asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty why his Department intervened on the evening of Monday, 18th November, to cancel a British Broadcasting Corporation's television programme designed by the Royal Marines to encourage recruiting by giving publicity to a scheme whereby any serving Royal Marine officer or other rank who introduced a new recruit to the Service could qualify for an extra week's leave; whether recruiting for the Royal Marines is achieving the numbers required by the Admiralty; why the Admiralty decided to overrule Royal Marines' initiative in recruiting matters; whether he is aware that his action is calculated to discourage Royal Marines' recruiting; and whether he will make a statement.
As regards the current state of recruiting for the Royal Marines, and the extra leave scheme, I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave last Wednesday to the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley). We are studying ways and means of increasing the rate of recruiting and the grant of extra leave to serving men who bring in recruits is one of these.
As this particular idea was under examination at the time, the Admiralty took the view that it would not be right to authorise a serving officer to discuss it on television, and I would add that it was the B.B.C. who approached the Royal Marines and not vice versa, as implied by my hon. Friend.
While that is a very reasonable explanation, may I ask my hon. Friend if he can give an assurance that it will not become a habit or a practice on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers to tamper in any way with B.B.C. or I.T.A. television programmes, or with sound broadcasting?
Where the Admiralty is concerned, we have a responsibility to see that serving officers get the authority of the Admiralty before appearing on the B.B.C., and I believe the House would like to think that this was so. What happened in this instance was that the B.B.C. asked whether an officer could appear on a programme to talk about this set of circumstances, and, as time was short, he went to Bristol while the Admiralty was being asked. As the matter was under consideration, it was considered inappropriate to allow him to go on the air.