HC Deb 18 February 1957 vol 565 cc8-11
4. Mr. Chapman

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what methods he will use to publicise the Government's views on home and foreign policy; and to what extent these methods include the use of special public relations officers with duties similar to those under the war-time Ministry of Information.

16. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what co-ordinating machinery he proposes to establish in his new capacity as coordinator of Government information services.

Dr. Hill

By co-ordinating, in regular meetings and otherwise, the day-to-day work of governmental information officers; by bringing them together to discuss their methods and problems; by helping to maintain a flow of news; by scrutinising the structure and functions of overseas information services—these are the main methods. Rather than create new channels of information I prefer, generally speaking, to try to secure a better flow through existing ones.

Mr. Chapman

To relieve what I think are very legitimate anxieties, will the Chancellor give an assurance that there will be no attempt to set up some sort of Ministry of Information or Ministry of Propaganda on the lines of what is done by the less democratic nations?

Dr. Hill

I can give the hon. Member an unqualified assurance on that subject. My task is to quicken the flow of news and I hope that he and the House will accept the assurance I have given about there being nothing resembling a Ministry of Information.

9. Mr. Benn

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress he has made in co-ordinating the work of the public relations officers of other Departments.

14. Mr. G. M. Thomson

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the progress he has so far made in co-ordinating the Government's information services.

Dr. Hill

Good progress is being made.

Mr. Benn

Will the right hon. Gentleman make available to the House material which is published abroad as part of the Government's information services? In particular, will he make available, for Members at any rate, in the Library, the London Press Service which is put out by the Central Office of Information, in view of the fact that in the critical days of the Suez crisis the only London editorials quoted in the London Press Service were those which were entirely favourable to the Government of the day, thus giving a completely one-sided view of British opinion on this matter?

Dr. Hill

The hon. Member's question must be directed to the Ministers responsible rather than to me.

Mr. Thomson

Is the Chancellor aware that the Prime Minister has told the House that the duties of the right hon. Gentleman are exactly those carried out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) in the period of the Labour Government? Is he aware that my right hon. Friend was not only the Minister responsible for coordinating information, but Leader of the House of Commons and Chairman of the Cabinet Economic Committee? Are we to take it, therefore, that one Labour Cabinet Minister is equal to three Tory Cabinet Ministers?

Dr. Hill

I am not certain whether the point is that I have too little time or too much time to devote to this work. I can say at the outset that the task of scrutinising information services is heavy as well as interesting, and I am substantially engaged on that.

Mr. Jay

Has the right hon. Gentleman been invited by the Government's supporters in Carmarthen, if there are any, to give there the same explanation of Government policy as he gave in North Lewisham?

Dr. Hill

In the capacity which is under question, I want to say quite plainly to the House that I am not concerned with party propaganda. In this capacity I am no more concerned with it than was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South when engaged on this particular piece of work.

Mr. J. Griffiths

In case the right hon. Gentleman wants to search for Government supporters in Carmarthen, has he anyone on his staff who can speak Welsh?

Dr. Hill

As far as I know, there is no one on my staff who can speak Welsh, but I do not regard that as a disablement.

32. Mr. Allaun

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is taking, in view of the need for establishing the country's economic stability, to ensure that the propaganda issued by various Departments of Her Majesty's Government does not conflict with the country's economic and commercial interests.

Dr. Hill

I have arranged for regular consultation among the public relations officers of the various Government Departments and am trying to improve the flow of information between Departments, and from Departments to the Press. The responsibility of individual Ministers for the public relations and information activities of their own Departments, however, remains unaltered.

Mr. Allaun

In the event of another war similar to the armed conflict in Suez, will the Minister ensure that the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence do not issue propaganda which is likely to make the job of British exporters impossible in many parts of the world?

Dr. Hill

The responsibility of my right hon. Friends remains untouched, as I said in answer to the original Question.

Mr. Gower

Can my right hon. Friend explain why his appointment has occasioned so many Questions and so much curiosity?

Dr. Hill

I welcome this thirst for information.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Will the right hon. Gentleman consult the Board of Trade about the question that my hon. Friend has put to him, in view of the fact that the amount of very stupid propaganda put out by the War Office in the Suez crisis has made things very much more difficult for British exporters in the Muslim world?

Dr. Hill

In the review to which I have referred there will be the closest consultation with the Board of Trade.

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