of this information, what did he do? Did he send for the Secretary of State for War and confront him with it? What checks did he make on receiving this information? Any hon. Member opposite, in whatever capacity—in business; in the Army—on receiving information of a comparable character to this would have immediately sent for his junior and confronted him with the charge. Did the Prime Minister do this?
Fifthly, did the right hon. Gentleman instruct the security services to check the accuracy of the statement by reference to Miss Keeler herself? When did the real security checks on Miss Keeler begin and how thorough were they? I think that the right hon. Gentleman will realise the importance of these questions and the need to give a straight answer to them, If, in fact, the security services knew all about the Keeler relationship in 1961, it was their duty to tell the Prime Minister then, not only because he is their chief, because he is the only Minister responsible for security, but because he alone had the power to act.
The right hon. Gentleman alone had the power to sack the Secretary of State for War. If they knew in 1961, when the danger was greatest, and if they did not tell the Prime Minister, there is a clear case for a ruthless inquiry into those responsible. I think that some heads would roll in the security services if this turned out to be the truth.
If they did tell the Prime Minister, then his failure over two years to sack the Secretary of State, to end the situation, would represent an inconceivable lack of responsibility on his part. But this is not all. If they did know and if they did tell him, it would mean that he connived, that he was an accessory before the fact to the gross contempt of the House involved in the personal statement on 22nd March last, when the Prime Minister so clearly identified himself with the statement of the Secretary of State for War.
Frankly, I find it quite impossible to believe that the right hon. Gentleman could be guilty of that. I do not believe for one minute that that was the situation. So if it is true, if I am right, then either the security services knew and deliberately withheld that information from him, in which case heads have to roll, or they did not know. If they did not know—it is a fair question to ask why they did not know, whether they should not have been on to it—something follows from that. It follows that they could not have been monitoring, they could not have been watching, the effects of the Profumo-Keeler relationship.
The Prime Minister doubts this: the whole matter has been fully covered. He cannot have it both ways, because either the Keeler-Profumo relationship was known and the security services were following it and there was no security risk, in which case the Prime Minister is very guilty for not having taken action over that period, or the security services knew nothing about it, in which case they could not have followed it and, therefore, the Prime Minister has no warrant whatsoever for saying that there was no breach of security, because he simply does not know.
Whether the security services are blameworthy or not—the House will take a lot of satisfying on this point—they simply were not in a position to detect any possible breach of security. Therefore, I say to the Prime Minister—I think that the whole House must say to him—that, if the security services did not know, two years ago, about this relationship, then his letter to me of 30th May was totally misleading when he said:
I am sure in my own mind that the security aspect of the Ward case has been fully and efficiently watched.
So, on that assumption, all the complacent statements which have been fed out to the Press in the past 48 hours, that there were no security leaks, are completely dishonest. The Government have no means of knowing whether there were security leaks or not. Therefore, the Prime Minister must answer these questions about the date frankly and clearly. We shall not easily allow him out of the Chamber until he does.
I will hazard my own view of the answer. The only one that I think fits the facts, except on a basis which would convict the Prime Minister and his colleagues both of scandalous unconcern for security and of being a party to misleading the House, is this. I believe that the first the security services knew or even guessed about this very big security risk was when a Sunday newspaper told them a few months ago. If this is true—the Prime Minister must be frank about this—this would imply that the £60 million spent on these services under the right hon. Gentleman's Premiership have been less productive in this vitally important case than the security services of the News of the World. He must tell us this.
It would mean, too, as I have said, that no one has any idea of the possible security breaches, because on my information the first intimation of the Profumo-Keeler relationship did not reach the Prime Minister or the security services until after Ivanov had left the country this year. So how can he say that he knows what went on?
It would mean something else. If my suggestion is correct about the Sunday newspapers, something else is involved. On the information that I have, this first allegation about the Profumo-Keeler relationship and the Profumo-Keeler-Ward triangle was made to the Government four and a half months ago. The Prime Minister is to give us the date in a minute. It was, therefore, two months before the Secretary of State's personal statement. There was plenty of time to check up with Miss Keeler. There was plenty of time to check up with the Ward set-up and with the other witnesses, who seem only too ready now to talk, especially if there is money involved.
So, though I personally acquit the right hon. Gentleman of foreknowledge or complicity in this matter—of course I do; of course we all do; I mean complicity in the misleading of the House—he cannot be acquitted of a grave dereliction of duty in failing to find out. The House was grossly misled and abused, not by his complicity, but by his inadequacy.
I come now to the meeting of the five Ministers late at night, till five o'clock in the morning, with the former Secretary of State for War. Did they have this M.I.5 material before them, the material which M.I.5 presumably had been investigating for two months from the day it first received it from the Sunday newspaper? Was the head of M.I.5 invited to this confrontation with the Secretary of State for War? If not, why not? We have been given by Lord Poole, who seems to know all about these things, an account of who was at this meeting—the Ministers, the Law Officers, the Leader of the House, the Chief Whip, and, for some reason I cannot understand, the Minister without Portfolio, the head of the Government's information services. What in heaven's name was he doing there?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Iain Macleod):I should be very grateful if, just on this point about the Minister without Portfolio, I could make this clear. My right hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio was there because he was in the House for the debate which the right hon. Gentleman will remember, and which had just concluded, on the two journalists. He was the only other Cabinet Minister in the House. It was nothing whatever to do with his other responsibilities. He was the only Cabinet Minister in the House, and he was in the House at the service of the House for that debate.
As I myself was present, I cannot confirm the right hon. Gentleman's recollection. He had better check the times again, because the Home Secretary and I were crossing swords with one another at about 1.30 that morning and the right hon. Gentleman knows that Profumo had been sent for before that. In any case, the right hon. Gentleman knows, does he not, that the Home Secretary, at that time, was in possession of vital information from police inquiries about Miss Keeler in which the Secretary of State for War's name had been mentioned? If he had gone home, why was he not brought back for so important a meeting? After all, the result of the meeting, which lasted for several hours, was a statement which misled the House.
For some reason—I should like to know why—Mr. Profumo's solicitor was present. This is most extraordinary. I have never heard, and I am sure that the Patronage Secretary has not, of an hon. Member seeing his Chief Whip and asking for his solicitor to be present. This is a very serious point, because I should like to know on whose initiative the solicitor was brought along. After all, if the Secretary of State for War said, "I am not going to see the Chief Whip without having my solicitor present", this is the sort of thing which any petty crook says when he is arrested. It ought to have aroused the suspicions of the Leader of the House.
Or did the Leader of the House say, "We have a very grave charge to put to you. You had better send for your solicitor"? I hope that we shall get a clear answer about that from the Prime Minister. If there was time to get his solicitor out of bed and bring him here, why was not there time to bring both the Home Secretary, if he had gone home, and the head of the security services? We, and, I am sure, hon. Gentlemen opposite, too, will take a lot of satisfying about this meeting that took place late at night.
There is one other matter of great importance to the House. I said that the deception of the House was a grave contempt of Parliament. It is important that this should be recorded in a formal decision of the House, otherwise there is a danger, through default, of eroding the principle that any calculated deception is an abuse and a contempt. I gather that there may be difficulty about tabling a Motion on the Order Paper before we leave today, but the Government must announce that they intend to table a Motion so that it can be debated, and we must ask them to put the matter right at once. If they fail, I give notice that we shall ourselves table a Motion and demand that time be given for adequate debate.
I have dealt today with the problem of the security risk and the clear failure of the Prime Minister to fulfil his duty to this House and to the nation. I have given the Prime Minister some direct questions to which the House will insist we must have answers.
For reasons which I have given, I have not dealt with the moral challenge with which the nation is faced. The uncovering of this sleazy sector of society in London and elsewhere is a matter to be pursued elsewhere. But the papers day by day add to the odious record. Saturday's papers told of an opportunist night club proprietor who had offered Miss Christine Keeler—or should I refer to her as Miss Christine Keeler Ltd.—a night club job at a salary of £5,000 a week, and I say to the Prime Minister that there is something utterly nauseating about a system of society which pays a harlot 25 times as much as it pays its Prime Minister, 250 times as much as it pays its Members of Parliament, and 500 times as much as it pays some of its ministers of religion.
But they are wrong at home and abroad who see this as a canker at the heart of our society. I believe that the heart of this nation is sound. What we are seeing is a diseased excrescence, a corrupted and poisoned appendix of a small and unrepresentative section of society that makes no contribution to what Britain is, still less to what Britain can be. There are, of course, lessons to be drawn for us all in terms of social policy, but perhaps most of all in terms of the social philosophy and values and objectives of our society—the replacement of materialism and the worship of the golden calf by values which exalt the spirit of service and the spirit of national dedication.
I once heard the Archbishop of York say that we were in danger of creating a system of society where the verb "to have" means so much more than the verb "to be", and now we are seeing the pay-off for that system of society. But our friends abroad are wrong if they draw the hasty conclusion that this country is entering the era of corruption which has heralded the decline of the great civilisations of the past. The sickness of an unrepresentative sector of our society should not detract from the robust ability of our people as a whole to face the challenge of the future. And in preparing to face that challenge, let us frankly recognise that the inspiration and the leadership must comefirst here in this House.
As the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) observed, this debate takes place in conditions which are wholly unprecedented. A great shock has been given to Parliament, and, indeed, to the whole country. On me, as head of the Administration, what has happened has inflicted a deep, bitter, and lasting wound. I do not remember in the whole of my life, or even in the political history of the past, a case of a Minister of the Crown who has told a deliberate lie to his wife, to his legal advisers and to his Ministerial colleagues, not once but over and over again, who has then repeated this lie to the House of Commons as a personal statement which, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us, implies that it is privileged, and has subsequently taken legal action and recovered damages on the basis of a falsehood. This is almost unbelievable, but it is true.
Before I went away for my short holiday on 30th May, I felt pretty sure that this incident, as I knew it then, raised no serious security issues, and I shall explain why. Nevertheless, I had arranged for the Lord Chancellor to make an inquiry in circumstances about which the right hon. Gentleman has said something and about which I shall have more to say later. It was also my conviction that Mr. Profumo had not deceived me, his colleagues, or the House, but spoke the truth, and I was fortified in this belief by the successful action that he had taken.
On the fifth day of my holiday I was informed of the truth. Since we cannot now, I fear, put much confidence in anything that he has said, the problem of security is now enhanced, but, in addition, moral issues of the deepest kind are involved. For what greater moral crime can there be than to deceive those naturally inclined to trust one, those who have worked with one, served with one, and are one's colleagues?
The right hon. Gentleman has put a number of questions to me, and I can assure him and the House that they will be answered in the course of my speech, but I trust that hon. Members will allow me to deal with these points as they occur in the narrative which it is only right that I should give to the House. This is more convenient, though long I fear, and it is the proper way to deal with it. This means covering both the action I took before Mr. Profumo's statement and the action which I took to deal with any matters after it, but before his confession. However, there are certain aspects of this case to which I would first like to refer, as they affect myself.
In a period of Ministerial office which runs altogether to 17 years, and more especially during the last six years as Prime Minister, I have had to face, like all Ministers, grave and baffling difficul- ties. Sometimes, the House probably realises, looking back on their character, that they involved great strain and pressure, but these burdens were all bearable because, whatever the different point of view between both sides of the House, whatever the degree of political argument and conflict, whatever the international dangers involved, these have been questions of policy. This is different. I find it difficult to tell the House what a blow it has been to me, for it seems to have undermined one of the very foundations upon which political life must be conducted.
However, in recent days I have been trying to search my heart and conscience, and I have approached the matter in this way: there is the question of good faith; there is the question of justice, and there is the question of good judgment. I know that I have acted honourably; I believe that I have acted justly, and I hope that when it has heard my account the House will consider that I have acted with proper diligence and prudence.
Until my return from an official visit to Rome at the beginning of February, 1963, I had never heard of Mr. Ward. I only say this because I observe that it has been stated that I sat for a portrait for him. There is no reason why I should not have, but, in fact, I did not. I made inquiries, and found that he had done a sketch of me from the Strangers' Gallery, of course without my knowledge, and had written to my private office for permission to exhibit it, which was granted.
When I returned from Rome, I was informed by my Principal Private Secretary that a general manager of a national newspaper had come to Admiralty House on Friday, 1st February, 1963, and had thought it his duty to report in confidence that certain rumours were going about linking the name of a Miss Keeler with the Secretary of State for War and Captain Ivanov, a former member of the Russian Embassy in London.
My Principal Private Secretary at once transmitted this information to the deputy head of the security service with a view to my receiving a full report immediately on my return. My Principal Private Secretary also went to see the Secretary of State for War—I was away—the same afternoon, and told him of the story he had heard, and said that it was imperative that Mr. Profumo should come to see either me or my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip. I should tell the House that as soon as my Principal Private Secretary told Mr. Profumo of the rumours that were circulating he denied them in every important particular, in the same terms in which he subsequently made a statement in the House. That is to say, he admitted that he knew Miss Keeler, but emphatically denied that it was anything more than an innocent social friendship. He said that he had only met her, following their first meeting, at Lord Astor's house at Cliveden, at the house of a Mr. Stephen Ward.
Mr. Profumo said that he had broken off their acquaintanceship after a short time—right back, two years before—as a result of a warning that he had from Sir Norman Brook, then Secretary of the Cabinet, that Mr. Ward might possibly be a security risk by virtue of his friendship with Ivanov. The House will wish to know, and ought to know, exactly what this warning was, and why it was conveyed by Sir Norman Brook, as he then was, to the Secretary of State.
The security service had obtained information in 1961 that Ivanov was acquainted with Ward. As the House knows, in this period of cold war between East and West the circles in which certain diplomats—particularly members of the RussianElmbassy—move are always, and must be, a matter of general interest to our security service. It was in pursuit of its duty that the security service obtained information of this acquaintanceship, namely, that between Ivanov and Ward.
Of course, there is nothing wrong in British people meeting members of the Russian Embassy. On the contrary, in the long term there may even be some marginal effect for good upon the policies of the Soviet Government, and it would certainly be unfortunate if the only contact with diplomats from behind what we call the Iron Curtain countries was with dedicated Communists.
As it happens, Ivanov was first introduced to Mr. Ward by the editor of the Daily Telegraph, not privately but at a luncheon party at the Garrick Club. There was nothing abnormal or reprehensible in this introduction. It was a normal journalistic occasion, held in con- sequence of Ivanov's visit with a party of other foreign naval attachés to the Daily Telegraph office. Mr. Ward was included in the party because he was anxious to visit Moscow and to draw Soviet personalities from life. I mention it only because I feel that after all the rumours the House had better be told all the facts that I know.
This introduction took place in January, 1961,and was a normal contact of the ordinary kind. It was only when this was followed up by a somewhat closer acquaintance that the Security Service thought it advisable to see and to warn Mr. Ward. It did this on 8th June, 1961. Without attempting in any way to put any bar on his association with a member of the Russian Embassy it nevertheless thought it right to warn him of the need for caution in circumstances of this sort. Later, Mr. Ward spoke of Ivanov in such a way as to imply that he, Ward, could be helpful to British interests in his dealings with this official. He also mentioned casually that he happened to know the Secretary of State for War. This was on 12th July, 1961.
In view of this statement by Mr. Ward that he knew Mr. Profumo the head of the security service thought it right to tell Sir Norman Brook that it would be advisable that Mr. Profumo should be warned about this connection. The warning was of a possible security risk. The risk was that if Mr. Profumo did know Mr. Ward he knew a man whom they knew was friendly with a member of the Russian Embassy. There might be nothing in this. It was, in any case, a risk at one remove, but, still, it was a risk, however remote.
I will now tell the House what happened after that. Sir Norman Brook called to see Mr. Profumo on 9th August, 1961, and gave him this information and this warning. Mr. Profumo was warned then about the possibility of danger by virtue of his friendship with a man who was thought to be rather friendly with Ivanov. Neither the security service nor Sir Norman Brook had ever heard of Miss Keeler, or about the things that have now been revealed, or—I must be careful; they are sub judice—which seem to have been revealed in the Ward household. They knew nothing whatever about them.
The only point was that here was a man, first introduced by the editor of the Daily Telegraphof whom he had made a friend, and he was warned, as a Minister, that this was the kind of man that he should be careful about, and ought not to see, or to see as little as possible. Neither Sir Norman Brook nor the security services knew of any other circumstances except exactly what I have said.
Mr. Profumo told us later that as a result of this warning he immediately discontinued his friendship with Mr. Ward and paid no more visits to his house. I must at this point draw the attention of the House to a difficulty about dates in this period. In his personal statement Mr. Profumo said that he last saw Miss Keeler in December, 1961, and had not seen her since. I have told the House that Sir Norman Brook warned Mr. Profumo on 9th August, 1961—warned him not about Miss Keeler, of whom he knew nothing, but of Mr. Ward. Nevertheless, as we know, the two associations were linked. But that was not then known.
Mr. Profumo subsequently said that he was mistaken in saying that he last saw Miss Keeler in December, 1961. He said that he remembered that he had received the warning from Sir Norman Brook about Mr. Ward at the beginning of a Parliamentary Recess—he thought that it was the Christmas Recess—and he knew that he had written to Miss Keeler on the same day that he was warned about Mr. Ward. There is no doubt at all—for this is all recorded in the proper minutes—that the warning was given on 9th August, 1961. This, as we now know, was the date of the letter breaking an arrangement to meet Miss Keeler—9th August, 1961.
I must tell the House that Sir Norman Brook did not inform me either of the fact that he had received this information from the head of the security service, or that he had thought it his duty to speak a warning word about Mr. Ward's friendship with Ivanov. He did not tell me. I have since consulted him and he is perfectly sure, in the minute he is perfectly certain, that his recollection is that he did not tell me.
I do not complain of it. I merely state the fact that the minute that Sir Norman recorded makes no reference to his having informed me. He himself is in no doubt that he did not think it necessary to make any reference to me. I mention this at some length because one of the allegations which I have seen freely stated in the Press and elsewhere is that I knew of Mr. Profumo's association with Mr. Ward as long ago as August 1961, and I did nothing about it. This is the first charge of dilatoriness of duty that has been brought against me and it is completely untrue.
I must emphasise that while there was some undesirability, or even, if hon. members like, a security risk, there is no evidence whatever of any breach of security. None of the authorities concerned knew at the date of the warning of Mr. Profumo's acquaintance with Miss Keeler. Indeed, as I shall tell the House, none of them knew of it until the end of January, 1963. There is of course, unfortunately, under modern conditions, where so much is known of the ways in which private weaknesses can be played upon, a wide range of behaviour which is properly a matter of security. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to it. But if the private lives of Ministers and of senior officials are to be the subject of continual supervision day and night, then all I can say is that we shall have a society very different from this one and, I venture to suggest, more open to abuse and tyranny than would justify any possible gain to security in the ordinary sense.
Moreover, the security services have not the resources to watch the houses of all citizens who number Russians among their acquaintances, and even though supervision of this kind were to be confined to those who are known to have personal acquaintanceships with members of the Russian and other Eastern European embassies in London the task would still be quite beyond the resources of the security services. In fact, it would be necessary to recruit an enormous army of invigilators, and that, I am persuaded, is not right, or the answer.
I have gone into this at some length because the matter was raised by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have seen it suggested in the Press that the security authorities were keeping a perpetual watch on Mr. Ward's house; that they saw Mr. Profumo enter and leave the house; that they saw Ivanov enter and leave the house and that these events were reported to me at the time. None of this is true. They did not keep this watch and they did not report to me during any of this period any of these things.
Now I ought to return to the main narrative. I told the House of the first information received in my office in February of this year of events which had occurred in the summer of 1961. If I may remind the House, my principal Private Secretary saw Mr. Profumo in February. He denied any impropriety, and my Principal Private Secretary told him that he must report either to me or to my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip on the full facts. In the event, Mr. Profumo, who had talked to the head of the security service, and both the Law Officers of the Crown, saw my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip. He was questioned closely. To all of them he confidently and emphatically denied the rumours in all and every important particular and protested that there had been no impropriety in his association with Miss Keeler.
I must tell the House—this answers another question—that while maintaining his innocence, Mr. Profumo asked the Chief Whip whether he ought to resign, in view of the rumours about him. The Chief Whip, rightly, replied that if the rumours had any foundation, of course he must resign. But, if not, there was no reason to do so. It may be asked why I did not question Mr. Profumo myself. I think that that is an extremely fair question and I will tell the House why. I did not do so for two reasons. First, I thought he would have spoken more freely to the Chief Whip and the Law Officers than to me, his political chief. Secondly, for me personally to carry out an examination of this kind, in the probing detail necessary, would have made it difficult, if not impossible, for him to feel in future, however innocent he might have been, that he enjoyed my confidence.
The situation which then confronted me was that damaging and scurrilous rumours were circulating about a member of the Government which he solemnly and consistently, and on more than one occasion, denied. I could have asked for his resignation, and now I come to the second point at issue. In thinking about it, I thought that it would have been unjust. There had been no public attack upon him. There was not known then in public any ground for lack of confidence in his integrity and his earnest assurance. I must confess frankly to the House that in considering what I should do the Vassall case, and the effect which it had upon my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith), the present Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, was certainly in my mind. I have been reproached for accepting the resignation of my hon. Friend, when I did, when rather similar rumours were circulating and when nothing was specifically stated but only hinted at. Indeed, I told him at the time that I believed that in the long run his resignation might help him, but would not help me.
In that case, and again in the circumstances presented to me at this stage, I was anxious to avoid any injustice. I would ask hon. Members: supposing I had required Mr. Profumo's resignation and thereafter he had issued writs for libel—which, in fact, he did do—and had been successful—which, in fact, he was—that would have created the feeling that an innocent man had been unjustly treated by me. Quite apart from any personal considerations, the belief that any individuals innocent of any offence or misdemeanour could be victimised and their careers ended merely on the basis of rumour, which is subsequently shown by the judgment of the courts to be without foundation, would have a profoundly damaging effect upon the whole of political life.
There is, of course, always the temptation—the right hon. Gentleman has accused me—of dilatoriness and of wanting to save trouble. Of course, one way to save trouble would have been to demand Mr. Profumo's resignation. But I think that to have done so would have been an act of injustice. Ministers in the Vassall case—the right hon. Gentleman talked of the Vassall "scandal", but there was no scandal affecting Ministers except in the rumours, which were terrible—were made the subject of rumours, accusations and innuendoes which were, in fact, shown to be absolutely untrue, and I think that it would have been quite unjust if, having seen recently what harm rumour could do, I had, merely for my own comfort, insisted on a resignation at this stage.
Of course, it was most desirable that these rumours—which were brought to me in great detail by my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip, but which had not been published in the national Press or in any similar organ—should be dealt with. It would be specially desirable that rumours involving a Minister should be dealt with in the House of Commons, from which Governments of whatever character, individually and collectively, draw their support.
Hon. Members with long experience of the House will realise the difficulty of anything in the nature of a personal statement denying rumours which are merely circulating in private circles by word of mouth. Some, though not all, hon. Members may have seen a broadsheet called Westminster Confidential, published by Parliamentary Profile Service Ltd., of which the director is a certain Mr. Roth. The issue of this broadsheet which appeared on 8th March contained some allegations about Mr. Profumo and this was brought to my attention. I consulted my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. His view was that the limited circulation and the general character of this publication did not afford adequate grounds for the issue of a writ for libel by a Minister and that this was not the occasion for which we were looking. We wanted an occasion, Mr. Profumo having said this over and over again to us, to protest and prove his innocence.
On 15th March a national newspaper printed an article on its front page about his resignation. Again, I consulted the Attorney-General and accepted his advice that there was nothing in this article which was libellous. But in the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, on 21st March, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) all gave public expression in the House to at least some of the rumours which were circulating.
Here then, at last, was an opportunity to nail the rumours, and nail them at once without the inevitable delay following the issue of a writ of libel. These allegations were made, I think, at a lateish hour, when I had gone home, and, I think, gone to bed. I was told of them over the telephone and readily agreed with a suggestion that Mr. Profumo should now prepare a personal statement. It had to be done that night because next day was Friday and it had to be made as soon as possible, and, therefore, at eleven o'clock in the morning instead of 3.30 p.m. as is usual.
