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Empire Cables (Censorship)

Volume 389: debated on Wednesday 19 May 1943

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asked the Minister of Information whether the additional instructions issued to the censorship in March last year with regard to outgoing Press messages are still in operation; to what extent and with what results they have been applied during the past year to the despatches of Empire Press correspondents and others; and whether he intends to continue to make use of these powers?

Yes, Sir. Press censors are still required to refer to their directors any passage in an outgoing message which might cause serious misunderstanding or ill-feeling between the United Nations. Only a very small proportion of Press cables have, in fact, to be referred on these grounds. In practice it has not been necessary to modify or delete more than one word out of every 10,000 filed by overseas correspondents. Even then the emendations have nearly always been achieved by friendly agreement with the correspondents concerned. This is a very satisfactory state of affairs, and it is proof of the high degree of responsibility exercised by all the Empire correspondents in this country. Nevertheless, I do not think it would be wise to withdraw the powers conferred on the censorship in view of the harm that can be done by even a single indiscretion. I will gladly repeat the assurance I have given the House that these powers will never be used in such a way as to handicap legitimate criticism. It is right that the fullest and frankest despatches of Empire correspondents should be transmitted to their papers. These correspondents represent newspapers of great influence and responsibility and their work plays a vital part in the growth of sympathy and understanding between Britain and the rest of the Empire.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why quotations from American papers about certain events in this country are allowed in our Press here which the Ministry will not allow our newspapers to publish direct?

The hon. Gentleman is a little bit confused. Anything published by American newspapers is not subject to our censorship, and I do not intend to take responsibility for the Ministry of Information of the United States. I have enough work to do here.

Can the Minister explain why the Truman Committee's report on our shipping losses was published in this country from America?

If the hon. Gentleman will put that question down, I will see if I can provide him with an answer.