HC Deb 28 June 1982 vol 26 cc606-7
33. Mr. Adley

asked the Lord President of the Council what criteria affect the number of staff in his Department who deal with Government publicity.

Mr. Biffen

The number of staff in my Department, as in any other, is determined by the volume of business.

Mr. Adley

In the light of that Delphic answer, may I ask whether the Falkland Islands issue led my right hon. Friend to increase his staff? Does his Department have any links with the Ministry of Defence when dealing with national publicity? Given the way in which returning newsmen have criticised the Ministry of Defence's role in dealing with what was, in effect, the Government's and the nation's publicity, does my right hon. Friend consider it worth while, in the television era, to review the steps that should be taken to handle publicity in these circumstances or in the unhappy event of another Falklands-type issue? In that way, we could try to cope with criticisms about censorship and see whether they are justified.

Mr. Biffen

My Department's role in that respect is to co-ordinate the information services of other Government Departments. In that context, we were, of course, in touch with the Ministry of Defence. Although we could clearly hold a productive inquest into how our performance in the South Atlantic was portrayed to the public at home and overseas, I should have thought that it was a remarkable tribute to the way in which information services had been carried out that public opinion was consolidated in such a preponderant majority in favour of the enterprise.

Mr. English

Is it true that a broadcast was made to Argentina in Spanish from the Government's radio station on Ascension Island at the same time as British correspondents and the British media were being forbidden to broadcast it in Britain?

Mr. Biffen

I was not aware of that fact, but I shall inquire into the matter and let the hon. Gentleman have further information.