HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1468-70
6. Mr. Evelyn King

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations were made by him to the British Broadcasting Corporation prior to the broadcasting of the Ulster programme presided over by Lord Devlin; with what result; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

I explained to the Chairman of the Governors and the Director-General of the B.B.C. that in my view the programme, in the way in which it had been devised, could do no good and might do serious harm. Responsibility for the content of programmes must remain with the broad casting authorities.

Mr. King

Is not the position that there is no censorship of the B.B.C.—and no Member wants it—but equally there is no censorship over what Members of Parliament say? Is it not a fact that over the past 20 months the number of political blunders by the B.B.C., ranging from "Yesterday's Men" through "The World at One" to the present blunder, is so great that we begin to lose confidence in the organisation, its constitution and perhaps even those who run it?

Mr. Maudling

It is true that there is no censorship of the media. It is open to hon. Members to express their views, including, I hope, the Home Secretary from time to time.

Mr. William Price

Is it not clear that whatever hon. Members may say in the House a number of them were engaged on this issue in a form of censorship of the B.B.C.? If I am right, are they not straying upon extremely dangerous ground? Will the right hon. Gentleman say that over the years, allowing for the occasional lapse, the B.B.C. has a remarkable record of objectivity and responsibility and that it can manage quite well without continual interference from either side of the House?

Mr. Maudling

That is not stating the matter quite accurately. Hon. Members must be entitled to express their views without being accused of trying to impose a censorship.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is my right hon. Friend aware that while nobody on this side, as far as I know, is asking for censorship of any kind, many believe that his reply to the B.B.C. in regard to the programme in question was eminently sensible, that he wished to avoid the dangers of instant political attitudes being debated which could harm the future, and that there was on the programme an instance of exactly that happening, which will make talks without prior conditions much more difficult for everyone concerned, much to the detriment of both communities of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Maudling

I think my views were justified, but all Members think the same thing about their views.