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Verses, "Less Nonsense"

Volume 387: debated on Tuesday 23 March 1943

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Lieut.- Colonel Parkinson ordered to be distributed, on 24th February, 1943, to units under his command over 200 copies of a piece of verse entitled "Less Nonsense," which is offensive to the Soviet Union and calculated to injure our friendship towards that country; that these copies were to be distributed on the scale of three copies for every unit down to batteries and companies, one copy for the officers' mess, one for the sergeants' mess and one where it could be seen by the men; and whether he will take immediate steps to put a stop to this political activity and arrange that lectures on the Soviet Union be given to the units involved to counteract the effects of this propaganda?

I am making inquiries into this matter. On the facts as stated, I do not think the action of the Divisional Commander was at all suitable. The troops in the area in question are already getting lectures on Soviet Russia from both military and non-military sources besides a good deal of other material on the subject, and I doubt if any special steps are necessary.

On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise an objection to the terms of this Question. I did not want to interfere with the putting of it. The hon. and learned Member for North Hammersmith (Mr. Pritt), having put this Question down, gave an interview to the Press in which he stated that I was the author of the verses named in this Question. I have no opportunity of knowing whether that is so, because he did not think fit to show me a copy of the verses and ask me to check them and say whether they were mine or not. I must, however, take his word for it, and, therefore, I must take exception to the description of the verses in the Question, to which he has committed himself as a statement of fact, which I say is false, foolish and offensive.

The hon. and learned Member who put the Question down was quite entitled to put it down in any terms he liked. He is responsible for it. It is not for me to deal with that matter.

Is it not true that this poem contains nothing offensive to Soviet Russia, and is it not British patriotism from a British point of view?

I have been careful to express no opinion on the merits of the verses.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these verses whatever their merits, were not directed against Russia at all, but against certain British citizens who are never happy unless they are running down their own country and the efforts of their own countrymen in the war?