§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
I beg to move,That this House, attaching the utmost importance to the maintenance undiminished of British democratic traditions of the liberty of expression of opinion, both in the Press and in public meetings and also in other media such as cinema films, would greatly deplore any action by the Government of the day which tended to set up any form of political censorship or which exercised pressure direct or indirect.I am submitting to the House a Motion drawn in terms which should make it possible for all hon. Members to accept it, and I very much hope that that will be the result of the Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) has an Amendment on the Order Paper, but I hope he will feel that it is not necessary for him to press it, because it is quite possible for the Government to say that they entirely agree with the terms of the Motion while repudiating through the Home Secretary any suggestion 1262 that they have themselves done anything in conflict with its terms. The Motion is not directed at any particular Government, but any Government at any time is covered by it. At the same time, I am bound to base my criticisms on recent actions of the present Government. I think it was the author of the Letters of Junius who said:Liberty of the Press is the basis of all civil, political and religious rights of Englishmen.That is as true now as it was then, but, unfortunately, the situation which exists here is different from that which exists in many other countries. In Germany and Italy the Press is entirely controlled by the Government. Journalists have been made civil servants; they go about in uniform or rather in livery as I suppose I must call it, and are entirely under the control of the Government. Efforts have certainly been made in the interests of the authoritarian States to interfere with the liberty of the Press. In France we have had a recent example where the Minister of Justice refused to sign a decree interfering with the liberty of the Press on the demand of the German Government, and there have been instances in Switzerland and Denmark, as well. I know that representations have been made in this country that some check should be put upon the Press. The 1263 great danger in these matters is that they may lead to a tendency to identify the Government of the day with the State, and suggest that any criticism of the Government of the day is a criticism of the State itself. We want to check any tendency of that kind in this country. It is not in accordance with our traditions, but it is exactly what is taking place in the dictator States. We must be ready to resist attacks on British liberty whether they come from abroad or at home.
I propose to deal only with two particular aspects of this problem. Since I put down the Motion a mass of material has been brought to my attention which it would take me far too long to deal with. I propose to deal only with the Press and the cinema newsreels. No doubt other hon. Members will deal with other aspects of the matter, including the Official Secrets Act, with regard to which I wish to make only this passing reference. The House knows that recently I put one or two questions to the Attorney-General concerning certain actions which took place some years ago with regard to two Lobby journalists. I supplied the right hon. and learned Gentleman with certain information. Apparently that information was not sufficient, and I have now supplied him with more, which has enabled him to identify the incident in question, and it has been authenticated. There are certain variations from the form in which I actually put it down originally, but the substance is the same. It is a fact that in May, 1931, two Lobby journalists were interviewed at the Royal Courts of Justice on behalf of the Attorney-General of the day, in accordance with a procedure which it had been agreed upon in the year before would be followed when any question of Lobby journalists and the Official Secrets Act arose. The actual question was the disclosure of the Government's intention to challenge the legality of agreements under which certain miners were working. The interview took place, and the Attorney-General decided that it was not a case in which any action should be taken. I mention this only to establish that that particular incident did, in fact, take place.
I think it may be said that the liberty of the Press in this country dates from the year 1695, when the Press Censor 1264 ship Law was not renewed. It was omitted by the House of Commons from what we should now call the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. But although that was so, it appears that subsidies continued to be paid by the State to different journals for a number of years after wards. That was quite a usual thing in the seventeenth century. It is interesting to note that John Walter the First, of the "Times," was in receipt of i30o a year, which was paid regularly by the Treasury, and that this was brought to an end when John Walter the Second came in control in 1803. I venture to call the attention of the House to a rather interesting incident that occurred in the middle of last century, when there was an attempt by the Government of the day to interfere with the liberty of the Press. In December, 1851, Louis Napoleon, who was then President of the French Republic, proclaimed himself Emperor of the French. Lord Palmerston, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, publicly approved of the action without in any way consulting the Queen or his colleagues, and as a result he resigned from office shortly afterwards. The "Times" thundered against both Lord Palmerston and Louis Napoleon. The Government were so much disturbed that they tried to stop the mouth of the "Times," entirely without success. Lord John Russell's Government resigned two months later, and Lord Derby formed a Government.
In the Debate on the Address, the Prime Minister ventured to lecture the "Times" as to the proper way in which it should conduct itself as a newspaper, and the great Delane, who was the editor, instructed Robert Lowe, afterwards Lord Sherbrooke, to write two leading articles, which appeared on 6th and 7th February, 1852, setting out the right attitude, as he conceived it, of a newspaper in dealing with public affairs. The articles are exceedingly interesting to read. I will read certain passages from each of the articles, and hon. Members will be able to form an opinion as to whether they bear any relationship to events that have been happening in our own times. On 6th February, 1852, the leading article stated:It may suit the purposes of statesmen to veil the statue of Liberty, and to mutter some formulary of disingenuous acquiescence in foreign wrongs, dictated by their fears rather 1265 than by their convictions; but we prefer to await for our justification the day when the entombed and oppressed liberties of Europe shall once more start into life and array themselves under the standard to which we cling. For to what, after all, are the statesmen of England to look for strength and national power, if injuries and offences rise against us, but to the enlightened resolution of the people of England to uphold the principles on which our own policy and independence are founded.The article on 7th February, 1852, said:The duty of the journalist is the same as that of the historian—to seek out truth, above all things, and to present to his readers, not such things as statecraft would wish them to know, but the truth, as near as he can attain to it.With those words in our ears, one is inclined to say:O! for the touch of a vanish'd hand, And the sound of a voice that is still.I want now to advance to the Press nearer our own times. Let me say at once that I recognise to the full that certain contacts between His Majesty's Ministers and the Press are proper, desirable, and in the public interest, and that nothing should be done to discourage them, particularly when they are contacts with editors and trained journalists who are in the habit of dealing with matters of that kind. I may, perhaps, refer to the interviews which it has been the habit of the Foreign Secretary to hold with editors, both London and provincial, where information has been given and sometimes questions answered. I find, from information which has come to me, that there has been a change in this during recent months; that, for instance, during the period when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was Foreign Secretary, the exchanges were much more frank and free and there was far less of a tendency to press the point of view of the Government, but that under the present Foreign Secretary things are not as happy in that direction as they were at an earlier date. As an illustration of this, I venture to quote an example that occurred on 8th March last. Let me say first that, as far as the Press is concerned, the usefulness of these interviews is destroyed if the meeting is made the occasion for a direct statement without the opportunity of any questions being put, or for a review of the situation which reflects only the point of view of the 1266 Government, and tacitly ignores all others.
On 8th March last, before the German occupation of Austria, Lord Halifax held a conference, such as I have described, at the Foreign Office. The subject was not so much Austria—no surprise development was hinted at—as the forthcoming talks with Italy which resulted in the Anglo-Italian Agreement. Possible talks with Germany were also mentioned. It was stated that the Government did not desire to tell editors how to run their newspapers, but felt it would be in the general interests of the country if pinpricking of Hitler and Mussolini in the British Press should cease during the period of the talks, and that currency should not be given to unsupported rumours which often emanate from European capitals. Lord Halifax was at once asked whether he would include the Paris report of the Hoare-Laval plan for the partition of Abyssinia among those unsupported rumours which the Government had in mind. His reply was most diplomatic and inclusive.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)
From whom is the hon. Member quoting?
§ Mr. Mander
I take full responsibility for what I am saying. It is the impression made on a person who was present on the occasion, but, of course, I have no intention under any circumstances of saying who was the person.
§ Mr. Mander
Some person who felt he was serving the public interest in supplying me with this information and showing up the whole thing. Whether the Official Secrets Act is used against me or not, I do not care—I am going on. Lord Halifax appealed to the Press to refrain from comment on the Anglo-Italian negotiations until the result was known. Let hon. Members consider what that means. For months and months there was to be no criticism of what was being done in spite of the feeling of the country. It was commented upon afterwards that once the result had been achieved, the country would be faced with a fait accompli with little hope of criticism at that stage proving effective. Obviously, 1267 that would have been so. The impression gained by those who attended the conference was that Britain did not intend to interfere between Germany and Austria. It was admitted that if there were trouble in Czechoslovakia the position might be different, but it was indicated that even there if the conquest were of the "peaceful penetration" type, the British Government would probably do nothing. And that was six months before the crisis.
I quote that as an example of what has been happening at some of these conferences. While, as I have said, normal contacts are excellent and to be encouraged in every way, it appears that during the crisis the Government did develop a new technique, or, at any rate, they used it very much more strenuously than on any previous occasion. They made direct approaches—I think that is the right word—to the proprietors of newspapers; they were not content to deal with the trained journalists, editors and others concerned. That was at a time when the ordinary flow of information from the Foreign Office was very restricted, no doubt largely due to the fact that the policy being pursued was the personal policy of the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Office knew very little about it. That new technique was carried out by the Inner Cabinet, and I am bound to say that, according to my information—and I assure the House that I have thoroughly investigated, checked and counter-checked, everything that I am saying to-night, or I would not dream of saying it—the person who played the biggest part in that was the right hon. Gentleman who now adorns the Government Front Bench, the Home Secretary. He was a sort of propaganda minister, and no doubt a very admirable one; that he did the job with great strenuousness and ability, I do not doubt for a moment.
These approaches, I am sure, were very subtle; they were very discreet, and there was nothing blatant about them—a "shadowed hint" would describe them. I think the real description was given in a reply which the Prime Minister gave to me recently. I asked him whether advice had been tendered to the owners and editors of newspapers, and he said, "No, neither directly nor indirectly." I pressed him as to whether representations had been made, and he evaded answering that question, but he did say the other 1268 day that the attention of the American Ambassador had been called to a certain film, and the American Ambassador then drew the necessary conclusion. Therefore, I suppose that in these interesting interviews which took place, what the Home Secretary did—I am sure he did it most agreeably—was to call the attention of his visitors to a certain international situation, and hope they would draw their own conclusions as to what they should do about it. I imagine that it would work out in that way. But I do say that there is some danger in pursuing a course of this kind. After all, journalists are used to dealing with these matters. They understand them, and they know precisely how much attention to pay to what they may be told by Ministers, and often it is very great, but rather different considerations arise, if persons who are not so intimately in contact with the daily life of journalism are brought into the picture. I leave it there. I think the dangers are obvious.
I do not want to suggest that all this strenuous propaganda had much effect. I believe that our British Press is the freest in the whole world, that it is perfectly capable of looking after itself and that it would keenly resent any attempt by the Government, however subtle, to instruct it on the particular line which it ought to take about foreign affairs. I do not, therefore, wish to suggest that the Press was very much affected. That is not the point of my remarks. But I was interested to notice that the "Evening Standard" the other night took a rather different view. They think that the danger lies in a different direction. The "Evening Standard" in a leading article said:The danger is rather the encroachment of official restriction upon the publication of all kinds of news. This ranges from discussion of the strength and the movement of armed forces known to everyone outside the country, and withheld only from our citizens, to the publication of mere police information. Here is the real insidious advance of censorship which in the end must lead to wide and perhaps fatal breaches in the rampart of English liberties. Beat off the raiders now, before the main host of the enemy is at the gates.That is the view of the "Evening Standard." Now I propose to be rather more precise in regard to the Press than I have been up to the present, and I propose to mention the names of certain journals. First of all, with regard to the 1269 "Times," I think it is perfectly clear that no special steps were necessary in the case of that journal, in view of the intimate, constant and happy relations that exist between those responsible for that journal and the sources of power and information. I do not propose to say anything about the "Times" except this. We all remember the passage in the leading article which started the rot and which suggested that there should be cession of territory—the first time anyone had dared to suggest it—to Germany. Frankly, I do not believe that paragraph would ever have been inserted if it had been thought that it was unacceptable—I do not say to the Foreign Secretary or to the Government—I say to the Prime Minister, and I leave it at that.
