§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I beg to move, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House is gravely concerned at the partiality of the propaganda and choice of propagandists by the British Broadcasting Corporation and the way in which it is being directed on totalitarian lines and is of opinion that the Government should take the necessary steps to secure that more opportunity should be given for the propagation of the different shades of opinion on political, social, religious and medical questions so that the Corporation should be used as an instrument of democracy instead of one for the creation of an authoritarian régime in this country.There is a tremendous amount of discussion in this country over the way that the B.B.C. conducts its propaganda and selects its propagandists to speak over the wireless. Our view is that in September, 1939, there was registered the end of that part of democracy that the people of Great Britain had won from the financiers and big business in their upward struggle through the vale of tears and the shadow of death, and that May, 1940, ushered in a complete political dictatorship, under the present Prime Minister. An essential part of the Prime Minister's control and dictatorship was to secure complete authority over the B.B.C. and the Press. He managed to get the Press behind him by placing many of the Press lords in important Government posts, and then he appointed one who had been a close political friend and associate as Minister of Information, in order that he should control the B.B.C. The appointment of this new Minister came as a great surprise to the Members of this House, if one may judge from the expressions one heard in the Lobby, in the smoke-rooms, and in all the places where Members of Parliament congregate. We recognised that he 836 would surely give a recording of his master's instructions and show 100 per cent. efficiency with the blue pencil.
We realise that the Government are bound to have, both in peace and in war, a fairly large proportion of time for political and military matters, in order to weld together the forces of the nation, which they claim to have had, and which I believe them to have had, behind them in the prosecution of the war. The Minister of Information stated, in reply to a Question some time ago on the change of Directors-General:I should like to pay tribute to the arduous work of the retiring Director-General over a period of four years, during the latter half of which the services of the B.B.C. have developed into a most potent weapon of war. I have full confidence in the ability of his two successors to fulfil their onerous task."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th Feb., 1942; col. 1164, Vol. 377.]That states clearly and definitely that the Government realise that it is essential that they should use those instruments for the welding together, as I said, of every instrument for the prosecution of the war. Why we question the authority of the B.B.C. and the Minister of Information to conserve for members of the Government and their "Yes" men of the various political parties the right of expression through the B.B.C., over the wireless, is that it is so often maintained that this is a democracy. If we were told that this was a complete State instrument whereby no person was allowed to express his views unless they conformed to the views of the Prime Minister and the Government, then we would understand that no person who held diverse views would be allowed to express them over the wireless. But it is so insistently stated that this is a democracy—and some people are inclined to believe it, strange to say—and, therefore, when they accept a statement that this is a democracy they wonder whether, in a democracy, only one side is allowed to express its point of view. Of that there is very little doubt, and there can be very little difference, when the various parties in this House who have come together for the express purpose of waging war in a successful manner on the totalitarian Powers, have their spokesman nominated by the Whips' Office in each case because they are regarded as safe, capable men to be allowed to express their views over the wireless. We take the view that it is a contradic- 837 tion of the statement that this is a democracy. We understand that in Nazi Germany, in Fascist Italy and in the Soviet Union there is no liberty for the subject to express anything contrary to the authoritarian regime, and therefore we know that there is no such term of democracy accepted in the general mind of the public of this country as relating to those particular countries.
We are asking the Minister of Information why those who hold different points of view should not be allowed to express their points of view over the wireless through representative spokesmen from time to time on the various subjects which the Amendment enumerates and on others which would readily come to the minds of many Members of this House. Surely, if the system of collective political and personal security has welded them together and allowed those who backed the League of Nations and others who called it a "Midsummer Night's Dream," those who backed unity and those who demanded war at any price; those who called General Franco a gallant Christian gentleman and others who deemed him to be a bloody upstart and a Fascist; those who refused to give the life of a single Birmingham boy to help to save Abyssinia and who later were prepared to sacrifice thousands of British lives to recover Abyssinia; and, lastly, those completely opposed to the Government politically and economically and those who came together with the capitalists, financiers, landlords and trade union leaders—if all those diverse elements who can weld themselves together into a unity holding different points of view are allowed the liberty of expression over the wireless, I put it to the Minister in this House that he cannot claim that Britain is a democracy if the Press, the B.B.C. or any other instrument is welded together for the complete publication of news which suits the particular case of the Government of the day.
I have no doubt at all in my own mind that the Minister was personally selected because of his adaptability and his ability to see that the proper thing was done in selecting or, as he would deny selection, at least in safeguarding the position by seeing that the officers and individuals who selected them did so from the kind of people whom I have indicated. There are hon. Members of political parties who have been on the wireless from time to 838 time, and their bias is so complete that I have actually heard them—in the "Week at Westminster"—giving not the terms of an Amendment or even a word of the speech of the individual who moved it, but arguments against it, although they did not give one word that was said in favour of it. It was like going to a show ground to try and knock down Aunt Sallys that were unseen. That bias is found in the representatives of all political parties who speak over the wireless. Take, for example, the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown). He used to be before he returned to the House of Commons a sort of white-haired boy of the Government. He put over propaganda which was nauseating to me. I loathed his addresses and speeches over the wireless, but since the hon. Member won Rugby against the Government he has not been on the wireless on a single occasion. Take the case of the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett), whom we were told in this House had broadcast in various ways 132 times. He claims to be independent, but just how independent he is of the Government I would like to know. A man who has been given the liberty of making 132 broadcasts, continuing at the same rate has probably 150 or 160 broadcasts to his credit up to date. There are capable Members of this House—I could name them—who are not selected because they have either shown antagonism to the Government or a line that does not commend itself to the Government. Take hon. Members like the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Barr), on the Labour side, on religious and political questions, the hon. Member for Springburn (Mrs. Hardie), the hon. Member for West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell). [An HON. MEMBER: "He has broadcast."] I could name many other Members of this House, not all on the Labour side, but Members on the Conservative side, who have shown a critical attitude towards either the Prime Minister or to some phases of the direction of the war, and they are carefully pushed aside by the Government.
That is not an evidence of democracy. On the political side we get this one-sided hash all the time. It shows a complete lack of faith in the democratic institution. If it is so obvious that your war is for democracy and freedom and not for some 839 ulterior motives of the commercial magnates and financiers, the Government need not be afraid to allow an expression of opinion by those who hold different views. I admit there are certain decencies that would have to be observed on the wireless in putting over a case and that there is a certain security in having some person who supervises the speeches or the papers that are read over the wireless. But apart from that, to go on humbugging the people of this country and of the world into the belief that they are fighting for something that does not exist and then carefully to select all the "Yes"-men of the country to give expression to the point of view suitable to the Government, and to push aside all others, is distasteful in the extreme and shows not only a lack of confidence in democracy, but a poor understanding indeed of what democracy means in times of either peace or war.
Let us take religious expression. I hear it continually over the wireless, and I am confident that those who are selected to put over prayers and religious texts are chosen because they are safe, patriotic men, who will bless the 8,000-lb. bomb and hope it will do the work of God in true and proper fashion and who will pay homage towards the victory of arms over human beings. I have listened to the nauseating lectures and so-called sermons of religious people who pay homage to brute force while at the same time posing as emulaters of the Master in his work on earth. No religious expression of pacifism or adherence to the gospel of the lowly Nazarene is allowed. All these statements broadcast over the wireless are by men who have been carefully selected by someone in authority who has given instructions that no person who expresses anything different shall be allowed to broadcast.
Often I listen to the medical men who broadcast in the mornings. It is amazing how they have discovered that every article of food which cannot be procured during the war has no food value, while every horrible, rotten substitute that is on the market to-day at a fabulous and extortionate price is being boosted as having greater food value than eggs, milk and butter. That is a fact, because I have listened very carefully. I have commented time and time again about the 840 way in which the medical profession can adapt itself to the desire of the politicians. Here is a case of a noble profession prostituting its professional ability and knowledge for the purpose of backing up a Government which, in waging war, tries to make people believe that margarine is better than butter—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is"]—and that lard is better than either. Well, I will have the hon. Member's butter. There is something behind all this. We know that propaganda in Germany took the view that guns were more essential than butter, although it did not try to convince the German people that they could eat the guns, but at least definite propaganda of that sort went on there, and everything that Germany has done in relation to the war and propaganda has been successful in deluding the British public into the belief that all was well in the arena.
One can understand and appreciate that the Government have a job to do and that in war they must have regard to the security of the State. No one would feel any antagonism to the Government on that account, but in the case of refugees they are prepared to allow every sort of bogus refugee who comes to this country with a story to tell and sell to broadcast it and tell all he is supposed to know. Such refugees are given full scope, especially if they put over a story that is likely to arouse greater antagonism and will, in the Government's opinion, improve the morale of the people fighting this war. But what about a refugee who comes to this country, who thinks war is wrong and who wants to tell the truth? He would be pushed aside in favour of another person who could tell a story, no matter how dull it might be. Indeed, such a refugee has to be careful not to express antagonism to the war lest the Home Secretary detain him under Regulation 18B. Many who feel antagonism to the war are compelled to say things which they do not believe.
There is room in this country for discussion of political subjects over the wireless. We have our Brains Trust, for example, which is beginning to be looked upon as a sort of comedy. People are looking to the Brains Trust for a good laugh. Members of the Brains Trust think they are fitted to answer every question under the sun, but many of their answers cause even a humble person like myself to have a good laugh. We hear a man like Professor Joad, 841 whose antagonism to the last war led him along the path of conscientious objection and who, now he is too old, has become the leading light of the Ministry of Information to show other people how to do the things he shirked doing when he was of the proper age——
§ The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)
I must point out that Professor Joad has no connection with the Ministry of Information.
§ Mr. McGovern
If the Minister wants to dissociate himself from everybody who speaks over the wireless, then he is not facing up to the responsibility which the House expects him to face. This House has a right to have some form of control over the political speeches which are put over the wireless. Take, for instance, the case of the Prime Minister's recent broadcast. There never was a greater political racket than was disclosed by the Prime Minister during the 45–50 minutes he spoke over the air. Every political side in this country had a right to reply to that broadcast. Let me quote an extract from the "Town Crier," a Labour paper from Birmingham:Recently the B.B.C. gave a summary of a House of Commons Debate on the Vote of the Ministry of Pensions. The second speaker in the Debate was the Chairman of the Labour Party's Pension Committee, Mr. Bellenger, and other Labour speakers took part, but the B.B.C. summary, apart from the Minister's statement, mentioned only two speeches, both of these being by Tory Members. The Prime Minister took 55 minutes of B.B.C. time to make a purely political speech in which he attacked, by inference, the Labour Opposition leader, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, but so far no move has been made to give Mr. Greenwood the freedom of the microphone to reply to the Premier. It is about time that the Parliamentary. Labour Party made a strong protest against the Tory bias of the B.B.C.That is a statement from a respectable and responsible source. The Prime Minister, in his broadcast, gave an indication that there was nothing to hope for from him or his Government during the period of the war. It was a tremendous slap to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Home Secretary, who had previously made two apologetic speeches in this House trying to infer that the Beveridge 842 plan was being properly considered and that action consistent with the financial position of the country would be taken at the earliest moment. The Prime Minister's speech was a complete turn round. Whether the war lasted another four or five years, he indicated that no hope of social reform on the line's of the Beveridge Report could be expected. It is always the same story—"after the war." The Prime Minister's speech did not represent even the smallest percentage of the views of the working population of this country or the serving men in the Forces who believe that if the Government are fighting for freedom and democracy and safeguards for human life and social security after the war, their foundations must be laid during the war. We are entitled to make the request that all political sections in this House should be allowed to reply to the Prime Minister's speech. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to say, "I will speak on Sunday," for the Home Secretary to say, "I will speak on Tuesday," and for the Minister of Pensions to say, "I will speak on Thursday"—
§ Mr. McGovern
Well, Vic Oliver has some value. I think he is a very good comedian. Other comedians seem to be out of their depth entirely when they try to do his sort of stuff. The form of authoritarian régime in this country that allows the Minister of Information, the Prime Minister, a member of the Government or any other Member the Whips have selected as a safe and secure man, to broadcast, shows that no real democracy exists and that no individual will be allowed to express an opposite point of view. With regard to India, for instance, the events in that country are followed in England, America, Australia, and Canada—throughout the world, indeed—with a very intense interest. People everywhere have displayed a very intense interest in the tremendous tragedy that is taking place in India. Many statements about India have been made over the wireless, some of them by men who opposed every form of progress that was being made even by Conservative Governments in this country in regard to India, and yet those people express over the wireless their point of view as being the point of view of the British nation. It is very hard for any Minister 843 to tell what is the popular opinion in this country concerning India and whether the Government are carrying out the democratic instincts and wishes of the great British public in regard to India. How many speakers from among the Indian Congress representatives in Great Britain have been allowed to speak over the wireless. Many of them are capable men. If a number of representative Indian people in this country were to make their contributions over the wireless, or even if debates on the subject were arranged instead of things like the Brains Trust, it might be of advantage to India, to this country and to the world, and it might prove to be a solution for those dark and troublous problems in India. But no opportunity of that sort is given. Only that little conclave of people having authority are allowed to express what in many cases is not the British will and the popular point of view.
Take, for instance, the question of refugees. The Government have traded on the cruelties and horrors inflicted upon the Jews by the Hitlerite Govt. The Government are continually using that aid to get popular opinion aroused in favour of the war. If one goes to conscientious objectors' tribunals to defend young men who have conscientious objections such as the Home Secretary had in the last war, some sturdy old Tory on the bench asks the question, "Do you not think you ought to fight in defence of the Jews?" I have heard that question put on scores of occasions, exploiting the suffering of the Jews. Night after night we hear reports over the wireless of most abominable things that are said about Jews. How many Jewish speakers have been allowed on the wire-les to reply to the charges made from time to time both in Germany and in this country and so to put the matter in a proper perspective? No speakers of that sort are allowed. It is only for us to exploit for purposes of the war the public imagination and the public antagonism to brutality; it is not for the Government to allow anybody to speak for the victims, just as they would not allow "Professor Mamlock" to be shown in this country before the war, but only later when it suited their own purpose. So it is with the treatment of the Jews of Europe. That treatment is exploited, but there is never a voice allowed over the wireless 844 to reply to the accusations that are made against Jews.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member is making the most extraordinary assertions. Representative members of the Jewish community, joined by Christians, have done everything in their power to condemn the bestial treatment of Jews in Germany and elsewhere. The hon. Member is really emulating Dr. Goebbels.
§ Mr. McGovern
I leave that to the British Dr. Goebbels. The right hon. Gentleman has not got the point I made. It is that accusations are made nightly over the German wireless against the Jewish people throughout the world, and I say that no representative Jew in this country is allowed to broadcast a reply to those accusations. I have listened to most of the broadcasts. One can hear the Dean of Canterbury and other people protesting, but that is all part of the general exploitation, for purposes of fighting the war, of the suffering of these people. Let me take another case—the reports that are given of the bombing of Germany, Paris, Antwerp, Italy. In the broadcasts there is gloating over the massacre of human beings in those areas. One hears stories told of whole buildings going up in the air after being hit by 4,000-lb. or 8,000-lb. bombs. These stories cause a revulsion of feeling to any decent persons who hear them over the wireless. It can only be said now that all our moral protests against the bombing of London were made because we had not a sufficient number of planes and that once we had sufficient planes and bombs, our moral objections went into the limbo, and we followed the German method of dealing with the civilian population.
§ Mr. Willink (Croydon, North)
Will the hon. Member make clear whether he is asking the Government to put pressure on the B.B.C. to allow him to express opinions of this sort over the wireless?
§ Mr. McGovern
I am not concerned with myself. I should be satisfied if well selected individuals from various parts of the House and from outside—even outside the medical profession and orthodox religion—were allowed to express their opinions. I do not think many members of the medical profession or of orthodox religion are capable of putting over a fair and honest case for their professions, 845 because they have become so embittered and so enthusiastic about the war effort. As for myself, I am not worried about speaking over the wireless, because there are other platforms throughout the country from which I can give my message.
§ Mr. Herbert Beaumont (Batley and Morley)
Does the hon. Gentleman desire that the views he is now expressing shall be expressed over the wireless?
§ Captain Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
Does the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) say that all views, without any distinction, if held by a reasonable number of people, should be expressed over the wireless—for instance, British Fascist ideas or anti-Semitic ideas? Neither the hon. Member nor I are anti-Semites, but there are people who are. Does he think they should have the right to express their views over the wireless?
§ Mr. McGovern
No matter how extreme a point of view might be, I would have it brought out into the open and answered by competent people. I have no objection to a Fascist telling his story of what the world would be like under Fascism, and then having some representative person replying and putting the proper case in an intelligent way. You had far better have that than have people going about in the dark tearing down bills and making chalk marks on walls, and going into tea rooms and whispering all sorts of things about some sections of the community. If you drive something underground you make it more dangerous than if you allow a free and complete discussion above ground. There are many views that I hear propagated from which I dissociate myself, but I would never try to prevent people from presenting those views.
§ Mr. McGovern
Even in war-time, consistent with what I may call national security. I would not allow people to go 846 into other questions than those I have mentioned—political, religious and general questions.
§ Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)
Does the hon. Member ignore the fact that all these views, including his own and those of the Duke of Bedford, are put forward in weekly journals and in the Press in every kind of way? People who do not want to read those views need not read them. The difference between stating views in print and stating them over the wireless is that over the wireless it means forcing views that are only held by a tiny minority on to people who want to get something else.
§ Mr. McGovern
If any hon. Members take the view that what I say in the House and on public platforms should be suppressed, they are entitled to hold that view. If the hon. lady thinks that, she is entitled to her view.
§ Miss Rathbone
I did not suggest anything of the sort. What I said was that we have freedom of the Press. The difference between the Press and the B.B.C. is that in the Press people can select what they want to read, but with the wireless people turn it on to wait for the news, for instance, and suddenly there bursts upon them views which they loathe or to which they are liable to fall a victim. These views are forced upon them.
§ Mr. McGovern
The hon. Lady is suggesting that no publicity should be given over the wireless to some points of view. I disagree with her fundamentally. I have never heard the hon. Lady express any views in the House with which I have agreed, but I would allow her even to speak over the wireless. I would even listen to her, as I listen to her in the House. I think the country is entitled to know every point of view. Otherwise, do not have this humbug about democracy. If you cannot trust the people of a so-called democratic country to hear points of view that are different from your own, you had better shut up shop and declare for pure totalitarianism.
