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Press (Royal Commission's Report)

Volume 928: debated on Thursday 24 March 1977

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asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the proposed date of publication for the Royal Commission on the Press.

The Royal Commission hopes to present its final report by the middle of this year.

I am sure my right hon. Friend will be aware that it is almost three years since the Royal Commission was set up. Since he now says that its report will be published quite soon, will he not also anticipate that any recommendations which could be implemented arising from the Annan Report should await that publication, since there are many relevant matters in both reports?

I shall want to give the report full consideration when it comes. I regret very much that a number of the recommendations in the interim report have not been implemented, and I hope that the industry will get on with those. I shall also consider any inter-reaction between the Annan Report and the Royal Commission's Report.

In view of the partial report on yesterday's Cabinet meeting which appears in The Times today, in which it is reported that four Cabinet Ministers threatened to resign over the deal with the Liberals, should not the right hon. Gentleman place in the Library a record of what took place yesterday so that the House and the country can judge the extent to which the Liberal Party has betrayed its erstwhile supporters?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is no ministerial responsibility, thank God, for what appears in the Press. I would certainly advise the hon. Gentleman not to believe everything that he reads even in august newspapers like The Times.

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to propose to the Royal Commission on the Press that there should be a merger between Labour Weekly and Liberal News? Is he aware that without one of those skilled deals Liberal News, like the Liberal Party, is likely soon to go broke from lack of support?

I hope that that is not so. I should not want to think that that was the first result of the understandings that we have reached. I am certainly willing to advise everybody to read Labour Weekly, which today contains an exclusive article by me.

When considering that helpful suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, East (Mr. Aitken), would the Prime Minister like to consider taking on a more ambitious task and including Tribune in the merger?

I am a long and faithful reader of Tribune. That is more than I can say of my dealings with the Conservative newspapers, but if they would like to put me on their free circulation lists I shall even undertake to look at those week by week.

Does the Prime Minister agree that these mergers might provide an opportunity for decent-minded people to see a united front against the racialist element of the Conservative Party which was condoned this afternoon by its Leader?

I am very anxious that there should be no unnecessary disagreements or lack of understanding about policy on this important social issue which can raise so much tension. I understand that the Conservatives' policy is that they do not want to stop immigration of dependants joining relatives already here. I trust that that is still the position.