I wonder whether the Home Secretary when he speaks would care to deny, or whether he is in a position to deny, for example, that approaches were made, that contacts were established, that visits were paid to the Home Office, that interviews took place between Members of the Cabinet, particularly himself and those responsible for the "Daily Mirror" which was then conducting a strongly anti-Chamberlain campaign—the "Daily Telegraph" and the "Daily Mail." I wonder whether he would care to deny that he was in communication with Lord Southwood on behalf of the "Daily Herald," that Lord Southwood came to see him and that representations were made to him that it would be of great assistance to the Government if the airraid precautions plan of the Government were not attacked in the way it had been, and if a certain line were taken upon foreign policy. I am informed that the Home Secretary said to one responsible editor about this time that it would be fatal to advocate resistance to Germany, because we were in no position to resist.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I beg to challenge the hon. Member. I say that what he is stating is without any foundation at all.
§ Mr. Mander rose—1270
§ Mr. Mander
I will certainly. I am bound to accept any statement of that kind that the right hon. Gentleman makes, but I can assure him that I have not made those statements without having had up to the present moment—I must bow to what he says—every reason to believe that they represented the truth and that was the view of the person to whom the statement was made.
§ Mr. Mander
The Home Secretary will not be able to get away with it like that. I have made a number of statements which are known to far too many people for him to deny them and say that they are irresponsible. I venture to say that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to speak he will not be in a position to dispute a good many of the things which I have said, because they are very w ell-known to a considerable number of people. There is no doubt about the fact that at that time very unusual pressure was exercised by the Government on the Press. All possible wires were pulled in order to get the Press on to the side of the Government and to get them to represent that the right policy was the one which was being pursued by the Government—a policy which, incidentally, was regarded by the whole of the Opposition and by a very important section of the Conservative party as being a shameful betrayal. That is the position as I see it.
I now pass to the subject of news reels. This is a very important new medium. There do not exist with regard to it the same traditions as those which have been established with regard to the Press over a long period of years in this country. Some of those responsible for news reels try to realise their usefulness as a very important organ of information. Others are not so careful about that side of it, and are perhaps interested more in the purely commercial side. There is no doubt that the difficulties with regard to alleged censorship which exists here are not altogether, but very largely, the fault of the cinema people and the exhibitors themselves. If they would only show a little more courage, if they would only stand up and say, "We are not going to be interfered with by the Board of Censors on political matters," they have, to a large extent, got the matter in their 1271 own hands. I hope that in future they will take a firmer line when any attempts are made to interfere with them. But I do assert that there is, in connection with the news reels, a definite political censorship which is hostile to the Opposition and friendly to the Government. I do not necessarily say that the Government themselves are directly influencing it, but I say that such a thing exists and that there is no question about it.
There is, of course, the British Board of Film Censors of which Lord Tyrrell is the chairman and Mr. Brooke Wilkinson secretary. It is an unofficial body, and it is extremely convenient that that should be so, because, of course, the Government can say, "They have nothing to do with us; they can do anything they like." But that does not prevent useful contacts being established with the Government all the same. This Board of Film Censors is supposed to deal with questions of morals only, but on many occasions there has been political action. Before I proceed to give examples of that I would like to make a brief reference to a new type of film which is coming into use, what is called the "non-flam" film. These films are outside the Act and can be shown in any hall in the country. There is great anxiety among those connected with them lest an attempt should be made to impose some sort of control or censorship upon them, and it would be a great relief to many of them if the Home Secretary were able to say to-night that it was not the desire of the Government that they should be interfered with or controlled in any way, and that they would be allowed to carry on in accordance with the law, without any form of censorship, unofficial or otherwise, such as they fear is contemplated at the moment. I hope this fear can be shown to be groundless.
I pass to a brief reference to a case mentioned in the newspapers yesterday of the filming of scenes of the "Relief of Lucknow." According to the information in the Press generally, the producers of the film were informed by the Board of Censors that owing to the official attitude there would be no hope of a certificate for it, and that it was being banned on the intervention of the India Office. I do not know anything more than that statement in the Press, but, no doubt, the Home Secretary will be able to deal with 1272 that point. It may be a good thing that this film should not be made. I do not know enough about it to express an opinion, but if that is so, let us be told, publicly and openly, that the Government have intervened and think it desirable that the film should not be made, rather than that there should be any suggestion that it is only an unofficial body which has intervened. If there is a proper censorship, let us know about it. Do not let us hide behind the pretence that such a thing as a censorship does not exist.
The first case of political censorship to which I would refer was in reference to the Peace Film which was got up in 1936 by some people associated with the League of Nations Union to put forward a point of view in which at one time the Home Secretary himself was very much interested. It was held up by the British Board of Film Censors as controversial. As a result of Press exposure, it was widely shown throughout the country. Then there was the case of one of the "March of Time" films called "Arms and the League." This took place at the time of the resignation of the late Foreign Secretary, and the film was not shown after the Board of Censors had expressed their view. Then there was another "March of Time" film called "Threat to Gibraltar" showing the threatened grip by the Fascists on the Mediterranean, owing to the situation in Spain. That, again, was banned owing to the intervention of the Board.
The next one was "Crisis in Algeria," showing the possibilities of a North African coup by a Fascist State. That again was badly cut. Many other cuts took place in such films as "Inside Nazi Germany," "Nazi Conquest No. I (Austria),"and" Croix de Feu." In November, 1937, there was a film called "Spanish Earth," which was cut because it contained the outrageous suggestion that Germany and Italy were intervening in Spain. The most important of the films is "Britain's Dilemma," which some hon. Members of this House, I know, have seen. It was shown in the United States under that name, and it was very much appreciated, I understand, by everybody. It was based on events in Europe in relation to the policy laid down in "Mein Kampf." It dealt with the well known events of the retreat from 1273 the League, Manchuria, Abyssinia, Spain, China, and it stopped short at Czechoslovakia. Here, after a number of cuts had been made, it was re-titled "Britain and Peace," but the cuts were made because it was considered dangerous to show in this country what had happened in those instances, in which everybody on this side of the House believed the Government to have been wholly wrong, but apparently it was not desired that more than one point of view should be shown.
§ Mr. Fleming
In all those instances that the hon. Member has mentioned is it the case that the cuts were ordered at the instance of the British Board of Film Censors?
§ Mr. Mander
Yes, that is so. The British Board of Film Censors on one occasion indicated to those who were thinking of making a film that it would not be desirable to show anything of an anti-Fascist nature because it would not be possible to convince the Italian Government that the British Government were not in control of the films here and, therefore, that it was not Government propaganda. That is a very deplorable suggestion. I will ask the House to observe that in all these examples which I have given, in every case where cuts have been made nothing anti-Government, nothing anti-Fascist, is permitted, but anything that is favourable to the policy that the Government are pursuing is allowed to go forward. I venture to say that it is not the job of the British Board of Film Censors to deal with political matters of this kind at all. It is monstrous that they should be permitted to carry on this subtle kind of unofficial political censorship. Who asks them to be political? I do not say by any means that it is always done at the direct instigation of the Government—that is not one of my charges to-night, but I believe that a great deal is done on what they believe would be acceptable or otherwise to the Government, according to their own ideas—but I do believe there is pressure by Government Departments or by their friends at times. It is widely alleged in the Press and elsewhere that the Conservative Central Office is not wholly disinterested in or without knowledge of what is going on.
I may, perhaps, be permitted to quote from a resolution which was sent to me 1274 recently, since this Motion was put down, by the News Theatres Association, a body representing from 80 to 90 per cent. of the news theatre interests in this country, and the resolution was as follows:News Theatres in association have instructed me (that is, the Secretary) to say that they would resist by every legitimate means within their power the censorship of the news reel, or other screen news, which some might desire to impose—either officially or unofficially, from outside or inside the industry.I am desired to place it on record that, should the occasion arise, the members of this association would be more than prepared to join forces with the public, the industry, the Press, and others concerned to preserve the complete liberty of the 'Screen Press.'I suggest that the Home Secretary could render a very great service in connection with this whole matter if he was able to say in his speech to-night that, so far as the Government are concerned, they do not wish to exercise any influence whatsoever on the British Board of Film Censors, that that board must be guided wholly by its duty of censorship on moral grounds, that if on any occasion the Government do feel called upon to intervene, they will openly say so, but that otherwise it roust be clearly understood that the Government are not interested. I seriously appeal to the Home Secretary to make such a statement to-night, if he feels able to do so, because I am sure that it would clear up a great deal of apprehension and misunderstanding that certainly exist now.
I now come to the last but most interesting case. During the crisis four out of the five news reel theatres played down the Czechoslovakian point of view, but Paramount gave it space and gave a number of pictures of happy life in Czechoslovakia. One hon. Member of this House told me that he had seen it and that he had immediately notified his friends and had urged them to see it, because, he said, "I do not suppose this will be tolerated for very long." It was not tolerated for more than one day. In order to give the point of view of Czechoslovakia—because, after all, I suppose the people of this country have some right to hear that side—Paramount invited Mr. Wickham Steed and Mr. A. J. Cummings to speak during the reel. The film was issued on the evening of 21st September, and it was withdrawn on 22nd September. A telegram was sent by British Paramount News to all its theatres, saying: 1275Please delete Wickham Steed and A. J. Cummings' speeches from to-day's Paramount news. We have been officially requested to do so.Later on they denied that they had been officially requested to do so and said they had done it at their own discretion, but, unfortunately for them, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given the whole show away, and I would remind the House of what took place. I asked the Prime Minister on 23rd November:Why representations were recently made by His Majesty's Government to the American Embassy for the withdrawal from a Paramount news reel of items contributed by Mr. Wickham Steed and Mr. A. J. Cummings?Sir J. SIMON: His Majesty's Government considered that certain passages in the news reel referred to, which was being shown at the time of the Prime Minister's conversations with Herr Hitler at Godesberg, might have a prejudicial effect upon the negotiations. The Ambassador of the United States, I understand, thought it right to communicate this consideration to a member of the Hays organisation which customarily deals with matters of this kind and which brought it to the attention of Paramount News, who, from a sense of public duty in the general interest, decided to make certain excisions from the news reel.He was asked various other questions, but the only relevant reply was:I do not know of the other cases, but in the present case His Majesty's Government are grateful to the Ambassador of the United States, and I am glad that the Ambassador and ourselves were in complete accord."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1938; cols. 1727–8; Vol. 341.]It is very interesting to find such an accommodating Ambassador—very remarkable. The matter was raised again by me later, and the Prime Minister then gave the impression to the House that no such incident had ever taken place. He said, however, at the third time of asking:The attention of the American Ambassador was drawn to certain items, and he was asked to look into the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1938; col. 584, Vol. 342.]There you get a perfectly clear and open case of political censorship by the Government of the day in the interests of the foreign policy that they were pursuing, and it was a foreign policy which was detested by probably half the nation. It is not as if you were dealing with a case where you had national unity and 95 per cent. of the people thinking one thing. That would have been very different. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] 1276 If hon. Members say "Why?" I will agree that it is not desirable to have any censorship at all, under any circumstances, but I submit that you must have a sense of proportion. If they wish no censorship at all, I am fully in agreement with them.