Accordingly, Mr. Profumo arranged for his solicitor to go to the House of Commons in order to make quite certain, as he was to make the statement, that it should be correct in every particular—[Laughter.]—as we then believed, as I think we all believed. That was the real belief. There were present my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, the Minister without Portfolio, the Chief Whip, the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, Mr. Profumo and his solicitor—a man, by the way of great experience and, I understand, a member of a firm of high repute.
Much has been made in the Press about this meeting and hon. Members may ask why other Ministers should be concerned in a personal statement by one of their colleagues. The answer is because the Secretary of State was one of our colleagues and accusations had been made against him as a Minister as well as a man. It was essential that they should satisfy themselves that the statement should be unequivocal and should leave no room for criticism that any of the allegations had been smoothed over, or evaded. This they did. They were satisfied with his account, which was the same that he had given on all previous occasions.
There have been Press reports that at this meeting all those present had a copy of the letter which Mr. Profumo sent to Miss Keeler and which has since been published. That is not true. All those present knew of the existence of the letter, but they could not read it because it was in the possession of the recipient or of a newspaper if she had by then given it to them. Certainly, Mr. Profumo had not got it, or a copy.
The knowledge that his letter might be published at any moment—that is the important point—made my colleagues feel confident that Mr. Profumo could hardly dare to give a misleading account of the contents of this letter. Here, I should tell the House that the Ministers did not know the contents. They were aware, and I was made aware that the letter began with the word "Darling". This was volunteered by Mr. Profumo, who explained that in circles in which he and his wife moved it was a term of no great significance. [Laughter.] I believe that that might be accepted—I do not live among young people much myself.
My right hon. Friends were satisfied, in the face of repeated assurances of a man who, after all, was one of their colleagues, and fortified by the certainty that any falsity in his public account must, in the long run, be exposed—as, indeed, it has been—and awaited with confidence the statement which would be made in the morning. All this was reported to me. I had a copy of the statement at 9.30 the following morning. Looking at it—and I knew that it had been examined by a number of senior colleagues and two skilful lawyers—I had in mind that it was a personal statement made in accordance with the conventions of this House which, as we all know, must be accepted without question or debate. Above all, the statement ended with the confident ring that should such allegations be repeated outside the House they would be made the subject of legal action.
I could not believe that a man would be so foolish, even if so wicked, not only to lie to colleagues in the House but be prepared to issue a writ in respect of a libel which he must know to be true. So any doubts I may have had were removed. I thought it right to come to the House, and I do not reproach myself for that, to sit beside a colleague of my Administration while he made a personal statement refuting the damaging and scandalous remarks made about him.
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but may I put this question? He told us that he first heard of the story of the relationship on 1st February. Did he make full inquiries, through the security services, from Miss Keeler herself, and was all this information available to the five Ministers?
I am coming to that. I said that I would take this in sequence. I do not object, but it all comes in turn.
This deals with the action I took with some colleagues up to the date of Mr. Profumo's statement in the House. I wish to make this clear to the House and the country. At no time had I any indication either from the security service or from the police that there was any reason to doubt Mr. Profumo's statement as to his connection with Mr. Ward and his short—as his account said—friendship with Miss Keeler. All the rest was rumour which he strenuously denied.
There is one report—I wish to tell every fact to the House—dating from this period to which I must now refer. When the Lord Chancellor was making his inquiries, at the beginning of this month, he found that the security service had received at the beginning of February certain information from the police. Miss Keeler made a statement on 26th January when being seen by the police in relation to her appearance as a witness in the High Court that on one occasion, when she was going to meet Mr. Profumo, Mr. Ward asked her to discover from him the date on which certain atomic secrets were to be handed to West Germany by the Americans—this was at the time of the Cuban crisis—and that she did not put this question to Mr. Profumo.
I should explain that there is some confusion both about what she said and about what she was asked to find out. Certainly, on 30th January, 1963, a report was received from an inspector in the Special Branch to the effect that Miss Keeler had told someone that she was asked by Mr. Ward to obtain, if possible, certain secret information from Mr. Profumo relating to a transfer of documents from America to Western Germany. On 25th March, about two months later, the security service received a report that someone else had stated that Miss Keeler said Mr. Ward had asked her to ask Mr. Profumo when the Germans were likely to—I quote the phrase—"get the bomb".
Finally, in a statement made to the police on 4th April, 1963, Miss Keeler herself said that Mr. Ward had asked her to get information from Mr. Profumo about the Americans giving the bomb to the Germans. The one consistent point throughout these stories is that Miss Keeler always denied having asked the question whatever it was. Already, there is some confusion about the dates. I have told the House of the first statement on 26th January, when she said she was asked to obtain information at the time of the Cuba crisis last October. This would contradict the view that her association with Mr. Profumo ended earlier.
However, in an article in a newspaper yesterday she states specifically that she was asked to get this information in 1961. But quite apart from this confusion in the various stories, I do not attach great significance to this from the purely security point of view because of the character of the information which she says she was instructed to obtain.
What is significant—and I fully admit it—is that this is the first and only time that any suggestion came to the notice of the authorities that Mr. Ward was trying to use Miss Keeler as an instrument for obtaining information. This was 30th January. The security service did not pass either of these reports to me. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] I am only giving the facts. In view of the discussion between my private office and the security service, at the beginning of February, and as things have turned out, I think it very unfortunate that this information was not given to me, but the head of the security service, in considering these reports, did not take that as of great importance.
As Ivanov had left the country he was satisfied, in the investigations he had already carried out, that the indirect contact between Ivanov and Mr. Profumo had not involved any breach of security. Yet I must repeat that I strongly regret that this information, which came originally from the police, was not, through the files of the security service, passed on to me.
I have time only to give the facts to the House today and I think that I have the right to do so. I turn to the second part of the narrative: what happened after Mr. Profumo's statement until the time of his admission of the truth. I will deal, first, with the communications I received from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—to which he referred today—and to the discussions I had with him. I will also deal with other reports which are alleged to have been sent to me during this period. I have dealt with everything up to the time of Mr. Profumo making his statement and now I wish to deal with what happened between the time that statement was made to the House—in which I had every confidence [Hon. Members: "Oh."]—Indeed, I think that that applies to the whole House—and his ultimate confession.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition came to see me about this case for the first time on 27th March, that is, five days after Mr. Profumo's statement. I am not complaining that he did not come earlier—if he thought that these security things were so dangerous—but, in any case, he came after the statement was made. He brought with him a copy of a letter he had had from Mr. Ward in November, 1962—about five months before. I do not complain about this delay, although, if I am accused of dilatoriness, I am entitled to observe that the right hon. Gentleman's description of Mr. Ward as a "self-confessed intermediary of the Russians"—if he thought him to be that—should have led him to have forwarded the letter to me. But he did not. Before dealing with this letter, which had nothing whatever to do with Mr. Profumo at all but which described the activities of Ivanov in October, 1962—at the time of the Cuba crisis—I ask hon. Members to cast their minds back to that critical period.
I confess that the last few days have not been very agreeable to me, but I must say, for the reasons I have given, that although the whole of this is so horrible and distasteful the week of the Cuba crisis—and I have been through some in peace and war—was the week of most strain I can ever remember in my life. It then seemed to many of us—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition shared this feeling—that in the struggle of wills between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers, primarily the United States, the world might be coming to the brink of war.
During that week, as the pressures developed and built up to the climax on Friday and Saturday, the strain was certainly very great. Naturally, the same was true of the Soviet Government, who were doing all they could to further their policy and weaken the resolution of the West. Part of this Soviet activity was public, for example, the statement issued by the Soviet Government on 23rd October, and some of it was private.
For example, Mr. Loginov, the Soviet Chargé ďAffaires, called on the Foreign Secretary on 25th October at his own request—that is, the request of Mr. Loginov—and expressed the hope that Her Majesty's Government would do all in their power to avert developments in Cuba which, as he said "could push the world to the brink of a military catastrophe." Mr. Loginov's aim was apparently that Her Majesty's Government should bring pressure to bear on the United States Government. Similarly, many members of the Soviet Embassy—not only in London but, I think, elsewhere—were making approaches to various diplomatic missions in London and to other people from about 24th October until the crisis was resolved on Sunday, 28th October.
Ivanov, with the assistance of Mr. Ward, was perhaps rather more persistent than most; but he was not the only one to try to bring this pressure to shake us and, by us, bring what pressure we could on the United States. But since these matters have been mentioned, I think it right that I should give the House a chronological account of the activities at that time with which Ivanov, whatever Tassmay say, was involved.
On 24th October, 1962, Mr. Ward telephoned the resident clerk at the Foreign Office and gave him, to pass on to Sir Harold Caccia, an account of a conversation he had just had with Ivanov. Among other things, Mr. Ward said that Ivanov had stated that the Americans had created a situation in which there was no opportunity for either the Americans or the Russians to compromise and that the Soviet Government looked to the United Kingdom as their one hope of conciliation.
The next day, 25th October, my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) informed Sir Hugh Stephenson, then Deputy-Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office—I think that my hon. Friend was one of Mr. Ward's patients—that Ivanov had been to see him to give a somewhat similar story and to ask for some indication that the British Government were considering working towards negotiations at the Summit. This day was the same day as that on which the Foreign Secretary had seen Mr. Loginov; and later the same afternoon Mr. Ward spoke to Sir Harold Caccia's private secretary to convey similar information.
On the following day, 26th October, Mr. Ward telephoned Lord Arran and asked to bring Ivanov to his house for a discussion the next morning. Lord Arran agreed and Ivanov and Mr. Ward came to see him on 27th October. Ivanov again stated that he wished to get a message to the British Government by indirect means asking them to call a Summit conference in London forthwith. Lord Arran reported this initiative at the time both to my office and to the Foreign Office, and later sent in a full report.
It is thus clear that at the time of the Cuba crisis Ivanov was using all the methods at his disposal to try to persuade the British Government to take some initiative. But he was not alone in this. Nor were we in any doubt about the motives of these approaches, which must have been to drive a wedge between ourselves and the United States at this very crucial moment. It is not uncommon, at a moment of crisis, that a lot of worthy people should be used to see whether they could be of some assistance. That has often happened. Ivanov's approaches were, therefore, only a small piece of the jigsaw; they were a natural part of the Soviet attempt to weaken our resolution. Our reply at the time was that the ordinary diplomatic channels were open.
That was what the letter was mainly about. I was not quite sure whether it was a reproach to me for not having yielded to the pressures. Some people thought that we should have taken the initiative. It was not a very easy decision to make and hon. Members must remember our close discussion all the time with the President of the United States. That is what the letter was about and I have told the House about it in detail. It was, of course, known because Sir Hugh Stephen-son and all these people were involved init.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition next wrote to me on 9th April and sent me a copy of a memorandum, prepared by the hon. Member for Dudley, of a conversation he had had with Mr. Ward on 26th March—four days after Mr. Profumo's statement. I at once forwarded the right hon. Gentleman's letter, and enclosures, to the security authorities. They examined the material and concluded that there was no evidence in it of any breach of security and, indeed, that there were no new points in it. There was nothing of Mr. Ward's conversation, reported in this memorandum, not already brought to their attention, either by Mr. Ward or through other reports. It was a long memorandum and it is interesting to note that, among other allegations—and I hope that I am correct in this—it included the statement that there was no impropriety in the association between Mr. Profumo and Miss Keeler.
On 13th May the right hon. Gentleman wrote me a letter asking what action I was going to take on his material and I replied that it did not seem to me that any further action was necessary. On 23rd May the right hon. Gentleman sent me a letter he had received from Mr. Ward which, among other things, said that Mr. Profumo had not told the truth in his statement in the House of Commons. On the following day the right hon. Gentleman asked to see me before the Whitsun Recess and we met on 27th May, when the right hon. Gentleman expressed the view that there were still security implications which required further examination.
I said that I would consider the right hon. Gentleman's representations and inform him. I had, in addition, to consider further statement made by Mr. Ward. Whatever value can be given to them, I must consider them. On 7th May he had telephoned my Principal Private Secretary and asked for an interview with him. I was in some doubt about whether it would be advisable to grant this request or what useful purpose it would serve. But I decided that as it might be possible that Mr. Ward had some information to give bearing on security my Principal Private Secretary ought to see him. I arranged that he should be accompanied by a member of the security service, and this, in fact, was done on the same evening.
It transpired that Mr. Ward wished to complain about certain inquiries which the police were making at that time and which, as we now know, led eventually to his arrest. He was, of course, very properly told that this was nothing to do with me or, indeed, with any other member of the Government; that the police were charged with the duty and responsibility of investigating any alleged criminal offence and were not in any way in this country under political direction or control.
During the course of his complaints, Mr. Ward let drop the remark that Mr. Profumo had not told the truth. This, of course, was the opposite from what he had been saying earlier in his conversation with the hon. Member for Dudley. I do not know how many people Mr. Ward wrote to or spoke to. He did write to the Home Secretary on 19th May, asking for the police inquiries to be called off and making allegations about Mr. Profumo's untruthfulness. He also wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Sir W. Wakefield) and to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, on 20th May. Of course, without saying again that this case is sub judice, it seems fairly clear that what he was hoping was that the police activities would be discontinued.
As a result of these fresh allegations by Mr. Ward, Mr. Profumo was again closely questioned on several occasions and each time he firmly maintained the truth of his statements. On 29th May I learned for the first time about the statement that Miss Keeler made to the police on 26th January, which I have already described to the House. I heard of it for the first time on 29th May. This was the story that she had been asked to obtain certain information from Mr. Profumo and had not done so.
Although I found and still find it difficult to attach weight to this story, I felt that in view of the doubts expressed by the Leader of the Opposition on the security angle and in view of this information which had only just reached me it would be right to take further action. I therefore decided to ask the Lord Chancellor to look carefully at the security reports and other documents which I had received in connection with the case and to make any inquiries which he thought necessary from the security service and the police and to advise me whether, in his opinion, he thought that any further action seemed desirable. I informed the right hon. Gentleman by letter of my decision on 30th May.
The Lord Chancellor accepted this duty and in the course of it not only made a large number of inquiries from the security authorities and from the police, but questioned a number of Ministers and Mr. Profumo. I received his report and, as I undertook to do, I sent a copy of it to the right hon. Gentleman. I have no complaint about the courteous way in which the right hon. Gentleman referred to the report and made use of it only to the extent of referring to things within his knowledge.
Very serious things have been said about me and I must reply to them. I will now deal with the serious accusation which has been made that I had either received, or ought to have received, certain statements from the police authorities and from Mr. Eddowes which should have led me to question the probity of Mr. Profumo, In view of the importance which the Press has attached to this matter, I must deal with it fully. Here I will summarise with quotations a statement made to the police. I have placed copies of the whole of this statement in the Library.
On 24th March, at a time when Miss Keeler was out of the country, her mother, Mrs. Huish, volunteered a statement to the Buckinghamshire police. She said that a Mr. Eddowes had called at her home on the previous day saying that he was concerned for Miss Keeler's safety, that she was in danger and that he was prepared to do anything to help. He suggested that Miss Keeler should make a statement saying that Ivanov was her boy friend and that she got information from Mr. Profumo and gave it to Ivanov for a joke.
Mr. Eddowes went on to say that Miss Keeler would have to keep to this story to protect herself. He said that she would get £5,000 to £10,000 when the Press had the story. In that respect, it was an underestimate in my view. Mr. Eddowes added—this is what he told the mother—that the Government would be forced to open an inquiry to which Miss Keeler would state these things and turn out a little heroine.
On 29th March, that is, five days later, a chief inspector of the Metropolitan Police saw Mr. Eddowes at the latter's house in London. Mr. Eddowes made a statement and handed the police an aide-memoire. This included the allegation that Miss Keeler had said she often met Ivanov at Ward's flat where she also met Mr. Profumo. He alleged that Miss Keeler said that Ivanov had asked her to obtain information about nuclear warheads, which she said she had not done. Mr. Eddowes was told that his information would be placed before the proper authorities. Of course, all this was hearsay, that is, Eddowes's account of what he said Miss Keeler had told him.
As the police had already obtained a statement, to which I have already referred, and were, moreover, aware of the statement made by Mrs. Huish to the Buckinghamshire police, Eddowes's allegations did not have the importance which otherwise might have attached to them. Eddowes was not told, as he claimed, that his report would be on my deck the following morning. He was told that the matter would be dealt with by the proper authorities. A few days later Mr. Eddowes rang up the police, on his return from abroad, and asked what had happened to his statement and was told by the police officer to whom he spoke that the matter was out of his hands.
This was at the beginning of April. From that date until 13th June, Friday of last week, Mr. Eddowes took no further action although there had, of course, been sensational developments in the meantime. Whatever the reason for the timing may have been, Mr. Eddowes wrote to me on 13th June and sent the letter to the Press. The House, I think, may draw its own conclusions of the way this story reads.
I have now to complete the narrative of events. The Lord Chancellor began his inquiry on Friday, 31st May, the day after I asked him to undertake it. On the same day, the Friday, Mr. Profumo left for a short holiday in Venice. He had been told that the Lord Chancellor would want to see him in connection with the inquiry on the following Thursday, and he arranged to return in time for that. In the event, the Lord Chancellor made more rapid progress than he had expected and asked Mr. Profumo to return a day earlier, on the Wednesday.
Mr. Profumo returned on the Whit Monday, and that evening he asked for an urgent interview with my Principal Private Secretary, saying that there had been a serious development. This meeting took place at 10.30 the following morning, Tuesday, 4th June, when my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and my Principal Private Secretary saw Mr. Profumo. He said at once that his protestations of innocence had been untrue and that he had, in fact, had an improper association with Miss Keeler. He immediately tendered his resignation and indicated his intention of applying for the Chiltern Hundreds.
All this was reported to me at once and the information was announced by way of the exchange of letters, as the House and the country know.
That completes the narrative. I must now summarise the position. In August, 1961, I had never heard of Mr. Ward and, indeed, I never did till February—
But he sent the right hon. Gentleman a letter. I had not even had the pleasure of being his correspondent. I had never heard of Mr. Ward in August, 1961, nor had I heard of his connection with Ivanov or Mr. Profumo. The warning given to him by Sir Norman Brook—and it was a warning simply to keep away from the house where the Russian diplomat went—related to Mr. Profumo's acquaintance with Mr. Ward, not with a woman. I had no information from the police or from the security service before Mr. Profumo's statement which lead me to doubt his veracity.
I received from the right hon. Gentleman after Mr. Profumo's statement certain papers to which I have referred, but Mr. Ward's letter did not bring in Mr. Profumo and the hon. Member for Dudley's record of his conversation with Mr. Ward showed that at that time Mr. Ward was saying that he did not question Mr. Profumo's honour. No other communications were sent to me by the police or the security authorities from the date of Mr. Profumo's statement to the date of his confession that would have led me to doubt the truth of his statement.
Moreover, I would ask the House to consider what alternative I had except to believe what I was told by Mr. Profumo. Here was a man who had been for a long time a Member of the House; who had a good war record; who had been appointed originally to a junior office in 1951 and had worked his way up the ladder. Why, then, should I disbelieve what he told me? Would I not have been guilty of great harshness if I had then demanded his resignation?
The right hon. Gentleman disclaims any appearance of harshness, or any intention of harshness, in connection with Mr. Profumo, but what about the harshness when he dismissed seven Ministers a year ago?
If I may say so, I think that tells exactly the other way. I have had the difficult task—and Prime Ministers have—of making changes for what seemed to be improvements in the national service—[Hon. Members: "Oh."] Of course it is a difficult task, but I have not had to do so by telling a Minister that terrible rumours are circulating about him and that I cannot believe his denial. That is quite a different order.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that it was only because of his insistence and the decision to ask the Lord Chancellor to make inquiries that Mr. Profumo decided to confess his guilt. I fear I am not able to speculate on the reasons that impelled him to confess. It is true that it may have been because he was asked by the Lord Chancellor to come before him, but, after all, he had faced examinations by very able men—including the Law Officers—not just once but several times.
There may have been other reasons. He may have felt the pressure too heavy upon him. He may have been induced at last to open his heart to his wife. He may no longer have felt able to live with a lie. Or, to take a more cynical view, having heard that the activities of the police were leading to Mr. Ward's arrest, he may have feared that out of this the truth would inevitably come. I have no grounds for deciding between these various speculations.
I have thought it right at this, the first occasion, to give the House a full and detailed account of my connection with this unhappy story. From the beginning, right hon. Gentlemen have said that we ought to concern ourselves only with the security aspect. Later, other commentators have laid more stress upon the moral implications. Of course, both aspects are serious, and both of great importance, and I thought it right to confine myself today to the strict matters before the House.
Let me now summarise. I have told the House in great detail the whole story of this affair as far as I was concerned with it. I think that I have omitted nothing of importance—I hope not. I have certainly avoided nothing. I said at the beginning that it was my duty to act honourably, to act justly, and to act prudently. My colleagues have been deceived, and I have been deceived, grossly deceived—and the House has been deceived—but we have not been parties to deception, and I claim that upon a fair view of the facts as I have set them out I am entitled to the sympathetic understanding and confidence of the House and of the country.
There are many elements of tragedy in this affair, and there will certainly be sympathy with the Prime Minister for what must have been for him a most painful occasion. It has been alleged that there is a personal attack upon his honour, but that, to my mind, has never been the case.
When Lord Poole suggested at the weekend that we must make up our minds whether the Prime Minister was a man of honour and integrity or not, I do not think that he asked the right question. The question that faces this House and this country is not whether or not the Prime Minister's personal honour is established, but whether his Government can now command respect and prestige sufficient to rule the country. The question is, further, whether they are a competent Government, and it is to that that we have to direct our attention.
The Prime Minister has at last given us his account of the facts—
I say "at last" because there has been endless speculation, and though the Prime Minister has had no previous chance to speak, time has been passing.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that there was some suspicion away back in 1961 that Dr. Ward and his associates were not very desirable people for the company of the Secretary of State for War, but that this information was not told him by Sir Norman Brook. Apparently, Sir Norman Brook took no further action other than warning the Secretary of State, and the Prime Minister has told us that, in fact, he knew nothing about the matter until February of this year.
One point to notice quite clearly from this is that the Prime Minister is head of security, and that he cannot possibly assure the House or the country as to what damage may have been done by this, because he knew nothing about the association of the Secretary of State for War with Miss Keeler and Dr. Ward until about eighteen months after it was over.
What happened then? In February of this year it was brought to the right hon. Gentleman's attention that there were certain rumours about this association with Dr. Ward and Miss Keeler. One thing I am not very clear about is that it is alleged—with, apparently, circumstantial evidence—that certain of our newspapers, in February of this year, had statements and letters from Miss Keeler and. possibly, from other people connected with the case. Is the Prime Minister telling the House that he had no information whatever from those newspapers? If so, have the Government made any attempt to get in touch with those newspapers to discover why, when they had this information, it was not made available either to the Government themselves or to M.I.5?
The Prime Minister decided, however, on examining such information as was available to him, that he should not accept Mr. Profumo's resignation—Mr. Profumo apparently offered his resignation, and it was refused. The Prime Minister has mentioned the case of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith). There is, I must say, a strange discrepancy between the treatment of the hon. Member for Hillhead and of the Secretary of State for War. On the strength of a story which not even the journalist who told it believed, the Prime Minister not only accepted the resignation of the hon. Member for Hill head but instantly set up a court of investigation—
If the Prime Minister wishes to correct me, he can certainly do so. He, however, decided that the allegations against the Secretary of State for War did not warrant the acceptance of his resignation, I should have thought that they were more serious than those against the hon. Member for Hillhead. I can imagine few more serious things for the head of the security of the country than any allegations that his Secretary of State for War was putting himself in a position where he might be a security risk.
Of course, it has never been and cannot be denied that that is exactly the position that he was in. Everybody has accepted that there was a security risk; but, nevertheless, this was considered apparently of less moment than the affair which led to the Vassall Tribunal.