I want now to talk about the appeals that are continually being made over the wireless to people in various countries to revolt. The type of revolt is never specified. I say that people holding views 847 such as are held by my hon. Friends and myself could appeal in a much better manner to the people in the underground movements on the Continent than can Tory Diehards. When Tory Diehards make those appeals it is sheer hypocrisy. They do not want revolts. The boy who shot Admiral Darlan was quickly put before a firing squad. I am sure that would not bring an enthusiastic response to the appeals to the workers to revolt. My hon. Friends and I have a particular point of view. We believe that the most glorious and speedy ending of this war would be by the revolt of the peoples on the Continent. Therefore, an appeal from those of us who are not in the Government or of the Government, but who have a distinct point of view in what is called a democratic country, would at least carry some weight which is not carried by the hypocritical phrases and appeals that are made from time to time over the wireless.
I claim that this is a totalitarian instrument which is being wielded for the benefit of the Government, and in particular at the dictation of the Prime Minister. Everyone comes to heel and conforms to his wishes. Everyone seems afraid to face up to him. He appoints in every phase of public life those who may be depended upon to carry out his own wishes. That should not be. This should be a national instrument for the propagation of every phase of view. In sport, medicine, religion and politics all types of individuals should be allowed to express their opinions, and, unless the B.B.C. is rapidly and radically changed, we are going headlong into the same mistake that was made on the Continent by the complete control, through the State machine, of this instrument, which should be an instrument of the popular will.
§ Mr. Price (Forest of Dean)
May I ask your Ruling, Sir, on the scope of the Debate? Can we have a general discussion on the work of the B.B.C., or must it be confined within the narrow view expressed by the Mover of the Amendment?
§ Mr. Stephen (Glasgow, Camlachie)
I beg to second the Amendment.
848 I am not exactly hopeful that the majority of the House will be prepared to accept it, but I think Members on all sides will be grateful to my hon. Friend for the opportunity to discuss the propaganda and the propagandists of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I think there will be general agreement as to the importance of broadcasting as an instrument for the creation and the moulding of opinion. Obviously there must be many millions who listen in from day to day, and it is of the utmost importance that broadcasting should be used in a democratic community so as to further the interests of the whole people rather than create an opinion to satisfy a small clique of the ruling class. I think the future historian of the great war will certainly chronicle the fact that one of the vital errors of the Governments in the Axis countries was the way in which they tried to prevent people hearing what was being said in other lands. In this country any citizen is free to twirl the knob and listen in to Germany, Italy or any other country. For a time people were a bit worried as to whether we should not follow the example of the Axis countries. There was a notorious broadcaster on the German radio whom my hon. Friend was responsible for nicknaming Lord Haw-haw. Millions of people here listened in to Haw-haw's broadcasts, but in a short time most of them got sick of the brazen, bragging voice of this broadcaster from Germany, and his lies made no impression on the morale of the people, so the policy of allowing us to listen in to whatever station we like has been justified.
But in our opinion the limitation upon the freedom of opinion which has been adopted in the way in which our broadcasting stations have been used is having a bad effect. For example, there is the case of the Orpheus Choir. Their conductor, Sir Hugh Robertson, was always being asked to broadcast before the war, but when it was discovered that his views on the war were not considered by the Government to be sound, the Orpheus Choir went off the air. It was put on again by the Prime Minister's instructions, but their opportunities for broadcasting are not anything like on the same scale as before the war. It may be said, of course, that all musical programmes have had to be cut down because of the war, and I am not questioning that, but 849 it is still evident that there is a certain amount of victimization of this choir because of the anti-war views of the conductor.
Then our Amendment draws attention to the way in which even religious opinions must be always of the same type or else there is no room for them at the microphone. I wonder that the Parliamentary Secretary himself does not do something in this respect, in view of his immediate activities before he went into the Government and the propaganda that he carried on, which was not the kind of propaganda of which I, with my religious outlook on life, was in the least appreciative.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information (Mr. Thurtle)
I know the hon. Member is a great authority on clerical matters, but I would point out to him that Rationalism is an attitude of mind and not a religion.
§ Mr. Stephen
I am sorry that I have not the time to debate this but the Rationalists' arrogant statements could be easily countered by people with a religious outlook on life, and I am confident that his Rationalism is as much a religion with him as my own belief in Christian doctrines is to me. There is an eminent Scottish clergyman, one of the leading minds in the religious community, who was often at the microphone.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
Is the hon. Member now identifying his cause with unsafe religions?
§ Mr. Stephen
Evidently the British Broadcasting Corporation decided that he was unsafe because he had become a disciple of Dick Sheppard. He took the anti-war point of view and consequently was no longer a welcome visitor at the microphone in war-time.
§ Mr. Stephen
One of the Governors of the Corporation interrupts me to say "In war-time." This distinguished minister of the Church of Scotland cannot be considered a safe person to speak about religion to the people of Britain. The hon. Member has given us our whole case, if we needed it, by his interruption.
850 I pass from religion to the social and political instance that I wish to bring before the House. I take the broadcasts of Mr. J. B. Priestley. It was fully established, I think, that of all the people who went to the microphone to give a Postscript to the people of this country there was no individual who did it better or who aroused more interest than Mr. Priestley. Hon. Members might not like a lot of the things he said, and I did not agree with his point of view in many respects. His loyalty to the vigorous prosecution of the war could not be questioned. There was nothing in his statements about getting on with the war as thoroughly as possible that could be objected to. Unfortunately, however, he also brought in the idea that when millions of people were being called upon to make sacrifices they should have something to look forward to in the way of a new Britain and great social changes at the end of the war. "Colonel Blimp" could not stand for that, and so the instruction went out, and Mr. Priestley ceased to do these Postscripts. The B.B.C. was still willing to employ his services, and while we in this country are not allowed to hear him and cannot generally get him on our sets, Mr. Priestley is still broadcasting on the North American programmes.
Apparently what he is saying about the new world to the Americans will not do any damage, but if people in Camlachie, Shoreditch and other parts of the country were to hear these disturbing doctrines about the great new operative commonwealth at the end of the war in which people would serve not for profit but would give their services to the common weal, it might do harm, and therefore it is not allowed. So Mr. Priestley went off the air and this free institution, this instrument for the creation of democratic opinion, continued on its way with other people to do the talks. They have a terrible job. They try one and then try another, but all the people they get do not make much of it. They now generally fall back upon some man from the Services to give an account of something that has happened in the war sphere. I am not questioning the usefulness of that and the right of people to hear from men who have been through experiences in the field. It is not, however, always advisable to shove into the middle of the news bulletin a despatch from somebody 851 in the desert describing the weather there. I am not objecting to the correspondents with the Forces sending their messages from the sphere of action, but the middle of the news bulletin is not exactly the place for them. Possibly the B.B.C. think that the people would not otherwise listen to them and that they are willing to keep on listening because of their desire to hear the other news.
Referring again to the political side, there was the action of the Corporation with regard to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown). He was their white-haired boy when he was not challenging the point of view of the Government, but when he became critical of the way in which the Government were handling things and fought a constituency and won it on that point of view, the B.B.C. said "That is enough of you, Brown."
§ Captain G. Nicholson
If the hon. Member for Rugby were here, I do not think that he would quite confirm that.
§ Mr. Stephen
I know I sometimes make violent statements, but I generally make sure of my facts. I consulted the hon. Member for Rugby yesterday and asked him whether he had been on the air since he won Rugby, and he said that he had not. The impression I had from him was that the Corporation had no use for him. I gathered that from the way in which he spoke. I may have had a mistaken impression. At any rate, he was frequently on the air, and he is not on it now.
§ Mr. Thurtle
There seems to be a slight discrepancy between the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend who moved the Amendment about the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown). I gathered from the hon. Member that he wished that the hon. Member for Rugby could give further broadcasts, yet the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovem) made a great point of the exploitation of emotion by these heart-searing accounts of the sufferings of refugees. It was on that kind of propaganda that the hon. Member for Rugby built up his reputation.
§ Mr. Stephen
I do not think the Parliamentary Secretary could have heard any of the broadcasts of the hon. Member for Rugby. I agree that they were generally 852 somewhat hysterical outbursts, but they were outbursts about the need for the effective prosecution of the war. They had not to do with refugees at all. I am sorry that the Minister of Information is so badly served; he has not even information about that subject. At any rate, I think I can make out the case that the Corporation is being used to put over a certain point of view, what I may call the safe point of view for capitalism and property interests. I am not pleading that the Corporation should allow people to go to the microphone and broadcast a strong pacifist or anti-war appeal or anything like that. I believe that in a sufficiently intelligent world that would be good, sound broadcasting, but it would be asking too much to put it forward here.
What I am asking is that this instrument should not be used as if it belonged to the Tory Party, but that it should give liberty to different shades of opinion to express themselves. The Parliamentary Secretary thought that I was not in full agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston. We are pot robots, and we differ in many instances. I would not ascribe so much responsibility to the Minister of Information for the B.B.C. as is often done. It would be far better if this service were under the complete control of the Minister and that we got rid of these so-called independent governors. They are generally the sort of people whom we had to get rid of at the beginning of the nineteenth century, people like the younger sons of the Tory Party or people in need of something that is really a pension. This service would be far better as a Government service like the Post Office. The Post Office carries all our letters; it does not seek to carry only the letters of the people who would be approved by the Prime Minister as sound on the war. They carry all our letters, whatever our views may be. If the B.B.C. were a real public service and under the control of the Government, I believe that there is sufficient power in this House to see that an opportunity was given to the different shades of opinion to express themselves. We have that opportunity in this House. I hope that the Minister of Information will take a greater grip on the working of this Corporation and will not say, "Do not come to me about it; I have enough to do without interfering with those queer people who run 853 the Corporation. Write to the Brains Trust about it." I wonder what is thought of the standard of intelligence in this country that an hour should be given every week for questions and answers that are boasted to be impromptu. If one puts a question, one wants an intelligent and informed answer from somebody who is fully acquainted with the subject. Instead of that, we get the ravings of these people on the Brains Trust. If their intelligence is a measure of the intelligence of the governors of the B.B.C., no wonder the propaganda of this country is as bad as it is and is being used to create a nation of robots instead of a nation of thinking people.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
It has been my good fortune more than once to have to follow the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), and to-day I agreed with much that both of them said, though On the whole, if I may take the liberty of a candid friend, I thought they were not in all respects quite up to form. I thought that the argument of the hon. Member for Camlachie, putting into modern prose, the case of Milton's "Areopagitica" for complete freedom, was very impressive; but then he turned to criticise the Brains Trust because the Brains Trust was not good enough. I quite agree with him that the Brains Trust approaches the contemptible, except perhaps on one occasion (when I was a member of it) it did not justify his contempt, but in the main I agree with him that it approaches the contemptible; but if that is the reason he wants it suppressed, he really is cutting away the whole of the rest of his argument, because I do not think there is any doubt that the Brains Trust is a popular feature, to which a great many people like listening.
§ Mr. Stephen
I do not want to suppress it. I only think it is contemptible; but I am quite willing that this contemptible thing should go on.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
That certainly was not the impression that one gained from the hon. Member's argument. One of his main charges against the B.B.C. was that it did put out this contemptible stuff. I also thought that the hon. Member for Shettleston was a little unfair, in a typical piece of propaganda. To talk about "the 854 sword of the Spirit" is one thing, but to talk about the blessing of 8,000 lb. bombs to do the work of God is rather a different thing. There is no real difference between the purpose for which swords are used and the purpose for which the bombs are used, and it really is a piece of propaganda, an attempt to jump people into trying to agree with you and not persuading them to follow an argument, to object to priests blessing 8,000 lb. bombs. I will not weary the House by reading the passage from Ephesians, which I need hardly remind hon. Members speaks about the sword of the Spirit, and the breast-plate of righteousness and the whole armour of God, and so on. There is nothing new about spiritual leaders using weapons of war as metaphors for that of which they approve, and it may be there is nothing new about their blessing munitions.
§ Mr. McGovern
Although I object to any of the ministers blessing the 8,000-lb. bombs, my point is that other people's views have been excluded—other ministers and priests were excluded who did not take that point of view.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry that I cannot talk as quickly as the hon. Member thinks, because that was the next point to which I was coming. It is highly important, no doubt, that we should have the maximum liberty of discussion, nobody believes in that more fully than I do, but hon. Gentlemen opposite are really taking an unfair advantage of the rest of us in this connection—they really are, though I am sure it is unintentional. How do you lose a war? I will not say that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not care whether we lose or whether we win, because that would be doing them a great injustice. They are as fond of their country and their friends as any of the rest of us, and they would suffer as deeply if this country lost, but as an intellectual proposition it is all one to them. All wars are bad in their view, and this war is equally bad whatever the result of it. That gives them an advantage over the rest of us who do not feel like that. But how do you lose a war? You lose a war when there, are enough people who are on your side, or who ought to be on your side, who think the war is futile. That is when you lose it. The enemy tries to persuade them of that by knocking their heads off, and it is trying us here a little 855 high to say there ought to be complete freedom through our own machinery for citizens of our own country to assist in that persuasion. I would not have stopped Sir Hugh Roberton conducting an orchestra, or whatever it is he does, but as far as the logic of the thing goes there is much to be said for such prohibition. There is not the least doubt that a man who gets his prestige, his position in society, his chance of influencing others from the fact that he conducts an orchestra and is known by millions of people to do it—who think he does it well, I do not know whether he does it well or ill—and is at the same time a man who thinks war is futile—to allow public machinery to be used in time of war for increasing or preserving that man's prestige is asking a very great deal from those of us who think that it is necessary and essential to win the war, that wars are not all futile and that bombs and swords may be properly used.
I wish to turn to a more general question. It is one over the discussion of which we are always in great difficulty. So far it has been done in one of two ways by hon. Members opposite. One way is by making a lot of general charges; and however convinced the speaker may be that he is right about his general impression, that does not much convince those who start with opposite prejudices. Another way is by giving lists of speakers. I have done that myself in the past. I believe that I have done it fairly and that I have proved my point, though perhaps no one else thought so. The list-of-speakers method has been used by hon. Members opposite, and I am bound to say that I think it was used rather unfairly. We had all that stuff about J. B. Priestley and the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) and we were asked why did not we get a little more of the one and a little less of the other. These people were made by the B.B.C. They got their seats through the B.B.C. Of course they did. I will undertake to say that if the B.B.C. will allow me to address this country once a week for over six years, as it did the present Member for Bridgwater, that in the seventh year, if anyone will resign his seat, I will fight a by-election in his constituency and get twice as big a poll as he—barring, perhaps, the constituency of the Prime Minister, if he is still alive and we are 856 still winning. But that is the way these chaps get in. It is claimed that they ought to be given more opportunities of speaking, but the more time on the air that is given to them the less time there is for other people. I believe we have had quite enough of them myself. I should like to present the Minister of Information with a catena of quotations from the books of one of them upon foreign policy.
§ Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)
Could the hon. Member give us some more particulars about his challenge to a by-election?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I thought the hon. Member wished to interrupt me for a debating purpose. I think a speaker is entitled now and then to lighten his remarks by a moment of facetiousness, but I cannot give way in order that we may listen to the facetiousness of the hon. Member who rose from the Front Bench opposite.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I have spoken of two methods, and I propose to adopt a slightly different method. Instead of talking of general impressions or compiling lists of speakers, which can always be countered by opposing lists of speakers, I propose to try to put the matter in a rather different way. I beg hon. Members opposite not to be prejudiced by the name I am about to utter, but to restrain their prejudices for a moment, if they can, and listen to the first part of the argument. If they do not like it they can always go out or shout me down. I propose to take the way in which the Beveridge Report has been handled, because I think it has been very interesting. Democracy means all sorts of things, and it does not mean the same to me as to some hon. Gentlemen opposite, nor do I think that we are fighting for democracy in all the senses in which we are said to be fighting for it. I think we are fighting for our own country and the right to choose. Most of us, including myself, will choose democracy, but it is not democracy, directly or absolutely, that we are fighting for.
I think we make a mistake in telling the world it is democracy we are fighting for because the world may take it in the sense which the last two speakers have tried to fasten upon it. Not everybody in Europe by a long chalk thinks democracy in that 857 sense is worth fighting for. The democracy that any of us want here is the development of an age-old method of government which in this blessed country is something like 1,500 years old. It is government by discussion. Everyone should be able to take it for granted that no great change that much matters to him shall happen without long previous notice, and without an opportunity for everything that can be said for and against that change to be uttered. That is as old as the manorial system, older than the manorial system. I do not know when the manorial system began, but I suppose it was before the Norman Conquest.
That is the distinctive English freedom, that is what matters most to all of us; some of us have thought that by the elaborating and modernising of machinery of late years we have somehow made that complete and perfect and have arrived at the terminus. But that is not the way that anything ever happens in human life. No process ever arrives at its terminus, except in the grave, and what has tended to happen is that the more the machinery for discussion has been elaborated and modernised the more has the temptation been upon Governmental persons to see that a question does not emerge above the surface so far as to be open to discussion until things are already so arranged that only one answer to the question is possible. That is the modern temptation. It is the modern temptation of all countries under all sorts of democracies; whether you have the plebiscitary gangster kind of democracy, the sort of democracy of Hitlerism, or any other, there is a temptation to try to do the thing that way.
I beg hon. Members to believe that if I am now going to talk about the Beveridge Report it is not with any wish to criticise the Beveridge Report. I honestly believe that my opinions would be exactly the same if I were a whole-hog supporter of the Beveridge Report, which I am not, although I am not a whole-hog opponent either. My argument has nothing whatever to do with the merits of the Report. There is perhaps another preliminary remark which I ought to make, and that is that the Minister of Information must, I think, to some extent take responsibility for knowing the newspapers. The B.B.C. and the Ministry of Information are really indistinguishable. If anybody challenges that view I shall have to waste the time of the House by 858 reading a long chain of quotations from Ministers. Everything that comes to us over the ether comes upon the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister who ought to be on the front bench. The B.B.C. and the Ministry of Information are responsible not only for what is emitted by this machinery but equally, though it may not be quite so obvious, for what is not emitted by it, and though they are not responsible for editing newspapers they are responsible for knowing what the newspapers do. I do not say they are responsible for trying to print everything the newspapers do not print and for not printing anything that the newspapers do print, but they are responsible for trying to see that what goes out on the air shall enable the man who reads one or two newspapers, in conjunction with what he has heard on the air, to be able to make up a fair picture for himself.
§ Mr. Thurtle
Do I understand my hon. Friend to suggest that the Minister should dictate to editors of newspapers as to what they should put in and what they should leave out of their newspapers?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
If the hon. Gentleman understood that, either I said words which I had no intent of uttering, or he must be wholly deaf. The Minister must have information of what the newspapers are publishing, and I said he should take account of it. What is published by his machinery should be affected by what is published or not published by the newspaper machinery. It is a simple argument. There was not a great deal of preliminary boosting of the Beveridge Report on the wireless, although there was some—and this is queer, and is one of the things for which I regret my right hon. Friend's absence from the House—which included a statement by Sir William Beveridge on 21st November—I am awfully sorry, but I have lost the exact words. Oh, I have them now—thatif all Service men and workers knew that the Government had good plans for maintaining employment [after the war], that would be a major contribution to victory.That was not the line taken by the Minister yesterday in answer to a question by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland). The Minister did not think it was flattering to our Forces to suggest that they would fight better because of political promises about the post-war 859 future. I am bound to say that I do not. I think that if that were necessary, it would take us even longer to win this war than it is going to take, and we should be quite certain to lose the next one.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
There was a certain amount of preliminary stuff on the wireless, and a great deal on the day on which the Report was printed. There were Questions answered in this House about how it was being published. I venture to ask the Leader of the House whether we could have an assurance that this Report would not be expounded on the air by those who had had the advantage of reading it before the rest of us had had a chance of reading it, and the Leader of the House said that that would be considered. I do not know how much consideration there was, but it did not have much effect. In fact, that evening there was a long summary of the thing, telling us all about it and, I think, although I've mislaid a note and am not quite sure, there was an interview with Sir William Beveridge. The next evening there was a long talk by Sir William Beveridge and a few days later there was a conversation between Sir William Beveridge and the Lobby Correspondent of the "Daily Herald". There was nothing of a critical nature at all.
I cannot say I have seen all the scripts, and I may be unfair about this. I have not secretaries to file and cross-index and arrange things and so on. I may put something wrongly or misleadingly, but I will try not to. Certainly my impression is—I send for the scripts pretty often, and I have read many of them—that there was practically not at all, all the way through, on the Home Service or the Foreign Services, anything in the way of criticism. There was one conversation in which an American journalist, called Ed. Murrow, took part—there were half a dozen of them altogether, but I happen to remember his name—with a couple of people who said something of a mildly critical kind. On the whole, this thing was put across in such a way that practically everyone was bound to take it. It was like the exercise of skill when the conjurer offers you a card. I do not know how it is done, but with a really good conjurer you always do 860 take the card he is trying to offer you. Anyone listening to those broadcasts was bound to get the impression that this was the card they were to take and that the thing was to be swallowed whole, and not to be looked at or criticised.
Hon. Members may ask what argument follows from this. The point is that it is all the more necessary from what I said just now that we should have discussion. Sir William Beveridge said on one occasion that we can reach agreement on most things if we can discuss them thoroughly. It is a great blessing in this country that we can do so, as the result of our history. If this kind of vice is followed, thorough discussion becomes impossible. It is all the more necessary that this kind of vice should be avoided where, on the face of the proposal to be considered, there is an obvious monetary advantage to a great number of people. It is more necessary still, or most necessary of all, that this vice should be avoided where there is the risk of the proposal being so laid before the world that we as a nation, as an international entity, may be under some obligation to answer questions either with the word, "Yes," or with the word, "No," before we have even understood the questions ourselves. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for returning to the Chamber. I beg him to consider whether that consideration was given full weight in the handling of this Report.
I have envelopes full of these broadcasts, and I obviously cannot read them all to the House. Perhaps it is hardly fair to expect the House to take my word for it, but I assure hon. Members, that for the first six weeks or more, so far as I can say, there was no attempt at anything in the nature of criticism or question in what was addressed to overseas audiences. It is true that there was put into broadcasts now and then phrases like, "Of course, this is only a proposal," but it was done in a rather perfunctory way. My right hon. Friend is too good a propagandist—it is his business to be—not to know very well the importance of the mood in which you say things, whether you say them in the plain indicative mood—"this is," or "this will be"—or whether you state them in a more conditional way. We started off on 1st December, when the nine main proposals were explained to the world, although nothing was said about the rate of contribution. On the same way, Mr. Gordon 861 Walker told Europe that want could be abolished. The phrase about abolishing want is slightly interesting because it was first uttered in this connection by an hon. Member of this House a fortnight before the Report was issued.
When the Report was issued it was clear that that phrase was to be the slogan or the leitmotiv of the whole thing; it was to be tied up with the Atlantic Charter and with the Prime Minister's lifelong devotion to social reform: these things were quite obviously the mot d'ordre, the word imposed. Those phrases were repeated in broadcast after broadcast day after day in every sort of language. On 1st December, Mr. Gordon Walker said that the scheme had the support in Britain of the vast mass of our people who were fighting and working. I do not know whether Mr. Walker had then read the Report, and how he found out that the vast mass of our soldiers approved of it I cannot guess. On the next day, Sir William Beveridge spoke. I will only quote from one paragraph of the speech and will leave out all words except those which illustrate the indicative nature of the language. The quotations are:The main feature is…the scheme applies…it does not apply…everyone will be insured…the benefit will be the same…it will last…the one exception is…the scheme provides…and so on. You see what I mean. I might slip into that sort of language by mere inadvertence, but not the Minister, and not anybody acting under his aegis or guidance, and not anyone whose script had been vetted by the B.B.C. Those are the nuances, the fine shades, by which the thing is done, by which the pup is sold. Either the Minister and his advisers know nothing about propaganda or they know all about this technique.
I will not go on a great deal longer just on this point, but I hope I have persuaded hon. Gentlemen that every day in December there were different broadcasts all on that line. The thing can be summed up quite fairly in the words of a really responsible journalist. We always speak of journalists in this House as "responsible." Most of them are not awfully, if you define "responsible" accurately. I think we all agree that the "Manchester Guardian" is one of the better newspapers and that the "Manchester Guardian's" Parliamentary report is one of the better features of the "Manchester 862 Guardian." [An HON. MEMBER: "That is propaganda."] What he says can be taken to be fair, whether we agree with it or not. In the "Manchester Guardian" on 4th December, the correspondent says that he had been talking to a lot of people about the Beveridge Report. That was presumably on 3rd December, two days after the Report came out. He had found in Labour circles frank delight at the way in which it had been handled over the wireless. He added:It is no disinterested delight. It springs from what is surely a sound inference—that the Government cannot use the Beveridge plan for propaganda purposes on this Continental scale—that was his phrase—and then do nothing about it.That is quite sufficient indication of a fairminded man's impression of the sort of way in which it was done in those first three days. That went on day after day. It was told to the Continent that Britain's great gift to civilisation was to be the Beveridge plan.
I would like to ask my right hon. Friend one or two questions. One is about the Chairman of the Committee. Sir William Beveridge is a unique creature. He was Chairman of a Committee, but he was a Chairman without a Committee. He was suspended, like Mahomet. Has there been any previous case where the Chairman of a Committee has given views to the Press beforehand of the sort which were broadcast on 19th November? Has there been any previous case of a B.B.C. broadcast of the views of a Chairman as to the good work his Committee were going to do? Has there been any previous case in which the B.B.C. allowed, or invited on their own, a Chairman to explain his own stuff on the day before his Report came out, or on the day after? Is that the ordinary practice of the B.B.C.? If it is not ordinary practice, did they venture upon this startling innovation—I am sorry that there is only one Governor of the B.B.C. left in the House—entirely by the initiative of the Governors, whose pent-up energy had for years wanted to do something and at last broke all bounds? Or how did it happen?
§ Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to answer just that one point? He is probably aware, because it was announced in this House as a matter of criticism, that all the newspapers, and 863 other organs of which the B.B.C. is one, received advance copies of this Report in order that they might study it and make up their minds what kind of leading articles they should write. Surely that is common knowledge.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not think that that explanation really answers much. It reminds me of another point I want to make, which is a small one. I am sorry to go back to the explanation my right hon. Friend advanced about the argument that it would only take the equivalent of the cost of x weeks of war. My right hon. Friend told us that it was due to a hurried sub-editor, and that when you are sub-editing you do not always leave out the things you had best leave out. But he was not very hurried. After all, he had had the Report for five days, and he evidently was not very hurried, because he had to go and find out how much the war was costing and put that calculation in. It was not a question of leaving out. That argument really will not do.
I wish to pass from that to ask about the persuading of foreigners; this is what we are interested in. We have been told at various times about the Political Warfare Executive. I do not know whether it exists in that name. [Interruption.] At one time it did not. Is it up again? It does not matter either way. There can be no doubt about the main fact that the Minister is responsible for administration and the Foreign Secretary is responsible for the policy of what is emitted outside, and my right hon. Friend must therefore be responsible for seeing that the Foreign Secretary knows what is going out—I do not mean every script, but if any new line is going to be taken or any loud note is going to be struck, he is responsible for seeing that the Foreign Secretary knows about it beforehand. I should very much like to know whether the Foreign Secretary was fully persuaded before this terrific campaign boosting Beveridge as a way of winning the war. Before that was undertaken was the Foreign Secretary really asked to apply his mind to this question, "Will all Europeans be delighted and cheered by knowing that the first charge upon a British victory is going to be, whatever else happens to the rest of the world that British standards—which have always been the envy of the Continent—are going to be pegged for all 864 time"? Was that argument put before him? Was he sure it would be wise to do a thing of that sort? Because I am fully persuaded there were reactions to that argument that were very regrettable.
Another point in that connection is a little more difficult to make. It may seem provocative to hon. Members opposite; I ask them to bear with me, because I say this not for the sake of being controversial but because I believe the safety of our country to depend upon it. We are all very apt to assume that all Continentals always like us best when we are standing on our left foot. It is not true. I dare say it should be so, but I am sure the hon. Member for Shettleston will have the candour to agree with me that that really is a mistaken view; and in war-time particularly it is a mistaken view to suppose that everybody on the Continent likes us better when we say we are more interested, or even as much interested, in social questions as in national and strategic and frontier questions; because it is national, strategic and frontier questions that interest you when you are defeated, occupied, make no mistake about that. I hope we are all too old and have lived too long to believe the cant that it does not matter which way the war goes or that war equally afflicts the countries on both sides, win or lose. One war did not teach all of us that. I hope that a second War has taught even the dullest of us that.
When you are defeated or occupied, whether or not you are nominally fighting on the side of the Boche—even, e.g., if you are a Rumanian—you are interested in getting your food to-morrow, but after that it is the national questions, the questions of frontiers, and balance of power, if I may be allowed to use that phrase—these are the questions that interest people. Was the Foreign Secretary really consulted? Was he clear before the ether was mainly used, as it was for weeks, for persuading the world of our interest in social reform? Our wireless boasted something to this effect, "To-day even Tunisia and Stalingrad have been knocked off the headlines by Beveridge." That was what Europe was told.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member really must know that the ether was not monopolised by the Beveridge Report. Has he not the slightest idea as to the number of broadcasts each hour through the week? If he would only realise that his 865 case is a very good one from his point of view and not overstate it, he would realise there was a very great deal more on the air than Beveridge that week.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I should not say that the ether was monopolised. There were also more or less anodyne talks—there was news, but I will undertake to say this, that the main argumentative message to foreigners for weeks after 1st December was Beveridge. I have one thing only to say before I sit down. I wish to ask Ministers to consider very carefully this question. They have made it difficult for us to know what we are saying to foreigners. They say that if we are interested in any particular matter, we can write and ask for information, but that we cannot be as a regular matter of course given a sample of scripts, or a synopsis of directives, or other pemmicanised indication of the line taken. I think this House ought to have that information. If any Prime Minister wanted it, it would be done for him. But however that may be, there are two parties to communication, there are two parties to propaganda, and this House ought to know just what we are saying to foreigners, and also which foreigners are listening to what we are saying and what effect it is having on their minds. It is difficult in this war, more difficult than in the last war, but I must ask whether Ministers could not consider whether an analysis of the foreign Press could not me made and whether there could not be a weekly talk on the B.B.C. to show us, say, what was being said in the Turkish newspapers that week.
When a second front is opened as we have all hoped it would be ever since the days of Dunkirk, when another great Continental campaign against the Germans begins, the biggest single factor is going to be how much can you count upon 90 or 98 per cent. of the people in Europe wherever you land, from Norway to Greece. Are Ministers quite sure they can answer that question more cheerfully and convincingly now than six months ago, that wherever we land there will be a higher percentage of the people with us? If not, it raises at least the presumption that our propaganda in the last six months has not been beyond criticism. Is that a fair presumption? Let them collect all the political articles in the Turkish Press for the last six weeks, and let a clever fellow of the 866 B.B.C. make a synopsis and read it to the people. Let us know what the Swedes and the Turks think of us. Then we can begin to guess a little better what effect our broadcasts are having on them.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
Before the hon. Member sits down may I say that I am very sorry I missed the earlier part of his most eloquent speech, but I understand that he mistakenly paid me the compliment of attributing to me a phrase of which the author was President Roosevelt.
§ Professor Gruffydd (University of Wales)
I must claim the customary indulgence of this House for a very inexperienced Member of it, and for a particularly diffident and sometimes ineffective speaker. I do so more particularly because I would like to express a good deal of disagreement with what has been said by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and in the two speeches that have followed him. I am quite certain that his views on totalitarianism are no different from, his feelings towards it and his hatred of it are no whit greater, than are my own, and I fully appreciate and share with him his concern about freedom and justice in the State and in all the means of expression which the State uses to give them to its own public. I am certain he was moved to censure the activities of the B.B.C. by a deep devotion to the principles of liberty which are basic and indispensable to our common heritage.
But I must ask now for a very special degree of toleration since as a new Member I am going to do something which has apparently not been heard of in the recent annals of the House of Commons. Would it be regarded as an intolerable innovation, as something entirely indecent and bordering on the unmentionable, if I were to say a kind word for the B.B.C. and to ask that they should be treated as ordinary, honest, fallible mortals trying to do their best in one of the most difficult jobs in the Kingdom? Every class in this country has a rigid code of the right things to do and the proper things to say. The hon. Gentlemen opposite no doubt regard it as part of the behaviour of a sahib to be critical of the B.B.C. on all occasions, and hon. Gentlemen here 867 to my right sometimes think that they are betraying their principles and betraying their class if in one unguarded moment they deviate into praise of this unfortunate Corporation. In fact, the B.B.C. has become the British cockshy, Ye Olde Englishe Aunt Sally. It provides the ordinary Briton with a magnificent opportunity to warm his nationally chilled bones at the fire of universal approbation when he condemns the B.B.C., and it is inevitably the most fruitful thesis for the pen of the genus irritabile, the scratchy clan of letter writers to the Press. It may not come amiss if an entirely irresponsible and inglorious Member of this House should for once strike a different note and express an appreciation of the war-time effort of the B.B.C. in steering so skilfully between the Scylla of the Right and the Charybdis of the Left. It is perhaps not surprising that Scylla should occasionally growl when it is baulked of its prey, or that Charybdis should howl with disappointment when its fangs close on empty air. I have always thought that the policy of the B.B.C. is a striking example of that peculiarly English compromise which is so well expressed in the preface to an unknown book, the Prayer Book:It hath been the wisdom of the Church of England…to keep the mean between the two extremes…No one would deny that the B.B.C. has its failings, and we in Wales are very particularly conscious of those defects. In time I hope to be able to raise in this House the question of the provision made in Wales by the B.B.C. All of us, I think, whatever our views are on the other parts of the programme, are agreed that the light variety entertainment provided by the B.B.C. does consistently and regularly underrate the mentality of the average Briton. I can even go so far as to suggest that some of the dramatic programmes might be better adapted to broadcasting. But I maintain that all men and women of good will will agree with me that in two most important respects the British Corporation gives the nation a service such as no other broadcasting Corporation gives in the whole world: namely, in serious music and in instructive and illuminating talks. I am not concerned here with the music: that does not come within the scope of the Amendment, but the talks and the report- 868 age do, and they have both been indicted by the terms of the Amendment, because the talks are our propaganda, not only for ourselves but also for other people.
The hon. Member is, I gather, displeased with the choice of speakers, and bitterly resentful. He is by no means the only one of this opinion. But I deprecate most strongly the light and ill-considered use of the word "totalitarian," which is becoming the vogue both inside and outside the House of Commons. Such a word should not be lightly employed. It denotes something so fundamentally evil and so perilous to our common humanity that it would be tragic if the word lost its terror by having its outlines blurred through ill-considered use. It is what I might call a "wolf" word, and we must not cry "wolf" except when the beast is on the prowl. Otherwise, when we are arguing about small matters of taste and opinion and political differences, thinking that we are thereby combating totalitarianism, the monster itself may steal upon us unawares. It is no service to democracy or to the sacred cause of freedom to confuse our friends with our enemies, and to cheapen our condemnation of totalitarianism by applying the term to the deeds and thoughts of men and women of good will whom we do not happen to like.
The B.B.C. perhaps, like all other institutions, must necessarily tend to be a little over meticulous in its choice of speakers, in its talks, and in its reporting of speeches in this House and outside it. While it has a duty to educate public opinion, it cannot, on the other hand, be blamed for giving the greater prominence to names and personalities which have a public appeal, and for being rather shy of over-colourful personalities and of the more spectacular and dramatic expressions of opinion, whether of the right or of the left. It is possible, of course, to say that in its policy the B.B.C. is over-timid and over-conventional, but I maintain that no fair-minded judge can assert that it has shown any party bias in making its choice. The proof of that lies in what we have heard to-day in the House, and in what I have already mentioned, that the complaint on this point comes from all sides and from all parties. To put it plainly, the Right cannot accuse the B.B.C. of being Bolshevist and the Left accuse them of being Fascist, and both be right. The simple truth must be obvious to all, that they are both wrong.
869 It might be urged that the B.B.C. has a duty to encourage rising talent, whether political or literary or musical, even at the expense of established reputations. This is a very specious argument. To me, at least, it is unconvincing, since rising talent must win its spurs, not in the reportage or in the talks of the B.B.C., but in its own specific line of action. If one is reduced to seeking a political reputation on the air, it will indeed be a "bubble reputation." I believe that much of the misunderstanding of which complaint has been made could be removed if the Corporation could be induced to try in the sphere of public relations what has been so eminently successful in the field of school broadcasting: namely, a consultative committee of representative men and women of all parties and of all political opinions, to guide and advise them, and among such representative persons the hon. Member for Shettleston would, I have no doubt, hold a distinguished and well-deserved position.
§ Mr. Dobbie (Rotherham)
I would like to congratulate the hon. Member for the Welsh University (Professor Gruffydd) upon his maiden speech. I am sure that congratulation comes not only from me but from all those Members who had the privilege of hearing him. I know that we shall hear a great deal more of him and about him as time goes on.
