HC Deb 22 March 1926 vol 193 cc866-8

asked the Prime Minister the result of his conference with the leaders of the other parties with regard to the proposal to broadcast the Budget speech; and whether in that case he will give the decision reached, together with the motives actuating it?


I have consulted with the leaders of the other parties, and have obtained information through the usual channels. I have come to the conclusion that there is a greatly preponderating body of opinion against broadcasting the proceedings of this House.


May I thank the Prime Minister on behalf of a long-suffering public?

Captain FRASER

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think there is a section of the community which would like to have this matter investigated; and will he consider the provision of some machinery, whereby the question can be further examined?


Will the right hon. Gentleman provide an opportunity for discussing the matter in the House?


It is quite obvious that if there is any body of opinion in this House whose views have not been brought before me, I shall be pleased to consider those views; and it is possible there may be an opportunity before the end of this Session to discuss the matter. I cannot say more at present.

Mr. GEORGE BALFOUR (by Private Notice)

asked the Prime. Minister whether his attention has been called to a speech last Friday evening, and broadcast by the British Broadcasting Company, advocating the Government electricity proposals as" Socialism in small doses"; whether he is further aware that on the same occasion the Chief Electricity Commissioner, Sir John Snell, in a speech delivered by hint and broadcast, advocated the Government proposals; whether political propaganda is permitted in terms of the licence of the British Broadcasting Company, and what, disciplinary action he proposes to take in connection with the action of the Chief Electricity Commissioner engaging in political propaganda in connection with legislation pending in this House, and closely identified with the executive functions of the Electricity Commissioners?


I have read the report of the speeches delivered on the occasion referred to. Permission was given for broadcasting on this occasion, in accordance with the usual practice as regards public dinners, and upon the usual understanding that the speakers would refrain from controversial statements of a political character.

As regard's Sir John Snell, I am informed that he gave a review of the electrical position in this country, and stated his view as to the line of technical improvement desirable. His only reference to politics was a statement that a Bill embodying the scheme was before Parliament, and it was not for him to hazard any opinion as to how it would emerge. He further appealed to the electrical experts present to give constructive criticism.

I do not think that these references to Parliament in an after-dinner speech can he considered to be political, and I am assured by Sir John Snell that in his speech he was dealing with a technical problem in a technical manner.


Is it not a fact that in considering a highly technical matter of this kind it all depends upon the technical facts which are alleged, and that on this occasion the speech was directly intended to convey that the proposals to be submitted to this House in a few days' time were, in fact, sound and right; that being so, I should like to know whether the Prime Minister does not consider that a highly technical matter of this kind was, indeed, most flagrant political propaganda?


I do not agree with the conclusion of my hon. Friend. If speeches are to be delivered entirely free from any possible cause of complaint such as my hon. Friend has indicated, the only way to avoid trouble is to bar broadcasting of such speeches altogether. Whether that should be done or not is a legitimate subject for consideration. It is not an easy matter for the Postmaster-General to have to decide what may or may not be 'broadcasted at dinners of this kind. My awn view is that the subject-matter is one of great interest, and that my right hon. Friend did right in giving permission. I do not think there has been any breach of propriety, and there I frankly disagree with my hon. Friend. But, as I said before, the only way to obviate all difficulties of this kind in future is to prevent speeches of this kind being made at all.


Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that a public servant in the position of Sir John Snell has no business to be making speeches of this kind after dinner or at any other time?


I have read the speech, and I see nothing to object to.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman in his original answer to say that nothing controversial at speeches at a banquet should be broadcast by the British Bread-casting Company? Is that the Government instruction; because, if so, might I ask the right hon. Gentleman, does tie think it possible that these gentlemen know what they are going to say on all occasions beforehand? Is it not hampering broadcasting in a very unreasonable manner?


My hon. and gallant Friend has misunderstood me; I did not say what he alleges. What I said was that the only way to avoid the kind of complaint that has been made was to prohibit the broadcasting of such speeches.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

is that proposed?

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