HC Deb 13 December 1966 vol 738 cc246-7
3. Mr. Winnick

asked the Prime Minister when the Monopolies Commission's Report on the future of The Times will be available.

The Prime Minister

I hope before the end of the year, Sir.

Mr. Winnick

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that there is a tremendous amount of public interest in this matter because of the financial crisis in the newspaper world, including The Guardian? Has he any comment to make on this position?

The Prime Minister

With regard to the Monopolies Commission's Report, I know that the Commission is getting on with it as fast as it can, having regard to the importance of the remit which it has been given. We must await the Report before we can comment on the Commission's recommendations. On the wider question, I think that this was answered by my right hon. Friend the Lord President a few days ago. This is a matter which gives everyone in this House cause for very deep concern when one considers the present situation in which large parts of the Press are now finding themselves.

Mrs. Lena Jeger

Will my right hon. Friend try to arrange, through the usual channels, for a debate not only on the Report but on the wider question of newspaper economics in view of the widespread public anxiety, in which I believe I ought to declare a personal interest?

The Prime Minister

I agree with my hon. Friend's statement about the widespread public anxiety, and, after reading her article in The Guardian this morning, I should be very sorry to see it disappear for any reason, economic or otherwise. The question of a debate is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.

Mr. Goodhew

Is the Prime Minister aware that the biggest danger to the freedom of the Press comes from statements by right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, including himself?

The Prime Minister

That is a total misconception. I know that hon. Gentlemen opposite, despite all that has happened since, have still not reconciled themselves to the rightness of the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. It was not an interference with the Press, but was justified by the requirements of the Tribunal. I am not aware of any other statement. I am aware of certain dangerous interventions in the past with the Press by Ministers before 1964, including the sacking of an editor because of what he wrote in his editorial.

Forward to