§ 56. Mr. SWIFT MacNEILL
asked the Prime Minister whether he will address, in the words of the announcement, an important message to the British people which is to be dispatched in a sealed envelope to the proprietor of every theatre, music hall, concert hall, and picture hall in the country, the idea being that at nine o'clock in the evening of 5th August the seal of the envelope be broken publicly on the stage and the message read to the assembled audience; why should the audiences in theatres and music halls have a precedence in being informed of this message, having regard to the fact that tens of thousands of people plunged in sorrow at the death in this War of near and beloved relatives have no inclination to frequent places of public amusement, and why should the contents of the message be in the possession of theatre and music hall audiences for hours before it will become known to the public in the morning newspapers; in music halls, where there are two performances nightly, will care be taken that the message be read, for the encouragement of early hours, to the audiences of the early as well as at the late performances; whether there is any and, if so, what precedent for this novel method of publishing an important announcement; and whether he will consider the propriety of describing this unique communication by some other term than message, that word being usually used in public documents for communications signed by a Secretary of State from the Sovereign to his people, for communications from one House of Parliament to the other, and for official communications from the President of the United States to Congress?
Captain GUEST (Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury)
I have been asked to reply to this question, as Chairman of the War Aims Committee. I must 429 apologise for the length of the reply, though it is no longer than the question to which it refers. The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. The scheme was specially designed to reach those who normally frequent places of entertainment, and not to draw audiences. In response to many urgent requests, it has been arranged to communicate the message also to the chairman of all fêtes, sports, and other public gatherings, organised for public and patriotic purposes, which have an evening programme. The message will be conveyed to the Press at the same time, and an opportunity will be thereby afforded for its notice and comments on the following day. The message will be read at all evening entertainments. With regard to the latter part of the question, it is admitted that the method is novel, and it is hoped that a corresponding advantage will thereby be obtained. As regards the use of the English word "message," while realising that that expression is in use in the manner described in the question, the Committee could find no statutory or Parliamentary embargo on its adoption in this case, and were of opinion that its simplicity of meaning commended its use.