§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Richard Law)
I beg to move:That this House approves the proposals of His Majesty's Government for the Reform of the Foreign Service contained in Command Paper No. 6420.It is a matter of very great regret to me, and I am sure it will be to the House, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is not in his place to-day. My right hon. Friend has for a large number of years taken a very great interest in the important problem which we are to discuss to-day. I suppose that no man now living has a wider experience of foreign affairs than he from both the technical and the political angles. As the House knows, his connection with the Foreign Office began as long ago as 1926, when he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the late Sir Austen Chamberlain, and since that time, with a few comparatively brief intermissions, he has been connected with the Foreign Office. It was a matter of deep regret, indeed of deep disappointment, to my right hon. Friend that he was not able to be here to launch these reforms, which owe their being entirely to his inspiration, his imagination and his enthusiasm, and I am sure the House will share his disappointment. I hope too that the House will give me its understanding and its patience in the difficult task which is facing me to-day.
Before I deal with the proposals in the White Paper, there are one or two general observations which I would like to make and which will, I hope, give something of 1358 the background of this problem and something of what was in my right hon. Friend's mind—as far as I am able to interpret it—when he conceived this scheme of reform. First, I would ask myself one or two questions and suggest that hon. Members should put the same questions to themselves. What is the necessity for a reform of the Foreign Service to-day; what are the weaknesses of the Foreign Service, and in what ways can that Service be strengthened? I believe there is a great deal of muddled thinking about the Foreign Service and the part which it plays in our affairs—muddled thinking of a kind which is exemplified by a story that had a certain currency during the early days of the war. It is said that two young officers were travelling in a train and were beguiling the tedium of the journey with a discussion on the higher strategy of the war. One maintained that the war would be won by air power. The other maintained as stoutly that it was going to be just like the last war, with vast land forces immobilised in trench warfare. Thus the discussion went on, and as the train was drawing into the terminus and the passengers were getting their luggage out of the racks, a distinguished-looking gentleman, neatly clad in black coat and striped trousers, who had been sitting in the corner, turned to the two young officers and said to them that he had been much interested in their discussion, adding, "I hope you realise that if it had not been for us, you would not have had your silly old war at all. I come from the Foreign Office."
That is not a true story. On the other hand, a number of people believe it to be true—at any rate in the sense that a parable is true. A great many people believe that the Foreign Office is responsible for the formulation of foreign policy and is, in large degree, the final arbiter of peace or war. That is not the case. It may be said that our foreign policy between the two wars was mistaken. Speaking from this vantage-point of time, I would say myself that it was tragically mistaken, and I think probably all hon. Members of this House would agree with me, though the basis of their agreement might be different from mine. But the responsibility for that foreign policy was not the responsibility of the Foreign Service. It was the responsibility of the Cabinet, of the Government, of this House of Commons and of the 1359 people of this country. It is easy enough to find scapegoats, but one has to remember that the scapegoat itself is an innocent creature which symbolises and represents the guilt of other people. The Foreign Service has been held up as the scapegoat for the disasters that have fallen upon us, but, as I have said, the Foreign Service is not responsible for policy. Policy is the responsibility of the Cabinet, and the Cabinet is responsible to this House, and, what is more, the Cabinet is responsive to this House, and when we think of the things that happened between the two wars, it would be well for us in this House to remember that.
If the formulation of policy is not the function of the Foreign Service, what then is its function? I would say that 80 per cent. of the work of the Foreign Service, both here in London at the Foreign Office and in missions abroad, is taken up with the settlement of quite unimportant arguments and disputes between His Majesty's Government and foreign Governments, between British interests and the interests of other countries—disputes of the kind for which in ordinary life we employ on either side solicitors, in order to clear up any matters in dispute without any necessity of litigation. Eighty per cent. of the work of the Foreign Service is that rather humdrum, dreary, routine, but highly important work.
So far as foreign policy itself is concerned, the Foreign Service has a double function. In the first place, it is the duty of the Foreign Service to advise His Majesty's Government and to give the Cabinet a background of information about foreign countries. In the second place, it is the function of the Foreign Service to represent His Majesty's Government and this country in foreign countries, to try to put across the policy, whatever it may be, upon which the Cabinet is determined in those countries, to try to promote British interests, of which international peace and international understanding are the most important, and to do that within the limits set out, not by Foreign Office officials, but by the Cabinet. I say within those limits advisedly, because, obviously, if it is the policy of the Cabinet to appease a foreign country, nothing that the Foreign Service official 1360 can do can alter that policy, and, equally, if it is the policy of His Majesty's Government to be firm, there is nothing that the Foreign Office official can do to placate. The function of the Foreign Service, therefore, is in the main interpretative rather than positive. The Foreign Service man is not a principal; he is only the agency of His Majesty's Government. I do not think it is possible to over-emphasise that point, for it is a point of which the House is aware but of which the public is not fully aware.