The Amendment gives an opportunity, which I know has been welcomed, of expressing our opinions on matters of great importance to the nation, because of the part which wireless is playing, and will play, in shaping the destiny of the people not only of this country, but of many other countries. Even those who will not be able to go into the Lobby with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) must pay him the compliment of saying that he has rendered a service to the House by giving us the opportunity for this Debate. While I shall have a few mild criticisms to make of the B.B.C., I assure the hon. Member for the Welsh University that I am not looking upon them as an Aunt Sally to be knocked down, but this Amendment presents an opportunity of examining the work of the B.B.C., on both the home and the foreign services, and the method adopted in the choice of speakers, and also an opportunity of reviewing the situation in regard to partiality in connection with propaganda. 870 We all feel very proud of the freedom which exists in this country and which gives the hon. Member the undoubted right to make such a speech as he has made to-day. I am confident that the growing power of democracy in this country will remain so vigilant as to prevent even this powerful propaganda machine from being used as an instrument to further the institution of an authoritarian state, such as the hon. Member for Shettleston fears. I am confident that the totalitarian aspirations of anybody in this country, if they show themselves to any extent, will be defeated by the same powerful force.
There are often many excellent speakers on the wireless, and there are many who are not so excellent. But one can understand that there is sometimes difficulty in selecting speakers so that the various subjects can be dealt with and no suspicion created, but a feeling of confidence given to people that all shades of thought are being catered for. Sometimes one wonders how speakers are chosen, and how they get there. Reference has been made to Members of the House broadcasting. On 21st October the Minister of Information, in reply to a Question, made a statement that since the beginning of the war 166 Members of the House of Commons had spoken on the wireless. I understand that one Member had made 162 appearances, another 75, and 36 Members had each made more than 10 appearances. I believe that the overwhelming proportion of that 36 was made up of Ministers and Under-Secretaries. That gives an impression to the country, and even to Members of the House of Commons, that only certain kinds of people in the House of Commons are invited to go to the microphone. It would be well if the Minister, in replying, could give some definite indication as to whether there is any kind of political colour which ensures preference to be given in coming to the microphone, and whether the opportunity to speak over the wireless is arrived at by application, by invitation of the B.B.C. authority or whether the Minister himself issues the invitation? It would be a good thing if he would give us some insight into that particular question.
There is also sometimes a claim that there is only the Government viewpoint and that only those who are prepared to 871 put that viewpoint speak on the wireless, and some of us have a feeling that that is largely the case. The party for which I have the honour to speak last year issued what, in our opinion, was a very important statement on post-war reconstruction. The B.B.C. was as dumb as the dumb man of Manchester on that particular subject. We believed that that statement was of some importance to the men and women of the working classes of this country and to the country generally, and we wondered, and we wonder now, why the B.B.C. was so dumb on that question. Again, I would ask the Minister to make some reference to that matter. I would call that ignoring events of national significance. We have just had the Catering Wages Bill passing through this House, and there has not been a great deal of attention given to it on the B.B.C., although when brought into operation it will affect considerably the lives of many thousands of men and women in that particular industry. But inasmuch as the procedure on that Bill is not complete yet, there is still time between now and the last stages for the B.B.C. to make amends.
There is another question that has lately been considered in the House, and the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) made some comment upon it. On 23rd March there was a Debate on war pensions, and many very excellent contributions were made by Members of all parties. The only speeches referred to on the wireless were those of the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and the hon. Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley)—two excellent speeches indeed—and the statement of the Minister, which was not nearly as good as the speeches. I have no desire to detract in any degree at all from the speeches made by those two hon. Members. The appeal and logic of their speeches were such that, if the logic of the Government had been as good as that of those who were championing the cause of the war pensioners, the answer of the Minister would have been very different indeed. But one would like to know why on the B.B.C. that night no indication was given of any other speakers in the House, thus giving to people in the country who only had the B.B.C. information the impression that there were only two hon. Members in the House of 872 Commons interested in the fate of those who had been wounded in the service of the country. I hope that in the future more attention will be paid to matters of that description. The B.B.C. was a little better last night, but, of course, it knew that the Debate was taking place to-day. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University——
§ Mr. Dobbie
The hon. Member for Cambridge University, in making some reference to the foreign propaganda of the B.B.C., asked the Minister whether he was sure that the matter used in the foreign propaganda was such as would ensure the maximum support when the day for the launching of a second front took place. I would like also to ask the Minister whether he is sure that the foreign propaganda is of such a character as to arrest the attention of people in the foreign countries under the rule of the Nazis and from whom we expect a rising when the second front is launched. This must be a very important part that the B.B.C. will play in the conduct of the war. The significance of our propaganda on the air was realised best of all when France fell. General de Gaulle was brought to the microphone, and he made his appeal to the French people as a son of France and one prepared to fight for his country. My information is that he inspired the first sign of resistance in France in a manner of which no other would have been capable at that time or even probably at the present moment. I believe that General de Gaulle inspired the people of France with the desire to rise again and to struggle for that freedom and democracy of which we are so proud. But I am not so sure that the general policy of the B.B.C. since then has appealed to the peoples of Europe.
One is a little chary of saying too much on this particular matter, because no one at this moment desires to throw a spanner into the machinery or to make things difficult for the Government or those who are assisting them in the prosecution of the war, but I sometimes wonder whether they are conducting the foreign propaganda on the right lines and whether they 873 are making their appeal to the right people. I refer particularly to Greece, Yugoslavia and Spain. Are they making the appeal to the old ruling class alone and not endeavouring to know or to visualise who are the people who are conducting the resistance? The men who are conducting the resistance in countries that are occupied by the Nazis are displaying a degree of courage which we are incapable of describing here or in any other place. My information is that the spearhead of resistance in Greece is not coming from the Royalists but from the Republicans. I am not asking that the whole of the propaganda should be directed to them, but only whether the Minister is certain that he is conducting his propaganda in a way that will cause these people to know and to understand how we appreciate the efforts that they are making.
I do not say that the propaganda in regard to Yugoslavia is not conducted in the right way, but is the Minister confident that it is being conducted in the way that will give the largest amount of confidence to the people in the objective of our Government and of our country? Is it General Makailovitch's Army who are conducting the resistance, or is it the partisans of Yugoslavia? Is our propaganda to Yugoslavia directed to assist people who may possibly be in closer association with the Quislings of Yugoslavia than they are in association with the spirit of revolt or resistance against the Nazis? I would ask the Minister, without making definite statements, to say whether he is convinced that we have the right people at the microphone telling the story of the people of this country to the people who are offering the resistance and who are playing the part that we are asking them to play, and is he making the approach to the right people at the other end?
Again, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, because my information is very limited and I would not put it against the information and knowledge which he himself must have, whether he is satisfied with those who are doing the propaganda for Spain, whether the propaganda matter which they are putting across is the correct matter and whether he thinks that it is wise to placate General Franco too much with appeasement, seeing that the appeasement with regard to Hitler ended as it did? Is he of the opinion that the appeasement policy that is directed to General Franco may be disheartening those men and 874 women in Spain who for some time have been looking forward to the victory of this country? I ask him to look closely into the question of Spanish propaganda. I would ask him to look at the material which is being broadcast and make certain that the messages being sent to Spain will inspire the people of that country. I have little doubt in my own mind what will happen when Hitler gives the word to march into Spain. We will probably find that the people we have tried to appease are against us while those we have neglected will want to help us.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
It is a considerable time since we have had a Debate on the B.B.C. and I am sure the whole House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) for moving his Amendment, although some of us will not be able to go any further in our thanks to him. I listened very carefully to everything that was said by the Mover and Seconder and I cannot place their arguments, at any stage, into direct relation with the facts as I see them. What was their central theme? It was that we should give the freest expression over the radio to the very diverse opinions held by people resident in this country and, I imagine, not only our own people. How is it possible, while recognising that the B.B.C. is to-day first and chiefly a weapon of war to be handled with the greatest possible care and delicacy, to put over the ether to foreign countries views which may be completely divergent? We have to take account of the thoughts which are in the minds of the people in occupied countries; we cannot afford to confuse them by sending out news and views which do no represent what I might call the British way of life—a typical central war-time theme and opinion. I think both hon. Members have missed the whole point of the B.B.C.'s functions in wartime.
I listened with care to the able and interesting speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) and I thought it a great pity that with his great experience and position in this House he did not find something to say in praise of the B.B.C. He attacked the presentation of the Beveridge Report by the B.B.C. but I felt throughout that it was not the B.B.C. he was attacking so much as the 875 Beveridge Report. Although he was at pains to say that he was not concerned with the merits of the Beveridge Report, it seemed to me to be quite clear that he disliked the Report and was therefore concerned to express disapproval of any machinery which gave expression to it.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
My hon. Friend has given the impression made on his mind about my efficiency or inefficiency in stating my case but when he says that in my speech I attacked the Beveridge Report I would like to ask him to refer to, or quote, any phrase which in any way indicated any criticism of or attack on that Report.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I am merely giving the House my own personal opinion and the impression made on my mind by what my hon. Friend said. It appeared to me that he was using the B.B.C. as a means of attacking the Beveridge Report and its presentation. I would ask him this question: Would be not admit that the actual fact of the publication of the Beveridge Report is an item of news of first-class importance and ought to be put out to the world just as any other item of news is put out?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Since my hon. Friend has asked me a definite question I will permit myself to interrupt him a second time. The answer is "Yes." It should be put out precisely like any other item of news—for example, the Uthwatt Report.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I would like to carry on my argument with my hon. Friend but I want to be fair with the House. I have a certain amount to say and I know that there are others who wish to speak and I must hasten on. I am very hopeful that we shall have a speech later in the Debate from someone who will give the view of authority with regard to what the B.B.C. are doing in this war. It seems to me that we in this House do not realise as fully as we should the tremendous efforts which the B.B.C. are making——
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Quantitatively and qualitatively. The House is very ill-informed about the B.B.C. and we ought to explore means of overcoming that. Some facts and figures were given by the Minister in the Debate last July, 876 and I hope he will amplify them to-day, but in themselves they do make most remarkable reading. The B.B.C. output of words has now risen to over 3,000,000 a week. At the beginning of the war they spoke in one, possibly two, languages to the world; now they speak in 45. They put out 275 hours of foreign broadcasts and news bulletins number 100 every day They are estimated to have an audience abroad of about 200,000,000. That represents an enormous expansion towards meeting present conditions and the threat which Germany imposed on us, from the radio point of view, at the beginning of the war.
Germany had a five-years' start on us. To-day, they employ 100,000 persons in their radio and ancillary services, so I understand, compared with the 11,000 of the B.B.C. Their expenditure on those services amounts to £110,000,000 a year against our Vote of £11,000,000. What the B.B.C. have done since the beginning of the war does represent a most prodigious effort and I am very hopeful that someone who has more knowledge than I can possibly have, as an ordinary listener and reader of their journal and the newspapers, will tell us about that effort.
There are one or two questions I would like to address to the Minister. The first concerns the position of the staff of the B.B.C. Are the Government justified in taking away Members of the staff of the B.B.C. and sending them to other war occupations, having regard to the fact that the B.B.C. is of such vital importance to the general strategy of the war? There are in particular one or two well-known members of the staff who have been de-reserved and sent to other war occupations. I would like to ask my right hon. Friend whether he is quite satisfied that this is the best policy. Another question I would like to ask concerns broadcasts to Russia. We all know the serious position with regard to the representation of our views in Russia compared with the representation of then-views in this country. We are very glad to know that the British newspaper in Moscow is proving a success. Do we, in fact, broadcast to Russia and if so, can the right hon. Gentleman give us any facts and figures with regard to that? If not, is it possible to institute a system of broadcasting to Russia? I feel that the more that can be done to make 877 our way of life known to the Russian people the better. We already have a very full knowledge in this country of what is happening in Russia.
I pass on to another point that I touched on previously—the relations between the B.B.C. and this House. It is apparent that we do not know enough about the B.B.C., and I think that accounts for the carping criticisms we hear of the B.B.C. from various quarters in this House. Would it not be possible to arrange for Members of the Board of Governors or one of other of the Directors-General to come and address Members of the House in an all-party panel meeting? We are addressed in that committee by a number of people representing different interests at various times. It seems to me important that we should hear the great figures of the B.B.C. I cannot see why, if members of religious organisations and chairmen of great commercial companies come and give their views to Members of this House with regard to the Beveridge Report, and other matters, we should be denied the privilege of welcoming the heads of this great service which, after all, is itself a child of the House of Commons. I think that might be carried a stage further. An invitation to hon. Members to visit the B.B.C. headquarters would be very welcome to some of us. We ought to see something of the work that is going on there. Criticism thrives where knowledge is absent.
I come to another point on which I feel deeply. I am a very strong supporter of the idea that we should broadcast the proceedings of this Chamber. I do not think it can be done immediately or that it should be done immediately, but I think we should work steadily towards a situation in which the proceedings in this Chamber are put out daily to the nation over the radio. I can see very little technical difficulty about that in peace-time. From the point of view of the House it would be a comparatively simple thing to arrange the microphones, and from the point of view of transmission it is comparatively easy in peacetime to harness a station. The Debate could be recorded and retransmitted at appropriate times in the evening. I am quite convinced that the argument that it would mean that Members, instead of taking part in the Debate, would be speaking as it were direct to the country, is unfounded, since it is clear that after a 878 short period any tendency of that kind would disappear and Members would revert to the normal cut and thrust of debate, so powerful is the debating atmosphere of this Chamber. I feel that in doing this we would be doing something to recapture the spirit which spread the ideals of democracy in Athens at the time of Pericles, that we should be doing something to get over the present lamentable position in which this House is placed in regard to public esteem. For the last 30 years the Press has been the sole medium of interpreting Parliament to the people and by and large, possibly due to our own shortcomings, possibly due to other factors, it has failed in that interpretation. Thirty years ago verbatim reports of speeches made in this Chamber were to be read in all the newspapers. For one reason and another, some good and some bad, that is no longer so. Nowadays our constituents have very much less opportunity of geting to know how their representatives are doing and what is the real meaning of parliamentary democracy.
A daily broadcast is a target for after the war, but we should aim at it now and approach it by stages. We have on the B.B.C. regularly every week "The Week in Westminster," and I would like to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) with what pleasure I listened to his contribution last Saturday. I thought it was the best we have had so far. Could we not extend that most excellent institution, "The Week in Westminster," and, with the help and cooperation of the B.B.C., organise a small panel of speakers who would go up to the B.B.C. possibly twice or three times a week and give 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour's exposition of the Debate which had taken place that very day or the day before? Then, as a second stage, I would suggest that we select a great Debate in which the Prime Minister is taking part and broadcast the whole of it as a single experiment, not repeating it for some time unless it proved a success and there was a demand for it.
My last point relates to the position after the war and the relations between the B.B.C. and the Government. It is not a subject that we can go into very deeply at this time but serious thought will have to be given to it in the future. I believe the B.B.C. to be not by any means the only but a most powerful 879 factor in favour of the perpetuation of the single party system—I say perpetuation because I am assuming for the purposes of the argument that we have it at the moment. If and when we return to the two party system one of two things must happen. Either the present position of dissociation between the B.B.C. and the Government must be carried a stage further or else we must set about creating an alternative wireless network. It is clear to me that one or other of those two things must be done. Either the B.B.C. must be further divorced from Governmental control and be associated intimately with the people of the country or we must set up an alternative and competing wireless system. That is a question of supreme importance which will have to be decided one day. May I say just this in conclusion. Broadcasting today has ceased to be a toy. It has ceased to be primarily a means of entertainment. It has come to be a great medium of enlightenment to the peoples of the world of the British way of thought. That is where I pause to say that the proposer and seconder of the Motion have got the whole position completely wrong.
§ Mr. Maxton
Will the Noble Lord elaborate that? It is not generally taken in the House of Commons as good argument, to make a sweeping statement of that description.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I am at the end of my remarks. At the beginning, when I think the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber, I developed my criticism of the two hon. Members' speeches.
§ Mr. Maxton
The Noble Lord must really not say that. I listened to every word he said with the greatest attention. I heard him make that statement about my two hon. Friends. When, on the first occasion, he made it, without supporting it in any tangible way I let it go. It is only on the second occasion that I ask him to back it up.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I regret that the hon. Gentleman did not interrupt me in the first instance, when I would have taken him up, but I am bringing, and with the hon. Gentleman's permission will bring, my remarks to a close. I was saying that the B.B.C. has come to be a great medium of enlightenment. It is even more than that, for we should think 880 largely on this question. Broadcasting can be made a great force for peace in the world. We must in future remove whatever barriers exist that impede the free import and export of man's ideas carried through the ether. In that way we shall help to overcome the war-breeding forces of suspicion, prejudice and distrust and create that understanding of and sympathy with the situation and viewpoint of all peoples which constitute the only basis of lasting peace.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I am tempted to follow the Noble Lord into the realms of the one party system but I feel that I might be out of Order if I did so. In general, I agree entirely with those who have a great admiration for the work of the B.B.C. and any derogatory criticisms that I make are subject to that very important qualification.
We have two big enemy countries, Germany and Japan. I am not counting Italy for the moment. I have not yet heard anything from any quarter as to what we do with regard to our propaganda to the Japanese. I think it is a very important point. Have we experts in Japanese propaganda in the B.B.C.? Have we people who know about the country, and what co-operation do we have with the U.S.S.R., America and China on this subject? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to say a word or two about that. I turn to our propaganda to Germany. I was somewhat disturbed in reading the right hon. Gentleman's reply last July to a Question by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Major Petherick). The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked:Why Mr. J. B. Priestley has been allowed to broadcast views tending to show that the Nazi party and the rest of the German people are different and should be considered and treated separately.The reply was:I am assured by the B.B.C. that they certainly would not turn any broadcast down just because it contained views contrary to those expressed on this occasion by Mr. Priestley."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th July, 1942; cols. 522–523, Vol. 382.]I am all for freedom of speech, and I do not say that I hold Mr. Priestley's views on every occasion. I do not. But when you are conducting propaganda to an enemy country, you must have consistency. You do not want to have views 881 expressed on the one hand and on the other by different kinds of people. That is very important. Certain statements have recently been made in another place about our attitude to Germany after the war, and I understand that that is the attitude of the Government. But there are other people who have other attitudes, which can be summed up in the term that we have come to know as "Vansittartism." I want to know what the B.B.C. are telling the German people about "Vansittartism." Is that the policy of the Government, because it is important that they should be told so if that is the case? Are they to be told, for example, that, to use the rather trite and melodramatic phrase of that noble Lord, "Germany has sold herself to the devil"—whatever that may mean—I think the Government should make it clear that that is not their view and that they do, in fact, hold the view that there are, at any rate, a small number of people in Germany who may possibly be tempted, at some time or other, by our propaganda to leave Hitler's cause.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham and Worthing)
Supposing any of us said, as I have said and say now, that Germany has sold herself to the devil, would the hon. Member refrain from broadcasting that to Germany?
