§ 22. Mr. E. Fletcher
asked the Secretary of State for Air for what reason he ordered the cancellation of a broadcast to be given by Lady Tedder on 11th November over the Forces Network to Royal Air Force stations in Germany with regard to the work of the Malcolm Clubs.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have seen the order made by the Air Ministry cancelling the broadcast? Is he aware that since that was cancelled by his Ministry a broadcast which Lord Tedder was going to give recently was also cancelled by the Ministry? Does the right hon. Gentleman not regard this action as a regrettable and arbitrary interference with the rights of very distinguished patrons of the Malcolm Clubs?
I disagree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. We asked Lady Tedder to submit the script so that we could have a look at it and see what she intended to say. This is a Forces Network run by the Army entirely for the benefit of the Forces there, and it is perfectly reasonable, particularly in view of the fact that we were going to debate this matter in the House shortly, that we should have asked to see what Lady Tedder was going to say. She preferred not to send us a script.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Do we understand that if the contents of a script do not happen to agree with the Minister's point of view the Ministry is entitled to prevent the views in that script being broadcast to members of the Air Force? By what right does the Ministry arrogate to itself that authority?
I did not say that was so. I said that we reserved the right to have a look at the script in matters which are as controversial as this. Where a very distinguished Marshal of the Royal Air Force is in conflict with the Air Council, I should have thought it not unreasonable to ask him to let us know what he proposed to say when speaking direct to the airmen over this Network.
It is run by the Army and it broadcasts directly to the airmen, and it is well known and accepted by the Army and the Air Force that in matters of controversy they should refer the script to higher authority.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is it not true to say— and why does the right hon. Gentleman not come clean about these things—-that the only controversy in this matter is as between the monopoly of N.A.A.F.I. and opportunities given to voluntary organisations to cater for the welfare of the Services? Irrespective of the merits of this question, if Lord or Lady Tedder or anybody else wants to broadcast on the Forces Network in future, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will not prevent them?
The right hon. Gentleman is not quite clear about the nature of the controversy. It has nothing at all to do with N.A.A.F.I. This is purely a financial matter, as I have explained already to the House in an Adjournment debate. On the second point, I still consider that it is not unreasonable if a very senior officer is in conflict with the Air Council on a matter of this kind that he should at least tell us what he proposes to say before he says it.
§ Mr. G. Brown
On that point, what did the right hon. Gentleman want to do with the script when he got it? Was it his intention to stop Lord or Lady Tedder making a speech if he did not like it?
Had I thought the script very highly controversial or criticising a Government or Air Force decision— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I would certainly have asked Lord Tedder to reconsider making it.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
Is it now clear from the reply given to the last supplementary question that the Minister has said that if a broadcast criticises the Government the Government will stop it being made?
§ Mr. Bevan
Was it not only the other day that the House was given some information about senior members of the Services having differences of opinion among themselves about certain operations? There did not seem any objection at all to the Services quarrelling among themselves about a high question of strategy, but there appears to be something terrible about Lord Tedder disagreeing with the War Office about the future of the Malcolm Clubs? Why does the right hon. Gentleman not grow up?
This is a matter about which there were many Questions on the Order Paper and an Adjournment debate pending, and it was perfectly reasonable to ask what line Lord Tedder proposed to take.
§ Mr. Fletcher
On a point of order. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall take the earliest opportunity of raising this matter on the Adjournment.
Further to that point of order. I beg to give notice that I shall take the earliest opportunity of drawing attention to the fact that Her Majesty's Government appear to take the view that the wives of senior officers are not persons in their own right but are necessarily merely megaphones for their husband's point of view.