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?
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.
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?
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.