§ Mr. Dugdale
I should say that, while obviously the Noble Lord is entitled to his views, they should not be used as the basis of propaganda to Germany. The Noble Lord has said that in his opinion Germany has sold her soul to the devil, but there are people in Germany to whom this propaganda can appeal, who have not sold their souls. I should like to quote one or two statements from what I might call the opposite side to our propaganda. I do not mean the, propaganda of Dr. Goebbels, but the propaganda put out by the underground radio in Germany itself. The people who listen to that radio are the same people who listen to our broadcasts to Germany, One of these broadcasts was about sabotage and said:Kiel. The managers of the Friedrich Krupp Germany Works are much disturbed by the extent of sabotage going on in their works. Entire sections had to stop work for many days because of wilful damage secretly done to machinery. Rush orders for U-boat parts were seriously delayed. In spite of all efforts those responsible for acts of sabotage could not be discovered.882 Other broadcasts stated that in Bitterfeld an explosive factory built underground had been wrecked, and that in Hamburg a mysterious fire took hold of a freighter docking in the harbour. I could give quotation after quotation of this kind. They go to prove that there are people in Germany who are actively engaged in trying to break down the Hitler regime. They are the people to whom we have to appeal in our propaganda. I will give one more quotation to show what is going on in Germany which again proves this point. There has recently been a conference in Germany of German people demanding peace. They adopted a manifesto in which they said:Gravely alarmed for the fate of our people, we Germans from the Western regions of Germany, fully aware of our responsibilities, united regardless of religious and political convictions, overcoming many obstacles, defying all the dangers, assembled at a secret conference…They then set out in ten points the policy they wanted to pursue. These people, I maintain, should not be simply sneered and laughed at.
§ Mr. Bracken
It would be of great help, in order to avoid these people being neglected, if the hon. Gentleman could tell me where this conference took place. He-is drifting into a wonderland in some of his remarks. We will fulfil all his desires, but he must not get up and talk about an important peace conference adopting a resolution and then say that we are neglecting and jeering at these people.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I am glad of the right hon. Gentleman's interruption because I do not mean to say that we or the B.B.C. were jeering at them. I do say, however, that there are certain people, among whom it is to be presumed the Noble Lord who interrupted numbers himself, who do jeer at people who are genuinely and sincerely trying to fight Hitler in their own way just as we are, in our way.
§ Earl Winterton
I would not jeer at them at all if I knew of their existence, but I challenge the hon. Gentleman to produce the names of any important Germans, except refugees, who are attempting to go against Hitlerism. They do not exist.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I would produce Pastor Niemuller for a start, and the Bishop of Berlin. There are very large numbers of people and not necessarily people who 883 hold the same views as I do. They include people belonging to religious organisations, Catholic and Protestant. For the right hon. Gentleman to ask me to state the place where these people met will not help them to carry on their propaganda.
§ Mr. Bracken
My hon. Friend must really not try to get away with that. He has made a statement and if he was so careful about these Germans who held this meeting, he would not have raised it. He would perhaps have notified the Foreign Secretary. If he will tell me privately, it will be a great relief to me.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
Is it not perfectly true that Stalin is the only person who is doing good German propaganda? He never abuses them. He tells Germany that there will always be an army and always be a Germany. That gives hope to the anti-Hitlerites. We say, "Wait until the war is over and then we will go Vansittart."
§ Mr. Dugdale
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman how he supposes that I am to know the exact place of this meeting. All I know is that a radio broadcast from Germany was picked up in this country, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman's organisation is efficient enough to have picked it up. That broadcast stated that this conference was held and the manifesto was sent out from the conference. That is the only information I have and the only information that anybody could have in the circumstances.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member says it was picked up from a German radio. The Germans often, for their own purposes and fifth column work, suggest that there is a large section of Germany preparing for peace. I should be careful before I took anything from a German station.
§ Mr. Dugdale
Are we to take it that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with those who believe that there are no people in Germany who can possibly be appealed to?
§ Mr. Bracken
I am delighted to answer the hon. Gentleman. He showed great evasiveness about the place where this conference was held and I had better make clear where I stand in this matter. Of course, nobody says that there are no decent Germans. Nobody, on the other 884 hand, could make the mistake of ignoring the facts of history. It is no mere coincidence that within the lifetime of many young men we have fought two major wars against these people. I am sure there is a considerable section of the German population that does not want to go to war, and when Air-Marshal Harris has finished his performances, there will be even more. You cannot condemn a whole nation, but it is a peculiar coincidence that Germany seems to delight in war and believes she can profit by it.
§ Mr. Dugdale
I want to make it plain, if I have not made it plain already, that I believe that the greater number of Germans at this moment are bad Germans. I am quite clear about that and I say that we should fight these Germans. I still say, however, that there is a minority of Germans who are of a different character and that it is to that minority we should appeal. Whoever these people are, whether they are good, bad or indifferent, anybody in Germany who listens to our broadcasts is liable to the death penalty. They must, therefore, be brave people for doing so. What kind of stuff is put across to them? Some of it is excellent, but some of it is not. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how many people in the German section of his Department have personal experience of Germany? I am given to understand—and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to correct it—that the head feature writer has never even been to Germany. I understand he is a young Viennese.
There are some curious bits of propaganda put across to these people who are listening under sentence of death. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) had something to say about the Beveridge Report. There are people in Germany who know that before Hitler came in, Germany and other countries like Czecho-Slovakia had something every bit as good as the Beveridge Report. They are not impressed by streams of propaganda saying that the Beveridge scheme is going to bring the millenium to this country. A curious thing happened once in connection with some B.B.C. propaganda to Germany. A broadcast directed to the German Navy was opened with "Rule Britannia." Now "Rule Britannia" is, no doubt, a very beautiful piece of music but it hardly 885 seems right to choose it for this occasion. And I would say, as I am on the subject of music, that the German people are not going to risk the death penalty to listen to cabaret entertainments. It is quite useless to put cabaret stuff over to the German people when they are listening under penalty of death.
If I may be a little more concrete I would ask what, then, should we put across to them? First, we should put across news. That we do, and do very well indeed. Secondly, we should put across anti-Nazi propaganda. Do we always do this? I had the curious experience last year of having a speech of mine, made at a meeting of exiled Germans in this country, refused broadcast to Germany. On what grounds? Because I suggested that the Nazis, the leaders of the Nazi party and people who have played a prominent part in Nazi work, should be sent out of Germany after the war to do one or two little jobs like clearing up Stalingrad, and possibly Coventry, in order to give some opportunity to the better Germans, under our very strict guidance, to make a better Germany than the Nazis have made. That speech was not allowed to be broadcast.
§ Mr. Bracken
Will the hon. Member tell me who refused to broadcast it? This is rather important. And does the hon. Member really believe that every observation he has made should be transmitted to Germany?
§ Mr. Dugdale
No, Sir, I do not—and I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman's remark is a little too obvious. The meeting took place in Birmingham. It was a meeting at which there were other speakers representing exiles from Germany, people who, I think, had suffered under the Hitler regime. Before the meeting it was suggested that the speeches should be broadcast, and I was informed that the proposition would be favourably considered, and I understood it was quite likely that they would be broadcast. Then I was told that they could not be broadcast, and when I asked the reason I was told that, as far as my speech was concerned, it was in fact too strong against the Nazis or too strong against the German people.
§ Mr. Thurtle
I think I had some negotiations with the hon. Member over this. As a result of my talks with him, we got about three very short extracts from the speeches which were made at that meeting, and they were so jejune and commonplace, and so short, that we felt we could not fit them into any programme.
§ Mr. Dugdale
That is quite another version. If the hon. Gentleman had been honest enough to tell me so at the start, things might have been different, but that is a very easy get-out. I am glad to know that, in fact, the policy of the B.B.C. and the policy of the right hon. Gentleman is that there are some Germans who can be appealed to, and that the propaganda must be devoted exclusively against Nazis in Germany. If that is the fact, it is something about which we agree.
What else is there we must put forth in our propaganda? One very important thing is the need for the Germans to fraternise with the very large number, amounting to millions, of foreign workers now in Germany. The German Government itself is somewhat worried about this position. I will not weary the House with further quotations, but the German Government has stated that the ether is without bounds and that people in Germany must be careful of what the B.B.C. or anybody else may put across to them about the need to fraternise with foreigners in Germany. That shows, I think, that the right hon. Gentleman and his Department are realising the need for this propaganda to be put across, and I hope we may hear something about that type of propaganda, because it is of the utmost importance.
Not the least thing that we must put across is hope—the hope of something better for the Germans if they do revolt. If we tell them that they have no hope at all, quite obviously they are not going to revolt. Why should they? I hope that Premier Stalin, who recognises these facts very clearly, and President Roosevelt, who also apparently recognises them very clearly, and the right hon. Gentleman will co-operate, not in three different sets of propaganda but in one weapon of propaganda, so that it can be really effective. I will only say in conclusion that I know the right hon. Gentleman's position is not easy. I know that we have not got a picture of the new world and 887 that it is difficult for the right hon. Gentleman, however good he may be as a draughtsman, to draw the picture of a new world whose outlines nobody is clear about; but I would say that we must tell the German people, not only what we are fighting against but what we are fighting for, tell them that clearly and without any mistake at all, present to them a picture of the new world, the kind of world we want. If we present this picture to our allies inside Germany, we may, I submit, shorten the war by very many months and save millions of lives.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
I rise with considerable diffidence as one of the newcomers to this House to make my first contribution to its Debates. I trust that the House will extend to me that maternal forbearance which it traditionally shows to the first efforts of its youngest children. I wish it had been possible for me to follow the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) in his exciting hunt for some totally-minded persons alleged to have been seen loitering suspiciously in the neighbourhood of Langham Place. Evidently he has been going round the district with a dark lantern and has succeeded in sending up some very startling shadows, but I trust that they will frighten the House less than they appear to have frightened him. He reminds me slightly of the old lady who is always looking under her bed for the burglar who is never there. But the case put by the hon. Member for Shettleston—in spite of what strikes me as the slightly extravagant terms in which his Amendment is couched—is one which commands respect, because it is a plea for the freedom of expression of opinion and that is one of the fundamental moralities we are at war to preserve. I should like to call it, more simply, the freedom of words. Voltaire's famous dictum, "We detest what you say but we will defend with our lives your right to say it," is no mere piece of empty rhetoric.
Indeed it represents the point of view of every Member of this House, for without free words, and the power of thought and of action which they give, we should all be but the shadows of a shade. I am sure that this House, which is so jealous of words and which is such a mighty arbiter of words spoken or written, will have followed the Mover and Seconder of this 888 Amendment thus far with sympathy. As the hon. Member for Shettleston reminded us—unfortunately I thought for his case—censorship, selection and restriction go hand in hand with war-time propaganda and are inseparable from the modern state of war, and once you have called these spirits from the vasty deep, and they have come to you, they do not easily go. They have enlisted for the duration. In my submission we should put up with their presence as reminders of how nearly we came in 1940 to losing this freedom of words for ever. What would have happened to this Amendment if that had been the case? So, in the few criticisms I would make of the B.B.C., I want to confine myself to its normal and not its abnormal activities, in other words, to its activities in peace rather than to its activities in war.
I wish to criticise, perhaps strongly, one aspect of the policy of the B.B.C. in the past, as I fear that the same policy may tend to prevail again after the war. Before doing so, if it is not out of Order, I wish to pay my small tribute to the B.B.C. for the work which it has done for the people of this country during the war. It has been subjected to the very stringent limitations which national security has rightly imposed upon it. It has controlled, counselled, comforted and cheered the people to a very remarkable degree, especially those people who dwell in the remoter countryside. I think that people realise this, and it is right and just that it should be said. No nation in this war has had a more magnificent public servant than we have had in the B.B.C.
In the past when there were not the same limitations upon its activities, the position was rather less satisfactory. Whether we like it or not we are living in the era of the dying newspaper. For a long time past, and that is particularly true of the countryside, the newspaper has been less and less read. It is certainly no longer studied. It is still taken, of course, but when read, it is read largely, I understand, for its features, its occasional articles, its correspondence, its cartoons and in some cases, so I am credibly informed, even for its comic strips. It is not read so much for its news, and still less for its opinions. The B.B.C. has taken its place very largely. It is here that the pre-war B.B.C. fell short, I feel, of its opportunities. Perhaps it did not 889 realise that people were coming to regard it as their oral newspaper. It gave its news succinctly and admirably, but it neglected to amplify this news by any expressions of opinion, or better still of different shades of opinion, the fair and temperate presentation of which is, after all, the best kind of propaganda.
I would like to give two examples. The first is the distressed areas. I cannot recall any sustained attempt on the part of the B.B.C. to rouse the national conscience in this grievous matter. Secondly, I cannot recall any sustained attempt on the part of the B.B.C. to prepare the people for the possibility, indeed the probability of war, which many of us saw to be inevitable and imminent. I am aware that I could not listen to every broadcast which was made; nobody could. I am talking only of the impression which was left on my mind. If I am at fault, and if I am corrected later on in the discussion, nobody will be more pleased than I, but it does seem to me to have been a very serious omission.
I feel that there is too much of the tone of the judicial summing-up in the B.B.C. summaries of opinion, and not enough of the speeches of the counsel for the prosecution or the counsel for the defence. The atmosphere that has been created is more that of the lecture-room than of the debating chamber. That is why I, personally, welcome the suggestion that the Debates of this House might conceivably, and in certain circumstances, be broadcast. I feel, too, that the B.B.C. has been too much inclined to indulge in what I might call smooth and shining optimism. Its attitude has always rather beenGod's in His Heaven—All's right with the world!And, while we may assent humbly to the first proposition, we must have serious doubts about the second. Here again, I feel that the ban on controversial utterances has been too heavily imposed and that the resultant propaganda, the putting of a case before our people, with all its pros and all its cons clearly and unmistakably defined, has been feeble where it should have been strong and has been neglected where it should have been regarded as of the first importance.
I do not wish to detain the House but I desire to express the hope that when peace comes again the B.B.C. will realise that 890 it has a special responsibility for the forming of public opinion by the best and fairest methods, and that there should be no vested interests, whether they are of politics, of religion or of economics, capable of preventing temperate discussion over the air of any subject of general public interest. I hope that there will be mountains and valleys as well as fertile plains in the landscape of the future, as visualised by the B.B.C.
I realise that you cannot say over the air what you can say in a book or even in a newspaper. Dividing lines must be drawn, but I contend that they have been drawn too rigidly in the past. As to those listeners who may hear something with which they do not agree and are made angry by so doing, I submit that they are suffering from a form of intellectual cowardice. It should stimulate them to put forward their own point of view, to meet attack with defence and defence with attack, and if what I am saying should offend against anyone's susceptibilities or against somebody else's sense of decorum, I would put it forward that a family which quarrels is a more vital unit than a family which is a mutual admiration society. In conclusion, I would urge a wider and bolder use of such democratic methods after the war, a broader conception of the whole functions of broadcasting and, above all, a greater trust in the good sense and good will of the people of this country.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
For the first time in my Parliamentary experience it falls to my lot very heartily to congratulate the previous speaker on the occasion of his maiden speech. I am fortified in so doing by the knowledge that all of us here have thoroughly enjoyed the eloquence and thoughtfulness he has put into his statements. I can further express very genuine personal as well as representative desire that the hon. Member who has now come among us will on future occasions also contribute to our Debates and discussions. Might I add just one qualification? It struck me as a little incongruous when he criticised the B.B.C. for believing thatGod's in His Heaven,All's right with the world.when I saw opposite to me my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Information. That qualification, I assure the previous speaker, is no reflection 891 on him, nor indeed on anyone else, but is one little point which we might reflect on later.
It has been frequently said rather tritely and platitudinously that inventions are not unmixed blessings. That is certainly true of wireless broadcasting. But I do not think we can criticise the instrument; it is rather human beings and the motives they have in putting that instrument to good or bad uses that we must criticise. [Interruption.] That is quite true, but so many try to condemn the machine, rather than the human beings who use it. I say that praise or blame does not lie in the invention itself, but the use to which it is put. I will try to explain what is the point of that rather ordinary remark. It is this: I had a certain sympathy with the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) when he warned us of the dangers of totalitarianism issuing from the broadcasting service. I agree that that is peculiarly so with broadcasting, but it is up to us who form this British community to determine how that broadcast service shall be used. In other words, it depends on public opinion, and particularly on the opinion and atmosphere of this House, as to how this great invention shall be used, for good or ill. I can quite conceive of its being used for ill. In certain lands it has already been used in that way. Who can doubt that in Germany broadcasting has been one of the strongest cements of totalitarianism?
I know there has been some criticism of the very word "totalitarian," and the hon. Member who spoke some time ago who represents the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), I believe, rather challenged our frequent usage of that term. Yet I think we know, broadly speaking, what is associated with that term "totalitarianism." We associate it with the idea of a State so organised as to subordinate the interests of all individuals to the supremacy of the State. That is a danger and more than a danger. I believe indeed that in Germany it has caused the paralysis of the creative intelligence of people who are there; it has brought about a degradation of the human spirit, and wherever that danger exists and develops a similar paralysis and degeneration will undoubtedly take place. On the other hand, I would point out that there is just as much danger of totalitarianism arising from democracy as from auto- 892 cracy. Democracy can easily degenerate into dictatorship of the proletariat which to me can be almost as dangerous as the dictatorship of individuals. The multiplication of individual minds and thoughts does not make them any more wise than 99 sheep in a field are wiser than one sheep.
I hold there is almost as much danger in the consolidation of a mass mind that is intolerant of minorities as in the usage of tyrannical powers by individuals over a majority. I relate this therefore to the function of broadcasting in war-time. We are living in a state of emergency. This is an exceptional war-time period unless it goes on too long, when to many it becomes quite normal and they think of peace as a mere pause between one tragic normal period and another. As long as we remain civilised we shall assume that war-time is a tragic episode or interval in the normal life of man. I can appreciate that in war-time some restrictions must be imposed on our broadcasting service which would be intolerable in peacetime. Therefore, I am not complaining, though I hold minority opinions in more ways than one, that certain limitations are imposed. Although one hon. Member suggested that broadcasting was a most valuable instrument for war, I would also urge that we should realise all the more that the true functions of broadcasting should be a most valuable implement for peace and civilisation. Even if broadcasting has to be subordinated to the functions of war in war-time, I beg of hon. Members that they should not relegate its more civilised purpose altogether into oblivion. I go further and say that unless we keep alive in our mind all the time the realisation that we are trying to preserve civilisation, then indeed there will be a danger of fighting for fighting's sake and finding ourselves impotent at the end of the war to build a finer civilisation.
