Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,300,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1942, for a grant in aid of the British Broadcasting Corporation.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information (Mr. Thurtle)
I think it would meet the wishes of the Committee if, in moving this Supplementary Estimate, I outlined at the outset the principles on which the B.B.C. is financed in war time. Those principles are laid down in the Supplementary Agreement of February, 1940, which is set out in Cmd. Paper 6177, between the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Information and the Corporation, supplementing the main Agreement between the Postmaster-General and the Corporation. Under the terms of this Supplementary Agreement, the arrangement by which the Corporation received a specified percentage of the receipts of wireless receiving licences ceased on 31st March, 1940. As from that date, the Minister of Information is due to pay to the Corporation an annual sum such as from year to year the Treasury, on representations from the Corporation to the Minister, shall approve as being sufficient for the services provided by the Corporation. The "representations" made by the Corporation under the Supplemental Agreement include the presentation, in the Autumn of each year, of estimates of the Corporation's expenditure during the following financial year. These Estimates, after examination in the Ministry, are the basis upon which the amount to be provided in the Parliamentary estimate of the Broadcasting Vote is approved by the Treasury. Proposals for the improvement or extension of the Corporation's services are subject to examination and accept- 1689 ance by the Ministry and to approval by the Treasury. Under the war-time arrangements the Vote for broadcasting from 1940 onwards has been in the form of a grant-in-aid of the Corporation. Instalments of the grant are paid to the Corporation by the Ministry from time to time during the year, the total payment from the grant being adjusted as necessary, with Treasury approval, in the light of the Corporation's actual net expenditure, as finally ascertained.
The amount granted by Parliament under the Broadcasting Vote in 1941 was £5,600,000, this amount having been approved by the Treasury on the basis of detailed estimates of the Corporation's expenditure during the year. Revised estimates of the expenditure recently prepared by the Corporation showed that their total expenditure for the year would exceed the grant of £5,600,000 by a very substantial amount, and the total expenditure is likely to be of the order of £8,000,000, that is, an excess of £2,400,000 over the original amount. Of this excess of £2,400,000 the Corporation had received, or sought the Minister's approval for, an amount of about £1,200,000. The Treasury, on the Ministry's recommendation, decided that the provision in the Supplementary Estimate should be restricted to this amount, with some further provision approximating to £100,000 for new developments which might arise during the remainder of the year, thus making a provision of £1,300,000 in all. The remainder of the excess expenditure over the original grant does not enter into this Supplementary Estimate at all. As regards this further excess expenditure, the Corporation has been informed that it will have to seek the Minister's approval before any payment can be made to the Corporation in respect of it. Any such payment will be made from the next year's grant-in-aid.
Of the amount of £1,300,000 asked for in the Supplementary Estimate now under discussion, £400,000 was expenditure by the Corporation on improvements and major extensions rendered possible by the availability of further broadcasting transmitters brought into service in February, 1941. These increased facilities have enabled the B.B.C. during the past year to consolidate and extend its overseas services at the request of Parliament and in accordance with Parliament's desire that the nation's propaganda effort 1690 should be strengthened. A second sum of £400,000 is the initial expenditure upon a scheme for the further expansion of the services. The bulk of the additional expenditure in respect of this expansion will fall in 1942–1943 and subsequent years. The remainder of the Estimate of £1,300,000 relates in the main to various individual measures for the development of overseas services approved by the Ministry during the year, and there is a margin also for such further developments as may prove to be desirable before the end of the financial year.
I think the Committee will be interested in some of the facts connected with the expansion of the B.B.C. overseas services since the outbreak of the war, and I think, too, that, in fairness to the B.B.C. itself, publicity should be given to the magnitude and complexity of these overseas services. Take, first, the question of expansion. In September, 1939, the B.B.C. was broadcasting in 10 languages, including English. By the end of December, 1941, the weekly overseas schedule included bulletins and programmes in 41 languages, including English. The staff, of course, has been increased accordingly. The growth in the number of foreign languages in which broadcasts have been given in the overseas services since the beginning of the war is really remarkable. In September, 1939, there were nine languages so employed; in December, 1939, 16; in December, 1940, 32; and in December, 1941, 40. In passing, I might be permitted to say that fluency in all these 40 foreign languages is not claimed either by my right hon. Friend or myself.
The number of broadcasting hours devoted to foreign languages has also greatly increased. In September, 1939, it was 44 hours a week. By December, 1941, it had risen to 231 hours per week. Overseas broadcasts in English have also greatly increased. At the outbreak of the war the Ministry was broadcasting its overseas services in English for 129 hours per week. By the end of December, 1941, the broadcasts in English occupied 168 hours a week. So far as news bulletins are concerned, there is the same story of expansion. The B.B.C. is now broadcasting news bulletins in its overseas services at the rate of 97 a day. There are 15 daily bulletins in English, of which three are for European and 12 for Empire distances. Naturally this great increase of activity has entailed an increase in 1691 staff. The Committee may like to know that the staff on 1st January, 1941, numbered 1033 and by the 1st January, 1942, 1609.
Perhaps I may also give the Committee some little information about the respective services, and I will take first the European services. These consist of two parallel services. One is broadcast for 18½ hours in Central and Western European languages and the other for 6¼ hours a day in Spanish, Portuguese, Scandinavian and Balkan languages. There are no fewer than 22 languages used in these services. An important aim of this European service is to intensify its impact by means of specialised broadcasting designed to attract particular audiences. The whole service, with this aim in view, is becoming increasingly specialised and I should like to give the Committee a few examples of the special programmes now being broadcast. There are two daily programmes addressed to the German forces, a programme every evening for German seamen, a programme for German Catholics, a programme addressed to the Italian forces, a special programme to sustain and encourage our allied Dutch merchant seamen, a series of programmes projecting life in Britain to our French audiences, and reviews of English books and plays for Swedish listeners. This kind of broadcast needs to be of the highest possible quality. There is ample evidence that Britain is judged in Europe by its radio transmissions. If these are second-rate they do harm rather than good. Specialised broadcasting needs specialists to carry it out, and accordingly the B.B.C. has been at pains to find the very best men it can for the job.
The Committee would like to know whether these broadcasts are being listened to or not. I am glad to say there is evidence that, in spite of the severest penalties and in spite of jamming by the enemy, British broadcasts are reaching the homes of listeners in all the countries of Europe. There is a mass of evidence to this effect and I will give the Committee one or two examples. I will take first what Dr. Goebbels wrote a month or two ago in "Das Reich":One might assume that British news was completely discredited in neutral eyes. On the contrary, Swedish and Swiss papers gleefully present their lies day after day, and only give our factual reports the same space when they 1692 cannot possibly be contested any more. Even among us"—he meant the German people—there are still people who will not learn. Two death sentences and a number of sentences of forced labour, passed quite recently, prove this.Reports are being received from Germany that there is now a warden who goes from house to house to detect and stop B.B.C. broadcasts. In one report a small town of 25,000 inhabitants is mentioned in which there have been no fewer than 200 denunciations of persons for listening to the broadcasts of the B.B.C. Eight of these people who dared to lister publicly in a restaurant were prosecuted. If it is like this in a small, comparatively unknown place what must it be like in the big towns of the Rhineland? The same thing applies to the occupied territories. In Poland, after more than two years of fruitless efforts to stamp out black-listening—that is, listening to ourselves—the authorities have been reduced, according to a Polish newspaper, to providing printed cards for radio set owners to hang upon their radio sets. This is what the printed cards say:Remember! Do not listen to foreign broadcasts. It is a crime against the safety of our race. By the Fuehrer's orders, you will be severely punished.In Poland more than a score of newspapers are produced out of material supplied over the radio by the B.B.C., and we must remember that the people who produce these newspapers have to listen-in from retreats and at the risk of their lives. In Czechoslovakia there is a report which says that:People who are almost too poor to buy bread, have now a radio. … A man told me, 'the stomach is hungry but the soul still more so—London is the only thing to feed the soul.'We received the following from a Danish correspondent:We are working in our gardens and fighting German propaganda. Thank God for the B.B.C., otherwise we should never know the truth.From unoccupied France we got this message:Our only window to the exterior is the British broadcast and the French broadcast from London to which we are listening secretly in our homes in spite of jamming.From occupied France we got this message:We are very privileged to, live here whets it is possible to listen-in to London. It is our comfort and our strength.1693 I will give one other quotation and it is from Oslo:Thank goodness that we have the B.B.C. … If we did not have the B.B.C. to give us the truth despair might be reigning here now.Finally, I wish to mention what the enemy controlled Belgrade radio said about our broadcasting:London still does not leave us alone. … Whilst all nations have turned away from London's criminal appeals, the Serbs in the woods are the only fools in Europe who still obey London.That is generally typical of our efficacy. I would take up a little more time in order to give some details about our Overseas service and about the Empire service in English. The Overseas Service Division is responsible for three main services. There is the Empire division consisting of a service in English, broadcast for 21 hours a day, covering the greater part of the world, and the parallel service broadcast of 2¼ hours a day in no less than 12 different languages. There is the Near East service which broadcasts for 3¼ hours a day in Near East languages. There is the Latin-American service which broadcasts for 4¾ hours a day in the special form of Spanish and Portuguese spoken in South America.
Then there is the Empire service in English. This service consists of transmissions confined to what are known as primary audiences in all parts of the Empire, at convenient listening hours according to local time. There are four main services—Pacific, Eastern, African and North African, each with primary audiences in the zones concerned and secondary audiences in other parts of the world. It is a feature of war-time broadcasting that programmes in these services are specialised as far as possible to suit the various groups of listeners for which they are primarily intended—in the African service, for example, to the South Africans in Afrikaans, the English in Southern Rhodesia, African and British people in the colonies, and to the various, sections of the British and other troops in the Near East. In the shaping of these specialised programmes the B.B.C. has had the assistance of expert staffs of sister broadcasting organisations in Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and elsewhere. The Empire service goes out on the short-wave, but in all countries listeners to short-wave broadcasts are less numerous comparatively than those who listen to local stations on the medium- 1694 wave. The re-broadcasting of Empire broadcasts by local stations is therefore of paramount importance in increasing the size of the audiences. A measure of the acceptability of the Empire programmes, according to the news bulletin, is to be found in the extent to which they are regularly re-broadcast. Re-broadcasting has proved very important during the course of the war, and I will give the Committee one or two facts about it.
In Australia, the A.B.C. regularly takes three news bulletins daily, a daily radio news reel programme and five talks a week. In Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation takes two news bulletins in English and one in French daily, a Canadian news reel daily, 15 talks a week and a half-hour programme about Canadian troops in this country daily. India takes one news bulletin daily and 17 talks a week. New Zealand regularly takes seven news bulletins and 16 talks a week. South Africa takes three news bulletins in English and one in Afrikaans daily, 19 talks weekly and five entertainment programmes weekly. One or more of the B.B.C. news bulletins are re-broadcast daily in over a score of countries. The local re-diffusion service in Barbados, the Gold Coast, Malta, Nigeria, Sierra Leone consist almost entirely of programmes broadcast in the Empire service. In the United States news bulletins are made available by the Columbia broadcasting system, and over 130 independant stations re-broadcast items from the Empire programmes.
I think I have given sufficient information of the activities of the B.B.C. which are covered by this Vote. I apologise for the length of time I have taken, but I hope the Committee will feel with me that, in justice to the B.B.C., it was necessary that something of the story of the tremendous programme of propaganda efforts overseas for which that Corporation is responsible should be brought into the light of day. It only remains for me to say that my right hon. Friend is here, ready to deal with any questions or criticisms which may arise in the course of the Debate. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is not here"]. Well, he will be here in a short time. In the meantime I am here, and I will do my best to meet any points.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee for more than a few minutes. We have listened to a very interesting 1695 account of the expansion of the B.B.C., and I think from what we have heard, and from what I know, a very creditable expansion as regards quantity has taken place. I am sure, however, that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that there is no activity in which quality is of greater importance than in broadcasting and that the mere matter of quantity does not necessarily get us very far. Before I come to one or two of the larger issues which I think the Committee should have in mind, there is one point I would like to deal with and get out of the way, namely, the question of the ordinary news bulletins on the home front—
§ The Chairman
I am afraid that the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot raise that on this Vote. If he will look at it, he will see that this is a Supplementary Estimate confined entirely to Empire and foreign broadcasting.
§ Commander King-Hall
I apologise, and I will pass on to my next point, which is the function of the B.B.C. as an instrument of political warfare. I need not detain the Committee by repeating what I have said before in this House—my conviction that the use of the B.B.C. as one of the chief instruments of political warfare has been neglected in the past and, in my opinion, is being largely neglected to-day. Undoubtedly, more has been happening than was happening a year ago, but the important question which the Committee should bear in mind is that not only should we decide what is to be said over foreign transmissions, but it is extremely difficult for anybody to find out what is being said. That raises a very important question. In so far as one can, I have endeavoured to make a private arrangement to have these broadcasts listened to, but they are extremely numerous, and it is difficult for a private person to get other than a partial picture of what is being said. Although I hold strong views as to what should be said, I do not want to put my personal view forward to-day, because I recognise that there are other hon. Members who, in some respects, hold diametrically opposite views of what should be said to the German people.
I want to put the issue on a broader basis by stating that the House of Commons should know what is being said on its behalf to the German people. At 1696 present Members do not know, except for bits and pieces. It so happens that I do approve of some of the things which have been said recently to the German people, but I must say in all fairness that I know that other hon. Members would disapprove strongly. The danger I foresee is that a day may come when we shall be told that certain things have been said to the German people on behalf of this House and the House may not implement the policy. We ought to know what is being said on our behalf, otherwise we may be put in a very embarrassing position. So I would ask the Department to give consideration to the question of whether some steps cannot be taken to make the House of Commons, at any rate, acquainted with the general line which is being pursued in these talks. I cannot myself detect a particular policy in the talks to which I have listened; I find there is a great deal of contradiction going on, which is not satisfactory. However, there can be general agreement in all parts of the House that what should be said is good, straight news. There may be differences of opinion a bout war aims, but I cannot think there is any difference of opinion on the point that a great concentration of effort should be made to give enemy people accurate and sober news, which at present they do not get. That will build a basis of confidence on which, at some later date, we can build up a statement of war aims.