If that is the position, if the Foreign Service is not responsible for the formulation of foreign policy, one might ask: "Why all this fuss and bother; why bother to reform the Foreign Service at all?" I will try to give some of the reasons of my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend is not proposing Foreign Service reform because in his view the Foreign Service is inefficient. In the view of my right hon. Friend, in my view, and, I think, in the view of everybody who has seriously considered the problem, the Foreign Service has been and is extremely efficient. The reason is simply that time marches on, that conditions change, that even the best machine has to be brought up to date and remodelled from time to time. The Foreign Service is a very good example of that. From the day in 1782 when the Foreign Office first began, when the Secretary of State for the Southern Department and the Secretary of State for the Northern Department were abolished and their places taken by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, there has been a considerable series of reforms, the last of which was made at the time of the last war. If there has been a necessity in the past to reform the Foreign Service, in the sense of bringing it up to date, there is more necessity to-day, because in the lifetime of the youngest Member of this Parliament world conditions generally have completely changed, and in particular the conditions with which the Foreign Office is called upon to deal. It is said that the human body renews itself in every tissue every seven years. Something like that has happened in the last generation to the whole structure of human society. It is vital that every one of our Services, and especally the Foreign Service, should be remodelled to take account of those new conditions.
1361 I conceive that there are two main changes which have taken place and which vitally affect the conduct of our international affairs. The first is the disappearance of what, for lack of a better term, one might call the governing class. That class has disappeared everywhere. Until relatively recently, in every Western country there was a small and restricted class which was responsible for the government and for the policy of that country. In every country that class was the same. It had the same traditions, the same outlook, the same standards of education and of values. In those days it was necessary only that our diplomats should be members of the governing class. Indeed, in those days it was essential that they should be members of that restricted class, because if they were not, they would have had very little influence in the countries to which they were accredited. Then the hunting ground of the diplomats and the Foreign Office officials consisted of a few drawing rooms and a few odd chancelleries. The general field of human affairs in the country in which he worked was something beyond his ken and beyond his responsibility. I would mislead the House if I tried to suggest that members of the Foreign Service to-day were drawn from so restricted a class, or were so restricted in their ideas. For a long time the net has been cast very widely. But tendencies which were well-marked before the war will certainly become even more definite in the post-war period, and it Would be desirable that every member of our Foreign Service should be in the fullest possible sense representative of our whole nation, of every class and section of the community, and that he should be able to deal in the country to which he is accredited with the whole nation, irrespective of class and outlook. That is one great change.
There is another, perhaps an even greater, change that has come about. I mean, the fusion of politics and economics in foreign affairs. That is very much in the public mind and is very widely discussed in the Press. In one sense there has never been any distinction. The influence of economics has always been imposed upon politics. Indeed, it is just a little more than 100 years since Mr. Disraeli introduced into this House a Motion advocating the amalgamation of the Consular and Diplomatic bodies, and Mr. Disraeli urged that the distinction be- 1362 tween politics and commerce had become altogether blurred. Mr. Disraeli's Motion was rejected, but it is curious to reflect that a century later the Foreign Office spokesman is advocating the same thing for the same reasons. Perhaps it is not so curious as it sounds, because I suppose the House generally would agree that the Tory Party is always about 100 years ahead of contemporary thought. The day has quite clearly gone for ever when the diplomat can concern himself solely with those fascinating questions of high policy and leave the bread and butter questions of economics to more vulgar minus. The stuff of which our international relationships is made is becoming increasingly economic as well as political, and economics are all the time playing a more important part.
But there is something more than that. Just as the distinction has been blurred between politics and economics, so, in a sense, is the distinction blurred between home affairs and foreign affairs. The well-being of the people of this country here at home, leaving aside any question of peace and war, depends very largely upon the degree to which we can nourish and revive our export trade. The Foreign Service in the future will have to give all the help it can to our exporters; it will have to do everything it can to revive, develop and increase our export trade. And so the duties of the Foreign Service now, quite apart from international relations, though they are important enough, are extremely important because of our whole standard of life here, of our standard of education, housing and social security. Our whole lives here depend fundamentally upon the chances of our reviving our export trade. That is one of the reasons, I have no doubt, why many people have taken the view, in the Press and elsewhere, that the Foreign Service is now due for an eclipse and that it will be eclipsed by other great Departments of State which bear more intimately upon our lives here in this country. That is not my view, and it is not the view of my right hon. Friend. These modern tendencies which I have been attempting to describe—the mixture of politics and economics, the mixture of home affairs and foreign affairs—only mean that the work which the Foreign Service has to do is more important and that the Foreign Service must be made even more efficient 1363 than it is to-day, and that is one of the main purposes of my right hon. Friend's proposal.
But there is one other difference in conditions to-day from conditions a generation or two generations ago, and that is this. There was a time when it could be said with truth that the objectives of our foreign policy were simply the prevention of war. That is no longer the case. When this war is over we have to do something more than merely prevent war. We have to create peace. We have to create those conditions of confidence, development and expansion in which men and women in this country and in every other country can take advantage, as they did not take advantage in the period between the two wars, of the marvellous inheritance which is awaiting mankind if only it can have the sense to seize it.
It is against this background that I would ask the House to consider the proposals of my right hon. Friend. In every one of these proposals my right hon. Friend has had these considerations in mind. Each one of these proposals is designed to ensure that the Foreign Service can take advantage of the new conditions which have arisen in the world; each one of these proposals is designed to show that the Foreign Service is aware that even greater responsibilities will fall upon it in the future than in the past; each one of these proposals is designed to tighten up the efficiency of the Service and to make it as effective a service to the country as it possibly can be. The first of my right hon. Friend's proposals for the reorganisation of the Foreign Service—I would refer to the White Paper—is for the creation of a new Combined Foreign Service separated from the Home Civil Service and treated as a self-contained and distinct service of the Crown.
The first proposal of this new Service relates to the amalgamation of the Consular, the Commercial Diplomatic, and the Diplomatic Services. I would say, in passing, that my right hon. Friend attaches very great importance to the separation of the Foreign Service from the Home Civil Service for this reason. At the present time members of the Foreign Service spend part of their lives abroad and part of their lives in London at the Foreign Office. When they are abroad 1364 they are members of a separate and self-contained Service—the Foreign Service—but when they are in London they are assimilated very largely to the conditions of the Home Civil Service, and that means in effect that the Foreign Secretary is prevented, because of the differences in conditions at home and abroad, among other reasons, from moving a man freely from one post to another according to the needs of the moment and the efficiency of the individual. Very often we have to keep a man abroad because he cannot fit in at home. As things are now, very often the Foreign Secretary's whole freedom of action is very largely confined.
The White Paper deals with the reasons for the amalgamation of the three Services, and I hope that the House will consider that these reasons are sound. There will always be a distinction of function between the Consular work, the Commercial Diplomatic work and the Diplomatic work pure and simple. They are different kinds of jobs, and they will require different kinds of people to do them, but even though there is this difference, it will not be obliterated by anything that my right hon. Friend proposes. It is, in his view, of the greatest importance that there should be the fullest possible interchange and the fullest possible fusion between the three branches of the Service, and for this he has three main reasons. In the first place, present conditions are extremely unfair in this respect, that some men spend the whole of their careers in the most interesting and fascinating political posts in the great capitals of the world, whereas other men are condemned to spend the whole of their careers in some dark and gloomy outpost where there is very little political interest and very little excitement of any kind, and, from the point of view of fairness and of the spirit of the Service as a whole, that is not at all a satisfactory arrangement. That is the first reason.
The second reason is, that it is vitally important, if you are to have this new Service and if you are to have the right spirit in that Service, that the highest posts should be open to every member of the Service, from whatever branch of it he comes. The third reason is, that it is vitally important that every member of the Service, in whatever branch he may be working, should have, as far as possible, an all-round knowledge of 1365 foreign affairs as a whole; that is to say, that the political diplomat should have knowledge and understanding of economic questions and that the consular and commercial diplomat should have equal knowledge and understanding of the political background of the perhaps more technical questions with which he is dealing. Of course, it will not be possible to have an amalgamation of the Services in the sense that every man who enters the new Service will spend a third of his life in the Consular Service, a third of his life in the Diplomatic and a third of his life in the Commercial Diplomatic. That will not be possible, nor would it be desirable. In fact, it will be found that some men have a special aptitude for commercial and consular work and others a special aptitude for political work, and eventually each one will settle down to his own speciality. But it is intended that in the early part of his career every man shall have some period of service in each of the three branches of the Service, and that, in my right hon. Friend's view—and I hope that the House will agree with him—should be definitely to the advantage of the Service as a whole.
Now there are three great advantages which should accrue from the amalgamation of the three Services. You cannot have great advantages without having some compensating disadvantages, and I would like to say a word or two about those disadvantages. In the first place, if you have a Foreign Service of 700 men and it is your intention that each one of those men shall serve at one time or another in each of the three branches and that each one shall serve a period in London so that he will know this country as well as foreign countries, it is possible that the spells of duty of any given Foreign Service man in London will be very short and that, in consequence, he will not have that knowledge of conditions in this country that he must have if he is effectively to represent this country abroad. My right hon. Friend is aware of that danger and hopes that it will be possible to bring men home from time to time for short refresher courses both in the Foreign Office and, if possible, in other Government Departments, where they will get a background of knowledge which will be useful to them when they go abroad again. Another obvious difficulty about amalgamation is that if it takes place on the pre-war basis, the Consular 1366 officials would together outswamp the Diplomatic, and if we are to get a combined and effective Service, that is not at all desirable.
My right hon. Friend is, therefore, proposing to mitigate that disadvantage in the following ways: He proposes, first of all, to make an increase in the diplomatic posts. As I shall say in a few minutes, our diplomacy has suffered very much in the past from understaffing. My right hon. Friend proposes to make some reduction in the Consular posts. I would not like it to be thought that because he proposes to make this reduction he sets no value, or very little value, upon the work which our Consuls are doing all over the world. That is not the case at all; he sets great store by that work. He proposes to make up for the reduction in the Consuls partly by regrouping the existing Consular posts so that the Consular posts in any given country will be rationalised, as it were, and brought into more intimate and reasonable contact with the head of the Mission in that country and partly by promoting to some of the existing, or pre-war, posts men in subordinate grades of the Foreign Service for whom adequate avenues of promotion are not at present open.
