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British Tanks (Letter To Newspaper)

Volume 390: debated on Wednesday 30 June 1943

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asked the Minister of Information why a letter written by the hon. Member for East Willesden on the subject of British tanks, which "The Times" newspaper desired to publish, has been censored by his Department when submitted by the editor?

The letter to which my hon. Friend refers contained a certain amount of information the publication of which could not be approved on security grounds and "The Times" newspaper was advised accordingly.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the letter contained very restrained criticism of certain aspects of tank policy and that that policy was indicated and explained by responsible Ministers at a meeting which was neither confidential nor secret? Is he satisfied that to prevent the ventilation of a point of view which is sincerely held by many well-informed people is really in the public interest?

I must inform my hon. Friend, first of all, that the Censor is no respector of person, including Ministers. He has a very great responsibility resting on his shoulders, and I have told him to be as tough as possible in all matters which affect the security of the country. I daresay that censors sometimes suffer from an excess of zeal, but I had rather they did that than that they should be incompetent.

Since when has a censorship of the English Press been imposed opposed to the censorship of material, Press and other, leaving this country?

I do not quite understand my hon. and gallant Friend's Question. It is open to any newspaper not to submit articles or letters to the Censor. They can take the risk themselves. But if a newspaper editor submits any document or letter to the Censor, he must abide by the Censor's judgment. The Censor is sometimes not infallible, but I am satisfied that in this case he is doing his duty.