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Government Departments (War-Time Records)

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 18 March 1943

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asked the Prime Minister whether he can make a statement regarding the practice, instituted by certain Government Departments, of installing an historian to write up the history of the Department since the outbreak of hostilities; which are the Departments who have already put into force this practice; and whether it is the Government's intention to extend it to all Government Departments?

Experience has shown the need for having available a record of the development of war-time administration of Government Departments, and that such a record cannot be adequately compiled if it is left entirely until the end of hostilities. With this object in view, a number of appointments have been made, under arrangements concerted generally by the Historical Section of the War Cabinet Office, formerly of the Committee of Imperial Defence. I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT a list of the Departments covered by these arrangements, which may be extended as thought necessary to other Departments whose war-time activities could with advantage be recorded in this way.

Is there any need for the employment of historians in so many Departments, and will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the public relations officers will not be utilised to whitewash the deeds of these various Departments during the war?

Is it not the case that when war-time Departments were set up valuable information was found in the records of similar Departments set up in the last war?

That is the point I was conveying in the somewhat different language of my reply.

In the compilation of this history of Departments, will my right hon. Friend allow a few interpolations from outside sources?

There is no reason why persons in unofficial positions should not compile histories of their own activities during the war, and I trust I may be given the opportunity of making some interpolations of my own.

Does the Prime Minister know of any historian who is compiling a history of the war day by day?

Is my right hon. Friend himself compiling notes in his spare time for the great benefit of us all in future?

Following is the list of Departments:

  • Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
  • Ministry of Aircraft Production.
  • Colonial Office.
  • Ministry of Economic Warfare.
  • Board of Education.
  • Ministry of Food.
  • Foreign Office.
  • Ministry of Health.
  • Home Office.
  • Ministry of Home Security.
  • Ministry of Labour.
  • Scottish Office.
  • Ministry of Supply.
  • Board of Trade.
  • Treasury.
  • Ministry of War Transport.