So we come on to the events of 21st and 22nd March. I must confess that I think these are without parallel. Whatever the Prime Minister may say, this tribunal of Ministers, sitting in the middle of the night to examine one of their colleagues, with a solicitor, would, I should have thought, have shaken everybody's confidence in the ability of the Government to conduct their business. However, in spite of what they already knew, in spite of the fact that they knew there was a letter in existence addressed to Miss Keeler and beginning "Darling", they came to the conclusion that Mr. Profumo should be believed and that the association was entirely innocent.
Did they ask where this letter was? Did they make any effort to get it? Did they make any inquiries of the papers? I would also ask, for what purpose did they think Mr. Profumo saw Miss Keeler? Did they think that it was merely to make conversation? They may say that at that time they did not know about Miss Keeler. Did they make any effort to find out who she was? Perhaps they did know; if so, did they think this was an entirely innocent affair? These are people who are in charge of the country. They are people of some standing.
Perhaps they did believe what they were told then. But what happened afterwards? From then onwards there was a continual stream of evidence, not all of which may be good but all of which pointed to the fact that Dr. Ward was certainly an undesirable man and possibly a Russian agent, and that there was more to this story than had come to light in Mr. Profumo's statement.
The Prime Minister may say that, individually, not all of these things which were brought to his attention could carry weight. First of all, there was the information from the Leader of the Opposition. Then there was information from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). Then there were various documents from Dr. Ward himself. As far as I can understand—I should like the Prime Minister to correct this if I am wrong—at no time did he see Mr. Profumo personally. [Hon. Members: "Answer."] In spite of the fact that he was head of security, and this continual stream of allegations was pouring in, at no time did he think it right to see the Secretary of State for War personally. The Prime Minister is head of security in this country.
What I said in my speech I will repeat. I thought it better that the examination which led up finally to the statement should be made by the Chief Whip and the Law Officers. After Mr. Profumo gave it, he repeated it to me and made it quite clear to me that he proposed to take action in the courts. I advised him that I could see no objection and, indeed, I thought it would be wise of him to do so.
Up to the statement there was no question of security, because if his statement was true his friendship with this woman had lasted for five weeks, eighteen months before. Of course, now that we know that what he said was untrue, then the security risk arises.
But whatever the reason, the right hon. Gentleman never saw him. He was never seen by the Prime Minister. That is what we are told. The Prime Minister says there was no reason to see him. But there were, in fact, many allegations and he must have been aware of these allegations. He had seen and heard from the Leader of the Opposition.
The Prime Minister is certainly correct on this point. I made no approach to the Prime Minister till after the statement in the House because of the sequence of events that I described. But, certainly, the Prime Minister had had a statement from the police and the newspaper at the end of January and the beginning of February.
I am not referring to any particular date.
Further, it is very strange that the police never reported what they knew. Again, the Prime Minister is head of security in this country and is responsible. Nobody else can take the responsibility. When he assures this House that he is responsible for security in this country, that does not mean that he is responsible only when it goes right. He must also take responsibility when it goes wrong. There is no doubt that security did go wrong.
There is no possible doubt that this was reported to the Prime Minister, and there is no doubt that he ought to have taken much earlier and stronger action than he did. There is no doubt that whatever the five Ministers thought on this occasion on 22nd March, long before 4th June, they should have had serious doubts about the statement which was made to this House. There is no doubt that very serious doubt was thrown on to that statement long before Mr. Profumo's resignation. No steps were taken by the Government to ensure that the honour of this House was maintained.
There is another aspect of this affair. I do not believe that politicians are particularly good guardians of public morals. Certainly, there is an aspect of private morality in this whole case, and an important one—and I compliment the Prime Minister on the fact that he did not attempt to deal with this matter—but during the past week we have been told by leaders of the Conservative Party that this shows a decline in national morality. We have been told that they cannot accept this division between public and private morals, and some have gone so far as to say that they cannot sit in a Government with people who might be blackmailed.
Does this mean anything at all? If it means anything, it means apparently that there is to be an inquest into the private morality of people who take public office. I should regret that. If it does not mean that, it means nothing. Unless it means that, it is sheer rhetoric. Unless it means that an examination is to take place into private morality, it is meaningless.
I do not believe that morality is confined to sexual morality. What I say is that there has been a series of events and that on the security side this is not an isolated incident. It is not the first breach of security from which this country has suffered. This is not the first bungle by the Government in a most vital part of the national interest. Furthermore, many of these people who are now calling for sackcloth and ashes and pouring fire and brimstone on the whole country are the very people who went through Suez.
I do not remember many of them making a strong protest about Hola. Not an eyebrow was twitched when a former Lord Chancellor left his office and went straight into private business at a very high salary, having been appealing for wage restraint. Not so long ago we had the Home Secretary defending in this House his failure to tell the House that Chief Enahoro could not have the counsel he wanted.
This is the Government of whom Sir Roy Welensky said, "They put their arms round your neck so that they can find a soft spot in your back to stab." This is not an isolated incident and it is not to be written off by blaming a sharp decline in national morality. When did Ministers and their associates discover this sharp decline in national morality? When did they discover that the Church was at fault, or that it was all the fault of the Labour Party? To bring this in is the tactic of the cuttle fish; it is an attempt to darken the waters in order that the main point at issue may be obscured.
The point here is: is this a Government which can command respect for this country in the world? After this succession of incidents do they really think that they can speak for Britain? Do they think that this has not damaged our prestige? This is the point which they have to answer. I know that it has been said that the Prime Minister will stay on for a short time and that then he will be quietly pushed aside. This, to my mind, would be the most cynical outcome of all.
This really would be putting party before country in a despicable manner. If the Government have a contribution to offer this country, let them offer it, but if their party, at the back of its mind, has made up its mind that the Prime Minister must go, the time for him to go is now. There is no possible excuse for having a caretaker Government at this moment.
At the back of all this, if there is an issue of public morality—andI think that there is one—it is an issue of public morality whether politics in this country are simply about maintaining office at all costs or whether they are about the country and humanity at large. If there is an issue of public morality, it is whether the Government are entitled to say, on the one hand, "This is a national matter and not a party matter", and, at the same time, put out a three-line Whip. And then, when challenged about this, to say, "A three-line Whip does not tell you how to vote".
If there is a question of public morality, it is a question of priorities. I think that the people of this country will be severely shocked if they come to the conclusion that the maintenance of a particular Government in office is much more important than the competence of that Government, or their ability to run the country.
I do not see how the Prime Minister and his immediate colleagues can escape responsibility. They must either take responsibility for the security services and general conduct of the country, or they will be responsible for a very severe blow at the political life of this country—one or the other.
A great deal of horror has been expressed about Mr. Profumo, and certainly no one will defend his conduct. But I think that all this ceremonial washing of hands in public on anything to do with Mr. Profumo has been overdone. The Government sat with him as their colleague for two years. Some at least have had the courage to say that Mr. Profumo was their friend and that he remained so. I think that that was a courageous thing to say. They may have been wrong to have him as a friend, but as they were his friends, they were not afraid to say so. I much prefer that to the idea that he should be kicked in the stomach and the teeth. The Government may have been wrong to keep him, but they left him. It is not a pretty thing to hear horror and disgust expressed about their colleague in this way.
Here again, I think that the Prime Minister is responsible for keeping Mr. Profumo in his Ministry. There has been a very great deal of damage done to this House. There has been a great deal of damage done to politics in this country. There has been a great deal of damage done to people's belief in the responsibility of the Cabinet. It is very odd that the Home Secretary, apparently, on the night of the 21st, never knew anything about it. A great deal of damage has been done to the name of this country in the world. I do not think that this is due to any fault of the Tory Party as a whole, but I do believe that the Tory Party should ask who is responsible and I do not see how their leaders in office can escape responsibility.
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in thanking you for calling me to speak in this debate, may I say at once that I speak in it only with great reluctance and unhappiness. As I see it, it is impossible for this House to discharge its duty today without reopening and further probing the terrible wounds, not only of a former colleague of ours and a member of this great fellowship of the House of Commons, but also those of his family and his friends.
Nothing, surely, is more hateful than to hit a man when he is down. But we have our duty to do in the House of Commons, without any consideration of party whatever, without any consideration of personal feelings, friendship or hostility, and that duty can be fulfilled only if we make a calm and dispassionate examination, so far as may be humanly possible, of the circumstances in which the false statement came to be made in this Chamber by the then Secretary of State and to be approved by the Government.
I think it is right to acknowledge the fairness and honesty, if I may say so, with which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition put this point at the very outset. He said that the Secretary of State deliberately lied to the House on a promise of good faith arising from a personal statement. The question has to be faced—he said—did other Ministers connive at that or fail to inquire sufficiently into it? That is a perfectly fair and proper inquiry for the House to make. The House, as I have said, should, so far as is humanly possible, adopt a dispassionate attitude.
When the House has been affronted in the way that it has, it is very difficult to avoid indignation and to preserve a judicial attitude either against Mr. Profumo himself—but that is over, because he has admitted it—or against those who might appear, as has been suggested, to have connived at it. In fairness to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I do not think that he did actually make that accusation. He said that it must be made plain whether they had connived or not.
The accusation is, of course, put in the form of a dilemma. Either, it is said, there was a conspiracy, or there was almost criminal gullibility. I do not believe that the House is seriously concerned with the first of those two, the idea that there could be a conspiracy among Ministers, and I believe that we can, thank God, dismiss that possibility in this House.
The second is a much more plausible suggestion. I believe that public opinion can be summarised, perhaps, from a rather unusual source. A letter appeared in The Timesunder the name of Mr. Osbert Lancaster. I can only assume that it is the same Mr. Osbert Lancaster who habitually makes a very good guess at public opinion in another medium. He said that had some of our politicians displayed a little healthy incredulity at the appropriate moment we should have been spared a lot of cant.
In the circumstances, I believe that it is necessary for us to make a very strict appraisal of the situation. I should like to say that, as a former Law Officer, I have thought it my duty to do this with as open a mind as I could. Of course, it is perfectly right to say that as an ex-Attorney-General I would be anxious to sec the Law Officers come out of this affair well. That is only human. At the same time, the Law Officers of the Crown from time immemorial have regarded their first duty in this House as being their duty to the House, and, second and third, that to the Government and to their own party. I can honestly assure the House that that is the attitude I have tried to adopt. I shall not try to tell the House what it should decide. All that I shall venture to tell the House—I believe that it might be of help to it—is the conclusion that I have reached and the grounds upon which I have reached it. I have done so after the fullest and most frank discussion with the Law Officers of the Crown, who were appointed to deal with this matter and who, naturally, dealt with it when the statement came to be made.
Also, I have had the opportunity of a full and frank discussion with Mr. Profumo's own solicitor, who had been authorised by him to waive his professional privilege and allow the whole of the facts to be stated. I think that the House should appreciate that, in doing that, Mr. Profumo, for whom I hold no brief whatever—I knew him only slightly; I have had no complaint to make of him of any kind, and I have always found him courteous, helpful and efficient in his work—did make a measure of atonement. He authorised Mr. Derek Glogg, of Messrs. Theodore Goddard and Co., his solicitors, to supply me and to supply everyone with a full account of his action in the matter.
The matter began on 28th January when the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General were made acquainted with rumours, partly, no doubt, through what they heard in the House, and they asked Mr. Profumo to discuss with them the rumours which had circulated. As we know, he denied any connection with Miss Keeler other than a quite harmless one, and he pointed out that, at the time when he knew her, as was the fact, she was not in any way associated with West Indians, with hemp, or with anything of that kind. This is something which seems to have been forgotten, because, with hindsight, we all assume now that, when he met her he went into an atmosphere of that kind, which, of course, is quite inaccurate.
The Attorney-General then gave him some advice. This may explain something which caused, it seemed to me, an unfortunate air of amusement, even of hilarity. I refer to the presence of Mr. Profumo's solicitor. The Attorney-General said to him, as I should have said—and, I may say, as I did say at the time to friends of mine in the House—"The proper course for you to take in circumstances of this kind is to go to a solicitor of the highest experience. You have the right to absolute confidence with him. Go to him. Ask his advice and do what he tells you". That is what Mr. Profumo did. He went to Mr. Derek Clogg of Theodore Goddard and Co., a very well known firm of London solicitors.
Hon. and learned Members of the other branch of our learned profession will know that if one wished to choose anyone to whom to tell, as one's solictor, an untrue story, Mr. Derek Clogg is about the last man in the world one would choose. He is a gentleman of great reputation. He has had great experience in cases dealing with libel, with divorce and all those matters where human frailty and possible lying may come into account.
Mr. Clogg believed what he was told by his client. Mr. Profumo told him—this I am authorised to tell the House—that he realised that the story was an improbable one, but he said to him, "I implore you to believe me because I know how difficult it is going to be to persuade you". He was cross-examined. The matter was gone into. On 3rd February, Mr. Clogg told the Attorney-General that he was satisfied that the story which he had been told was true.
On 4th February, a remarkable event occurred. Mr. Clogg and his counsel, a very well-known member of the Bar, Mr. Mark Littman, visited the Attorney-General and informed him that an approach had been made by someone—I can say no more at the moment about that—to Messrs. Theodore Goddard and Co. which appeared to indicate a demand for money. For obvious reasons, I cannot give particulars. There was then a discussion and Mr. Profumo stated that he desired to go, as he did go, with his solicitor and counsel to the Director of Public Prosecutions and ask him to take action. What stronger confirmation could Mr. Clogg have of the truth of what he had been told?
It is right and natural to ask—it is the question which I asked—why did not the Director of Public Prosecutions proceed? There will be hon. and learned Members and Members on both sides of the House with knowledge of such matters who will know that there are circumstances in which it is difficult to take proceedings on a letter received from a solicitor unless certain evidence is available. I do not believe anyone will suggest that the Director of Public Prosecutions was engaged in any supposed conspiracy. In the event, proceedings were not taken.
I pass now to 22nd March. This was the occasion of the Consolidated Fund Bill, when several hon. Members opposite referred to rumours. I interrupted, I hope not over-strenuously, the hon. Lady the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and suggested that, if an accusation was to be made, it should be made.
After the debate, as we know, there was the meeting of Ministers. It has been asked, what in the world was Mr. Clogg doing there? The explanation was very simple. The Ministers, particularly the Attorney-General, said to Mr. Profumo, "The time has now come when you have got to deal with this situation. The only way you can do so satisfactorily is to make a statement in the House of Commons". He said that he would like to do this, so it was than said to him—I should myself regard this as a perfectly proper step—"In the circumstances, we had better ask Mr. Clogg to come here and see that there is no question of your saying anything which you ought not to say". [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Certainly. If hon. Members will be patient, they will see what was meant by that. Mr. Clogg came here. The Law Officers of the Crown drafted the statement, and they submitted it to Mr. Clogg, asking him whether, in his view, it was right and proper that Mr. Profumo should make it. We should not forget that he might have been incriminating himself. They did not know what Mr. Clogg's attitude would be. [Interruption.] Let us be patient for a moment. After all, these men are in the dock; they are entitled to be defended.
The Solicitor-General has told me that he said to Mr. Profumo, "You must realise that you are making a statement that there is no truth whatever in any of these allegations. Supposing that there is, for the rest of your life you will be submitting yourself to blackmail". Mr. Profumo's answer was, "I quite realise that, but, as it is all true, I have nothing to fear", and, as we know, he made the statement.
It is now said that these people were incompetent and gullible. In the first place, how many people in the House, had they been there at the time, would really have supposed that Mr. Profumo was prepared to make that statement knowing that it was grossly false? I do not believe that any trained lawyer or anyone else would have thought it. In the circumstances, we ought to think very carefully before we start condemning anyone.
Unfortunately, we must condemn Mr. Profumo, but, as I have already said, this is something which we ought to do at the right place and at the right time, if at all; and, in any event, I should have thought that for him and his family the last week and today have probably been punishment sufficient for anyone in the world.
That, I believe, is the story which the House ought to appreciate. It leads me to the conclusion, first, that it is fantastic to suggest that there was any conspiracy, and, second, that it is hopelessly unreasonable to suggest that those people were incompetent and gullible and "led down the garden path". It is fair also to say this in the House of Mr. Clogg. Anyone who knows him and his reputation will know that he would be above any such thing if there were a wrong being done, and, in addition, he would not do anything which was utterly stupid or incompetent.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been kind enough to tell us some of the events which transpired at the meeting of the Ministers with Mr. Profumo. Since he is telling us what the Solicitor-General said to him, could he give us a little more information as to the extent to which Mr. Profumo was probed about this letter, the existence of which was known? To what extent did that figure in the matter?
I gather that it began, and Mr. Profumo admitted that it began, with the word "Darling". I do not share the view of the Leader of the Liberal Party about that. If he would make inquiries, he would find that quite a number of young Liberals address each other as "darling".
I take the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point. The point is the particular sort of darling that this was. A number of Ministers do not write letters to people who are practically tarts and begin with "Darling".
They were also told, as was the fact on his story, that this was a farewell letter. It was a letter breaking off communication because, as he said, he had been told—[Hon. Members: "Breaking off what?"] Breaking off connection in every sense of the word with this lady.
I cannot answer that. As I understand it, this was a farewell letter, and, if one is terminating any kind of temporary association with a lady, I should have thought that it was much wiser to do it in a polite and pleasant way.
I do not think that some hon. Members have it in mind that it has been stated that before this letter was written Mr. Profumo had been warned and told to break off the association. That was why he broke it off. He had been warned against Ward.
I do not think I can continue with this, but I must make this point quite clear. [Interruption.] I do not propose to satisfy the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). That is not my duty. What I want to do is to address the House's attention to this point, that the letter was not one which could be quoted in detail. It was a letter written to a lady with no copy kept to put in a file.
I have given the House the information that I have been able to obtain to the best of my ability, and I will do anything I can to help the House, but I do not feel that I can subject myself to cross-examination on what other people did and why they did it. That is a matter for the House.
I ask hon. Members to realise that this is the High Court of Parliament and, therefore, this is the place above all places where justice should be done. It should be done just as much to Members of the House who are Ministers and who took part in this matter as to anyone else. If that is done, I feel that I have no more to say.
No doubt by rising at this moment I am depriving my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), who has a large dossier on this case, of the opportunity to speak at this stage. Having listened to the facts as recited by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and by the Prime Minister, I think we are in possession of enough of the facts to form a judgment. I do not think that the judgment will be an unbiased one at the end of the debate, because I quite frankly see the point that was so inadequately put by the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) in trying to make a case for his own party.
It would be idle to suggest that the Opposition will not press their case to a point which might cause difficulties for the Government or, at any rate, the Prime Minister. I go so far as to say that, whatever the result of the Division tonight, a feeling will be left in the minds of constituents of my hon. Friends and of right hon. and hon. Members opposite which will not be affected by speeches similar to that of the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey. The issue has gone far beyond what Mr. Profumo's solicitor advised him to say or not to say. Surely if a Minister, or indeed any Member of Parliament, is convinced that he is speaking the truth, it is not necessary for a solicitor to advise him on what to say and what not to say to this House. After all, the House is very tolerant and if a Minister or Member comes to the House and says, "What has been said against me is untrue", we are prepared to accept that at its face value, and we did. That is not the issue. That was settled long ago by the resignation of Mr. Profumo, both from his high office and from this House. The real issue is very different.
I shall not stress the security point of view as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition did today. Certain aspects of his speech when we read them over again will cause profound disquiet among those of us who believe in the security of our nation and who look to the Government and the Prime Minister, and those who are primarily responsible, to defend that security. Certainly it seems from what my right hon. Friend said today about security that some damage may have been caused to us as a nation. My right hon. Friend went on to say that we shall never know. If we shall never know, it is no good prosecuting that point of view ad infinitum.
What we must concentrate on is the Prime Minister's own responsibility in this case. I do not question his integrity for one moment. I do not think that any hon. Member does. What we do question is his complete inadequacy to control his own Government and to lead the nation in a way which the nation expects.
The moral issue, which has been glossed over, both in the Press and probably in this House, in favour of the security issue, is something which has an impact on the minds of our constituents. I know very well that the majority of my constituents are not really concerned with the security issue. They do not understand it. They do not understand the workings of M.I.5 or of the police on that scale. What they do understand is that the Government—and I say "Government"advisedly—have failed. I say this to the Leader of the House, who has played a prominent part in this. I cannot believe that he is so innocent in his judgment when certain evidence, even if it is not sworn evidence, is given to him that he should not say to himself, "Is there any doubt?", and advise his colleague, "You had better resign, and resign of your own free will, otherwise you might involve the whole Government", as, undoubtedly, Mr. Profumo has done.
There is not much that I want to say on the facts, because the facts are there and we shall read them again with considerable interest. The country is, however, concerned, on top of the Vassall case, which was not settled when the vote was taken in this House. The public are concerned about integrity, not only in Government circles, but in official circles, too.
Today, there was published in The Times a full-page advertisement by Moral Re-Armament. Hon. Members can dismiss that, but I should like to draw their attention to something in that advertisement which is an old story now but which is all part of the pattern. The pattern which I am trying to present to the House is this: are our security services so perfect or not under suspicion that even the Prime Minister can get the truth from them?
The Prime Minister told us today that as far back as 1961, there was a suspicion that everything was not all right and that Sir Norman Brook, as the Prime Minister said, warned Mr. Profumo. Did it stop there? I am amazed if that is the case—an official occupying such a high position as he did—that it stopped there and that nothing went outside the Cabinet Office and reached the ears of the Prime Minister, the Chief Whip, the Leader of the House, and so on. That was in 1961. The Prime Minister, however, has told us that not until later, in 1963, did he get an inkling of the truth. Why was the truth not disclosed?
I now come to the point in the advertisement which makes me think and I hope that it will make others think, too. The advertisement states:
We must learn and learn fast the link between private sexual habits and public security risks.
We discussed that in the Vassall case.
In the book Burgess and Maclean…speaking of how these two men were warned to flee our country, the authors say: 'And so it was not from the Foreign Office but from M.I.5 that the warning came, and it came not to Maclean but to Burgess…
'The Third Man was a senior member of the service who has since left and won honours in another field'.
No individual is named, but sufficient is said there to cause many of us who know a little more about the case to wonder what is happening now. The advertisement goes on to say:
'He had been a close friend of Burgess, although he had not seen him for almost a year, and he was a homosexual…'
Again, in The Times this morning there was a report in the news column that Mr. Jordan, a convicted person, had seen Scotland Yard on Saturday last to discuss information which he had sent in a letter to the Prime Minister claiming that John Vassall had given him information when he was in Wormwood Scrubs Prison.
Hon. Members may wonder what the connection is, but I think that there is something more that ought to be disclosed about our security services. Accepting that the Prime Minister is an honourable man and did not know anything about these things, I am not so sure that information was purposely withheld from the Prime Minister that would have been damaging to Mr. Profumo and his Government.
I remember very well during the war when, in 1940, the then Prime Minister was under severe attack from the Opposition, as, I imagine, the Prime Minister is today. Some hon. Members may have been present and heard it. There was no question then about how Mr. Chamberlain went. He went because his own party lacked that trust in him which Government supporters should have in their own Prime Minister.
What I am saying to right hon. and hon. Members opposite is that in spite of a three-line whip, in spite of loyalty to their party, they ought not to try to hide their true views; and surely, after listening to the Prime Minister, their true views must be that there was a lack of proper handling of this matter by the Prime Minister and some of his colleagues. And they should act accordingly.
I remember that in 1940, there were 43 Tory Members who voted with the Opposition because they believed that their Prime Minister had made a mistake and there were 80 more hon. Members who abstained from going into the Lobby in support of their Government.
All I want to say tonight is this. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite should consider what they ought to do today and not merely obey a three-line Whip because it has been hinted to them that the Prime Minister may go at the right moment. What they should do is what the Tory Party did in 1940, when the Tory Party, or those who voted against their own Government, were absolutely right.