I agree there are certain difficulties about a broadcasting system in any land in any circumstances, I disagree with the previous speaker when he suggested that broadcasting might replace the Press, for whether we adopt the system of broadcasting system in America or Russia or the broadcasting system we have here, it does not alter the fact that the hours in which messages, ideas, thoughts, impressions can go out over the ether are limited. In America there are certain alternatives, but even these must be 893 limited. So long as we have the Press, minority opinions in normal times can express their opinions through a journal and get that journal circulated. In our own country—I think, on the whole, wisely and rightly—we have adopted the method of having a single corporation that shall be responsible exclusively for the dissemination of views and of news. That has its value. When I have heard the American broadcasting system suddenly end some delightful piece of music on a note of advertisement for somebody's boot polish, I have thought it would be a poor day for this country if ever we had that method. I had some sympathy with the suggestion made by an hon. Member opposite that we should have alternative services of broadcasting after the war. So long as that does not mean the adoption of the American system, I am inclined to agree.
But while we have the B.B.C. as the solitary agent, the difficulty is, how shall we determine what amount of time shall be given to minority opinion? Shall there be every now and again a sort of survey, to find out whether the minority opinion in question has grown to, say, one-tenth or one-twentieth of the total volume of opinion, and shall we then allocate a corresponding amount of time? One has only to mention that to show the difficulty. In peace-time the B.B.C., on the whole, did its job in an excellent way, and did try to balance up majority opinion with minority opinion, to balance orthodoxy with heterodoxy; and we should make allowances in war-time for a certain decline from that standard. But, even in war-time, recognising the difficulties and dangers, I urge the B.B.C. and the Minister of Information not to be afraid of minority opinion. They should still recognise that minority opinions, even though they are very unpopular, should be allowed expression from time to time. I say that because I believe that there would be no finer emphasis to the world of the value of democracy, and British democracy in particular. For other people to hear on occasion minority opinions, even of an unpopular character, would make them realise that we have in this country something of great value, something which gives us a characteristic, something of which we should be especially proud. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman to use his influence to preserve the expression of such minority opinions 894 on the broadcasting services as are allowed, and even on occasion to go beyond that. Let me give three illustrations to show what I mean. Reference was made a short while ago to the historic and well-known phrase of Voltaire, and there were many echoes of agreement with that. On the other hand, although we may agree in principle with Voltaire's phrase we are far from practising it at present, even in areas where it could do no harm to the course of the war.
Take the question of religion. I have a very strong religious faith, strengthened by experience and thought. It is in certain respects heterodox, but everybody here, even the most orthodox, has views which years ago would have been condemned as unorthodox, and punishable at the stake. Although I have this strong religious conviction myself, I deplore the fact that when, for instance, the broadcasting service tries to deal with that aspect of peoples' lives—an aspect which some would say should be the predominant aspect—they so often show a prejudice in favour of the careful, the cautious and the orthodox. Why should they not allow unorthodox religious opinion to express itself from time to time? If we can have a Unitarian Prime Minister in this House, as we had some time ago, if we can have Rationalists and other unorthodox schools of thought, why should it not be possible for a Rationalist or an Atheist or a Christian Scientist or any other? [An HON. MEMBER: "Plymouth Rock."] Plymouth Rock, too, as you call them. I do not mind; whatever the opinion is, it should have some right of expression, but if you are going to classify that religious expression with, say, the high intellectual attainments of the members of the Rationalist organisation, I would refer you to other Members of this House, who are more competent to deal with the subject than I am. It seems to me that no harm would be done by allowing unorthodox religious opinion to express itself sensitively, carefully, and with due respect for other religious opinions. It seems to me that there has been a failure in recent years, especially during the war, to permit the expression of such points of view, which obviously could have no possible effect on the course of the war. I, as a man with religious convictions, plead earnestly that people should have 895 not merely the privilege, but their right, of expressing these opinions through the B.B.C. I am not merely thinking of the negative point of view. There are positive sides to it. I know that a little while ago an attempt was made to give a pretence of free discussion on theological subjects. It was in a series called "The Anvil." It struck an anvil made of tin, which was struck with hammers made of cardboard.
§ Mr. Sorensen
I did not know that; I have not much time for listening to the wireless. But whether it is or is not, it seemed to me adding insult to injury to put up dummies in such a way and then, with a pretence of being fair and objective, to knock them down. It was a disgrace to human intelligence. There is no need for this sort of discussion to be acrimonious. We in this House hold various points of view. I daresay almost every religious and non-religious opinion is held in this House. Members who congregate in the smoking rooms—I am afraid I have not time to do so—no doubt overcome the English view that we must not discuss religion, and venture into those fields. If we could have such broadcasts it would give people a view of what our life is like—an excellent life in many ways. There is one characteristic of this life which I cherish. That is its extraordinary toleration; and not toleration alone, but toleration with a certain warmth of good will in it. Even Members in this House who sometimes burst out acrimoniously, soon subside, and the worst of enemies are found smiling in good comradeship. That is one thing which is good at such a time as this. I plead, therefore, in the name of Britain, in order to make our Britain a great Britain in the deepest moral sense of the word, that the B.B.C. should allow heterodox, abnormal, religious opinions to express themselves through its services.
The same thing applies in regard to political subjects. Members of this House know that I have a certain point of view regarding India. It is not popular, perhaps not even among my friends; but it is an opinion that I have come to, not through emotion but as a result of the study of facts. I want to know why it is not possible from time to time for a 896 representative of what is called advanced opinion—I do not mean myself, but an Indian—to be able to express his point of view. Why could there not have been a representative of the Indian National Congress and a representative of the Moslems to express their points of view? When you think of men like Mr. Jinnah on the one hand, and Mr. Nehru on the other—I will not bring in Mr. Gandhi for the moment, because many think him an impossible mediaevalist, although I do not consider him myself in that way—why could they not be allowed to make their answer to the criticisms made in this House? Why could we not, even now, ask the Viceroy to allow Mr. Nehru, over the broadcasting system from India to this country, to give an answer to the White Paper, which is a purely ex-parte statement—a combination of gaoler, jury, prosecutor and judge? I see no disadvantage in that whatever, and I ask the Minister therefore to be bold in this respect.
I see, too, no reason at all why in other respects, including even war and the development of the war, the questions, for instance, of food relief, of the Colonies and of the discrimination between different kinds of Germans and so on, there should not be ample opportunity given for these discussions. When it is said, as it is said to-day, that virtually the great majority of Germans are behind Hitler, it may be so, but I do not forget that if it had not been for a lucky chance we might have been making adverse accusations against the people of Russia. We are not doing it now, I am glad to say. I only mention it in order to suggest that, whether the minority against Hitler be large or small, if there be this minority and if in addition there is a point of view respecting it that many people hold should be given to the world in order to prevent an indefinite war between the peoples but rather to stimulate their awakening in order that they might co-operate to end war, then I ask that they be allowed to express their feelings, and so encourage finer citizens of the world. It may be that what I have stated is unattractive to some people, because they live in a kind of hot-house. They get inside, close the door and are so comfortable mentally speaking, that they do not like the draughts that blow in from outside. They do not like any suggestion that unorthodox 897 and difficult issues should be allowed to enter. Let us realise that most of the ideas we hold in common were unorthodox at one time. Therefore, for the sake of a sweeter, cleaner and more invigorating atmosphere, whilst we keep our orthodoxy, let us also open the door so that the winds of minority ideas may freely blow through to the benefit of all.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
May I add my thanks and appreciation for the two maiden speeches contributed to our Debate to-day delivered by the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd) and the hon. Member for the Ashford Division of Kent. (Mr. E. P. Smith)? The hon. Member for Ashford repeated two or three times the phrase, "the opinion of the B.B.C.", and complained that the B.B.C. did not express its opinion vigorously. I would like to make that point clear. For nearly 20 years now this House on numerous occasions, and the country, through committees of inquiry and by a unanimous expression of opinion throughout the Press, has declared itself in favour of a policy in which the B.B.C. does not have an opinion. It is most wise that we should retain this policy with regard to the B.B.C.'s own opinion.
I have intervened on behalf of the Board of Governors, of which I and my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) are members, to place before the House one or two facts about the reporting of the speeches made in this House, partly because it is a matter of considerable interest to Members of the House and partly because it has been referred to two or three times during this Debate. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern), who opened the Debate, referred to a particular Debate on war pensions, when he said that a fair representation of the Debates that have taken place in this House was not broadcast, and the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) referred to the same Debate. I want to be very brief, because I know many other hon. Members want to speak, but if I find that I have time without transgressing the time I ought to take, I will deal with that particular Debate, more especially as I happened to be involved in it.
I will take up the time of the House for a few minutes to give them some figures which I have had taken out by 898 way of trying to test what we have been doing. I have taken the period of the last 10 weeks of Parliamentary time during this Session, and this is what I find. First, as regards the number of Members of Parliament whose speeches have been mentioned in our broadcast in comparison with some of the newspapers. In "The Times" newspaper, in the last 10 weeks of Parliamentary time, there have been 899 Members' speeches mentioned with their names attached to the remarks that have appeared; in the "Daily Telegraph" there have been 663; the B.B.C. has mentioned 244, and the "Daily Express" 141. There is no peculiarity about the particular papers that I have chosen. There was not time to go into the analysis which would have been afforded by looking at the "Manchester Guardian," the only other paper that reports Parliament seriously and at length. The reason the "Daily Express" and not another paper was chosen was that it happened to be available. There is no other reason. "The Times," the "Telegraph" and the "Manchester Guardian" report our Debates at great length.
It might be asked, Why does not the B.B.C. report the Parliamentary Debates at the same length as "The Times," the "Telegraph" and the "Manchester Guardian," who give three times as many names in a given period? There is a very good reason. It is because the mediums are different. If the B.B.C. was to report three-and-a-half times as much of the Parliamentary Debate as it does report, it would be reporting it for probably one-third, or one-tenth, or one-hundredth of the audience. It is a fact that if you add on to the news bulletin 10 or 12 minutes of Parliament Debate you probably retain about one-quarter of the audience that ordinarily listens to the news bulletin who would continue to listen to the Parliamentary report. Perhaps some 16,000,000 people listen to the news bulletin. Then at about 10 or 11 minutes past nine about half of them switch off. It seems to be about as long as anyone can stand a news bulletin. After that they go on listening, the remaining half, until about a quarter past, and when they hear the opening of the Parliamentary report, about two-thirds of the remainder switch off. [An HON. MEMBER: "How do you know that?"] These are fairly well established facts, as a result of our various branches of inquiry—what it is to which our people 899 listen and as to how they are listening. It must be accepted as a fact that if you double or treble the length of time given, you will undoubtedly reduce your audience to a similar proportion. May I bring in, in support of that, the "Daily Express," which gives much less space? If it gave speeches at length or too many of them, it would lose its readers, and it does not want to do that. We of the B.B.C. have to choose, and the House has to choose as our masters, whether we would prefer that many millions of people listen to the high spots in Parliament or who are thought to be high spots, or whether we would rather have much longer reports listened to by many fewer people. That is the first balance we have to have in our minds.
Now may I turn to the party question, because that was specifically raised in this Debate by two Members? First, may I tell the House what I believe to be the state of the parties? The Conservatives in percentage figures, are 58 per cent. of this House. It is not to be argued that that is a good thing, but it is the fact. The Labour Party represent 28 per cent.; the Liberals 7 per cent. and the others 6 per cent. The comparison I want to bring to the notice of the House is between the percentages into which we naturally fall as parties and the way in which certain newspapers and the B.B.C. have reported the speeches made in this House. For instance, 46 per cent. of all speeches mentioned in "The Times" during the last 10 weeks have been Conservative; for the "Daily Telegraph" the figure is 48 per cent.; for the B.B.C. it is 46 per cent., and for the "Daily Express" it is 52 per cent. The reports of these newspapers and of the B.B.C. are produced at the same time by different people in different buildings. The percentage of time given to Conservatives by these four different organs of publicity is within a point or two of the same figure. Is not that very remarkable? Now may I give the Labour figures? For "The Times" it is 36 per cent.; for the "Daily Telegraph" it is 36 per cent; for the B.B.C. it is 36 per cent., and for the "Daily Express" it is 38 per cent. Is it not very remarkable that these figures should have been about the same for the last 10 weeks? Now we come to the Liberals, for which the figures are: "The Times," 9 per cent.; the "Daily Telegraph," 8 per cent.; the 900 B.B.C., 13 per cent and I can give no explanation for that—and the "Daily Express," 3 per cent.—and it is not for me to give an explanation for that.
The similarity of these figures is very remarkable, and I want to point to one or two morals which arise from it. Many people say that the B.B.C. is "Leftish." It is true that the Tories in this House number 58 per cent. and that the figures I have given show that during the past 10 weeks the amount of space given to the Tories is 46 per cent. Perhaps we have under-reported the Tories. Have we? Is it not that there is a larger proportion of the Tories away in distant theatres of war, fighting? Does that account for that fact? I do not know; I have not had time to go into it. But, at any rate, it cannot be said that the Tories are being over-reported. The Labour Party is being reported at about the same rate, and there are almost identical percentages by the two newspapers we have regarded as being most reliable in the reporting of us and by the "Daily Express," which is one of the more popular papers. May I give the House one other figure? The news bulletin and the reporting of Parliament which accompanies it may be looked upon as our edition of news and Parliamentary reporting for 9 o'clock in the evening. Compare it with "The Times" newspaper, which is an edition of a particular organ, and you will find that the proportion of Parliamentary reporting of the whole edition is 40 per cent. in the B.B.C. and 13 per cent. in "The Times." Why? Because "The Times" contains so many columns of other matter. It may be said that people open "The Times" to read about sport, religion, and so on. So they do. But if there is a great mass of millions of people whose only access to guidance about the House and our news is the B.B.C—and it has been so stated—then, in the period during which the greatest number of the masses listen, 40 per cent. of what they hear is reports of the proceedings of this House. I hope this goes some way towards answering the criticism that we do not sufficiently report the House.
Finally, may I deal with the particular Debate to which reference has been made? It has been stated in two or three newspapers, it has been stated in this Debate by the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. 901 McGovern) and by the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie), and it has been stated in a newspaper by the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville), that in that pensions Debate there was either a mistake or some partiality, either personal or perhaps party. May I tell the House how the matter was dealt with so that hon. Members may judge for themselves what are the facts? In the 6 o'clock news bulletin more speakers, and speakers of various parties, were referred to, but in the 9 o'clock news bulletin of the pensions Debate it is true that the speech which I had the honour to make, the speech made by the noble Lady the Member for Central Bristol (Lady Apsley) and the winding-up speech of the Minister of Pensions were the only three speeches reported. It may well be that reasonable men may differ if they look at any particular night and ask whether the news on that night was right or fair. I could equally produce a night on which only the Labour Party were mentioned in the news bulletin. If there happened to be a Labour Minister winding-up and a member of the Labour Party, possibly fully in support of the Government, had opened the Debate, that might well happen. In this particular instance, for better or worse, I was opening the Debate. It is customary, if one reports anybody, to report the person who opens the Debate. Therefore, I very much resent the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Eye that I was so reported because I happen to be a Governor of the B.B.C. The hon. Member said that in a newspaper last week and it was brought to my notice. I think that is an unfortunate suggestion which ought never to have been made. I was so reported, presumably, because I opened the Debate, and there may be some who think that in this particular matter it is a subject on which I have some knowledge. The Minister was reported because the Minister must be reported at the end of the Debate.
What then were we to do? There was news coming in from Tunisia. There was a Debate in another place on the Jews. All those things have to be packed into 22 or 23 minutes. As the news men are making up the news, in comes something else that must go in Can you cut out the opener of the Debate? Can you cut out the Minister? Should you cut out the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who is chairman of the Labour 902 Party ex-Servicemen's Pensions Committee, or should you cut out the noble Lady the Member for Central Bristol? The noble Lady was making a maiden speech. She has a special knowledge of the subject. Should the Labour Party be cut out, or should it be put in to keep the party balance? That is the sort of problem, with 50 seconds in which to settle it, that the news men have to handle at the B.B.C. No doubt they often make mistakes, and perhaps they made a mistake on that occasion. But the House ought to remember the way in which these things happen, and the circumstances.
Finally, let me say this. In the House we appoint to your noble Chair, Mr. Speaker, and to the Chairmanship of Ways and Means, and to the Judges' seats, Members like ourselves who in their time have taken part in controversy. Some of us go straight from controversy on the floor of the House to take the Chair in Committee. I think we can trust each other to put off our party feelings and affiliations. I think it ought to be expected of the B.B.C. that, though it makes mistakes, it tries to carry out its trust between the political parties honourably.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
I feel sure the whole House is grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for intervening and bringing his great practical knowledge to bear on the problem. Excellent as the Debate has been hitherto, I felt that until he spoke it lacked something, and that was a detailed statistical analysis of what has been put out by the B.B.C. in recent months. He has provided us with that, and we appreciate it very much. With regard to the particular occasion of which he spoke, I felt that his own speech, at whatever point he came into the Debate, ought certainly to have been reported at length. It was one of the best speeches I have listened to. As for my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), we on these Benches felt bound to make our protest and, though I have had no opportunity of consulting with my hon. Friends who made it, I feel sure that we should like to accept the hon. Member's explanation, but I should like to add one consideration which has not yet come in. The hon. Member was proposed to put the party's point of view on that occasion, but he was speaking, not from the Front Bench 903 but from this bench, from which most speeches are supposed to be unimportant, and it may have escaped the attention of the reporters that he was making rather more than the speech that one expects from a back bencher.
§ Mr. Driberg
There is one point which does not seem to have occurred to members of the Labour Party. The Tories such as the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) and the Noble Lady and others were strongly critical and impatient of the Government's attitude, and in a sense they were putting the case which the Labour Party also put.
§ Mr. Thomas
I see that point, but I think Members of Parliament should not be childish in this matter of reporting by the B.B.C. If we rushed to the wireless or to the newspapers next morning to see what notice we had received, I think this House would soon be heading for a very bad state of affairs. Speaking for myself, on the one occasion on which I have been reported by the B.B.C. at any length I regretted it, because I received so many letters in protest, and I decided that it is probably better not to be reported. In the sentence or two which the B.B.C. can give there is so much necessary condensation that all the qualifications that one introduces in a speech of 10 or 15 minutes cannot be reproduced. I would ask hon. Members not to pay so much attention to that question as has been given in the past.