My right hon. Friend, therefore, feels that, in spite of the disadvantages, the advantages of amalgamation are very considerable and that it should not be rejected. The amalgamation, we hope, will mean that the Service as a whole will be inspired with a new spirit and that the members of it will have more ambition and will face their work and problems with much wider experience than they have possessed in the past. There is one other disadvantage that may result from the amalgamation and which has to be guarded against. It is the possibility of our losing the expert knowledge of the Far East and Oriental countries generally upon which the Foreign Service has always prided itself, and with justice. My right hon. Friend intends that where men are selected for Oriental and Eastern posts and have served there for three, four or five years, or whatever term it might be, they will return to a Western country, so that you will not get, as has sometimes happened in the past, people who are complete and absolute specialists on the Far East, but who have little or no knowledge of conditions in the Western 1367 world. My right hon. Friend is determined that our Far Eastern experts, when they have done their preliminary years of training in the Far East, shall be brought back into contact with the Western world again, so that when they go back to the Far East they will have knowledge, not only of Far Eastern politics and ways of life, but of world politics as a whole. I would like to say, too, that my right hon. Friend is deeply conscious of the importance in the future of' Latin America and will take steps to develop and improve the Foreign Service throughout the American Continent.
The second section of the White Paper, that which deals with recruitment and training, is, possibly, the most important part of the White Paper, but it is so clearly explained that I do not think I need detain the House for very long with it. It is clear from the White Paper what the purpose of this proposal is. The purpose of Section II is simply this: First, no young man of ability, personality and character will be prevented from going into the Foreign Service through any lack of means. Second, every young man who does go into the Foreign Service shall receive the fullest possible training and grounding, not only in foreign languages, but in commercial and economic practice, trade union law and so forth. If we are to throw open the Foreign Service to men without means—and I do not know, if we do not, where we should find men with means to make a start—it will not be much good unless we see to it that when they get into the Foreign Service they are enabled to live decently and do a decent job on their pay. That is the reason for the proposals of Section III of the White Paper.
I would like to elaborate slightly the arguments in Section III, I do not know whether any hon. Members have been aware of how woefully understaffed the Foreign Service has been in the past. There have been few Diplomatic posts where there have been more than two Diplomatic Secretaries and a great many where there have been no Diplomatic Secretaries. In the 50 Missions abroad, which existed before the war, there was a total trained staff of about 130, or some-thing like two and a half trained diplomats to run every Mission. In these conditions it is not possible to run an effective Foreign Service, and my right hon. 1368 Friend is determined that when these reforms become effective after the war our diplomats abroad shall be sufficiently numerous that each one will not have to spend the whole of his time wrestling with mountains of paper on his desk, but, in addition to the head of the Mission himself, will have time to go about among the people of the country, get a full grasp of their interests and outlook and also be able to keep in touch with British residents in that country.
At the present time, as I said earlier, it is very difficult for the Foreign Secretary to move people freely between posts abroad and posts at home, and for that reason my right hon. Friend makes the proposals which are outlined in Section III. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has very kindly agreed to my right hon. Friend's proposals, but I would like to say to the House that his generosity is not unique among Chancellors of the Exchequer, because this principle of allowances for men serving in the Foreign Office is an old one. In the 18th century the Permanent Under-Secretary had an allowance which was vastly in excess of his official emoluments; he was also open to the reception of various interesting gifts, for example, a cargo of fresh herrings, which would be very agreeable to see in the Foreign Office to-day, or a parcel of rhubarb. It may be interesting to some of my hon. Friends to know that the funds from which this allowance was derived in the 18th century were devoted, among other things, to the killing and apprehension of Tories.
§ Mr. Law
To Tories, like my noble Friend. But I understand that that is not my right hon. Friend's intention at this time. Before I come to the last of the major proposals in this Bill, I would ask hon. Members to pay particular attention to the proposals, in Section VI of the White Paper, for the subordinate staff. The position in the Foreign Service in this respect has not been satisfactory in the past. The Foreign Service has consisted of an army of officers, and an army of officers is not, probably, very good. It is my right hon. Friend's intention to see that the subordinate staffs are brought into the Foreign Service in a way that they are not now and that we have an army in which every soldier, whether 1369 officer or private, will owe full loyalty to the army and will have open to him honourable avenues of ambition and promotion.
Now I come to the superannuation provisions of Section V. This is a point which has evoked the greatest interest in the House and outside it. I think the House is familiar with the existing position, which is that the Foreign Secretary has power to retire a man on pension before the age of 60 if he falls ill but has no power to retire a man on pension if he is just not up to his job. In every walk of life people go into a service, and perhaps after 10, 15 or 20 years their energy seems to go; they do not seem to fulfil the promise of their early youth, and either they have to be dismissed, or put into posts for which they are unsuited or stay in their present posts and clutter up the avenues of promotion. In the past, owing to the inability of the Foreign Secretary to pension off a man of this character, there has grown up the custom of sending men like that to unimportant posts or, at any rate, posts considered to be unimportant. That was a bad policy before the war and would be a fatal policy after the war. Who can say that any post in the world is going to be unimportant? The Foreign Service after the war will want in every post the very best possible man.
§ Mr. Law
The purpose of the Bill, which I will not anticipate, will be to give the Foreign Secretary powers to pension off members of the Foreign Service who have been faithful and devoted servants, who have committed no crime, who have been excellent subordinates, but who are not quite fitted to take the posts of the highest responsibility. This, of course, makes an alteration in the condition of service, because at the present time, when a man enters the Foreign Service, he has the expectation that if he commits no crime and his health holds out, he will go on in the Foreign Service until he reaches the age of 60; and in these circumstances it is proposed that there should be a very slight increase both in the pension 1370 and in the lump sum awarded to the official who retires.
