Macmillan and the Communists

CABINET SECRETS OF 1964: Stephen Ward and Stephen Castle review files n ow in the public domain

Harold Macmillan authorised covert government expenditure to support an organisation set up to counter Communists inside trade unions, according to government files now made public under the 30-year rule.

Lord Shawcross, a former Labour Attorney-General, first introduced him to the organisation, Industrial Research and Information Ltd (IRIS), towards the end of 1962. It was secretly funded by employers, including Ford and Shell, through a private trust ofwhich he was a trustee, the Prime Minister was told. According to Lord Shawcross, unions with a strong Communist presence included the ETU electricians' union, the Draughtsmen's Union, and several more representing white-collar workers. He also claimd the BBC and several television companies were infiltrated. With more money, anti-Communist trade unionists could be supported, and information about known Communists passed on.

Macmillan was immediately interested, and after arranging a meeting to find out more about how the Communists organised strikes and infiltrated organisations, the Prime Minister promised to talk to the Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, about raising money from the Secret Fund, which also funded MI5. Sir Burke Trend, the Cabinet Secretary, assured Mr Macmillan's private secretary Sir Tim Bligh that the Secret Fund could manage £40,000 a year.

Mr Macmillan was clearly aware of the controversial nature of what was going on. On 3 December, Sir Tim wrote to Sir Burke saying: "The Prime Minister has discussed this with the Home Secretary and has asked him to take charge of this operation . . . ThePrime Minister feels that the discussions on some of the other matters referred to in Lord Shawcross's letter should be kept to an extremely restricted circle . . ."

Mr Macmillan sent a series of letters over subsequent months assuring Lord Shawcross he had not forgotten the matter. Mr Brooke in turn met Lord Shawcross in February, and offered in principle to fund the Shawcross organisation.

Mr Brooke wrote to Mr Macmillan after the meeting saying IRIS would be a useful way to use information on Communists uncovered by MI5. "The outcome, if all goes well, is that there will exist not only an effective channel for giving wider currency to facts of public interest which we know about certain individuals from secret sources, but also a more powerful instrument for mobilising effort within the trade unions against the determined attempts by the Communist Party to get control of key positions inthe unions nationally and locally." More than a year later, before Lord Shawcross wrote in July 1964 to the new Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, saying: "The help we obtained from official sources was of the greatest assistance in tiding things over, but it does not seem there should be any need to seek further subventions." IRIS had now raised £35,000 of private funding, and did not need more. Sir Alec replied he was delighted that the Government had been able to help.

Leading article, page 9

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress among those on 'master list' of massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

KS1 Primary Teacher in Bradford

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: KS1 Primary Teacher in Br...

Year 3 Primary Teacher in Keighley

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 3 Primary Teacher in...

Primary Teacher

£100 - £130 per day + Excellent rates of pay, Free CPD : Randstad Education So...

Credit Controller (Sales Ledger, SAGE)- London, Old Street

£12 per hour: Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - London, Old Street A well es...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor