HC Deb 28 July 1943 vol 391 cc1547-9
2. Mr. Astor

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he has now received an answer from the Minister Resident in North Africa regarding the termination of facilities for British news correspondents, other than war correspondents, to operate in North Africa; and whether he can now make a further statement?

8. Mr. G. Strauss

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Press representatives in Algiers are now limited to war correspondents, or whether civilian correspondents are given facilities to visit that country and report to the British public on the political developments taking place there?

Mr. Eden

I have now received further reports from the Resident Minister at Algiers about the position of Press correspondents in the North African theatre of operations. These reports make it clear that there has been some misunderstanding which I should like to clear up. It is not simply a question of Allied Force Headquarters giving permission for correspondents to come out and then leaving them to their own devices. In present circumstances all correspondents in North Africa are entirely dependent on Allied Force Headquarters for accommodation, transport and the transmission of messages. These facilities are for material reasons strictly limited, and operational requirements must naturally take priority. It is thus from necessity and not from choice that the Allied military authorities have from the first limited the total number of Press correspondents in the North African theatre. The present quota is two correspondents per newspaper or six per news agency. As a matter of practical convenience these correspondents are accredited as war correspondents, but there is nothing to prevent them being used to report on political as well as military matters.

As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) on 14th July, Allied Force Headquarters gave permission for ten additional correspondents outside the quota to go to North Africa for a month at the time of the Giraud-de Gaulle negotiations there, so as to enable leading British and American newspapers adequately to cover this important political event. Concessions of this sort must inevitably be exceptional, since it would otherwise be impossible to keep the total of correspondents within manageable limits, but if any British newspaper can show that it is genuinely unable to cover the field within the existing quota, I will do my best to ensure that its claims will meet with sympathetic consideration.

Mr. Astor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that out of 93 correspondents in North Africa all but 15 are American, and that the sending back of this half-dozen English political correspondents did appear to be unfair discrimination against the British Press?

Mr. Eden

My hon. Friend's figures are entirely inaccurate. There are 20 representatives of American news agencies in North Africa and 12 of British news agencies. There are 18 representatives of American newspapers and 18 of British newspapers, exactly the same number. We have Empire representatives over and above that.

Mr. G. Strauss

Does that answer mean that if any daily newspaper in this country desires to send out two accredited representatives to Algiers, those representatives in Algiers would be given every facility for communicating with their paper?

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. As I pointed out, it is quite immaterial whether those two correspondents they are allotted are military or political; that is for the newspaper itself to decide. But there has to be a limit because of the amount of stuff that has to be transmitted.

Mr. Thomas

Is there a limit of one month during which correspondents may stay there?

Mr. Eden

That was a special arrangement. The figures I have given of two per paper and six per agency are accurate, and there is no time limit.