In conclusion, I want to draw the attention of the Department to the extreme importance at the present time of keeping a very sharp look-out on what the Japanese are doing in political warfare and by means of radio throughout the Far East. I am bound to confess that it is almost impossible for a private Member to discover to what extent we are weighing in with a counter-offensive against the Japanese, but such information as I have been able to obtain gives me the impression that the Japanese are taking political warfare and the use of radio very seriously indeed. There are obvious fields out there from which fruitful action may result unless we take strong and active counter-measures. I hope the B.B.C. has that matter closely in hand.
§ Captain Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
Statements have been made by the Minister and by his predecessors in office which have made it clear that the Governors 1697 of the B.B.C., of whom I have the honour to be one, have not the same measure of control over overseas broadcasts, to Europe in particular, as over the home service, and this has led to particular questions being asked publicly and of me by Members in this House as to what exactly are the functions of the Governors. I had hoped, Sir Dennis, that you might rule that it was in Order that I should discuss them as seen by the Governors themselves, if it was the feeling of the House that they would like to hear any remarks on that subject. I understand that the Governors' fees are, in fact, included in this Estimate, although, as you have already ruled, it is primarily concerned with overseas broadcasts. May I assume, therefore, that you will permit me to discuss the Governors' responsibility and their relationship with the Ministry, which, I think, is a matter of some interest?
§ The Chairman
I am sorry, but I must disappoint the hon. and gallant Member. It may be that some part of the Governors' salaries is included in the Estimates, but they are not included in the Supplementary Estimates. We must confine this Debate entirely to overseas services.
§ Mr. Garro Jones (Aberdeen, North)
On that point, Sir Dennis, would it not be in Order for the hon. and gallant Member to deal with the functions of the Governors in so far as they are exercised in the supervision of Empire and foreign services and, even, to distinguish between the degree of authority which they exercise in that sphere and the authority which they exercise in the home sphere?
§ The Chairman
That may be, but this is a matter which must be watched with considerable care. I know the hon. Member's ingenuity, but an attempt to do something which is obviously outside this Vote would be out of Order.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
If my hon. and gallant Friend will discuss the activities of the Government in relation to foreign broadcasting, then we may be able to judge their general functions, if he skates very skilfully on thin ice, which I am sure you, Sir Dennis, will allow him to do.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member may infer what he likes from what happens, 1698 but he must allow me to keep the discussion within the limits of the Rules of the House.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I will do my best to skate on thin ice, and I know, Sir Dennis, that you will call me to Order if go outside the limits. The Government set up an organisation called the Political Warfare Executive. It is not in the interests of public policy to discuss the personnel or the methods which this Executive uses, and my only desire is to show how the setting up of this body has limited and affected the powers and control of the Governors. This body is responsible for political warfare in the widest sense, and broadcasting is only one of the instruments of political warfare. There are many hon. Members who from time to time have said that political warfare should be waged vigorously by all kinds of means not only by broadcasting, but since there are many other ways in which it may be waged, it is desirable, as an administrative matter, that one Governmental organ should decide upon political warfare policy, and, as far as possible, one set of people should decide upon the directions, the directives, and the methods which shall be used. Moreover, it is important that what is broadcast should synchronise with, or at least should not be incompatible with, the impression that is being made upon the enemy's mind by other methods. So it has come about that the control over what shall be said to the enemy or to occupied countries in Europe has ceased to be within the discretion of the Governors of the B.B.C., and has passed to this Governmental organ.
The Governors are still responsible for providing the machinery and the personnel whereby these signals go out to the enemy and to occupied countries. They also feel themselves responsible—and I think the House will approve that they should continue to hold this charge—responsible, in some degree, for calling the attention of the Ministry or of the House to any case in which the integrity of the service is let down by the broadcasting of untruths. The Governors are charged in their capacity at home to be the trustees for Parliament of the integrity of the service, and by integrity they understand that they are asked to be judges of taste in its widest sense and judges as to political fairness. They do not feel that the taking by the Govern 1699 ment of the control of what is said to foreign countries and to occupied countries necessarily excludes them from exercising trusteeship on behalf of this House for the integrity of the service, and I hope hon. Members will affirm that it is their wish that this House, whose trustees the Governors are, should continue to exercise its voice through the Governors in that respect. As regards the Dominion broadcasts, there is not the same degree of control over what is said as in the case of the European broadcasts. The Governors there have all the functions of a board of directors to engage staff and dismiss staff from the top to the bottom, to provide the machinery, to lay down the working conditions, to arrange the necessary liaison between themselves and the Government Departments, and in every way to conduct this great business partly as agent for the Minister, where his control is more severe, but partly having regard to their own discretion, where matters are left to them.
It is particularly one of their functions, as they see it, to be trustees for Parliament in the matter of reports which are sent out of Debates that take place in the House. I feel it would be a great mistake were a Minister of the Crown or his officials to seek to edit the speeches of Members of Parliament or decide which Members' speeches should be broadcast and which should not. Of course, more people listen to the home broadcasts than to the overseas ones, and it is from listening to the home broadcasts that criticism on this matter would arise, but we also broadcast Members' speeches on our overseas services, and I hope you will feel, Sir Dennis, that that brings the discussion so far, at any rate, within the Rules of Order. Were the Government to take over broadcasting in the sense which it has sometimes been suggested they have done, my right hon. Friend or his officials would, in fact, be responsible for determining which Members' speeches should be broadcast or whether anything should be cut out of them. It is not denied that the Minister has, for security reasons, the power to curtail the speeches which are broadcast or to ask that particular sentences which come near to infringing against the security rules should be left out, but he does not, in fact, do that, and I think it is one of the sources of strength 1700 that we have found it possible to set up a corporation which can receive its directions from the Government, where they are needed, and can also exercise that impartial quasi-judicial function which it is the Governors' duty to exercise and which they do exercise.
Hon. Members may ask—indeed, some hon. Members have asked me privately—how one can expect a board of six Governors, appointed by the Crown and capable of being dismissed by the Crown, to be anything but creatures of the Government of the day. It is a fair question, but there seem to me to be two or three answers. In the first place, often in our public life we find men who, although they have had political associations in the past or in a certain sphere, are nevertheless found capable of acting impartially when they are so charged. The Speakership in this House, the mayoralty in a town, and notably the judiciary, are examples where men are drawn from groups, perhaps political groups, but, on being charged with quasi-judicial functions, are able to carry them out with the utmost integrity. I think it is of some importance that we should continue to recognise this trusteeship function which the Board of Governors do in fact exercise. If I have any comment to make about the relations between the Governors and the Government now, it is this. I think we have found by experiment, by success and failure, a means whereby there is the greatest degree of working together between the Corporation and the Ministry, and my only criticism of the position in which the Governors find themselves is this, that we can all be dismissed by the Crown, on the advice of the Prime Minister, at any time. It might be a good thing that all or any of us should be dismissed to-day on some ground of delinquency or other, if cause were shown.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans (University of Wales)
On a point of Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is making some most interesting remarks upon a topic in which many hon. Members are interested, but may I ask you, Sir Dennis, with all due respect, whether it is in Order now to raise this matter? I ask for information, as I think a few hon. Members would like to speak on this matter, but I have very grave doubts whether it would be in Order.
§ The Chairman
I was just on the point of calling the hon. and gallant Member's attention to the fact that the ice to which he referred was getting dangerously thin. It is quite clear that we cannot discuss in this Debate to-day the general relations between the Governors of the B.B.C. and the Crown. The first part of his speech, where he was dealing quite definitely with oversea broadcasts and the powers, or limited powers, which the Governors have in that regard, was in Order, but I certainly could not allow any further Debate on the lines of the hon. and gallant Member's last sentence.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
Is it possible for hon. Members now to discuss the junctions of the Governors of the B.B.C.? We have heard a most interesting and illuminating account, to which some of us might take exception, and to which I certainly would take exception on a great many points, but, having heard this very interesting speech from a Governor who happens to be a Member of Parliament, and it might be that no Governor was a Member of Parliament, it looks as if this might be a chance to find out what the Governors are doing. When I ask the Minister of Information a question—for instance, the relations between the Director-General and the Governors—he quite properly said that he was afraid that that was outside his scope. I should like to ask whether the Governors are now doing anything which two years ago they did not do.
§ The Chairman
Quite obviously the hon. Member is now carrying on the Debate to something against which I have given my Ruling. The Chair cannot have prescience to rule beforehand against what an hon. Member proposes to say, and, therefore, while the Chair cannot stop an hon. Member from saying something which is irrelevant or out of Order, it can, at any rate, stop subsequent speakers from developing the same point.
§ Mr. Baxter
May I point out that the hon. and gallant Member was just about to explain that the Government as such could dismiss these Governors? Surely, if the Government have these powers and a certain Governor says our foreign broadcasts are very bad, it is not the opinion of the Minister of Information or the Government, and then that particu- 1702 lar Governor comes under the Ruling that he may be dismissed. Surely what the hon. and gallant Member has been saying is closely allied to what we have been discussing?
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member seems to know far better than I what the hon. and gallant Member intends to say. If he had gone on to say that, I should have risen in the Chair to stop him.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I am awfully sorry. I did not mean to land you, Sir Dennis, in so much trouble. So far as the oversea services are concerned, it is a matter of some importance to the Governors, notwithstanding whatever may have been said in this House by way of question and answer or public statement by the Minister of Information or his predecessors, that we should feel that it is the wish of this House that the Governors should continue to be trustees for the integrity of the service, whether it be overseas to our Dominions or to Europe. We do not want to go beyond that into the realm of policy, and to what is said to the enemy or occupied countries. We should like to feel that it is our job to see that what is said is true. I must not venture to get back to the question of what would happen if the Governors offended, except to say that if in discharge of his duty in relation to oversea services, any Governor did offend, I wish to warn the House that the Governors could be swept away by act of the Government in spite of the fact that we are said to be trustees for this House. If any change in our position is required, it would be, I think, that it ought to be understood, not for our own protection or our own persona] interest, but rather in the common interest, that we cannot be swept away without reference to this House whose trustees we are.
The hon. and gallant Member says "trustees." Does he mean trustees on behalf of this House, and irrespective of whether there are any Governors who are Members of this House?
§ Sir I. Fraser
Yes, Sir. This phrase "sureties to the public and Parliament" or "trustees to the public and Parliament for the integrity and high standard of the services" is not an invention of mine, but is a dictum which was laid 1703 down by the highest quarter. It was given in this House by our present Minister in answer to a Question in which he sought to define what are the Governors' functions. He mentioned that as one of their most important functions.
May I turn to oversea services for just one moment? The hon. Member who opened the Debate gave particulars of some of the hours—the increasing hours and increasing broadcasts which had taken place. He also mentioned how these broadcasts were sent out to the ends of the earth on short waves, which have a faculty of travelling all over the world, and are picked up in the Dominions and in the Colonies upon local receivers, many of which have been designed by the B.B.C., and are rebroadcast on more acceptable wavelengths to the local populations. That is an extremely valuable service, and I only mention it to underline what the hon. member said about it. The relationship which exists between us and the Colonies and oversea broadcasting units and corporations is one to which we pay the very greatest importance, and which forms a very real part of our public relations policy. The very proper limitations which have been put upon the Debate make it impossible for me to raise some of the other points, but let us hope, if this matter is interesting to the House, another opportunity will arise.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
I would like to sympathise with the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and to congratulate him on the remarkably successful way in which he managed to skate over a great deal of the thin ice. He did not go as far as he wanted, but I am full of admiration for his attempt. There is only one comment which I wish to make upon his speech, and that is to express my disagreement with his view that the Governors should be in any way responsible to this House or the country for our political warfare or foreign propaganda. I think it is essential, in order to safeguard the interests of the House and the country, that those people responsible for our foreign propaganda, which is an important political weapon, should be Ministers of the Crown directly responsible to this House. I do not see how any independent body, however admirable, can take on that responsibility. We must have someone who is 1704 a Minister whom we can attack for bad foreign propaganda or praise if we think the propaganda is very good. It is really impossible for us to attack some outside body with whom we have no contact.
May I, in passing, support very strongly the plea put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) that our foreign propaganda should be available, if not to members of the public, at any rate to their representatives in this House? I think it is absolutely essential that we should be able to check up and criticise what is being said, and I hope steps will be taken—I understand certain steps have been taken—to see that in future all political propaganda and news bulletins should be available for scrutiny by Members of this House. I should like to add a plea, which I know will get a negative response, because I have put it so often to the Minister and I could never understand his attitude, that the information delivered to enemy or enemy-occupied countries in the form of leaflets should also be available to Members of the House. The enemy know what we are saying. Why we should not know what is being told on our behalf I cannot understand. I hope the matter can be at least reconsidered.
I really rose to ask a question about our political warfare in Germany, namely, why the character of the workers' programme has recently been so completely altered. I understand that quite recently it has been decided, temporarily at any rate, that the workers' programme should remain in name but that in fact no workers' news or information should be given out but only general news. If that decision is confirmed, I think it will be a tragedy and a very great mistake. In political as in other fouls of warfare one seeks out one's most effective targets. There is no group of people in Germany who will more readily accept news from abroad—talks from foreign workers, contracts from trade unionists in other countries—than workers, in German factories. Most of them are elderly people The young men are largely in the Army. They have enormous loyalty to their old trade unions. They were very keen trade unionists, and they must still have very strong feelings about freedom and rights, particularly the rights of association that they had under the old Weimar Republic. In the past they had strong international feelings. They were immensely anxious to 1705 co-operate with workers in other lands. There has been going on for a very long time an admirable programme from the workers in this country to those in Germany. It has been a 35-minute programme on Monday and Thursday evenings. Prominent workers here, trade unionists, have spoken as trade unionists to trade unionists and Labour men to Labour men, giving information as to what is happening in the unions and what the Labour movement is doing, the functions of the Labour party in the House of Commons and so on. Miners have spoken to miners, engineers to engineers, and shipyard workers to shipyard workers.
