Would the Secretary of State agree that while the Press of this country holds a deservedly high reputation and that we should regret any interference with its independence by the Government, the recent allegation that statements attributed to Mrs. Maclean and a spokesman of the Foreign Office were not made, and, indeed, that no personal interview with Mrs. Maclean took place, have caused a certain amount of public misgiving? Would he also agree that the reluctance of one newspaper to publish any denial has also given rise to misgiving, and would he not, therefore, consider some legislation to compel newspapers to publish denials in such cases or, better still, encourage the Press to set up their own Press Council for the protection of their own journalists and the public? Otherwise, there is a great danger of a public demand being made for Government action on this subject.
I have read all the documents in the incident to which the hon. Member referred, and I am sure he would not expect me to give a decision between the conflicting accounts: but I think I am perfectly entitled to say that the particular incident is one that the Press should take into account in considering the urgency of setting up a Press Council.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has said that he has read all the documents in this case. Did he see the allegation made in the article in the" Observer" that the staff of the "Daily Express" newspaper were alleged to have interrogated small children to report about their parents, and is not that a Nazi-like practice?
Sir D. Maxwell Eyfe:
I have seen all the reports and I think the House will agree with me when I repeat that that sort of incident makes the urgency of setting up a Press Council a matter to be considered.