In many organs of the Press and, to a certain extent, during the latter part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, there has been a suggestion that the whole moral health of the nation is at stake and is concerned in this debate. I do not believe that that is true. As far as the moral health of the nation can be affected by any human agency, it is affected by prophets and priests and not by politicians. But this certainly has been one of the best field days that the self-righteous have had since Parnell was cited as co-respondent in O'Shea's divorce case. In all these miseries, the fact that so many people have found some genuine happiness is something to which, in all charity, we have no right to object.
I must say that I view the activities of the editor of The Times with some distaste.
He is a man about whom it could have been predicted from his early youth that he was bound to end up sooner or later on the staff of one of the Astor papers.
Nor do I think that this debate is primarily concerned with the security aspect, although that, of course, is important. It was fully dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and, for my part, I am perfectly prepared to accept everything that the Prime Minister said about security. I believe that what he said was right and true and I am not prepared to criticise my right hon. Friend in any way concerning the question of security.
What seems to me to be the real issue is something much simpler and much narrower. The real issue seems to be whether it was right to accept Profumo's personal statement. There are two aspects here. There is, first, the moral aspect of accepting that part of the statement which Profumo himself subsequently denied and there is a second issue of whether the Prime Minister in this case acted with good sense and with competence.
I will deal with these two issues in order. First, there is the question of accepting Profumo's statement. We know a deal more now about Profumo than we did at the time of the statement, but we have all known him pretty well for a number of years in this House. I must say that he never struck me as a man at all like a cloistered monk; and Miss Keeler was a professional prostitute.
We have had a legal disquisition from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) about the legal etiquette in all this matter, but as someone who does not understand the law, I simply approach it from the basis of what an ordinary person could or would believe. Here one had an active, busy man and a professional prostitute. On his own admission, Profumo had a number of meetings with her, and, if we are to judge by the published statements, she is not a woman who would be intellectually stimulating. Is it really credible that the association had no sexual content? There seems to me to be a certain basic improbability about the proposition that their relationship was purely platonic. What are whores about? Yet Profumo's word was accepted. It was accepted from a colleague. Would that word have been accepted if Profumo had not been a colleague or even if he had been a political opponent? Everyone must, I think, make his own judgment about that.
We were told that special consideration ought to have been given to Profumo because he was a colleague. It is certainly true that a Prime Minister owes to his subordinates all the help, comfort and protection that he can give them. But surely that help, that comfort and that protection must stop short of condoning a lie in a personal statement to this House.
Then we are told, in many organs of the Press and in many speeches, that special weight ought to have been given to Profumo's words because he was a Privy Councillor and a Secretary of State. I am a Privy Councillor and I have been a Secretary of State, but when I sustained the burden of both offices I did not feel that any sea change had taken place in my personality. I remained what I was, what I had always been and what I am today; and I do not believe it reasonable to suppose that any sea change took place in Mr. Profumo's personality.
He was not a man who was ever likely to tell the absolute truth in a tight corner, and at the time the statement was made he was in a very tight corner indeed. There are people—and it is to the credit of our poor, suffering humanity that it is so—who will tell the whole truth about themselves whatever the consequences may be. Of such are saints and martyrs, but most of us are not like that. Most people in a tight corner either prevaricate—if anvone is interested in prevarication they will find the locus classicus in the evidence given before the Bank Rate Tribunal by the Leader of the Opposition—or, as in this cane, they lie.
This lie was accepted. I have meditated very deeply on this, and though I have given some rather tough reasons for not accepting that Profumo's statement was credible, I have after deep consideration come to the conclusion that my right horn. Friend did absolutely genuinely believe it. I will give my reasons now for taking that view, and these reasons concern the competence and the good sense with which the affair was handled.
Profumo on his own admission had been guilty of a very considerable indiscretion, for a Minister at any rate. He was not a particularly successful Minister. He had no great place in this House or in the country. I cannot really see that the Prime Minister was under any obligation whatever to retain his services, nor do I think that getting rid of Mr. Profumo would, in fact, have made the political situation any worse than it then was. On the other hand, to retain him entailed a colossal risk and a colossal gamble. The difficulties and dangers were obvious enough. The Press were in full cry. They were in possession of letters. They were hardly likely to have bought letters unless they had something of interest in them. Miss Keeler was pretty certain to turn up again, and if she did, editors were sure to make use of her literary talent. The dangers were enormous, and yet this colossal gamble was taken, and in this gamble, as it seems to me, the possible gain was negligible and the possible loss devastating.
The conclusion that I draw from that is that the course adopted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could have been adopted only by someone who genuinely and completely believed the statements of Profumo, and therefore, I absolutely acquit my right hon. Friend of any sort of dishonour. On the other hand, on the question of competence and good sense I cannot think that the verdict can be favourable.
What is to happen now? I cannot myself see at all that we can go on acting as if nothing had happened. We cannot just have business as usual. I myself feel that the time will come very soon when my right hon. Friend ought to make way for a much younger colleague. I feel that that ought to happen. I certainly will not quote at him the savage words of
Cromwell, but perhaps some of the words of Browning might be appropriate in his poem on "The Lost Leader", in which he wrote:
…let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation and pain.
Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
"Never glad confident morning again!"—so I hope that the change will not be too long delayed.
Ahead of us we have a Division. We have the statement of my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Hailsham, in a personal assurance on television, that a Whip is not a summons to vote but a summons to attend. I call the Whips to witness that I at any rate have attended.
I cannot hope to emulate the graceful oratory of the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch), but before I go on to deal with the part of the story with which I am concerned, perhaps I might be permitted to make an observation or two on his speech and the speeches of one or two other right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
Two of my hon. Friends and I were reprimanded and criticised for using the privilege of this House for a declared purpose. All I did was to ask for an investigation and an inquiry. But today, when it suits the purpose of the Conservative Party, the privilege of this House can be used to describe a woman as a professional prostitute, and, in addition, we have Lord Hailsham, in the security of his great office and having the privilege of using the B.B.C., describing her as a woman of easy virtue. Let me tell the House, quite frankly, that I have not joined the movement for Moral Re-Armament. Neither am I going to wear a surplice, because if I did my puttees would soon show. Like the right hon. Member for Flint, West, I am what I am, and I shall remain so.
I would not pretend for one moment to be a Christian. If some of the ideas of Christianity which we have heard from Lord Hailsham are representative, then I confess that I am a pagan, for the Christianity that I learned at my mother's knee taught me that it was something which had to do with redemption and that there was not one Mary but two and that Jesus loved them both. To use this occasion or any other when the Tory Party is in a jam to pour moralising phrases, humbug and cant from their mouths is something that I cannot take. It gives me a queasy feeling in the stomach when I hear Lord Hailsham. Let me say, frankly, that if the moment ever comes when I see Lord Hailsham on one side of the road and John Profumo on the other, it is to John Profumo that I will go. I would prefer him, the sinner, to the sinister saint of Lord Hailsham's type pouring forth his smears, cant and humbug.
How typical of the Tory Party! Lord Hailsham is put on to broadcast. He is a great actor. He seethes with moral indignation. He is the great champion of truth. He claims this to be a non-party matter—the object being to try to make out that we on this side of the House have played party politics. Then suddenly he is in a jam. For a split second he finds himself in exactly the same jam as John Profumo found himself. Someone asked him, "What about the three-line Whip?" He could have said, "You have caught me", but he did exactly the same as John Profumo did. He lied. There is not a right hon. or hon. Gentleman on either side of the House who accepts Lord Hailsham's interpretation of what a three-line Whip means. The three-line Whip is the final appeal to loyalty on party lines, and Lord Hailsham knows it. Whether I am in order or not, I call Lord Hailsham a lying humbug. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]
Straight from that shoulder, let us turn to another matter, one which has not been mentioned by anybody, not even in a newspaper, and that is the position of the House of Commons. I think that this is a most extraordinary situation. I asked the Leader of the House about the Home Secretary, but again in a corner, very smartly, the Leader of the House said I had not read HANSARD.
Not read HANSARD indeed! I shall be haunted as long as I live by what appeared in HANSARD on 22nd March. It will be blazoned on my heart. Whether hon. Members believe me or not, I say that during the last weeks I have gone through the tortures of the damned. Of course I read HANSARD. The Home Secretary was here at 1.30 a.m. so why not the Home Secretary? They had time to fetch a solicitor, yet today we have the right hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) speaking as a learned counsel on behalf of John Profumo. For, of course, he cannot be here.
If John Profumo had wanted to do so, he could have done what John Belcher did. He could have come here—and it would have been a manly thing to do—made his explanation and left, as John Belcher did. But, with the connivance of the Government, he applied for the Chiltern Hundreds, which is an honourable estate, and he was granted it so that he could get away and would not have to go through his ordeal. I do not blame him for that.
Mr. Speaker, I came to you earlier today because I am again faced with a personal dilemma. I make no claim for myself. The Prime Minister asked for sympathy. I ask for none, because there is one simple thing which hon. Members know very well: that the Wigg family motto is "Tomorrow is also a day" and that anything slung at me will in due course, God willing, be slung back again. But what about the position of my hon. Friends the Members for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman)? We made a statement in the House on the Consolidated Fund Bill. As far as I am concerned, that statement was made after much thought, after much care. I consulted a lawyer and was told that it was not actionable but that if I went outside the House I might, nevertheless, have to face an action for libel. With my modest resources I could not take this risk. All I asked the Home Secretary to do was deny or investigate.
Now we know that Profumo's statement was drawn up between 1.30 and 5.0 a.m., with five other Ministers present, together with Profumo's lawyer. They produced between them the statement he made to this House on the morning of 22nd March. We are now told that this statement was approved by the Government. The Government must know, however incompetent they are, that, in the light of Mr. Speaker's Ruling of 3rd November, 1960, the Chair is involved because that state- ment had to be approved by Mr. Speaker. They must have known then. Nevertheless, they produced that statement, and I ask right hon. and hon. Members to look at it again and remember that it was produced with the assistance of Profumo's own lawyer and the two Law Officers of the Crown.
There are two statements contained in that statement, in the first and last paragraphs, which were a deliberate and calculated smear on my two hon. Friends. Twice, it was said that they had raised this under the protection of privilege. Why were such words put in? Was it because the Ministers had been engaged in an operation to find out the truth? Oh, no! They were engaged in shutting me up. That was the purpose of that personal statement by Profumo. That day I left here with black rage in my heart, because I knew what the facts were. I knew the truth, and I knew that, just as over the Kuwait operation, I had been trussed up and done again. If hon. Members doubt that, let them read the debate on 23rd November last and my statement to the House on 26th November.
The mistake which John Profumo made—his only mistake—was the one which is unforgivable to the party opposite: he did not get away with it, he got found out. That is what is wrong. He ignored the warning given to him. Yet here we had the Solicitor-General—a junior Minister—telling a senior Minister what he should say to the House. I will not involve the Chair, so I only put the question and do not necessarily expect an answer. If you, Mr. Speaker, had known of the existence of the letter of Profumo to Miss Keeler and had known of the meetings down below, would you, Sir, as the servant of the House, have approved that statement on 22nd March?
Members opposite must meet the charge of contempt of this House—a deliberate attempt to involve the Chair in a political action to defend themselves. This is a prima faciequestion of contempt. To me, there is no doubt about it. I am astonished that the Prime Minister, who has had such long service in this House, should not have been the first to defend it.
We must remember that we in this House live by precedent. At the moment, it is out of order for one hon. Member to say of another that he has lied. But unless the House of Commons passes judgment on this action, unless the Chair is absolved from the personal statements made by John Profumo, then twenty or thirty years hence we shall find the precedent quoted—that the House of Commons failed to condemn a calculated lie by a Minister of the Crown in circumstances which clearly involved other Ministers. Until this is cleared up by actions by the Government, their honour, whether they say so or not, remains impugned.
I want to begin to tell my story, but before doing so I want to say a word to the Home Secretary. I was puzzled by him. I believe him to be an honourable and straightforward man, but on the night when I asked him, as senior Minister present, a question, he dodged it. If he had dodged it knowing of the inquiries which the Prime Minister had made, his honour would be involved, because the words he used that night made it appear as though he was sidestepping. I do not believe that he knew, but if he did not know, how can he remain a member of the Administration when the Prime Minister keeps this sort of knowledge to himself? I do not believe that the Home Secretary knew about these inquiries when he made the reply to me on the night of 21st March.
What the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is saying might seem to be inconsistent with something said by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that at that date, 21st-22nd March, certain reports were in my hands and provided knowledge which would cause me to doubt Mr. Profumo's statement. No such reports were in my hand at that date.
I shall not involve myself in a triangular controversy. If in what I have to say I impugn one man and tell the truth as I see it about him and if other right hon. or hon. Gentlemen are involved and I know the truth about them, I believe that it is my duty to tell the House. In my view the Home Secretary is an honourable and straightforward man and he acted as he did that night because he did not know the facts.
I now turn to Mr. Profumo. I have referred to Kuwait. This does not weigh very much with hon. Members, but it weighs considerably with me. It is the reason why I did not go to Mr. Profumo. I went to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, to whom I am greatly indebted for his kindness and consideration in very difficult matters indeed. He never attempted to interfere with my judgment. What I did I did on my own responsibility. I went to him on 10th March and told him the story as I then knew it and I told it in terms which, as far as I knew, were near certainty, not absolute certainty, but near certainty of what the situation has in fact turned out to be. I listened to and talked with him on many other occasions between 10th March and 21st March.
I contemplated going to Mr. Profumo. Again, I took legal advice. I went to an old and wise and valued legal friend and told him the story. I asked him, "Should I go to this man and tell him what I know? Perhaps he does not know". I told him what had happened to me about Kuwait. He said, "In the circumstances, he will not thank you; if he did not tell you the truth about Kuwait, he will not do anything different on this occasion".
Another right hon. Gentleman was involved. I heard stories about him and so I went to the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. B. Harrison) and I told him that I had heard stories which involved the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour. Let me hasten to add that I did not do it in any way of going to him and asking, "Is this right? Is this true or not true?" I went to him as an old friend and I asked, "Will you tell John Hare what I have heard?" He did so, and the right hon. Gentleman sent me a message to say that it was not true. The sum total of the story added up to the effect that the car of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour had been used by Miss Keeler and Mr. Profumo.
A week ago last Friday, the hon. Member for Maldon telephoned me again and told me that he was worried and anxious because the Minister of Labour had been in touch with him to say that his recollection was wrong and that the car had been used. This was a very anxious business indeed. Later in the morning, the right hon. Gentleman telephoned me himself and said that his recollection was wrong. Of course, I unhesitatingly accepted what he said and when later last week I heard other stories, I did what I thought was right and, after making inquiries, I telephoned the hon. Member for Maldon, as I knew the right hon. Gentleman was ill. I said to him that I believed that the Minister of Labour was anxious and worried and that I would like him to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I intended to say in the House that his action was perfectly honourable and that what happened was no more than a slip of memory. Having heard those rumours, or at least some of them, I have taken the earliest opportunity to clear the right hon. Gentleman.
I now turn to some other matters. My hon. and right hon. Friends have been smeared as though this was a party point, and so I shall explain my poistion. I made a firm resolve in this affair that if any matters ever came to my notice involving action by the police authorities, my duty was to go to the police. A week ago last Sunday, I heard that negotiations had been going on with a great newspaper company to purchase the story of Dr. Ward's life story for a colossal sum of money running into many many thousands of £s and that Dr. Ward on the eve of his arrest had deposited a considerable number of documents and photographs of a particular kind in the safe of that newspaper company. I went straight away to Scotland Yard and told them the facts.
Earlier, there was another character in this case whose name I shall not mention because he is awaiting trial. Here, again, I did not trust the Secretary of State for War. I went to the Secretary of State for Air and the Under-Secretary of State for War and I told them. So far as it is humanly possible, from the time I went to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and when I made my statement in the House and from my discussions with the hon. Member for Maldon and, through him, with the Minister of Labour and other hon. Members I have tried to keep my hands absolutely clean.
I have approached this problem from the beginning not as a moral problem, but as a problem of security as part of defence. This is what I want to say again to the Prime Minister in relation to the late Secretary of State for War. Who chose him? Who put him into that job? He was put into that job by the Prime Minister to carry out a specific task, a task which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Flint, West, or the hon. Member for Maldon, or other hon. Members who know anything about defenceand who care for the defence of this country, would not have carried out. What he had to do was to get 165,000 men by 1st January, and it did not matter two pence how he did it. What he did was to lower standards and he lowered the rejection rate from 70 per cent. to 40 per cent. I do not say that he did not care anything about the Army, but it was not as much as I do, or he would not have done it.
This is not the first occasion when the Government have lied about defence. The whole defence policy has been based on a lie. Viscount Head did not remain as Minister of Defence because he knew that jolly well, as he said in the House. He refused to cook the books. There is also the whole Suez operation. Has the right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) ever told the House the full truth of the negotiations which went on over Suez? He knows very well that he has not. What angered President Eisenhower was that the Americans broke our code and found that our Government had been lying.
The Secretary of State for War was being asked to carry out a political job and he tried to do once too often what he had often done before—he tried to get away with it regardless of truth. In the early part of January, it was perfectly clear, as plain as a pikestaff, that the Secretary of State for War had been meeting Miss Keeler on a number of occasions. There is no doubt that he had met her on 9th August, 1961. One of the things that flabbergasted me on that Friday morning was the admission that he had met her six times. If he had met Miss Keeler six times by accident, the laws of probability being what they are, obviously he must have gone to Dr. Ward's flat at least twenty times. Clearly he had not met this girl by accident on the only six occasions when she happened to be there. He had gone there regularly.
It is the weakness of the Prime Minister's case that he seizes any point that he can. In my memorandum I put down exactly what Dr. Ward said to me. On the question of impropriety, Dr. Ward used the words "As far as I know"—those are the words in my memorandum—but he went on to say that he was not there all the time so he did not know, but by the time that Dr. Ward came to see me the question of any impropriety had faded from my mind. What loomed in my mind was the position of Commander Ivanov and the fact that the former Secretary of State for War had indulged in the chancy business of lying to this House.
We heard the interesting revelation about blackmail. There are three gentlemen—I shall not particularise because Dr. Ward's case is sub Judice—actively connected with blackmail on an international scale who got out of London last weekend as quickly as they could when they knew that Dr. Ward had been arrested, so we are dealing with something that is pretty hot, to put it mildly.
The idea that at that stage Mr. Profumo could get away with it was a desperate gamble. From what he knew of Ward by this time, he knew pretty well that he was going to be blackmailed. I asked Ward when he last saw Profumo. He said that he had met him at the Dorchester three weeks before, and when he mentioned Miss Keeler, Mr. Profumo said, "Miss Keeler? I do not know her. Who is she?" Then Ward told him, "If you do not know, you should go and ask M.I.5. They will tell you who Miss Keeler is". The idea that at that stage Ivanov and Profumo were no security risks in the sense that they had not laid themselves open to blackmail is nonsense.
This is the thing that interested me above all else. Here was Commander Ivanov, a master of the English language, dressing well, going around in a flash car, going to nightclub after nightclub, and, from direct evidence supplied to the Prime Minister, becoming a very good bridge player indeed. To play in such circumstances that he was bound to lose, and that his losses would be £20 to £50 a night, was common. I do not know much about the Soviet Union, and less about the Soviet Embassy, but I do not believe that their petty cash would stand such losses every night unless they got something for it. The idea that Commander Ivanov was going round mixing with Dr. Ward and his friends merely for the sake of their company seemed fantastic.
When Dr. Ward talked to me, he did not talk only about Cuba, but about the part that Commander Ivanov had played at the time of Berlin, and he talked to me in the most intimate terms on a political basis. Indeed, at one stage I wondered whether Dr. Ward himself was a Communist and whether he had caught any of the jargon. I came to the conclusion that that was not so.
This man knew his way around London and around the joints, but I was certain that he had not told me the whole truth, and I was struck this afternoon with one point made by the Prime Minister. He said that he was told for the first time on 1st February. But what had happened two days before? Commander Ivanov left the country two days before that, and, whatever Dr. Ward may say, he was seeing Commander Ivanov up to within a few days of his leaving this country, so it is important to appreciate that the Prime Minister realised the position one day, and that two days before that the one man who could put his hands on what was happening had gone. He had vanished from the scene.
From that time onwards—and this is what makes it so inexplicable—the Government did not realise that it became inevitable that the truth would emerge. I shall not go over all the ground that has been covered by my right hon. Friend or by the Prime Minister. What I am concerned about is what is going to happen in the future. This is the important thing. As the right hon. Gentleman said, things are never going to be quite the same again, and in some way somebody has to reconstitute the Army's faith in the political head of the Army. This is a not unimportant task, but the most important task of all is that somebody has to carry out a pretty drastic reconstruction of our security services. Despite the large sums of money which are spent, I believe that one of the reasons why Ward was not placed under active surveillance—and the same applies to Commander Ivanov, for that matter—is that the intelligence service is kept short of manpower. It is not paid enough. It is a part-time job of the Prime Minister.
I do not believe that the Prime Minister, with his long history, and with his long record of public service to this country, has been engaged in any dishonourable action at all, but I believe that the story he has told this afternoon is a record of incompetence that requires that he should resign, and the whole of his Administration with him.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). He ended on a note which will be echoed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. He said that he could not believe that my right hon. Friend had been personally involved in any impropriety or disgraceful conduct of any kind.
Earlier the hon. Gentleman had been very frank about the information which he had obtained from time to time from Dr. Ward, and he told us that he had been informed by Dr. Ward that as far as he, Dr. Ward, was aware, there had been no impropriety between the late Secretary of State for War and Miss Keeler. This, I think, must have been the report, or been included in the report, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his opening speech, and this information must undoubtedly have played a part in enabling the late Secretary of State for War to convince so many experienced people that he was in fact not guilty of any impropriety during his association with Miss Keeler.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said that it was incredible that they should have believed the late Secretary of State for War on this point because, he said, Mr. Profumo was unlikely to be meeting what he described as a prostitute for social purposes. It is right to point out, however, that this comment is made with the full knowledge of hindsight. There were few people in the country and very few people in this House—and I believe that there was no one in the Government—who, on 22nd March of this year, were aware that Miss Keeler could have been properly described in this way. It is easy to apply the knowledge that we have now to the situation that obtained then, but it is not altogether just to condemn people because they did not know facts which were not then available to them.
A certain amount has been said by the hon. Member for Dudley and others about the fact that there is a three-line Whip on the Conservative side tonight. I want to make it clear that I am quite confident that I speak not only as the representative of the people of North Dorset but for the great majority of the Tory Party throughout the country when I declare that if, at the end of this debate, I were left in any doubt whatever as to the integrity and honesty of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at every stage of this affair, I should no longer be able to remain a member of a party of which he was the leader.
With regard to the Whip, I go further, and say that if, on the facts disclosed today, when properly considered in the light of the situation then obtaining, my right hon. Friend is shown to have been guilty of recklessness or even of negligence on an important matter of security, I, personally, would be quite unable to support the Government in the Lobby this evening. The decision of the House tonight—and it is a decision of great importance—must be based not on hindsight or on guesses about what may become known in the future but on the facts and evidence available to the Government at the relevant times and on the facts and evidence which are before the House today.
During the 12 days that have passed since the resignation of the late Secretary of State for War a series of sensational allegations have been published. Their cumulative effect has been to create more anxiety amongst the public than has been created in respect of any comparable episode in living memory. I agree that aspects of our security service are open to criticism, but I believe that what The Timesnewspaper describes as the moral issue is the more important one, and that it will be this issue, more than any point of security, which will finally determine the views of the majority of hon. Members at the conclusion of the debate.
This is a Supply day, and the precise terms of the debate are decided at the option of the Opposition. They chose the question of security, with special reference to the resignation of the Secretary of State for War. I say at once that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and other hon. Members when they say that there was a security risk throughout the period when Miss Keeler was entertaining both the Secretary of State for War and the Russian naval attaché. I do not attempt to disguise that fact.
The Leader of the Opposition said that there was a standing condition of security risk as long as the Secretary of State for War associated with Dr. Ward, Miss Keeler and Ivanov. He described this as a security quadrilateral. I do not complain of that description. Whether or not Miss Keeler was ever asked for secret information by her Russian lover does not matter; there was a security risk as long as these two men shared Miss Keeler's favours, and as long as Dr. Ward was closely involved in the matter. This makes it extremely important to ascertain when this security risk period began and ended.
