HC Deb 26 November 1914 vol 68 cc1310-1

asked the Under-Secretary of State for War whether he will cause greater care to be taken in the publication by the Press Bureau of the reports circulated through that agency regarding the brave doings of the Indian troops at the front; and whether he will see that equal praise, where it is due, is given alike to Sikhs, Ghurkas, Dogras, Punjabis, Pathans, Afridis, and the other Indian nationalities who are fighting the Empire's battles in France and elsewhere?


The services of the troops of all the nationalities mentioned are highly appreciated. I was not aware that any discrimination or distinction had been made.

101. Mr. LONG

asked the Solicitor-General whether, on the occasions when information of a naval or military character is held up by the censors in the Press Bureau, that information is generally withheld by the direction of the Admiralty or War Office, or solely on the initiative and direction of the Director himself; whether the naval and military censors are in constant touch with the Admiralty and War Office; and whether they receive instructions from time to time from those offices?


The office of the Press Bureau is the offspring of the War and its powers must be measured and its actions judged in relation to this fact. It provides the official means by which all information relating to the War which any of the Departments of State think right to issue is communicated to the Press, but it has no means of collecting news and no power to compel its publication. No matter relating to the War is issued to the public through any other channel except through the "London Gazette." The policy which determines publication of any matter rests with the particular Government Department through which the information comes; it does not depend on the whim of the Censor. If news of any event reaches the Press before it is received from an official source, the question as to whether it should be made public or held back is determined by the Department to which it relates. For example, I have no power to publish news of an action or accident at sea without the consent of the Admiralty; nor of any action or mishap on land, excepting in accordance with the rules of the War Office. This office does not withhold, and according to my views of its powers cannot withhold, any news excepting pursuant to the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act and to the rules and directions laid down by one of the Departments of State.

As to the censoring of news, this is carried out in obedience to the regulations which are drawn up from time to time in accordance with information received from the other Government Departments, with whom we are in constant contact. These form the instructions on which our censors act. Subject to this, the actual work of censoring is all done under my control, and in this I am assisted by a body of skilled officers of the Army and Navy, expert journalists, and other civilians. They number about fifty in all, and they work in shifts throughout the day and night. The matter submitted for censorship is every form of communication destined for publication in the Press, either in this country or in any other country, but no private communications of any kind are within the scope of our jurisdiction. It is a mistake to imagine that the policy of the office has recently undergone any modification or change. It has been and will continue to be the policy of publishing everything that can be made public without danger to the State.


What reasons have been adduced why the gallant actions of our troops at the front at the beginning of the War were not mentioned with the names of the regiments?


The question makes me think my statement has failed to convey the true position of my office to the hon. Member. I regret it. I thought I had made it plain that such a question must be addressed to the War Office and not to myself.