HC Deb 24 June 1965 vol 714 cc1939-41
Q4. Mr. Derek Page

asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received asking for the introduction of legislation to make it illegal for criminals to make money by selling their stories to the Press.

The Prime Minister

None, Sir, but, as I have made plain on previous occasions, the Government thoroughly deprecate this practice.

Mr. Page

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the publication, for instance, of the Bossard memoirs by papers such as the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express appeared to show more concern for circulation than for the national interest? Does not my right hon. Friend think that this deplorable practice should have been referred to the Press Council?

The Prime Minister

I thought that it was the Daily Sketch, myself. In past years hon. Members on both sides of the House have deprecated the fact that those who have been found guilty of a criminal offence can then make large sums of money for themselves by selling their memoirs. I am sure that my hon. Friend is right: this is a matter for the Press Council. Proprietors generally have expressed their abhorrence of this practice, and I am sure that the House would do well to leave these matters in the hands of the Press Council which, I think, is perfectly capable of dealing with this practice.

Sir D. Renton

Is the Prime Minister aware that some people, including former Members of the House, have produced most interesting reminiscences about their experiences in prison? Would he not agree that it would be an unwarrantable interference with freedom to prevent or discourage those reminiscences from being published, since they sometimes give information about the prison system which could not otherwise be obtained?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware that hon. Members opposite are rather disturbed by the revelations of the former Postmaster-General, but I was not aware that anyone yet regarded him, in the wording used in the Question, as a criminal.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that not all of us share the confidence that he has just expressed in the Press Council's ability and intention to take action in this matter?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir, but I think that we must leave this to the Press Council. I think that it would be wrong for us to try to legislate in this matter. I think that the Press Council is well aware of the feeling of the House.