HC Deb 23 November 1943 vol 393 cc1418-9
16. Commander Locker-Lampson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been drawn to the character of the "Eighth Army News," published in Africa; who is the proprietor of this organ, the editor, and the author of the attacks on Gracie Fields and upon E.N.S.A., respectively?

Sir J. Grigg

This paper is issued for the Eighth Army and is run by an editorial staff responsible to the General Officer Commanding. It owes its popularity with the troops to the freedom with which it expresses the Army's views, and I am naturally anxious to interfere with this as little as possible. A new branch has, however, been formed in the War Office to give advice to editors of these Army newspapers and to help them in supplying material for them. These newspapers are principally intended to provide news, and the commands concerned have been reminded that the editors must exercise circumspection in expressing their views particularly as they may be very widely quoted.

Colonel Arthur Evans

Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether the personnel of the new branch which has been formed in the War Office has been drawn on generally from professional classes or journalists?

Sir J. Grigg

The head of the branch certainly is a journalist.

Mr. Shinwell

Is it to be understood that no restriction will be imposed by the War Office upon this paper and those associated with it, so long as it does not interfere with the war effort and merely expresses an opinion about comedians, artists or politicians? Surely, that is to be allowed?

Sir J. Grigg

I would not like to give a categorical answer to that question, because some objections have been made on political grounds by members of the hon. Gentleman's own party.

Commander Locker-Lampson

Has not the time come to have fair play for Gracie Fields?