HC Deb 18 February 1957 vol 565 cc12-4
12. Mr. Ernest Davies

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in examining the overseas information services, he will take into account the recommendations of the Drogheda Committee; and what action it is now proposed to take in regard to their implementation.

13. Mr. G. Darling

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is the purpose of his inquiries into the British Broadcasting Corporation's overseas and European services; when he hopes to complete them and if he intends to publish the results.

17. Mr. Anthony Greenwood

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects to conclude his urgent consideration of the British Broadcasting Corporation's French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish services.

25. Mr. George Craddock

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will publish a White Paper surveying the existing Government information services and detailing his plans for co-ordinating and developing them.

Dr. Hill

The purpose of my review of the Government's information services is to seek ways in which they may be improved and to establish whether the balance of expenditure and effort which they involve needs to be adjusted. It will be some time before the review is completed and, thereafter, the Government will need to consider how they should inform the House of any decisions which may be taken. In the review, the recommendations of the Drogheda Committee will be taken fully into account.

Mr. Davies

I recognise that at long last the recommendations of the Drogheda Committee are at least to be considered—although one does not necessarily endorse them all—but why are the Government being so slow in giving consideration to them? Does the Minister appreciate that the Report was issued over three years ago and that no action has been taken upon it? If the Government had already considered the Report and taken action, would not the Minister's job now be redundant?

Dr. Hill

The review is now proceeding, and I had better confine myself to that in reply to the hon. Member.

Mr. Greenwood

In view of the serious damage done to our prestige in Western Europe as the result of the Suez crisis, will the right hon. Gentleman bear specially in mind how great a mistake it would be to curtail the services referred to in my Question, relating to broadcasts to Western Europe?

Dr. Hill

I will bear in mind the recommendations of the Drogheda Committee and all other considerations applying to Western Europe.

Mr. Darling

Is the Minister aware that by not announcing the purpose of this inquiry he is, perhaps wrongly, giving the impression that he is up to no good, and that the external services of the B.B.C. will be kicked around again as they have been by successive Governments? Does his assurance that he is making this inquiry in order to improve the services and not to cut them down mean that we can discuss his proposals before they are put into effect?

Dr. Hill

The hon. Member must await the conclusion of the review before any question of discussing the Government's decision arises. On the matter of being up to no good, he will no doubt have observed that one decision in regard to overseas broadcasting was taken without waiting for the result of the review, and that was the increase in the B.B.C.'s Arabic programmes from four and a half hours to rather more than nine hours a day.

Mr. Jay

As the Minister has just stated that his job has nothing to do with party propaganda, can he tell us as a fact whether he made a speech in North Lewisham? Secondly, as he is an expert on information, cannot he answer the simple question whether he will make the same speech in Carmarthen?

Dr. Hill

The right hon. Gentleman must be boring himself with the repetition of this question. The fact that my tasks in relation to the speeding up of news and its co-ordination have no relation to party politics does not preclude me, in other capacities, from offering a few pregnant observations upon the subject.

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