What were the words that were withdrawn? What was it that was said by these two gentlemen? I will tell the House. In the course of an objective narrative of events Paramount introduced Mr. Wickham Steed as a former editor of the "Times" and a friend of President Masaryk. We know that he is one of the most distinguished journalists in the world to-day. He then introduced Mr. Cummings in the following terms:British Paramount News, seeking still further independent and informed opinion, interviewed the famous foreign affairs journalist, Mr. A. J. Cummings; and for the man-in-the-street's viewpoint sought the popular broadcasting taxi-driver, Mr. Herbert Hodge.That is what Mr. Wickham Steed said:Has England surrendered? Who is 'England'?—the Government or Parliament or the people? The British Parliament has not surrendered for it has not been convened, and still less have the British people. Our Government, together with that of France, is trying to make a present to Hitler—for use against us when he may think the time has come—of the 3,000,000 men and the thousands of aeroplanes that he would need to overcome Czechoslovak resistance. Hitler does not want to fight—oh, no! He only wants to get without fighting more than he would be able to get by fighting. And we seem to be helping him to get it. And all this because British and French Ministers feared to take a risk when they could have taken it successfully and believed they could diminish the risk by helping Hitler to gain a triumph—when he was at his wit's end—instead of standing up to him.I turn to Herbert Hodge and A. J. Cummings, and the dialogue went in this way:Hodge: Well, Mr. Cummings, what do you think of the news? Everybody's saying to me that England has surrendered to Hitler. Do you think that's right?Cummings: Well, beyond a doubt, Hitler has won an overwhelming diplomatic triumph for German domination in Europe. Nothing in future will stop him but a mass war.Hodge: I think most of us, although we want peace with all our hearts, would be prepared to go to war if it was a case of either going to war or allowing Hitler to dominate Europe.I thought that was the policy of the Government. The dialogue continues: 1277Cummings: The fact is our statesmen have been guilty of what I think is a piece of yellow diplomacy.Perhaps that is what the Government did not like.If in good time we had made a joint declaration with France and with Russia making clear our intentions, and stating emphatically and in express terms that we would prevent the invasion of Czechoslovakia, I'm certain that Hitler would not have faced that formidable combination. If we were not prepared to go to the extreme limit we should certainly not have engaged in a game of bluff with the finest poker player in Europe.Hodge: What worries me about it all, Mr. Cummings, is whether we've simply postponed war for another year or two against a much stronger Hitler of the future.Cummings: I am afraid we've only postponed war; and frankly, I am very fearful about what is yet in store for millions of young men of military age in all the countries of Europe.I can see nothing improper in these statements. They represented the views of a very large proportion of people in this House and the country, but the Government censored them. They would not allow them to be said. They took every step in their power to prevent the opposition point of view being presented. The other side of it was not interfered with. We could have plenty of pictures of the Prime Minister and we could hear all the "try, try and try again "slogans, and things of that kind. There was no limit to that, but anything that represented the opposition point of view was not to be allowed to be shown in the cinemas of this country. That was a most improper action by the Government.
I hope that the ventilation of this subject to-night, even if the Government try to make out that a great deal of it is not quite as represented, must do a great deal to stop the growth of censorship, direct or indirect, and to prevent it arising in future. I venture to hope that we shall show, in spite of the spread of dictatorship in so many great countries, that we are still a true democracy, that we are prepared to hear all views and to have every aspect of political matters laid before us, and, to the best of our ability, choose that which we think is wisest. If ever this country were to be gagged and bound and our centuries-long liberties interfered with, we may have peace, but it would not be England. I hope that by passing this Motion to-night unanimously we shall show we are the freest people in the world.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Beechman
I beg to move, in line 5, at the end, to add:but is fully satisfied that His Majesty's Government have maintained these traditions unimpaired.I am sure that nobody in the House will regret the fact, that on the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) time is being expended on considering the question of liberty. At this time, when liberty is being so brutally assailed in those very countries which owe their existence to its impulse, it is most proper that this House should inquire into liberty and be as vigilant as possible. I fully appreciate what my hon. Friend said in opening when he indicated that in substance we agree. He was very cautious about disclosing his authorities. I noticed that at the outset he was careful to preserve the anonymity of the author of the Letters of Junius, and if it is in order at this late date to give away the name of Philip Francis, I will do so. For my part, I will quote somebody whose name I am not in any way hesitant to announce, and who is known to my hon. Friend as a most reliable authority. I take my stand in this matter of liberty upon this famous declaration of John Stuart Mill:If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.Therefore, I can assure my hon. Friend that if he ever were to find himself in the position of being in a minority of one in relation to mankind—an honourable office for which by his courage in criticism, his pertinacity in questions and his situation in politics he is not altogether ill adapted—I can assure him that I should conceive it to be my duty to do all that lay in my power to see that he had an opportunity of stating his case.
But there are further reasons why it is important that we should do all we can to make sure that we are holding fast to the foundations of our liberties. Liberty has had to be fought for, and it is easily lost. We have seen it lost by the swift and sudden imposition of dictatorships, and I recognise, and we in this House 1279 recognise, that it can be lost by a process of attrition, by a whittling away here, by a paring away there. There is a third way in which, indeed, it can be lost, and that is by a constant carping, by a constant criticism of every and any act of intervention by the State, by a denunciation of every sort of sacrifice that may be called for irrespective of whether that act of intervention or sacrifice is directed to reinforcing liberty or to repressing it.
Therefore, it seems to me that when we come to assess the quality of every restriction that may come up for criticism we have to consider the whole matter, we have to consider liberty in relation to the realities of the modern world, and when we do this I think we find that one of the reasons, and the main reasons, why, after all these years of struggling towards the light, when we thought we were progressing more and more in the field of liberty, there has been of late this cruel and terrible reversal, it is that in spite of all the progress that has been made in the field of liberty the peoples in Europe, and to some extent in this country, feel that progress is being clogged; they feel that they are being shut out in some way, they do not know how, from the immense opportunities and benefits which are being offered in the modern world as a result of the rapid advances in science.
Democracy has to face a challenge. It is not by denunciation of others, not by criticism of others, primarily, that we shall save our liberty, but by showing positively that democracy and liberty can be put to the use of mankind for the purposes which I have indicated. There has grown up in the minds of men, as a result, an antithesis between the idea of efficiency and the idea of liberty. I must say for myself that if it was a question as to which I should prefer, I should he disposed to sacrifice efficiency to liberty, but I think that we in this House feel very strongly that it is only by having liberty that we can have efficiency, that it is only by exposing defects that we can have things work as we want them to work, and that it is only by freedom of discussion that we can have the ideas which make for progress. In that way I should like to remind my hon. Friend that the very first bulwark of liberty is in this House, where he so often asks his questions. He has rather suggested that the Government have been allowing to grow 1280 up an atmosphere in which this liberty is no longer as pristine as it was.
What is at the basis of this freedom of discussion? It is that we should be free to choose the truth. It is not enough to have truth thrust at us; we must be free to choose, and I should like to say that the National Government have, in the most anxious and difficult conditions, done the most remarkable work in preserving the poise of liberty. Only this Session we were all delighted in this House to find that at a time when in other countries people were being put into concentration camps for no crime at all the Secretary of State for Home Affairs was introducing a Criminal Justice Bill which shows how deeply we in this House care for individuals in misfortune who, through social defects, have in fact committed a crime. In the same way the right hon. Gentleman, by his sympathetic handling of the refugee problem, and in spite of conflicting interests—some of them not only conflicting, but by many thought to be superior—has done all he can in that respect. Lastly, I should like to refer to the Public Order Act. There was growing up at the time when that Act was passed a very dangerous and difficult situation, and I do not believe that there is anybody in this House who will not say that as a result of the passing of that Act a very delicate and, indeed, highly dangerous situation has been most adequately dealt with.
My hon. Friend dealt rather particularly with the Press, and I should like to begin by making it clear that there is no censorship of the Press in this country, just as there is no censorship of the British Broadcasting Corporation. They are both free agents, and they collect their news in precisely the same way. I think my hon. Friend almost suggested that it would be an insult to the Press to suggest that they would be subject to improper pressure of the kind to which he was referring. I do not believe, either, that the great magnates of the Press, still less, perhaps, those working journalists who have such a respect for their profession, and such a keen perception, would allow themselves to be influenced in any such ways. If it can be suggested that there is any limitation upon the Press it is to be found far more in limitations imposed by the Common Law and by Statute Law in 1281 regard to libel and proceedings in contempt. I should have thought that the supreme danger to the Press in regard to the satisfactory presentation of news might be the fact that it is a commercial venture, but I think we owe it to the Press to say that in spite of that fact they do certainly run their business as a social service.
There is a further danger, and that is the partisanship of certain papers. It has already been referred to by my hon. Friend. Again I think there are two cures for that. First of all if we have enough papers they cancel each other out; unlike that incident on the films to which my hon. Friend referred where one distinguished journalist, Mr. Wickham Steed, was addressing another distinguished journalist, Mr. Cummings, and both of them were taking the same point of view at a crucial time. I am going to leave it to my right hon. Friend to deal with matters of which he must obviously have far more knowledge than I have. Nevertheless I called his attention to the fact that there was a film at a crucial time which transgressed that doctrine to which I have referred, that there should be freedom of choice. There you had two different men, both with their great skill and influence advocating the same point of view.
§ Mr. Mander
The point is that there were five news reels whose reels are being shown every night and that while four of them were consistently showing the Government point of view there was only the fifth which attempted for one night to show the opposition point of view. Surely the hon. Member will see that his argument is all on one side.
§ Mr. Beechman
I gathered that the hon. Member was referring to only one news reel in a particular cinema as the one in which that particular comment was to be found.
§ Mr. Beechman
I was not in that theatre and I do not know the facts. There is one other aspect of the commercial danger of the Press, and that is—if it becomes too commercial it loses its style and distinction, just as if it is too partisan it loses its readers. I seriously suggest that style and distinction are matters of great importance in these days when we have a public which is most enlightened and 1282 most anxious to know the news and most highly interested. Not only in the Press, but in other spheres as well in which public information is given, there is a great tendency to look down upon the public. After the War, when people were tired, there was a tendency to take only little bits of news, but I think it is clear that a different mood is coming over the public now and that they require to 1.e fully informed. It therefore seems the clear duty of a Government to keep in the closest contact with the Press and to give the fullest information and the fullest explanation that may be possible.
There is, of course, a limit beyond which you should not go. I have been interested to see that the Labour Opposition have been rather anxious to go a great distance in controlling the Press. Only a short while ago, on 29th November, the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) was asking the Prime Minister in regard to the possibility or desirability, as he put it, of establishing a special Press and Propaganda Department. It is only right that the words of the Prime Minister in answer to that question should be quoted. They were:His Majesty's Government attach great importance to the maintenance of the well-recognised tradition of objectivity and independence in the provision of news by British agencies; and they would deprecate any action that might be interpreted as an effort to introduce official control.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th November, 1938; col. 239, Vol. 342.]That shows clearly the attitude of His Majesty's Government and it seems to be very right. If one had any Press or Propaganda Department news in the paper would at once be suspect and nobody would know in the end what to believe.
Something was said by my hon. Friend about unity. He felt that there might be a Press and Propoganda Department in relation to any matters on which there was unity in this House. Well, let us take liberty itself. The answer to it is that there is only one propaganda for liberty and that is liberty itself. In regard to certain matters which we have been discussing, such as the call based upon the proposed Register, there should be a certain amount of co-ordination where various calls overlap. In regard to this matter of liberty we must have a positive and active attitude, just as we are told we are to have towards peace. It is not 1283 enough any more to base ourselves on the old Manchester School and to say that as long as we get rid of our limitations all is well. We must have a sense of responsibility and bear in mind that we can preserve our liberty only if we are willing, as this country is so willing now, to serve in its cause.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed
I beg to second the Amendment.
I venture to take a few moments of the attention of the House to-night, because I approach this question from a rather different angle from those who have hitherto discussed it. I am not aware that the Mover or the Seconder of the Motion has ever had any active connection with the Press. Therefore, they were taking a remote point of view which to those who have had such experience seemed rather like a journey to Laputa. I have spent over half-a-century in journalism, approximately one half of it in this country and the other half abroad, and in the period which I spent abroad the newspaper Press was working under legal restrictions far beyond those which exist in this country, and yet none of us, no bona fide journalist and no honest editor, ever experienced the slightest discomfort from those restrictions. Believe me, whatever is put on the Statute Book the man who really understands his profession and tries to live up to its principles has nothing to fear from the operation of the law. I think that we should have heard very little about this attempt to curtail the freedom of the Press if it had not been for certain action taken under the Official Secrets Acts. May I say to the Home Secretary that I share the feelings of those journalists who were uneasy at two prosecutions initiated under that Act. I feel that a sense of disquiet was created, particularly in the taking action against the reporter and not the head of the paper. It is a principle in journalism that it is the tall poppy whose head should be cut off. If an offence is committed, it is the head of the paper who is responsible, and who should always be the target for the attack.