§ Mr. William Brown (Rugby)
According to the terms of the White Paper, the provision for retirement with accrued pension rights is only to operate in the case of officers with the rank of First Secretary or above. I approve of this proposal, but why is its scope so much restricted? Why not cover all the officers?
§ Mr. Law
I think the reason probably is that these proposals are hardly likely to apply to a man unless he gets above the post of First Secretary. I think that the critical time, as it were, in the life of a Foreign Office official, or indeed in the life of any of us, is when the first enthusiasm of life has gone, when we reach 40 or 45—[Interruption.] It affects me, too. I do not say that people come to an end when they reach the age of 40 or 45; I say that the first flush of youthful enthusiasm goes. When we get beyond that age, the more robust and the wiser of us substitute for that youthful enthusiasm mature and experienced enthusiasm. It is for those people who do not make that substitution that these proposals are desired. These proposals do not give the Foreign Secretary any powers he has not got at the present time. Theoretically he can get rid of any man he pleases, but the Foreign Secretary would have to be a very hard-hearted man and a very disagreeable man if, in present circumstances, he were willing or anxious to get rid of men who have given many years of faithful service and who suffer from no faults of character, or indeed of intellect, but are just no longer suitable for the highest posts. It is a matter of some importance as to how this power will be exercised, and it is very important that the Service should understand that there will be no chance of the Foreign Secretary exercising his powers tyrannically. I think I can give the House that assurance. The White Paper refers to a special board under the chairmanship of a former senior member of the Service. The proposals for this Board have not yet been fully worked out but the House may rest assured that we shall take care to see that, however that proposal is finally worked out, a balance is maintained between possible tyranny on the part of the Foreign Secretary on the one hand and, on the other hand, the Foreign 1371 Secretary's ability, which is obviously absolutely necessary, to be master in his own house.
I have left to the last the most formidable of the hurdles in the course which I have set myself. I can only hope I shall be able somehow to scramble over it without anything worse than a few surface scratches and a bruise or two. Section VII of the White Paper deals with that subject which is so close to the heart of my Noble Friend, the admission of women. Section VII makes quite clear what the proposals of my right hon. Friend are. He proposes that this question should be re-examined afresh at the end of the war by an impartial committee. My right hon. Friend is fully aware of the very great work which women have done and are doing in the subordinate grades of the Service, and he is also aware that there is a certain lack of logic in proposals which, intending to make the Foreign Service more representative of the people of the country as a whole, yet debar rather more than half of the people of the country from entering the Service. He is fully aware of that. Nevertheless, it is a very difficult and a very important problem, which was gone into fully not so very long ago. In 1934, a Committee, quite an influential and powerful Committee, was set up to go into this problem, and in 1936 the Report of the Committee was issued with the comments of the Government of the day. In that covering Report, His Majesty's Government stated that they were not convinced by the arguments for the inclusion of women in the Diplomatic Service. It is important to remember, when considering that Report, that the question of the inclusion of women in the Diplomatic Service was more or less of a tie; the Committee were very evenly divided; but there was a very considerable majority of the Committee against the inclusion of women in the Consular Service where their function would be so very different. If that doubt was reasonable in 1934 and 1936, it becomes even more reasonable now when we are proposing to make one combined Service and when anyone who goes into the Diplomatic Service automatically goes into the Consular Service as well, and if my right hon. Friend had done what my Noble Friend would have liked, he would have been going absolutely counter not only to the Government of the 1372 day but to the majority Report of that Committee. I do not think the House ought to expect him to do that on so important a point without further consideration.
There is another point I would make to the House while I am on this topic, and that is that the value of women in the Diplomatic Service does not depend on the value which we set upon them here in this country. It depends upon the reception which they would receive in foreign countries. That was admitted by, I think, every member of the Committee of which I am speaking, and it is interesting to remember that one very important witness before that Committee, who was arguing in favour of the admission of women into the Diplomatic Service, admitted that there were 28 countries to which it would be impossible to send women. If that is still the case to-day, if there are 28 countries or anything like that number where it would be undesirable to send women diplomats, and if we were to admit women into the Foreign Service, that would mean that one of the fundamental bases of my right hon. Friend's proposal would be completely undermined, for one of the most important parts of his scheme is to ensure that there is the freest possible interchange between the various posts, and if there is a very large number of posts to which women cannot go, that interchange must be completely wrecked. I think it will be necessary when the war is over to examine this question afresh, and I think the House would be wise to accept my right hon. Friend's view on that. These are questions of very great importance, and before they can be properly answered we must know a great deal more about conditions in the post-war world than we know now. I think the House will agree that my right hon. Friend's proposal to have a Committee of Inquiry after the war—and it is important to remember that he has said that the activities of that Committee would be in no way prejudiced by the evidence of the Committee which went before—is the best solution possible in the circumstances.
