§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD HUNGARTON
My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend, Lord Stansgate I beg to ask the two Questions standing in his name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Questions were as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government on whose instigation or protest the broadcast with Paul Garland was cancelled, and what consultations took place before the decision was made.]
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I will answer the two Questions about Paul Garland together. I think it will be for the convenience of your Lordships if I do so. It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government, as of their predecessors, to give the B.B.C. freedom in the conduct of its day-to-day affairs, including its programmes. This policy was reviewed by the Beveridge Committee, who strongly supported it. The decision to cancel Paul Garland's broadcast was proper to be taken by the B.B.C. itself, and was so taken, in fact. The Government feels strongly that it would be wrong to alter this long-established policy by undertaking to investigate the circumstances of this case or to call for the publication of the text.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
Is the noble Earl aware that the constitutional principle enunciated in the first part of the answer has always hitherto met with general approbation from all Parties in this House, and continues to do so, I believe, on these Benches? May we assume that the questions directed to my noble friend do not constitute an insidious attempt on the part of the Party opposite to interfere with this constitutional principle?
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot interpret that adjective as ably as the noble Viscount who has just spoken. I must say, however, on behalf of noble Lords on this side of the House, that we feel there is great virtue in the independence of the British Broadcasting Corporation in such matters as this. All we should like to know—and this is the reason why the Question has been raised—is whether the answer of the Postmaster General means that the B.B.C. had no consultation with representatives of Her Majesty's Government.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
There was certainly no consultation whatever 1102 between my Department, or any other Department of the Government and the B.B.C.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
Can the noble Earl tell us why such a broadcast was ever contemplated and why anyone at the B.B.C. ever thought that the views of this young person were, or were ever likely to be, of the slightest interest to the general public?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am afraid I cannot answer that question without going back on my former reply. I can only say that I have no doubt that the B.B.C. ore carrying out their own inquiries as to why this obviously muddle-headed boy was ever asked to broadcast in any one of their regions.
§ LORD CALVERLEY
Is the noble Earl aware that the last supplementary question might give a wrong impression altogether? Does the noble Earl not think that the questioner is giving to this matter publicity which many of us consider is very ill-deserved?