HL Deb 13 February 1975 vol 356 cc1421-2

3.15 p.m.

The Earl of ONSLOW

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 Her Majesty's Government whether they arc in favour of controlling the news media, as suggested by Mr. Scanlon in his union's magazine, to prevent them from creating a wrong impression of the economic situation in this country.

The MINISTER of STATE. HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe in freedom of comment by the Press ; and in the freedom of others to criticise the use made of it.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that satisfactory reply. May I ask whether Her Majesty's Government will point out to Mr. Scanlon, who is one of the eminence gris—

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, the purpose of Question Time is to elicit information from Her Majesty's Government. It is not to ask Her Majesty's Government to convey messages to people outside Parliament.

The Earl of ONSLOW

My Lords, I am asking Her Majesty's Government whether they will point out this information which I think is of interest to the people concerned. If they will not it shows how frightened they are of their own supporters.


My Lords, may I ask whether the noble Lord the Leader of the House would agree that the noble Earl is abusing the practice of the House in regard to Questions?


My Lords, on this occasion I have to share the opinion of my noble friend Lord Shackleton.


My Lords, is it not fair to ask the Government from time to time to make certain information regarding their opinions more readily available both to their own supporters and to those who may not be their supporters? Is that not in order?


My Lords, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government in your Lordships' House to deal with the debate and the subject matter. In my view—and I think it is generally accepted—Question Time is not the moment for putting forward views and for expressing a view that comments should be passed on to someone outside your Lordships' House. If we were to adopt that practice there would be no end to our Question Time.


My Lords, arising out of the original reply, may I ask why—if they are so keen to promote and support free speech—the Government are pushing legislation through Parliament to create a closed shop in the journalists' industry?


My Lords, I am sure that we look forward to hearing the noble Lord in the debates which we shall be having on this matter within a few weeks.

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