I do not want to labour that point, because in practice, if not in the actual form of the legislation, those cases have passed out of the purview of the Act. Everybody without exception admits that the action in the Stockport and Hull cases 1284 was a mistake, and the amplest assurances have been given in this House that those mistakes will not be repeated. The assurances given by the Secretary of State have confirmed the guarantee that no action shall be taken under that Act without his personal sanction. That assurance, confirmed by the Attorney-General, was all that any honest and bona fide journalist could expect. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] May I say that I speak from personal experience, from experience which hon. Members who said "No!" have not had.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I have seen statements from many working journalists on the subject, and they are not at all satisfied.
§ Sir S. Reed
I claim, with all deference, that my contact with working journalists is probably much closer than that of the hon. and gallant Member, and that my experience of the practice of journalism is very much greater than his. I maintain my opinion that the guarantee given by the Secretary of State and the Attorney-General is an ample protection, because we know Mat it will be fulfilled in the spirit and in the letter. But I would make one personal appeal to the Secretary of State. While that guarantee is assured in his hands, is it equally binding on his successors? I trust that he will take any opportunity which presents itself of putting that guarantee in statutory form, so that journalists may be able to bring their case to the Bar of this House, and the Bar of this House is ample protection.
There is a second point that I would put to the Secretary of State. He has assured us that no action will be taken unless the case is one of serious public importance. "Serious public importance "is a rather vague phrase; it will he interpreted by the Secretary of State for the moment; and I think it would carry the assurance farther if some definition of that phrase could be laid down. I venture to make that appeal to the present Secretary of State because for some year or two it was my privilege to serve under his banner, an unsought volunteer, while he carried through one of the greatest Acts that was ever placed upon the Statute Book. It was also our privilege here to listen to his exposition of a new penal code which was instinct with the spirit of liberality. I am not at all 1285 sure that history will not say that one of the greatest Acts of the present Home Secretary is one which he was not permitted to carry into effect through the action of this House and the feeling of the country. That again is a personal opinion, but one which I hold very firmly. With that knowledge I venture to make a special appeal to my right hon. Friend to remove these ambiguities and make the guarantee statutory, and, therefore, give an even greater sense of security to the working journalists of this country.
I do not want to refer in any detail to the speech of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Mander) in moving the Motion, except to touch very briefly on two points, on which, again, I speak from some personal knowledge. In discussing the relation of government with the Press, he spoke of the value of the contacts between members of the Government and leading newspapers. He did not define those contacts; perhaps I may attempt to do so. Those contacts, where the Government of the day, whether here or overseas, put before responsible editors their views and ideas, and the reasons on which they are based, on great public matters, are of much more value to the Government than to the Press. The Press themselves are probably better without that information, and probably have a freer hand. Hon. Members who have studied this matter will recollect how the great Delane was all against confidential information, and refused it, because, he said, if he obtained it from another source, as he probably would, and used it, he would be charged with a violation of confidence. But from the point of view of the State, of the administration, these contacts are valuable, and we trust that they will be preserved. The hon. Member began to titillate my fancy by describing a new technique, and I listened in anxious expectation to find out what it was. All I could gather from his remarks was that the new technique which he described was some 75 years old, if not more. I hope that, when opportunity arises, he will help those benighted journalists who are in a state of semi-senile decay, like myself, to understand what this technique is, and how we can profit by it.
There is one point on which I find myself in complete, absolute and unqualified agreement with the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East, and that is when 1286 he states that the Press can look after itself. The Press can look after itself exceedingly well. It wants no assistance from anybody with an axe to grind, either in this honourable House or anywhere else. More than that, the Press as a whole is inclined to resent, and to resent keenly, any attempt to exploit it for the purposes of creating a side issue or a side attack on the government of the day.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
The hon. Member says that the Press can take care of itself, but I gather that he is proposing to introduce during the present Session a Bill to amend the law of libel in order to assist the Press.
§ Sir S. Reed
I am not proposing to introduce any amendment of the law of libel and slander for the purpose of assisting the Press; I am proposing, when a legislative opportunity offers, to introduce an amendment of the law of libel and slander to prevent the abuse of the existing law of the land for the purpose of "gold-digging" by unscrupulous people. That is not for the protection of the Press, but for the protection of the common morality of the people of this country, and to do away with the race of Dodson and Foggs who are now battening upon the less sc[...]ulous part of the community and seeking to profit from abuse of the law.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton East went a step further, and made a statement which I must challenge. He made the statement that, if the London "Times" had thought that a particular article did not express the views of the Prime Minister of the day, it would not have published it. There is no representative of the London "Times" in this House [Interruption]—I see no representative of the London "Times" in this House—[HON. MEMBERS: "At the moment."] It was my privilege to be associated with that paper for about 15 years. It is my privilege now to know some who are in control of its affairs. It may be an impertinence for me to venture to say a word on the question, but I will take my courage in both my hands, and, even at the risk of impertinence, declare that a statement that the London "Times" to-day would not take a line of action which it thought right and proper in the interests of the State because it thought that the Prime Minister did not approve of it, is preposterous, is unjustified, and should not be made.
1287 As I sit in this House, I hear two voices, on both sides of the House. The one says, "We rejoice in, we revel in, and we must preserve, the priceless privileges of a free Press, "and in the next breath we are told that the Press is so little capable of looking after itself that this House must rise and defend it against the insidious attacks of the Government of the day. For that reason the hon. Member for Wolverhampton East hoped that we would accept his proposal as it stood. But, if we had been prepared to accept that proposal in the first place, many of us would not accept it after his speech in support of it. That speech was full of innuendoes, many of them entirely unsupported by facts. There is the suggestion that these innuendoes are made in all knowledge and sincerity, but of course will be withdrawn if the hon. Member is told that they are inaccurate. Because of that attitude, I second the Amendment, and commend it very strongly to the House.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Montague
I rise rather early in the Debate, because, in part of my speech, I propose to take a line different from any that has been taken in the Debate so far, and I wish the Home Secretary to have the ideas that I will put forward in his mind when he speaks. That is the only reason. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) began his speech with a quotation from the "Letters of Junius." The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) began his with a quotation from John Stuart Mill. May I be pardoned for beginning with a quotation from William Pitt, who said:Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.I support the Motion, and see no necessity for the Amendment; and I think I am supported in that attitude by hon. Members behind me. But there is something more to be said about freedom of the Press than has been said this evening. I want to speak only on that side of the subject. So far as the news reels and the films in general are concerned, I was threatened with expulsion from my local picture house during the crisis for muttering an interjection during the film that has been referred to. I felt it was appalling that I and other people should have Government propaganda of that 1288 kind, gross and without any covering at all, thrust down our throats at our own expense. I would rather leave that side of the subject, however, because I have only time to say what I want to say about the freedom of the Press. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) is very proud of his profession. He may have the right to be proud of it. But perhaps his pride may, if it does not sustain a fall, at least be pricked to some little extent, by the point of view I intend to put forward.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, when I was called away with a green card, had begun some little historical survey of the general question of Press freedom. We remember, of course, the work of George Jacob Holyoake and others who had to do what always has to be done when it is a question of building up freedom in this country or any other—to sacrifice their own liberty for the sake of that of others. In this House, the right of the Press to report public Debates was very restricted up to comparatively recent times. I do not know whether the hon. Member referred to the famous occasion in which an Irish Press correspondent in the Gallery, by the name of Mark Supple, was concerned. In those days they locked the Gallery door, and nobody could get out until the end of the Debate. There might be something to be said for a suggestion of locking hon. Members in on the same principle. This gentleman took the precaution of assuring himself that he had refreshment in the meantime, surreptitiously. He went to sleep and was awakened by something happening on the Floor of the House, and, forgetting where he was, called on Mr. Speaker for a song. I am not sure it would not be a good idea if we conducted the business of this House upon the principle of the court of St. James's Hall in "Utopia, Limited".
§ Mr. Montague
Perhaps the people in the country would then take more interest in the House, and, incidentally, in questions affecting their own freedom. It is quite within the capacity, I am sure, of hon. Members to provide all the entertainment that is necessary. For instance, might I suggest something on these Gilbertian lines? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary quoted "Iolanthe" 1289 in a recent Debate. May I present a parody to him, which runs:
If we conducted business on those lines we should have considerably more public interest in the affairs of the country. Oscar Wilde said:
- "Winston's a Member of Parliament,
- He fills the House whenever he pleases;
- Liberals, Labour Members and Tories
- Bow their heads and dim their glories;
- As well as the 'Reds,' he goes for the 'blues;
- He loves to see Ministers shake in their shoes."In old days we had the rack; now we have the Press.I remember the newspapers of London, say 40 years ago. It may surprise some hon. Members when I mention that at that time there were no fewer than 20 morning and evening papers in London—counting sport and financial papers, 25. And I have no hesitation in saying that in those days, when there was much more editorial responsibility and less proprietorial dictation, its standard of literary and political criticism was higher, and certainly the standard of independence was higher, than it is at the present time. I notice that the hon. Member who is so jealous of the reputation of the Press did not hear that statement.
There is another side to this question, and it is that side that I intend to put before the House. It is all very well for the Press to talk about its own freedom, and to say that it ought not to be interfered with and that it can look after itself. Indeed, it can; and the people who run the Press can look after themselves and their interests. When we talk about the freedom of the Press, we ought to consider not only rights but duties. Let me give an example. Does anyone doubt that the Minister of Agriculture was compelled—or the Government were compelled to compel him, to withdraw the Milk Bill because of the Press campaign?
§ Sir S. Reed
I doubt it myself, because a party in this House pressed for its withdrawal long before the newspapers took the matter up.
§ Mr. Montague
That is my point. That party was a minority. That Bill was brought in as a result of agreement between two sides—the Government side and the industries side. It had to be withdrawn because it was, I suppose, considered to be too Socialistic. I will give another 1290 illustration. A short time ago in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) there was really a Socialistic attempt to carry out the feeding of the people irrespective of private profit. Potatoes were being produced in abundance and could not be used, and there were people starving in that constituency. It was decided to bring the potatoes to the people who wanted them without any consideration of private profit at all, and it worked. But was it allowed to succeed? Not likely. A Press campaign and all the other insidious campaigns got to work and that project was killed, just as the Milk Bill was killed, by powers that are exercised, I do not say upon the authority of the Government, but certainly behind the democratic government of this country as it stands. If there is any question about this let me draw the attention of Members of the House to the leading article in to-day's "Financial News." This is not a popular paper. It is not the paper that the proletariat read, at any rate, but is written for the investing classes and people who have money to invest, and it represents the City point of view. This is the kind of thing:The danger is that the Savage Government"—the Savage Government is the Socialist Government in New Zealand—may now consider itself free to pursue an unsound financial policy without fear of consequences … If purchasing power is maintained by the Government's guaranteed price for exports and by heavy loan expenditure, there is a real danger of monetary inflation (as well as the cost inflation which is all we have seen hitherto) if export prices should decline at all seriously.The article is headed "Financial Savagery." I have no hesitation in saying that that in a paper of this character and stated in those terms is an attempted piece of blackmail on the part of the financial interests of the City of London against the Government of New Zealand in order to sabotage that Government and to enforce a financial blockade at the present moment against that Government. That is one indication of the kind of thing that happens whenever the workers of this country, politically organised and organised in trades unions, have put forward any point of view or any policy which has not the support of the moneyed interests of this country. I will not refer to the events of 1931, but I remember the 1291 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who said in respect of a Government newspaper for which he was responsible during the so-called General StrikeAs between the fire engine and the fire, I refuse to be impartial.I am now going to deal with the question of the Press and the entire reformation of the methods of presenting news and opinions in this country. We have not the independent Press that we used to have, but a Press controlled by financiers, advertisers, and Press magnates, and these people merge news and views together. I wonder whether it would not be a good idea to divide them, and. at any rate, if that could not be done, at least make every newspaper in the country responsible for every item A news it prints and answerable to this House or some public authority. I know the difficulties in the case, but I am putting these points forward because there seems to be a certain kind of smugness in the Debate so far. There is the assumption that the Press is perfectly right, pure, white and clean, and that there should be no interference on the part of the Government or in respect of the Official Secrets Acts, to all of which I object as much as anyone else. Anything like that is an interference which cannot be tolerated because the Press is so fine, beautiful and so model. That is not the case.
