§ 18. Captain PETER MACDONALD
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has received any complaints respecting the censorship by the Government of India of despatches from correspondents there of British newspapers; and, if so, whether he has made any representations on the subject?
§ Mr. BENN
I have myself received only one such complaint, but in view of misapprehensions on the subject which have been widely expressed in the Press and elsewhere, I should like to state the position somewhat fully as the result of my consultations with the Government of India. There is not, and has not been, any censorship over the air mails from India to this country, nor any other form of censorship than that derived from the Indian Telegraph Act and the Rules framed under it, to which I referred in my answer to my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy), on 5th May. I have now ascertained that, except for a time at Peshawar, where conditions were exceptional, interference with telegraphic messages was and is confined to those which are intended to further the civil disobedience and connected movements. As an example of the small effect of this 792 interference on the general body of Press messages I can instance the case of the Bombay telegraph office from which during the fortnight 23rd April to 6th May, 705 Press messages were handed in for despatch to England, of which only 41 were subjected to scrutiny, and only seven stopped. The exercise of these powers is liable to cause some delay, but I am quite satisfied that the Government of India, the local Governments and the telegraph authorities fully recognise the importance of avoiding delays, and that the steps they have taken to that end should ensure that delay, if it occurs at all, is quite exceptional.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is my right hon. Friend now in a position to make a statement with regard to the undoubtedly false messages that have been coming from India and that seem to have been passed by usually reputable news agencies, such as Reuter's?