HC Deb 19 June 1951 vol 489 cc235-6
46. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Prime Minister whether the recent speech at Preston by the Minister of Supply on the subject of the reimposition of direction of labour represents the policy of His Majesty's Government.

Mr. Ede

I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply at an informal Press Conference at Preston stated that the Government was most anxious to avoid direction of labour which was not necessary at the moment; and that there was no intention at present of introducing it. This was in accordance with Government policy about direction of labour which was fully explained in the debate on Defence and on the Supplies and Services (Defence Purposes) Bill in February.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does it follow from what the Home Secretary has said that the report in "The Times," in which his right hon. Friend is stated to have said that the direction of labour "may" have to return, is not an accurate reproduction of what his right hon. Friend said?

Mr. Ede

I prefer to base my answer on what I have just said. The position of the Government was fully explained in the two debates to which I have alluded. There is no intention of reintroducing direction of labour at present.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

What is the difference between a formal and an informal Press conference? Is an informal conference one at which the Minister does not have to think of what he is going to say? Surely, it is obvious in both cases that he will be quoted?

Mr. Ede

I understand the difference is that at a formal Press conference there is a hand-out which is put round among the persons present and then questions are based on it. In this case, there was no hand-out and my right hon. Friend was subjected to questions by the Pressmen, who had no paper on which to base whatever they asked.

Mr. Nicholson

Is not that just an ordinary simple interview? What is the difference? Why is a Minister to be excused for indiscretions more at an informal Press conference than at one which is formal?

Mr. Ede

There was no indiscretion in this case.