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Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 13th January 1999.

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Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:35 pm, 13th January 1999

If the hon. Gentleman continues to listen, as he is doing, he will find that some of my criticisms spread over on to those who operate the system. It takes two to operate the system—those purveying the dubious information, and those who put it into the media.

A great deal of work is done by the Government press machine to convey to media—which are sometimes gullible and sometimes just not in a position to make a proper assessment—a false picture of events. That is especially true when things must be done in a rush. One of the worst examples that I have ever known in 25 years in this place was the press pack on the Scott report under the previous Government. Journalists had no time to read that seven-volume report. They relied initially, at least, on the Government summary, which dealt almost entirely with the charges that had not been proved, ignoring the ones that had. When Lord Justice Scott was asked about that when giving evidence to a Committee, he agreed that the picture presented by the Government summary was not an accurate summary of his report. It was systematically selective information to give a false picture. It was sanctioned by civil servants as well as by political advisers.