I must thank the House very much for the patience with which it has listened to my exposition of these perhaps rather complicated proposals. The White Paper indicates that these proposals are necessarily incomplete and liable to modification in detail. I know that my right hon. 1373 Friend will pay particular attention to any criticims or suggestions which are made by hon. Members in this Debate, and I know, too, that he will pay great attention to any suggestions which may be made to him in another place, where there is, of course, a particular wealth of experience in diplomatic matters and foreign affairs. My right hon. Friend is very anxious to get the approval of Parliament for these proposals and to submit an Order in Council for the setting-up of the new Foreign Service. Therefore, I hope the House will give its approval to the White Paper. In doing so, it will certainly in my judgment be creating a very much better Foreign Service, and in doing so it will be holding out to so many young men who are now serving the country, and who would, if it had not been for the war, have been trying to enter the Foreign Service, the promise of a fruitful and honourable career in the service of their country.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence (Edinburgh, East)
It is no disparagement of the right hon. Gentleman, to whom the House has listened with so much pleasure, to say that we share his regret at the unavoidable absence of the Foreign Secretary owing to still more important engagements overseas. I had not the privilege of being in the House when the right hon. Gentleman's distinguished father was leading it, but I have been told by those who were here at that time that one of the characteristics which endeared him to the House was his ability to make a speech without having a single note. I am sure I am voicing the opinion of those who have listened to the right hon. Gentleman's speech in saying that we should like to tell him how much we have appreciated his ability to live up to the tradition of his distinguished father, because there is no doubt whatever that a speech delivered as he has done it is much more effective than one that requires continual application to notes prepared in advance.
If I have a criticism of the matter of the speech, particularly of his introductory remarks, it would be that he overstated the position that he was defending in two particulars. In the first place, I think he over-stated the subordination of the Foreign Office to the Government of the day and almost suggested that it only played a kind of office-boy part. While, of course, I agree with him that all the major 1374 decisions taken, for instance, preceding the present war, when he and I saw more eye to eye than other Members in different parts of the House, those decisions were the decisions of the Prime Minister essentially. Nevertheless, I cannot acquit the Foreign Office in a large sense from all blame with regard to what was done, because I take the view, and I believe the view could be substantiated by those who have better knowledge than I have of the matter, that this country was not fully informed by its representatives abroad of what was going on in foreign countries, nor, I think, was this country always well represented by the Foreign Service in the capitals to which it was accredited.
I think the right hon. Gentleman somewhat over-stated the position also when he said that these changes proposed in the White Paper were not being made because the Foreign Office was inefficient. He qualified that by saying the real reason was that conditions had grown up which rendered the Foreign Office, which was efficient, unable to cope with the present circumstances. He can have it that way if he likes, but I am bound to say that an organisation which fails to keep abreast of the times is certainly, in my opinion, inefficient, and I should have thought it was of the very essence of inefficiency that the Foreign Office had failed to keep abreast of the times. However, that is largely a matter of words, and I do not very much mind precisely the terms that are used to describe the position. What, I think, will be agreed, both by the right hon. Gentleman and by the House as a whole, is that it is high time there was reform in the Foreign and Diplomatic Service, because at the present day it fails to be abreast of the current life and activities of the country to represent them abroad. I imagine that the only difference there may be among Members of the House is as to how radical that reform should be.
Though there are points in the White Paper to which I shall take some exception, I am of opinion that the spirit underlying the White Paper is thoroughly good, and the main question to which I will address myself is how far this spirit is likely to be implemented, what are the forms of implementation that ought to be carried out, and how far inertia or, if you like, snobbery or blimpery will stand in the way of what ought to be done. The fact is that up to now the Foreign Office has not had a 20th century mind 1375 or 20th century apparatus. I would go further and question whether in some respects it has even got as far as a 19th century mind. I would suggest that in many respects it still has an 18th century outlook and has had an 18th century method in the choice of its personnel, with the result that it has been largely ignorant not merely of 20th century development, of the life and activity of our country as it is to-day, but even of some of the 19th century requirements, and that its representatives are often ill-equipped to deal with questions which have become of first-rate importance at any time during the last 150 years. I suggest that this arises partly from the fact that the Foreign Office is an enclave, shut off from other parts of the Civil Service, shut off by its method of selection from representing the nation as a whole, but also very largely because it has been protected from the healthy wind of criticism of this House of Commons, which has not been allowed to blow through it.
For that, of course, there have been obvious reasons. By its nature the decisions, the actions and the information of the Foreign Office cannot all be made public property, as similar matters in some of our domestic Ministries can be. I remember Debates in the House, particularly when Sir Austen Chamberlain was Foreign Secretary, when we had the hush-hush policy carried to extravagant degrees, so that anyone who ventured to criticise or doubt any of the things that were being said was regarded as almost guilty of leése majesté, or of endangering the very safety of the State. I, of course, recognise up to a point the validity of that attitude, but I think at the same time it is that lack of the wind of criticism which has been responsible to some extent for the stagnation of the Foreign Service. I would suggest that the Service has been planned in a way that did not meet the needs of the present day, and it has been staffed largely by gentlemanly amateurs who knew little of the life either of their own country or of those in which they served, and, having been selected from a small well-to-do class, could not know very much. The result of that was definitely bad. On the one hand, diplomacy is breaking up into a whole series of specialisms, and the regular personnel of the Foreign Office and 1376 Diplomatic Service appears to have had little experience or training which would qualify it to deal with them. On the other hand, the ability to distinguish sympathetically and to interpret at home and abroad popular movements and affairs is becoming every day more important. Many of the public school and Oxford and Cambridge young men on the staffs of Embassies know little about such matters and appear not to wish to know them. That, of course, is a strong criticism and certainly does not apply to every one, but it applies to an important proportion of the Corps.
