asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs why His Majesty's Government sold the Vienna newspaper "Weltpresse" to the Austrian Socialist Party; and whether other Austrian political parties were given an opportunity to offer for this paper.
As I replied to the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pickthorn) on 18th September, an agreement was made in 1946 with the Austrian Socialist Party whereby the latter undertook printing and distribution of "Weltpresse" for an option to buy the paper if British control were withdrawn.In 1948, the Austrian Socialist Publishing Company acquired an interest in a former French evening newspaper "Welt am Abend" which was losing money for lack of adequate printing facilities. The Austrian Socialist Publishing Company therefore wished to print the paper on their own premises which were then occupied by "Weltpresse," and consequently to stop printing British controlled papers. As there were no satisfactory alternative facilities for "Weltpresse" it was agreed, after negotiations, that if the Austrian Socialist Publishing Company continued to print "Weltpresse" on their premises and consequently abandoned the publication of "Welt am Abend," the Austrian Socialist Publishing Company would be confirmed in the right to acquire the title and good will of "Weltpresse" when Information Services Branch ceased publication. In these circumstances, the question of giving the other Austrian political parties an opportunity to offer for the paper did not arise.
Is the Under-Secretary aware that the Austrian Chancellor protested both against the decision and against the failure of His Majesty's Government to consult the Austrian Government on this issue? Is he not aware also that the way this transaction has been handled has left an unpleasant feeling of more interest in international Socialism than in British interests?
I do not accept the hon. Member's statement. There was some protest made by the People's Party of Austria, but not by the Austrian Government, at the time it was decided to put into effect the offer made to "Weltpresse."
Will the hon. Gentleman say which of the circumstances he describes was that which made it impossible to consider any other party in this connection?
It was the option which the Austrian Socialist Printing Company had to take over "Weltpresse" when we ceased publication.
Is it not a fact that the protest was made by the Austrian Chancellor himself?
Whether or not it was made by the Austrian Chancellor himself, it was made on behalf of the People's Party. I should want notice of the question whether it was made by the Austrian Chancellor or not.