Some people may say that this is political information, biased and not general. It is one man speaking, maybe from a political, certainly from an industrial, point of view, but that is just the sort of stuff we want. If we are to make any use of this political warfare it must be by appealing to the working people of Germany and to the instincts and feelings which they have most keenly, and which can best be appealed to by working people in this country speaking as working people and not just the ordinary official news bulletins, admirable as many of them are. An attempt was made to suspend this valuable bit of information broadcasting a few months ago, and I believe it was considered, and the decision was to continue it. These talks were exceedingly effective. They were, of course, independent. The speaker did not say, "I am expressing the views of the Government or of the country," but "I am speaking as a Labour man. My view is that in this country certain things ought to be changed, as in yours." A chord had been struck between the workers of the two countries which can be done in no other way. I should like to know whether the decision to give no more specific workers' stuff than appears in the ordinary news programme is final. I should like the Minister to go into the matter personally, because it is of the utmost importance, and if it is final, will he tell us why this vitally important and by far the most effective bit of broadcasting going out from this country has been stopped. If it has really been finally stopped it is a matter which should rouse the interest of very large numbers of Members. I am sure it should rouse the interest of the whole Labour movement when they understand what has happened, and I 1706 think it would have the opposition of most people in the country.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I did not really quite understand part of the hon. Member's argument. I think there is a great deal to be said for the workers' broadcasts, and I was not aware that they had been diminished, but when he spoke of the indispensability of the Labour movement here being put by the Ministry of Information in direct communication with the Labour movement in Germany, I am not quite sure whether his intention was that there should be other days in the week when other parties should appeal to their opposite numbers, in so far as there are opposite numbers.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That certainly has not been done at all yet. We had May Day devoted to Labour speakers addressing Labour listeners in Germany. I never heard of Primrose Day being lumded over to the Primrose League, or Empire Day to the junior Imperial League. It may be that it would be better if more of our propaganda were given to different British parties for addressing listeners in Germany and that it should not all be conducted by the Government; but that is opening up a very much larger question, which has really not yet been considered by most Members opposite. I speak under some disadvantage as compared with those whose prejudices are on the Left. They generally assume that if some political recipe which has been divulged to them by the Deity or the spirit of the race or materialist dialectics, could be put into effect, then everything would be right and we should all be happy and should be all on Front Benches somewhere or other. The difficulty with those whose prejudices are on the Right that they do not attach that degree of importance to political action and find it more difficult to get excited about it. In particular I do not believe that what is absurdly called political warfare is anything like so important as is frequently claimed. Nobody is very expert on that, and anyone who has any expertness at all is generally out of date.
I, for my sins and whatever my disqualifications, was adviser to the War Office on internal conditions in Germany 1707 in 1918. I suppose I knew as much as anybody here knew about what was going on there and the effect that our propaganda was having in Germany. I had not then and I have not now the least doubt that our propaganda had no effect at all except when it came immediately after victory. It is true that everybody said afterwards that it had an enormous effect. That is one of the reasons why we got into this war as and when we did. The evidence on which that was alleged is nearly all nonsense. After the Great Armada Queen Elizabeth said, "God blew with His wind," and Philip II. said, "The devil was in it." It suited both parties to say that divine interposition should have saved this country and defeated our enemies; but that was not evidence. After the last war it suited German soldiers and Nationalists and British journalists and advertisers, who are not bad at advertising themselves and each other, to say that victory had come by the use of propaganda. It may be they were right, but I think they were wrong. At any rate, there is very little evidence on their side.
Nevertheless, political warfare so-called has some importance. If I did not think so, I should not be troubling the Committee now. I do not think that it will have considerable importance until Germany has suffered at least two first-rate setbacks. Up to now she has not suffered more than one, if one. Until that moment comes, until the propaganda hammer really can be striking on places made soft by military defeat, there is really only one thing that is of the least use to us. That is that we should build up a reputation for truth, and, hardly less necessary, for dignity. We heard talk at the beginning of the war about "a cad's war "and gangsters to fight gangsters and so on, but that is complete rubbish; and if it is complete rubbish in the management of strategy and the handling of weapons, it is not less so in the use of words. Until we are in a position to command great military victories I do not believe that anything which we do over the wireless will do us much good in Germany, except to establish a reputation for truth and dignity. I do not know how many hon. Gentlemen spend much time listening to these broadcasts or get their friends to act as monitors for them, but if there are many here, I do not think they will claim 1708 that all that might have been done has been done to establish a reputation for dignity. In the news bulletins a great mistake is made in mixing up propaganda with the news—as it were jam with the powder. The news bulletin should consist of news and nothing else. They should state the facts about what is happening inside Germany when we have it, but, at any rate, we should state the facts of what is happening outside, about which we are in a position to know better than the people in Germany. We have made a great mistake in regarding the number of hours of broadcasting as a measure of its usefulness. Too much broadcasting is worse than too little, and I believe that we are attempting now to do a good deal too much. I am sure that four hours of German broadcasting a day is far too much; we cannot possibly have enough stuff.
The difficulty we have in criticising what is said is that for the most part we do not very well know what is said. We can only criticise from a partial knowledge of what is said. One or two things we can say, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen to me a minute or two before concluding that I am trying to be controversial, because I promise them I am not. I have done my best to get lists of people who speak to foreign audiences in general, and to German audiences in particular, and to look through them and see what sort of people they are. I have not a staff of secretaries, and I cannot honestly pretend that I have really drawn up a statistical report on the matter. My impression, therefore, may be slightly false, but I do not think that it is more than slightly false. It is that almost all, or at least very many, people who broadcast, and particularly those on the characteristic, the leit motiv broadcasts, things like "Democracy marches" or "Britain speaks," the leading articles of broadcasting—a high proportion of people who speak on them are of one kind, those whom one might call the pinkish, leftish intelligentsia. The list I am about to read as characteristic is a haphazard list, but I do not think it is far wrong: R. Crossman, Wickham Steed, A. J. Cummings, E. M. Forster, Francis Williams, J. B. Priestley, V. Bartlett, Noel-Baker, C. E. M. Joad. That is the kind of opinion which has a far larger share of what is said over the ether for Britain than it can ever have had in this country. 1709 That creates a false impression; it conveys an impression which it is the Government's duty not to convey. That impression is doubly mistaken for this reason. Hon. Gentlemen opposite and my hon. Friends on this side may disagree about that particular current of opinion. We may think what we like of it, but do not let us make any mistake that there is any disagreement in Germany about it. They know exactly what they think of that current of opinion, both in that country and in this, and what they think of it is "mud."
The Germans know perfectly well what we are fighting now. It is not a great war, but part of a great war that began in the 1860's, and will finish heaven knows when. It is a long and bitter campaign that we are fighting. The last war was a campaign in it which we won. Now Germans know well enough what they think of the errors made by this pinkish, leftish body of opinion on that sort of historical question. It is almost a mathematically provable falsity to give the world a notion that that current of opinion influences a larger part of this country than it does. And it is a foolish falsity, for it would not help our case in Germany if this particular chatter-gang were larger and more listened to than it is.
It is difficult, without going to great lengths, to give instances, but I could give a good many instances. For instance, one of the gentlemen to whom I am going to refer was one of those who undertook to explain to the German people about Rudolf Hess—hon. Gentlemen may remember that Hess came to this country some time ago and excited a lot of interest—this is one of our most frequent and influential broadcasters. Hess's coming was very badly handled. All sorts of things were said about it on the British wireless, nine-tenths of which could not have been true because no two of them agreed with each other. I do not wish to name the gentleman to whom I refer, although I am quite willing to tell any Ministers who do not recognise him. He told the Germans what impression there must be in Germany about Hess's arrival here—which I thought was an odd thing to do—I discover that I have lost my notes on this matter so I will not delay the House with it for very long. I can only give some points from recollection.—He said, for example, that the Germans must be feeling now something like the 1710 Entsetzen and Dumpfe Ahnung, which I think might be rendered in English as "bewilderment" and "uncomprehending suspiciousness," such as they felt on the day after the long knives in 1934.
What will the Germans remember about that broadcast? They will remember that this gentleman was there in 1934. Rather strangely, he broadcast from Berlin his impressions of what happened. That is what they will remember in Germany about that frequent spokesman of our country. On the actual occasion he did not say that there was any Entsetzen or Dumpfe Ahnung. The House will not blame me for not remembering exactly what he did say. It is difficult to get a verbatim account of it but I have here a newspaper containing an account of it printed next day. It states that hebroadcast from Berlin last night his impressions of the events in Germany over the week-end, when he was in Heidelberg.He said it was astonishing how little excitement there was either in Heidelberg or in Berlin. By contrast, one could imagine what would have happened in England, if the Prime Minister had arrived in London in the early morning by aeroplane, arrested eight of the party leaders, and by the afternoon they were all dead except one personal friend, who was shot next day.One of the typical remarks he heard was 'The best thing is that he [i.e. Hitler] wastes no time. The scoundrels are dead now, and out of the way.'None of the many Germans with whom he spoke would have disagreed.I would like hon. Gentlemen opposite to remember those words when they start telling us about the two Germanies.
§ Captain McEwen (Berwick and Haddington)
Can the hon. Gentleman give the House the name of this gentleman?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I did not think it was part of my duty to give his name. I understand that he is a temporary civil servant.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
If he does not give the name, the hon. Gentleman leaves it open to us to say it is one of the names he has already mentioned.
I am sorry that I do not quite know what is the propriety of this matter. I have no fears, wish, s, desires, or motives in the matter. I will tell anybody, but I did not think it was quite the right thing to do at the moment.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman will be quoted on the B.B.C. on Sunday in 1711 the Brains Trust as a man with a perfect knowledge of the constitution of this House.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-on-Tyne, North)
Surely the name of anyone who speaks on the B.B.C. must be public property.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Very well. I do not mind. His name is R. H. S. Crossman. I have no views on the matter or wish to attack him at all. I am trying to say that that is what the Germans will remember. If your daughter of three is run over by a tram and has a leg amputated, it is very sad, and it would be a hazardous speculation to spend money on having her trained for the ballet; similarly the man about whom these are the things remembered in Germany is the man who simply cannot be used as the coryphaeus of our aerial ballet.
To sum up: What we say on the wireless to Germany should be plain, simple, and dignified. We should never try to sneer or jeer. We should never laugh at Japan. Some gentleman did so, when the Japanese envoy was in Berlin last March—I think that is when it was. There was ragging of the Germans. This gentleman made two ludicrous and unforgivable errors. One was that he was already treating the Japanese as enemies and the second was ragging the Germans by saying something like this, "We have got the great Americans, but you have only got the poor little Japanese." Perhaps it is easy to be wise now, but none of us needed to be very wise then to realise that that was a terrible mistake. There should be nothing but truth and dignity.. We should not try to entertain the Germans with jazz bands. If we must have argument, we should not mix it with the news bulletins.
Hon. Members generally may not be interested in this matter, and I who am interested in the subject myself, think that those who are tend to exaggerate inordinately its importance. If there were information available to us all about everybody who spoke on the B.B.C., so that we could turn it up in order to criticise Ministers, no doubt I should say that one particular gentleman might be far too Leftish while an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House in a red sweater might say that the same broadcaster was far too Rightish, and that would be a very tiresome position for 1712 Ministers. On the other hand, we have the ludicrous situation at present that we are not given proper facilities for knowing what is being said in our name and in the name of our country on the wireless, to our deadly enemies in a moment of deadly peril. This matter interests not only Ministers but a great many other people, and we believe there should be far greater facilities for knowledge.
One final point. When first we asked for this information we were told that we could listen in for ourselves. Honestly, one could fairly describe that answer as the insolence of place. Many of us may not have the time to listen to these broadcasts; many of us do not know German, and could not write it down if we did unless we knew shorthand. Then we were told that if we liked to apply for the information, we could have it. We have applied, but there are sometimes long delays. I wrote to my hon. Friend two or three weeks ago and asked for information, but I have not yet had a reply. Not only are there long delays, but sometimes you do not get the information at all. The real truth is that this is being made a sort of little secret business for a lot of little secret experts, who are not experts at all, and it is high time that the winds of criticism blew roughly through the whole thing.
§ Wing-Commander James (Wellingborough)
Some interesting questions have been raised by my hon. Friend who has just made such an admirable speech about the personalities behind these broadcasts. It is a subject on which we want some light. Our broadcasts are being brought into contempt in present circumstances, especially if those allowed to speak have notoriously and flagrantly avoided their military obligations. Is it not the case that, in a broadcast which is most widely listened to, the two most advertised persons are those who, on the outbreak of the last war, being of optimum military age, both avoided service and one even fled to America to avoid the war? It seems to me to be a disgraceful thing that the Broadcasting Corporation at this stage of the war should employ, on the most popular of all programmes, Professor Joad and Dr. Laski.
§ Mr. Ernest Evans (University of Wales)
My hon. and gallant Friend opposite was attempting to lead us into a 1713 very wide discussion and one which I felt to be outside the very limited scope possible on these Estimates. These Estimates ask us to give an additional £1,300,000 to the British Broadcasting Corporation, and, as I understand the constitutional position, that cannot be done unless the Minister of Information approves. That is how we get him into the picture. There are only two directions in which we can reach him. One is in regard to Empire programmes, and the other in regard to foreign broadcasts. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) at one stage of his speech seemed to minimise the importance of foreign broadcasts for political warfare, and I must say I am inclined to agree with him that their value is greatly exaggerated. It all depends on the conditions. In political warfare between two countries which are at each other's throats, like Germany and ourselves, only one thing counts, and that is news. If the Germans could have told us, before our own Government told us, that three German warships had passed up the Straits of Dover, that would have been worth a good deal to them and would have counted much more than any of the stories they may produce about this war being fought for the Jews and so forth. Any facts, any news, will have very great effect.
Political warfare, however, is not confined to countries actually at war. If it is to be valuable, it must be directed to other countries as well. I am not sure whether the propaganda or political warfare which we are conducting at the present time in China is at all comparable with that which is being conducted by the Japanese. I doubt whether our propaganda in countries like Spain or Portugal is comparable with that of our enemies in those same countries. And when we are asked to vote additional sums for this and other purposes, we are entitled to ask the Minister whether he is really satisfied that we are getting full value for the money we are spending. As has been pointed out in this Debate, it is difficult for us to judge. There are not many of us who can listen to the broadcasts in foreign languages, or even understand them if they are given to us on paper, and I would therefore like to stress the appeal which has been made by more than one speaker this afternoon—that we should be given some indication of exactly what 1714 goes out from this country in our broadcasts to foreign countries.
Then there is the question of our Empire news. Here, perhaps we are a little better able to judge, because we are able to listen to some, at least, on certain occasions, but I would like to ask the Minister one question. How does he decide on the success or otherwise of our Empire broadcasts? When the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking a short time ago he rather gave the impression that the way in which he decided as to whether these broadcasts were successful or not was by the number of times they were recorded and rebroadcast. That is no test at all, because it may be the Ministry itself, or the B.B.C., which decides. I should like to know whether he is in close contact with public opinion in the Dominions and the various parts of the Empire as to the particular parts of the Empire broadcasts which are most acceptable, and whether, in drafting his programmes, he bears that in mind.
