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"The Penkovsky Papers"

Volume 272: debated on Tuesday 1 February 1966

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2.37 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, since Colonel Penkovsky appears to have been run jointly by British and American intelligence services, the publication of The Penkovsky Papers was approved by the British security authorities.]

No, my Lords. The publishers did not seek our approval. One Sunday newspaper (not the one that published extracts from the book) did, however, submit a proof copy, as a matter of courtesy, to the Secretary of the Services, Press and Broadcasting Committee and was told that British security interests were not at stake.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that full and helpful Answer. Is the Government aware that the book says that Penkovsky reported that Khrushchev was preparing a first strike on this country and on the United States simultaneously, and that that is incredible?

My Lords, I am quite aware that that is what Colonel Penkovsky said. How incredible that may be is a matter on which noble Lords and others must draw their own conclusions.

Lastly, my Lords, may I ask whether the Government is satisfied that it can, under the present arrangements, prevent the publication in friendly countries of its own intelligence material when such publication would be contrary to its own policy, in this case the East/West d├ętente.

My Lords, the Government is quite satisfied that its relations with friendly countries are such that it is highly unlikely that any matters which would be thought undesirable by Her Majesty's Government would, in fact, be published with the approval of any other friendly Government.

My Lords, if I may come back once more, would it be right to take the noble Lord's statement as an indication of acceptance of the book as a valid historical document on the part of Her Majesty's Government?

My Lords, if by "valid historical document" the noble Lord means a document which can be taken as being in every respect accurate, he would not, I think, be right. If by "a valid historical document" he means an interesting contribution to contemporary history, the answer is, yes, certainly.

My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the book was, in fact, entirely written by Penkovsky, or whether it was not?

I am afraid that I cannot help the noble Earl on that matter. It was published under his name. Whether it was "ghosted" or written by others, I do not know.