We have to consider this fact. We have had it before and we shall have it again. I have given one or two indications of what I mean. What will happen when we have a Socialist Government sitting upon the benches opposite; a Government that means business and represents the majority of this nation? In spite of all that the hon. Member for Aylesbury says about the Press, and in spite of his belief in the honour and independence of the Press, in connection with which he has spent his life, we know that there will be a campaign against that Government more than equalling in virulence anything that happened in 1931. It is because of that that I refer to the smugness that has been introduced into this Debate. Is there any doubt about it? I was very much interested in that speech, and the hon. Member will excuse me, I am sure, if for his benefit, as well as for the benefit 1292 of other hon. Members, but for his benefit particularly, I quote in conclusion the statement of a journalist who has already twice been referred to, Mr. Wickham Steed, former editor of the "Times," and a leading article from "Truth." In the days to which I have referred when we had 20 newspapers in London, and even earlier than that, there was nothing like this censorship or idea of censorship or interference such as there is at the present time. People were more free. No one thought of interfering with Henry Labouchere or Sir Charles Dilke in what they had to say in furtherance of their republican ideas. I remember a London weekly newspaper, still in existence, and a very important one indeed, at the time of the birth of a Royal Prince came out on the Sunday morning with a streamer right across the front page—a most unusual thing in those days—and that streamer ran:Another chunk of Royal flesh to keep.I make no comment upon the taste of that, but the point is that no one at all thought that that paper had no right to express itself in that way. There was no mystery about it. There was much greater freedom of the Press and of thought allowed long before the War than there is at the present moment. This is what Mr. Wickham Steed says in his recent book "The Press":Certain large advertising agents warned the newspapers not to write up the recent international crisis in such a way as to cause alarm which would be bad for trade. None of the newspapers dared to publish the names of those advertising agents.Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, with his knowledge of the Press and his belief in the high rectitude and reputation of the Press? When I say "the Press," I do not want to be held to suggest that every newspaper is to be painted altogether as black as some newspapers may deserve to be painted. There are honourable papers in this country, hut, on the whole, the new system has been bad. It is a system not of editorial responsibility but of the responsibility of people who hold the money and call the tune every time. We did not have such large papers then as we have now. Now there is a demand for page after page of sport, chit- chat and all sorts of things, and the advertisers have to pay for it, and the. advertisers who are paying the money call the tune.
1293 My final quotation is from "Truth" of 16th November this year. This is what "Truth" wrote:Can we contend, those of us who are in the business, in face of all we know about the chicanery and venality of journalism, which are nowhere more prominent than in the idealistic publications"—I do not wish to be charged with misquoting or leaving anything out—that we ourselves are not mainly responsible for the anomaly that, until very lately, when a newspaper or periodical was a party in a libel action the jury were against us before counsel had opened their mouths? Can we pretend that we are spotless lambs, shamefully and most unjustly exposed to the ruthless Official Secrets Act. Before we start crying 'Wolf' let us all take stock of our sins of omission and commission and remedy them. Then, and then only, can journalism be certain of having public opinion behind it in the hour of need.I leave that statement with the hon. Member for Aylesbury.
We support this Motion because there is no question of the danger of official interference with the freedom of the Press—a danger that is due, I suppose, to the complicated political life of our times. Personally, I believe there must be a line drawn somewhere in respect of censorship. I should not like to have the responsibility of drawing it, but I would draw it as far away as I possibly could, because a real democracy is a community which justifies itself by becoming well informed, not only from the standpoint of propaganda, on all sides of a question and upon the philosophy of political, social and other questions, based upon accurate and responsible information. When we get a Press of that character—and I should like to have money enough to produce the kind of daily paper I have in mind—we shall be able, I think, to boast of having a true democracy, if the people are prepared to accept not only the freedom that is demanded, but also the responsibility which must always go with it.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Granville
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) will forgive me if I do not follow him on the lines of his interesting speech, because I desire to speak for only a very few minutes. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander), in his speech in introducing this Motion to-night seemed, first of all, to be a little concerned because a meeting took place 1294 at the Foreign Office between the Foreign Secretary and the journalists, and because there had been a suggestion that there should be no pin-pricking of Herr Hitler and Mussolini during certain discussions, and I must confess that I could not follow him upon those lines. But I think that the hon. Gentleman was himself responsible during the time of the Labour Government of 1929 for himself retraining from going into the Opposition Lobby against the Coal Bill because there was a Naval Conference on at the time. I think that action of the Liberal party in refusing to defeat the Labour Government on that issue was not so important perhaps as those pin-pricks that the hon. Gentleman referred to.
Then he spoke of a film "Inside Nazi Germany," which was cut. I saw the cut version in a news cinema, and no ordinary person could hear what was going on because the place was in such an uproar. On the whole, I think the news reels of this country are of a high standard, and are impartial. I have no connection with news reels, but after all, they have been showing for some considerable time in this country. A news reel has to bring some sort of photographic evidence that the news story it is presenting is true, because, quite obviously, any fake will be detected by an audience. The same sort of check cannot be obtained in the ordinary Press. I think it will be found that most film audiences in the ordinary cinemas—not so much in the news cinemas—dislike the talks and tit-bits by Cabinet Ministers and others. They go to the cinema for entertainment, and not for politics. I think that the same body to which the hon. Gentleman referred as having recently passed a resolution were making strong representations some years ago, at a time long before these political talks began, to have these talks deleted from the ordinary news films.
§ Mr. Granville
Well, I think it was a larger body, which embraced the whole of the cinema exhibitors in the country, including some of the news theatres. But the moment you bring on to a screen anything like propaganda you are up against the cinema proprietor. I think the, cinemas are trying very hard to establish the real difference between news and 1295 propaganda. The hon. Gentleman referred to a particular case—that of a talk by Mr. Cummings and Mr. Wickham Steed. He also referred to the pro-Government bias in a number of news films. But when the Prime Minister returned from Munich that was news.
§ Mr. Granville
When he returned from Munich he was the Prime Minister of this country, and the people of this country, whether they agree with his policy or not, are interested to hear what he says and to see pictures of him. The same would be true of any Prime Minister. The people who go to see such a film are ten times as numerous as the crowd which goes to see the Prime Minister at Heston Airport.
§ Mr. Granville
All right. What I am going to suggest is that when Mr. Wickham Stead and Mr. Cummings, who represents a newspaper with a strong bias, want to put their point of view, that is propaganda, it is not news, and this House is the place to debate two propaganda points of view. If you make the news reels available for that purpose, I believe you will have disturbances in cinemas all over the country.
As to the question whether an individual is wise in privately and unofficially suggesting that people should have the opportunity of putting forward propaganda on the films, my view is that in Hyde Park you can get all the debate you want. In the newspapers you have the "Letters to the Editor" column, and at the B.B.C. you get the presentation of a variety of views. In the cinema, when you are presenting a news film it is a take or leave it presentation. There can be no repudiation, except such a repudiation as that of the hon. Member opposite, which was so emphatic that he was nearly turned out of the cinema.
§ Mr. Montague
It was not the news that I objected to, nor the picture of the Prime Minister, but the comments that were made.
§ Mr. Granville
I must confess that I went to cinemas to see and hear the 1296 news reels, and I had to listen to remarks which I did not like. I also went to cinemas where there was complete uproar. In one, the first 20 rows were packed with Nazis and the back rows were packed with the oppositionists, and it became a shouting match. I wanted to hear the news film, but I had no opportunity of doing so.
To return to the point whether there should be Government supervision, taking all the facts into consideration I think there should not be Government intervention. It should be left to the good sense of the cinema organisations themselves. There is no Hays Organisation in this country, whereby you could create a sort of co-operation between the film industry as to what type of film they should show. I would prefer an organisation similar to the Hays Organisation of America, which would represent the film Industry in this country. If you are going to have complete freedom to show all these news reels, you must be free to show all films. You may show the films of Leni Riefenstahl, of the Nazi Congress at Nuremburg, and films showing what Hitler has done for Germany, If you give that complete freedom and those films were shown in London, you would have the cinemas in complete uproar. This should not be the responsibility of the Government, but it should be the responsibility of the film industry itself.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton also referred to the case of the American Ambassador and the news reel where representation was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer by communication to the American Ambassador. As I understand the facts, there was a representative of the Hays Organisation from America in this country, and the American Ambassador, in an unofficial, friendly and private capacity, pointed out to this individual, as a result of this communication, that the presentation of this American news film created a problem for them, and that they would have to face up to the problem and settle it in the best interests of all concerned. That is what the American Ambassador did, no less and no more.
We should remember that the American Ambassador is a great personality and that he goes a long way towards linking up America to this country. He also 1297 has had vast experience in the film industry, far more than most people, and his knowledge of cinema audiences and films is unique. In making this contact he considered that he was doing something which was a contribution to the peace of the world. It was one of his many activities, the basis of which is to create a feeling of friendship between the people of America and Great Britain. Therefore, I would suggest to the hon. Member that he should not make his criticism of this great Ambassador too carping.
§ Mr. Mander
The hon. Member must realise that it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who himself stated publicly what the American Ambassador himself had done. I am criticising the action of the Government, not the American Ambassador.
§ Mr. Granville
I was saying what was done by the American Ambassador and what his intentions were. With regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he can well take care of himself. I find myself in a great deal of agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), and I hope that the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton will not press his Motion to a Division. If he does, I shall find myself compelled to vote for the Amendment, because I think we still have the best news service in the world, whatever may be the contact between journalists and the various Departments in the day-to-day working. Whatever the Government may be, Labour or National, our system works in the best interests of this country, and I do not believe that there has been any challenge to democracy. If we do not try to interfere with it, we shall continue to have the best news service in the world and the best service for freedom and democracy.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Parker
I agree with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that there is serious disquiet about Government interference with the Press. The most serious thing is that the Government do not really believe that they are interfering with the Press. I noticed, in answer to a question in the House recently, on 23rd November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:A censorship, I should have thought, means the exercise of some compulsory 1298 power."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1938; col. 1728, Vol. 341.]He argued from that, that because the Government had not a legal censorship and did not interfere in a legal form with the Press, there was not any kind of censorship. There are a number of different forms of Government interference with the Press at the present time. First, there is the negative kind of interference. The best example was over the Hoare-Laval proposals. It is generally known that the Foreign Secretary at that time met a conference of British journalists in Paris and told them to say nothing about these proposals, as everything was very difficult for the Government. One journalist had a copy of the proposals in his pocket at the time. Therefore, he was in a very difficult position. Fortunately, the French Press were not so discreet as the English Press, and published the terms. Then the English newspapers had to publish them. It was a very good thing that those terms were published in the Press and that the public in this country knew what was happening. Had this censorship been carried out in France as well as in this country there would have been a very grave danger that those proposals might have been pushed through before the people of this country knew about them, and before it was possible to form or establish public opinion about the matter. That would have been highly undesirable.
There is also positive interference with the Press. There are a very large number of allegations made about this matter in Fleet Street at the present time, and I hope that in reply the Government will say something about it. In addition to the points that have been made by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, I think that it is generally known that at the time of the resignation of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Learning-ton (Mr. Eden) an attempt was made to induce all the newspaper owners to give support to the Government rather than to the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. That was an unjustifiable and undesirable interference with the Press of the country.
I should like to give the House some information which came to me during the recent crisis. When the "Manchester Evening News" put forward a number of leaders criticising the Munich settlement very fiercely certain advertisers of that paper withdrew their advertisements 1299 When they were asked why they did so they said that Government pressure had been put upon them to do so. The fact that this took place is highly undesirable. There is a great deal of disquiet as regards such Government interference with the Press. The right hon. Gentleman may say that incidents of this kind are not true, but I say where there is smoke there is fire, and the fact that there are so many allegations of this kind needs investigation. If investigation is made I believe it will be found that a considerable amount of Government interference is taking place. Then there is the question of Government publicity and propaganda. I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) say that there was no Minister of Propaganda in this country. Surely, he knows that each Government Department has a Press service.
