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Press Council

Volume 480: debated on Thursday 16 November 1950

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47.

asked the Lord President of the Council what steps are now being taken to set up a Press Council as recommended by the Royal Commission on the Press.

I am sorry to say that I have little further to report to the House. I was recently informed by the Secretary of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association that he was not at present in a position to state when any definitive result would be forthcoming from the discussions between the Newspaper Proprietors' Association and the Newspaper Society regarding the setting up of a Press Council. He explained that the draft proposals which were under examination by the two bodies at the time of my answer to Questions on 9th March had not received general support in the discussions and that, in an endeavour to reconcile the divergent views in both organisations, another committee had been formed for the purpose of preparing an alternative scheme.

Hon. Members will recall that in June, 1949, the Royal Commission recommended that a General Council of the Press should be established by the Press itself, and that on 28th July, 1949, the House unanimously approved a Motion to the effect that it would welcome all possible action on the part of the Press to give effect to the Commission's conclusions and recommendations.

The Government naturally assumed that, in these circumstances, the newspaper proprietors would think it right, in consultation with representatives of editors and other journalists, to give urgent consideration to the report of the Royal Commission with a view to the early formulation of agreed proposals for action. I trust that I shall be speaking for all sections of the House when I say that, in view of the unanimous Motion which the House approved nearly 18 months ago, it does not seem to me that the proprietors have acted with the full sense of urgency which Parliament was entitled to expect of them. I hope, however, that they will not keep the House and the public waiting much longer.

While supporting very strongly what my right hon. Friend has just said, may I ask him if he will also consider pointing out to the N.P.A. that it would have been an advantage if this Council had been in existence to investigate, for instance, the recent dismissal of the editor of "Picture Post" for daring to try to print a factual report on the brutal treatment of prisoners in Korea?

The hon. Member seems to be putting forward a particular point of view. That is not the object of Questions, the purpose of which is to ask for information only.

On a point of order. I am asking my right hon. Friend if he would point something out to the N.P.A. Surely that arises out of this Question.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Press Council or the Labour Party will be responsible for roving correspondents?