§ Captain Plugge (Chatham)
The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) referred to three points: the question of maintaining truth in broadcasting news, the suggestion that propaganda would not be of much use without a double defeat or two big set-backs for Germany, and thirdly that the length of transmissions to countries abroad could be too great. I would like to point out that when referring to truth, one must always consider the time factor. Although in the bulletins which we received on the campaign in Malaya, we did have the truth, it was the truth of the situation prevailing two or three days before, whereas the reports of enemy sources announced with our news gave the position at the time. Is this keeping to the truth? As to the question whether propaganda is of use before Germany has had two set-backs, we must realise that we cannot put over propaganda at the proper time unless we have already established the means of transmitting it, and have mustered a regular audience.
The last time I spoke on international broadcasting in this House, on 3rd July last [OFFICIAL REPORT 3rd July, 1941; col. 1567 and following Vol. 372] I pointed out that Germany operated 92 medium wave-lengths and seven long wave-lengths, while we used only six medium wave-lengths and no long wavelengths 1715 at all. In order to put over propaganda successfully it is necessary not only to construct and establish stations but also to operate those stations for a considerable number of months in order to build up large and ready audiences. Building up an audience to a broadcasting station is very much like building up the circulation of a newspaper. It is no use saying that we must wait until Germany has had two set-backs before sending out our propaganda. We have to build our stations now, and we have not only to build them, but to keep them in operation for a long time with interesting programmes, until they become well known to the listeners and become favourites too. Only in this way can we build up large audiences, who will already be listening when we wish to put over the required propaganda once German set-backs have occurred, as I hope and am confident they will occur. We shall then be able to make full use of the vast radio net-work which, in this way, we shall have provided, operated and equipped.
Debating broadcasting in this House is not so difficult a matter, inasmuch as it differs from most other subjects in the following respect. It is possible for anybody to see what happens or what is happening in the æther field; one does not necessarily have to ask Ministers a lot of questions, all that is required is to sit down beside a wireless receiver and very soon any hon. Member can find out for himself the improvements or otherwise that have been brought about to the service. During my last speech in the House on this subject I suggested a considerable number of improvements and an important general expansion of our foreign broadcasting system, and therefore I am, naturally, anxious to support the Estimates we have before us today. I should be glad indeed to see them much greater than they are in order to cover a very extensive field of expansion. Among the many suggestions I put forward during my last speech, one, I am glad to say, has been met two others have been unfortunately only very partially met. The others have apparently received no response. I laid great stress on the necessity of utilising a long-wave station in order to increase our audience in Europe, by far greater coverage and also to conform to the numerous long 1716 wave receivers, so much in use in Europe. Since my plea I am glad to acknowledge that the B.B.C is now operating a broadcasting station on 1,500 metres. Thus we are now operating some eight medium-wave and one long-wave station, as against the 92 medium waves and seven long waves of the enemy. I would like to ask the Minister, in view of the success of this long wave for covering Europe, whether he is contemplating building one or two more such high-power long-wave stations, this I think would be possible, provided we could obtain the necessary gear.
Here comes the point that has often been raised—we have not sufficient gear. Is the Minister satisfied in his own mind that he has done everything he can to obtain all the necessary gear, as much gear as possible? When I paid a three-week visit two years ago to the United States, I ascertained that there was a good deal of excellent radio gear available at that time, and I mentioned it in the House on the day of my return [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th August, 1940, col. 1236 and following Vol. 364]. The Radio Corporation of America disposed for sale of six high-power stations of 50 kilowatts each. Such transmitters, which are of the best, take a long time to build, but they were ready to be delivered then. Yet we refrained from purchasing this material. In addition, there were and still are many other radio manufacturing companies in the United States which possess a large quantity of similar and also lower-power transmitters which we could have obtained and can still obtain for this country. Is the Minister satisfied that he is acquiring everything he can in every possible direction? A new danger now arises. It has been announced in the American technical Press that many of the big United States radio manufacturers will be compelled within the next few months to change over their production to what is generally more directly called munitions of war, aeroplane parts, shells and the like. Therefore the production of radio transmitting gear will diminish in consequence in the United States and be more difficult to acquire. Should we not at once do all we can to procure as much as we can of American transmitting and recording gear, especially as I believe we can acquire a good deal under the Lease-Lend arrangements.
1717 Among the other suggestions I put forward, when I last spoke on this subject, was the erection in Great Britain of freedom stations, one for each one of the allied Governments at present established in this country. They should operate these stations as much as possible under the same conditions as if they were operating their own Government stations in their own country. One thing we can give them here is a broadcasting station of their own. They had a broadcasting station of their own when in their own country. They have come here, having lost everything. One thing they need not lose is their own wave-length and therefore their own broadcasting station. I would like to impress on the Minister again that each allied Government should have its own broadcasting station from which it can broadcast to its nationals in the same way and in the same manner as if some small part of its country had not been overrun by the enemy, and had retained its own broadcasting station still in operation. We have met these Allies to a very small extent by granting them a certain number of half-hours to Allied Governments on two or three shared wave-lengths. Such an arrangement has not the same propaganda value as a separate station using always the same language with its own personality such as any independent government is entitled to have. The B.B.C. have, since the change of Director-General, increased the transmissions to France in particular, by increasing the number of special half-hours allotted to the De Gaulle administration. I listen to them a good deal, and, as transmissions, they are very good indeed and very well conducted. The only fault I find is that there are not enough of them and that they ought to be conducted continuously on one station to the exclusion of any other language or transmission.
As regards the remark made by the hon. Member for Cambridge University, that transmissions to foreign countries could be too long, I must say that I cannot agree with that suggestion because when broadcasting one does not speak to the same audience all the time. I would like to see French transmissions for instance continuously in progress for 24 hours throughout the day. The fact that you broadcast for many hours does not mean that the same listeners are listening 1718 all the time. Therefore, the longer the transmissions the more people you actually reach. Another suggestion I made concerned the granting of facilities in this country to the American chains to re-broadcast on medium waves what is coming over on the short waves from their American stations. The United States are doing a lot of propaganda directed at Europe to-day in many languages, but the American broadcasting companies do not possess a medium wave station by which to reach all the ordinary listeners in the various nations in Europe whose language they use. We could place such a station at the disposal of the American broadcasting chains, the C.B.S., the N.B.C. and the M.B.S., so that what they have to say could be rebroadcast in the medium wave band and received throughout Europe to the great delight of these oppressed people. I am glad to see that the B.B.C. has met this wish in a very small way. I believe that one half an hour a day is devoted to rebroadcasting some of the broadcasts from the U.S.A. That is not enough. What I ask is a minimum of two stations, one to be at the disposal of each of the two big American broadcasting systems.
I wish to touch upon a point mentioned by the Prime Minister when he spoke from Washington. He laid great stress on the fact, that our greatest disaster was the loss to our cause of the French Colonies and the French Fleet. The surrender of Indo-China to Japan made the fall of Singapore possible. What have we done to try to get the French Colonies and the French Fleet back on our side. By using the great medium of broadcasting in a well planned manner I believe this return possible. I suggest that we have not done one-tenth of what we should have done. We have never built a station at Gibraltar that would cover the whole of North Africa. I claim that if we had had a medium-wave station operating there all the time, so that specially studied propaganda could have been sent on a medium wave to North Africa, there might have been a great change of attitude on the part of the French Colonies, so important to the Libyan campaign. I believe these Colonies could still be brought on our side if we made the effort. There is no risk of life involved, practically no expense in money or material. May I ask 1719 the Minister why a station cannot be put up in Gibraltar? I feel that I could build one there to-morrow which would operate in three months.
Yet, I am told there is not enough electric current in Gibraltar. It all depends on the power of the station. There is enough power in a bed-room to run a station of zoo watts and this could provide a start. A station at Gibraltar would have a great effect in Spain, because so far as I can find out the whole of the broadcasting system, as well as the Press, in Spain is under German control. All we can do is to rely upon a British whispering campaign in Spain. Therefore, I again ask the Minister whether we could not build stations at Gibraltar, at Malta and in Cyprus such as I have now suggested for the past two years. Perhaps this is not a matter for the B.B.C. Perhaps such a plan should be carried out by the Government or the Ministry of Information. We want our short-wave transmissions to be re-broadcast everywhere locally, and if there is not a station to re-broadcast them locally, and we have some territory near by on which we can build one, we should do so without any delay.
I turn now to the interference or jamming which the Germans are imposing on our French transmissions. I lay great stress on our French transmissions because of the opportunity they present to win over the French Colonies on our side. Our transmissions to France are jammed by Germany. It so happens that before the collapse of France, I was consulted on how to establish in France jamming stations to obstruct the German broadcasts. After consultation we decided to build 80 small 100-watt stations throughout France each giving a jamming note, and each making small pockets of areas where French people could not listen to the German anti-British transmissions in French. These jamming stations have been taken over by the Germans and they are now being used by them to jam our transmissions from here to France and also our Continental news service in English. But the jamming we perceive here is not half so strong as this jamming is to listeners who live in the vicinity of one of these small jamming stations. What does the Minister propose to do to counter that jamming? If he does not propose any counter-measures, 1720 does he propose to establish any retaliation? The last suggestion I made a year and a half ago was the establishment of some 500 small broadcasting stations all over England which would be useful in case of invasion, on a power of 500 watts, operating all the time and on all kinds of wavelengths used at present by the enemy. The operation of these baby stations would to a great extent hamper the enemy broadcasts without causing us any trouble within the small area these baby stations would be intended to cover. I trust the Government will not take this question of jamming by Germany lying down, and will again review the concrete suggestions I am making now and that I made on 3rd July of last year and on August 20th of 1940.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
I think it is generally agreed that the feature which should be followed all the time in our broadcasts is that of truth and dignity, more particularly in respect of our propaganda to Germany. There may be doubt whether broadcasts which involve a moral appeal have the value which some of us think they have. Throughout a good part of last year, and until fairly recently, there was in our broadcasts to Germany a type of propaganda which, to some extent, comes into this category of moral appeal. It attempted to show how we envisaged, among other things, the post-war Europe; and to show the German people what really is going on in this country, the way our democracy works, and what is likely to happen to the German people when they are defeated. I believe that one of the reasons for starting this propaganda was the work which is being done on the German broadcast system by Dr. Ley. Dr. Ley is one of the ablest of the Nazi leaders and he has been put in charge of labour organisation. For a long time he has carried on propaganda to prove to the German working-man that this is a war of liberation for all European labour from the slavery of Anglo-Jewish capitalists. Those who know the mentality of German working-men will realise that that is a very sinister propaganda, and it is no use ignoring its significance. Anti-Semitism has deep coots in Germany, particularly in the Eastern parts, and it has, in the course of generations, worked down even to the Labour movement.
1721 It was right for the B.B.C. to answer this dangerous propaganda, which is probably still having an important influence in galvanising the German working people behind the German war machine. Time has been allocated by the B.B.C. to enable the British labour point of view to be given in reply. I think that that has had some effect, if only because, as I am informed, Dr. Ley has actually been to the trouble of replying to many of the statements we have put over. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) does not seem to like what he calls the "pinkish-leftish" kind of propaganda, but, at any rate, Dr. Ley has been sufficiently interested to reply. I do not claim that the "pinkish-leftish "propaganda should be the dominant type. Let blue and yellow propaganda be employed as well—we are all in this together. But I very much regret that the hon. Member should have tried to create a prejudice against a particular propaganda which is designed to defeat the sinister propaganda of Dr. Ley.
§ Mr. Price
I was afraid that I should have come under the lash of the hon. Member's tongue, because I have, on several occasions, taken part in this propaganda. Left propaganda has its uses. I should regret very much if it were done away with, but I wonder whether the moral appeal, by itself, is enough to impress the German workers. We have to use the instrument of fear as well. It is clear that the Russians understand this matter better than we do. The Russian propaganda, like the curate's egg, is good in parts. It tends to be crude at times. Much of their propaganda in this country in the past has been of that kind. But the Russians understand the mentality of the German workers better than we do. The type of propaganda that Russia has been carrying on among the Germans, by broadcasting, has depended much less on moral appeal, and much more on a personal appeal, pointing out to the German workers their responsibility for backing the Hitler régime. More recently, the appeal has been definitely an appeal to fear, telling individual German workers and soldiers, "In every other country in Europe there is underground revolt against Hitler—sabotage, go-slow, obstruction in every way. In only one 1722 country is there none of these things. You are responsible; and you cannot expect us to treat you in the same way, when we win, as we treat those people who put up a fight for us through these terrible days." Although I should regret to see the propaganda with a certain moral appeal done away with altogether, I think that the other sort is becoming much more effective. I cannot quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss), who seemed to think that the moral appeal should be the chief basis of our propaganda to Germany.
Many have thought, as I thought recently, that there still remained a fairly large body of old German trade union and Social Democratic opinion, to which we might appeal. Such opinion probably exists to some extent, but I believe that most of those people have either been murdered or are in exile. During the four years which I spent in Germany after the last war, in the days of the poor little Weimar Republic, I saw the beginning of the work of the murder gangs. Practically all these labour leaders and trade union leaders with whom I made contact were either under the sod or in exile by the time I left Germany. That policy was carried out by the spiritual progenitors of those against whom we are fighting to-day. This sort of thing has been going on for generations in Germany. That was something that I had not realised before I lived there. This appeal to the old German Socialist community may still have a little effect, but we must take our cue from our Allies the Russians. Let us get in touch with the Russians; let there be much more mutual understanding between us on this matter of political and propaganda arrangements, because it is a matter on which they are experts.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
Most of what I wish to say has been said so much more ably by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that I shall limit my speech to a few remarks. On this Vote to-day there are many subjects connected with the B.B.C. which many of us would like to discuss that are clearly out of Order, and I propose, therefore, to deal with nothing except political warfare. While, in common with many who have spoken in all quarters of the Committee, I think that our political warfare leaves much to be desired, we should be less than generous and fair to my 1723 right hon. Friend the Minister of Information if we did not call attention to the undoubted fact that the present scheme of the Political Warfare Executive is at any rate a considerable improvement upon what preceded it. My right hon. Friend is entitled at least to his share of the credit for that improvement. Like the hon. Member for Cambridge University and hon. Members on the other side who have spoken, I agree that there has been a great exaggeration of what can be achieved by political warfare in the absence of military success. The possibilities are very limited, as I believe is recognised by nobody more than by my right hon. Friend the Minister; and I think it will be his wish, as it is certainly ours, that the little that can be done should be done well.
Everybody is agreed, I think, that the most important thing to achieve is to obtain and to maintain a reputation for veracity. If that is lost, our power of using political warfare when military victory makes it possible to use it with more effect will almost vanish. Let me give my right hon. Friend an example; it is not perhaps concerned directly with veracity, but it is an example of the sort of thing we ought to avoid. If a dispute takes place in public between two Government Departments in London over something which has been broadcast by the B.B.C., that does not increase our effectiveness abroad. What happened last week? In one of our foreign broadcasts, I do not remember which, there was an announcement that, in the coming Spring, this country would engage in a bombing offensive against Germany such as had never been seen before. Interested journalists in this country at once went to the Air Ministry and asked "What is all this that was put out last night by the B.B.C.?" The Air Ministry answered "We know nothing about it" and suggested that it must have been "mere propaganda." I should have thought it would have been easy for the Air Ministry to say "We have no statement to make about broadcasts by the B.B.C. If you want any information on the subject go to the Ministry of Information." That type of blunder, in which a statement is put out by the B.B.C. in the course of political warfare and then explained away in a statement made by a representative of another Government Department, is 1724 deplorable. I know that my right hon. Friend must agree with me on that point, and I suggest that steps should be taken to avoid any repetition of that kind of error.
Let me consider our political warfare against Germany, because that has been the subject of many of the speeches today, including a very interesting one by the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price). Our propaganda to Germany cannot be very effective at the moment in the absence of victory, but the time will come when it may become very important indeed. At the present time the tendency of a great deal of our propaganda is to encourage a sham revolution in Germany. The effect of devoting our powers of propaganda to encouraging a sham revolution may be to weaken our power of propaganda when there is a real revolution, and when the importance of our exercising some influence from this country may be very great. I would again draw attention to something which I have mentioned in this House before but which is often overlooked. Foreigners constantly pick up propaganda that is not intended for them. It is no good indulging in propaganda to Germany which we think will be useful there if, when it is heard in various Allied countries, it has a disastrous effect upon them. That is one of the reasons why a great deal of what was formerly advocated from the Benches opposite has not, on the whole, been advocated to-day.
Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) and other speakers I have been hampered, as is everybody who takes an interest in this matter, by the difficulty of finding out exactly what has been said in these foreign broadcasts. On various occasions I have listened to our propaganda to Germany and I have also had reports from others who have listened, and what I have learned leaves me extremely puzzled as to what is the idea behind a great deal of our propaganda. It does not increase this country's reputation for clarity or for dignity. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University has dealt with some of the necessary weaknesses in any propaganda from Mr. Crossman by reason of the broadcast delivered on the morrow of Hitler's murder of his friends. That is remembered in Germany and necessarily 1725 weakens Mr. Crossman. But there are other weaknesses in what he is now saying. I do not doubt for a moment that he has certain abilities, I do not doubt that he believes that what he is doing or proposing is useful, but he often appears to talk complete nonsense, and repeats what has already been demonstrated in Germany to be nonsense. I have many examples of it, and I will quote one, because I hope the Minister will look into this matter, as, indeed, I am certain that he will. Mr. Crossman has the fixed idea that the existence of the Third Reich depends upon the widespread myth of the infallibility of Hitler. That is said again and again by Mr. Crossman. Not a month goes by, scarcely a week, without his accentuating that theme. Let me give one quotation only, because I do not wish to weary the Committee with quotations:It will be interesting to see how many more communiqués of this kind"—this refers to the German communiqué about the withdrawal from Rostov—the generals will allow him"—that is, Hitler—to publish without endangering the myth of infallibility on which the existence of the Third Reich depends.That sentence is almost beyond parody for the number of errors it contains. It misrepresents any possible relationship between Hitler and his generals, but the point is that he is saying that everything depends on the myth of Hitler's infallibility. Although Mr. Crossman may be widely listened to in Germany he is not quite so widely listened to as Hitler himself, and Hitler himself has, in a widely broadcast speech, answered Mr. Crossman on this very point and on nothing did he get more laughter and cheers from the whole of his audience throughout Germany. He referred to Mr. Crossman's speech in which he was accused at that time of having made seven blunders. This was Hitler's reply:I have not made seven but 724 blunders.That was Hitler's reply which was heard throughout Germany. So far from the Third Reich depending on this myth of Hitler's infallibility there is no myth that Hitler himself has taken more trouble to destroy.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Is it the hon. Member's point that Mr. Cross-man's broadcast was so utterly valueless 1726 in its appeal to the German people that Hitler thought it necessary to reply to it personally?
§ Mr. Strauss
Oh, no. The hon. Member has quite misunderstood me. In an enormous series of broadcasts by Mr. Crossman—and he has broadcast more and has more influence upon our broadcasting to Germany than most other people—no doubt he occasionally says something potentially useful. But he has so constantly repeated what Hitler has already effectively answered to the German people that to persist in that effort seems to me to be a mistake. I am not going to speculate why he thinks he knows so very much better, but I do not believe that it is a good line to take in Germany because nobody believes it. It strikes them as nonsense. It indicates to the Germans that the people who compose the broadcast do not know Germany and it gives them another suspicion of the material that the composers are using. They say that this Englishman who talks nonsense has been listening to emigrés and this is another weakness of which my right hon. Friend should take note—emigrés always exaggerate their knowledge of their own country and in the case of many German emigrés not only have they not been there for some time, but they showed themselves to be utterly out of touch with predominant German opinion the whole time that they were there. An hon. Member said that a certain amount of Left Wing talks has been dropped and that there has been a change and he wonders why. I will call attention to another change. Those in control of our propaganda to Germany seem to have a tremendous belief in a revolution in Germany but they do not know what the nature of the revolution should be. Formerly it appeared to be a revolution from the Left, but now the tendency is to encourage the German generals. Let the Germans realise how much the generals disagreed with Hitler. Here is a talk as late as 20th January:We know that these changes"—that is in the German Officer Corps—reflect the growing conviction in responsible German military circles that Adolf Hitler is leading Germany to destruction.In fact, we know nothing of the kind. There is a statement which is apparently designed, so far as there is any design in 1727 it, to increase the reputation of German militarist leaders in contrast with Hitler. I am sure that is not a very effective thing to do—
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
Does it not do exactly what you want to do—create dissension in Germany?
§ Mr. Strauss
The Noble Lady has just come into the House and, therefore, I think, has not followed my argument. What I suggest to the Noble Lady and to the Committee is this. At this moment it would be dangerous and futile to try to bring about a revolution by propaganda, not knowing what revolution it is you wish to encourage. I think it is idiotic in the case of Germany if you favour a left-wing revolution one day and a revolution by the generals the next. But suppose it is desired to promote by propaganda a revolution in Germany, the least likely way to bring it about is constantly to allege the existence in Germany of a greater opposition to the German Government than you have any reason to believe in. I agree with the hon. Member for the Forest of Dean who called attention to some of the tendencies of recent Russian propaganda. The way to promote a revolution in Germany, if that is our desire, or to accentuate any difference there may be between the German Government and the German people, is to make it clear in all our propaganda that we in this country will assume that the German people are wholly behind Hitler until they themselves demonstrate the contrary.
I listened to a recent broadcast to Germany in the form of dialogue or conversation which accentuated and exaggerated the German opposition to the regime the whole time, and made out that we believed there were all sorts of sets of opposition in Germany. It talked a lot of nonsense about some sermons delivered by a German Bishop and patriot who in fact desired a German victory but objected to the weakening of morale at home, which was being caused in his opinion by the way Hitler was treating the Church. This was treated as though it came from an ecclesiastic more or less on our side. The way in which the Russians indulge, when they do indulge, in distinctions between the German people and their regime is to say to the German people, "It is no good your coming over when the Allies are winning. If you 1728 want to do anything you must do it long before that." The whole tendency of our sham revolution talk to Germany is to give them, if they believe it, the best both ways bet in all history. Every German listening in to the stuff advocated in the columns of the "New Statesman"—which, I am glad to see, is now rather worried by the attitude of Premier Stalin—thinks, "Hitler has promised us that he will enslave the rest of the world. If he carries the war to victory, all other nations will become our slaves; if, however, things go wrong WE have only to stage a democratic revolution and all will be forgiven us." What conceivable motive does that give any German listener to do anything but work and fight for Hitler's victory?
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Member, with whose remarks I am so much in agreement. Fortunately, there is one person who will stop the Germans succeeding in that, whatever "softies" may say in this country, and that is Stalin, with the Russian people behind him.
§ Mr. Strauss
I agree. I hope that will be recognised by some hon. Members who may sympathise with a Left Wing deputation that recently made representations to the Russian Ambassador in this country, and got, I think, exactly what they deserved. To any Member who is tempted to think that the sort of propaganda to which I have referred is wise, I would commend a study of any history of the last war about the various resolutions indulged in by the Reichstag and the Parties and the various political steps taken in Germany between the autumn of 1917 or the launching of the German offensive in March 1918 and the Armistice. Such a study will show that the Germans calculated every move from the point of view of what they thought would help them in their dealing with their enemies. When their arras appeared to prosper, their ambitions revived; when their arms were less successful in the field, they became more reasonable. A great deal of the propaganda that is now being poured over Germany by the B.B.C.—the B.B.C. are not responsible for it, because this is wholly under ministerial control—can be treasured by the Germans in order that, when things go wrong, they can say, "What kind of revolution will be the best one to stage in order to deceive 1729 the British?" On this particular matter, I do not doubt the sound sense of my right hon. Friend who is to reply to the Debate.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
The hon. Member said the Germans will ask, "What kind of revolution will deceive the British?" I say they will ask, not "What kind of revolution will deceive the British?" but "What kind of revolution will satisfy the British?"
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not think that is what Hitler is thinking of. If the hon. Member thinks that the Nazi régime are not calculating, in their appropriate department, what is the right step when an anti-Nazi revolution becomes advisable, I think he is mistaken. I believe that in Germany, at this moment, the opposite number of my right hon. Friend is working out, on behalf of the Nazis, how they should act in order to deceive the British people when the time comes.
§ Mr. McGovern
At the end of the last war Germany had a political revolution and Russia had an economic revolution. The political revolution satisfied this country, but the economic revolution did not satisfy it. The hon. Member has said that Stalin will see to it that Russia is not tricked. Am I to take it that the hon. Member is in favour of an economic revolution overtaking the German people?
§ Mr. Strauss
I have not got nearly so much knowledge of Stalin as the hon. Member has. The point on which I am praising Russian propaganda in this matter is that it does seem to be more realistic about the German people. The Russian propaganda is not based on the idea that they believe in there being two Germanys, and that the second Germany can delay its revolution until Germany is losing, and still hope to get away with it. I think Stalin recognises the truth, that the German people at present overwhelmingly support the German Government. Another weakness of much of our propaganda to Germany is the constant laughing at or ridiculing of Hitler without ever recognising that everything that the Prime Minister is to us, and everything that Mr. Roosevelt is to America, Hitler is to the overwhelming majority of the German people. If this idea of holding out bribes or making offers to the German people in return for revolution does no good in Germany, it can do the very greatest harm among our Allies. Our propaganda, even 1730 to Germany, is listened to not only in Germany but throughout Europe and by Allied Governments In this country, and they must often wonder what exactly it is that we are doing.
I thought that a passage in one of Mr. Crossman's broadcasts, which dealt with the respect he said the English felt for the German Army, was not very happy in view of what was being suffered by the Poles and the Russians at that moment. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Information, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, made the best defence he could, but I wonder whether on reconsideration he really thinks that any conceivable good was done in Germany to compensate for the amount of harm it was calculated to do among our Allies. I do not believe that it was calculated to have any effect in Germany, except to make them laugh at it. The Minister who opened the Debate said, and said rightly, that a great number of people incurred great risks in order to listen to our propaganda in Germany. I think that they incur those risks to hear the news. True news is a thing they are starved of, and if we can give them news, by which I mean facts and truths, we can build up a great reputation for veracity, which, when the time comes, we may be able to use. We shall not in Tease our reputation for veracity if we indulge first in one idea and then in another, and persist in holding the general quite unclarified idea that any revolution anywhere must be useful and that, therefore, we must encourage minority parties, even if those minority parties exist only in our imagination. We shall not by such methods increase our reputation for veracity, nor our power to use propaganda effectively at the time when we may most wish to use it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Cuthbert Headlam (Newcastle-on-Tyne, North)
I do not intend to detain the Committee very long, but I should like to say one or two things more or less in support: of what the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said, and what has just fallen from the hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss). It is perfectly obvious that in this war, until comparatively recently, our propaganda in foreign countries has not had any success. I confess my own experience is limited, but I have been told that from the early days of the war, wherever you went in Europe, you heard German propaganda 1731 but never British propaganda. It was exactly the same in other matters. It has taken us a very long time to shake down to realities in this war. It is perfectly true, as hon. Members have said, that really effective propaganda in Germany can never come until victory is on our side. Then, in my opinion, it will not be necessary because the Germans will do exactly what they did in the last war and tumble over each other in order to try to satisfy us and make us believe that they are entirely different.
It is no good our propaganda from this country being political. It is perfectly clear, as, I think, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich said, that we must take the line that, as long as the war goes on, we are fighting the German nation and that the German nation is solidly behind the Nazis. It may well be that there are in Germany—I am sure there are—a good many people who are not in favour of the Hitler regime and who would be very glad to get rid of it if they could, but during the time the war is going on it is obvious to anyone with common sense that all these people have a greater concern even than Hitler, and that is that they believe their country is what they are fighting for, just as we are fighting for ours, and that they are going to follow Hitler because they have no alternative, and at present they think they are on the winning side. We have to make it clear that we are fighting the German nation, and not only a section of it. But it is equally absurd to try to believe that broadcasts from this country, even from the most admirable young men, with the most perfect political views, progressives, whoever they may be, are really going to affect German public opinion. It seems to me that our propaganda should be directed as far as possible to showing the Germans the spirit which is influencing us, our determination, in spite of everything, to carry through, and to show them how this country is standing the strain of the war and to remember that we are really behind the Government in the war effort to the last man.
