HC Deb 02 February 1949 vol 460 cc1661-2
21. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will take steps to ensure the repeal of the Maltese Press Ordinance, and to assure full freedom of expression and opinion to the Press of Malta.

29. Squadron-Leader Fleming

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will now make a statement on the reason for the Maltese Press Ordinance, by virtue of which the British-born editor of a Maltese newspaper has been convicted and sentenced for insulting His Excellency the Governor of Malta; and whether he is satisfied that this restriction on the freedom of the Press is necessary.

Mr. Creech Jones

Under the present Constitution, the Press Ordinance, which was enacted in 1933, falls within the competence of Maltese Ministers, and it is therefore not a matter on which I could properly intervene. In the circumstances, the hon. and gallant Member for Withington (Squadron-Leader Fleming) will not expect me to comment on the second part of this Question. As regards the case of Mr. Scorey I would refer him to my reply today to the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg).

Mr. Blackburn

While I fully understand that this is a matter entirely for the competence of the self-governing colony of Malta, will not the Secretary of State at any rate send a representation to the Prime Minister of Malta that we do not think that this is the proper time to issue a Press ordinance in a free country?

Mr. Creech Jones

I am certain that the Prime Minister will have some regard to the observations that are made in this House regarding this ordinance.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that whatever influence he has with the government of Malta is used to the utmost to see that this ordinance is withdrawn?

Mr. Creech Jones

The Maltese Prime Minister has already said that he has set up a commission to study the Press laws.

Mr. Oliver Stanley

Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is not the custom for the Governor of a colony who wishes to take action under an ordinance such as this to consult the Secretary of State for the Colonies as to the advisability of doing so, and whether that happened in this case?

Mr. Creech Jones

The answer to the last part of the question is "No."

Mr. Driberg

Does not the occurrence of this kind of thing within the Commonwealth make it rather more difficult for us to take up a high didactic line towards those parts of the world whose standards of civil liberty do not conform with our own?

Mr. Ivor Thomas

Is it not the case that this action was taken by the Prime Minister of Malta and not by the Governor of Malta?

Lieut.-Commander Gurney Braithwaite

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that no Press censorship is exercised in Malta, and that the newspapers would be perfectly free to publish a photograph of children born in this country in 1936 above the caption "Bonny Socialist Babies"?

Back to