Monday, 15 February 2016

Skulduggery in Westminster

How MI6 pushed Britain to join Europe

Paul Lashmar and James Oliver, Sunday Telegraph, 27 April 1997,

A brief foreword to those who say they were never offered a referendum to join a European Union although many people did vote YES to join the European Economic Community (EEC) voting for closer trade ties with Europe. So who signed Great Britain into this European Union? This article was written in 1997. The skulduggery is breathtaking and is still taking place today

A secretly-funded Foreign Office unit used public money to mount a covert propaganda operation aimed at ensuring Britain joined the European Community. Paul Lashmar and James Oliver investigate.

IN LATE 1972, Alistair McAlpine, later Lord McAlpine, was recruited as treasurer for a pro-European lobby organisation called the European League for Economic Co-operation. It was only much later that he discovered the reason for his appointment. A "branch of the security services, called, I believe, something like the IDA", had been financing breakfasts and lunches for this and other bodies, he later wrote..........

Now, the full extent of the involvement by the MI6-linked Information Research Department of the Foreign Office in supporting Britain's joining the European Economic Community can be revealed.

For nearly two years, IRD had been funding invitation-only meetings between senior media figures and pro-European politicians, diplomats and businessmen. These were regular, expensive, and well-attended breakfasts at the Connaught Hotel.

McAlpine said last week, Sir William Armstrong, at that time head of the Civil Service, found out about the events. He went to the Prime Minister, Edward Heath, and the IRD funding ceased. As a result ELEC had taken over running the breakfast meetings and McAlpine, then as now a fund-raiser extraordinaire, was brought in.

British and American intelligence services had traditionally supported Britain's entry into the European Economic Community a bulwark against the Communist Eastern bloc. The CIA funded the European Movement, the most prominent extra-governmental group, seeking to influence public opinion for a European Community. Between 1949 and 1953, it was subsidised by the CIA to the tune of £330,000.

In June 1970 Edward Heath's Conservative government had been elected with a pro-European manifesto. But public and parliamentary support for Europe was slipping and Britain's entry was in doubt. Although the Cabinet was dominated by pro-Europeans, Heath presided over a party that was deeply ambivalent about the "Common Market".

Later that year, a meeting of senior information officers in Whitehall was convened to discuss what could be done. An official present at that meeting says the only department that seemed capable of achieving something effective was the Foreign Office's Information Research Department. IRD had been set up in 1948 by Christopher Mayhew, then Foreign Minister, to place covert anti-Communist propaganda throughout the world and was funded by the intelligence budget - the secret vote. IRD was closely linked with MI6 and shared many officers - including at one time the double agent Guy Burgess. 

By the late Sixties, IRD had more than 400 people occupying River-walk House opposite the Tate Gallery and undercover officers in embassies all over the globe.

The civil servant who ran the covert pro-Europe campaign was Norman Reddaway, Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, with a brief covering IRD and other FO information services.
Mr Reddaway, who later became ambassador to Poland, and is now retired, set up a special IRD unit to propagandise in favour of British entry and counter those who opposed it. In an unpublished interview, Mr Reddaway says: "The researchers were extremely good at researching the facts about going into Europe"

The unit worked closely with a number of pro-European politicians to rebut anti-EEC arguments. IRD wrote and brokered articles which were placed in the press "There was no shortage of MPs who were pleased to see something published under their name in The Times and elsewhere," a former insider said.

The separate, breakfast offensive, meanwhile, was organised by the ex-director of publicity for the Conservative Party, Geoffrey Tucker. Mr Tucker had left the position following the Conservatives' victory in 1970 to return to independent public relations, but, as a convinced European, had suggested to Mr Heath that a series of informal meetings should be organised to find ways of ensuring support for entry.

These meetings were to be between "insiders" from the Government and Civil Service (including the negotiators) and "outsiders" (such as media figures and opposition leaders). Tucker set about arranging what would become known as the media breakfasts held in a private room at the Connaught Hotel.

Pro-Europeans from all parties were represented. Those from the Labour Party included Roy Jenkins, Roy Hattersley and Gwyn Morgan, the deputy general secretary of the party, now working for the European Commission. Also present was Michael Ivens, director of the Aims of Industry organisation. The breakfasts were usually attended by Norman Reddaway and Ernest Wistrich, director of the British European Movement.

The meetings usually involved 20-30 people. By bringing in figures such as Nigel Ryan from News at Ten, Ian Trethowen, then managing director of BBC Radio and Marshall Stewart from the BBC Radio Today programme, the media breakfasts were able to suggest pro-European ideas for television and radio programmes. 

Tucker allowed the media guests access to the EEC negotiators. "Into the breakfasts came the people from Brussels. so the people who went to the breakfasts from the media got a briefing on what was actually going on day by day. So we were making news," says Tucker. He says News at Ten started a series of five-minute specials on the EEC, with a strong factual tone, as a direct result of the breakfasts.

Nigel Ryan told us: "I certainly met Tucker many times in the period as he was Heath's media man. I cannot specifically remember these media breakfasts in this distance of time, but the ITN special items may have come out of them. These items would have been made with the usual editorial independence that ITN so fiercely guarded."

Marshall Stewart recalls attending a number of the meetings which he says he found useful to gather information "at a time when there was a paucity of facts about the EEC"

Mr Tucker has even claimed that, after pressure from the campaigners, the broadcaster Jack de Manio was removed from his job as a presenter of BBC Radio's Today programme because he was "too anti-European", But Marshall Stewart denies the claim, describing it as "bizarre"

Very few of the participants appear to have been aware of the source of the funding for the breakfasts, although some had their suspicions. Michael Ivens says he suspected that it might have been funded by IRD. "Tucker once told me that Ted [Heath] objected to the cost of the breakfasts." he said. Tucker says he thought they had been funded by the European Movement. Ernest Wistrich says he is unsure where the money came from.

Following withdrawal of IRD support," the flame was kept alive" according to Tucker, by Geoffrey [later Lord] Rippon and the European League for Economic Co-operation.

After Armstrong prevailed on Edward Heath to cut IRD's secret subsidies, ELEC appointed McAlpine to find funds to keep the pro-Europe media campaign going. "One matter I really do know about is how to organise a good breakfast," McAlpine says. The breakfasts - now in the Dorchester - continued until after the 1975 referendum.