HC Deb 20 March 1941 vol 370 cc283-5
7 and 45. Mr. G. Strauss

asked (1) the Minister of Labour whether, in view of his appeal to local authorities not to dismiss employés who, in pursuance of the right granted,to them by Parliament, have been exempted from military service on grounds of conscience, he will look into the cases of Mr. F. W. T. Atkin and Mr. J. Clapham, skilled technicians on the British Broadcasting Corporation, who have been dismissed for this reason; although, in Mr. Clapham's case, he was granted total exemption on condition he continued his work at the British Broadcasting Corporation;

(2)asked the Prime Minister whether the Government have now looked into the matter of political discrimination by the British Broadcasting Corporation in regard to the employment of its artistes and technicians?

The Prime Minister (Mr. Churchill)

I will answer these two Questions together. The British Broadcasting Corporation have informed me that they have reconsidered the cases of those artistes who attended the People's Convention, and have decided that they shall not be debarred from giving performances on the broadcast in the normal way as opportunity arises. It is no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to accord the special facilities of the microphone to persons whose words and actions are calculated to hamper the nation in its struggle for life. But the connection between this and musical and dramatic performances of all kinds, or the relation of such performances to political acts and opinions, are not apparent or worth while establishing.

In regard to Question No. 7, the rights which have been granted in this war and the last to conscientious objectors are well-known, and are a definite part of British policy. Anything in the nature of persecution, victimisation, or man-hunting is odious to the British people. It is quite a different matter, however, to employ conscientious objectors in highly confidential and responsible technical work. This should be reserved for those who are fully in support of the national war effort. The decision in this case was for the British Broadcasting Corporation, but I cordially endorse it.

Mr. Strauss

Arising out of that reply, part of which will give great satisfaction, might I ask whether we are to take it that a man who exercises the right given him by Parliament, and chooses to be a conscientious objector, will in future be allowed to broadcast music, or, if a technician employed in work not of a specially confidential nature, will be allowed to retain his employment?

The Prime Minister

If he were allowed to broadcast, it would be in his capacity as a musician, or a musical performer, and would not have any relation to his political or conscientious views. I think we should have to retain a certain amount of power in the selection of the music. Very spirited renderings of "Deutschland Uber Alles" would hardly be permissible.

Mr. Bevan

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that we are not asking that a person's music should be broadcast because he is not sympathetic to the national effort? But, in the case of these technicians, the tribunals have very often granted them exemption on condition that they remain at their jobs, yet it seems that, after that, they are dismissed by authorities deriving their authority from Parliament. Is not that extremely undesirable?

The Prime Minister

I think that, on the whole, I have stated the view of the vast majority of people in this country.

Mr. Neil Maclean

Arising out of the first part of the Answer, dealing with the removal of the ban upon those who attended a People's Convention, I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether the removal of the ban is also going to apply to such individuals as, for example, the conductor of the Scottish Orpheus Orchestra, who has also been banned with his choir from giving a concert over the radio because he has pacifist views?

The Prime Minister

I see no reason to suppose that the holding of pacifist views would make him play flat.

Mr. Maclean

Is not the Prime Minister aware that evidently the Governors of the B.B.C. play flat, and will he give a direct answer to the question of whether it covers such cases as I have indicated?

The Prime Minister

My endeavour is to make them play up.

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