§ Mr. Granville
asked the Minister of Information whether he will consider inviting journalists and representatives of the Press, including American and other neutral correspondents and radio commentators on the war, to co-operate in the compilation of the numbers of enemy aircraft brought down, to demonstrate the accuracy of British figures and reports;and, further, whether he will make arrangements to enable these authentic statements to reach the British Press, as well as the news agencies and wireless listeners of America and other neutral countries, in time to forestall or repudiate the Nazi faked news on the battle for Britain?
§ Mr. Nicolson
The first part of the Question which is a purely service matter should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answers given yesterday by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Members for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and South Cardiff (Colonel Evans).
§ Mr. Lyons
asked the Minister of Information whether his attention has been called to the release and subsequent cancellation, on 18th August, of an item to the effect that Nazi troops were massed on French beaches opposite the South-East Coast of Britain, ready for an attempted invasion and that they had been most successfully bombed by the Royal Air Force; by whom, and in what circumstances, this statement was released; and what is the explanation?1494W
§ Mr. Nicolson
Yes, Sir. The item in question was passed by the Censor after consultation with the appropriate department of the Air Ministry. The task of the censorship is to prevent information of military value reaching the enemy, not to ascertain the truth or falsity of matter submitted when there is no question of information being conveyed to the enemy. On the other hand, I think that in such an exceptional case as this it would have been wiser had the Censor refused to release the message unless a note was circulated with it to the effect that there was no official confirmation of the story and that it should be treated with reserve. I have given instructions to prevent a repetition of such an incident. But I must emphasise that the Censors cannot as a general rule be responsible for verifying the accuracy of matter submitted to them.
§ Mr. Levy
asked the Minister of Information whether he is aware that distorted and exaggerated German accounts of the air fighting are being circulated in America and other neutral countries many hours before any accounts are available from this country; that requests for information from this country by neutral sympathisers with the Allies have met with no response until long after the wide dissemination of German versions to the American and other neutral Press and radio stations; and what is being done to remedy this state of affairs?
§ Mr. Nicolson
I would refer my hon. Friend to the answers given yesterday by my right hon. Friend to the hon. Members for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks) and South Cardiff (Colonel Evans).
The rules hitherto in force to withhold information from the enemy in connection with air raids prevented the Censors from passing the Press messages in question earlier. These rules were made at a time when it was expected that official communiques would be issued more promptly than has so far proved the case. I am arranging, in conjunction 1495W with the Secretary of State for Air and the Minister of Home Security, to improve the despatch of news for the future, and I am glad to say that the Press messages went through much more rapidly and smoothly on the occasion of Sunday's air raids.