HC Deb 13 June 1950 vol 476 cc27-9
53. Mr. Blackburn

asked the Lord President of the Council what further communication he has received from the Newspaper Proprietors' Association as to the establishment of a Press Council; and what action he now proposes to take to encourage this.

The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)

I have just been informed by the Councils of the Newspaper Proprietors Association and the News- paper Society that the difficulties in connection with the proposals for the formation of a Press Council have proved more considerable than was supposed when I last heard from them in March. They have been considered by the Committees of the Association and the Society at separate and at joint meetings, but they have not all been resolved. Matters are held up by the absence at the Imperial Press Conference in Canada of leading officers of both organisations, but consideration will be resumed on their return in mid-July.

I trust that this Question and answer will be a sufficient encouragement to the organisations to bring their discussions to an early conclusion. My friends of the Press often complain that governmental bodies take too long over their deliberations, and I had hoped that they themselves would set a good example.

Mr. Blackburn

Will the Lord President keep this matter well in mind, because the Right-wing French Government have introduced legislation to set up a Press Council and, therefore, there can be no question whatever of this being an extreme Left-wing point of view; on the contrary, it is a point of view accepted by reasonable people on all sides?

Mr. Morrison

I can assure my hon. Friend that I keep it in mind every morning when I read the newspapers.

Mr. Deedes

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he now envisages that this Press Council will be a statutory body and is he further aware that until that point is decided the discussions will be considerably protracted, as this is one of the problems under discussion?

Mr. Morrison

No, Sir. The recommendation of the Royal Commission, which was approved by this House in the last Parliament, was to the effect that it should be a voluntary body set up by the Press on certain lines. I still feel that would be eminently the best way of dealing with it.

Mr. Driberg

Is it not obvious that the N.P.A., or considerable elements in it, are simply stalling for time and will my right hon. Friend remind them fairly sharply that the setting up of this Press Council was the wish of both sides of this House?

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway

Will my right hon. Friend say whether he has received any communication from the National Union of Journalists on this matter?

Mr. Morrison

I have not—not lately.

Mr. Blackburn

Is it not a fact that the National Union of Journalists are only too anxious to proceed with the proposals and have indicated so?

Mr. Morrison

I think that is so, but I was answering my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway).