HC Deb 14 August 1916 vol 85 cc1402-3

asked the Home Secretary whether he is aware that the Press Bureau, in a statement issued to the Press at 6.30 p.m. on 9th August, placed at the disposal of the newspapers an official defence of the War Pensions Statutory Committee, its work and methods, and emphasising the fact that the supplementary Grants are not given as a right but merely to meet hardship in exceptional cases, and that the Press were advised that if they made use of the statement, serial number C 2,355, nothing should he published to indicate its origin; and will he explain why the Press were forbidden to disclose the official source of the information and upon what grounds the Press Bureau claims to impose such restrictions in respect of matters that have nothing to do with naval or military operations or national defence?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Herbert Samuel)

I understand that the War Pensions Committee thought it would be useful to draw public attention to certain considerations relating to War pensions, with a view to removing misapprehensions, but did not think it necessary to put forward these considerations in official form. The Press Bureau acted as the means of communicating the statement to the Press. The statement was not a defence of the War Pensions Committee: it merely drew attention to certain points in connection with their statutory duties which had been overlooked; and it was in order to avoid giving it an appearance of official authority that the newspapers were asked not to treat it as a Press Bureau communiqué.


Are we to understand that the various Government Departments are to issue statements to the Press, not dealing with naval or military matters but with matters of domestic controversy, and to instruct the Press at the same time that they are not to print or disclose the source from which these statements come? Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that is a very grave departure, and can be carried a very considerable distance with regard to Government statements?


I must say I do not think that the practice is desirable.


Is it not the case that the statement issued by the Press Bureau referred to the Debate in the House of Commons and dealt with the question whether or not the Grants made by the Statutory Committee are superimposed upon the flat rate, which is a very debatable point; and are we to understand that Members who deal with subjects in this House by way of debate are to be answered by what appear to be spontaneous statements in the Press, but which really emanate from Government sources?


For the contents of the communiqué I must refer my hon. Friend to the Department concerned. The Press Bureau was merely the vehicle.


Will the right hon. Gentleman allow his Department to be made the vehicle of any Ministerial statement which ought to be given in the House of Commons?


Will ordinary Members have the advantage of this vehicle for making their views known?