I agree with the view that it is very foolish to send out anything in the way of propaganda to try and influence the Germans which would have the effect, even supposing it succeeded, of antagonising 1732 those who are on our side. I can quite well realise that many people who have suffered as they have in foreign countries where the German army has been might not appreciate at all what was meant in a perfectly fair remark, such as one antagonist might make to another, regarding the efficiency of the German army. No one doubts that, but no one in this country should go out of his way to say anything which can in any way give a wrong impression of what public opinion here is with regard to Germany, her army, her policy and everything else. I do not believe that political warfare, as it is called, is of no avail. I am certain that it is a very powerful piece of war armament if utilised in the proper way, but it is futile, and always will be, merely to abuse your opponent. I am certain that more harm has been done than anyone can imagine by the silly, rude things continually being said about Hitler and his gang. The best way to treat that lot is not to talk about them at all. It is no use bandying words. If anyone broadcasting from Germany abuses oar leaders, what effect has it upon us? It either makes us angry or makes us laugh. Let us for the sake of common sense and reason not allow any more of this futile abuse. Let us try to make the enemy realise that we intend to win this war, that we have the capacity for winning and that we shall not cease fighting until we do win it. If we can get that kind of view into the heads of the people of Germany after our setbacks and defeats all over the world, and if we show them that we have the will to victory and keep smiling—a foolish expression, but it is what we have to do—I am sure it is the kind of propaganda that should be directed wholesale throughout the world. If we are to direct propaganda towards Germany at all, let it be of that type and not a weak political attempt to create a revolution in a country where no revolution is possible until military defeat stares its people in the eye.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I am very interested in this Debate, because I have always held the view that this war could be lost or won for humanity as a whole by propaganda and by example. I have heard criticism in the country of the type of propaganda that is put over to Germany. I have heard a great deal of abuse by those who have conducted this propaganda. We 1733 must realise that abuse can recoil on your own head. After hearing "Lord Haw-Haw" continually speaking of all the crimes of the Prime Minister—more crimes than I think he has—I am driven ultimately to a sense of sympathy with him and at times I have to guard against supporting the Prime Minister because of the vitriolic propaganda that comes night after night against him. Therefore, abuse of Hitler and the Nazi gang is of no avail. That kind of thing is good enough for the music hall. I remember that in the last war poor comedians would come on the stage and say, "To hell with the Kaiser!" It would bring down the house and it made people forget the turn. If they had been judging the turn they would have chased the comedian off the stage. To indulge in propaganda of that type is good enough for a low music hall comedian, but it is not good enough for serious political propaganda. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) referred to an English broadcast to which Hitler replied. In Hollywood there is a rule, I am told, that writers of film stories must assume that the average age of intelligence is nine years. I think that is too high. Nevertheless, we have to assume that the average intelligence is low, and it must not be taken that there are not a tremendous lot of simpletons in Germany. If there were not millions of simpletons in Germany, Hitler could not use them as he has been using them in the military escapades in which he is engaged.
In this country recently our own Prime Minister was a sort of myth. I heard an old lady refer to him in the tram the other day. Somebody asked her, immediately after he had come on to the wireless and made a big speech: "Did you hear Winston's speech last night?" She replied: "Speech? It wasn't a speech, it was a feast." Last Sunday my wife came up from Glasgow with a number of munitions girls, and she happened to hand them two morning papers to read in the train. One girl said to another, "Listen who's on the wireless to-night." The other said, "Oh, blow her." That shows the changes that take place in the mentality of individuals. Therefore, I say that we must not go on the assumption that we are dealing with completely intelligent people in Germany any more than in this country. Otherwise you are 1734 saying something that is 30 or 40 years removed from the truth.
We have to make up our minds what we mean by revolution in Germany. I am all for revolution in Germany and in this country, but I am in favour of a revolution of mind first and foremost, because the mind must keep pace with the revolution. If not, you land yourselves in a sorry mess. I do not want to be governed by a clan. I assume that the German people do not want a revolution that will place them in the hands of another set of gangsters Mark you, this is the crux of my attitude to the war. If I were satisfied in my own mind that Britain was leading the struggle for a better world and that, by example, she was showing the people of Germany that there was' a better kind of world to be attained in our own times and was appealing to the Germans to do likewise, I should take part in the struggle for that better world, because I am not a pacifist. I believe in ulitimate pacifism, as a large number of other people believe, but I am a realist in my approach to the political problems of to-day. I ask what you mean by the revolution that you are out for. We had it after the last war, and you could not ask for a better example. There were two revolutions, one in Russia and one in Germany. In Russia, Kerensky assumed power. He attempted to perpetrate a political fraud on the people by making them believe there had been a revolution, although it was only a Change of masters.
We have to make up our minds whether we mean a fundamental revolution or only a change of political masters with no change for the large mass of the people underneath. Lenin appeared on the scene. If Stalin had had to do with the matter, probably there would never have been the deep economic revolution for which Lenin planned. Lenin said, "This is a political fraud. This does not mean any change. There will be a continuation of the war and a change of masters. We have to get rid of the root cause of war, unemployment and poverty at the same time. Let us tear up from the roots the economic ownership of the means of life. Let us have a fundamental change that will raise the masses"—not one at a time into the Cabinet, but the whole people at the same time—"into a position of complete social change." Russia went in for that com- 1735 plete economic revolution. It does not appeal to the ruling class of this country. They spent £100,000,000 in trying to destroy the result of that revolution. But to-day you want a revolution in Germany, and you have to recognise this—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)
I think the hon. Member is discussing revolutions as a whole rather than questions of propaganda.
§ Mr. McGovern
I am trying to show by examples what I mean, and I am trying to urge the Minister of Information to go in for a different type of propaganda. The object of the propaganda which should be put over to the German people is an appeal to them to revolt against Hitler. Germany went in for a revolution after the last war. Is that the type of revolution you are going to ask them to go through again? If the Russian one was all wrong in your conception, and the German one has turned out by example to be all wrong because it has repeated in 20 years' time the same old struggle for supremacy, what are you going to urge to the German people over the B.B.C.?
There is also another assumption that I have never been able to understand. It is the assumption that the German people are prepared to throw over Hitler or Hitlerism because of something you are going to urge them to accept. What is it you will urge them to accept? Is it a change from Hitlerism to what I might call Churchillism? Is it that we have a vast slave Empire which we are seeking to maintain against their aggression? That is not an appeal to the German people. There is nothing that the ruling class of this country could offer the German working class that would be worth the sacrifice of the life of a single member of the German proletariat. It is not a real appeal, and I therefore say that if you want to have success in Germany, there are only two kinds of revolution you can urge. There must be political change, whether it is Goering or the generals or not—for after all, this country flirted for a time with the idea of a substitution of Goering for Hitler; it was my assumption at the time of the cellar bomb that it was a plot to destroy Hitler, Himmler and company and substitute Goering. Is that the kind of revolution you mean to appeal for over the wireless? I cannot believe it, because 1736 whether there is to be only political change of masters, or a deep economic revolution, you must make up your minds which of the two you are going to back. If you are to back an appeal for political change, you will only get what happened after the last war, and more preparations for another struggle, because if there is to be a real change in Germany, it must be a proletarian change.
§ Mr. McGovern
No. I do not think the German people have a better mentality than the people in Britain, and as we cannot get a majority in Britain, I do not expect to get it in Germany, or we should not be discussing the problem to-day. It is something intelligent which I am suggesting, although it is not acceptable. If you make up your minds to appeal to the German people, you will have to face the fact that the only way in which you can end this struggle for supremacy is to end the cause of the struggle for supremacy. The struggle for supremacy is an Imperialist struggle. Russia got rid of that basis by her revolution; this country did not, and neither did Germany. Therefore you must have something intelligent and real to say to the German people, because the only change that can mean any real change in Germany is a change that will have its echo in this country. You can say to the German people, "Look here, if you are prepared to go in for an economic revolution, we will show you the example, because we in this country are prepared to end our exploitation throughout the world, we are prepared to adopt a classless society, to get rid of the classes and of the bond-holding interests, that we are prepared to control the banks, land, capital and industry; therefore we are showing you an example of the way to that new world." The key how to get rid of Hitler is to get rid of your own Hitlers in this country.
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
Might I ask a serious question? What is the essential difference between the economic system set up in Germany—
§ Mr. McGovern
I am very much obliged to you, Colonel Clifton Brown, for protecting me against these interjections, which would only lead me far from my point. We have to set an example. As I have pointed out, this propaganda which goes on continually has to take note of the fact that there are millions of people in Germany to-day who genuinely believe that they are fighting for something worth while. You have to undermine that feeling. The question is, How are you going to undermine it? You will not undermine it simply by attack after attack. I was glad when I heard an hon. Member saying that we must disabuse our minds of the idea that every political refugee is telling the truth. One thing we have suffered from is all this humbug about happenings inside Germany. Terrible happenings have gone on. When I was in Germany I heard of them at firsthand. If this type of story that is true could be recounted it would be of inestimable value. After my tour I gave a lecture in Glasgow on events in Germany. One newspaper asked me to write three articles on phases of that—the attitude towards Communists and Socialists, the attitude towards the Christian religion, and thirdly the attitude towards the Jews. I refused at that time, because I did not want to help rouse the feelings of the public against Germany at that stage.
I say that if you are to get rid of this hypocrisy, humbug and falsehood going round you have to realise that there are millions in Germany who want peace, who want an end to war, who do not wish their sons to be lying mangled on battlefields or frozen to death on the Eastern front, who are thinking in terms of peace with honour and decency. You have to touch the heart chords of those people, you have to touch their mental processes, and rouse in them the sense of an idea that you are prepared to give to the German people something decent and fine, and that you do not intend to ostracise the whole of the German people as some writers and speakers do. I believe humanity is pretty much the same all over the world. They are all appealed to by false promises, in the struggles in which they are engaged, by many politicians, on many occasions, on the wireless or on the public platform. We have to remember the old saying that the ordinary man lies down for what the 1738 ordinary politician stands up for. If we can get rid of the idea that the German people have to be ostracised, we can make an appeal to them. I would make a more genuinely decent appeal than is made by a large number of the blimps who make appeals through the B.B.C. and the Ministry of Information. If the Minister of Information wishes to do a real service to shorten the war and bring about a better state of society, he should advise the Government that a fundamental change is essential before we can talk in moral tones to the German people. They know our history of struggle to build an Empire; they know of our exploitation of the masses in that Empire; they know of the shameless wages of 2d. and 3d. a day that we pay to the people in that Empire. There is nothing in that to appeal to the German masses to overthrow Hitler and substitute Churchill. I say to the Minister of Information: Get decent propaganda, treat the German people as human beings, and make a genuine appeal for an all-in struggle for a better world, in which the whole of the resources of the world shall be used for the betterment of the human race.
§ Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)
I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman would refer to the recent decision to rebroadcast American news bulletins to Europe through the B.B.C. I was very glad to see this system instituted. It began on the 1st February. At present there are three broadcasts a day; one to Germany at 3.15, one to France at 4.15, and one to Italy at 11.45. They take the usual course of broadcasts, starting with the playing of an American national air, then giving a review of the news, then a talk on general subjects, and closing with another American tune. They begin, I think, with the words "United States calling Europe through the B.B.C." I wish the Minister would seriously consider increasing the number of these rebroadcasts through B.B.C. channels. They are of immense importance, far more important, I think, than some of the wretched stuff that we put over ourselves again and again to Germany, France, and Italy. I believe that the Europeans would pay more attention to American broadcasts than to British broadcasts. I believe that for several reasons.
The main reason is that before the last war Europe sent to America millions of 1739 its inhabitants. To-day there are living in European countries people who have relatives in America, people who know those relatives, or whose fathers, uncles and grandfathers knew them; and these relatives in America were constantly sending home money to Europe. I believe that the Europeans would listen more sympathetically to rebroadcasts from America than to the broadcasts which are constantly going out to them from ourselves. America represents to them the land where their progenitors have sought their fortune, and, that, not without success, so that they are able to send money home. I believe that the people in Europe would think that American broadcasts were done with sincerity, whereas English broadcasts would be suspect. Some of the people of European countries, especially in the Balkans and Italy, depended partly upon America for their income. When I was in Montenegro a few years ago, I was informed that half the inhabitants of Cetinje were pensioners, living on money received from American relatives. I also think that the Englishman is not always completely acceptable to many of the European people. When we travelled abroad, we were frequently regarded as arrogant people, who owned a large portion of the earth's surface and its wealth. Again and again, on the Continent, one met with a good deal of respect, but mixed with a great deal of envy. I believe that they regard us with some suspicion. So I want the right hon. Gentleman to pay particular attention to increasing the number of American broadcasts.
We have heard a great deal about our propaganda to Germany. Germany is not the only country we have to consider. There are many other countries in Europe to which we should constantly apply our propaganda, but we should do it with the greatest care. We should not put over flippant matter. We should consider carefully the character of a country and do what we intend to do very seriously, not using young men who happen to have some knowledge of the language and leaving them recklessly to walk in and put over the news and all sorts of other frivolous matter. If we consider carefully the character of the countries to which we broadcast I feel that we could do a tremendous amount of good. Particularly, I have in mind Italy. Indeed, we might 1740 not only find a possibility of shortening the war but of laying down the seeds of good will when the war is over, so that in Italy we should have a country which would come alongside us in the renewed birth of freedom. I do not listen very carefully to these broadcasts, but when we are broadcasting to Italy no doubt we put on, among others, the usual jazz records. We must be very careful about the music intended for the Italian people. That is most important. Every programme to Italy should contain music, and music which has been chosen with great care. The first thing to do is to rivet the attention of the Italians, and nothing does that better than good music; and that is not jazz music. Even broadcasts for the Italian peasants should invariably include grand opera. We should start our programmes with selections of grand opera and intersperse them with selections from them. As I have said, it is the one way above all others by which to rivet their attention.
§ Dr. Thomas
I am not going to give way. I have sat here a very long time, and I intend to go on. Then I think we should constantly show that we are a people who are on the side of freedom. That is very important, although it may sound rather strange, seeing that Italy is living now under a totalitarian régime. Italians have been under the thumb of other peoples for hundreds of years, chiefly Germanic peoples from the North, or great families or kings bolstered frequently by Germanic and other influences. An united Italy is of quite recent date. Many of our fathers remember the days when the unity of Italy was first achieved. Although Italy has suffered for 20 years from Fascism, I can assure this Committee that the average Italian has no liking for Fascism. He accepted Fascism after the last war when he found there was no hope, when things were chaotic and he felt there was no alternative; but the Italian is instinctively a lover of liberty, and we ought constantly to make use of that fact and to play on the Italian love for liberty. Another thing we ought to do is to try and resuscitate the bonds of friendship which exist, or did exist, between ourselves and the Italian people. That friendship was a very real thing. England always encouraged the movements for liberation in 1741 Italy. The leading figures in the Risorgimento were largely encouraged by England. Gladstone went a long way, both diplomatically and otherwise, to encourage the Italian people. In fact, even before the Risorgimento took place Mazzini, at his home in London, in his newspaper "Pensiero ed azione," which he published at the time, wrote this of us in 1858:—England, a land where a long and educative liberty has given birth to a lofty consciousness of the dignity and respect of the individual.That attitude towards us still represents the mind and the desire of the Italian people. They feel that we are the people who realise what real liberty is, and although their liberty has now been crushed for 20 years, it is still their secret desire. In the course of our propaganda we should constantly bear these things in mind. The other thing to do is carefully to study the religion of a country like Italy. You will say that it is a Roman Catholic country. It is the home of Roman Catholicism. Anyone who knows the Italian will realise that religion Js almost a stereotyped exercise of the Italian; but the Italian underneath is an intellectual and a somewhat cynical person.
We should constantly promise the Italians, when the war is over, to help them to a freer and better economic life. Italy is a poor country. The Italian peasant is very poor and works very hard. Although I have heard in this House remarks about Italian prisoners in this country who do not do their full whack—it may be because of the climate—I know that the Italian labourers in the foothills of the Alps and the Appenines work very hard for a mere pittance. Italy is a country which has had to get most of its raw materials from abroad. In fact it has no raw materials of any account, One-third only of Italy is arable land, and before the last war Italy was sending 500,000 emigrants per year to the United States. That was stopped, and the condition of the Italian labourer became worse. I ask the right hon. Gentleman, in providing for Italian broadcasts, constantly to tell the Italians that they will partake eventually in a greater, better and freer life. He will be proceeding on the right lines and perhaps perceptibly shortening the war, but at any rate he will be laying down the foundations of 1742 future brotherhood and co-operation so that this catastrophe will not occur again.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I find myself in the position of wanting to offer sympathy to the Minister who sooner or later will have to reply to this rather varied Debate. If he wants to satisfy everybody from those who wanted political propaganda among the Italian people to be conducted with performances of grand opera, to those who wanted political propaganda to Germany to be conducted along lines of revenge, the only way to do it is to cease to have any political propaganda and broadcasts at all. I am entirely with those who believe that we are not going to win the war by broadcasts. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) says that the best kind of propaganda is propaganda by example. I am entirely of that way of thinking myself, but I would say to him too, that this country will not have much chance of showing an example to anybody about anything, unless it can get itself out of the mess in which it now finds itself with regard to the war. There has been an air of complete and, I think, deliberate unreality about all that part of the Debate which ha; concerned broadcasts to Germany. We have had the interesting spectacle of something almost like a conspiracy between hon. Members opposite, or if not a conspiracy an organised and concerted plan to attack a particular broadcast. It is plain that it has been concerted and deliberate. Hon. Members have each had quotations and it has been most remarkable.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Since the hon. Gentleman has mentioned this point, I wish to say that so far as I know it has not in any way been concerted.
§ Mr. Silverman
I accept what the hon. Member says. I do not know why he should have been left out. His own contribution ought to be very welcome to those who spoke along the same lines.
§ Mr. H. Strauss
I do not believe anybody who is interested in our propaganda to Germany can possibly ignore the frequent contributions from Mr. Crossman. If you are to talk about the subject at all you must, at least, mention these contributions.
§ Mr. Silverman
I have not complained, and I do not complain, of any hon. Member of this House, while he is a Member, 1743 making any comment on anything which is relevant to the subject of the Debate, but what is a really remarkable coincidence is that so many speakers on that side of the House should have fastened on a particular broadcaster and his speeches and should apparently have distributed among themselves quotations from his speeches in order to support what seems to me a planned, deliberate and concerted attack. It is an attack which is without any kind of justification at all. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss) said that Mr. Crossman's broadcasts were valueless, dangerous, absurd and, I think he said, ridiculous. What was the example out of one of Mr. Crossman's broadcasts which he advanced in order to prove his argument? It appears that Mr. Crossman had endeavoured to prove to the German people that Hitler was not infallible. That seemed to the hon. Member to be an absurd line to choose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I am repeating what the hon. Member said. Whether he meant it or not, he must decide for himself. He said that Mr. Crossman, in advancing to the German people a proposition that Hitler was not infallible, was doing something ridiculous and that this was a ridiculous way of trying to present our case to the German people. Well, I do not agree.
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not think that the hon. Member can wish to misrepresent me. What I said was that Mr. Crossman constantly repeated that the Third Reich was based on the myth of Hitler's infallibility, after Hitler himself had asserted that he had not made seven mistakes but some 700 mistakes. To go on repeating his allegation of the myth after Hitler's statement was stupid and quite ineffective. I do not blame Mr. Crossman or anybody else for saying that Hitler is not infallible.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member is almost as patronising and supercilious in his interventions as he is in his contribu- 1744 tions in Debate. Maybe he is as all-righteous and all-knowing as he pretends but he must allow other Members of the Committee to have their own view. I have said nothing at all which has misrepresented him. I cannot say everything at once but I will try to do him justice. Undoubtedly, he said that Mr. Crossman appealed to the German people not to continue to believe that Hitler was infallible, because, he said, Hitler had himself denied that he had made any claim to infallibility. The hon. Member ventured to describe as nonsense something that was said by somebody who is not a Member of the House, and perhaps I may be permitted to say that, in my opinion, if there is one article of the Nazi creed that seems to be generally admitted, it is the principle that the Führer is always right. The greatest claim of Hitler to the loyalty of the German people is the claim that the Führer is always right. I think that Mr. Crossman was pursuing a very valuable line in pointing out to the German people that, far from Hitler being always right, he is often wrong, and that in the end he will be proved to have been more wrong than anybody else in Europe. So valuable was that sort of appeal to the German people that the hon. Member seemed to think that, whether in reply to that speech or other similar speeches, Hitler had gone out of his way to make another broadcast to the German people disposing of that sort of appeal. It seems to me that hon. Members, before attacking in the House people who know far more about these subjects than they do, attacking those people in their absence and in a place where they cannot defend themselves, ought to take the trouble to ascertain the facts and find out what was the argument which they are pleased to describe as nonsense, ridiculous, and absurd.
There are other unreal things in this Debate. It seems to be assumed by a great many people who, before the war, displayed Fascist sympathies in Debates in this House, that those of us who believe that political warfare is a valuable weapon of victory regard it as being a substitute for victory. We do nothing of the kind. Nobody with any knowledge of the facts would deny that at this moment the bulk of the German people is fighting solidly behind Hitler. It is the business of those who do not want 1745 Germany to win to fight back and see that Germany does not win. There is no dispute about that. Those who say that there are other elements in Germany have never pretended that the other elements are in control. No one is under any illusion about the fact that the majority of the German people is behind Hitler in the war. But hon. Members opposite are content to leave the matter there. We are not content to do that. They are defeatists. They assume that because the majority of the German people is solidly behind Hitler at this moment, then inevitably the majority always will be solidly behind him, and that therefore it is not worth making any appeal or approach to those who are our Allies on the Continent of Europe. We think that such an appeal is one of the essential weapons of war. We think that the weapon that will take us quickest towards victory is to divide the German people from Hitler, to divide the bulk of the German people, or as big a proportion as we can, from Hitler.
When the hon. Member opposite pokes fun at those who would like to see a revolution in Germany because some would like to see one kind of revolution and some another kind, he has not begun to understand what are the problems and conditions of victory. From the narrowest military point of view, any kind of revolution in Germany will do, anything that weakens the German effort will do, anything that divides the German people will do. The hon. Member does a very great disservice to our war effort when he pretends that there is something wrong in making different kinds of appeals to different sections of the German people. From the narrow military point of view, that is a useful and valuable thing to do. I hope the Minister will not listen to those superior, arrogant and supercilious people who advise him that there is something wrong about it. [An HON. MEMBER: "Listen only to you."] I hope the Minister will listen to them and answer them, but I hope he will not heed them.
§ Wing-Commander James
When the hon. Member talks about "our" war effort, will he explain what his was in the last war and is in this?
§ Mr. Silverman
I can say what is within the recollection of the Committee, and that is, that I never supported the friends of Germany and Italy in closing the Mediterranean to our warships, as they are doing to-day. I never advised the people of this country to compromise with Fascism or Nazism, as the hon. Member devoted most of his political life to do in this House. I will leave it there. It seems to me that you have on the Continent of Europe, millions of ordinary common decent folk who desire nothing out of life but a reasonable measure of security for their labour, a reasonable measure of reward, a reasonable standard of living and protection from the recurrent fear of war. Is there nothing there to which we can appeal? If you are going to appeal to the people in Germany or in occupied countries, is it irrelevant to consider why they should divorce themselves from Hitler; is it irrelevant to consider what will happen to them if they do, and is it irrelevant to consider what kind of world is to follow the war?
The common people everywhere, as far as I understand it, are quite determined that they will never go back and will not allow Europe to go back to the days before the war, which the hon. Member is so proud about and for which he has worked so earnestly. Europe is passing through the birth-throes of a new age. So far, the only European leader, or pseudo-leader, who has offered any kind of description of what it is all to end in, is Hitler, and the great failure of our propaganda so far has been that we have neglected the importance of ourselves painting an alternative picture, which the peoples of occupied Europe and Germany can set side by side with Hitler's and choose between the two. I think that is a serious omission—the failure to define peace aims and the failure to put them over attractively so that the people of Europe may see what we are striving for and what it is we are inviting them to help us to achieve.
The hon. Member just now asked me about Stalin. Let me assure him that I have not forgotten Stalin or Russia. Russia has put forward an alternative 1747 plan, or at any rate has conceived an alternative plan. Is the hon. Member prepared to accept it? Does he not think that the people of this country are entitled to know what they are fighting for and what they are to look forward to when all the blood and all the tragedy have passed? We shall lose the war, psychologically first and physically and actually afterwards, unless that omission is rectified. Someone talked about the "leftish" and the "pinkish," and someone on this side pointed out that the Russians do not make those mistakes. It is possible that they do not make them because they are neither "leftish" nor "pinkish" but plain red, and everyone knows exactly where they stand. I am not asking that this or that philosophy of life should be adopted, but, if you hope to win allies in Europe, if you hope to persuade the common people of Germany, or any occupied country, to take the enormous risks of working underground against this terrible machine, you must not merely assume that it is their moral duty to assist. You can only do it by inviting them to stand with us, to work with us equally, co-operatively and constructively for a new world. When the Government make up their mind to do that, they will have something to put over, and may then succeed in putting it over more intelligibly than they have done so far.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
For a moment might it not be as well to remind ourselves that every Debate that has taken place on the question of foreign propaganda has taken the same line, and the line can almost definitely be discovered as between those who think to the Right and those who think to the Left? It is a curious phenomenon which is not unknown in our criticisms of our home broadcasts. There are always those whose minds are closed to kindly reception of anything that does not fit in entirely with their own personal political points of view. I believe that a Debate on foreign broadcasts from the propaganda point of view does more harm than would be done if it did not take place. Propaganda, if it is to be of real value, should, in my opinion, be so concealed within other statements as to be undetected as propaganda at all. I believe that the reaction in the mind of the 1748 human being, which is built up against what is openly declared to be propaganda, very largely destroys the value of the propaganda. I wonder whether those in charge of the B.B.C., and possibly their advisers in the Ministry of Information, have sufficient knowledge of the different ingredients which go to make up the populations of foreign countries. I sometimes wonder whether they fully realise that our own country is made up of people who hold differing views. As an example of that, I think one might quote the most unfortunate dispute and clash of opinion which have arisen on the question of certain types of religious broadcasts which are not only listened to in this country but are heard far afield. Is it altogether wise that that type of broadcast should continue building up bad feeling in a large section of the population of this country?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I do not want to go into detail, because I might be out of Order. I am only quoting this as justification for my doubt. It is clear that there is considerable dispute and feeling in this country between those who are supposed to study popular opinion on the question of religious broadcasts as to whether the impersonation of the voice of Christ should be heard on the air.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That comes under home broadcasting and does not come under the Vote for foreign broadcasting.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am quoting it as justification of my doubt whether those responsible for the broadcasting service are making close enough study of the make-up of the people abroad who listen to our broadcasting.
I want to turn to the figures which the Committee are now discussing. We are asked to consider a Supplementary Estimate of a considerable amount—£1,300,000, an increase pf about 25 per cent. on the original Estimate. I wonder seriously whether the whole of that amount would have been put before the Committee if there had not been wild extravagance within the B.B.C. If they had not spent their money so wildly in other directions, would they not have 1749 been able to present a smaller Supplementary Estimate? I wonder whether the Minister can put his hand on his heart, or any other part of his anatomy which may be more suitable, and say, in all truth, that he can assure the Committee that there has been no extravagance by the B.B.C.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am afraid that that is going outside this Vote, which is for foreign broadcasting. The hon. Member is now trying to include the whole expense of broadcasting, both at home and abroad.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I was attempting to suggest that if the B.B.C. had exercised reasonable care in the expenditure of their funds, the Minister of Information would not now be asking the Committee for a Supplementary Estimate of such a large amount.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That would open the discussion to home broadcasting, and it is, therefore, out of Order on this Vote.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
May I put it in this way? Will the Minister, again using the same gesture, assure the Committee that greater economies will be exercised in carrying out the overseas broadcasts than have been exercised in producing the home performances? If we are to judge by the expenditure of money on the home broadcasts, we must have some fear that gross extravagance will be exercised on the overseas broadcasts. I ask the Minister seriously whether he will pledge himself to keep a close eye on the way in which this money is expended.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I want to say a few words following the speech of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). I thought that in one part of his speech he was rather offensive, but I agree with the last part. When we talk about foreign propaganda, we have to remember that all over Europe there are millions of people like the people in this country who really want a new world and who did not want this war. They are living under dictatorships and it is not easy for them to get from under those dictatorships, but we have not, so far, appealed to that particular strata. I know something about the women of Europe because in 1938 I went to an international conference at 1750 Copenhagen which was attended by women from all over the world. There were no German women representing their government because no German women had attended international conferences since Hitler came to power. I was howled down by women from the section from England when I said that England would fight. I went there particularly to tell them so. Some of the more complete pacifists were trying to say that it was not so.