One of the difficulties is that we must view with great care the statements which have been made by the parties concerned, and not readily believe them unless they are, to some extent at least, corroborated by outside evidence. Many of the parties have made more than one statement, and in some cases their statements have been rather conflicting. It seems clear, however, that the security period began in July, 1961. That seems to be well established. The parties met at a party at Cliveden.
This has been the subject of a number of articles in the Press, thoroughly described and reasonably well authenticated. It is less easy to be sure, however, of the precise date at which this quadrilateral broke up. First, we had the date of December, 1961, given for the ending of the association between Miss Keeler and the late Secretary of State for War. I have noticed, however, that there has been one suggestion that it lasted longer. I shall deal with that point in a minute.
It is interesting to note that the former Secretary of State for War had been warned against Dr. Ward. This has been agreed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. Because of this it is interesting to know what Miss Keeler said, as published very fully in the News of theWorld on the 9th of this month. According to her she was staying in Dr. Ward's flat when her association with the former Secretary of State for War broke up. She said,
He wanted me to leave Ward's flat. I would not go. He said he would not see me if I did not leave. I told him he must make his choice.
She then said that she got out of the car and slammed the door, and added that she never met him again.
We know from evidence given in the Old Bailey in another case that Miss Keeler left Dr. Ward's flat comparatively early in 1962 and went to live in Isle-worth, with a Mr. Edgecombe, who was involved in the case in December, 1962, when she had left him and was sharing a flat with a Miss Rice-Davies, outside the door of which he discharged a revolver. If Miss Keeler is correct in saying that this association stopped while she was still in Dr. Ward's flat it is clear that it stopped either at the end of 1961 or very early in 1962.
This has been accepted by a number of newspapers. In its leading article yesterday the Observer particularly referred to the association between these two as being of only a few months' duration. If that is correct, the quadrilateral had a short existence, from July until December, 1961, when it appears that the first one broke away.
It has been said—there are conflicting stories about this—that Miss Keeler was asked to get information from the late Secretary of State for War in December, 1962, at the time of the Cuban crisis. The fact that she was so asked would not absolutely prove that she was still seeing the late Secretary of State for War, but if that story be true it entirely conflicts with her statement that she never saw him again after the time when she slammed the car door outside Dr. Ward's flat, and when she refused to leave that flat. This is a matter upon which every hon. Member must form his own conclusion.
That is another point that I shall be dealing with. I was seeking to establish the dates first of all. I could not agree more with the hon. Member about the blackmail point.
From the bulk of the evidence that has been produced so far it would seem that this quadrilateral began to break up at the end of 1961, although it is clear that Ivanov and Ward continued to associate for a considerably longer time—perhaps, as the hon. Member for Dudley said, right up till Ivanov left the country. I have no information about that. But, having said this, we should ask whether our security service was at fault or was guilty of negligence in not discovering the liaison between the late Secretary of State for War and Miss Keeler during the few months it lasted.
It took place in Dr. Ward's house. Perhaps it was the visits of the late Secretary of State for War to that house to see Miss Keeler which resulted in his being warned by the security service that Ward himself was a security risk. It is not suggested by anyone now that anybody warned him that Miss Keeler was a security risk, because at that stage she was not known to the security service. Indeed, she was known hardly to anyone outside that circle.
In February of this year, a newspaper quite properly informed the Government of the rumours which were then becoming widely known. It is important to realise that this was a long time after the quadrilateral had broken up and the period of security risk had finished.
It is clear that from the first time he was confronted with them, the former Secretary of State entirely denied the allegations. He denied every word of them, and in those circumstances one might ask, what could the security service do? It could make sure whether or not he was still conducting a liaison with Miss Keeler. It appears that he was not and on this I suppose there would have been a negative report. They could not really ascertain what had happened in the dim and distant ages. Had the security service been alerted 15 months before while the liaison was in full swing it would have been entirely different.
May I ask whether my hon. Friend knows that at the end of October I saw all the parties in this case at the flat of Dr. Ward, and Miss Keeler was certainly there at that time, and that I reported the matter immediately to security so that they did know of its existence?
I was saying that in October, 1962, we know that there was the story that she was asked to get information from the then Secretary of State for War. I said that there was no suggestion that the liaison was still going on. Her direct statement agrees with his, that it had long since ceased.
There is nothing to prevent anyone going to an old "flame" and perhaps trying to ask for something. The question is whether the liaison was continuing, and the evidence is that it was not. The evidence so far published definitely suggests—I refer again to the leading article in the Observer—that it was a liaison of very short duration indeed. If a security report on what had been happening in the autumn of 1961 could have been prepared and given to the Government, it is clear that the misleading statement of 22nd March would never have been made. It could not have been made. The Government would have been in a different and an altogether stronger position. I think that the Leader of the Opposition was absolutely right in saying that it is very difficult to find out what happened a long time ago. He said that we should never be able to find out what was happening in the autumn of 1961—not precisely.
I suggest that the same thing applied a few months ago when the security people were alerted by a newspaper intervention. There was no means in February of this year of finding out what had been happening in the autumn of two years before. But, as I have said, if security could have put in a report, it would have made the entire difference.
We come to the events of 21st March which have been referred to a number of times. We can read the HANSARD report carefully. Particular references were made—I do not complain about them; it was right that they should have been made—to the rumours linking the then Secretary of State with Miss Keeler. We can refresh our memories from HANSARD. Every one of these rumours referred to a current matter. The word "liaison" was not mentioned. The suggestion was of a current scandal—that he had helped her to disappear. Whether he did or not we may never know. There is no evidence of it, at least none has been published. But there were allegations of a current scandal, not of an ancient passion long since expired, 15 or 16 months before. They were allegations, I do not blame anybody, of things being wrong at that time—
I find myself in this difficulty, that Mr. Profumo, in his statement, told an obvious, calculated and repeated lie. His statement is tarnished, and therefore one is still not satisfied whether he had any part or not in spiriting Miss Keeler away. Surely this is a current scandal?
Yes, but it was a current scandal about which security and other people concerned were quite unable to discover any evidence. It would, of course, have been a criminal offence to have conspired to conceal a witness, and had he done so, the police would unquestionably have followed it up, had there been any evidence to follow up. But I say that these were rumours of current scandals about which no evidence has been produced.
The last allegations were made, a few minutes before midnight, and only about five hours later a meeting was held between senior Ministers, the then Secretary of State and his solicitor. I will not go into that meeting; it has been referred to a number of times. But I put the point that the Government did take every step they reasonably could to ensure that the statement when made was comprehensive and accurate. This was the point. His solicitor was there to look after his interests and the Ministers were there to make sure that it was a comprehensive statement and accurate so far as they could possibly tell. There really was no reason to doubt its veracity.
We had a number of rumours of scandalous conduct. But as the hon. Member for Dudley pointed out, Mr. Ward said firmly that up to that point there was no impropriety so far as he knew. [Hon. Members: "No."] This is what the hon. Member for Dudley told the House. I wrote it down when he said it. This is what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House, and he was not challenged. The hon. Member for Dudley said it and he was not challenged. I am repeating faithfully what they said. I have no personal knowledge. I am simply quoting what they said. And so I think at this time there was no reason why senior Ministers should have doubted what their colleague told them—a story he had repeated many times before and which he stood by until the end.
This is the point. It would seem unbelievable in March of this year that this considered, prepared statement should contain a calculated untruth. There may be hon. Members who re member that they had doubts about it at the time. But I am sure that I speak for the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House when I say that when we heard or read that statement we were absolutely, finally and completely convinced—
The noble Lord is perhaps not entirely typical of hon. Members on this side of the House.
I say at once that I do not believe that there has been any other occasion when an hon. Member of this House, being a Minister of the Crown and a Privy Councillor, has made a personal statement to the House with the premeditated intention of misleading the House by a carefully worded falsehood. It is this which seemed unbelievable. His association with that woman was sordid and disgraceful, but in my view his deception of the House was much more so. It was an act in direct conflict with our traditional standards of public life. He has paid a heavy penalty for his misdeeds. He has brought ruin to himself and disaster to his unfortunate family for whom the House will feel extremely sorry. But the stain left on our national institutions will not lightly be erased.
The question—this is the question which will have to be resolved tonight—is, was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in any way a party to this fraudulent statement?
That is the question. Was he a party? If it is agreed that he was not, let that be firmly known by our vote at the end of this debate. The House knows that this statement had been prepared by a group of senior Ministers who are of the highest integrity and very experienced, and it was in the particular circumstances of the case that the then Secretary of State was able to deceive his own solicitor and all the Ministers. Because of his assurances each of them eventually became convinced that he was telling the truth in his protestations. They accepted his word that he was innocent.
In these circumstances, I cannot accept that my right hon. Friend was adversely affected in any way, either directly or indirectly, by that untruthful sentence in the statement made that day. In the short time available since the charges were brought the night before, everything possible had been done by the Government to check the truth of the statement. Had my right hon. Friend had the slightest inkling that the statement was not strictly correct, he would have acted very differently.
How can the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) say that the Ministers made every effort to check the truth of the statement? We have been told by the Prime Minister that, although it had not been reported to him, the police had already reported—I think the Prime Minister said on 26th January—that Mr. Ward had asked Miss Keeler to try to get information. That fact was available to the police and to the security service. Surely, if every effort had been made to check, this would have come out. Then we have had the statement of the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. W. Shepherd) that he, a back bencher, knew that this liaison or some connection still remained in October, 1962, and he reported it to the security service.
No, I must answer the point. I shall then consider whether or not I shall give way again. It is said that everything was known to the police, but how was everything known? Hon. Members say that everything which is known to the police was available at this meeting of senior Ministers which we know happened—as it had to happen—at 5 o'clock in the morning, and at very short notice. There was no suggestion that every report on everyone concerned that was known to the police could be made available in that short time. There was no suggestion that it could have been made known or that the Home Secretary knew all the circumstances of that police report, even if he had had time to call for it.
In the circumstances in which this was done it was out of the question for further information to be obtained. What the Ministers had got was a full report from the security service on this case. We know that. The report contained conflicting statements from different people and in the circumstances the Secretary of State, with his firm, resolute and untruthful denials was able to persuade the group of Ministers that he was right and the rumours were wrong. There was nothing more than rumour.
I must get on with my speech. No doubt the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will succeed in catching Mr. Speaker's eye later. Others wish to speak and I do not want to detain the House for too long.
It has been suggested that there was a security risk in allowing the former Secretary of State for War to remain in office in view of the mass of rumours and reports, although I point out that these began to circulate long after the time when there was any evidence at all of a current security risk, indeed just after the Russian officer concerned had left the country.
Can it be said that there was an actual security risk—it is very easy when looking back with the full knowledge of hindsight—inthe fact that the then Secretary of State had formerly kept a mistress? If this constituted a security risk it certainly was not the first of its kind. Can it be said that, because his former mistress had shared her favours with others, including a Russian, this was a security risk? Surely this is a possibility inherent in any such liaison? The basic difference between a liaison and a marriage is that both parties in a liaison are likely to be unfaithful to each other. What man who keeps a mistress can be sure whom she entertains in his absence?
Any politician who has ever kept a mistress is liable to blackmail in this regard. This is the point which has been raised. It applies either during or after the liaison and applies to every such case irrespective of the apparent discretion or otherwise of the mistress involved. II could be argued that any politician who has ever at any time kept a mistress is too great a security risk to hold office, but that would have denied this country many prominent leaders in the past. After all, it was the Duke of Wellington who said, "Publish and be damned."
That, of course, is a matter which the hon. Member must decide for himself. There might be occasions where the same lady was referred to by both terms by different people.
I am satisfied on the facts presented so far in this debate that there is no case against my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, no case of dishonesty nor any charge against his integrity and no evidence of neglect—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—or of negligence in regard to the Prime Minister's handling of security. I am perfectly satisfied that no charge has been made out against him on the facts now before the House.
The speech to which we have just listened bore one resemblance to that of the Prime Minister in that both were coloured by a pleasing hopefulness about security. "We are all nice, honourable men." We are back in the atmosphere of the last Vassall debate when we had exactly the same kind of defence. We were told that if we wanted to be free men we had to allow things to go on and no one can ever be blamed under a Tory Government if anything in security goes wrong. The people of this country found that difficult to swallow last time over the Vassall case. This time they find it even more difficult to swallow, as I hope to prove.
I had been thinking about this debate for many days, and I had formulated a number of questions to put to the Prime Minister. I thank him for one thing. Four of the six questions I wanted to put he has fully answered, but in answering them he has raised much graver questions than I originally intended to ask, so one must prosecute the interrogation. Looking back to the debate on 21st/22nd March, I was surprised to find how grateful the Government were to myself and my hon. Friends the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle). We did not then get the impression that the Government were grateful, but they now tell me it was what they were waiting for. Indeed, one might have expected one of the Tories to do it for them.
Why was the Prime Minister so anxious for us to do what we did? Parts of his speech were of a very pleasant, rather plaintive kind of candour. He made it quite clear that all he wanted was an opportunity to clap on a threat of libel so that no one could print the stories in the Press. This was what was required, a statement here which would enable the five right hon. Gentlemen opposite to gather round Mr. Profumo and with him draft a denial with a threat of legal action which would stifle the rumours. I do not criticise but record that this in fact was what the Prime Minister wanted. He wanted to stifle the rumours. He knew that the Press had these stories in its coffers. He knew the letters were there. There was only one hope. It was to have a situation in which no one would dare to publish them.
The way to get that situation in Britain is for a Minister to come to the House and say, "This is not true, and I threaten to take legal action if you say it any more". Immediately it was extremely effective. It was, in fact, impossible to say any more. The hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) meets different Tories from those I meet. I did not meet many Tories who after Mr. Profumo's statement, to put it mildly, took it at face value. Quite a number of his colleagues shared my certainty that it was a lie but a number felt that we should never be able to find out. The chance would not come.
It was only the investigations, the intrepid investigations, of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and the building up of the case which has now broken open the statement. But, as it looked at the time, his statement would have finally prevented anything further being said. So do not let us be too noble about the Prime Minister's talk of "not doing an injustice" to Mr. Profumo. As the Prime Minister said, he asked him to resign. The Prime Minister told us that he told him, "Your resignation might help you but it would not help me." I knew what he meant.
The hon. Member is misrepresenting what my right hon. Friend said. I think that my right hon. Friend was referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith).
I do not think so, but I am glad to accept that. We will read what the Prime Minister said in tomorrow's Official Report. It was my impression that I was right in my first comments and that the aim was to elicit a position where a threat could be made against anyone in the courts who continued to say these things or who dared to print articles which had already been prepared and which had been eagerly bought and competed for by two newspapers. That was the object, and it looked at the time that it might possibly succeed.
I agree with the hon. Member for Dorset, North in that it would be silly to go over the whole issue of 1961 and 1962 and try to allot praise and blame on the security authorities and to discuss whether or not one should have a security system large enough to detect a Minister during the few weeks of a fleeting affair. That is something we need not discuss here right now. It would be difficult to do so, and in any case we have to consider not an affair of 1961 or 1962 but the conduct of the Government during the period when the affair suddenly came into the open again owing to a shooting.
All we are doing tonight is to investigate, stage by stage, whether the way the Prime Minister handled this affair, from 29th January when the security services first reported until the resignation of Mr. Profumo, was honourable and competent. I think that it was honourable, but was it competent? It was not only not competent but it was a ghastly degree of shifting, indecisive incompetence. For this reason, I wish to ask a number of questions arising out of the debate so far.
My first question concerns D notices. A D notice is put on by the Ministry of Defence—by an organisation called, I think, The Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee, of which the head is normally Admiral Thompson, although I gather that Colonel Lohan was in charge last January or February. It is stated in Fleet Street by people I respect that they have heard that an effort was made in January or February to get a D notice issued about Ivanov. The man who did this was either Profumo or someone working for him. The effort was unsuccessful and the Committee refused to do it. However, this question must be answered. Was any effort made to get a D notice put on the subject of Ivanov? This matter needs to be cleared up, because if it were true that such an effort was made then this is further evidence of neglect on the part of the Prime Minister when he looked back and began to suspect something about Mr. Profumo.
My second question is this. The Prime Minister made a fascinating revelation about his relations with the Press. The man who used to run the Tory Party machine is now in the journalistic world; the managing director or high official of the News of the World. Remember, it was the News of the World and that newspaper's intelligence department which provided the Prime Minister with his first warning and information about the whole affair. I suppose that it was natural—a friendly act by a Tory Party worker—to feel that he was not only there to publish things but to try to help the Government by informing them of what the News of the World had in its possession. We now know just what the News of the World and the Sunday Pictorial had in their possession and for which they were competing for publication purposes. We know it because we have read the various versions in the last couple of weeks, including the whole story that was current on both sides of the House. We have read this in all its detail.
This shows that Mr. Mark Chapman Walker knew well all about it. He had seen the text of the letter and, presumably, he told the Prime Minister that the letter existed. Did the Prime Minister ask him to let him have a look at it? Is it not an extraordinary thing that when told that such a letter exists the right hon. Gentleman should not ask to see it? Or was the letter not there—although it was in the offices of the News of the World and the Sunday Pictorial? If it was there, does there not seem a strange lack of curiosity on the part of the Prime Minister, that he should not want to look at a letter written by his Secretary of State for War and beginning "Darling"? considering a liaison with a Russian agent Why did the Prime Minister not bother to ask his journalist friend to let him have a look at the letter? This indeed seems a strange beginning to an investigation.
The answer, I think, is that the letter was available to both of these great newspapers, who were both keenly competing to publish it. As I have tried to show, a lot of people outside those newspapers knew something about it.
In this connection, I will now deal with the Sunday Pictorial. The three of us had something at stake. We had been accused in a personal statement of spreading rumours under the shield of privilege. I was interested to read the week before last in the Sunday Mirror that it had in its possession [Interruption]. It is significant that it changed its name at that time; that may be one reason it was a little coy about these things. The Sunday Mirror stated on 3rdApril-after the thing had become a political matter of the gravest moment—that the editor had decided that in all the circumstances the prudent and fair course would be to arrange for Mr. Profumo's letter to be returned to Mr. Profumo. That was very sporting.
On that day—in the offices of Mr. Nevil-Henle, Dr. Ward's solicitor, and in the presence of the assistant editor of the Sunday Mirror—the Sunday Pictorial as it was then called—the letter was handed over. It was later confirmed that a letter has been sent thanking the editor for the return of the document. I agree with the statement of Lord Francis Williams in the New Statesmanof 14th June last in which he stated:
Not to have published this letter at the time Profumo made his first personal statement in the Commons, thus forcing the real issue, the security issue, into the open seems to me to be a dereliction of journalistic responsibility.
This is a view with which I agree. Having said that, I must ask one or two further questions of the Prime Minister concerning his conduct over the letter. If there was a dereliction of journalistic duty regarding its not being published, there was a dereliction of Prime Ministerial responsibility in that he did not seek to see the letter for himself but that he merely said, in effect, "We are bound to trust old Jack Profumo in what he says." This makes me suspect whether the Prime Minister was very keen on checking Mr. Profumo's affairs.
I appreciate the feeling that Mr. Profumo was one of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues. However, when grave matters of national security are at stake, when a colleague gets into a mess of this kind and is having a relationship with a woman, it is as much a dereliction of responsibility not to ask Mr. Mark Chapman Walker to see the letter as it was for the Sunday Pictorial not to publish it.
On both sides there was a dereliction of duty. If that letter had then been published the whole situation would have looked very different indeed, and there would have been an overwhelming case for the demand that my hon. Friend and I were making for a Select Committee. All we were saying then was, "This political crisis will grow and fester underground. Deal with it while it is early enough—put it before a Select Committee." That was the case we were making that night, and had that letter been published after we had made that case and Mr. Profumo had denied it there would have immediately been a prima facie case and we might have found rather more careful investigations being undertaken.
I want to ask some questions about those investigations, and I want the Leader of the House to reply to those questions perfectly categorically. First, how often was Miss Keeler interrogated, either before 22nd March or after 22nd March, by the Cabinet, or by people working for the Cabinet, in order to test her story? Was there any interrogation of the girl? Secondly, how often was Mr. Ward interrogated? Again, I want to be fair. One tends, of course, to want to believe Mr. Profumo, but when these stories are bruited and these people are about, surely a Premier must make sure that the charges are investigated and that the people are cross-examined.
But, of course, I had forgotten—the girl had disappeared by then. That is very odd, now that we know that the security report came in at the end of January. I must say that one had thought until then that it was just a chief witness who had disappeared. But now we know the chief witness was also known by security to be involved in a scandal affecting a Minister. In an extraordinary way, the girl just disappeared, and after the Prime Minister's account there is more to investigate as to how that came about and why real care was not taken to ensure her presence in the country. She was required for two matters; one was the particular case of the shooting, but she was also wanted to help in investigating the Profumo charge.
But we here have just one of those little gaps. It just happened that she went. I want to know a little more about whether, when she got back, the investigation took place of Miss Keeler and Mr. Ward. Many other people talked to this girl and her man. Many others investigated the case and formed their opinion of their characters and whether or not they could be relied on. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley investigated Mr. Ward. The only people who do not seem to have investigated were the six people who sat round drafting the letter. They did not investigate because they were busy drafting a statement designed to suppress further publication. Their minds were not on the investigation of their colleague, which was their duty, however unpleasant it might be.
We should not be too sentimental. I was a little shocked by that part of the Prime Minister's speech in which he told us why he did not talk to Profumo himself. I do not want to be unfair, but my impression was that he did not do so because it would have made his personal relations with his Secretary of State for War impossible—so he had to leave it to the Chief Whip. That is a very clear indication of what Chief Whips are for. They are for Premiers to avoid having impossible personal relations.
The Prime Minister was very human: he was really avoiding action that would get below the surface. How easy and tempting in life it is to do that. How often in private life we are faced with a situation in which we do not want to know the truth. We do not want to change our conviction that something unpleasant is not true, so we do not ask the questions, we do not collect the evidence. We all commit this fault, but if one commits it as a Prime Minister one commits a fault that is fatal in that particular job.
I was very glad that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said what he did about Lord Attlee as Prime Minister. One of the virtues of Attlee as Prime Minister was that in this kind of thing he was utterly unsentimental. There was no idea that one should be soft, that one would not do it oneself, or leave it to the Chief Whip, or put it off until next week. It Attlee had a fault it was in the other direction. If there was a fault in the handling of the Lynskey Tribunal it was the sadistic savagery in punishing a man for minor peccadilloes.
I ask myself which kind of Prime Minister runs the country better. Who is better on the security rule—the man like Attlee, who is tough and knows that if one has that job of Premier it is because one is prepared to do the unpleasant parts of the job and not only the pleasant parts. If he is not prepared to do the unpleasant parts, the sooner the Prime Minister gets out the better. The attitude "I did not like to do it because it was uncomfortable" is natural enough, but one is not made Prime Minister to have those natural human tolerances.
I want to say something about toleration. We, as Members of this House, can be very proud of the improvement there has been in the last fifty years in our toleration. We are far more tolerant about each other's private lives. Questions are not asked about private Members' lives. That is a great advance, but it would be a fatal thing if the tolerance rightly extended to the private Member, who has not heavy responsibility, got confused with laxity in situations which demand great severity. We cannot apply to the Cabinet, and to Cabinet Ministers who deal with security matters, the easy-going tolerance that we apply to each other in private life as ordinary Members. It cannot be done. There has to be a severity, an austerity at that level. I have said it in previous debates.
Going back to the case of Burgess and Maclean, it was a laxity in the Foreign Office that permitted Burgess to become a permanent member of the Foreign Office—a laxity right at the top, which went unpunished. So, too, in the Admiralty with Vassall. Now, we have laxity at the top again. We have a politician behaving to his fellow politician with the kind of laxity that has grown so common in the Admiralty and the Foreign Office, and which is the major cause of the security problems we have faced in the last eight years.
