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Press (Meetings)

Volume 972: debated on Monday 29 October 1979

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asked the Paymaster General when he intends to meet the press in his official capacity.

I do of course, as all Ministers do, frequently meet representatives of the media. Since it is my responsibility to ensure that the Government's information services provide the best possible service to the media and public, I am always open to approaches from any representatives who believe the service could be improved. But it is not part of my job to convene formal press conferences or hold briefing meetings myself.

In this matter of communication between the Government and the press, will the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Secretary review the arrangements at the Lancaster House talks and the propaganda effort that the Government are making in the media? Is he aware that it is quite unusual to use faceless civil servants to put forward the Government's point of view after each session of the conference? That is not the way in which things are normally done. According to our constitution, Ministers are meant to take responsibility for their actions. Will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that, in press releases and appearances on radio and the television, Ministers defend their actions rather than hand that responsibility over to people who are not available for scrutiny by this House?

I do not accept that it has always been the case that Ministers should conduct all press conferences and briefings. This has never been so. Foreign Office Ministers are always ready to explain their policies and what is happening at the conference. Inevitably, while they are occupied at the conference, some press briefings must be handled by information officers.