HC Deb 18 December 1961 vol 651 cc935-6
36. Mr. Ridsdale

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he is aware that political propaganda is being sent in the post from East Germany to this country by the East German authorities to people who have not asked for it and do not want it; and whether he will make representations through the Soviet authorities to put an end to this practice.

Mr. Heath

Propaganda material is being sent on a considerable scale in the way my hon. Friend describes, and my noble Friend has received a number of complaints about it. I have no reason to suppose that official representations through the Soviet authorities would be effective in stopping it; but I hope that what is said in this House will find its way to the notice of the East German authorities concerned.

Mr. Ridsdale

Has my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal considered the contrast between this form of propaganda used by the East German Government and their own efforts, by the jamming of broadcasts and other means, to prevent their own people from having freedom of access to information?

Mr. Heath

There is an obvious contrast. The point is that many people in this country do not wish to receive this propaganda in this way.

Mr. Mayhew

That may be so, but will the Lord Privy Seal make it clear that freedom to receive contentious propaganda both overseas and at home is one of the fundamental rights of British citizens and is not a matter for Government intervention? If the Government want to intervene, perhaps they will take every opportunity to get this Communist Government to give the same access to our views as we give to theirs.

Mr. Heath

The Government are not making an intervention. I hope that the hon. Member will remember the first part of his supplementary question when he is dealing with other forms of advertising.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the Lord Privy Seal make clear what is the Government's attitude to propaganda of this kind wherever it comes from? Will he bear in mind that whilst it is perfectly true that the East German Government have been sending propaganda to a great many people in many places who have not asked for it, it is equally true of a great many other countries? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Members of Parliament receive week by week a great many malicious and contentious and, as far as we can ascertain, untrue pieces of propaganda from a great many foreign Governments? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the Government's attitude is and whether all this propaganda is to be allowed or disallowed?

Mr. Heath

It is not a question of allowing or disallowing. It is a question of people making complaints about receiving it when they have not asked to receive it and of its pouring through their post.

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