I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley has said about the moral issue. I did not happen to see Lord Hailsham interviewed on television, but I heard the replay on "steam" radio, and although I missed the Churchillian jowl I got the tone of voice. When I heard Lord Hailsham on the need for a moral revolution I began to wonder what he was up to. Did he really want to insist on every Cabinet Minister's life being pried into mercilessly to find out whether or not he had been in the Divorce Court? Did he really want that? If he did not want that, what was he doing?
I will tell the House. He was trying to deflect attention from the responsibility of individuals, including himself, for a disastrous situation. He was lighting a decoy fire, but the trouble is that had the fire got well alight it would have set ablaze everything in the country that is worth having. I do not want to see this country a McCarthyite State, and it is a terrible thing for Tories to exploit the McCarthyite arguments in order to conceal things and prevent punishment coming to those who deserve it.
The Prime Minister failed, Profumo failed, the five failed. Punishment should come, and the party opposite should not at this point try to defend themselves by stoking up the moral fire and saying that all Britain is sleazy and corrupt. Indeed, I think that it was the right hon. and learned Member for the Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) who actually said that the Labour Party was to blame. Fortunately, the British people do not take the Tories seriously. There is a lot of evidence in the Gallup poll for the fact that the British people when they hear about the Profumo case despise the Tory Government just two points more. It is a good healthy thing.
But I would say this to the Home Secretary: he ought to be ashamed that he was not there at the time. What was he doing staying away from awkward decisions on matters of which he ought to have known? He or his colleagues ought to have known the facts. They ought to have investigated Profumo. They ought to have discovered what Fleet Street discovered and what most of the back benchers knew. The only people who did not know it were the Prime Minister and his friends, and I know why they did not know it.
I have often been a critic of the Prime Minister, but I could not help feeling very sorry for him this afternoon. It struck me when I was listening to his speech how badly indeed everyone had treated him. To begin with, Sir Norman Brook two years ago had made a security investigation into the allegiance to the Soviet Union of Ivanov and the relationship with it of Dr. Ward, and he had not bothered to pass this on to the Prime Minister. At the same time, the police this year in this country had questioned Miss Keeler and got from her statements relative to the treason of Dr. Ward, and once again most unkindly they had not passed it on to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
Miss Keeler herself was, I think, rather like a successful selling plater. She was owned by a very great number of people for a short time. This year at different times I believe she was owned by the Express group of newspapers, the News of the World and the Sunday PictorialAll these people had information from her, and newspaper men always like passing on information, but none of them passed it on to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. What I would say, though, is that I would have been considerably sorrier for him had he asked for this information.
The great question which I should like to ask is why it was not asked for in the spring. It was no surprise to anyone when Mr. Profumo was called before "the five" that night. Every one of us in the House had heard various rumours about it, the most dangerous rumours of security, of sex, of dope, of scandal in high places. Yet what were these five people obsessed with when they went to interview little Jack that night? It seemed to be: had little Jack been to bed with Miss Keeler or not? They were like five frightened mothers. It was a most extraordinary thing.
The whole case of the Government has been made on the fact that Mr. Profumo's relationship with Miss Keeler was innocent, and it has been said that as he said it was innocent he deceived everyone. But his innocence was totally irrelevant. It would have been a much more dangerous thing had Mr. Profumo not been going to bed with Miss Keeler, because then he would have been going to discuss things with her six times for half an hour. My right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) said that she was not a very literary woman. There have been from time to time great literary prostitutes, but I think Miss Keeler was a prostitute who was basically used for prostitution. What I never could understand was how these five members of the Government were apparently satisfied that because Mr. Profumo had not been to bed with her that was the end of the whole affair.
But, to my mind, the most unsatisfactory part of the whole of this very dingy proceeding was the fact that when this inquiry was called, the police had not been consulted, the security had not been consulted and the newspapers had not been consulted. It did not come out of the blue. Every single fact was known and almost wilfully and blindly our eyes were averted from them. I can almost see the Prime Minister putting his telescope to his blind eye and saying, "I cannot see any of these things". That is exactly what happened on this occasion, and that is what I find so very difficult to forgive.
After this we come to something even more important, to what was definitely shown and known by everyone, after Mr. Profumo had been interrogated, to be a totally different type of security risk. Originally Sir Norman Brook had only warned Profumo about Ward and Ivanov. No mention had been made of Miss Keeler. This shows how unsatisfactory was the security screen, because our security was not really aware of what was actually happening at the time. That might have washed until the interrogation of Mr. Profumo and his statement, but after that a totally different set of circumstances existed, for it was known that Ivanov was a spy. It was known that Ward was in close touch with the highest of Soviet circles and it was known that Miss Keeler was a friend of all of them. Yet, despite this fact, for nearly three months Mr. Profumo, who had been in this set, or whatever one likes to call it, was allowed to remain in office as Secretary of State for War. How was that defensible? That was the question which the Prime Minister skated over this afternoon.
No mention was made of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition had put facts in his hand which definitely proved that, sexually or innocently, the Secretary of State for War had been in close contact over a period of time with a spy, with a semi-Soviet agent, and with a girl in the prostitution racket. He was, therefore, subject to blackmail. He was, therefore, a person who could not be depended upon. It is also irrefutable—this is the most important thing of all—that as the secret service did not originally know that Miss Keeler was connected with this group, they could not have checked on the fact that there was no security lapse at that time.
Why? That is the question which I would like answered by my right hon. Friend tonight. The worst of it is that even though my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knew that his War Minister was in a position where he could be blackmailed, he refused to change his mind about getting rid of him. He continued to maintain him in office. This is something which I find almost impossible to condone.
Like many other people, I have received an enormous correspondence in recent weeks and I should like to quote from a letter which I received this morning from my constituency, which says:
Speaking as members of the teaching profession we are horrified at the mockery the present crisis makes of our job of building character. Without the qualities of self-discipline, honesty and integrity which we fry to teach, the next generation is lost. Will you speak out tomorrow in the debate—not as a party reactionary but as a defender of all that is best in our nation?
I think I would have tried to do so in any case, but I think that letter is representative of a lot of the hurt and confused opinion in this country at the present time.
I am particularly glad to quote that letter from my constituency because I am often asked—even sometimes by my colleagues by way of a joke—about problems in my constituency as if they were all problems of vice and corruption. That is not the case. Like most constituencies, mine for the most part consists of ordinary normal people who are struggling to live up to what the writer of this letter refers to as "all that is best in our nation."
My position as a politician is not that of a crusade on the issue of morals. My job as a politician is to fight to see that people who have to live in areas where there are social tensions, where there is overcrowding and strain, do not have their characters broken by the environment in which they live. It is not for us to be astonished at the number of moral breakdowns in overcrowded parts of the great cities. It is for us to be astonished at the very small number of people who in fact break down—astonished at the resistance of normal people to this erosion and corruption arising from bad social conditions. The moral position of a politician in this House should be to fight for the alteration of the social background which has brought about some of these things.
It happens that many people in my constituency were able to tell me in advance a great deal of the information which is now common knowledge. I cannot yet understand how it is that on the subject of this incident an ordinary back bench Member of Parliament could have thrust upon him from his own constituency information which we now are told was not available to the Government—that the Home Secretary was not present at that late night discussion, that he had not inquired from the police about inquiries which we now know that they were making, which they must have been making, and which they are constantly making about the typical background to this particularly sleazy scandal.
It is the normal duty of the police to be aware of the contacts that go on, the activities that go on in clubs and so on. It is not my intention to recount any of these details, but I say to the Home Secretary that he has something else to worry about. I refer to the damage done in our relationship with other countries and within the Commonwealth, because this information was brought to me in the first place by West Indians who knew all about these contacts and habits and who were aggrieved that a West Indian had gone to prison for seven years while, as they put it, the rich white men go free. This is not news now and it ought not to have been news then to the Home Secretary. He ought to have been as well able to get hold of this information as I was—in fact, better able.
Various protectors of this girl have been mentioned. One of the protectors of this girl, I was told, was a figure who is now dead, but a character who eluded the Home Secretary when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government and who eluded him as Home Secretary—a character involved in a series of deals in slum property in the Paddington area. He was an expert in fiddling the ownership of houses from one company to another, so that it was never possible to catch up with him and enforce the law to get repairs done, and all the rest of it. His name, I am sorry to say, was a household word. It was a perfectly well known name to the police. It must have rung a bell. These names must have been familiar.
What beats me is the weariness and incompetence of the Government at every stage. If they had bestirred themselves they would have got the information. But all we get is the belated appearance on television of Lord Hailsham whose performance was particularly revolting to me because he tried to make out that this particular action—what he called the proven lie—was something quite in isolation, although it has been pointed out in the course of this debate that it was not the first time that that wretched Minister had been frog-marched to the Front Bench to make misleading statements to the House.
If that exercise was devised to get the Government out of trouble it was not the first political lie that had been told. Lord Hailsham said that if he had been there he would not have remained a Member of the Government for five minutes, or that he would have got the man out in five minutes. It would take him half an hour to resign from all his positions in the Government, and during that time he might have had time to think again how many other proven lies, as he calls them, have been uttered from the Government Front Bench or Tory Party headquarters which have had an effect on moral welfare in my constituency.
I am more concerned about the lie told at one election when the Government said that they had no intention whatever of interfering with food subsidies and at another when they said that they had no intention whatever of interfering with rent controls. Did Lord Hailsham threaten resignation then, or did he when he got to Tory Headquarters sack immediately the man who told that particular lie? These are political lies which have their consequences.
This is a moral issue between political parties. It is between political parties, because if we are to have competitive co-existence in this country or in this world we must have it on the assumption that each of the sections of opinion accepts at least certain basic common principles. This is the sort of moral revival and restoration that we need in this country now. We need to be assured that we are agreed on certain primary objectives, not a list of moral rules which we suddenly produce with great enthusiasm when they are required, but things like, "Are we all dedicated to the proposition that we have to restore human dignity, human equality and human freedom throughout the world?" These are the things that matter.
The attitude of Lord Hailsham will not help, because that is the only way we can get on terms of human equality with evolving societies in other parts of the world. I do not know whether some hon. Members who have been speaking today have been rooting for Lord Hailsham as Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary, but does anyone think if he behaves like that—devoid of compassion and charity—he will get on well on the subject of test bans or any other form of international relationships?
Is no one in the House today going to say a word of compassion for the poor little slut who is at the centre of all this? I think of five men in a room in the middle of the night discussing how they can make it appear that the word "Darling" is not compromising in any way, when surely we need a little compassion to consider how these wretches get into the state that they do. It was not that she was short of someone to call her "Darling". It may be commonplace in certain strata of society. There are many others like her. How much better it would have been if there had been some older man, a relative, who had been able to say, "Darling, come home; darling, it is not worth it; darling, what are you fighting against?"
Of course there was security risk in this and a political risk in relationships of this kind. There was the risk of the canker in our society. There are the wretched creatures, who, because of their personal circumstances, have a love-hate relationship with the father whom they have not got, or with any substitute father; they must both love and hate him and betray him. This is elementary. But where does a word of compassion come? It seems that some of the people who have been sounding off with their Pharisaical denunciations can never have had any problems in their own families. There would be far more compassion and understanding from the younger generation, from those who have to live in these circumstances, although they struggle against them and although they deplore and regret the breakdowns.
This is what we must, somehow or other, get out of this debate. If people mean what they say when they write to me telling me not to talk "dirt", not to talk party politics, but to talk of what is best for the nation, if we are to get back to a real understanding of the principles of democracy, there must be some kind of purging and renewal of principle. What pleasure is it to me to see the Prime Minister a beaten and broken man today? I hope that the Tories will not just trundle him out, without thinking of what their own responsibilities are and how far they go. It can fairly be said that the Opposition have treated this matter with a reasonable sense of responsibility.
If the Prime Minister wants a book to read, I can recommend one to him. It is very difficult to get hold of; one has to go to the publishers for it. There is hardly more than one copy in existence. It is published by Macmillan, and it is a biography of Daniel Macmillan who, a hundred years ago, coughed himself to death before he reached the age of most of us in this House. He was, in those days, a Tory Christian Socialist, at a time when none of those words was a dirty word. He tried to restore the notions of stewardship and social responsibility in the heart of London, in Westminster, Lord North Street, Smith Square and the rest where the centre of the troubles was.
In those days, it was the Liberals who were the bosses, the materialists, the cruel and immoral ones, who were destroying the notions of stewardship and social responsibility to which we must come back again. The Tory Party, will not revive until it reads that book and goes back to the best of its old traditions instead of the worst. It must face the fact, as we must face it across the Floor, that there are certain inbuilt defects in our society which must go. We have our recommendations for altering them. The Tories say that they have theirs. These are the problems we must tackle. Parliament will not survive, democracy will not survive, and we shall earn the contempt of the younger generation, if we get involved merely in sordid calculations about how best one can mislead the House of Commons into delivering a temporary voting triumph in the Lobby when, in fact, what is happening is a betrayal.
As for questions of security, I know nothing of military secrets. I have never had any military secrets to reveal. I do not suppose that professional spies hang about brothels to get details of the armaments of tanks or submarines. But, if there has been anything which brought disaster and war, it has been an error of judgment by people who have not been sure that one Power really intended to do what it said that it would do. It is a true sense of integrity which we must restore, an impression that one has a sound policy which is perfectly well understood, which ought not to be kept secret but which ought to be passed around the world by the best possible channels of communication which can be found.
I hope to make what could be regarded on both sides of the House as, so far as I can make it, a non-partisan speech. First, in view of the many things which have been said here today and said in the newspapers for a long time past, perhaps I ought to make an admission. Speaker after speaker has said that for many months rumours have been circulating in the Lobbies of the House and elsewhere regarding the matters which have only recently come to a head and caused such a scandal. Probably, I do not move in the right circles, but I can only say that until Friday morning, 22nd March, when I was in my place at 11 o'clock and the statement was made I had heard absolutely nothing whatever regarding these rumours. To me, therefore, it is an even greater shock that this scandal has come upon us at this time than it has been to those many hon. Members who profess to have known all about it for a long time.
I hold the view that the matter which we have been debating is far too grave for us to be prepared to regard it in terms of party advantage or party loyalty. We are dealing with something, whatever the outcome may be, which will have consequences which will last for many a day, many a week and many a month. My judgment is that this is one of those great Parliamentary occasions on which Members of all parties should be prepared to listen to and to weigh the arguments and then, at the end of the day, do what they believe to be right in the light of their consciences. The issues involved are far too great to be determined upon the basis of a vote merely on strict party lines.
I do not feel that I can add anything by seeking to go over the dates, the incidents or the arguments in relation to this long and sordid story or by trying to add to what has been said already in that connection. My impression is that there are still many dark and unexplained matters connected with this long and tangled story, and I do not believe that the whole truth is likely to be obtained by the kind of discussion which has been taking place in the House today. Indeed, a discussion of this kind often proves to be the worst possible means of obtaining a clear, impartial and objective view of what has, in fact, been happening and what have been the respective rôles of the people concerned. I myself regret that, apparently, nothing is to be done by way of setting up an independent inquiry which could go into all these matters, examine all the witnesses and bring back to the House in an impartial and dispassionate spirit the result of its investigations.
I should, I think, have been prepared to give my support to the Government today if it had been proposed that such an independent inquiry should take place. In the absence of such an inquiry, feeling as I do at this moment, I cannot see that I shall be able to bring myself to support the Government in the Lobby tonight.
One aspect of this matter is at least as important as the question whether there has been a breach of security, namely, the moral issue implicit in this whole affair from beginning to end and in all details of the sordid story with which we are dealing. As a matter of personal judgment, I repudiate the view which has been expressed on many occasions in the Press, by prominent people in recent days and in the speeches of several hon. Members today, that the private morals of an individual who occupies a position of responsibility under the Crown are not a matter with which this House can be concerned. My right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) suggested that moral standards were matters for priests and for prophets and they were not matters with which the House could possibly concern itself. It seems to me that it is this kind of thinking which has landed us in our present situation and which has contributed to much of the difficulties which exist in the nation's life today.
I do not believe that one can separate the private lives of men in positions of government from their public lives and their public actions. The whole moral character of what has been taking place comes as a reproach to this House and a reproach to the high court of Parliament and of government in this country.
It seems to me a complete irrelevancy to argue that, because the private lives of Wellington, Nelson, Parnell and Palmerston were not blameless, the private lives of Ministers are not a matter of concern. I believe that those who have the privileges and obligations of leadership have a very special responsibility to try to set a lead to the nation as a whole, and I do not believe it reasonable to expect that the nation as a whole will adopt higher moral standards than those that are implicit in the legislation which is promoted by this House and the lives of those who have taken upon themselves the duties of leadership. If any choice has to be made, it is better that this country should be governed by good men than that it should be governed by clever men.
As I think has been made clear in this debate, it is perfectly obvious that moral standards, both in this case and in all similar cases, are not remote and detached from security questions but are closely related to the whole problem of national security. Security is not only a matter of the operations of M.I.5, of keeping Cabinet and defence secrets, or of retaining privately the knowledge which is possessed about H-bombs and new weapons. The security of the nation depends at least equally on the character of the people, and when the kind of scandal breaks which we have witnessed in recent days it is not helpful to the character of the people which it is our duty as leaders in the nation to try to maintain and uphold. If history teaches us anything, it is that great empires and great nations in the past have come to final overthrow and defeat much more because the life of the nation has been corrupted from within than as a result of the assaults of their enemies from without.
I believe that there is a measure of responsibility upon all of us in the situation which exists today. I am not personally concerned to try to shift any share of the responsibility which is mine on to other people. I believe that, to some extent, what has been happening is a matter of responsibility for all of us because for a long time all parties and all of us as individuals have been putting the emphasis on the wrong things. We have been emphasising the importance of the material things of life, the things which make life pleasant and worth while. [Interruption.] I am trying to avoid being partisan. I am saying that a measure of responsibility in these matters rests on all parties and on most of us as individuals, and I am prepared to accept my own share of any responsibility that there may be.
For fifteen years we have been producing blueprints for a better world and overlooking the fact that "man cannot live by bread alone" and that it is the character of a people which is important rather than the standard of life which they possess.
Certainly. I am very dissatisfied that the matter should be left as it stands. Many questions have been unanswered and unexplained. Many aspects of this matter are dark and confused. If there had been a proposal today for an independent judicial inquiry, I should have been prepared to support the Government to that extent and to await the outcome of such an inquiry. But, in the absence of such an inquiry, it seems to me that this debate must end with a large number of things that we should like to know about unrevealed and a large number of questions to which we should like to know the answers unanswered. For that reason, and in the absence of a proposal by the Government to set up a judicial inquiry, I find myself unable to support the Government in the Division which will take place at the end of the evening.
I have spoken in the main about the moral aspect of this matter because, in my judgment, it is at least as important as any breaches of security which may have been involved. I hope that hon. Members will not feel that in dealing with the moral issue I have departed from the kind of speech and argument that is proper in this House. I have thought of little other than this matter for many days. Since this scandal broke, I have had this matter laid very much upon my heart, and I should have been unfaithful to those things which I hold most dearly if I had not spoken in the way that I have.
It is important that public confidence in the administration of justice should be maintained and strengthened. It is to that aspect of this problem that I propose to address myself.
The shooting episode which took place on 14th December, 1962, alarmed quite a number of people who realised that it might lead to the appearance of Miss Keeler in the witness box. If she appeared in the witness box there was no knowing what she might or might not say. By some strange coincidence, within a very short time of that shooting incident, Captain Ivanov left London. Miss Keeler appeared at the magistrates court and was bound over in recognisances of £40 to appear at the trial to take place in due course at the Old Bailey. She was bound over in December 1962. According to what the Prime Minister told us today, she was being interviewed by security officers in January 1963. Therefore, some interest was being taken in her whereabouts and in her activities by the security authorities. Yet, when the trial of Edgecombe took place at the Old Bailey on 14th March, 1963, Christine Keeler had disappeared. The day after, Edgecombe was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment.
At the trial at the Old Bailey there were four charges in the indictment against Edgecombe. The first was shooting with intent to murder and the second shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Those two charges, the most serious charges in the indictment against Edgecombe, could not be proceeded with because Christine Keeler was not available to give evidence. Therefore, the Crown had to fall back upon the third and least serious charge in the indictment, namely, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. It was on that, the third charge, that he was convicted.
The question which I ask myself and which ought to be inquired into—and this is certainly a matter for judicial inquiry—is whether an attempt was made by some person or persons unknown to influence the course of justice between the shooting incident in December, 1962, and the hearing of the charge against Edgecombe at the Old Bailey in March, 1963.
There has still been no explanation why counsel for the prosecution, presumably in accordance with instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions, made no application for an adjournment of the trial when the chief witness for the prosecution, who was named in the two most serious counts in the indictment, disappeared. Were the police making any effort to find her? I am glad that the Attorney-General is in his place, because he of all people would realise the significance of what I am saying.
The conduct of the prosecution becomes all the more strange when it is borne in mind that at the previous Old Bailey session, when the case against Edgcombe would otherwise have been heard, the Crown obtained an adjournment for the purpose of calling as a witness a person who had not even been called at the hearing before the committing magistrate. At least, Christine Keeler had appeared before the committing magistrate and given evidence and had been bound over to appear. Nevertheless, the Crown applied for and obtained an adjournment for the purpose of calling as a witness the taxi driver who had taken Edgcombe to Wimpole Mews—not a very important witness.
When that adjournment was granted for the purpose of enabling the tax driver to be present in court to give evidence about the drive in the taxi to Wimpole Mews, Christine Keeler was still in this country and available to give evidence.
I am suggesting to the House that this is a matter which calls for serious investigation by an independent, impartial judicial tribunal or some kind. Once people get it into their heads that witnesses can be spirited away with the idea of protecting someone or other in high position, confidence in the administration of justice is destroyed.
It is curious that although, apparently, no attempt was made by the police to see that Christine Keeler was available to give evidence at the Old Bailey trial, different methods are now being employed to ensure that witnesses will be available in certain proceedings that may be impending. I quote from the Daily Herald report of 3rd June:
Miss Marilyn Rice-Davies arrived from Majorca. She had returned to Britain at the request of Scotland Yard.
It only goes to show that if the authorities want a witness to be produced, that witness is there. It was because not the slightest attempt was made to ensure the presence of Christine Keeler at the Old Bailey at the Edgcombe trial that she was not there.
No, I believe not. I believe that nothing was done to ensure the presence of Christine Keeler at the Old Bailey trial, but that is one of the things I want inquired into. That is why I support the plea which has been put forward for a judicial inquiry, because many important issues will be left unexplained at the end of the debate.
I am very concerned that there should not be any kind of suggestion that the course of justice has been tampered with in any way for the purpose of protecting someone in high places or protecting Cabinet Ministers or other Ministers from possible embarrassment.
In the case of Miss Rice-Davies, she returned to Britain at the request of Scotland Yard. She said that the Yard had sent her two letters in the past week asking her to come back. She said that the police had promised to pay her air fares to and from Majorca and were arranging accommodation for her at a London hotel. That is the kind of thing that the police do when they want to make sure that a witness is there to give evidence and when they want to obtain evidence. None of those things was done in the case of Christine Keeler when she disappeared without trace between the time of the magistrate's court proceedings and the trial of Edgecombe at the Old Bailey on 14th March.
As the hon. Member has raised the question of Miss Marilyn Rice-Davies, I do not know whether he has noted that today she was, apparently, prohibited by the police from leaving the country. It would be interesting to know under what authority this was done and whether this procedure could have been used in the case of Miss Keeler.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but I was just about to add that point to the argument, that not only had the police brought her back from Majorca and paid for her air passage, but that they had stopped her from going to Palma on Sunday night when, I believe, she was intending to go away.
The police, therefore, know how to deal with this kind of case. They have their technique developed of making sure that witnesses turn up in the case of Crown prosecutions. If one looks at the number of cases in which an important Crown witness has not appeared at the Old Bailey in the course of a year, they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. It rarely happens, because the police see to it, notwithstanding the variegated type of people who have to give evidence in Crown prosecutions at the Old Bailey, that in 99·9 cases out of 100 they are there to give evidence. But that did not happen in the case of Christine Keeler.