Subsequent speakers have put the B.B.C. into a better perspective than the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern). He confined himself to the home service of the B.B.C., but that is not the most important aspect of the B.B.C. to-day. Its most important service is the European service. That is a matter of great operational value, and it is governed by considerations quite different from those which operate in the home service. I have spoken critically in the House and outside about those services in the past, and I should like to take this opportunity of saying that there has in my judgment been a great improvement in the past 12 months. Indeed, I think it is now working extremely well and is an operational instrument of great value. I Would like to give due credit for that to the Minister of Information, who has shown, merely by holding his 904 office for so long, in comparison with the disasters which befell his predecessors, that he brings no small qualities to his task.
I cannot go into the subject in great detail, and we are handicapped by our ignorance of the languages and our lack of access to the scripts. We are very liable to be at the mercy of somebody with an axe to grind in this matter. A large number of hon. Members, I fear, are apt to take the point of view of the last refugee they have met. That is very dangerous. Let us take, for example, the broadcasts to Hungary by Mr. Macartney, which are often mentioned and which come in for a great deal of criticism. I do not pretend to know whether they are good or bad because I do not know a word of the Magyar language. I do not suppose that the people who make the criticisms know it either. We are at the mercy of people who may have a special point of view to plead in this respect. I only suggest that Members must be cautious and not take these statements at their face value. The services I listen to mainly are those in French, German and Italian, because I know the languages, and I am bound to pay a high tribute to them. The French service has been for a long time brilliant. It had a bad period at the time of the Darlan affair, as was natural, but it has got into its stride once more, and it is a first-class service. The Italian service after many vicissitudes is now working very well. There are special difficulties in the case of Germany, and they came out in the course of the speech by the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale).
Many of the defects in the service of the B.B.C. are due not to the B.B.C. at all but to the fact that they must work within the limits of the policy provided for them by the Government. If there is no policy provided, they naturally cannot do the work. We must remember also that the home service and the foreign service are governed by entirely different considerations. The European service must express the Government's policy. In the home service we expect to have a clash of opinion, but we cannot speak to enemy and enemy-occupied countries with different voices at the some time. The European service is an operational instrument designed to help in the winning of the war and not to express a clash of opinions. Therefore, if there is any criticism, it ought 905 to be directed at the Government as a whole for failing to provide a policy and not at the B.B.C.
I say that so that the whole question can be put in its proper perspective. But may I now deal with the specific charges made by the hon. Member for Shettleston? He says that the B.B.C. is totalitarian in its treatment of political, social, religious and medical questions. In the matter of medical questions, I should feel prepared to concede something to him. He made out a plausible case when he said that there were venal doctors who were always to be found who would prescribe the right food at the right time and so on.
There may be something in that, but it is not a new feature. I think it is rather a part of the love of fashion which has prevailed among doctors as among women. Doctors were doing that kind of thing before the war began and before the right hon. Gentleman occupied his present post. As to religious questions, I am quite certain the hon. Member is wrong. Although I have not come to the House armed with statistics like the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), I have taken the trouble to go through the programmes in the "Listener" for the whole of the present year. They show that the B.B.C. has been running a series of talks on various religions, and I have noticed talks given about the Anglican way of worship, the Roman Catholic, the Presbyterian, the Methodist and the Quaker, and there may have been others. That there was a Quaker speaker does, I think, disprove the hon. Member's contention that persons who are pacifist do not find their way to the air. I admit that the speaker was not preaching pacificism on that occason, but he was a pacifist.
§ Mr. Thomas
I assume that all members of the Society of Friends are pacifists. I may be wrong in that assumption, but it is basic to their belief. As for political and social questions, I feel bound to say that the news, which is the most important feature of the whole service, in my judgment has given a very fair picture indeed of the clash of opinions in this country. Let us take one feature, the Brains Trust, which I suppose is the feature most popular after the news. I should not have thought that Professor Joad or Mr. Julian 906 Huxley could be regarded exactly as upholders of existing institutions or——
§ Mr. Thomas
Well, Dr. Joad—is coming round to different views on some questions. He seems to have converted himself, and I regard it as a most significant sign of the times. At any rate the B.B.C. has given to these men and to such men as Professor Laski a very wide latitude in its services, and I do not think the contention of the hon. Member for Shettleston is borne out. But I must not speak at greater length, because I do not want to occupy any unnecessary moment before the right hon. Gentleman replies to this Debate, for I am looking forward with relish to the manner in which, I am sure, he will answer the hon. Member for Shettleston. I think I have seen him straining at the leash. [Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Member is right in accusing me of inciting him to disaffection. All I want in conclusion is to say that the most important aspect of this matter really is the European service of the B.B.C. It is bringing hope and comfort to millions of people. In a personal way I can understand what that means, because I happened to be caught out in Spain when the civil war broke out and spent several weeks there before being brought back in the ill-fated "Repulse," and after the frenzied views of the Spanish wireless on both sides it was a great relief in the evenings to hear the calm, reassuring accents of the B.B.C. announcer from London. I feel certain there are many thousands of people, indeed millions, in Europe to-day who listen to the B.B.C. and get the same comfort from it. We know that they listen, because the German and Italian newspapers regularly report cases of people who are sent to prison for listening to the B.B.C. The B.B.C. is, therefore, an instrument of the greatest operational value, and I feel that the charges brought by the hon. Member for Shettleston are not justified.
§ Mr. Maxton (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I hope I shall not detain the House for very long. I understand that the Minister wants a very considerable time.
§ Mr. Maxton
My hon. Friends and I will be very glad to hear the Minister. It will be a great day for this House and for the country, and I almost said for the world, when the Minister of Information makes a speech lasting for three quarters of an hour. I hope he will answer the case which was made by my hon. Friends the Members for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) and Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). I have not heard an answer yet to the Amendment which we have moved. It is true that the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) wiped us aside very authoritatively, but he did not bring one single argument to show that the case made by my hon. Friends was unsound.
I was interested in the speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser)—who unfortunately has had to leave—making his defence of the B.B.C. He spoke of the amount of time that is divided among Conservatives, Liberals and Labour, and showed that the time totalled up to nearly 100 per cent. He said that that proved how detached and fair the B.B.C. were to all sections of the community. The hon. and gallant Member forgets—and this is one of the unfortunate things about the activity of my hon. Friends and myself in this House—that we come forward inspired by a desire for the public interest and to point out certain tendencies that we think are wrong in the management of affairs. Here, we find to our amazement that what we are doing is to disclose that, instead of a united Government in this country there are three or four national groups who think that, although they keep the Government in office, give them their authority and give the Prime Minister the power to speak for the nation as a single voice, that is the whole difference. It is no answer for the hon. and gallant Member for Lonsdale to tell me that the three different sections that make up the supporters of His Majesty's Government and go to provide the personnel of the Government, consume almost 100 per cent. of the time available on the air for propaganda, or to say that that shows how fair the B.B.C. behaves in the allocation of time.
We have been suspected of prejudice in social and political matters. Maybe we are regarded as being biased and pre- 908 judiced in that respect, but we do not limit our criticisms to social and political matters. In our Amendment we deal also with religious and medical matters, in which nobody can accuse us of being biased and prejudiced. In regard to religion and medicine, the three Members of this party hold entirely different views. The hon. Member for Shettleston is a member of the oldest organisation of the Christian Church; the hon. Member for Camlachie is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and my own views, although quite sincerely held, are not expressed by any of the recognised religious organisations. I listen a great deal to the wireless; I think I am a decent listener. I do not think it deserves the paeans of praise that have been voiced in this House for its services during the war. I do not think it presents to the world Britain at its best. I do not think, in spite of the hon. and gallant Member for the Lonsdale Division, that the British Broadcasting Corporation is as fair as the London "Times" or the "Manchester Guardian" or the "Glasgow Herald." It is a public Corporation that is supposed to belong to the whole of us. I would rather trust my political reputation, for what it is worth, in the hands of the London "Times" than the B.B.C., and "The Times" is an avowedly Conservative journal.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is extraordinary how all my ideals are shattered. Here is another rift disclosed in the lute. Avowedly it is an anti-Socialist journal.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is a piece of private property run for private profit. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, it is run by a trust."] If hon. Members tell me that I have to stop spending 3d. on it because it is not a reputable enterprise I will have to take their word for it. But I buy the "Telegraph" too. Now, is that all right?
§ Mr. Austin Hopkinson (Mossley)
If the hon. Member wants a definition of "The Times," it is a 3d. edition of the "Daily Herald."
§ Mr. Maxton
Well, I think it plays fair with me. Maybe that is what is wrong with it from the hon. Member's point of view. I will give a small example; I have 909 no grievance now about it at all. I think it is an example of not playing straight. It goes back to an earlier time than when the Minister was responsible. The B.B.C. worked on me what I think is the slickest bit of three-card trick I have experienced. In the General Election of 1931 the various leaders of parties were being allotted time on the air to state to the electors their views and what their parties stood for. I wrote in and asked whether I could be allotted time like the others. I was told I should have to wait until nomination day and see how many candidates we were putting up for the poll. I waited until nomination day and intimated to them that our nominations numbered 23 or something like that. They wrote back—this was in Lord Reith's days—that they were sorry, but the minimum number that could secure a spokesman on the B.B.C. was 25. I once travelled in a railway compartment with some three-card tricksters coming from a race meeting, and they were clean sportsmen compared with the B.B.C. Here is something which I think was indefensible. I would not have worried for one minute if the B.B.C. had ignored my presence altogether, but I object to this sort of thing.
In the course of a speech I said that if I were going tiger-hunting I would as soon go tiger-hunting with the Prime Minister as with anyone, but that my difference with the Prime Minister is a deeper and more fundamental one than that—I do not want to go tiger-hunting, while he sees nothing else but tigers. The B.B.C. reported in its six o'clock news that Mr. Maxton, speaking in the House of Commons, said that he would rather go tiger-hunting with Mr. Churchill than with anybody else in the world. Is not that disgraceful? It is shocking. I have another case. My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston and my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie have told me time and time again to get out of the habit of saying decent things about political opponents. They say it is a dangerous habit, because if you say a decent thing about an opponent, that is the one thing that the B.B.C. report, and they ignore your general contribution. That is not playing the game, and it is tendentious propaganda.
Our criticism of the B.B.C. during this war period is that if you are going to speak about music, if you are going to 910 speak about medicine, if you are going on to the Brains Trust, which is supposed to be a free forum, if you are going to deal with any technical aspect that does not affect the high policy of the Government at present, unless you are prepared to bow the knee to Baal in advance, you may be a great musician, who is competent to talk about music, you may be a great medical man, capable of speaking about medical subjects with greater authority than anybody else in the land, or you may be a great preacher, capable of dealing with religious problems and of appealing to the mass of the people, but you cannot give the nation the benefit of your specialised knowledge. That is totalitarianism. I have had experience of this; I cannot refer to it, but it is none the less real. I have heard it from others. The hon. Member for Mossley (Mr. Hopkinson) stated in this House one day that he had been asked to speak on the B.B.C., and that he proposed to deliver a speech which was his own paraphrase of the Sermon on the Mount. They would not have it.
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Member for Mossley is too honest a man to go on the air and pretend that he is the author of the original Sermon on the Mount. I am certain that if I went around to various Members of this House who have been taking part in air talks, I would find a majority of them, even those in good standing and whose political and governmental loyalty is not suspect, who have found some junior officer at the B.B.C. who has blue-pencilled their manuscript and who has said, "You cannot say that sort of thing here."
When you start vetting and running the intellectual life of the nation, you are getting on to a very dangerous road. This broadcasting business is a wonderful and a tremendous thing. The hon. Member for the University of Wales (Professor Gruffydd), in a very delightful maiden speech, said that he believed that it would kill the newspapers. I was told before the war—and I do not know what the situation is now—that the piano, gramophone, and musical instrument people had the same fear, that the arrival of the wireless into the home would destroy the demand for musical instruments, but that, on the 911 contrary, they found the precise opposite to be the fact and that the bringing of music into the home had stimulated the desire of many people to try their hand at something musical themselves and to develop an interest in music that they had never had before. I think that probably the same will prove to be true in the ultimate about reading generally and about newspapers in particular.
We feel that you are not making the use of this tremendous instrument that could be made, nor is the nation striving sufficiently hard to get into the way of having this instrument used for its highest purposes. You say, "The war excuses everything." That was the attitude of the hon. Member for South Dorset, and he attacked the statements of my hon. Friend without making any attempt to back up his attack. I notice that he made the fullest use that was personally possible to him of the opportunity that had been created by the hon. Member whom he condemned so roundly. He would not have had the opportunity of voicing his own views on the subject if my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston had not put down his Amendment and made the speech that he himself made. The hon. Member said, "All is excusable in war." As long as we have a totalitarian Parliament, that is all right. What is the difficulty there? He said that his party had a wireless station of its own.
§ Mr. Maxton
If the hon. Gentleman will read his speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, he will see. He said that so long as we had this National Government it was all right but if we reverted to the two party system we should have something else.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I said that we must have an alternative wireless network or there must be divorcement of the existing B.B.C. from governmental control—one or the other.
§ Mr. Maxton
The hon. Member knows that the former is impossible and says that if the wireless owned by the nation does not express his view, he must have one of his own. We are democrats; we do not speak with two voices, one at home and one for abroad, like the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas).
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas
I take responsibility if I was misunderstood, but what I wanted to convey was that we can expect at home to, have a clash of opinions, but when we speak to occupied Europe we must express the policy of the country.
§ Mr. Maxton
It is no use saying "Hear, hear." When I want to get to know something of what the Germans are talking and thinking about, I do not listen to the English broadcasts from Germany; I get a friend of mine, who can translate German better than I can, to tell me what the Germans are saying to their own people. The hon. Member for Keighley is experienced enough to know that that is precisely what intelligent Germans do with our news. You cannot, in your home broadcasts, have political controversy and in foreign broadcasts say we are all one big happy family, because, if you do, any intelligent German will say that you are just a collection of crooks. That is precisely how we feel about the German people. On Saturday night I listened to our home service and the news of sabotage by workers from occupied countries who had been drafted to Germany. It was in the 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock and midnight news and described how two Frenchmen, working in a post office in Germany, made a mess of the parcels until the whole place was in a tangle and then afterwards thought of a better idea—re-addressing the parcels back to France. Imagine two Germans in an outlandish post office in the Highlands of Scotland doing that for one day. Would that impress intelligent people? There was another item of news about men being sent to break ice with pick-axes and going home with them with the points off, having supposedly broken them on the ice but in reality having broken them by placing them between paving stones. It is just rubbish. In our foreign propaganda we treat the French, Belgians and Dutch as if they were infants and their mentaliity was that of a five or six year old child.
I do not know whether there is an adviser on psychology in the B.B.C. or, if there is, what are his qualifications. If there is a psychologist there, let the Minister ask him whether he will be kind enough not to apply the psychology of the infant when he is weighing up how certain things will affect the minds of the 913 German people. Equally, do not let the B.B.C. think that people in this country, Scotsmen, Englishmen, Welshmen, Irishmen, listening to the B.B.C., are cretins or mental defectives. My hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), whose speech I appreciated very much, made some reference to the good nature and tolerance of the people of this country. That is not their greatest quality. The greatest quality of the people of this country, as distinct from many other nations, is that they are a terribly sensible nation. The ordinary folk in this country are just as sensible and have as keen a sense of responsibility as the Members of this House. I say that you are trying, through the B.B.C., to treat them as undeveloped cretins and to limit their thinking within confines in which intelligent minds will not be confined, and in doing that you are not doing the best thing either for the future development of our own land or the ending of this world conflict in an intelligent way. Of that I am certain.
§ The Minister of Information (Mr. Brendan Bracken)
In reply to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), I doubt whether the B.B.C. has a psychologist on its staff, and I think that the hon. Member ought really to question the translator who provides him with information about the B.B.C.'s broadcasts to Germany. I think he is being misled by his translator, that the translator must be a very lazy man, and that he does not live up to the active, zealous, forceful personality of his master, the hon. Member for Bridgeton. If it would please the hon. Member, I should be more than willing to give him what I may call accredited translations of the broadcasts to Germany.
§ Mr. Maxton
The right hon. Gentleman is not attacking me, but he is attacking a friend whom I believe to be faithful, loyal, and competent. I do not know to what the right hon. Gentleman is referring.
§ Mr. Bracken
I do not think the hon. Member's friend can have had much opportunity of listening to the vast amount of propaganda that is sent to Germany, I have seen very careful translations of all our propaganda to Germany, and I am afraid they do not fit in with the ideas of the hon. Member for Bridgeton's translator about the sort of stuff we send to Germany.
§ Mr. Maxton
I was not at that point referring to the translations of the propaganda we send from this country to Germany. I was talking about what Germany is sending to us, and to the German people.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Gentleman has made his point crystal clear. I am making no reflections on his translator. I thought the point was the other way round. As a matter of fact, the Debate does not deal with what the Germans say to us, but with the subject with which the Amendment of the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) is supposed to deal, which is our propaganda at home and abroad. The hon. Member for Bridgeton asked me to make a long speech, and within the limits of the clock I certainly intend to do so, and my Noble Friend the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said that he hoped I would tell the House something about the B.B.C. Again I think a little instruction is desirable for some people, because the notions held in this highly intelligent House about the B.B.C. are really so remarkable that one wonders if anyone has ever taken the trouble to study the organisation of Broadcasting House.
No one can complain that this has not been a lively Debate and that the hon. Member for Shettleston has not provided us with a most lively topic, because every time you mention the B.B.C. you manage to create a certain intellectual commotion, partly due to the fact that some people, when they hate anything like the B.B.C., they treat it like a hair shirt and feel that they must listen in. So the B.B.C. is, of course, an obvious subject of debate. Like the Press, it covers the world. I remember the late Mr. C. P. Scott, editor of the "Manchester Guardian" for 57 years, who told me that rarely in his life did he meet anyone who did not feel that he could edit the "Manchester Guardian" better than Mr. C. P. Scott. The same thing applies to B.B.C. broadcasting. There will never be wanting a supply of persons unhampered by any technical knowledge who are quite certain that they could run the B.B.C. better than the men and women who have given over the better part of their lives to broadcasting and are responsible for it now. That is the valour of ignorance, and it is a very engaging quality. We have had plenty 915 of criticism, but we have also had plenty of discerning praise, and I ask the pardon of the House if once again I bore them by a wearisome repetition of the relations between the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C. Most knowledgeable Members of the House, one would have thought, would understand these relations, but not at all. Last week my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Sir H. Williams) risked his reputation for infallibility by saying that I had as much power to direct the B.B.C. as any other Minister has to direct any other company, and that the Charter of the B.B.C. is Overridden by the Emergency Powers Act. The truth is that the Charter of the B.B.C. is not affected by the Emergency Powers Act except in this limited sense, that, in common with all other people, the B.B.C. is forbidden to publish information likely to be of value to the enemy. I have obtained a succinct opinion by an eminent lawyer on the relations of the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C. I will read it. It might persuade Members that their notion about the part that the Ministry of Information plays is a rather mistaken one:The Minister's powers under the Emergency Powers Act do not extend to giving any positive directions to the B.B.C. as to what it should do on its services. It does, in fact, possess these powers, but from other sources. Firstly, the Chairman of the B.B.C. gave an undertaking to the then Minister of Information in the first year of the war, that the B.B.C. would accept his direction in all matters pertaining to the war effort. Secondly, the fact that the B.B.C. now derives its finances directly from moneys voted by Parliament puts the Minister in a position to claim that the services for which he thus obtains Parliamentary money should be conducted in a manner what at any rate is generally satisfactory to himself.This may be a curious arrangement, but it works well. It depends, of course, upon the good will and the good sense of the Ministry of Information and the B.B.C. It is an arrangement that perhaps affords infinite opportunities for friction, but since I have been Minister of Information the only difficulty I have ever had with the Governors of the B.B.C. was about finance, because in a time of great emergency they spent a large sum of money. I think they spent it wisely, but they did not consult the Ministry of Information. That offended our bureaucratic pride. We rebuked them very sternly, and we believe the error will not occur again.
