HC Deb 07 April 1952 vol 498 cc2280-2
46. Mr. Ian Harvey

asked the Prime Minister which Minister is responsible for the co-ordination of Government publicity at home and overseas.

The Prime Minister

This responsibility has not been assigned to any one Minister. Each Departmental Minister is responsible, subject to Cabinet guidance, for the proper presentation of the policy and administration of his Department.

Mr. Harvey

Does not the Prime Minister feel that the circumstances at the moment merit the appointment of such a Minister for this task?

The Prime Minister

I do not think so. All these matters can always be borne in mind if circumstances seem to be more favourable to a particular solution. Nothing has been said and nothing will be said which should place that solution beyond our reach.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Are there not one or two Members of the other place without co-ordinating posts, and could not they be asked to fill this one?

47. Mr. George Brown

asked the Prime Minister what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the dissemination of party propaganda by the official information services; and if his attention has been called in this connection to the Press notice issued by the Ministry of Works reference 27/52 PI. 115/3.

The Prime Minister

The Press notice to which the hon. Member refers was a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works to the National Council of Building Material Producers explaining the policy he intended to follow and the way in which this policy would be carried out. It is the duty of Ministers to make plain to those concerned their policy and the way in which their policy will be implemented. The issue by the Minister of this Press notice was a normal and proper procedure.

Mr. Brown

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions? First of all, in his reply he has not answered the first part of my Question, which is: What is the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the dissemination of party propaganda. Secondly, is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that page 3 of this document contains absolutely nothing whatever to do with the producers of building materials, but only a series of party political arguments directed at what the right hon. Gentleman thinks will be the controversies of the next General Election. Does the right hon. Gentleman think it right to spend taxpayers' money for the dissemination of that kind of propaganda?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the first question, I have no announcement to make today on that account. With regard to the second question, I have nothing to add to the very full answer I have given.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

Would not the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to say that it is the policy of the Government that official information services should not be used for party purposes, as was the case in the lifetime of the last Government, when I assured hon. Members that if they brought any case to our notice we would take it up, though they never did? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this instance to which my right hon. Friend has called attention is party propaganda? Surely he could say that he would follow that up with a view to preventing a repetition and that, in principle, he accepts the view that official information services paid for by the taxpayers should not be used for other than official purposes and certainly should not be used for party political propaganda, as this was?

The Prime Minister

If the statement is confined to the presentation of a case and explanation of a policy, it is not always easy to draw a direct line between what is called "party propaganda" and what is issued for public information, more especially when the facts and arguments are common to both cases.

Mr. Morrison

Are we to take it that what the right hon. Gentleman is saying is that Ministers reserve the right, in given cases, to use the taxpayers' money for party political propaganda?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is a great authority on all matters of party propaganda, and we should certainly reserve the right to take all proper action in any case that may arise.

Mr. R. T. Paget

Is the statement contained in this notice, that the Conservative Government and the employers are in the same boat and will all keep their jobs or will all get the sack together, an explanation of an Act of Parliament?

The Prime Minister

That is another case of Paget's "Examan."

Mr. Brown

In view of the highly unsatisfactory nature of what was not a reply at all, I wish to give notice that I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment.