HL Deb 02 March 1976 vol 368 cc902-19

2.55 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 2 [Freedom of the press]:

Lord GOODMAN moved Amendment No. 1:

Leave out Clause 2.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when we adjourned after Committee stage I was to receive a message from the Government indicating whether, in the event of the failure to negotiate the charter by agreement between the negotiating parties, it would be imposed by the Secretary of State on the basis that whatever charter he proposed would be subject to invigilation by both Houses of Parliament. The suggestion was made to them by me, and made to them by weightier voices; that is, that they might delete from the proposed Amendment the provision to which we took special objection and which we found especially odious. I have no intention of repeating the speech I made the other day; in fact, I was chided for having made, perhaps, too provocative a speech, so I am determined to say nothing today that is remotely provocative. We took the view that it was a historic enormity that, in a country where liberty of speech had been in the forefront of living standards for centuries, we should arrive at a situation in which rules for the regulation of the Press should be imposed in detail by a Governmental Minister and by a Government. This we regarded as an intolerable situation, and one that should be resisted at all costs, as we have resisted it at all costs. It is on this footing that I am again presuming to draw the attention of the House to this matter.

My Lords, perhaps I might say this. I am not particularly apologetic for having to bring the attention of this House back to the matter. During the last debate, the noble Lord the Leader of the House, perhaps understandably, displayed a slight impatience with the fact that we had devoted so much time to this question. I am totally unapologetic on that matter. I can think of few matters of higher importance which justify greater attention and expenditure of time. We are dealing with fundamental liberties. We discuss many matters in this House. It would be invidious and slightly impertinent of me to pinpoint matters which I regard as being of less significance and from which time could have been spared. I do not believe that any time at all should reasonably be spared for the most careful, scrupulous and meticulous consideration of this proposition. In so far as some noble Lords may find it wearisome, getting the right result in all important historic issues has been found wearisome over the centuries, and we must accept the weariness involved.

I have received, unhappily, a reply from the Government that the request that this particular provision should be deleted is not one to which they can accede. Perhaps the reply is not surprising. I do not say I was totally without surprise. I am of a sanguine and optimistic disposition, and I retained a hope to the last moment that we might compromise this issue by an indication from the Government that they gave some weight to the very real concern felt by those who had raised the matter, and continue to raise it and continue to battle from the outset.

I am afraid I have to say something about the nature of the charter and the reasons why it is preferred that the charter should be rejected in toto rather than that we should have a charter containing this provision. The first point I would wish to make is the constitutional point. I am advised that there is nothing unconstitutional in our failing to accept the suggested Amendments that have come from the Commons. Owing to the workings of the Parliament Act and the manner in which the matter has operated, the provisions relating to the charter—which were an afterthought, an early afterthought but an afterthought—are not embodied in the Bill. If carried through according to its strict letter, the Parliament Act can only give us the Bill; we are perfectly entitled to reject the trimmings if, as a House, we consider those trimmings are, for one reason or another, unacceptable.

At this time I am not sure what course I shall adopt in relation to this Amendment. I said last time that if I received sufficient encouragement to believe that there was a possibility of my defeating the provisions which would entitle a Minister of the Crown to write a charter for the Press I would seize the opportunity. I cannot furnish a final answer on this matter until I have heard what is said by the other noble Lords who will speak in the debate. But I now entertain a faint hope that I may garner sufficient support to make it sensible and respectable to divide, and, in fact, ignominious to refrain from dividing the House. If there is sufficient support to enable me to believe that there is a chance of defeating this provision, I think I should be untrue to many of us, certainly to myself, if I did not seize that opportunity.

If, at the end of the day, my efforts have failed, I shall know that they have failed after the best effort that I can make; but there will be a historical record of those who took one view and those who took another view. Not that I am suggesting that those who take another view are necessarily doing anything wicked or terrible. They, according to their lights, regard this as proper. I, according to my lights, regard it as highly improper. I think it should be on record that there was this clear demarcation of viewpoint, those who put industrial regulation before liberty of expression, which many of us regard as having a much higher priority. If I may say so, it is not much use wagging heads to say that that is not the priority. That is the simple unavoidable priority. There is nothing to be ashamed of in placing industrial regulation before liberty of expression. There might be arguments in certain circumstances why it would be right to do so. With my background and my antecedents and the things I have been used to doing over the years, I cannot alter my priority, which is that nothing can have a higher place in the affairs of the nation than the right of a man who wants to write or speak or say something to say it without interference from other people entitled to interfere by right of law. That is what this issue is about and it is not about anything else; it is simply about that.

When this charter was first introduced, I said at that time that I regarded it as of great importance but it was not something that would bring me to the barricades, unless there were provisions in the charter which, in my view, could be injurious to the social system, as I regard these provisions. The original charter I sought to amend, and many of your Lordships supported me in those Amendments, and they were triumphantly carried. It is very important that we should distinguish between the charter in in its present proposed form and the charter in the form in which we were prepared to accept it; on the footing that it was embodied in the Bill, on which we were prepared to leave the matter.

I should draw attention to the proposals of the present charter: …a charter containing practical guidance for employers, trade unions and editors and other journalists on matters relating to freedom of the Press, the Secretary of State shall lay before both Houses of Parliament a draft of that charter. (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) above, practical guidance on matters relating to the freedom of the Press must include guidance on the avoidance of improper pressure to distort or suppress news…. —a matter on which I shall make little or no comment, because I do not think anyone would regard it as appropriate that improper pressure should be exercised to distort or suppress news, comment or criticism— …the application of union membership agreements to journalists…", which is a provision as vague as is possible to make in relation to the rights of journalists and the question of whether or not they can belong to or be excluded from unions or expelled from unions. It would be difficult to have a general heading vaguer, less precise, less encouraging, less reassuring than that. …(and in particular the right of editors to discharge their duties and to commission and to publish any article) and the question of access for contributors.

All in terms of the most studied vagueness, none of them solidifying or chrystallising into anything remotely resembling a right on which a man could base his career, base his future, stake a belief that as an editor he could proceed without important interference, without damaging interference.

The charter as we proposed it was in these terms. If I may say so, Iinvite your Lordships to consider whether there is a single syllable in the Amendments that we suggested to which objection could be taken by liberal-minded people who were anxious to have a free Press. There is no controversy in these proposals, nothing in these proposals to which anyone could legitimately have taken objection. The proposals were these. We left out the vague, nebulous and insecure words, and we substituted these words as matters which were to go into the charter: The rights of editors and other persons exercising editorial responsibilities to discharge their duties free from any obligation to join a trade union".

In the clearest possible terms we said that we did not think it appropriate that an editor should be obliged to join a trade union. No one has yet suggested that it is appropriate, except that no one is prepared to say that he should not be so obliged. The rights of journalists to join a trade union of their choice.

Here the question arose that there exist two trade unions relating to journalists. There is the National Union of Journalists and the Institute of Journalists. The Institute of Journalists is a small union, but not despicable in size; it has something like 3,000 members. The members of that union prefer to belong to it because it suits their neeeds better than the National Union of Journalists. The charter as now proposed must ensure the immolation of that union and the total destruction of any choice; and the certainty that membership of the National Union of Journalists is a total precondition to being able to write for the Press. If, as must inevitably follow, a closed shop is achieved, as there is the strongest possibility that it will be achieved with the industrial strength to be marshalled by the National Union of Journalists against the proprietors, against the managers of the newspapers, then no one will be able to write for the Press if he is not a member of the National Union of Journalists.

I go further. No one can be a member of the National Union of Journalists unless the executive of that body desire to have him as a member. If he is thrown out because they dislike his opinions, if he is thrown out because they dislike what he writes, then he has no redress of any kind. The suggestion of any redress has been resolutely and determinedly refused throughout the whole long history of this discussion in this House and in the other place. There has been an absolute refusal to allow any redress, except redress that I must regard as being of a "prefectory" nature, having no legal effect, in a form on which he cannot rely because it emanates from the very people who would have been responsible for his expulsion. The certainty and security of being able to make some appeal to an independent tribunal, such as a court of law, has been refused and rejected with the utmost firmness. There may be many people who believe this to be right, and I make no suggestion that those who believe it to be right should follow me into the Lobby this afternoon if, in the event, we divide. But those who, like myself, believe it to be wrong, I invite to follow me into the Lobby, regardless of political considerations, which for once have very little operation in this matter.

This is not a political issue. People may say as much as they like, but it is not a political issue. It is only a political issue in the minds of those people who feel that no one could hold the views that I hold unless he has misguided political notions somewhere concealed within the ample bulk within which they can be concealed. I wish to say to you that this is not a political issue at all. This is an issue about whether you place one thing in front of another. That is the simple question you have to decide this afternoon.

May I continue on the other things that we tried to include: the rights of journalists to join a trade union of their choice; the rights of editors to commission, publish or not to publish, any article free from pressure by industrial action; the rights of journalists not to be arbitrarily or unreasonably excluded or expelled from membership of a trade union. I do not wish to embark on any story of the behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations that have gone on so tiresomely, with such difficulty, so painfully between the conscientious people on each side, each holding a different conscientious view.

I think it is fair to say that I indicated at one stage that if the charter was allowed to contain beyond argument, and without any question of doubt, a provision dealing with the rights of journalists not to be arbitrarily or unreasonably excluded or expelled from membership of a trade union, even though that charter had no legal sanction and no legal redress I would regard that as a sufficient moral encouragement to me to withdraw my further opposition to the whole matter. That would state in the clearest possible terms what we regarded as the essential requirement of a journalistic charter. I made that proposal. I am sorry to have to say that that proposal also proved unacceptable. I do not wish to arouse in your Lordships' minds any dark suspicions as to the intentions of people who are going to draw the charter. I only say that if it was to be a charter of the sort that I want, and that I hope many of you may want, no one would have argued about that particular suggestion. But it was argued about, and it was not acceded to, not accepted.

That is the difference between the two proposed charters. One is to be drawn by the Secretary of State if it is not agreed —and the odds against it being agreed are enormous, because it will have to be negotiated on the one side by people who want what I want, and on the other side by people who are fortified by the knowledge that, in the course of these discussions, what I want has been totally rejected by the final arbiter of the charter when it comes to be drawn. When that charter comes to be drawn the final arbiter has already indicated his unwillingness to accept the sort of provision we want in the charter. I cannot regard it as a remote possibility that that charter will be successfully negotiated in terms acceptable to people who are concerned about liberty. I cannot regard it as the remotest possibility.

May I say that I will give the Government an assurance on behalf of those for whom I can speak that, if they will still accept the proposal that I have made, we will go into negotiations immediately, and we will negotiate in good faith and from day to day in the determined desire, and the determined effort, to produce a charter that is a genuinely agreed document. There will be no question about our willingness to negotiate: we shall negotiate, and negotiate as wholeheartedly and as fully as we possibly can.

I said last time I spoke that there have been some surprisingly encouraging developments between the trade unions and the proprietors and managements in the newspaper industry. Literally in the last few weeks we have achieved results in negotiations with the printing unions that no one had expected we should achieve, and we have achieved them without any suggestion of governmental pressure. We have achieved them with the very valuable situation that the Government, and particularly the arbitration and conciliation body that exists and has done such valuable work, are there to help if a situation arises which cannot be resolved. But we have not achieved them on the footing that the Government are there to impose a solution. It is fair to say that at this moment there are better prospects than there have ever been of valuable negotiated agreements allowing for redundancies, allowing for casual labour, allowing for pensions, allowing for all the matters that have been a source of worry and concern over the years, without any suggestion of governmental control or the imposition of governmental control, and none of the printing unions has ever asked or suggested such a thing.

On behalf of the management side of the industry, I will give an undertaking that we will negotiate forthwith to achieve a charter if the suggestion is removed that it can be imposed upon us by a Minister or by a Government. I make the further suggestion that if, in the event we divide, and if, in the event we strike out this charter altogether—and, in my view, this is a very dangerous charter to have, and we are better off without any charter—it is open to the other place to restore the provisions of the charter without this particular offensive provision. I will say that if that happens there will be no opposition on my part, and no opposition on the part of anyone for whom I speak or with whom I have any influence. If we send this Bill back without the charter—it has to go back in any event because of the Amendment which was made on Committee stage—and if the Commons care to restore the charter provisions stripped of this particular provision, no one here, I venture to think, would wish to raise the slightest opposition to it. Obviously I cannot speak for the entire House, but no one for whom I speak would wish to raise the slightest opposition to it.

I invite your Lordships to consider this: we are making what I regard as an historic decision this afternoon. We are going to say whether we are to be one of the few countries—if not the only country—and certainly one of the first countries in the world which is to accept a governmental regulation of our Press. There is much comment and much criticism of the Press. We are told that it is not an ideal instrument. We are told that it does this and does the other. In fact many people say it is so full of sheer comment it is not worth preserving. May I say that I challenge that issue. We have a Press that is a fallible human instrument, but we have a Press of which, until recently, we were always trained to be proud. We have a Press in which it is extremely unlikely that any responsible opinion will be suppressed or will not be aired. We have a Press which is to this day the instrument of free men. Of course there are hideous things in it. Of course there is tittle-tattle. Of course people can smile, because it is easy to smile over any institution which has grown up over the years and which inevitably is subject to the failings and shortcomings of any human institution. We have a Press that we can improve. We shall certainly not improve it by handing it over to the unfettered control of a single union. We shall certainly not improve it by seeking to have a charter which will make it impossible to ensure that a man can necessarily write what he likes without being exposed to the risk of expulsion or exclusion.

I regard this charter as a menace to a free Press in its present form. I would not seek to urge others who do not to change their views at this stage. The opinions of others who do not I will respect. But I do urge those of your Lordships who regard what I have said as sufficiently weighty to be worthy of consideration, in the event I ask you to divide on this, to consider whether it is not proper and right that you should throw out a Press charter composed in these terms.

3.18 p.m.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, spoke of the constitutional position, and for that reason I thought it right to speak immediately after the noble Lord and perhaps give some guidance to the House first of all about the procedures, and secondly, despite what the noble Lord has said, to reject the proposition that he has put before us this afternoon. The noble Lord said that he would not be provocative. If I may so, I took a deep sense of resentment at the implication that he and those who think like him on this matter are the only guardians of the freedom of the Press and of individual rights. I will say nothing more about it, but I hope that my feeling—I would nearly say contempt—for what was then said is reflected in my voice.

The procedure today is relatively simple. The Bill has come from another place as a consequence of failure by this House and another place to agree in the last Session. It comes to us under the Parliament Act procedures which require that the Bill shall come to this House for consideration in substantially the same form—


In exactly the same form, my Lords.


Very well, my Lords, in exactly the same form. I prefer "substantially" and I will explain why shortly. The Parliament Act procedures, as I was saying, require that the Bill shall come to us in the form in which it was first introduced in this House. The difference between the noble and learned Lord's "exactly" and my "substantially" is that under the Parliament Act procedure there can be Amendments to the Bill—Amendments agreed during the previous Session: Amendments agreed by both Houses—and the Bill which is now before us includes certain refinements and redrafting and that is why I use the word "substantially" although the difference between the noble and learned Lord and myself is very narrow indeed. He is correct and so am I.

The House of Commons took the view that, in regard to Press freedom, there should be provisions in the Bill, but it could not, under the Parliament Act procedures, have those provisions in the Bill because when the Bill came to this House in the first instance it came here solely as an industrial relations Bill, nothing to do with the Press. Under the procedures, the House of Commons has sent us a suggested Amendment. I explained on Second Reading why I intended to move, as I did, the suggested Amendment in Committee; because I believed that there was general hope in the House that if possible the Bill should go on the Statute Book avoiding the Parliament Act procedures. Unless we adopted the Amendment in Committee so that it was part of the Bill when we finally approved it, the provision could not be made because the suggested Amendment could be used only when the Bill had been either rejected or there had been failure to agree. I therefore say to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that what he has in mind is perfectly constitutional.

I think it right that I should rehearse some of the history of this matter because listening to Lord Goodman one might get the impression that the Government were seeking to impose themselves and the Secretary of State in the drafting of whatever charter might arise. Nothing is further from the truth and Lord Goodman is as well aware of that as are most noble Lords. As I said, the Bill was introduced here solely as an industrial relations measure. While it was going through another place there was genuine feeling that something should be done about the Press; the fear of the effect of the closed shop on editors and others. When the Bill came to us there was genuine feeling throughout the House, and certainly on my side, that something should be done.

My noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, on his own initiative, produced in Committee a code of practice. It was not then a charter but, as I say, a code of practice. Clause 2 of the Bill which is now before us is substantially that, as recommended by my noble friend, which this House accepted. There is some redrafting and of course some substantial concessions were made to Lord Goodman, though he has not this afternoon in his general historical survey of the situation conceded those. I would remind him of those major concessions, which he himself regarded as major ones. When, at the end of last Session the Bill was disagreed to, the two areas over which we had disagreement were the question of rights and the question of legal sanctions. Lord Goodman and others felt strongly on this matter, which was considered exhaustively in the House of Commons, from where we now have the Bill back with the suggested Amendment—with neither of the provisions which Lord Goodman wished to see. Despite again covering the ground and speaking of his fears, if my memory serves me aright Lord Goodman said on Second Reading that it was not his intention to persist with either of those provisions—that is, for the rights or for the legal sanctions—and today we have had, if I may say so, a different argument, and that is concerned with the position of the Secretary of State.

I ask the House to look at the first subsection of Clause 2. This lays a duty, a responsibility, on all sections of the industry together to reach a charter. I was indeed gratified to hear from Lord Goodman his view that such a charter could be achieved—although he made the qualification, provided there was nothing in the legislation concerning the Secretary of State and the Government. Leaving that aside, the noble Lord expressed complete confidence that both sides of this industry would be able to agree to a charter. The other provisions of that subsection state that when a charter has been agreed by both sides the Secretary of State shall lay a draft before both Houses of Parliament and that, by the Affirmative Resolution procedure, the charter shall have its proper being. The question of the Secretary of State arises only if there is failure by both sides to reach agreement on the charter.

Lord Houghton proposed that there should be a period of six months, but I took the view that that was possibly too short a period. It was on my recommendation that we extended it from six to 12 months. We have also hedged round the position of the Secretary of State and per- haps I might remind Lord Goodman that when my noble friend's Amendment was being considered I expressed on behalf of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the doubt whether the Secretary of State ought to be involved in an affair of this sort, but we agreed to it because there was recognition that if both sides could not agree—and the importance of this matter was clear to many in both Houses of Parliament—then the Secretary of State should break the deadlock. However, we hedged round the powers of the Secretary of State in relation to two particular matters, of which Lord Goodman failed to remind the House. I ask noble Lords to look at Clause2(3), which is of great importance, particularly sub-paragraph (a). This provision states: …the Secretary of State shall after consultation with the Press Council… and other bodies, et cetera. This is the constraint placed on him— where…there appears to the Secretary of State to be agreement among the parties referred to in subsection (1) above on any matter relating to the freedom of the press, he shall incorporate in the draft charter such practical guidance as he thinks appropriate to give effect to that agreement. That subsection constrains the Secretary of State where some agreement has been reached by the two sides but where there is failure to reach full agreement. Subparagraph (b) provides that, where there is no such agreement but where there may be some matters outstanding, the Secretary of State may draft the charter to give practical guidance. However, what is most important is that the Secretary of State, after all these consultations, must go to both Houses and lay the draft order before them for their Affirmative Resolution procedure. If one House disagreed with such an order, the Secretary of State would have to go through further formal negotiations, in particular with the Press Council, and then come back to this House.

However, an extra protection which the Government themselves initiated because of representations made in another place is that, under subsection (7), where a charter has been made and approved by both Houses, if, in the view of both sides of industry, the charter is wrong and needs to be revised the two sides can go to Parliament without the intervention of the Secretary of State and say that they do not like the charter which the Secre- ary of State has drawn up and which Parliament approved and that they want amendments to which they seek the agreement of the two Houses. I suggest that we have had the Secretary of State brought into this in a most reluctant way. He has been hedged around with many provisos, hoops and hurdles to overcome. At the same time, the opportunity has all along been given for the two sides to come back to Parliament if they are unhappy or dissatisfied with any charter that has been proposed to them.

What is the position of this House? Noble Lords opposite on the Conservative and Liberal Benches and on the Cross Benches came together in great strength in support of the Amendment moved during the last Session by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Such an Amendment could well have contained all the provisions I have spoken of—the charter and so on and all the rights and legal restraints—without the involvement of the Secretary of State. However, the Amendment which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and supported by all noble Lords except those on this side of the House provided for the role of the Secretary of State, in the same way that is provided in the Bill now before the House. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has now come to the House to say, "Irrespective of what I advised the House in the last Session and of what you, the noble Lords around me, agreed—despite all that and because I cannot get rights and legal sanctions, I want no charter at all." The noble Lord makes his case solely upon the position of the Secretary of State, to which he himself put his name, and in which he asked noble Lords opposite to support him.

The noble Lord may have a case but what about this House? Having demanded not only our time but time in another place exhaustively and most anxiously to consider this matter, if we suddenly at the last moment say with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, that we do not want a charter at all I suggest that that will make complete nonsense of all our procedures and of all the time we have most anxiously put in on this matter. The Government believe that a charter may be helpful. We hope we shall see a charter which has been arrived at by the two sides of the industry. I passionately hope that the Secretary of State will at no stage be involved other than in the laying of an order in both Houses. I hope that the House will take the view that this matter has now been given exhaustive, anxious consideration. Much work has been undertaken, many concessions have been made to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and I trust that noble Lords will take the view that, although the Bill which is now before the the House may perhaps not be exactly what they would like to see, in the light of all the anxieties which have been expressed in both Houses, in the Press and in the industry itself, it would be better for what is proposed regarding the freedom of the Press to be in the Bill than for there to be no provision at all.

This legislation could well be revoked in later years, particularly when we have received the report of the Royal Commission on the Press. I have already given an assurance and I now repeat it that if anything comes out of the Royal Commission which helps in any way to strengthen the freedom of the Press, the Government will not hesitate to legislate. If the legislation needs to be repealed, it will be repealed. I suggest that with all the work, all the time and all the good spirit which has been put into this question to try to meet genuine fears it would be quite wrong for this House now to reject it, particularly as another place has, after full consideration, asked that we should consider it and approve its inclusion in the Bill.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he be kind enough to explain why, since the Royal Commission will be taking evidence next week on this matter, it is necessary for us to legislate today?


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, knows why we are legislating today. The present Bill was introduced during the last Session as an industrial relations Bill. It was the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who came to this House and who, with all the clarion calls in the Press, sought to raise the whole question of the freedom of the Press. The Government have sought to react to those pressures and to the genuine feelings of all sides of the House. That is why we are legislating today, and the noble Lord knows it perhaps better than I do.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, may I say a few words in support of what has been said by my noble friend, speaking, as I do, as one who has been a working journalist for almost half a century. The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is a brilliant lawyer and a most humane man for whom many of us feel an affection hardly short of veneration. Yet I fear that he has been keeping what I regard as the wrong company in this context. He is of course a spokesman of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association, who now prefer to be called the Newspaper Publishers' Association because they have learnt that the burden of admitted proprietorship or ownership of an organ of the Press is too heavy a burden of temptation to be carried by any human being. So there are now "publishers", not "proprietors". I wish that the noble Lord had spent more time in the company of what we call the FOCs—the fathers of the chapels in Fleet Street—the chairmen of the branches of the NUJ. The NUJ is—whatever the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, may say—the only genuine trade union for journalists. The other is more in the nature of what we sometimes call a "company union".

I am afraid that there has been a great deal of humbug talked about the freedom of the Press. My noble friend Lady Gaitskell says "on both sides", and that may be so. Humbug tends to spread, even when it is contradicted. There is an old adage, which I think is still broadly true, to the effect that the freedom of the Press in Britain means freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers do not object to. That is perhaps a slight oversimplification, but only slight. I commend it to the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, and to your Lordships, for the essential truth contained in it.

Take that admirable, sober, and brilliantly produced Conservative newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. It is most ably edited by a former, most distinguished Member of another place, Mr. William Deedes. Does anybody suggest, does the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, believe, that if Mr. Deedes wanted to print an article which was—possibly not for political reasons, but perhaps for social reasons—deeply objectionable to the noble Lord, Lord Hartwell, or indeed to his brilliant and gifted wife, that Mr. Deedes could get away with it? Not for long, anyway.

Therefore, I suggest that there is an element of humbug in the perfectly sincere and well intentioned Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Thus, as a working journalist, as well as a very new Member of your Lordships' House, I support my noble friend.


My Lords, I was very surprised—


My Lords, I think we should now have the Statement.

Several Noble Lords: Statement, Statement!


My Lords, I think it is the wish of the House that we should now have the Statement—


My Lords, I also thought so, but I notice that my noble friend behind me, who was referred to in the last speech, has risen, and perhaps, in accordance with the wishes of the House he might be entitled to speak, because a personal reference, which some might feel was an unfortunate one, was made.


My Lords, if the noble Lord wishes to speak, then I am certain that the House will agree that he does so. I intervened only because it seemed that some noble Lords wished to deal with the Statement at this stage. I suggest to the noble Lord that if he wishes to speak, the House would be happy to hear him.


My Lords I do not propose to intervene in the debate at this moment. I merely want to reply to what I regard as a most offensive innuendo, not only about myself but also about my wife, and when I have made my observations, I should be obliged if the noble Lord would withdraw it. The noble Lord referred to Mr. Deedes, who has been the editor of the Daily Telegraph for 14 months, and I have never had any occasion to interfere with the policies which he has decided upon. We have discussed matters, but I have never directed him to write an article with which he does not agree, nor have I ever done such a thing in the 21 years in which I have been an editor-in-chief.

With regard to the noble Lord's observations about proprietors, I think that he is a little out of date. He is referring to the late Lord Beaverbrook and the late Lord Northcliffe, and that is not how papers are conducted nowadays. I have been in journalism almost as long as the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell. I have worked on 10 papers, and I have done practically every job that there is to be done in newspapers. So I think I know what I am talking about, and I should be grateful if the noble Lord would withdraw his observations.


My Lords, my reference was intended to be perfectly friendly, but if it was regarded by the noble Lord as an offensive innuendo, then of course I withdraw it.