HC Deb 31 July 1946 vol 426 cc943-5
48. Mr. Stokes

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whether he is aware that' a copy of HANSARD addressed to the Cardinal Archbishop of Berlin, has been returned to the hon. Member for Ipswich, marked "Contrary to Regulations "; and if he will now modify the rules which prevent reports and books being sent to religious and political leaders in Germany.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Hynd)

Postal regulations are governed by Quadripartite decision and provide at present only for correspondence dealing with social and domestic matters in mails to and from Germany. The desirability of extending these regulations to enable the inclusion of newspapers, periodicals and books is recognised and the possibilities of such an extension are now under examination. As my hon. Friend is aware, an experimental scheme is already in torce whereby political leaders in Germany may receive newspapers and reports, including the weekly edition of HANSARD, through official channels. This scheme is now being reviewed and possible extensions are being considered.

Mr. Stokes

But is my hon. Friend aware that, as far as I know, none other of the tributaries to the Quadripartite Agreement, which has already been burst wide open, has anything corresponding to HANSARD? Further, does he not think it important that, as we are trying to persuade people to indulge in democratic government, the full record of this House should be made available as fully as possible and as widely as possible to all enemy nationals?

Mr. Hynd

I agree that it is highly desirable, and it is for that reason we are trying to get agreement to extend the present quota possibilities by Quadripartite Agreement. It seemed to me that my hon. Friend was suggesting that the Quadripartite Agreement has been burst wide open. On the contrary, we are trying to get agreement on all these matters.

Mr. Driberg

By what authority does my hon. Friend's Department, or any other Department, interfere with the correspondence of hon. Members of this House? If my hon. Friend had written a letter to the Archbishop and enclosed a cutting from HANSARD, would that have been returned?

Mr. Hynd

I should say, "No." The question is what constitutes a letter and what constitutes a newspaper or a periodical. The fact is that we are committed 10 the quadripartite government of Germany and we are obtaining, as far as we possibly can, agreement on these matters. There has been no difficulty so far on the matter of postal regulations.

Mr. Stanley

Is it a fact that it would be perfectly all right for the hon. Gentleman to send his own speech to the Archbishop, but the fact that he sent every- body else's speeches as well made it illegal?

Mr. Hynd

The regulations have been published and are well known. It is largely a matter of weight so far as the amount which can be contained in an envelope is concerned. The question of newspapers is largely a matter of mechanics on the other side including, largely, censorship.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask the Chancellor of the Duchy whether, in view of his experience of the difficulty of obtaining agreement, he really proposes to continue to stop the distribution of HANSARD in Germany until he gets agreement? Surely it is about time we took a bit of unilateral action in this country and allowed a little commonsense, including the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, to be distributed widely in Germany.