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Newspaper Representative (Facilities)

Volume 656: debated on Wednesday 28 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for Air what facilities were afforded by his department to Mr. Chapman Pincher, of the Daily Express newspaper, to investigate the effectiveness of Great Britain's hydrogen bombs.

Mr. Chapman Pincher was given facilities to visit Headquarters Bomber Command and a Bomber Command station.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in its issue of 19th March the Daily Express made clear that the Air Ministry had offered unique facilities to Mr. Chapman Pincher to see everything at one of our chief bomber stations and that no vital facts were withheld from him? Is the right hon. Gentleman able to square that with the statement which he made a week earlier in the Air Estimates debate, on 12th March:

"I am not prepared to explain here the exact details of our readiness or dispersal systems."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th March, 1962; Vol. 655. c. 909.]
When he could not explain them to Parliament, how was it that Mr. Pincher was able to go and see all about them?

I thought Mr. Pincher wrote some very well-informed articles, but I am not, of course, responsible for everything that he wrote.

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that Members of Parliament who want to write articles on this subject will be given facilities equal to those given to Mr. Chapman Pincher?

Similar facilities have been given in the past to hon. Members belonging to the party opposite.

While welcoming the maximum information that can be given to the public, may I ask why these facilities were granted immediately after the Air Estimates debate when the Secretary of State had declined to give the House information about scrambling and so on which subsequently appeared in Mr. Chapman Pincher's articles? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he approved the articles as well as providing the facilities, and will he give like facilities to any accredited defence correspondent who wishes to avail himself of the opportunity?

As I have already said, I thought Mr. Pincher's articles were very well informed and well written, but I do not accept responsibility for everything that he wrote. As I have already said, I have previously provided facilities for other journalists, including hon. Members opposite, to make visits of a similar kind.