Local Information Committee Officer (Speech, Oxford).

Oral Answers to Questions — Food Supplies. – in the House of Commons on 24th October 1940.

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Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been drawn to a public speech in Oxford by Mr. A. J. P. Taylor, a member of the local Information Committee appointed by the Ministry of Information, to the effect that a withdrawal from Egypt would not be a major disaster; and whether he is prepared to take steps to prevent members of committees from committing themselves to irresponsible public statements of this nature without consultation with the Ministry?

Photo of Hon. Harold Nicolson Hon. Harold Nicolson , Leicester West

Yes, Sir. The gentleman to whom the hon. Member refers is a member of the local Information Com- mittee of the Ministry of Information, but, as he was careful to make clear at the time, he was speaking entirely in his personal capacity and not as a member of the local Information Committee. Mr. Taylor is neither a civil servant nor in receipt of remuneration from the Government, and he therefore enjoys the same right as any other British subject to express his private opinion on public affairs.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

While recognising to the full the right of a British subject to express his private opinion on public affairs, is not the Minister aware of the very grave public disquiet which was caused in Oxford by the irresponsible and ridiculous statement made by a person in a public position? Is he not aware that it led to a very grave misapprehension as to the intentions of the Government?

Photo of Hon. Harold Nicolson Hon. Harold Nicolson , Leicester West

I am aware that Mr. Taylor's statements led to a considerable controversy at the time, but Mr. Taylor was speaking as an independent person.

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

Does not the Minister recognise some responsibility for the people whom he appoints to these committees?

Photo of Hon. Harold Nicolson Hon. Harold Nicolson , Leicester West

I think my hon. Friend is under some misapprehension as to the functions of these Information Committees. They are not administrative sections of the Ministry of Information. They are voluntary and advisory bodies, and we have taken very great care that they should have on them representatives of every shade of opinion, even if those opinions are not such as to commend themselves to every member of the community.

Colonel Arthur Evans:

Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear to the servants of his Department that the only two persons who have responsibility for making statements of policy on behalf of His Majesty's Government are his right hon. Friend and himself who share responsibility in this House?

Photo of Hon. Harold Nicolson Hon. Harold Nicolson , Leicester West

There is no misunderstanding about that at all. In fact, I never pretended that Mr. Taylor was making any statement on behalf of His Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr William Thorne Mr William Thorne , West Ham Plaistow

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if the hon. Member for West Ham made a statement like that, he would be "pinched "?

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I wish to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first opportunity.