HC Deb 14 October 1943 vol 392 cc1036-7
28 and 29. Captain Alan Graham

asked the Home Secretary (1) whether his attention has been drawn to an article, under a false name, in the "Tribune" newspaper of l0th September, attacking the head of an allied foreign State resident in this country, and complementary to a more abusive article in the "Daily Worker" of i4th September; and whether he will warn both concerned that persistence in this campaign of British newspapers against Britain's Ally, Poland, will furnish grounds for their suspension from publication;

(2) whether, in the interests of the United Nations and the better prosecution of the war, he will consider the reimposition of the ban on the "Daily Worker" for their systematic campaign of abuse and denigration against the Government of Poland, as specially evinced in their article of 14th September?

Mr. H. Morrison

I have seen the article attacking the Polish Government in the "Daily Worker" for 14th September, and also the article in "Tribune" for l0th September. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend in deploring abusive attacks on an Allied Government in the British Press. While our Allies will not look for an immunity from criticism which is neither accorded to nor sought by His Majesty's Government, responsible and reputable organs of the British Press recognise that restraint and courtesy should be used in discussing those Governments and particularly the heads of States who are our guests in this country. My powers of interference with the free expression of opinion in the Press are strictly limited, at the wish of the House, to the minimum necessary to prevent the conduct of propaganda which endangers the prosecution of the war, and, while I shall keep a watch for mischievous attacks on our Allies, I do not at present think that I should be justified in taking the action suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend.

Sir Alfred Beit

Are not such attacks equally undesirable when they appear in "Soviet War News"?

Mr. G. Strauss

Is it not the case that the article in "Tribune" was a statement of objective fact, the truth of which has not been denied by anybody, that it was not abusive, and that it was plainly written in the best interests of the democratic cause for which the Allies are fighting; and have not the British Press just as much right to comment on the personnel and actions of Allied Governments as they have to comment on the actions or personnel of the British Government?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think I could accept my hon. Friend's description of the article. I have made no reflection on the British Press as a whole. The British Press as a whole sees the obvious point that if there is controversy in the public Press as to the heads of other Governments and those Governments, it cannot be helpful to the unity of the Allies' cause.

Mr. Gallacher

Is the Minister not aware that if he were to ban newspapers in this country for attacks and slanders on the Allies, there would be a wholesale closing down of papers in this country? Is he not further aware that, in view of the character—the vicious character—of the Polish Press, he should commend to the questioner the remark of the War Minister, that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander?

Captain Graham

On a point of Order. May I ask the hon. Member to withdraw his slander on the Press of an allied nation? It is absolutely and positively untrue to assert that the official Polish Press is in any way vicious.