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Information Services

Volume 972: debated on Monday 29 October 1979

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asked the Paymaster General if he will make a statement on the working of the Government information services.


asked the Paymaster General if he is satisfied with the performance of the Government's information services.

It is the role of information divisions in Government Departments to provide a service of factual information and policy explanation to the media and to the public. In addition, they are responsible for the preparation and publication of a very wide range of official reports, together with leaflets and other publicity material, informing the public of the services available to them. With the help of the specialist divisions in the Central Office of Information, they also organise publicity campaigns on a number of issues such as road safety and energy conservation. The COI produces material to support the role of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Overseas Trade Board in projecting British policies and British industry overseas. As to the quality of performance, I hope that I should never be completely satisfied with any institution which is capable of improvement. Of course there is room for improvement, and consultation with my ministerial colleagues and their officials is already producing results, but I am satisfied that the Government information services perform a difficult task with considerable skill and provide a helpful service.

Order. I am not sure whether the answers are getting longer or just seem to be longer.

I shall not attempt to match the length of the answer. On the first part of my right hon. Friend's answer, has he listened recently to BBC radio and heard the regular lurid accounts of the effects of the Government's so-called cuts, and noticed that there is never any attempt, apparently, to give the reasons why it is necessary to equate national expenditure with national income? Will my right hon. Friend either boost the information that he is sending out, or possibly make a couple of telephone calls to ensure that the facts do not just stop when they leave his office?

The question of who appears on BBC television or radio is a matter for the BBC. Representations are made to try to ensure that the balance is kept. Departments do everything possible to ensure that the information gets through.

Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that his Department is winning or losing the battle to con people into thinking that public expenditure cuts will not hurt millions of people?

I am certain that the public are beginning to understand what the Labour Party and the previous Government tried to conceal, namely, that if we are to control inflation it is necessary to control public expenditure.

In view of the considerable contribution made by the external services of the BBC in disseminating Government information, will my right hon. Friend say whether he is for or against the proposed cuts in those services?

That question should be addressed to Ministers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Because it is not my departmental responsibility. It is the responsibility of my noble Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. It would therefore be improper for me to pre-empt it.