HC Deb 22 November 1960 vol 630 cc974-5
43. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Prime Minister if he will introduce legislation to control advertising in Great Britain by foreign and Commonwealth Governments.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply. No, Sir.

Mr. Stonehouse

Does that quite inadequate reply mean that Her Majesty's Ministers have not considered this serious problem? Is the Home Secretary aware that the Rhodesian Federation has been spending a lot of money on a spate of advertising in the British Press which contains information which is refuted by the Monckton Commission? Does the right hon. Gentleman relish the prospect of the Soviet Union or China using Colman, Prentice and Varley to give Communist propaganda?

Mr. Butler

I must leave the Soviet Union the choice of their own agents. In relation to the earlier parts of the hon. Member's question, we subscribe to the principle of freedom of information. I think it would be a very sorry day if we departed from it.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this process started with Ghana and that they very wisely have had second thoughts? Is it not a very dangerous principle when Governments, whether they be in the Commonwealth or, as my hon. Friend has indicated, outside the Commonwealth, begin to use advertising agents and advertising technique to try to influence decisions in this House, and in particular perhaps exert influence on individual Members of Parliament?

Mr. Butler

If there are reflections on individual Members of Parliament, we have our own ways of dealing with that, but in general I cannot interfere with the discretion of other Governments.