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Officers (Political Comments)

Volume 466: debated on Tuesday 21 June 1949

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he authorised General Sir G. Ivor Thomas to inform Service men leaving for Hong Kong that if we hold Hong Kong it will another blow to Communism and an advance in the cold war; and to what extent the statement was based on Government policy.

The answer to the first part of the Question is "No." The second part does not, therefore, arise.

In view of the statement of Government policy which was made only a week or so ago by the Minister of Defence, that it was the desire of the Government to have friendly relations with the Government of China, whichever party was in power there, is it not the case that this senior officer has made a statement which is detrimental to this policy? What steps will the right hon. Gentleman take to prevent such further statements being made?

Perhaps it would be better if high ranking officers did not indulge in political comment.

Will the right hon. Gentleman issue a statement to the effect that when a senior officer makes a political speech, rank and file soldiers will be quite in order in telling the officer what they think of him and of his policy?

Will the right hon. Gentleman continue to allow the generals to explain to the troops the tasks ahead of them, and thus get better results?

All officers are entitled to explain to the troops under their command the tasks that lie ahead of them, but I deprecate any political comment which is subversive of Government general policy.

Are we seriously to understand from the right hon. Gentleman that the fact that a general warned the troops that there was Communism in Asia is to be taken as an expression of political opinion?

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that millions of British people who despised the Tory appeasement policy before the war, volunteered and fought for this country in 1939 and 1940 when we had a Conservative Government?