HC Deb 06 March 1939 vol 344 cc1745-7
45. Mr. J. P. Morris

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that certain organs of the Press during the past few years have continuously published alarming statements regarding the international situation, which in many cases were grossly exaggerated, and in others false; that such publications have caused great damage to many sections of our people; and will he consider introducing legislation to impose penalties upon the publication of demonstrably false news which results in causing anxiety and loss to the business community, the Stock Exchange, and the general public?

The Prime Minister

I am aware that sensational and inaccurate statements on the international situation have not infrequently been published by certain sections of the Press. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and I myself have, on a number of occasions, emphasised the importance of restraint on the part of the Press in dealing with foreign affairs, a view, I am happy to say, which is fully shared by the more responsible journalists and newspapers in this country and by the bodies representative of their interests. I trust that their influence may be sufficient to keep the undesirable practice referred to in check.

Mr. Morris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that on Friday last in the lunch edition of the "Evening Standard" there appeared a report that Italy had called up 1,000,000 men including those rejected as being too small, that subsequently such report was proved to be false but pending its denial widespread consternation was caused to our people, and there was great loss to the business community, and is he aware that such reports are not conducive to the successful conclusion of his peace policy?

Miss Wilkinson

May we have an assurance from the Prime Minister that, whatever may be the effect on the nerves of the Stock Exchange, there shall be no censorship of the Press in this country?

Mr. Garro Jones

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he introduces legislation which effectively prevents the publication of false news and views it will be most disastrous for the prospects of the Government at the next General Election?

Mr. G. Strauss

Is the Prime Minister aware that, in point of fact, a large number of newspapers supporting His Majesty's Government habitually gloss over the serious international situation with a false, misleading and dangerous optimism?

Mr. Lawson

Is there not a good deal of resentment at the publication of some of the news with regard to other countries which is true, and will the right hon. Gentleman when he introduces legislation bear this point in mind?

The Prime Minister

I have no intention of introducing legislation.