HC Deb 14 July 1899 vol 74 cc886-7

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty a question of which I have given him private notice. I beg to ask him whether a certain paper called The Times obtained information alone and before any other paper yesterday morning, and was able to publish the full programme of the naval manœuvres, and under what circumstances and considerations, expressed or implied, that paper had received exclusive information from a Government Department.


The explanation is quite simple. Sanction had been given on the 10th for the issue of the papers in question on the 12th to such correspondents as had obtained permission to embark during the manœuvres. Under this sanction the correspondent of The Times, who called at the Admiralty on the 11th, was given a copy on the under standing that nothing should be published before the morning of the 13th, when it was intended that all the other newspapers represented should have an equal opportunity of publishing the same information. This understanding was observed. On the evening of the 12th, however, an authority competent to give such an order, being of opinion that it was premature to publish the information so long before the commencement of the manœuvres, suspended the issue of the papers to the Press, being himself unaware that one copy had been already given under the sanction previously conveyed. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that this is the absolute truth of the matter. These are the simple facts. I regret much the misunderstanding.


Will the right hon. Gentleman state how it came to pass that that decision was arrived at as to suspending the issue of the papers to the Press for publication without anyone sending a message to The Times newspaper, so that The Times, like the other papers, might be prevented publishing the document?


There was no one left in authority to issue an Order nor was anyone there aware of what had happened. There was a misunderstanding, but it was done with perfect bona fides