HL Deb 25 January 1961 vol 227 cc1193-5

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask if the attention of Her Majesty's Government has been drawn to activities, virtually tantamount to persecution, of certain organs of the British Press during the recent visit of Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret and Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones to the Republic of Ireland.]


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships' House would like me to say that of course we all appreciate the concern for anything which affects the welfare and happiness of Her Royal Highness, which has prompted this Question. But I am bound to say, in reply, that, in the view of Her Majesty's Government, these matters are essentially questions of taste and good judgment and are best left to the influence of public opinion.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Viscount for his reply, I should like to say, in putting a supplementary, that my Question did not include the provincial morning or evening papers, or the Irish national newspapers: it refers simply to "certain organs of the British Press". May I ask the noble Viscount whether he is aware that no fewer than 17 reporters were sent along from the same group of newspapers when Her Royal Highness landed at Shannon Airport and that the airline concerned is ordering an immediate inquiry? Is he also aware of the amazement and eventual disgust, which the activities of these people gave rise to among the Irish people, who were anxious to welcome Her Royal Highness and respect her wishes?


My Lords, I have no information of any of these matters other than what I have read in the public prints. As I indicated in my original Answer, I think that it would be rather difficult for Her Majesty's Government to devise a remedy for this disease which was not worse than the disease which it was designed to remedy.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount if he would bear in mind that in the Charter of Human Rights, to which I believe this country is a signatory, Article 8 assures the inviolability of every person's private and family life, his home and his correspondence, and that Article 13 requires that anyone whose rights are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority… I am not asking the noble Viscount to give me an answer on that point now, but will he bear it in mind?


My Lords, I am sure that we all desire to see the inviolability of private rights of this kind, and particularly, perhaps, for those in respect of whom this Question is asked. It is only a question of what is the wisest way to handle matters of this kind; and, as I say, I think that public opinion is the strongest influence for good upon which we can rely.


My Lords, may I take it that if there had been any serious offence to Her Royal Highness, the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, who happens to be the Lord President of the Council, would have heard something about it?


My Lords, these acts, whatever they were, took place in the Republic of Ireland and, as I have said, I have no more information than what I have read in the public prints or heard over the B.B.C.


My Lords, arising out of the Answer which my noble friend the Leader of the House gave (I think he said that the reporters were all confined to one group) would it not be possible, by some means, to give the names of the owners or principal shareholders and editors of this group? If such publicity were given, and especially if it were announced in the news bulletins on the B.B.C., they would be subjected to considerable pubic complaint and that might add to the deterrent against this conduct in the future.


My Lords, the information to which my noble friend refers was contained in the supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and not in my Answer; but I am sure there is a great deal in what my noble friend says.