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Bbc (Injunction)

Volume 124: debated on Monday 7 December 1987

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3.30 pm

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the legal restrictions obtained by the Government on broadcasting by the BBC in the case of the radio series My Country, Right or Wrong."
The matter is specific in that it deals with the gagging of the BBC. Our Law Officers may be trigger-happy in seeking injunctions, but they are not anxious to explain themselves to the House. There was no statement from the Law Officers, and, but for my private question, the House, to which they are answerable, would not have heard from them. A debate will give them a proper opportunity to explain, and, more important, the opportunity to discover the Prime Minister's role in the matter.

The matter is important, as the injunction is but part of a process of limiting discussion. It is censorship. At any rate, at least the BBC was spared having its premises raided on this occasion.

The matter is urgent because it is obvious from the Attorney-General's letter to the BBC last Friday that there is an awareness in high places that the Law Officers" have gone too far and there is a willingness to compromise. The House wants to know what motivated the Attorney-General in trying to plug the dam against the charge of inconsistency or something substantial in the programme? Right hon. Members contributed to the programme. There is uncertainty about what the media may now report. Is it really the Government's considered view that allegations of illegal and subversive action must never be published without first informing the proper authorities?

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he believes should have urgent consideration, namely,

"the legal restrictions imposed by the Government on broadcasting by the BBC in the case of the radio series My Country, Right or Wrong."
I listened with care to what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, but I regret that I do not consider that the matter he has raised meet the criteria laid down under Standing Order No. 20. I cannot, therefore, submit his application to the House. Perhaps I may tell the right hon.and learned Gentleman and the whole House that there will be opportunities to debate the matter — perhaps during the recess Adjournment debate tomorrow.