There are two main necessities. The first is that an Embassy should be in possession of up-to-date information, not merely of large business and trade matters, but of industrial issues. It ought to know a great deal about British labour and be able to interpret British labour conditions to the country where it is accredited, and it ought to be studying the labour conditions in that country and be able to report back to us the information which is obtained. I understand that at Washington a very good beginning has been made. I do not know whether I am using the correct term, but I understand that there is a labour Attaché connected with the Embassy there and that a great deal of the work done is of an admirable character. This has to be followed up elsewhere, and, in order to enable that to be done, there must be suitable status and staff. The official appointed to represent British industry and labour should be able to answer all questions on the subject addressed to him by the nationals of the country where he is, and to supply full and regular information about corresponding subjects in that country to the British Government, to advise the Ambassador on matters relating to them, and to travel about sometimes and attend conferences and establish personal contacts, and for that he requires knowledge and expert assistance. But, of course, it is not only in trade and labour matters that an Embassy needs to be well informed. It needs to have accurate in-formation with regard to a great many other services rendered by the Government at home. It would hardly be too much to say in the very largest Embassies that it has to reproduce in petto the whole of the functions of the home Government, and one particular example of that is the Colonial Service.
1377 I was rather sorry to hear the strong view expressed by the Under-Secretary on behalf of his chief that, as I understood him, he thought that any inter-penetration between officials of, say, the Colonial Service and the Foreign Service was not acceptable. I had hoped it would be possible, say, for recruits to the Foreign Office sometimes to enter it from one of the other Services, such as the Colonial Office. I gathered from what he said that that was not acceptable and that it was proposed to build a wall round the Foreign Service which would prohibit members entering it from other Ministries.
§ Mr. Law
The point I was trying to make was that the Foreign Service was going to be separated from the Home Civil Service from the point of view of strict assimilation of conditions of service and so on, because unless it is separated in that way, it has been and will continue to be extremely difficult to exchange men between London and posts abroad. So far as other Government Departments are concerned, I think I said it was my right hon. Friend's intention to bring men home and post them temporarily in other Government Departments. I do not think it can go very far in letting in people from other parts of the Civil Service without destroying the spirit of initiative and esprit de corps of the Foreign Service.
§ Mr. Pethick-Lawrence
I do not know how far that goes, but I gather that it rules out what I had in mind. Perhaps it would be possible to second a person for a time from the Colonial Office to assist in Foreign Office duties. The Foreign Office has further, in my opinion, to be imbued, I do not say with a journalistic spirit, for that would be putting it much too high, but with some knowledge that may be acquired in, say, the Ministry of Information. I believe that the Marquess of Salisbury, the Prime Minister, was in his youth a journalist, or at any rate for a time took a considerable part in journalism, and I always thought that that added to his capacity and knowledge when he had to represent views in a way that the public could understand. There-fore, although I certainly do not suggest that the Foreign Office should be recruited largely by journalists, I think that a certain amount of journalistic knowledge which could be acquired in the Ministry of Information in future may not be altogether irrelevant to the Foreign Office official as I see that he may be.
1378 In the larger emphasis I contemplate, as I think the White Paper does, a considerable number of well-informed persons, all contributing to give advice to the Ambassador himself and to equip him and his officers generally with knowledge, experience and understanding which will help them to carry out their duties. That cannot exist in the smaller Ministries or Embassies or whatever they are called, where the number of officials is only two or three. I want to stress the importance in those cases of having all-round men, because, if we have men at the head of those offices whose knowledge is limited to certain social contacts to which they have been accustomed, as has been the case in the past, it will render the Ministries to the smaller countries hopelessly inefficient. For that reason I thoroughly welcome the proposals for dealing with some of the officials who are or who have been occupying positions in what are considered the less important countries. I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about the undesirability of thinking that because a country is small it thereby does not very much matter what sort of a man, however much a failure he may be, is appointed as our representative. I have had experience of some of the men who have been appointed in the smaller places. I do not want to be thought to be disparaging our Ministers as a whole, many of whom carry out their work in a most admirable way, but I do not think any of us will deny that there are men who would be much better not there and who produce on the countries to which they are accredited a very unfavourable view of the British attitude.
There are one or two points in the White Paper to which I would like to call special attention. Paragraph 4 in its beginnings, I think, admirably sets out the criticisms of this House. It says:The conditions which the Diplomatic Service originally grew up to meet no longer exist unchanged in modern international affairs. Economics and finance have become inextricably interwoven with politics; an understanding of social problems and labour movements is indispensable in forming a properly balanced judgment of world events. The modern diplomat should have a more intimate understanding of these special problems and greater opportunities to study them than he has usually possessed in the past.I do not think that it can be much better said than that, and provided that the change is carried out in the spirit of that criticism, there is very little more 1379 that we could wish. Paragraph 6 deals with the amalgamation of the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service with the Commercial Diplomatic Service and the Consular Service. This is what I described at the beginning as carrying the Foreign Office from the 18th century up to the 19th century. In so far as it does that, it certainly has the support of myself and, I imagine, most of those for whom I speak. We do not want to make the ambassador a glorified commercial traveller, nor, on the other hand, shall we be content with adding commercial trade qualifications to diplomatic qualifications. We have to go a great deal beyond that to bring the Embassy into full touch with all the life and activity of the nation.
