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International Relations: Bbc Programme

Volume 385: debated on Monday 11 July 1977

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2.40 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why, having regard to the need for good relations between the United Kingdom, the United States of America and West Germany, they did not take steps to prevent the showing by the BBC of "The Bridge of Remagen" on Sunday 26th June.

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government are always concerned to maintain good international relations, but under the arrangements governing broadcasting in this country, responsibility for programme content rests with the broadcasting authorities; namely, the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority. It would be inconsistent with this policy to intervene with the BBC about the showing of the particular film to which the noble Baroness has made reference.

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his expected reply, may I ask just two questions? Is he aware that I am a great supporter of the BBC, particularly in their major programmes, which I think are very remarkable? Is the noble Lord also aware that, by asking this Question, I have at least ensured that the BBC will read my Question and the Answer? I hope they will draw from that the opinion that I thought the programme, though no doubt entirely accurate, was a most unfortunate one to show at this particular time.

My Lords, too, saw the programme and, if I may say so, enjoyed it. I think that many people saw it as a story which centred on the conflict between American and German forces. But I think that it went further in so far as it made an attempt to distinguish between honourable conduct and the soldierly actions of the Wehrmacht and the background activities of the SS, and in that I think it served some useful purpose.

My Lords, I shall, of course, accept that answer. I took almost exactly the same view. But is the noble Lord aware that the indiscipline of the United States forces perhaps ought not to have been shown?

My Lords, before the Minister answers, will he consider whether the essential good relations between the United Kingdom and the USA would be improved if the unending procrastination ceased of preventing Concorde from landing in New York?