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Government Policies

Volume 268: debated on Monday 11 December 1995

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To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what steps he is taking to ensure that Her Majesty's Government's policies are communicated to the general public through the broadcast media; and if he will make a statement. [3284]

My right hon. and hon. colleagues and I take every opportunity to present this Government's policies on the broadcast media. Thanks to this Government's policies on deregulation and competitiveness, there are now many more such broadcast outlets than ever before.

I ask my right hon. Friend to continue putting across Government policy on important issues, including our spending commitments, and not to go down the road of the Labour party and try to compress party policy into soundbites while making no spending commitments. I ask my right hon. Friend also not to follow the example of the sinister spin doctors—such as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who tries to compress everything into five words while not expressing any Labour commitment.

I support my hon. Friend's remarks, particularly in the context of the recent Budget of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor, in which we saw not only significant increases in expenditure on key services such as health, law and order and education but the beginning of a determination to lower levels of taxation.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that, since the Conservative party came to power, there has been a huge increase in the number of Government press officers and that the amount of money spent by the Government on propaganda by the various media outlets has also increased hugely—by as much as 600 per cent., according to some estimates? We now have an expensive additional Government position known as Deputy Prime Minister, whose holder's main function concerns Government propaganda. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that anything that is so expensive to sell must be a pretty shabby product?

I have been making inquiries into the records of Governments in the politicisation of the civil service. The only evidence that I can find of a Government's determination to politicise the media or press handling of government was that of the Labour Government, when Joe Haines was made a press officer at No. 10. The relevant question is whether or not there is any truth in the statements by Alastair Campbell, who is now travelling around the lobbies of the country, that he will be made a press officer in Downing street if Labour wins. The country is entitled to receive the answer.