Saturday, 11 April 2015

Not on Mr King's Secret Service

On 1st March 1916 Joseph King made a stand in Parliament against the secrecy of the war effort, and more generally that the Government "kept from the public things which might just as well be attained in a public way".  In doing so, King appears to set himself apart from his peers.  In retrospect there is some irony here, as King himself was successfully prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act later that year, in October 1916.  

Perhaps his treatment in that case was informed by his very public stance in respect of the Defence of the Realm below.  


In response to a motion to provide a supplementary sum for the Secret Service of £50,000, the following debate took place (HC Deb 01 March 1916 vol 80 cc1139-48):

"Mr. KING 
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
Whenever the Secret Service Vote comes before the House I always take the opportunity of drawing attention to one or two peculiar circumstances connected with it. On former occasions, and in times of peace, I have always objected to the Vote because it is secret and because it attains, or attempts to attain, by methods kept from the public things which might just as well be attained in a public way. But at the present time the other view may be entertained, that as practically all our expenditure of a war nature is secret, all our Army expenditure, all our Navy expenditure, all our advances to our Allies and to our Colonies are kept entirely secret from us, what is the good of having a Secret Service Vote at all? All Votes for the War are entirely secret. As far as I can understand, they are not even to be put before the Public Accounts Committee. I, at any rate, have seen the Report of the Public Accounts Committee, as printed, and I do not understand that the expenditure of the War is set out there at all as we were given to understand it would be, or at any rate in such an intelligible form that we can understand what the expenditure on the War has been. Why have a Secret Service Vote at all when all the operations, to the extent of £5,000,000 a day, are carried on secretly? It is a mere absurdity. It is a contradiction in terms in these times to put forward a Secret Service Vote at all. I am sorry that no one connected with the Foreign Office is present. I think on previous occasions, as the Secret Service Vote is in some sort of way connected with the Foreign Office, we have had a representative of the Foreign Office to support and explain it. Whether that be so or not, I intend to call attention to two definite facts in connection with this Vote which I think are of some importance. If the Secret Service Vote is to be in any sense effective it ought to be kept secret, and at the present time there is a gentleman going up and down the country lecturing, and making a very large amount of money by his lectures, which he puts forward on the ground that he was employed for a good number of years by the Foreign Office on secret service.

William Le Queux,

I refer, of course, to Mr. William Le Queux. If you go to any watering-place you will see advertisements of Mr. William Le Queux, stating that he will give to the public, in return for the purchase of a half-crown ticket, the benefit of his great experiences and the secrets of the Courts of Europe and of diplomacy which he has attained while he was in the Secret Service. If it is true that he was in the Secret Service, he ought not to be allowed to go about disclosing the secrets. If he was not in the Secret Service, he is a fraud, a deception, and a humbug, and he is also a discredit to the country and ought to be prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act for throwing discredit on the country and on the Foreign Office. I should like some explanation of what to my mind is a perfect scandal—the way in which Mr. W. Le Queux has been going about for months saying he was a friend of the late Marquess of Salisbury, that he had many intimate communications with him, that he was sent on a secret service mission with Secret Service money. And then he gets ex-Cabinet Ministers to take the chair for him at his lectures.

St John Brodrick, 1st Earl of Middleton,
Vanity Fair
The gentleman known as Viscount Midleton, who in this House was known as Mr. St. John Brodrick, who was formerly Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, takes the chair for him. I have no doubt, therefore, that Mr. St. John Brodrick, with all his authority at the Foreign Office, backs him up. If it was not that this gentleman professes under such auspices to give away the secrets of the Foreign Office the matter would be of less consequence. But with this backing up it becomes a perfect scandal.

There is one other, to my mind, important fact in connection with this Vote that ought to be met from the Treasury Bench—I refer to the case of Mr. Master-man. It has become an open secret, which anyone can see clearly by giving attention to the answers which have been given to frequent questions in this House as to the work, emoluments and method of pay of Mr. Masterman in his present position, that he is serving in the Secret Service and is paid out of the Secret Service Vote. I have always been a very great admirer of Mr. Masterman, but I do not agree with all his views, and I do not agree with a man being in the Secret Service and publishing elaborate statements of the policy of this country under his own signature. If he is in the Secret Service let him do secret work and not public work. I have it, everyone has it, on the very best authority, that he is in the Secret Service at present. Let him, therefore, do his work quietly and in secret. I am sorry I have not the
attention of any Cabinet Minister, because I am perhaps misguided enough to think that these matters I am bringing before the Committee are of such interest and importance that they ought to receive the attention of a Cabinet Minister, and I hope they will get some answer now.

They will not get any answer?


Then I am very sorry.

I am now asking for money for the Secret Service. If my hon. Friend wishes to persuade us not to vote that money, he is perfectly entitled to do so. Secret Service money is money deliberately and repeatedly voted by Parliament about which hon. Members abrogate their right to ask any questions. If you do not like the Secret Service, do not vote it; but do not ask questions as to how it is spent, because then it is not Secret Service.

I am afraid I shall have to make my speech all over again. I have just been pointing out two definite cases of men who say they are in the Secret Service and are doing public work, and one of them is giving away, with the support of men who have been in the Foreign Office, what he declares to be the secrets of the Foreign Office. It is a perfect scandal, and it only bears out what I say, that if you vote money in secret you will have it misused and misapplied and you will put it into the hands of people who are quite unworthy of your confidence. I suppose as we are not to have any reply to my speech it is a case of either take it or leave it. I am afraid I shall be the only Member who will have the courage to speak out against this Vote, but I must, as a protest against the way in which my entirely well meant and serious allegations have been met, move a reduction of the Vote."

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