§ Mr. Bracken
I will not advertise lawyers. Let us leave the squalid subject of finance, or of lawyers for that matter. The House should ask me, and nobody has asked me to-day, what use we made of the wide powers given to the Ministry when the Governors voluntarily agreed to accept our direction. The fact is that, apart from directly controlling the programmes on the European service, I have made no use of those powers, because, although I am uncertain of many things, I am willing to be dogmatic on one point, and that is that all wisdom does not reside in bureaucrats. It seemed to me that there was no, sense in setting up Government machinery to do the work which was already well done by ordinary citizens. The hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen), in his extremely agreeable speech, suggested that the Ministry of Information should take over all the services of the B.B.C. I am absolutely opposed to that suggestion, and I will give my reasons. The first and most important is that the British public do not want Government edited news, whether it appears in the Press or the B.B.C. news bulletins.
§ Mr. Bracken
If the news bulletins of the B.B.C. were suspected of being given a Government slant, they would lose all character and be discounted in the ears of millions of listeners. Some people believe that the B.B.C. talks, discussions, and entertainment programmes could be improved. That was the burden of the song of the third party. I express no opinion on that point, but this I know, that they would be ruined if they were taken over by the Ministry of Information in accordance with the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
We have had many statements on this not very easy point. Does my right hon. Friend remember that his predecessor said that he was responsible for the principal political statements, news bulletins, and talks sent out by the B.B.C.? The hon. Gentleman who is now his assistant said in October, 1941:The B.B.C. accepts the direction of the Ministry of Information in all matters affecting 917 the national effort."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st October, 1941; col. 583, Vol. 374.]—except the one worked by the P.W.E. What is the difference between that and what my right hon. Friend has just said?
§ Mr. Bracken
What is the relevance of this interruption? There is no difference between what I have read out and what my hon. Friend has quoted. I am not disclaiming any responsibility for my predecessor, but I say there is no difference in the interpretation in any way. The only guidance that the Ministry of Information has ever given to the Governors is to the effect that they should show enterprise and independence in controlling; their important programmes. I myself offered them the platitudinous advice that in the management of a monopoly moderation should always be their limit. I have not done so in order to divest myself of a difficult responsibility. I accept the fullest responsibility for justifying the B.B.C.'s doings in the House. In fact, I have nothing to do in the House in dealing with matters connected with the Ministry of Information. The whole of my time is given over to answering questions about the B.B.C. The Ministry of Information is constantly consulted by the Directors of the B.B.C., and we do everything we can to help them in their arduous work, but that is the limit of our relations with them.
The Government must take absolute responsibility for everything that is said on the European service. It is a vast and complicated organisation which I will try to describe. It broadcasts in no fewer than 27 languages. This represents 38½ hours of programme output every 24 hours. That means 140 bulletins, which is like producing 140 editions of a newspaper per day. The 38½ hours includes the 7 hours a day increase instituted since 29th March. There is to be a further extension during the year by which the total hours of broadcasting will be increased to 43 hours a day. The programmes are broadcast simultaneously on long, medium and short wave lengths, so that the total transmitter time taken up by the B.B.C. European services is approximately 300 hours a day. Except for a break of 1¾ hours, this service continues round the clock. I am giving these figures because they are of great importance. They show the effort put out by the B.B.C. In addition, the B.B.C. has 918 instituted a series of American relays, which are now relayed on medium waves by the B.B.C. for 3½ hours a day in 16, languages.
It is hard to tell how many listeners the B.B.C. may hope to have in Europe. I have been given the surprising figures of between 20,000,000 and 35,000,000 as the number who defy the Nazis and listen in to the B.B.C. at least once a day. I myself think that is an over-statement, but nevertheless the B.B.C. has a very considerable audience in Europe. It is fair to say that any big news story put out by the B.B.C. is known to most people in Western Europe, excluding Germany, within three hours of the time it is put out; but it is also true to say that in Germany itself, where it is estimated that the B.B.C. have well over 1,500,000 listeners, no big news story put out by the B.B.C. and suppressed by Dr. Goebbels fails to have currency throughout the length and breadth of Germany within a week. In Italy, of course, our audiences are greater, and in recent times I have had the most remarkable evidence of the effect of B.B.C. broadcasts to Italy. The Allied Governments in London speak to their own people over the B.B.C., the Czechs, Greeks, Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, and Belgians having their own times for talks, which they themselves direct, and the Yugoslavs and the Free French have special facilities.
There is a very interesting part of the European services' work about which I want to tell the House, and that is the provision that the B.B.C. make for the clandestine newspapers in Europe. There are at least 500 of those newspapers, and they mainly depend upon the B.B.C. for their facts and guidance. Apart from a special Morse transmission which is designed to penetrate all jamming, special broadcasts at slow speed are provided for these newspapers in English, French and German. In the forests of Poland, in the mountains of Norway, in Yugoslavia and Greece, in the cellars of Western Europe, courageous men and women pick up and print those transmissions. It may be asked, "Do the Germans not do their best to jam them?" The answer is that they do. They try desperately to smother this voice of free Europe, but the B.B.C. has shown great wisdom and foresight in this matter. The power of their transmitters has been magnified to overcome this action, and with 919 the co-operation of listeners in various parts of Europe many devices have been produced for beating Germany.
I have given the House some rather essential information about the B.B.C. European services, but, hon. Members may say to me, while this shows impressive energy, is the output really good? Doubt has been cast on the output by some Members in their speeches to-day. How, for instance, someone may ask, is the B.B.C. European service received in France? There is a great pile of tributes from French men and women in the B.B.C. headquarters, and out of that immense pile I will select only one. This is what M. André Philippe, the Socialist Deputy, told the London Press after his escape from France last year:If we have resistance in France, it is because of the B.B.C. Its influence has been tremendous, possibly one of the great influences in French history.The Governments of all our European Allies can best testify to the part that the B.B.C.'s European Services are playing in maintaining and helping resistance in their countries. The best way of understanding the influence of those Services in enemy countries, such as Germany and Italy, is to listen to the constant warnings over the German radio of the crime of listening to the B.B.C. Several of my hon. Friends on this side of the House have recalled to my mind that the B.B.C. has earned this grim credit, that any German citizen who listens to it is liable to a sentence of death. Some people in this House might underestimate the influence of the B.B.C., but the Germans do not. When this war is over, a fascinating story will be written about the way the B.B.C. has invaded the minds of the Italians. In Colonel Stevens, who is the manager of the Italian broadcasts of our European service, Britain possesses one of the most skilful of broadcasting experts. His name is almost as well known in Italy as that of Gayda, who is supposed to be Mussolini's mouthpiece, or even "Woe, woe, Ansaldo." How has he achieved this notoriety? By the persistent attacks made upon his broadcasts by the Italian Government and their Press and radio lackeys; but I must confess that, in the last few months, Colonel Stevens has lost some of his notoriety, because the name "Montgomery" is eclipsing the name of "Stevens." I need hardly tell the House 920 how pleased Colonel Stevens is by this development. Let me sum up about the European news service. It is one of the best and liveliest radio organisations in the world. I wish we could find words adequate to praise the intelligence, energy and resourcefulness of its staff.
Before I deal with the many speeches made in this Debate, I want to say a few words about the sweeping terms of the Amendment. The hon. Member for Shettleston alleges that the B.B.C. has been conducted on totalitarian lines. A large number of my Conservative colleagues believe it is being unduly influenced by the Socialist Party. Who are the totalitarians among the Governors of the B.B.C.? Sir Allan Powell, who has had a long life of public service? If to be Mayor of Kensington shows that you have totalitarian leanings, then of course he may have to plead guilty. If you turn to the Vice-Chairman of the B.B.C., he has undergone great sacrifices in fighting for his country as an airman, and it is an insult to a man of his gallant quality to suggest that he has totalitarian leanings. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Who is he?"] Squadron-Leader Millis. Then there is Lady Bonham-Carter. Shades of Asquith I Totalitarian? Why, she is a Liberal by inheritance; and she has increased her inheritance, and her noble gifts of speech have been used for every cause that can help democracy or liberty. Then there is Mr. Arthur Mann, the greatest editorial critic in England of appeasement and of the totalitarian Powers. Before the hon. Member puts down this foul slander about being totalitarian, he ought to look through the files of the "Yorkshire Post." That would teach him not to describe Mr. Mann as totalitarian. No-one in this House would suggest that my hon. and gallant Friend below the Gangway, the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), or my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) should be included. We know them, and we know them not to be totalitarian. There is nothing totalitarian about the B.B.C. I think it is right to say that at times it seems slightly flocculent [Interruption], which shall be translated for the benefit of the hon. Member as being woolly.
Some of my Tory friends have complained to me about Socialists who they claim occupy key positions in the B.B.C. In support of their accusations, they complain 921 of the B.B.C. and the Beveridge Report. I listened, and the House listened, to the most entertaining speech from the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn), and I wish to deal with this matter of the B.B.C. treatment of the Beveridge Report. The hon. Burgess, or the Senior Burgess or the hon. and Senior Burgess for Cambridge University seemed to have completely forgotten that every important British newspaper, Conservative, Liberal, and Socialist, gave an enormous amount of publicity to the Beveridge Report. Why? Because it was news. It is also a coincidence perhaps that every important newspaper in the world gave a great deal of space to the Beveridge Report, again not because there was some cunning man in the B.B.C., or some Socialist in the Ministry paying out sums to get the Beveridge Report printed. I beg the Senior Burgess to remember that in the B.B.C.'s summary of the Beveridge Report it was quite clearly stated that the Report had not been considered by the Government, and of course had not been adopted by the Government. That was made crystal clear to listeners.
Many people do not like the Beveridge Report, but that is no reason why the Report should not be given publicity. Publicity is the lifeblood of a democracy. I doubt whether there is any Member of Parliament who will challenge the freedom of the Press, because they know that the freedom of the Press is a right of the public and not of the Press. In this generation the genius of science has created a publicity instrument whose power of disseminating news is at least equal to that of the Press, and in the dissemination of news the freedom of the air is no less important than the freedom of the Press. If we will not stand for doctored news in the Press, neither will we stand for doctored news on the air, and as a person formerly connected with the newspapers I am glad it has fallen to my lot to fight for the B.B.C.'s right to publish news with the same freedom as the Press enjoys.
I know that the editors of the B.B.C.'s news bulletins are as fallible in their judgment of news value as are newspaper subeditors. I also know that the editors of the B.B.C.'s news bulletins never allow their personal preferences to influence their choice of news. Their task is more 922 difficult than that of a newspaper editor. They have much less space in which to give the news and often much less time to edit it. So long as I am Minister, I am resolutely determined that no outside influence shall affect the editors of the B.B.C.'s news bulletins in editing news according to their own judgment. I know this policy has sometimes annoyed the Conservative Party, the Socialist Party and the Liberal Party, and always annoys some Independents. Thus all the old die-hards of all parties say that there must be something very wrong with the B.B.C. May I, with great humility, suggest that this coalition of die-hards shows there must be something very right with the B.B.C.?
I have not very much time left, and I have a great deal to say. I have listened to many just and unjust criticisms of the B.B.C.'s failure, in its Home and Forces programmes, to give publicity to many worthy movements. I dare say that able men and women who desire to broadcast their ideas to the public may feel some grievance, but I would ask critics to re-member that the B.B.C.'s home wavelengths are heavily overcrowded. I was about to tell the House at considerable length what is happening in the B.B.C.'s home programmes just as I dealt with the European programmes, but I feel that as I am working against the clock, I have given the House a sufficient summary of the heavy responsibilities borne by the B.B.C.
Some of the things they have done deserve criticism, some of the things they have left undone expose them to blame; but of one thing I am quite satisfied. In all their talks they strive to be fair to all sections of the community; they have no political partisanships and no religious bias. Their hundreds of millions of listeners have good reason to know that the Governors of the B.B.C. have not abused their trust. Some cynical critics of the B.B.C. describe it as a Tower of Babel for tongues to wag in. The British are too fond of decrying their own institutions, and sometimes it does harm. Ignorant jeers at the work of the B.B.C. are a poor return for what it has done.
Security reasons prevent me from describing the difficulties that the B.B.C. have surmounted since the beginning of the war. Unlike the German wireless, the 923 B.B.C. has never been off the air. Its faithful servants have seen to that. I think that every fair-minded Member must acclaim the work of the staff at the B.B.C. Let us recognise that the B.B.C. is one of the greatest of our war assets. I am not here to apologise for the British Broadcasting Corporation: I am here to praise it—and it is time somebody did so. We have taken the B.B.C. too much for granted. We have never considered the ability and the sheer hard work which have enabled it to rise to the heights it has attained in this war. The B.B.C. has lightened the darkness of occupied Europe; it has strengthened the will of the populations there to resist. It has been a faithful servant to the British public and to the British Empire. It has earned our gratitude and the hatred of the totalitarian Powers. The hon. Member for Shettleston has at least rendered a good service by enabling the Minister of Information to make this inadequate recognition of the great services of the B.B.C.
A lot of points have been raised in this Debate, which I should like to answer. First, I should like once again to congratulate—although I do not agree with his argument—the senior Burgess for Cambridge University. He made one of the most entertaining speeches I have heard in this House for a long time. There were two maiden speeches of singular distinction; and what I liked very much was the arrival to the glory of the front bench of the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie). It is a greater honour to sit by election on that front bench than to sit by nomination on this front bench. The speeches throughout the Debate have been altogether thoughtful. I do not say that a lot of new ideas have been put before the B.B.C. Governors to digest; but the Governors have a lot of respect for this
|Division No. 16.||AYES.|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Bowles, F. G.||Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Bracken, Rt. Hon. B.||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Debbie, W.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Bullock, Capt. M.||Douglas, F. C. R.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Burden, T. W.||Driberg, T. E. N.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Dugdale, John (W. Bromwich)|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Campbell, J. D. (Antrim)||Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)|
|Beaumont Hubert (Batley)||Challen, Flight-Lieut. C.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Channon, H.||Elliston, Captain G. S.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Charleton, H. C.||Entwistle, Sir C. F.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. G.||Colman, N. C. D.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Critchley, A.||Everard, Sir W. Lindsay|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Culverwell, C. T.||Fildes, Sir H.|
§ House, and I feel sure that the ideas of the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset certainly deserve a great deal of consideration. If I were a Governor of the B.B.C., I would abolish the whole of the Brains Trust, and offer the position to the hon. Member for Bridgeton. That would be a great improvement. I think the Debate has done a great deal of good. If it has enabled me to inflict on the House this boring lecture on the work of the B.B.C., that is something.
§ The suggestion of the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset is well worth following up. The B.B.C. will welcome the presence at any time of any Member who wishes to inspect its organisation. It is most anxious to encourage Members of Parliament to broadcast, not necessarily on political topics; but, if I may put in a friendly word of warning, broadcasting does not consist merely of writing out a long document and then going to the mike and bellowing into it. There is a certain art in it. When the hon. Member for Rotherham pointed out that the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) had broadcast 156 times, that looked like gross favouritism, but the hon. Member for Bridgwater is a professional broadcaster; being a Member of Parliament is only an incidental part of his life. I want to say again how grateful I am to Members for allowing me to inflict this long lecture on them. I hope that, in future, hon. Members will be able to persuade colleagues like the hon. Member for Shettleston against indulging in what I call most unworthy criticisms of the selfless men and women who have raised the B.B.C. to a position of greatness not held by any other broadcasting company in the world.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 134; Noes, 3.
|Fraser, Lt.-Col. Sir Ian (Lonsdale)||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. (Stl'g & C'km'n)||Poole, Captain C. C.|
|Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Pym, L. R.|
|Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Scottish U's)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Gates, Major E. E.||Kimball, Major L.||Raid, W. Allan (Derby)|
|George, Maj. Rt. Hn. G. Lloyd (P'b'ke)||Kirby, B. V.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Goldie, N. B.||Lawson, J. J.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Gower, Sir R. V.||Lloyd, C. E. (Dudley)||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Lloyd, Major E. G. R. (Renfrew, E.)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Locker-Lampson, Commander O. S.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. D.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Loftus, P. C.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Gridley, Sir A. B.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Grigg, Sir E. W. M. (Altrincham)||Mabane, W.||Somerset, T.|
|Grimston, R. V.||McCallum, Major D.||Southby, Comdr. Sir A. R. J.|
|Groves, T. E.||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Gruffydd, W. J.||McEntee, V. La T.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Islington, N.)||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Guy, W. H.||Mathers, G.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'thm'tn)|
|Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Thurtle, E.|
|Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P.||Walkden, E. (Doncaster)|
|Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Molson, A. H. E.||Walker-Smith, Sir J.|
|Herbert, Petty Officer A. P. (Oxford U.)||Morris-Jones, Sir Henry||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Hicks, E. G.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Westwood, J.|
|Hill, Prof. A. V.||Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C. E.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Naylor, T. E.||Wilkinson, Ellen|
|Hogg, Hon. Q. McG.||Nicholson, Captain G. (Farnham)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Holmes, J. S.||Nicolson, Hon. H. G. (Leicester, W.)||Womersley, Rt. Hon. Sir W.|
|Hopkinson, A.||Oliver, G. H.||Woodburn, A.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Hughes, R. M.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Palmer, G. E. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Hurd, Sir P. A.||Petherick, Major M.||Mr. Boulton and Captain|
|Granville, E. L.||Stephen, C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|Reakes, G. L. (Wallasey)||Mr. Maxton and Mr. McGovern.|
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Supply accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Major MILNER in the Chair.]