HC Deb 13 December 1960 vol 632 cc210-1
43. Mr. Paget

asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce legislation to control expenditure in this country by foreign or Commonwealth Governments for purposes of political propaganda either directly or through advertising agents employed for this purpose.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave to the hon. and learned Member on 27th October.

Mr. Paget

That reply was, "No, Sir." Does the Prime Minister really feel that it is enough? We have had the instance of Ghana—which has, I think, now been brought to an end—and now we have Southern Rhodesia employing a firm to influence our political decisions and to exercise influence on hon. Members. Is not this becoming very like the Washington system of professional, paid lobbyists, which I think we all recognise as very objectionable? Should not something be done in time before that system is established here?

The Prime Minister

I see the reasons that lie behind the hon. and learned Gentleman's Question. On the whole, Her Majesty's Government are in favour of the freest possible distribution of information. We have difficulties in some countries and we try to overcome them. On the whole, this is best left to the public decision.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the Prime Minister aware that at the opening of the Lancaster House Conference an organisation known as "Voice and Vision" distributed propaganda on behalf of the Central African Federation to the Press? Would he look into that as an example of the activities of this public relations organisation?

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. I have no doubt that quite a lot of propaganda has been indulged in in connection with this Conference. What we are trying to do is to reach an amicable solution on these immense problems.

Mr. Mayhew

Might not we learn something from the United States practice, which requires the public registration of agents working on behalf of foreign Governments?

The Prime Minister

That might go very far.

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