§ Mr. Beechman
And I proceeded to say that the hon. Member for Kingswinford (Mr. A. Henderson) asked that there should be a Minister of Propaganda.
§ Mr. Parker
That was for a special purpose. The point is that each Government Department has its own Press service and that considerable sums of money are spent on publicity by the different Departments. That is a question which ought to be examined rather more fully than it has been in the past. Far too much of the Press publicity by Government Departments goes in glorifying the Ministers concerned rather than in giving information about the work of the Department. There is far too much boosting of Ministers and not enough giving of information to the general public and presenting it in an interesting form. What is the effect of Government pressure on the Press? I think the lack of independence shown increasingly in the Press to-day is partially due to Government pressure. You have only to take two newspapers each of which has a great history, the "Times" and the "Observer." Look at them as they were in the past, and look at them to-day. They are still prosy but intellectually they are 1300 pitiful compared with their former selves. At one time you could say that the London "Times" was the national paper, but I ask you to look at its conduct during the recent crisis. It would not allow a single letter from any reputable person in opposition to the Government to appear in its columns during the crisis. In the days when it was a great newspaper it would have been proud to put in its columns letters disagreeing with its own leader columns, but it had not the courage, the fair play or decency to do that during the recent crisis. That I think is largely due to Government pressure, although in the case of that particular newspaper it may have been due partly to the foreign sympathies of its proprietors. I should like to compare the London "Times" with the "Daily Telegraph," a Conservative paper and one with which I am frequently in disagreement. At least it is an independent paper, a paper which expresses its own point of view. As a result it has largely taken the place of the "Times." For it is prepared to give letters from reputable people who may be in opposition to the Government or who may take a different point of view to its own leaders. In fact it represents, on the whole, educated Conservative middle-class opinion at present, and it has a considerable sense of fair play.
I was surprised during the crisis when, having lunch one day and seeing at the next table two hon. Members, I heard one say to the other, "Why has the Daily Telegraph 'gone Bolshie?" That, I take it, is the point of view of many people who perhaps read the "Times" and agree with the idea of Government interference with the Press—they regard any kind of independence as being "Bolshie." After all, why has the late Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) been called the "Red Duchess." The only reason why she is called the "Red Duchess" is not because of her views on the internal policy of this country but because she has an independent point of view on foreign policy. I understand that she and her husband have been accused of being violent Reds during the present by-election. I ask newspaper proprietors to look at this matter and ask themselves whether they really do gain by submitting to Government pressure. I believe that if you take the circulation of the "Daily Telegraph" 1301 and the "Times" you will find that the "Daily Telegraph" has gone up recently and the "Times" has gone down, and that is due to the fact that one paper is independent and interesting and the other is not.
Again I would ask newspaper proprietors to consider what has happened in Nazi Germany. Once you get newspapers allowed only to express the point of view of the Government people cease to read newspapers at all. The circulation of newspapers in Nazi Germany has dropped to a very small figure indeed compared with what it was when they had a free Press. And, of course, the whole influence of newspapers and newspaper proprietors has disappeared in Nazi Germany. What about other countries? Many of us fear that there is a habit growing up in this country of pressure on the Foreign Office by the German Government to try and prevent criticism of Germany in this country. We have cause for our fears because we have seen what has happened in other countries. Take Denmark. A Socialist paper in that country recently published a question put by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Acland) with regard to the fact that certain Jewish refugee children coming to this country had been found branded with the German Swastika. That was stated in this House and quoted by this newspaper in Denmark. The German Foreign Office protested and that newspaper had to withdraw it, to say that it was untrue and apologise profusely, because the Danish Government was too frightened of German pressure to allow the paper to stick to a statement made in this House.
§ Mr. Parker
Last summer, when I was in Sweden, I met a number of newspaper editors. They made great fun of the Danes because they said the Danes were so close to Germany that they had not any courage and were afraid to say what they really felt in their newspapers, but that in Sweden it was different and that they were quite prepared to say exactly what they wanted about Nazi Germany if they liked. I understand that recently the Socialist Government of that country 1302 has felt it wise to send out a letter to the newspaper proprietors asking them to be careful what they say about Germany as it might cause difficulties. It shows that increasing pressure is being brought to bear on newspapers in Scandinavia by Nazi Germany. We want to be careful that the same kind of thing does not happen in this country. We know that similar cases are happening in Switzerland and Belgium. As it is, Government pressure on newspapers is becoming stronger here. We know that last winter Herr Hitler was very perturbed by remarks made about him in the English Press, and told the Foreign Office that he would like them to stop, and that he objected to attacks being made on him in this country. I believe that it is essential that we should resist any attempt at interference with our Press from outside. If our British freedom is to continue, we must maintain the full and complete independence of our Press and its right to state what it likes about foreign Governments as well as about our own Government. It seems to me that the influence of the Government over the Press has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.
§ 9.56 p.m.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Ever since I have been in the House—and it is now nearly 3o years—there has always been some hon. Member who has been the champion mare's-nester. I remember that when I first came into the House—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Gorton (Mr. Benn) was also in the House at the time and he will remember it—there was an hon. Member on the Government side—I was then on the Opposition side—who had this childlike passion for mare's-nesting whom we, on our side of the House, used to call the "Mad Hatter." I am inclined to think that the mantle of the Mad Hatter has fallen upon the shoulders of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). We had an example to-day of his passion for mare's-nesting. He came to the House with his Motion. He told us it was a very harmless Motion that we ought to pass unanimously, and he then proceeded to support it, not with direct charges based upon facts, but by a series of innuendoes, a whole number of tentative questions, all of them obviously directed to attempting to discover something, all 1303 of them obviously showing to any impartial Member of the House that once again the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton is looking for mares' nests.
I propose to deal first of all, I will not say with the hon. Member's charges, for he did not make any charges, but with those of his innuendoes that were a little bit more definite than most of the other ones. I will begin with some of his innuendoes about the films and the Press. I will not disguise from the House that at one moment I was inclined to think that they really did not need an answer, but that it would probably be more convenient to the House that we should ignore them—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—and that we should go into the Lobby and pass the Amendment which has been moved by my hon. Friends. As I listened to the hon. Member, however, I remembered what was said yesterday by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) in his very interesting maiden speech. I do not know whether it surprised other hon. Members, but it surprised me when the hon. Member for Bridgwater said that of all the criticisms against the Government, that which had carried the most weight at the Bridgwater by-election was the criticism that the Government were trying to suppress the expression of public opinion in this country. I rubbed my eyes and wondered what justification there was for a criticism of that kind. None the less, according to the hon. Member for Bridgwater, it was a criticism that carried some weight with the electors at Bridgwater, and for that reason I had better deal with it to-night, and deal with it quite specifically.
Let us put an end once and for all to this whispering campaign that a great many people have started in the country. They go from one to the other, and they say, "Oh, yes, the newspapers will only put in what the Government wish; they would have taken a very different attitude in the crisis if it had not been for Government pressure; I have heard of this or that case of the Government threatening this or that newspaper, or bringing pressure to bear with regard to this or that film. "To-night, let me begin by stating quite categorically that there is no foundation whatever for the innuendoes in this whispering campaign. 1304 There never has been any justification for any suggestion that the Government are exercising a censorship either upon the Press or upon the films. There has never been any justification for the suggestion that we wish to suppress the expression of opinion that does not support the Government's view, and I challenge any hon. Member, as I challenged the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton in the course of his speech, to bring any definite evidence to refute the statement I have just made.
Let me now pass to some of the cases mentioned by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. [An HON. MEMBER: "Fetch him in."] Yes, the hon. Member has gone.
§ Sir S. Hoare
It is the hon. Member's Motion, and I should have thought that he would have stayed in the House during the course of the Debate. I hope that the hon. Member opposite will report to his hon. Friend the answer I have been making. Let me deal with the story of the Paramount film. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer clearly explained the position to the House, and subsequently my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave certain additional answers to the questions which were asked on the subject. Let hon. Members remember the actual date on which this incident took place. It was on 22nd September. It was brought to the notice of the Foreign Office on the morning of 22nd September that a news reel was being exhibited, with two speeches, both of which the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton quoted this evening, made in connection with a film "Life in Czechoslovakia" and the incidents that were taking place in Czechoslovakia. It probably was the most critical day in the whole course of the crisis. It was the day on which the Prime Minister went to Godesberg. If ever there was a day on which it was necessary to exercise caution and to say or do nothing that was likely to stir up dangerous reactions, it was the 22nd September. We were faced, as hon. 1305 Members will remember, with the urgent danger that a European war might take place within a comparatively few short hours. It was brought to the notice of the Foreign Office that this film waas being exhibited and that these speeches were being made. I ask any impartial Members who were in the House tonight, when the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton read extracts from those speeches, whether they were not the kind of speeches which would have inflamed the atmosphere at that particular moment.
§ Mr. Montague
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean then that speeches of that character must be censored, while all propaganda on the other side must be allowed to be shown? Why not censor the lot?
§ Sir S. Hoare
No, Sir. I certainly have no such meaning, as the hon. Member will see when I have finished dealing with this point. The Foreign Secretary was definitely of the opinion that it was undesirable that those two speeches should be heard while the talks at Godesberg were actually in progress on that particular date, 22nd September. There was no general kind of censorship. It was his view, with reference to that film, during the time the talks were going on at Godesberg, that, while he did not wish to apply any pressure—and he did not apply any pressure—and there was no question of censorship, those speeches might compromise the chances of peace.
§ Sir S. Hoare
No, it had nothing to do with the Government's policy. I would ask hon. Members to believe me when I say—though I dare say the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton will not believe it—that on 22nd September, faced with one of the greatest crises that ever confronted the world, we were not thinking of the fortunes of the National Government. We were thinking of much graver issues.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Nothing of the kind. Accordingly, my right hon. Friend informed the American Ambassador of his 1306 views and asked him to look into the question. The American Ambassador said he would do so and would communicate the Foreign Secretary's views to the managers of the Paramount Company and, on that, the managers of the Paramount company withdrew that particular film, at that time. There was no censorship, there was no undue pressure.
I come to the other two film cases to which the hon. Member made allusion. He alluded to a film which I think is called "The Siege of Lucknow." I will tell hon. Members what actually happened. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, I think about two years ago, was shown a film of the Indian Mutiny and asked his opinion about it. He advised the promoters not to proceed with it because he felt that it was the kind of film that would create the worst kind of feeling in India between the Indians and ourselves. It was the promoters of the film themselves who went to the Secretary of State for India in that case, and put the position before him.
When my right hon. Friend heard that there was to be another Indian Mutiny film, remembering the advice he had given two years ago, he, very naturally, asked for information about this film and discussed the question with the chairman of the Board of Film Censors. He made it quite clear that the responsibility was entirely on the shoulders of the chairman of the Board of Film Censors and that if they decided that the film should go on, there was nothing that he could or would do. But he did make it plain—and I believe it was the right course, and that any hon. Member here would take the same course—that to produce a film depicting scenes of the Indian Mutiny would be undesirable at this time, when we are just embarking upon a new chapter in the constitutional development of India, and when we want to get rid of the differences which there have been between us in the past. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Well, I think everyone wants to see the new Constitution in India a success. The chairman of the Board of Film Censors heard what my right hon. Friend said on the subject. He discussed the question with the promoters of the film, and the promoters of the film, so I understand, took the same view. They have no grievance in the matter at all and the film, I am glad to 1307 say, will not be exhibited [HON. MEMBERS: "Or produced."] Or produced. I assure hon. Members I am not making any party point—
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does it follow from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that, in order to avert anything in the nature of disorder in India or any feeling on this matter, we ought to destroy every reference to the Indian Mutiny?
§ Sir S. Hoare
No, Sir, certainly not, but if the hon. Gentleman saw the details of the film, I feel sure he would come to the same conclusion, that at this particular time we do not want a film of that kind, recalling in detail incidents of the Mutiny which may mean humiliation or defeat to one side or the other. In any case, as I say, there was no difference on the subject. The chairman of the Board of Film Censors took the same view, and I understand that the promoters of the film themselves have no cause for complaint.