There is no power at all to detain a witness in this country. As far as my information goes, the police were unaware that Miss Keeler would not be available until the evening before. Miss Davies has been kept because a charge is made against her and not because she is is being retained as a witness.
I can assist the hon. Member. The first adjournment was because a very important independent witness was ill and had had a heart attack and, therefore, the prosecution asked for the adjournment of the trial on that occasion. On the second occasion—after all, the accused has to be considered—the accused had already been awaiting trial and had had an adjournment, and Crown counsel at the Old Bailey, without any instructions from me or the Director of Public Prosecutions or any pressure, took the view upon the case as it stood that it was safe to go on and satisfactory to continue upon the evidence which was available even though it did not include Miss Keeler.
Then somebody decided that the two most serious charges against Edgecombe should be dropped, namely, the shooting with intent to murder and the shooting with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. If they were seriously considered as charges against this man, then I cannot understand why they should be dropped as easily as all that and why the prosecution should content itself with the third count in the indictment.
The other matter which possibly calls for some explanation is the conduct of the case itself at the Old Bailey. As soon as the jury trying the Wimpole Mews case had retired to consider its verdict, the judge at 3.45 p.m. on the Friday afternoon embarked on the trial of a separate charge against Edgecombe of wounding Aloysius Gordon with a knife. Again, Christine Keeler was an important witness on the depositions. The Attorney-General can look at the depositions to see whether what I say is correct or not. Yet the case was heard in a hurry in her absence, and Edgecombe found himself giving evidence in defence of himself on this charge while the jury in the first case against him was considering its verdict. That is a most unusual state of affairs. The second trial ended in Edgecombe's acquittal at 5.30 p.m.
The day was a Friday, and some people still think that the circumstances were a little peculiar. It looks as if somebody had decided, first of all, that Christine Keeler should not be available and, secondly, that as she was not available the case could be dealt with simply and quickly in her absence—because the danger from the point of view of certain people was the possibility of Christine Keeler appearing in the witness box and being cross-examined. That was something which it was in the interests of certain people to avoid at all costs.
I must finish now. I want to conclude by saying (hat if the truth of the whole unsavoury business that we have been discussing today, including the administration of the law, is to be elucidated, there is a strong case for a judicial inquiry not only into the security aspect but also into the way in which the machinery of justice was interfered with in this case.
The speech to which we have just listened has been characteristic of only too much that has been said about this whole matter, containing vague generalised accusations in a most irresponsible manner totally unsupported by even a shred of evidence.
The hon. Member for Brixtan (Mr. Lipton) throughout his speech was making accusations—clear accusations against the counsel concerned in the prosecution of Edgecombe, I suppose virtually against counsel who are engaged for the defence; against the judge who was conducting the trial, against the police; against the Director of Public Prosecutions and, I suppose, against my right hon. and learned Friends the Law Officers of the Crown, and possibly against other people as well.
He said, "It was decided by somebody"—he did not specify whom "that it would be inconvenient if Christine Keeler gave evidence", and that it was, therefore, decided to keep her away and that the trial could be pushed through quickly in her absence. The implications in statements like that repeated over and over again in the course of a speech of 15 minutes are really quite disgraceful unless they are supported by some kind of proof.
This is the kind of vague slur which has been cast around this case. It was cast around before it in the Vassall case, and cast around in the Bank Rate case, and, indeed, is becoming a bad political habit in this country.
I will not give way. Two other hon. Members wish to speak before the closing speeches are made. I think that the speech which the hon. Member made was not one about which he will on reflection feel proud. In the two preceding speeches from the Opposition benches—the speeches by the hon. Members for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and Coventry, East (Mr. Cross-man)—we also had these oblique references to bad faith on the part of the Prime Minister and the Ministers who interviewed Mr. Profumo and discussed with him on the morning of 22nd March the statement that he was to make.
I put it directly to those hon. Members, and, indeed, to some extent to my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton), that if they really mean to say that this was done in bad faith and that the Prime Minister was privy to a deception of the House, they ought to say so, and in plain terms, and not first of all deny that they mean that and then go on to say things which can mean nothing else. This has been done time and again, and these are the habits which will lower the tone of political life in this country. [Hon. Members: "Oh."]
That intervention was characteristic of the denigrations of personal character which have been made. The hon. Member is suggesting that I am saying all this so that I might get briefs from the Law Officers. Is that the kind of thing to say across the Floor of the House?
There has been much talk about a moral issue. There are moral implications in this matter. But the issue before us of moral character is not whether Profumo should withdraw from public life. He has already done so. Is it the issue that the Prime Minister should resign? [Hon. Members: "Yes."] If that is the issue, then it is a moral issue only if the Prime Minister was privy to the deception of the House by Profumo. [Hon. Members: "No."] Or if he was so negligent, so incompetent, so uninterested in matters put before him that it amounted not merely to incompetence, but was of such a degree that he was affected by the moral life of Profumo.
Before one believes anybody to be guilty of that kind of complicity or negligence or condonation one has to have some pretty clear evidence against the person who is charged. What is the evidence here for the charge which has been made against the Prime Minister—a charge not perhaps of direct complicity but of such culpable negligence, such indifference, that he should be considered morally blameworthy in this matter? That charge has been made repeatedly by hon. Members opposite, and. I am sorry to say, by my noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed.
If there were no evidence to the contrary, I should be very unwilling to believe that it was so from ray knowledge of the Prime Minister and indeed of the working of the machine of Government. What is the evidence, however? We have had the Prime Minister's statement, which was in very clear terms, that he knew nothing at all about the security aspect except what he was told on certain specific occasions, and that about the material point—which was the relations with Miss Keeler—he knew nothing until the confession of Profumo.
It is said that this was grossly negligent. We have had a lot of knowledgeable people here today who, after the whole thing is over, claim to have known all about it. They did not say so much before this disaster broke upon us.
No, they did not. That is something we must get clear. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition accused the Prime Minister of negligence in this respect. My noble Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed said that the Prime Minister knew that his Secretary of State for War was in a position to be blackmailed and yet he allowed him to continue in office. The hon. Member for Coventry, East said that the Prime Minister knew from security that Profumo was having an affair with a woman who was a security risk. I wrote these things down as they were said.
What is the truth of the matter? The Prime Minister knew nothing about Christine Keeler until the spring of this year. It is said that he should have realised when this matter was put to Mr. Profumo and denied that Mr. Profumo was lying. Should he? On 26thMarch, the Opposition, through the Leader of the Opposition, placed before the Prime Minister a document in which the facts of this matter were set out. It had been obtained by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and the hon. Member for Coventry, East from Mr. Ward.
What did that statement say on this material matter? It said that there was no impropriety in the relations between Mr. Profumo and Christine Keeler. That happened to coincide exactly with the assurance which Mr. Profumo had given to the Prime Minister. Of course the Opposition had been misled by their informant. He had lied to them. That was Mr. Ward. The Prime Minister was misled by the Secretary of State for War, who lied to him. Both were in the same position. Why should it be negligent for the Prime Minister to believe what he was told by the Secretary of State for War which coincided exactly with what had been put before him by the Opposition when no knowledge to the contrary had been placed before him?
Nobody on either side of the House has suggested that there had been placed before the Prime Minister any information to suggest an improper relationship between Christine Keeler and Mr. Profumo. It made all the difference in the world. It is the vital issue here, because if the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House and the Attorney-General and the Chief Whip believed on 21st March and 22nd March that Mr. Profumo was telling the truth, then they are not guilty of any conspiracy to deceive the House.
Has not the hon. Gentleman yet appreciated that the important thing in Mr. Profumo's statement was not what it denied, but what it admitted? If Mr. Profumo's denial had been truthful, on the evidence which he provided himself, he would still have been a security risk and would have been for two years.
The hon. Member is evading the point. The debate tonight is to end in a vote. If any hon. Member thinks that that vote is about the state of the security services in England, he is simply deluding himself. The vote is an attack on the integrity of the Prime Minister and nothing else. By making this an issue of confidence, hon. Members opposite are trying to suggest that the Prime Minister's honour is involved and that he should resign. That is what the debate and the vote are about, and it is on that issue that I shall cast my vote—on the simple, narrow question of whether the Prime Minister and his leading colleagues were dishonourably involved in the deception practised on the House by Mr. Profumo.
I am perfectly satisfied on the evidence that they were not. I am satisfied that their error about this was fully shared by the Opposition themselves, who had been equally deceived, and that everybody knew about this only after Mr. Profumo had confessed, except possibly one or two Members opposite who appear to have had contacts with the sort of people who might know the truth.
I do not wish to say any more about this except—[Interruption.]—I am sure that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not want to hear facts which are disagreeable to them. They have tried to conduct this debate on a wide, smearing, basis and to attack the Government, and I think that it will be a great shame if the public life of this country suffers damage from some of the generalised things that have been said today.
We try to exact a high standard from our men in public life. In political life we have to be a good deal more cruel to personal failure than we could find it right or possible to be in other departments of life. We do that because we want to ensure that those who presume to lead shall have high qualities, and that the public shall believe that they have them, and we shall doubly defeat ourselves if we spread these vague allegations around partly by chasing out of public life men who are not willing to submit their reputations to the repetitive attacks of the kind that we have had in recent years, and partly, in a direct way, by leading people to believe, as I think the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) once protested, that the people who come to this House are squalid people, when in fact they are hard-working and responsible people in the main.
For those reasons, whether or not they commend themselves to hon. Gentlemen opposite, I shall have no hesitation in casting my vote tonight in favour of the Government.
I find a certain difficulty in following the logic of the argument that we have heard. On the one hand, we are told that, however improbable the story which Mr. Profumo told, however improbable this family friendship with Stephen Ward and Christine Keeler may have appeared, the Prime Minister and the five had so much of Mr. Profumo's special persuasion that they actually believed it, and yet we are also told to believe that the Tory Party, who cheered that improbable story without having any of these private explanations, believed it too.
The noble Lord the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Viscount Lambton) made no pretence of having believed it, and I am bound to say that few hon. Gentlemen opposite to whom I spoke made any pretence whatever of believing it either. They were satisfied to accept his lie if he could get away with it. That is always the attitude of the Tory Party.
My sympathy goes to Jack Profumo, whom I have known for a long time. I know that he had a gallant war record in which his courage was respected by those who served with him. As Secretary of State for War at a time when both sides wanted a volunteer Army, and when there were hon. Members on both sides who said that it could not be done, he succeeded in doing it, and he put great energy into the job.
Kuwait is one of the very few successes that we have to chalk up. A war was probably avoided which would have been difficult for us. It was not an easy decision because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) pointed out, he had to move pretty unprepared. I believe that we owe him a measure of gratitude for that, but this is the man who is now the goat upon whom the members of the Tory Party are seeking to discharge their guilt—because it is their guilt and they were with him in this.
From Lord Hailsham we have had a virtuoso performance in the art of kicking a fallen friend in the guts. [Interruption.] It is easy to compound for sins we are inclined to by damning those we have no mind to. When self-indulgence has reduced a man to the shape of Lord Hailsham, sexual continence involves no more than a sense of the ridiculous. [Interruption.] Yet this is the performance which made the Tory Party say, "Here is our missing leader." The moment he was cornered, by being asked about the three-line Whip, what did he do? He told a lie. [Interruption.]
When he was cornered he proceeded to lie. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley was right in saying that this was lying humbug. But all those hon. Members opposite who knew that were yet prepared to say, "This is our missing leader."
I give this as a serious warning. We have inflated the position of the Prime Minister to one which is all-powerful. His dominance over this House will be demonstrated tonight—we all know that—as his dominance over the Cabinet has already been asserted. The only difference between the position of a Prime Minister and that of a Fascist leader is the personality of the man who holds the office. If we are going to appoint an hysterical demagogue, with a brutal tinge, such as we saw on television the other night, what we shall get is something like a Fascist State. I hope and believe that we shall avoid this.
If the Tory Party, which in all conscience has not cared very much about the question of adultery, objects to the question of lying, I would say that there is a comparativeness and relativity in deceit. There is the deceit in which a man seeks—when he has been pushed from pillar to post—to offer his resignation, and is told by the Prime Minister, according to reports, "If it is girls, it is all right. If it is all right by your wife it does not concern me", and according to his own version today, "Resignation may help you but it will not help me". Having had his resignation treated in that way, he is driven on and on until he is put up to make the fatal statement—a statement which was cheered by hon. Members opposite, not in belief, but simply because they thought that they had been extracted from a scrape in exactly the same way as they cheered the Prime Minister when he extracted the Home Secretary from the position of having deceived the House in the Enahoro case.
If we are having relativity in deceit, the deceit of a man who seeks to avoid a question which perhaps should not be put is far less than the deceit of a man who deceives this House in order to deprive another of his liberty. And yet, because they got away with it, that deceit, hon. Members opposite were perfectly prepared to cheer. When I learn that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is selected as one of those who have taken a high moral stand on this, as against the Prime Minister, weeks, only a few weeks, after the Prime Minister rescued him, I find that this touches an all-time depth in nauseating hypocrisy.
I have only one further point to make. It is this. In the case of Baldwin, in the case of Chamberlain, in the case of Eden, the Tory Party attempted to rescue themselves by cutting the head out of the image of their party. Their problem today is to find a substitute head, because too many of them are involved in this discredit for them to be able to find a creditable or credible alternative. This is not a question of getting rid of the Prime Minister. As The Timessaid, it is a question of getting rid of a Government which has debased the whole moral currency of the country.
I have exactly three minutes in which to explain to my colleagues why I cannot support them in the Lobbies tonight. I would say, very briefly, that the interview between the five Ministers and Mr. Profumo and his solicitor strikes me with horror. First of all, I cannot understand this feeling that because he is accompanied by his solicitor therefore he is an honest man. In my experience litigants nearly always deceive their solicitors, and very often there were cases where they specially selected solicitors who would believe their lies—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]. There are cases. I could quote examples. The most notable is the case of Oscar Wilde. He took a solicitor who would believe his lies because the solicitor who knew him would not take his case.
This interview was one where it seems to me no proper precautions were taken to test his story. His story was not tested in this House. Perhaps we rely too much on the word. We are over-obsessed, perhaps, by words spoken from the Treasury Dispatch Box by Ministers. Like so many of my colleagues, over the years I have made applications to Ministers, and if I have had an encouraging word from the Treasury Dispatch Box it has meant to me something much more than something said by that particular Minister, who may be out of his place within a day or two. It has meant that what he said binds the Government. That was the position. On 21st March Profumo's troubles were his own. On 22nd March, when he spoke from that Dispatch Box, he spoke with the authority of the Government. And he did so because the five Ministers who had questioned him the night before did not prove themselves.
It is usually said that speeches such as this are made only by disgruntled ex-Ministers or disappointed place-seekers on the back benches. As for the former, I have found, both in peace and war, that the company of my right hon. Friend the Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) was both agreeable and stimulating and something in which to rejoice and not to apologise for.
If I am a disappointed place-seeker on the back benches, surely all of us are. Surely there is no one so humble as to come to this House and not feel flushed with the success of the hustings that one day in his turn he may take his place at the Dispatch Box. I must confess to being disappointed in that. But if I have now taken an action which will certainly exclude me from any prospect of that, it is not out of spite or personal pique. It is because over the years I have learned what so many have recognised before me, that Parliament is bigger than any of its Members and that its honour as an institution far surpasses any consideration of party advantage. When the Division bell rings tonight it will toll for all of us.
The hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) will now know as well as anyone how difficult it is to address a speech to this House unless one has the atmosphere for that speech. Nevertheless, let me say that he had the sympathy, I am quite sure, of many on both sides of the House for a very difficult and awkward speech in which to declare whether he agreed with his colleagues or not. For myself I was glad to hear him make it.
Many have said that this is not the place for a court of morals or a court of Christian ethics, although both are tremendously involved in the questions before us. I shall not go on with them except to say one thing. I align myself completely with what my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) said earlier about the vigour with which some protesting Christians have dismembered the body of our late colleague the former Secretary of State for War. I feel bound to say that for me the only Christian virtue I am asked now to hold in his case is that of charity.
Vengeance is especially taken away from Christians living on earth today. I was shocked by the performance of one protesting Christian Minister on the television who seemed not to have heard:
Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord
and seemed to set out to take it for himself.
The issue we are competent to judge is divided into three parts. One is to try to discover what happened. Another is to try to discover, if we can, how and why it happened, and the third—which has been curiously absent from most of our discussions today—is to find what steps which ought to have been taken by the Government and our administration were not taken, so that we can see that they are taken in future.
Inevitably the Prime Minister, who is not with us at the moment, is deeply involved. There is no question that if responsibility means anything in terms of our society it means that in a case of this kind the Prime Minister is personally and totally responsible and involved. I got the impression—I am sorry to be saying this when he is not present, but I did delay starting my speech until very late. [Hon. Members: "Here he comes."]
The Prime Minister seemed to be saying today that, if he could show that he did not know what had happened, or how, he was somehow absolved. That doctrine seems to me to be totally unacceptable. If the security of Britain is compromised, as Lord Poole and Lord Hailsham have declared that it was, if the Government administration breaks down—and, after all, the Prime Minister indicated that at different times the security services, the Special Branch, the Home Office and his own office were all failing to communicate with each other about matters which they ought to have communicated with each other about—and if the Prime Minister fails, whether from a decent distaste or lack of concern with security matters, if he for any reason of that kind or any other then failed personally to take charge of the situation, but preferred to delegate it to Ministers who were then totally misled, as we know they were, then he must be regarded as totally and personally responsible.
"Responsibility" is not just a word. It has a meaning in our tradition, our constitution and our history. It means that the Prime Minister must accept responsibility for the consequences of that sequence of events. If he does not accept responsibility, but says, "I did not know. Nobody told me anything and, therefore, there is no responsibility for me, and I ask for the sympathetic judgment of my fellows," where is the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility? Where is the public protection? If nobody is going to do anything about it, how can the public be protected?
In my humble submission, the debate has not absolved the Prime Minister or his colleagues. The Prime Minister said earlier that he had three principles to justify; that he had acted honourably, justly and with due prudence. The first is not impugned. The right hon. Gentleman would not regard me as one of his greatest fans in the House, but I am not impugning his honour and nor is any other hon. Member. On the second, he acted justly as he saw it. In the event, it turned out to be rather more than just to the man concerned and rather less than just to our society. But no one will urge that the Prime Minister did not act justly as he felt justice required.
On the third point, however, the right hon. Gentleman convicted himself. Due prudence would have called for a very much greater degree of personal care and attention than he gave to the matter. It would have called for much more active involvement by himself. It would have called for much earlier recognition of the fact that something was going sadly wrong. What the right hon. Gentleman showed to us was that he and his colleagues concerned with this matter failed on all those counts.
If the Prime Minister fails to satisfy the House on the point of due prudence, our duty to our constituents requires some clear action from us, because there is no sphere in which we are more entitled to be required by our constituents to be alive and alert in these dangerous times than that of due prudence when the security of the nation is concerned.
Let us examine the record so far as given to us by the Prime Minister and fill it out with what we know. What is clear, as far as I can piece together, is that Stephen Ward was warned by the security services about associating with Ivanov in July, 1961. So it was at that point quite clear that already the security services were concerned about the activities of Ivanov, concerned enough to warn off any new contacts. Most of us who have experience in these matters know that when the security services consider doing that sort of thing, they are taking a fairly overt action and that the matter has already become a fairly serious one.
It was, therefore, already known that Ward was a contact, albeit a new contact, of a man with whom they were concerned. And in security work when one warns a new contact one knows that one is taking a certain risk. Thus, as I understand it, it is not the sort of action that is taken unless one is certain about the man about whom the warning has been given. That all happened in July, 1961, and that is really where it all begins.
Later in July the late Secretary of State for War was warned. Giving warning to senior Ministers about the people with whom they are associating, despite the way in which the matter was treated by the Prime Minister, must be regarded as a fairly substantial act. The Secretary of State was warned by the security services about his association with Ward once they had learned that he had had more than a casual meeting with Ward.
It is therefore now clear that, still in July, 1961—[Hon. Members: "9th August."]—no, this is still in July. I believe that Profumo was warned round about 12th July, but still in July—[Hon. Members: "No."]—I am talking of 1961. The Leader of the House can clear this up, but I believe that I am right—and the record can be checked—that when Ward had been warned about Ivanov it was only a few days later, but still in July—about 12th July—that Ward told the security services about the meetings that had taken place at Cliveden. I believe that it was about that period in 1961, but that can be cleared up. In any case, one month will not affect my argument. The security services were now sufficiently worried to warn the former Secretary of State about his association with the man called Ward.
Three things come clear here. When did the practice grow up—the Prime Minister did not settle this at all—by which senior Ministers can be warned about their contacts on security grounds without the Prime Minister being informed that such action has been taken? Those of us who held any office in a previous Administration do not believe that such was the practice then, and we are entitled to know from the Prime Minister whether it was by his authority and on his instructions that the previous practice came to an end—and, if it was without his authority and instruction, who took it upon himself to change the practice?
Secondly, we are told out of all this that the security services did not at that stage know about Miss Keeler in this matter, and did not learn about her association with the ex-Secretary of State for War, or with Ward—and, therefore, with Ivanov—until January, 1963, when the former Secretary of State appears to have told them while protesting that it was an innocent association. How does it come about that the security services did not know? None of the association appears to have been all that discreet. The parties concerned appear to have met each other fairly publicly and openly. We know from what my right hon. Friend said earlier today, which is not disputed, about the letters that were being sent around at the time of the Cuba crisis.
It seems quite extraordinary that it should now be claimed that the security services did not know of this association until well over a year later. It is rather difficult for us to believe that this could be so, but if we are told we must believe it was so, then, by definition, it means a rather tremendous collapse in Government administration in a very important area.
On this question of knowing, there is the statement made, I am told, in an intervention this afternoon in the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) by the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd). I do not want to misrepresent him—I was not here—but I am told that the hon. Member said that he knew in November, 1962, that all four—Ward, Keeler, Profumo and Ivanov—were associating at Ward's flat, and that he informed the security services. This is in November, 1962, and one has to ask the Minister who is to reply to make some answer to that statement which came from his own side of the House and is very material to the allegation that the security services did not hear of it until a considerable time later.
Another matter arises from this. If the security services were not watching Ward closely, which seems to be the basis for saying they did not know about this association, and did not learn until more than a year later—that is, after the Secretary of State's association with Miss Keeler and, through Miss Keeler, with Ward and Ivanov had finished—if that is true, how can the Prime Minister assert, as he did in answer to my right hon. Friend, that he was satisfied that the security aspect of this matter had been adequately watched?
Those two things cannot both be true. To be sure that the security aspect had been carefully watched, one would have had to have known about it and been watching. Not to have known about it—which is the other thing he said—and not to have been watching means that one cannot tell whether security was all right or not. This part of the Prime Minister's defence—or apologia, which it was rather than a defence—really contradicted itself and convicted him and his administration.
The other point which my right hon. Friend made is that it is really pointless assertion, because how could one possibly know the circumstances in which these people were meeting? Think of the circumstances that one would have to be in, in order to know what information was passing while they were meeting. It is a pretty tremendous strain on the credibility of even the most worldly man or woman in this House to believe that one could make such an assertion about people who were meeting in those circumstances.
But let us go on to the next matter which emerged. Clearly the Government did nothing. The Prime Minister knew on 1st February, 1963, what the allegations were. He knew then because the general manager of a newspaper called on him at Admiralty House. He tells us that that information was then passed to the security services, and I gather that the Prime Minister's P.P.S. also saw the former Secretary of State for War. Round about the same time the Chief Whip saw the Secretary of State for War when the Secretary of State for War said that he would resign if it was thought the right thing to do, and we are told that the Chief Whip said that if the rumours were true he should resign and that if they were not true resignation would be the wrong thing.
