CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

BUSINESS QUESTION – BROADCASTS & NEXT OF KIN – 28 June 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Returning to the topic raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer) – the death of three servicemen and the wounding of a fourth – it had appeared that the Ministry of Defence and the broadcasters had got their act together by not broadcasting details until they could say in the broadcast that next of kin had already been informed. This morning, however, it was clear from the broadcasting of the news that next of kin had not already been informed, or if they had it was not said in the broadcast, which must have sent a thrill of horror through everybody who has family members serving in Basra. May we have a definitive statement from a Defence Minister to make it absolutely clear that such broadcasts should never be made until it can be said that next of kin have been informed? Whether or not the news creeps out on the internet or anywhere else is irrelevant, because the majority of families probably will not see that, but they will hear the broadcasts.

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jack Straw): I believe that British broadcasters show great responsibility, but I shall of course pass on the hon. Gentleman's concern, which is shared by all of us, that next of kin should always be the first to know whenever possible. However, I do not think it is practical or realistic to dismiss the fact that others may be broadcasting such news; the problem is that in Iraq, as everywhere else in the world, there are people with mobile phones, cameras and video cameras at all those sites, so the news more than seeps out; it is broadcast in a large way.]