HC Deb 03 July 1940 vol 362 cc835-6
45. Sir H. Morris-Jones

asked the Prime Minister whether he will give an assurance to the House that no curtailment will be made of the full liberty hitherto enjoyed by the Press to express a free and unfettered opinion about every aspect of the conduct of the war or to comment on any attempts from any quarter to initiate peace discussions?

Mr. Attlee

The policy of the Government is to interfere as little as possible with the liberties of the Press to express freely their opinions and comments on the conduct of the war or on supposed peace overtures. But it must be recognised that statements can be put out in the guise of opinion, which either give information of value to the enemy or are calculated to impede our war effort by weakening the resolution of the public. The Government are not prepared to give any assurance that the publication of such statements will not be interfered with.

Commander Sir Archibald Southby

Has the attention of my right hon. Friend been called to a recent manifesto issued by the Communist party, and are the Government taking any steps in the matter?

Mr. Attlee

My attention has not been called to it.

Sir A. Southby

If I submit the manifesto to my right hon. Friend, will he submit it to the War Cabinet and see whether steps can be taken about it?

Mr. Cocks

Why were the Press told a fortnight ago not to criticise the composition of the present Government?

Sir H. Morris-Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, so far as any fair political comment is concerned, no restrictions of any kind will be imposed on the Press?

Mr. Attlee

Certainly. I explained in answer to the Question that it was only where there was any question of giving information of value to the enemy or impeding our war effort that there would be any restrictions; otherwise, the Government are not in favour of interfering with the free expression of opinion.

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