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Prime Minister (Engagements)

Volume 932: debated on Tuesday 24 May 1977

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asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 24th May.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and attended a memorial service for Mr. Ray Gunter. Later today I shall be going to Edinburgh where I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen, and to be her guest at the banquet for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

When the Prime Minister meets the Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Press—as I understand he will—will he draw to the chairman's attention the leader in the Daily Mail last week, which called upon Lord Ryder to resign, and to resign quickly? Will my right hon. Friend also draw to the chairman's attention the fact that—as I understand it—the associate editor of the Daily Mail, Mr. Stewart Stevens has resigned, but that that is not an adequate recompense for the circumstances that have arisen as a result of that newspaper's activities last week? Is the Prime Minister aware that we want the organ grinder and not the monkey?

I read the editorial and also the presentation of the news, and both were contemptible. It was a display of political spite, both in the presentation and in the comments that were made in the editorial. Of course, Lord Ryder is suing and therefore there is no point in repeating the comments that were made by the leader writer at that time about Lord Ryder's behaviour being "sleazy", about his reputation being "irretrievably stained" or about his having "abused public trust". All that sort of thing is totally contemptible. I believe that the whole House will agree with me on that.

Perhaps the only thing that I should say now is that I hope that the Daily Mail has learned its lesson. However, perhaps it has not, because I must say I was astonished to hear that Vere Harmsworth had said this morning that he had every confidence in the editor's policy. To be proved wrong and vindictive at the same time is a remarkable combination.

If the Prime Minister meets the Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Press today, will the right hon. Gentleman dissociate himself from the drivelling nonsense that was submitted in evidence by his predecessor?

I shall be raising with the Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Press the Daily Mail story that has reduced journalism to a lower level than I can remember for many years. It is to that that I shall direct my attention.

Is the Prime Minister aware of the immense and possibly irreparable damage that the disgraceful Daily Mail affair has caused to British exports and jobs? While recognising the need for a review at British Leyland, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the review is speedy, because Leyland must continue to trade in those markets?

Of course. I do not believe that the editor of the Daily Mail was concerned with jobs or people at British Leyland or the reputation of that organisation. I believe that he was concerned to try to smear the Labour Government and to bring down a nationalised industry.

Before the day is out will the Prime Minister inquire and, if possible, report to the House on why the Foreign Secretary apparently forbade Sir Peter Ramsbotham to accept an invitation to appear on television on the "Tonight" programme with Ludovic Kennedy? Was that not wholly unreasonable, in view of Sir Peter's exemplary behaviour and the fact that his replacement seems to spend much of his time on television?

No, I shall not ask the Foreign Secretary about that. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to put down a Question to my right hon. Friend, he may do so.