HC Deb 15 April 1948 vol 449 cc1137-8
5. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations what party political literature other than the report of the Socialist Party Conference for 1947 was displayed by British Information Services at their office in Calcutta during January, 1948.

The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations (Mr. Gordon-Walker)

None, Sir, during January, 1948. Reports of Conferences of the major British political parties are displayed by the British Information Services in India as they are received. In addition other material issued by the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Party organisations has from time to time been made available to the British Information Services in India. Every effort is made to provide a balanced presentation of literature issued by the major political parties.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

While I thank the Under-Secretary for that reply, may I ask him if he will draw the attention of the British Information Services to the need not only to be impartial, but to seem impartial; and whether the fact that the display at one particular time of one particular party's conference does not give an impression of partiality?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

Yes, Sir, I quite see that, but at different times the literature of different parties has been displayed alone. There have been times when only the report of the Conservative Party Conference has been on display. These things are sent out directly they are available, but there may be considerable delay in transport. We try to get a fair representation of our party life in this country in our overseas offices.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Does the hon. Gentleman really think it satisfactory that party propaganda should be distributed, even in an impartial way, by a State service when there is plenty of non-party material available in this country?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

This is a difficult point. I have given a lot of attention to it and I think, on the whole, it is wise that we should display abroad this part of our democratic life. We make available things like the Industrial Charter, "Cards on the Table," and so forth, and, on balance, I think it is wiser that we should do this.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

May I ask what literature is available which sets out a positive and constructive policy for the Conservative Party?

An Hon. Member

There is not any.

Major Beamish

The Minister spoke about major political parties; would he say when a party ceases to be a major political party?