asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the fact that there is normally no serious congestion in the telegraph facilities between the Middle East and England, he will consider relaxing the rule regarding personal communication to relatives in all cases except that of missing persons whose fate may still be under investigation?
As I have already explained, the rule referred to was introduced at his own discretion by the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, and I do not propose to interfere with it. The governing consideration was the avoidance of distress and disappointment arising from the premature communication of unverified and sometimes unreliable information. The pressure on means of communication is a secondary consideration at the present time, but it may become a serious matter in times of heavy fighting when casualties are numerous.
In view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman shifts his ground for refusal every time I ask him this Question, may I ask whether he is aware that the ground he gives of worry in a case which is still uncertain is explicitly excluded from the proposal I put in this Question?
What is it to do with the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East as to whether relatives in this country are caused distress?
The Commander-in-Chief is in control of the operations and also of the administration connected with them.
Why does that make him responsible for any distress that might be caused to relatives in this country?
Could I have an answer to my Supplementary Question?
The Commander-in-Chief is responsible not only for operations but for the morale of the troops in the Middle East and, that being so, I propose to take his advice on the matter.
Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Commander-in-Chief on this proposal, and has he taken his advice?
Not since the original order was made.
Why does the tight hon. Gentleman quote the Commander-in-Chief when he has not consulted him?
Cannot we have a Minister who will answer the Question?