15 MARCH 1963, Page 7

Spectator's Notebook

rr HE parliamentary question is a sharp instru- ment of democratic control, and, like all sharp instruments, needs delicate handling. Deli- cate is not the word for the question put down by Mr. Marcus Lipton, asking the Civil Lord of the Admiralty why court-martial proceedings were not taken after the Admiralty had been told of 'unsatisfactory conduct in a youth organisa- tion' on the part of a serving naval officer—who had in fact resigned his commission after the in- cident. There is a nasty smell about that question. I know that an account of the incident had been peddled around Westminster by a journalist whose story the editor of a Sunday newspaper had at first declined to print, and that one Labour Member at least maintained the reputation of British politics by refusing to have anything to do with it. As for the daily paper which gave the officer's name, this kind of thing can only strengthen those like Mr. George Wigg who are demanding some kind of sanctions against the abuses committed by the press. 'Admiralty offi- cer is named,' said the headline. By whom? By the paper. The hypocrisy is as bad as the in- humanity.