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Field-Marshal Montgomery (Speech)

Volume 466: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1949

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41.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the speech made by Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery at Whittington Barracks, near Lichfield, on 12th June in the course of reviewing troops, in which he made a political attack on Communism; whether this speech was made with his authority; and, in view of the series of such speeches which have been made by senior officers, what steps he proposes to take to ensure that these officers do not take advantage of their positions of authority to make political speeches.

I have not seen the text of the speech referred to, but only a brief report in the local Press. The contents of the speech were not submitted to me for prior approval, nor is there any reason why they should have been. Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery is now holding an international appointment and I am not responsible for his actions.

In view of the fact that Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery holds rank in the British Army and that, I believe, he draws a salary from His Majesty's Government, the Secretary of State must take some responsibility; and is my right hon. Friend aware that among other things the Field-Marshal on this occasion said that the Army is fighting Communism—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and that the best way to fight Communism was to train young men to fight it? Therefore, may I ask the Secretary of State for War whether he approves of those statements and whether they are in accord with Government policy?

With Lord Montgomery's present capacity I have no responsibility. Besides, I find it very embarrassing to have to explain away speeches made by other people.

Does my right hon. Friend's first answer mean that the fact that Lord Montgomery holds an international appointment has the result that he is free from the restrictions on political speeches that bind all other officers serving in His Majesty's Forces?

I have already expressed myself in reply to other Questions on speeches made by high-ranking officers, and I hardly think it necessary to say more.

Could the right hon. Gentleman induce the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) to appeal to the Soviet generals to stop their inflammatory speeches?