I am bothered to find out what rumours the Chief Whip had in mind at that stage. What we know the Government had been told was that he was associating with Miss Keeler. What we now know is that Miss Keeler was associating with Mr. Ward, who had been warned against Mr. Ivanov, in whom the security services were interested. What rumours did the Chief Patronage Secretary mean? The allegation was that he said, "So long as you are seeing her platonically that is all right, but if you are seeing her non-platonically that is wrong." That seems to be a very extraordinary position for the Patronage Secretary to take.
The issue was not really how he was seeing her. The issue was: he had got himself into what looked as though it could be a contact ring for enemies of this country. How the Chief Whip could seriously think it was a matter of going deeply into the motives of the man's association with her, and that that was the only matter of concern, in the light of what was clearly known by then, and the Prime Minister already knew, seems to me to be absolutely absurd. He told the Prime Minister about his meetings, so both of them knew.
We also know that about that time—only a matter of days afterwards—the Metropolitan Police and the Special Branch also had statements from Miss Keeler about being asked for information. We are told that the Prime Minister, who is the head of security, did not know about that and was not told. I am bound to ask: was the Home Secretary not told? If he was not told, how does he defend the collapse of his own Administration? Was he told then, or was he told later, or never? This must be by now a pretty crushing collapse of that Administration. Everybody is getting bits of information which, if put together, would paint a very dark and worrying picture, and not one single Minister is being told by the people for whom he is Ministerially responsible.
I jump from there to the incident that happened in this House on 21st March and then the midnight—5 a.m. meeting of the group of Ministers who were got together to interrogate the Secretary of State for War and, indeed, to prepare, or, as the Prime Minister said this afternoon, to draft the statement which was to be made to us the next day. There are some questions here not cleared up.
At that point, when they met—and the Leader of the House was personally there and therefore his testimony must be absolute—they knew, I gather, of the existence of the letter. They knew that it opened with "Darling". I do not know how much else they knew about it, but they knew that much of it. The nature of Miss Keeler's activities was by then very widely known indeed. Her association with Ward and Ivanov was by then very widely known indeed. Did not one of those five Ministers ask to see the letter? The Leader of the House interrupted an hon. Member earlier in the debate to say that he had not seen the letter. But did they really spend five hours will a colleague about a letter opening in those terms, relating to that kind of grouping, and never ask to see the letter?
The letter has now been published. Had they known the terms of it, would any of those Ministers have been as gullible as they turned out to be? It has been suggested earlier today that this letter was in some way a parting letter, ending the association. This is not true at all. The letter does not bear that construction at all. This is a letter in the most friendly and emotional terms which is saying that he cannot see her tomorrow night but he will see her again in September, and will she please take great care of herself and not run away. I have had occasion to say goodbye to people in my life. Usually my desire has been that they should get as far away as they could. That was why I was saying goodbye. If we are asked to believe that we are Jed by Ministers as gullible, as incompetent, and as non-perceptive as that, then this is about the most scarifying charge that can be brought against them, and it is to that that they plead guilty. That is the whole point of the thing today.
There had been ample time to check up since 1st February, because it was on 1st February that they heard about it. This went on from 1st February to 21st March. There was no reason why they should have been as short of knowledge as they said that they were on 21st March. Now we have a whole collection of other Ministers also involved in this business. It is impossible to conclude, I think, anything other than this: the motives aside, all the deeper issues aside, one thing must be clear—there has been a tremendous collapse, derogation, from the level of competent administration that our people are entitled to expect. That has been true at the higher Service levels. It has been true at every Ministerial level up to that of the Prime Minister himself.
I cannot accept that the Dilhorne inquiry can rest at that. There is much still to examine, not to muck-rake, and not to add to the embarrassment or awkwardness of Ministers—because even in that respect, too, I trust that I can remain of the view that there but for the grace of God go I—but there is much here to examine for the good of our country and the better future conduct of our public administration.
Therefore, on behalf of this side of the House, I ask that the Government be willing to establish a Select Committee of the House to go further into the matter. We can discuss the composition of it. We feel that this is, in some ways, better than other forms of inquiry. We should wish to be allowed to discuss and agree its terms of reference. Something of this sort must be done if our people are to be satisfied that, out of this terrible mess, will come a more satisfactory way of handling our affairs.
Meanwhile, however much we absolve the Government as to their integrity or their motives, the final conclusion must be this. The terrifying failure on their part to know what was happening, even after the rest of London, virtually, was talking about it, their failure to protect our people from the possible risks involved, and the Prime Minister's plaintive plea today that it was all because nobody told him anything, require that, at the end of the debate, every one of us must examine his own feelings, remembering tonight that we vote for Britain and people outside, not for our parties inside the House.
On Friday, 22nd March, a few minutes after II o'clock, and after I had made a short business statement, the Secretary of State for War rose to make a personal statement. The House was unusually full for a Friday. On one side of him sat the Prime Minister; on the other side, myself. This was commented on, and it was taken, perfectly fairly, as a sign that we believed in the statement which the Secretary of State was about to make. Therefore, it is quite right that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I should explain to the House why we came to the conclusions we did.
Some people are surprised, perhaps, that the penalty for a lie should be as fierce as it is in this case, but no one who cares about the House of Commons can think this for a moment, because the whole structure of our life together is built on the fact that although we do not trust each other's policies we trust each other's word. Therefore, although this is, I admit, a savage blow to the Government and to public life in this country, it is also, because of that very fact, a blow to the House of Commons, too.
What I wish to do is to trace the various confrontations which have taken place, in particular the one on the night of 21st-22nd March to which so much reference has been made. As I shall sometimes be speaking for myself but sometimes of meetings at which I was not present, it is desirable, I think, to make plain at the outset where I have personal knowledge and where I have not.
As far as I know, I have never met or had any correspondence with any of the characters, male or female, who have been mentioned in this matter, with the exception, of course, of Mr. Profumo. The first time I had a discussion with Mr. Profumo was at the meeting on the night of 21st-22nd March, when, because it was raised in the House of Commons and it had to be answered in the House of Commons, it became a House of Commons matter; but I have been most closely into the previous meetings with the Law Officers, who naturally, feel very keenly indeed about some of the slurs—they can be regarded in no other way—on the adequacy of the inquiries which they have made.
This is the story, wherever possible, in the words of the Law Officers themselves. On 28th January, the Solicitor-General learned of rumours about Mr. Profumo's name being associated with Miss Keeler, who was about to give evidence at the Old Bailey. He told the Attorney-General, who at once informed Mr. Profumo, and Mr. Profumo came to see the Attorney-General that night. The Attorney-General emphasised to him the vital importance of complete frankness and of telling the whole truth, and he then told the Attorney-General the same story that he later repeated to the House and which he maintained consistently in all its details until his confession on 4th June.
He asserted the complete innocence of his friendship with Miss Keeler and said that not only had there been no adultery but that no sexual impropriety of any sort had taken place. He wrote the note which had been referred to on the day when he had been seen by Sir Norman Brook and warned not to go to Mr. Ward's flat. Here hon. Members opposite who tried to interrupt my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) were right and my right hon. and learned Friend was wrong. As far as the dates are concerned, it does not alter the right hon. Gentleman's argument in the least, but, just for the record, the two warnings were further apart than he suggested. The first was on 8th June and the second, which is also the date of the letter, was on 9th August, two months later.
The Attorney-General told Mr. Profumo that if his story was true he would have to take proceedings as soon as he had proof of any libellous publication. Mr. Profumo repeated that there was nothing in the rumours and he was then advised to seek the best obtainable legal advice, and he consulted Mr. Derek Clogg, the senior partner of Theodore Goddard and Co. and a solicitor of the highest reputation and widest experience.
Two days later both Law Officers saw Mr. Profumo and the Solicitor-General put the same points again to him. The story was again the same, and he was asked, "Are you prepared to issue a writ if anything should appear which can be judged libellous?", and Mr. Profumo said that he would do this, even if the person concerned was a friend, even if the person concerned was a colleague. On 3rd February, Mr. Derek Clogg came to see the Attorney-General and confirmed on behalf of Mr. Profumo that the relationship with the girl was exactly as Mr. Profumo had told him.
There are some other matters to add briefly. First, the Attorney-General had understood, and he had, of course, confirmed, that before 4th February Mr. Profumo had deliberately instructed his solicitors to take proceedings for an injunction against any paper which proposed to publish any story by Miss Keeler imputing any impropriety to him, and he had also asked his solicitors to get in touch with the Director of Public Prosecutions. When the trial of Edgecombe opened at the Old Bailey on 14th March and Miss Keeler did not appear, the House will remember that the rumours began to start—it was actually this point and not the question of impropriety which was raised in the House by hon.Mem-bars—that Mr. Profumo was concerned with her disappearance. There had been some comments on that this afternoon. It was to this point that inquiries in the House were addressed and on this the Attorney-General spoke to him and he was assured—again this assurance was repeated in the personal statement—that neither he nor anyone on his behalf had anything to do with the absence of Miss Keeler as a witness.
So we come to the night of 21st-22nd March.
Does the right hon. Gentleman happen to know on whose instructions, when the prosecution found that its principal witness, on whom the first two grave charges depended, was not there, it was decided not to ask for an adjournment and to try to bring her to court but to proceed on the minor charges when the principal witness was not in court?
Perhaps I can continue. On that evening, the Law Officers were on the Bench when these matters were referred to in the House. They then saw the Chief Whip and it was decided that a personal statement setting out the facts of the association as Mr. Profumo had continuously asserted them to the Law Officers and to others should be agreed by the Law Officers and by Mr. Profumo's solicitor, which, if Mr. Profumo would agree, would be made to the House.
Some people have commented that it was strange that the solicitor attended. On reflection, I cannot believe that they can think this wrong. After all, if someone had held to a story for months, if he had said, "As soon as it reasonably can be raised, I am committed to sue anyone, even my dearest friend", if he was making that public announcement, it was essential that the legal advice that he had had throughout—[Hon. Members: "No."]—of course—should be available at that time.
I heard the ending of the debate and I immediately consulted the Chief Whip. The timings are, I think, accurate as I gave them in an intervention to the Leader of the Opposition. We called the meeting, not actually at 12 o'clock, although, again, it does not alter the strength of the right hon. Gentleman's case, but at about half-past one and immediately after the debate had ended, when the Leader of the Opposition replied. The Home Secretary left at 1.22. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] He had left—[Interruption.]—at 1.22.
We were all aware of Mr. Profumo's emphatic and continual assertions of total innocence to his colleagues and his legal advisers, and indeed, although we did not know this at the time, to the security service as well. We were aware that he had instructed his solicitor and counsel to visit the Director of Public Prosecutions. We were aware that he had issued firm instructions to sue whomsoever provided the opportunity, whosoever he or she might be. The statement produced accurately and fairly what Mr. Profumo time and time again had said to be the truth. They then joined us and the Solicitor-General read it out.
One point was raised by Mr. Profumo, and perhaps I should refer to it for the sake of completeness. He asked why it was necessary that he should say in the statement that he was on friendly terms with Miss Keeler, as this, to quote his own words, sounded so awful. We insisted that that must be included because it was part of the truth, and an important part, as he had consistently said.
Of course, it was a personal statement. [Laughter.] It was a personal statement. [Interruption.] No, it was not drafted in that sense. There is a real distinction. This was a record of what Mr. Profumo had consistently said on scores of occasions to many different Ministers over many months, and this was said in the House of Commons.
Against these Ministers, of whom I am one, two possible charges can be brought—first, that they were conspiring knaves, and secondly, that they were gullible fools. The first I state only to dismiss, although it is fair to say that many statements that had previously been made up till today's debate would, if true, have given evidence for that.
I turn to the second charge. No Minister saw the letter before publication on Sunday, 9th June. I myself saw it a few days later than that, on the Wednesday, on my return from America. The letter itself was described when it appeared as effusive but not conclusive. The House must form its own judgment. But at the time we had Mr. Profumo's recollection of it, and, of course, it is difficult to have a coherent recollection of a hand-written note twenty months earlier.
Indeed, the knowledge that this letter might or would appear and that it was either in the hands of Miss Keeler or in the hands of the Press tended, if anything, to support Mr. Profumo's story, because it is inconceivable, or would seem so, that he would attempt to deceive the House of Commons knowing that his deception was almost sure to be found out.
It has also been said that there were reports available to us from the security service. I should like to deal with security matters in a moment, and particularly—
On the point of the letter, the five Ministers, as I understand, were aware that a personal note had been sent by Mr. Profumo to Miss Keeler headed "Darling" which was dealing with a purely private appointment that he had had with her. How, then, could the five Ministers agree that he should make to the House of Commons a personal statement concerning the words
…I met Miss Keeler on about half a dozen occasions at Dr. Ward's flat, when I called to see him and his friends."—[Official Report, 22nd March, 1963; Vol. 674, c. 810.]
How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile that with a personal appointment with Miss Keeler?
I do not find any difficulty in reconciling that, and my right hon. Friend dealt specifically with that point.
I must answer specifically the point about security and the point about an inquiry. I want to dispose quickly of this matter. [Interruption.] Let the House wait. The first knowledge that the security service had—I repeat this; it answers another point made—of any association between Miss Keeler and Mr. Profumo came at the end of January 1963. This disposes of many rumours that there have been that this information was available to the security service months before.
So the position is that to the head of the security service Mr. Profumo told the same story on several occasions. He repeated it to the Law Officers, who were men trained in the examination of witnesses, and one of whom in particular, the Solicitor-General, has exceptional experience in this field. Mr. Profumo maintained the story repeatedly to the Chief Whip—and gullibility is not a characteristic of Chief Whips—and he maintained it, finally, to the Minister without Portfolio and myself.
Even if we are acquitted, as I am sure we are, on the charge of conspiracy, I cannot believe that anybody studying now the story of the events of that night can do other than think that the House must conclude that the charge of gullibility falls as well.
Much of this debate has been upon security. I think that sometimes one has a false impression of the relationship between Ministers and the security service, because it is very rare indeed for a Minister to see a security report. I myself in eleven years have seen only two or three, and those when I was Secretary of State and some particular matter had to be drawn to my attention. And in exactly the same way I am sure that the police and the security service receive and investigate thousands of stories which have no foundation in fact.
No, No. And the case of Mr. Eddowes, who, I see, has left for America this evening, is an interesting one indeed.
But it cannot be denied, and we have not attempted to deny it, that there was a security risk. There are two phases to this. There was the possibility of a security risk from the beginning of February. Then the information which came to light was handed the same day to the security service. By that time, Commander Ivanov had left the United Kingdom. But, of course, a new and graver possibility of a security risk arose with Mr. Profumo's admission and resignation, for now it was clear that in a period in 1961, whether measured by weeks or months—and the evidence is so conflicting that it is almost impossible to untangle—a real security risk obtained.
Nevertheless, because it was a security risk it does not mean that security information was obtained. But it remains true—and it was perfectly fair of the right hon. Gentlemen the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make this point—that security can never be absolute. The police deal mainly with crime and the security service, obviously, with security. It may well be that there is an ill-defined area between the two and, of course, we should review the situation. What should we do?
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) suggested that there should be a Select Committee of this House. I would like to put forward an alternative suggestion without closing the door in any way to his suggestion. Perhaps we can discuss them both together, because there must be no doubt of our determination that any inquiry
I suggest that we look at the method suggested by the Prime Minister after the Vassall Case. This would mean that a small number of Privy Councillors would examine the Lord Chancellor's Report and that that could be followed by an independent judicial inquiry. I believe that that would be a better method. [Hon. Members: "No."] Let us discuss it. I have said that I do not close the door. Genuinely, we will discuss both these methods and any other together in full. There is no question about that.
I said at the beginning that it was right that those who believed the statement made to the House on 22nd March should tell the House why they believed it. We have tried to do so, and it is for the House to judge whether we have done it convincingly. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and the right hon. Member for Belper picked up his phrase, that it was his duty to act honourably, justly and prudently. The same triple duty lies on us all as we vote tonight, for this is a matter for the House of Commons and the House of Commons alone.
In other aspects, particularly those of security, we may look for help to the sort of assistance we have been discussing, perhaps to a Select Committee, perhaps to a tribunal, perhaps to an inquiry. But here, none of these matters can help us. This is essentially a House of Commons matter. This is the forum and it is the House of Commons which must decide.
|Division No. 134.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Abee, Leo||Blyton, William||Carmichael, Neil|
|Alnsley, William||Boardman, H.||Castle, Mrs. Barbara|
|Albu, Austen||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Chapman, Donald|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)||Cliffe, Michael|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crowe)||Bowles, Frank||Collick, Percy|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Boyden, James||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Baird, John||Bradley, Tom||Cronin, John|
|Barnett, Guy||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Crossman, R. H. S.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, w.)||Brockway, A. Fenner||Cullen, Mrs. Alice|
|Beaney, Alan||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Darling, George|
|Bence, Cyril||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Benson, Sir George||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Davies, Ifor (Cower)|
|Blackburn, F.||Callaghan, James||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Deer, George||Jones, T. w. (Merioneth)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Dempsey, James||Kelley, Richard||Reid, William|
|Diamond John||Kenyon, Clifford||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Dodds, Norman||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rhodes, H.|
|Donnelly, Desmond||King, Dr, Horace||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lawson, George||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Ledger, Ron||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Ross, William|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Boyle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Evans, Albert||Lipton, Marcus||Short, Edward|
|Fernyhough, E.||Loughlin, Charles||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Finch, Harold||Lubbock, Eric||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fitch, Alan||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Fletcher, Eric||McBride, N.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||McCann, John||Small, William|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacColl, James||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Forman, J. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Snow, Julian|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mclnnes, James||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|George,LadyMeganLloyd(Crmrthn)||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Ginsburg, David||McLeavy, Frank||Steele, Thomas|
|Gooch, E. G.||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stonehouse, John|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mahon, Simon||Stones, William|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Grey, Charles||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Manuel, Archie||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mapp, Charles||Swain, Thomas|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Marsh, Richard||Swingler, Stephen|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J||Mason, Roy||Symonds, J. B.|
|Gunter, Ray||Mellish, R. J.||Taverne, D.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mendelson, J. J.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Millan, Bruce||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hannan, William||Milne, Edward||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Mitchison, G. R.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Monslow, Walter||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moody, A. S.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Healey, Denis||Morris, John||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Moyle, Arthur||Timmons, John|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Mulley, Frederick||Tomney, Frank|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Neal, Harold||Wade, Donald|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Hilton, A. V.||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Phllip(Derby,S.)||Warbey, William|
|Holman, Percy||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, Tudor|
|Hooson, H. E.||O'Malley, B. K.||Weitzman, David|
|Houghton, Douglas||Oram, A. E.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Oswald, Thomas||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Owen, Will||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hoy, James H.||Padley, W. E.||Whitlock, william|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Paget, R. T.||Wigg, George|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pargiter, G. A.||Willey, Frederick|
|Hunter, A. E.||Parker, John||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, LI. (Abertillery)|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Paton, John||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pavitt, Laurence||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Peart, Frederick||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Pentland, Norman||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Jeger, George||Prentice, R. E.||Woof, Robert|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Probert, Arthur||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Proctor, W. T.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Randall, Harry||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rankin, John||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Rogers.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Batsford, Brian||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Aitken, Sir William||Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Bossom, Hon. Clive|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Bourne-Arton, A.|
|Allason, James||Bell, Ronald||Box, Donald|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Braine, Bernard|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Bidgood, John C.||Brewis, John|
|Balniel, Lord||Biffen, John||Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter|
|Barber, Anthony||Biggs-Davison, John||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Barlow, Sir John||Bingham, R. M.||Brooman White, R.|
|Barter. John||Bishop, F.P.||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bryan, Paul||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Neave, Airey|
|Buck, Antony||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bullard, Denys||Hastings, Stephen||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hay, John||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael|
|Burden, F. A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Oakshott, Sir Hendric|
|Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hendry, Forbes||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Hiley, Joseph||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hill, J. E. B (S. Norfolk)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Holland, Philip||Partridge, E.|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hopkins, Alan||Peel, John|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth,W.)||Hornby, R. P.||Percival, Ian|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Peyton, John|
|Cole, Norman||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Cooke, Robert||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pilkington, Sir Richard|
|Cordeaux, Lt,-Col. J. K.||Hughes-Young, Michael||Pitman, Sir James|
|Cordle, John||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hurd, Sir Anthony||Pott, Percivall|
|Costain, A. P.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Coulson, Michael||Iremonger, T, L,||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Craddoek, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)|
|Crawley, Aldan||James, David||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Critchley, Julian||Jennings, J. C.||Prior-Palmer, Brig, Sir Otho|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pym, Francis|
|Cunningham, Knox||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Ramsden, James|
|Curran, Charles||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rawlinson, Sir Peter|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Redmayne, Rt. Hon.Martin|
|Dance, James||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Rees, Hugh|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Kershaw, Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Kimball, Marcus||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Doughty, Charles||Kitson, Timothy||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Drayson, G. B,||Lagden, Godfrey||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|du Cann, Edward||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Duncan, Sir James||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Robertson, Sir D. (C'thn's & S'th'ld)|
|Duthie, Sir William||Leather, Sir Edwin||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Eden, John||Leavey, J. A.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Leburn, Gilmour||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Elliott, R.W.(Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Roots, William|
|Emery, Peter||Lilley, F. J. P.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lloyd, Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield)||Russell, Ronald|
|Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||St. Clair, M.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Longbottom, Charles||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Farr, John||Loveys, Walter H.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Seymour, Leslle|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Sharples, Richard|
|Forrest, George||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Shaw, M.|
|Foster, John||MacArthur, Ian||Shepherd, William|
|Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh(Stafford& Stone)||McLaren, Martin||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Smithers, Peter|
|Freeth, Denzil||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Galbraith, Hon T, G. D.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Soames, Rt. Hon, Christopher|
|Gammans, Lady||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfiefd, W.)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Gardner, Edward||MacLeod, Sir J. (Ross and Cromarty)||Speir, Rupert|
|George, Sir John (Pollok)||McMaster, Stanley R.||Stanley, Hon, Richard|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Macpherson, Rt. Hn.Niall(Dumfries)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maddan, Martin||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Maginnis, John E.||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Malhand, Sir John||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Goodhart, Philip||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Talbot, John E.|
|Gough, Frederick||Marshall, Sir Douglas||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gower, Raymond||Marten, Neil||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Green, Alan||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maxwell-Hyelop, R. J.||Teeling, Sir William|
|Gurden, Harold||Maydon, Lt.Cmdr. S. L. C.||Temple, John M.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mills, Stratton||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Miscampbell, Norman||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Montgomery, Fergus||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Morrison, John||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Walder, David||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Walker, Peter||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Turner, Colin||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek||Wine, A. R.|
|Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Wail, Patrick||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Tweedsmuir, Lady||Ward, Dame Irene||Woodhouse, C, M.|
|van Straubenzee, W, R.||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Vane, W. M. F.||Webster, David||Woollam, John|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wells, John (Maldstone)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Vickers, Miss Joan||Whitelaw, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)||Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Finlay.|
|Wakefield, Sir Wavell||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
On a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I should like to submit to you that when a vote of this kind has occurred in the past the Chair has permitted a question to be put to the Leader of the Government as to their intentions. To give merely one precedent, on 2nd March, 1951, your predecessor in the Chair permitted a question to be put by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to the Minister in charge of Government business following a Division on a Private Member's Motion moved, I think, by the hon. Member for Wembley, South (Mr. Russell). Therefore, I am asking you whether I should be in order, now or before we adjourn tonight, in putting a question to the Prime Minister.
I am trying to refresh my recollection. I think I was present on the occasion to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I thought that what happened was that the Government of the day had then been defeated on the figures. Subject to the recollection of the House—and I have given only my own recollection—without prompting myself I have great difficulty in seeing how the right hon. Gentleman could be in order—no doubt his point is made already—
Order. May I finish my sentence? I find some difficulty in finding a parallel when the Question before the House is whether or not it should adjourn and the extent of the Government's majority is a matter of mathematics rather than a swing over the other way. I know of no precedent which would allow me to oblige the right hon. Gentleman in this instance and to accede to his question in these circumstances.