I come now to the third of these cases which refers to the "March of Time" films. In regard to these, I say categorically to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton that no pressure at all has been put upon the producers of those films, and the fact that this or that incident may have been deleted from a film is, in no way, due to Government pressure. Any action that may have been taken has been taken by the chairman of the Board of Film Censors entirely upon his own responsibility.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
In the case of another film which was being made, steps have been taken to have cut out of it a certain historical incident. Would the right hon. Gentleman inquire why the Tolpuddle incident was cut out of the trade union film which was being produced as a documentary film?
§ Sir S. Hoare
I can only answer for what I am myself responsible for as a member of the Government, and I say that the Government have had nothing to do with any pressure, direct or indirect, to have that incident cut out of any film.
I come now to some of the other innuendoes of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. I come to the innuendoes about the attitude of the Foreign 1308 Office to the Press. The hon. Member gave a description of a confidential meeting which was supposed to have taken place at the Foreign Office last year. I cannot help wondering whether he is really doing a good service to the Press when he comes to this House and purports to give details of what happened at a confidential meeting. I should have thought it was not the way to encourage the free exchange of information between the Government and the Press. I should have thought it was not the best way for an hon. Member, who is not a member of the Government, to maintain the reputation of the Press, but that is for him to judge. What I can say to him is this, that since his speech I have been in communication with someone who was at this meeting, and he tells me that the account that the hon. Member gave of it bears no resemblance to what took place at the meeting at all. I am not going into further detail, because at any rate I am not going to disclose what happened at a confidential meeting, but I can tell him—he may or may not agree—that the account which he gave of this meeting does not in any way represent what actually took place at the meeting.
§ Mr. Mander
I have no doubt that the information given to the right hon. Gentleman is in accordance with the recollection of the person concerned, but I also had the advantage of talking to someone who was present, and he is convinced that the account that I gave was strictly accurate.
§ Sir S. Hoare
We must leave the matter there, and hon. Members must judge according to their own inclination as to which story they prefer to believe. I come now to the third of the innuendoes—the innuendo that affected myself. I was apparently the secret Press agent of the Government, feeding the Press up with dope during the crisis, with such immense influence—I wish indeed that I had it—that the Press were tamely taking everything I doled out to them—
§ Sir S. Hoare
—and the result was that there was little or no criticism of the Government during the crisis. Behind all these great events there was this very humble hidden hand directing the operations of this great independent service. Let me say to the House that here again 1309 there is no foundation whatever for the hon. Gentleman's charges. Like every Minister of every Government, Labour, Conservative—I am not sure that I should say Liberal, because it does not look as if there would be a Liberal Government for a very long time—every Minister, in every Government, has his relations with the Press. It is a very good thing for the Minister, and perhaps it is a very good thing for the Press. Every great Department must be in close relations with the Press, and the Press would very much resent the fact if there was not a close contact between the Ministers and their great Departments and the principal newspapers. I will admit the heinous offence that time after time during the crisis and since the crisis I have seen my friends in the Press. I—actually I am making all these confessions to the hon. Member, like an Oxford Group meeting—saw the Lobby correspondents to explain to them the very complicated details of my Penal Reform Bill. What heinous offences! I hope the House will forgive me for them. But as for putting undue pressure upon the Press, I could not do it if I would.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I have admitted contacts. Of course there were contacts, and my friends in the Lobby tell me there is no more assiduous Private Member in promoting his contacts with the Press than the hon. Member himself.
§ Sir S. Hoare
Let me not weary the House with these repudiations of the hon. Member's innuendoes, but let me say in a single sentence that there is no justification whatever for the charge that anything in the nature of a censorship, direct or indirect, was exercised during the crisis, or that any member of the Government put undue pressure upon any section of the Press at all. If I wanted evidence to justify what I am saying to the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, let me give him this. I take it from a paper with which I imagine he is in large sympathy, the "News Chronicle." It was on 24th November, after some of the hon. Member's questions in the House. It looks as if he is not on very good 1310 terms with his Press. On that day the "News Chronicle" in its leading article used these words:On Tuesday the Premier was asked in Parliament whether during the crisis any official or unofficial advice had been tendered by members of the Cabinet to owners or editors of newspapers. The Premier's reply was, "No." As far as the 'News Chronicle is concerned, we can testify that this denial is correct.I do not think I need say anything more upon that part of the hon. Member's case. The fact is that the Press as a whole want not less contact with Ministers, but more contact. Here, again, I will quote for the hon. Member's benefit, not my own unsupported view, the view of a reprobate Tory like myself, but the view of his own leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair). "Even during the recent emergency," said the right hon. Gentleman, journalists had complained to him about the extreme difficulty they had experienced in obtaining news about important events, and even of obtaining official confirmation or correction of news that other Governments were giving out.Democracy"—and I can hear the right hon. Gentleman using these words—is not an easy form of government to work. It requires strong leadership from Ministers, informed criticism from the Opposition"—I commend that observation to the hon. Member—and sufficient information to enable the public to make instructed judgment. Journalists, therefore, have a vital function to perform, especially in time of crisis, and it should be made easier for them in future.I agree that journalists have a vital function to perform in time of crisis, and I claim that upon the whole the Press of this country performed their functions during the crisis in a manner fully in harmony with their great traditions. They were not dragooned into taking this or that line as a result of Government pressure.
§ Sir S. Hoare
And not as a result of advertisers' pressure. I do not take the view of the hon. Member opposite that the Press of to-day is controlled by advertisers threatening to withdraw their advertisements.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I do not suggest that the Press are infallible, any more than I suggest that hon. Members are infallible, or that Members of this Government are infallible, but I do claim that during the crisis the Press fulfilled their vital functions, and fulfilled them with credit to the traditions of the British Press. There is nothing in the nature of censorship. If there had been we should soon have heard of it from the Press, and I am not so foolish as to think that the Press would have taken that kind of threat lying down. The relations between the Government and the Press were excellent during the crisis, and I challenge any hon. Member to ask those responsible for the papers with which his own party may be connected whether that was not the case. The Press behaved well, and I agree with everything that has been said in the course of the Debate as to the urgent necessity of maintaining these traditions and of doing nothing that would weaken the freedom of the Press.
I did not follow altogether the argument of the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague). He seemed to me, if I understood him aright, to suggest that newspapers should be answerable to this House for everything that they print. I should be horrified at any such contingency. That the Press should have to answer, presumably, to a majority in this House, and that is to say to a partisan majority, for what they decide to put in their papers or keep out of them—
§ Sir S. Hoare
Well, the hon. Member will see when he reads the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow that he very nearly said it. I was putting it mildly. I cannot imagine anything that would strike more directly at the freedom of the Press. I believe myself that the freedom of the Press, that is to say the free interchange of opinions, is an essential condition of constitutional government, and as long as I am a member of any Government I should always oppose any action that directly or indirectly seemed to challenge the foundations of that freedom.
To-night I might go further and say something about the charges that have been made about the enforcement of the Official Secrets Acts, but obviously there is not time. What I will say is that I stand by every word that I said when I gave the undertaking to the House that 1312 Section 6 of the Act of 1920 would be brought into operation only upon issues of grave importance.
I can tell my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), who made an appeal to me, that I am at the moment looking into the question whether or not it would be practicable to put my undertaking into statutory form. I do not think I can give the House any pledge to-night, and I should be disingenuous if I did not tell hon. Members that it is very difficult to give statutory form to an undertaking that, with the best will in the world, has behind it necessarily a certain amount of uncertainty as to the conditions of the time when it may have to be implemented. None the less—I say this in passing because there is no time to elaborate the argument, and in response to the appeal of my hon. Friend—I am looking into this question. Anyhow, whether I should succeed in putting it in statutory form or not, I can repeat the undertaking that I gave in May that this unusual procedure of Section 6 of the Act will be applied only in cases of the gravest importance to the safety and the welfare of the State.
I have dealt, I think faithfully, with the hon. Gentleman's innuendoes, and I hope that I have said enough to show that it was quite unnecessary for the hon. Member to propose any Motion of this kind at all and that there was no justification for his suspicions; and that being so, if the House thinks fit after this Debate to go to a Division, I hope that hon. Members will insist that the words of the Amendment be added to the Motion. Otherwise, the hon. Member might be able to leave the House to-night with a feeling that his vague and unsupported innuendoes, about which we heard so much in his speech, really had some foundation behind them.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman began his speech by accusing my hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) of being the champion discoverer of mares' nests. He proceeded to deal with the principal charge which my hon. Friend had brought and to substantiate practically all the facts that my hon. Friend gave. I am referring to the question of the Paramount news film. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that this was brought to the notice of the Foreign 1313 Office—he did not say by whom—on 22nd September. He said, of course quite frankly, that it was one of the most critical days of the crisis. He said that what the Government did did not amount to a censure. Of course, formally that was perfectly true, but the effect was precisely the same as though there had been a censorship of the Press. Are we seriously asked by a Minister of the Crown to believe that the conversations which were taking place on that day, or may be the next day, at Godesberg, between the Prime Minister and Herr Hitler would really have been affected by the news films displayed at a London cinema? Is that the proposition which the right hon. Gentleman is seriously putting before the House of Commons? I do not suppose that any hon. Member will believe it for a moment.
The Home Secretary did not dispute any part of the narrative of the film as given by my hon. Friend. The film was concerned with what had been done at Berchtesgaden. What was done there by this country was a matter of acute political controversy. There was the greatest feeling about it. The point which the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to meet was that all the time there were other news films—news films which supported the Government, news films which extolled the Prime Minister; but no sort of check was put upon them. Every kind of propaganda through the news film could be used in support of the Government, but, when there was one film which was critical of the Government, steps were taken to prevent it from being shown to the public. So far as that, which was the principal charge made by my hon. Friend to-night, is concerned, it is admitted in substance by the Home Secretary.
It seemed to me that there was one very remarkable omission from the Home Secretary's speech. A matter of some importance, as I think, was referred to by my hon. Friend, and in greater detail by the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Parker) a few minutes ago. He referred to the time, which must be fresh in the recollection of the Home Secretary, of the Hoare-Laval plan. I do not think the Home Secretary was in the House when the hon. Member spoke, but I think he was informed of what had been said. The allegation made was that, at the time 1314 of the Hoare-Laval plan, when the agreement had been arrived at by the right hon. Gentleman and M. Laval the details of that plan were known to the correspondents of British newspapers, but they were asked—I think I may say requested—not to reveal the existence of that plan to their newspapers and to the British public; and, it was only through the medium of the French Press that the news came to this House and to the country. It seemed to me rather remarkable that that, which was one of the most serious of the allegations made from the Opposition benches, was not replied to by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Sir S. Hoare
I am delighted to reply to it now. As far as I was concerned, I had no responsibility whatever for what happened. On the day following the Hoare-Laval Agreement I went to Switzerland, and on the next day I had the bad luck to fall on the ice and break my nose; and, as to any dealings with the Press I never had any at any time.
§ Mr. Foot
The right hon. Gentleman cannot get out of it in that way. No one has suggested that the right hon. Gentleman himself interviewed the Press. All that we have said is that an interview did take place, on behalf of the Government, with someone representing the Government. To that, apparently, the right hon. Gentleman chooses not to reply.
He went on to refer in his speech to the Official Secrets Acts, and I was glad to hear his assurance that he is considering an Amendment of those Acts. He referred to the undertaking that he gave in May. I do not underrate the value of that undertaking, which was to the effect that the powers of interrogation contained in Section 6 of the Official Secrets Act, 1920, would not be used without the express permission of the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General. Of course, that undertaking was given in all good faith, but in these days Home Secretarys and Attorneys-General are transient and embarrassed phantoms, here to-day and gone to some other Department tomorrow, and we really need something more than the assurance of some temporary office-holder. That is why we should certainly welcome an amendment of the Official Secrets Acts. But I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman brings in his Bill to amend the Acts during the present Session, he will go very much 1315 further than merely putting into statutory form the assurance which he gave to the House a few months ago.
