13:01, January 06 271 0 theguardian.com

2020-01-06 13:01:04
Still waiting for the full story on the Profumo affair

Martin Kettle notes that transcripts of the interviews carried out by Lord Denning during his 1963 Profumo inquiry have never been published (Profumo affair: the scandal still resonates – but we don’t know the full story yet, 4 January).

As Peter Hennessy explains in his superb Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties, Denning initially claimed they had been destroyed. In fact, as Hennessy also reveals, the transcripts were preserved and are held in the Cabinet Office. Hennessy notes that “all sorts of indiscretions were made” and that Denning promised those who gave evidence before him that “such evidence was completely confidential and would not be disclosed”.

Intriguingly, the Cabinet Office has not seen fit to honour his promise. It initially planned to make the transcripts public in January 2064 but, after an intervention by the Advisory Council on National Records, release was advanced to January 2048. So, Lord Denning’s promise will eventually be broken, and we might conclude that he was not entitled to make it.

The Cabinet Office should release the documents now. Hennessy may have the patience to wait until 2048, but I yearn to read immediately his analysis of this final episode in the Profumo affair.

Prof Tim Luckhurst

Principal, South College, Durham University

Martin Kettle is certainly correct to say we don’t know the full story yet. He refers to Stephen Ward, who was put on trial, convicted and killed himself before being sentenced. The establishment was clearly damaged by the scandal and wanted a scalp and Ward was the obvious choice. There is enough reason to believe his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. We can’t find out much more as the trial judge ordered that the transcript of the trial must be kept secret for 90 years.

All the evidence is that he was not guilty of living off immoral earnings, a point emphasised to me by Mandy Rice-Davies in a telephone call some years ago. Before anyone says “She would say that, wouldn’t she”, I believe she was being entirely truthful.

Alf Dubs

Labour, House of Lords

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