HC Deb 23 February 1920 vol 125 cc1294-5

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can explain how the contents of the Command Paper respecting cotton profits appeared in full in the Press on Thursday last before Members of the House had had an opportunity of seeing it?


I think my hon. Friend is under some misapprehension. Complete typewritten, not dummy, copies of the Paper referred to were presented to both Houses of Parliament on Wednesday afternoon last, and copies were circulated to the Press for publication in Thursday morning's papers. I should like to take this opportunity of explaining that the procedure which has been followed in this and in similar cases has been with a view to secure that Reports of this kind, which are of wide interest, are available both for hon. Members and for the general public at the earliest possible moment. For example, in the case of the independent Accountants' report on the Coal Industry Finances some twenty typewritten copies were sent to the Library at the time when the Report was laid. Thereafter typewritten copies were sent out to the Press and the Report received wide publicity the next day. At the same time the printing of further copies for the use of Members was rapidly proceeded with. Had the Report been presented in dummy instead of in typewritten form considerable delay must have intervened before printed copies could be available. It was in order to meet complaints with regard to alleged delay in making known the contents of Reports of this nature that the course I have described was taken.


Is it not the fact that the typewritten copy was merely sent to the Journal Office on Wednesday, and that the first opportunity that hon. Members had of seeing it was on Thursday in the Library at 11.30 a.m., and that, therefore, the Press, having published it on Thursday morning, must have seen it on Wednesday, a day before this House?


I do not know about the actual hours and times of transit of that particular Report. If the facts were as stated by the hon. Member, there is some mistake about it, because the instructions are that when Reports are circulated to the Press there must be typewritten copies available here. If a mistake has occurred, I apologise for it.