I feel that the Government, particularly in their overseas broadcasts, lack what I might call spiritual values. It is no use saying that there are no people in other countries who will respond to those values; those are the only things that bring a universal response. People who do not feel them need not try to put them over. There is nothing in the world so coarse as someone who loathes everything in Germany, trying to "propaganda" in German. I know that there are people here who put spiritual values first. Although I have been dubbed a Fascist, I loathe dictators, Right and Left. I do not hold with them. I am a thoroughgoing democrat because I believe that, where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and where the spirit of the dictators is, there is no liberty. I want that to be thoroughly understood. Somehow the Government have not harnessed here at home that thing which is deep in the people of England. They do not realise how offensive it is when anybody makes a speech and talks about our wanting to hate more. We know that hate is no use. It only weakens you for your job. Anybody who hates the Germans ought not to speak to them. There are people who hate Nazism, but still like the people of Germany. Those are the people who should appeal to the Germans and who would get a response from them.
I beg the Government not to put people up to conduct propaganda who have not those values in their hearts. Such people get no response. Everybody knows that this country will fight to the last man and woman. We may be going through a bad patch now, but we shall not give in to dictators and certainly not to the Nazis. I ask the Government to consider what I have said. I know a woman who would be magnificent in regard to Germany. She spent years going over there and getting into touch with the Christian part of 1751 Germany. She would be magnificent to broadcast, but has not been asked. I know a great many other people in this country who feel exactly the same way. They loathed Nazism long before any of us did in this House. They understood it and dreaded it, but they are never asked to broadcast. There ought to be a little more idealism and vision in the B.B.C. I am rather frightened of the sort of Foreign Office touch that we are getting. If there is one thing true about this country it is that it is strongly protestant. We are a protesting people. If we were not, we should not be where we are now. We should be like Europe. We should not have loved freedom of thought. The B.B.C. ought to be very careful of the kind of people they are putting at the head of their talks.
§ Viscountess Astor
I think the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what I mean. You must have what I might call a protestant point of view. We are fighting against Europe, where people have never protested—if they have, they have not gone very far. Look at Italy, France, Spain and all those countries. They are living in a sort of ecclesiastical despotism. We do not want that sort of thought here. We want free thought, protestant thought, if I may put it quite frankly, and I feel that a lot of us have thought for a long time that the Foreign Office is far too un-protestant really to represent the country. The same thought is getting into the B.B.C. and it is dangerous although the country does not realise it yet. May I ask another question? The bright young men have had their way now for some years, but will the right hon. Gentleman pay a little more attention to those who know where the best brains are to be found? I do not mean the women in the House of Commons, because, as I said the other day to a collection of women, the cleverest men and the cleverest women in the country are not in the House of Commons. We know that the best brains do not even try to get here, I wish they did. But we, as politicians, know, if we know anything, where the best brains are, and I wish a little more attention could be paid to those who do know.
1752 A word or two about the Austrian broadcasts. I have not heard them myself, but I have heard from those who listen that they are lamentable and, of course, as for our broadcasts of music, I do not think they are really very wise. After all, most of the good music we hear over the wireless is foreign. I am not a musician and I do not understand it myself, but I hear that complaint. Above all, I appeal to the B.B.C. to put on to their foreign propaganda people who really feel and care about the war and what it is for. An hon. Member has said that the world is fighting to go back to where it was. You cannot go back. Even God cannot bring back the past, and I do not think many people want it back. We want a new world, a world built not on speeches and not on sham, because we have had enough sham, we have been led up the garden path for years by people talking about brotherhood when they did not know what it was. I used to say in the House of Commons, why should certain people talk about their love for Russia? Why love people they did not know and could not see? Why not try it at home?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Noble Lady is talking of affairs at home. The Vote is for broadcasting abroad.
§ Viscountess Astor
I was talking about things I wanted to happen and the world the B.B.C. is trying to build up abroad. We want a new kind of world and we are fighting for it. I believe it is the kind of new world which will appeal to thousands of people abroad. Do not let us put out hate. Do not let us be afraid to tell the people abroad that we are fighting as much for them as for the people at home. So far you have not done that, and I believe the reason is that you have not got the right kind of people to do it. Words without feeling are clouds without rain.
§ Sir Irving Albery (Gravesend)
I want to deal only with the question of finance, which has scarcely been touched upon in this Debate. On this Estimate it is specially noted that the accounts of the British Broadcasting Corporation will not be audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. The point to which I want to draw attention is this. Originally, as has been explained by the Parliamentary Secretary, the British Broadcasting 1753 Corporation was financed by a fixed percentage; in other words, they ran their own show, they got their own revenue and it was their own concern how they spent it. They had to do the best they could with the money. That is completely changed at the present moment, and they now have to draw an amount largely in excess of what was originally allotted to them on the percentage basis. They have to obtain that amount through the Ministry of Information and I cannot for the life of me see why, in the altered circumstances, this Vote should not be subject to the audit of the Comptroller and Auditor-General. It is one of the safeguards upon which this House of Commons has always insisted in similar circumstances, and it certainly is a very great safeguard. The Comptroller and Auditor-General draws the attention of the Public Accounts Committee to all cases where he thinks extravagance has occurred or expenditure has not been looked after as it ought to have been. I should like the Minister when he replies to say, if he can, what grounds there are, if any, in present circumstances for not having these accounts audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
§ The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)
The Committee has had a grand day, and there is not very much left for me to say. In a Debate on an Estimate only two Members have touched upon any aspects of finance. I wish to explain to the Committee—perhaps they do not all recollect—what the Prime Minister said on nth September last regarding the Political Warfare Executive. He said that this Executive had already begun its work but that it would be contrary to the national interest to make any public statement regarding its personnel or the nature of its activities. I am only one of a trinity, and none of my colleagues has authorised me to make any statement to-day.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I had understood that the Minister was to reply on behalf of his two right hon. Friends who formed this trinity.
§ Mr. Bracken
No, my right hon. Friends have not authorised me to answer everything. A large number of the points raised in this Debate are points which must be kept secret. But my respect for this Committee is so great that if I make a mistake, I shall be rebuked by my colleagues 1754 but praised, I hope, by the Committee. To the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King - Hall) I would say that we well understand the necessity for taking the most effective action in China, but cannot go into any details as to how we shall lay our plans. The hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), who speaks with great knowledge on all affairs appertaining to the B.B.C., to-day spoke about the relations between Governors of the B.B.C. and the House of Commons. I cannot agree with him. The Ministry of Information still has the responsibility. I would be glad if the Committee would hand over to the B.B.C. such questions as those to which he refers. If the Committee likes to initiate this new reform, I shall not be an objector. There is a contradictory attitude adopted by Members of this Committee. Some get up and ask me why their speeches were not reported. Another Member gets up and says there is too much Government interference with the B.B.C. How can I conform with both points of view? I must say to the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale that the relationship between the B.B.C. and the Government must, for the duration of the war, be anomalous.
The hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss) asked me why the House of Commons is not supplied with copies of the leaflets we have dropped over Germany, and he quite rightly said that as the Germans received them they could not contain any military secret. He has pointed out that I have adopted an attitude of mulish obstinacy on this point. I am a member of a committee of three. I do not think my colleagues are willing to relax the rule, but nevertheless I will raise it again without holding out the faintest hope to the hon. Gentleman that they are likely to change their course.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
In view of the great urgency of this question, would the Minister consider with his two colleagues the question of coming here, if necessary in Secret Session, and learning some of these very important questions which the Committee desires to raise, not only with regard to gaining a quick victory but post-war planning?
§ Mr. Bracken
I am glad to say that the Political Warfare Executive have nothing to do with post-war planning—that is done by other Ministers. I can hardly 1755 imagine three Ministers coming to the Box, one after another, in Secret Session, and each giving his own views of how we should conduct political warfare abroad. I think my hon. Friend has got the whole story completely wrong, but I do not want to go into the matter in any detail now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) described himself as a Tory. I must say that he is a most crusted Tory. I enjoyed his speech, but with most of it I did not agree. When he read us a list of names of eminent broadcasters, some of them Members of this House, and said, "All these gentlemen belong to the Left; no Tories are ever invited," I wondered whether it had ever occurred to him that our Socialist friends are in the habit of claiming that the great highbrows generally belong to their party. Also, I wish some Tories would learn how to broadcast as well as these "pinkish-leftists." If they did, I can assure my hon. Friend that the B.B.C. would give them ample opportunities. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the necessity for veracity and dignity on the part of the B.B.C. I think that his own attitude to these points was absolutely splendid, and if there are any further vacancies among the Governors, he can be certain that men holding his point of view will be put into those places. He also said, what I thought quite right, that there is a very bad tendency to call for too much broadcasting. I often find myself listening to the home news bulletins. When there is no news, the bulletin is padded out a great deal. There is also repetition in the foreign services. I would advise my hon. Friend to look out for that. There was one passage in my hon. Friend's speech which I did not like at all. That was his reference to Mr. Cross-man. My hon. Friend dug up something which Mr. Crossman had said years ago. What would happen to us if our speeches of eight or 10 years ago were dug up? That is a most unfair type of political attack, and to find a representative of a famous Liberal university adopting such tactics bewilders me.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) made an excellent contribution to this Debate. He talked about the value of news and facts. There can be no 1756 doubt that the best form of British publicity is what is called straight news. The reputation of the B.B.C. throughout the world for veracity gives it millions of foreign hearers. Dr. Goebbels would give his eyes to get a publicity medium equal to the B.B.C. As for his point about Empire broadcasting, that is outside the scope of this Estimate altogether.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge), who is a great technical authority, on broadcasting, asked a number of questions about gear from the United States and whether we have increased our stations. I am sorry to appear such a Blimp when I tell him that I cannot give that information, because there are security reasons for not disclosing it. But I will bring before my colleagues his suggestion that each refugee Government—as he describes them—should have a station of their own. There, again, technical points which I do not fully understand are involved in the suggestion. He also raised a point about Gibraltar. I do not wish to go into that now, but I can tell him that his, analysis of the facts does not conform with mine. Then he raised an important point about jamming. That, again, is a large matter of policy which I could not possibly discuss here to-day. But taking it all in all I hope the B.B.C. engineers will read the speech of my hon. Friend, to which I will call their attention, and I hope they will benefit from his wide knowledge.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Forest of Dean (Mr. Price) said quite rightly that victories were important to political warfare, and I think we shall have to have a very different picture before us before we can put fear into the hearts of our enemies by the methods of political warfare. He gave a character sketch of Germany which I, in my private capacity, must regard as a masterpiece, though I am expressing no opinion upon it as Minister of Information. He also raised a question of closer contact between Britain and Russia in propaganda work. It is now many months since the Ministry of Information sent its then Director-General to Moscow to meet the Soviet authorities and concert some adequate propaganda arrangements.
§ Mr. Bracken
My hon. and gallant Friend is perfectly right. But it really is possible in these days to send a report here without coming back with it. There are not many civil aeroplanes about, and he was due in Cairo. There was no reason why he should come all the way back to London to present a report to me in person, and he sent it through diplomatic channels. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. H. Strauss), in a speech which I greatly enjoyed, though I disagree with some parts of it, also made the point about military victories, and he is absolutely right. Of course, propaganda will be most effective after the herrenvolk have had two or three very good hidings. It is no good telling them in advance what is going to happen to them when they are constantly getting news of successes by their own forces or those of their Allies. Then my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Newcastle (Sir C. Headlam) said that abuse on the radio was a poor instrument. I entirely agree. I cannot go very deeply into the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), but apparently he wants the P.W.E., which consists of a number of respectable but rather ageing men, to organise a revolution, whether here or in Germany I was not quite sure. I understood he thought we had better start a revolution here in order to make our overseas broadcasting more successful. Well, the temptation is very great. If we are invited to do that, we will look to him for the proper technical advice. He also made a remark about the Prime Minister which I think was in his best vein of humour. He suggested that the Germans are going to revolt in order that the Prime Minister may become their Fuehrer. I think that is fine.
§ Mr. Bracken
My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton (Dr. Thomas) spoke about the recording of American broadcasts. It is a technical question, and, we will give the maximum amount of space to these records. He also suggested that we should give the Italians more music. I personally would give them more bombs. I do not believe in the cultural values of music sent over the short wave to alter the ways of the dictators. The hon. Gentleman the Member 1758 for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), who was kind enough to say that he sympathised with me owing to the wide range of this Debate, made one or two remarks. He suggested that we had no alternative to Hitler's new order. I can only tell him that he must never have heard of the Atlantic Charter.
§ Mr. Silverman
I did not say that we had no alternative. I hope that we have. I believe that we have or I should take a very different view. What I said was that we have never formulated an alternative and put it attractively to the people of Europe.
§ Mr. Bracken
On the contrary. Every day and every night we have done our very best through every propagandist channel to put the Atlantic Charter before the peoples of Europe. If the hon. Member would like to see some examples of that, I shall be very glad to show them to him. The noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) made a speech which I thought in a way was deplorable. Religious bigotry is un-English, undemocratic and wholly harmful. To bring religious prejudice to bear against anyone occupying a high position at the B.B.C. is a monstrous injury to our public life.
§ Viscountess Astor
I did not say that. I said it was a point of view which was un-English. I said that I thought that the B.B.C. was getting too much of the tone of the Foreign Office. The right hon. Member knows that no Department of State has had more criticism levelled at it than the Foreign Office. I do not want to see the Foreign Office mind transferred to the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Bracken
I am sorry that I cannot accept criticisms of the Foreign Office, and I do not like my Noble Friend's explanation. I have very little time left, but I want to say a word about what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir I. Albery), who mentioned the only really competent financial contribution to this Debate. I will look into his point, and do my best to meet his desires. I thank hon. Members for this extraordinarily animated Debate. I have tried to answer many of the questions that have been brought forward, but, as I have said, hon. Members have answered most of each other's questions. I will merely 1759 sit down by saying, as it is my duty to say, that, on the whole, our foreign propaganda is reasonably good. I will give the reason why I make this claim. It is because Dr. Goebbels is constantly abusing it, because the German Government will not allow their people to listen to our broadcasts, and because, over a large range of Europe, the B.B.C. is the sole hope from a news point of view of a large number of suffering people. It is a great mistake to encourage these constant attacks upon the B.B.C., which is a most potent instrument for political warfare and is served by some of the most diligent and enterprising people in this country.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,300,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1942, for a grant in aid of the British Broadcasting Corporation.