HC Deb 21 July 1942 vol 381 cc1399-401
Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (by Private Notice)

asked the Minister of Information whether the statement regarding the Members who recently tabled a Motion of "No Confidence" made by a Ministry of Information speaker at Bournemouth was made by his authority and with his knowledge and, if not, what action he proposes to take in the matter?

The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)

No, Sir. This statement was not made with my authority nor with my knowledge. It is the wish of the Ministry that remarks of the kind attributed to this speaker should not be made at meetings organised by them.

Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne

Will the Minister of Information make completely public the announcement he has now given and also make it perfectly clear that the statements made were not made with his consent or authority and that in fact the publication of this denial will have as widespread notice in the Press as the statements which have been made?

Mr. Bracken

Already the Ministry of Information have issued a public statement on this question, but any statement made by a Minister in this House is, I think, most widely reported, and no special steps are therefore necessary.

Mr. De la Bère

Do not the speakers of the Ministry of Information do more harm than good?

Earl Winterton

Why has the old rule that a stipendiary magistrate should not take part in public political controversy been departed from in the case of Sir Gervais Rentoul, and will my right hon. Friend bring the matter to the attention of the Home Secretary?

Mr. Bracken

I personally have no authority over stipendiary magistrates, but I believe that stipendiary magistrates are allowed to make what are called patriotic speeches, but neither a stipendiary magistrate nor anyone should abuse the facilities given by the Ministry of Information, because all these meetings will break up in disorder if Members or speakers get up and express violent controversial views.

Mr. De la Bère

Would it not be better to ban the meetings altogether?

Sir A. Southby

In view of the statement made by Sir Gervais Rentoul in yesterday's Press, will my right hon. Friend consider the advisability of not again giving him the facilities of the Ministry of Information platform?

Mr. Granville

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether, in view of the fact that hundreds of Ministry of Information speakers speak all over the country from week to week, his Department give them their briefs, and was a brief given in this particular case; and will the right hon. Gentleman put a copy of some of these briefs in the Library of the House of Commons so that Members can see them?

Mr. Bracken

The Ministry of Information do not provide briefs for speakers. Like the Duke of Wellington, who said he was much at the mercy of authors, the Minister of Information is much at the mercy of speakers. I am asked to provide speakers for 500 meetings every week, and I do not rest easily in my bed with the terrible responsibility resting on my shoulders that at any time a Member of Parliament may get up and ask whether an indiscretion has been made by some speaker. But, taking it all in all, I think it is remarkable that so few gaffes have been made.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones

Is it not a breach of the Privileges of this House that money voted by this House to a Department of State should be used by that Department in order to cast reflections upon the free will of Members of Parliament?

Sir A Knox

Cannot the Minister stop Ministry of Information speeches altogether, as he did in the case of Members in constituencies?

Mr. Bracken

If it were a question of studying my own personal comfort, I should take some notice of my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion, but there is a real demand all over the country for these meetings, and I am prepared to fulfil that demand.

Mr. De la Bère

Are they not stirring up ill-will?