It seems to me that in this matter the Press have a perfectly legitimate grievance. They are quite right to view with alarm the use against journalists of the powers of interrogation contained in Section 6 of the Act of 1920, because, after all, nothing similar to those powers, nothing that compares with them in any way, is to be found anywhere else in our Statute law. They run completely contrary to the whole trend of our criminal law in this country. Apart from this Section, I do not think there is any other case where people are bound to answer police interrogation. There are obvious objections to compelling people to answer questions which are put to them by persons in authority. Nobody who reads the Debates on the 1920 Bill can possibly doubt that those powers contained in Section 6 were passed by this House in the belief that they would be applied only in order to circumvent spies and spying, and there is no good reason why they should not now be confined to those purposes. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that when drafting his amending legislation. I hope he will also consider this: It is a cardinal principle of English law that no man shall be compelled to be his own accuser. There are certain powers of interrogation in the Indian penal code. The right hon. Gentleman has referred in laudatory terms to the Indian code. Even in that code any person is entitled in such circumstances to refuse to reply on the ground that his answer would tend to incriminate him. It is remarkable that His Majesty's subjects in the United Kingdom are denied that degree of freedom which is given to His Majesty's subjects in British India.
The right hon. Gentleman rather appeared to suggest that the Motion which my hon. Friend has placed on the Paper was unnecessary. Personally, I do not take that view, and I think that if this Motion is passed this Debate will have served an exceedingly useful purpose, for two reasons. First, because earlier this year the suggestion did come from the German Government that we should muzzle our Press in this country, and prevent it from saying anything which might be offensive 1316 to the German dictator. That sort of suggestion does not come only from Germany. We have heard even in this House from time to time suggestions that we should be prevented from saying things offensive to the dictator in Germany. Secondly, it seems to me that this Motion would be of value because I think the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), in that maiden speech to which we all listened with great appreciation yesterday, was right when he said that there was widespread fear in the country that our freedom of speech is seriously threatened. It may perhaps be an unfounded suspicion, but I suggest to the Home Secretary that it is there, and it is not due to an accident. It is not due even to innunedoes put about by Members of the Opposition party. It exists, and it is due to the totalitarian temper recently displayed by Cabinet Ministers. Of course, one need not go further than the Prime Minister. First of all, there was the particular passage to which the hon. Member for Bridgwater referred. When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made a criticism of the Munich Agreement, a criticism which represented what was in the minds of millions of electors in this country, we all recall the terms in which he was rebuked by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister accused him of fouling his own nest, and said that that did not happen in the totalitarian States.
§ Mr. Baxter
I apologise for butting in, but I remember the incident very well. When the Prime Minister made that statement, the Leader of the Opposition got up and objected, and the Prime Minister said that he was not referring to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Foot
I am speaking from recollection. I have not got the quotation here; but I think that if the hon. Member looks it up he will find that I am right. The Prime Minister did use that phrase in referring to what the Leader of the Opposition said. I was going to say, when I was interrupted by the hon. Member opposite, that of course these things are not done in the totalitarian States for the simple reason that all the critics are inside concentration camps. When remarks of that kind fall from the Prime Minister he has only himself to thank if he and his Government are suspected of totalitarian sympathies. Let me give the hon. 1317 Member another quotation. I go back a few months earlier to the time when this House was dealing with the Anglo-Italian Agreement. I am sure that many hon. Members will recall the peroration that was used by the Prime Minister on that occasion. He referred to Fascist Italy in these terms:To-day there is a new Italy, an Italy which, under the stimulus of the personality of Signor Mussolini, is showing new vigour, in which there is apparent new vision and new efficiency in administration, and in the measures which they are taking to improve the conditions of their people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd May, 1938; cols. 545 and 546, Vol. 335.]In the whole of that passage from a Prime Minister of this country there was no suggestion of any kind that there was anything in the Italian Fascist regime to which we here could object. In view of utterances of that kind it is of some importance that we should discuss such a Motion as this and that we should lay it down for the information of some foreign governments and for the information too of some of our own statesmen that this House will not brook any form of censorship or control of the Press.
Finally, I want to say one word about the speech made by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment. He started off by giving a well-known quotation from John Stuart Mill about persons who might possibly find themselves in a minority of one. I am quite certain that the hon. Gentleman will never find himself in that predicament. I agree very strongly with one observation which fell from him in the course of his speech, when he said that one of the great dangers to freedom was the process of attrition, the process of the whittling away the foundation on which liberty rests. That is what we in this part of the House have been saying for a very long time, and we have had many occasions to point to the signs of that process going on during the last six or seven years. When we have done so and have made our protests time after time, I cannot recall that we have ever had the slightest support, assistance, or encouragement from the followers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. May I remind the hon. Member and one or two of his friends of some of the things which have happened in the last year or two, some of which I think have a considerable bearing on the subject which the House is considering to-night.
1318 The hon. Gentleman said perfectly rightly that the first bulwark of liberty is in this House, and again I would agree with him, but it is the Government which he supports which passed the Unemployment Act of 1934, putting hundreds of thousands of unemployed households under the jurisdiction of a Board without any form of constant Parliamentary control. In the same year we had the Incitement to Disaffection Bill. I remember how we fought that Bill upstairs. Mr. Mallalieu, the Member for Colne Valley, and the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) moved Amendments which were accepted. I remember how that Measure was described by a great Conservative lawyer as the greatest assault on the liberty of the subject ever attempted by an executive Government at a time which was not a time of emergency. I do not think that in making these Amendments we had any support or assistance at all from the followers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
We had about the same time the Visiting Forces Bill, the first Bill brought into this House for many centuries which abrogated in some degree the right of any person who thought he had been wrongly imprisoned to sue out a writ of Habeas Corpus. Then we have had the constant encroachments of the Departments. We had only in 1932 the Report of the Committee upon Ministers' powers, making very emphatic recommendations. Nearly all of those recommendations have been constantly ignored in the legislation introduced by His Majesty's Government in recent years. And, finally, we had had the use of the powers contained in the Official Secrets Acts for purposes which were never envisaged or intended by the Parliaments which passed those Acts. For these reasons my hon. Friends and I think that it is essential that Resolutions of this kind shall from time to time be brought before this House, and that is why I hope this Motion will be passed without Amendment.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Spens
We have just heard a very able party speech from the hon. Gentleman, and I have listened this evening during all the time that has passed since half-past seven to a number of speeches, particularly that of the proposer of the Motion, which were intended to score party points against His Majesty's Gov- 1319 ernment. But I keep wondering, in this world of ours where we are witnessing a struggle of democracy against totalitarian systems, whether there was not an enormous victory for democracy during those days of crisis; that, in fact, though we mobilised, though we called out our Territorials, though we were prepared to meet an invading force at any moment, here in this British democracy we never had to put censorship on the Press at all. Is there any other nation in the world which would have gone up to that very last moment before war without having to muzzle its Press? Surely that was due to two things. It was due, first of all, to the sense of responsibility which the Press showed during those days leading up to the crisis; and, secondly, it was due to the realisa-
§ tion by His Majesty's Government, that the fight is not between the National Government and the Labour or Liberal Opposition but between the principles of free democracy and totalitarianism. It took no steps whatever to impose censorship of the Press in order to preserve our liberties and show the world that in this country we could use our liberties with discretion and responsibility right up to the very last moment of crisis. For that reason, I hope that the House will pass the Motion, but with the Amendment, so as to do justice to His Majesty's Government and the principles for which they stand.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 171; Noes, 124.1321
|Division No.13.]||AYES.||[10.55 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Errington, E.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.|
|Anderson, Sir A. Garrett (C. of Ldn.)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Fildes, Sir H.||Macdonald, Capt. T. (Isle of Wight)|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Fleming, E. L.||McKie, J. H.|
|Balfour, G. (Hampstead)||Furness, S. N.||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Gtuckstein, L. H.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. H.|
|Baxter, A. Beverley||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Markham, S. F.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'is)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Granville, E. L.||Mayhew, Ll.-Col. J.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Gretton, Col. Rt. Hon. J.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Moore-Brabazon, Lt.-Col. J. T C.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Grimeton, R. V.||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Hambro, A. V.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Hammersley, S. S.||Munro, P.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Hannon, Sir P. J. H,||Nall, Sir J.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Harbord, A.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J,|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Bull, B. B.||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Butler, R. A.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hepworth, J.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth)||Perkins, W. R. D.|
|Cary, R. A.||Higgs, W. F.||Petherick, M.|
|Cayzer, Sir H. R. (Portsmouth, S.)||Hears Rt. Hon. S[...]r S.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Channon, H.||Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Pilkington, R.|
|Chapman. A. (Rutherglen)||Holdsworth, H.||Porritt, R. W.|
|Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)||Holmes, J. S.||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Carry Sir Reginald||Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Hopkinson, A.||Reid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Courthope, Col. Rt. Hon. Sir G. L.||Howitt. Dr A. B.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cox Trevor||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Crooke, Sir J. Smedley||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Hume, Sir G, H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Cuiverwell, C. T.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Davies Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|De Chair, S. S.||Joel, D, J. B.||Salt, E. W.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Shakespeare, G. H.|
|Durdale, Captain T. L.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Duggan, H. J.||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Smith, Sir Louis (Hallam)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Lancaster, Captain C. G.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Leech, Sir J. W.||Somerset, T.|
|Edmendson, Major Sir J.||Lees-Jones, J.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Ellison, Capt. G. S..||Liddall, W. S.||Spans, W. P.|
|Emery J. F.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Storey, S.|
|Emmott, C. E. G. G||Lloyd, G. W.||Strauss, H. C. (Norwich)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Loftus, P. C.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Entwistle, Sir C. F.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and aim)|
|Tasker, Sir R. I||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Thomas, J. P. L.||Waterhouse, Captain C.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Titchfield, Marquess of||Watt, Major C. S. Harvie||Wood, Hon. C. I. C.|
|Tufnell, Lieut.-Commander R. L.||Wayland, Sir W. A.||Young, A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Walker-Smith, Sir J.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.||Mr. Beechman and Sir Stanley Reed.|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Pearson, A.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Mayday, A.||Pethick-Lowrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Price, M. P.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Pritt, D. N.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Quibell, D J. K.|
|Adamson, W. M.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ridley, G.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Riley, B.|
|Barnes, A. J.||John, W.||Ritson, J|
|Batey, J.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Kelly, W. T.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Benson, G.||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Seely, Sir H. M.|
|Broad, F. A.||Kirby, B. V.||Sexton. T. M.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Silverman, S. S.|
|Burke, W. A.||Leach, W.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Cape, T.||Lee, F.||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leonard, W.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Cooks, F. S.||Leslie, J. R.||Smith, T. (Normanton)|
|Collindridge, F.||Logan, D. G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lunn, W.||Stephen, C.|
|Crippe, Hon. Sir Stafford||Macdonald, G. (Ince)||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Daggar, G.||McEntee, V. La T.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Dalton, H.||McGhee, H. G.||Thurtie, E.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||McGovern, J.||Tinker. J. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||MacLaren, A.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Day, H.||MacMillan, M. (Western Isles)||Viant, S. P.|
|Dobbie, W.||MacNeill Weir, L.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Mander, G. le M.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Mothers, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Messer, F.||White, H. Graham|
|Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Milner, Major J.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Gallacher, W.||Montague, F.||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Gardner, B. W.||Morgan, J. (York, W.R., Doncaster)||Wilson, G. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Garro Jones. G. M.||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Muff, G.||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Gibbins, J.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Noel-Baker, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE ROES.—|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||Oliver, G. H.||Sir Percy Harris and Mr. Dingle|
|Groves, T. E.||Parker, J.||Foot.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Parkinson, J. A.|
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.
That this House, attaching the utmost importance to the maintenance undiminished of British democratic traditions of the liberty of expression of opinion, both in the Press and in public meetings and also in other media such as cinema films, would greatly deplore any action by the Government of the day which tended to set up any form of political censorship or which exercised pressure direct or indirect, but is fully satisfied that His Majesty's Government have maintained these traditions unimpaired.
§ The Orders of the day were read, and postponed.