HC Deb 02 August 1951 vol 491 cc1615-7
45. Mr. Mikardo

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the Newsreel Association are refusing to show films taken by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Persia unless the company supply films only to members of the Association; and whether, in those circumstances, he will arrange to have news items of events in Persia, taken by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, distributed on commercial terms through the Central Office of Information during such period as the Newsreel Association refuses to allow the films to be distributed to all British newsreels.

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

I have been asked to reply. Yes, Sir, I know of one such instance, but I do not think it would serve any useful purpose for the Central Office of Information to distribute films of this sort.

Mr. Mikardo

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there have been many such instances, and that on the opening of Parliament by His Majesty the companies who are members of the Newsreel Association then said that unless they had a monopoly they would see that no films of the Royal opening were shown? Is it not altogether a bad thing, particularly with regard to a vehicle of public opinion, that these restrictive practices should continue? Cannot my right hon. Friend use his own film unit to break these restrictive practices?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

My hon. Friend's Question refers to films about Persia, and I said that I knew of one such instance. I do not think that it would be suitable for the Central Office of Information to start newsreel distribution; it certainly is not equipped to do so. Equally, I do not think that it would be wise for the Government to attempt to dictate what should appear in newsreels any more than to dictate what should appear in newspapers.

Mr. Nally

Are we to assume from my right hon. Friend's reply that he has no very strong views at all about propriety of the action taken by this Association? If he has no views, would he consult with Members of the Opposition in an endeavour to break this most vicious "closed shop"?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

My hon. Friend is quite wrong in supposing that I have no views on this matter.

Mr. Mikardo

Surely this is not a question of what should go into newsreels. The films in question have been taken by officers of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The Prime Minister said the other day that he wished to encourage the maximum showing of anything which gave the British point of view in the Persian oil dispute, and here we have some film companies saying that they will only show this material of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company provided that no other companies are allowed to have it. Surely, this is a state of affairs which the Government cannot view with equanimity.

Mr. Gordon-Walker

I did not say that I viewed it with equanimity. I said that I did not think the Government should dictate what should appear in newsreels.

Mr. Driberg

Are not the Government a chief shareholder in the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and are not the Government therefore directly interested in a matter which should be referred to the Monopolies Commission, who would, however, take much too long to deal with it effectively?

Mr. Gordon-Walker

The Government is, of course, a shareholder in this company, but we are talking about newsreel companies. There was a Question to my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade about the monopoly aspect of this matter.