HC Deb 07 July 1966 vol 731 cc670-2
Q9. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Prime Minister if he is aware that, following the expulsion of theDaily Telegraphcorrespondent, Nigeria has now expelled Mr. Walter Schwarz ofThe Guardian; and if he will raise the issue of the freedom of the Press at the forthcoming Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

The Prime Minister

I am aware of this expulsion and, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations told the House on 5th July, strong representations about it have been made to the Nigerian Government. I cannot, however, forecast the Agenda of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting, because, as the House knows, this is drawn up by collective agreement and is confidential.

Mr. King

Is it not a fact that in recent years no fewer than 12 British correspondents have been expelled from Commonwealth countries? Does not this make it a Commonwealth matter? Is it not unreasonable that, although we willingly want to give aid to Commonwealth countries, we should be refused sufficient information on which to assess the value and quality of the aid we give?

The Prime Minister

I would not without notice care to confirm, nor, indeed, to deny, the figure of 12 stated by the hon. Gentleman. There have certainly been a number of expulsions. In one or two cases at Commonwealth Conferences I have taken the matter up with the Heads of the Commonwealth Governments concerned. I doubt whether we should make a lot of progress by getting this dealt with on an all-Commonwealth basis in a conference, but I am quite prepared to consider this and see what further can be done to try to get some more common treatment in this matter.

Mr. Heath

As the Prime Minister knows, the whole House always feels very strongly about matters such as this. Would he consider whether the Commonwealth Press Union could take this matter up in individual countries, and members of the Press in those countries themselves make representations to the Governments concerned in an endeavour to right this wrong?

The Prime Minister

I think that in the first instance, as has been the case in many similar examples in the past, the really influential professional bodies, such as the International Federation of Journalists and the Commonwealth Press Union, would be taking this up. I agree that to the extent to which their members in these countries have any influence this is probably the best way to do it.