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British Broadcasting Corporation (Ministerial Representations)

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 25 November 1965

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Q3.

asked the Prime Minister how many representations by Ministers in their Ministerial capacity were made to the British Broadcasting Corporation during the Summer Recess about the content of current affairs programmes.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on the 2nd November to an identical Question by the hon. Member for Howden (Mr. Bryan).

Does the Prime Minister realise that his Answer on that occasion was not accepted either inside or outside the House? Can he now tell the House why he misused his position during the Labour Party conference at Blackpool to bully an employee of the B.B.C.?

Whether my Answer is accepted or not is a matter for the hon. Member. There was no bullying of an employee of the B.B.C. on that occasion. There was one discussion—not in an official capacity—which I have reported to the House before, about the fact that the B.B.C. had changed the rules concerning Ministerial broadcasts over the last 12 months.

Does not the Prime Minister agree that the facts of this incident are in issue? His account of the Blackpool incident and other accounts are at complete variance. As the freedom and independence of the B.B.C. are at stake, would it not be wise to set up an impartial and independent inquiry?

The difference is that I was there and the hon. Member was not. He is relying on a slanted account which appeared in the Daily Mail two mornings later. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I was there, and I read the account. As for pressure on the B.B.C. it is a well-known fact that over the years party pressures—I am not talking about Ministerial pressures—have been in the ratio of about five to one in favour of the Conservative Party as compared with the Labour Party.

Is the Prime Minister denying that he had any discussions with any employees of the B.B.C., not about Ministerial broadcasts but about the programmes actually put on during the Blackpool conference? Is he also suggesting that the report of these discussions in The Times was slanted?

I do not recall what The Times said, unless the right hon. Gentleman is referring—[Interruption.] there was no statement in The Times at the time—to the statement made in The Times the following week. If that is the one he has in mind, I have seen it. I have already given the House an account on what the conversation was. I say further that stories that there was any objection to a particular individual delegate to the conference being put on the B.B.C. are quite false. There was no objection at all to Mr. Clive Jenkins or anyone else broadcasting.

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.