HC Deb 27 January 1947 vol 432 cc593-4
40 Mr. Garry Allighan

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) whether he is aware that, as British representation on the Legislative Assembly of the British Colony of Tangier is determined by the numerical strength of the British colony and the amount of business and property held by the British locally, the sale of the Government-owned company, Editions Internationales, S.A., to the French owners of "Dépêche Marocaine," which was blacklisted by His Majesty's Government during the war as a pro-Vichy daily newspaper, has caused resentment among the British colony; and if he will make a full explanation of this sale;

(2) what was the price paid by His Majesty's Government during the war for the printing works at Tangier which was run by Editions Internationales S.A., on behalf of the Government; what shares in the company were held by the Government; and at what price the printing works has now been sold to the proprietors of"Dépêche Marocaine"

(3) whether the sale of the Government-owned company in Tangier, the Editions Internationales, S.A., to the proprietors of the wartime pro-Vichy newspaper, "Dépêche Marocaine," was made as a result of tenders being invited for this property; whether the property was advertised as for sale and British firms notified of the opportunity to purchase it; and what offers higher than that made by the "Dépêche Marocaine" were received.

Mr. McNeil

My right hon. Friend is not aware that this sale has caused resentment of the nature indicated. The printing press was acquired by the Ministry of Information in October, 1940, to prevent its control by the Axis Powers. The need to continue ownership by His Majesty's Government lapsed with the end of the war, and it was accordingly sold to Monsieur Bigot, who is the Administrateur Général of the"Parisien Libéré,"a non-political French daily newspaper, and who has acquired the"Dépêche Marocaine."Tenders were invited and publicity given, and the sale was held up for a week to allow a British newspaper which was interested to make a full investigation. One higher tender received from a Frenchman in Casablanca had to be declined because of the difficulty of making sterling available. His Majesty's Government acquired the press in 1940 for £5,000 and disposed of it in December, 1946, for £9,000, not an unsatisfactory transaction.

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