I come to Paragraph 16, which deals with the examination to which the candidate who is trying to get into the Service by what is called Method 1 is subjected. I am told that, although a candidate for the Foreign Office submits himself to a written examination in the ordinary way, he has also to submit himself to an oral examination. That is, of course, very desirable, but I am told that the opinions formed of him generally in the oral discussion play a large part in deciding his opportunity of entering into the Service and that a highly intelligent and able man who secures good marks in the written examination may be failed owing to opinions formed from his behaviour in the oral interview. It would be foolish to deny that there are other qualities desired for a Foreign Office official, and more particularly for one who will be called upon to go abroad, than mere mental agility. It is clear that the ability to deal with men and to mix on reasonable terms with men is an essential part of those characteristics which a candidate for a Foreign Office position must have.
On the other hand we have to be careful that men are not selected because they have got a pleasant and ingratiating manner or because their antecedents are such as to commend themselves to the persons who are acting as examiners. I do not suggest for a moment that all the men coming from one class are to be viewed with suspicion because they come from what has been called in previous years the governing class. I do not suggest that every boy in a secondary school who attains to high distinction is necessarily a 1380 suitable candidate who ought to be selected for the Foreign Office. I do feel, however, that what we want are men who can transcend their class origins, whether they come from what has hitherto been called the governing class or from what has hitherto been called the lower class. Unless they can transcend their class prejudice or bias, they will not make good Foreign Office displomats, because it is essential in the future, if it has not been so in the past, that men accredited to foreign countries shall be able to mix on terms of neither superiority nor inferiority with all the classes with whom it will be their business to come into contact. That is essential. Therefore though I do not take exception to the fact that oral discussion must necessarily play a large part in the selection of candidates, I hope we may have an assurance that that will not result in bias in favour of certain persons because of the accident of their birth and upbringing
I come to the next paragraph, which deals with Method 2. I can see some force in the arguments that are put before us, but I confess that I regard this method with some apprehension. It may be that, handled by people of wide sympathy and exceptional ability of choice, it would be a good plan. Human beings are frail and subject to human limitations, however, and it is equally possible that this method might become a serious danger by resulting in the selection of men who had influence and some pull or drive upon the machine and that it would become a backdoor for getting into the Service men who were not by any means the kind of persons the British people would wish to represent them abroad. I view this particular proposal with a good deal of apprehension. I do not, of course, suspect the motives of the Foreign Secretary in the least, but I feel that the proposal has elements of great danger attaching to it. The proposal in paragraph 20 is wholly admirable. It deals with the study of economic, social and industrial questions, and it is a proposal which we can thoroughly approve. Paragraph 22 at the end deals with the heads of Missions having expert assistance. I have already referred to this, and it strikes me as an admirable point. The same applies to paragraph 24, which deals with closer contact between the Foreign Service and the Colonial Service. I think that that is all to the good.
1381 Paragraph 29 deals with the question of retirement and superannuation. As I have already said, I am sure the Minister will agree that this ought to be drastically applied. We must not allow personal considerations, however friendly we may feel towards a particular individual, to allow him to spoil the relationship between our country and the country, even though a comparatively small one, to which he is accredited. I hope the Foreign Secretary will use this power drastically though wisely if it is given to him by this House.
Finally, I come to paragraph 33. I look at the question of the inclusion of women from a point of view which does not seem to have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman. It is not easy to have in totality the qualities we require from these officials. A man may have a very clever brain but be very stupid in personal contacts; he may be affable, kindly and have a pleasing personality and yet may be unable to appreciate large issues. The various qualities required to make a successful diplomat are such that it is not easy to find them accumulated in a single person, and if we limit our choice to one half of the human race, and that half the male half, it seems to me we shall to that extent prevent ourselves from choosing the persons who may be best for this particular purpose. It may well be that a good many other countries have to be educated up in this matter, and it may be true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that there are some to which it might be difficult to appoint other than a man, but I would remind him that very great countries, including the United States, which has shown us recently that it is fully alive to the importance of good diplomacy, have not confined their Diplomatic Service to one sex. Therefore, we should not be pioneers blazing an unknown trail if we should open the door of our Diplomatic Service to give us a wide choice from both sexes.
Then we come to the question of increasing salaries. It is true that we tend to get what we pay for, and if we are to get an improved Foreign Service, it may be that in order to meet the exceptional expenses of persons engaged in it we may have to pay a higher rate of salaries than prevails in other branches of the Civil Service. I should not object to that, provided we really get value for those higher salaries, but I do not want to 1382 see higher salaries paid than are paid in branches of the purely Civil Service unless we do get what we want.
I should like to conclude by saying that I have been rather scathing at times in the course of my remarks upon some of the officials in the Foreign Service. I should be very sorry if that were taken as a general criticism of our British servants who have been serving us in foreign lands. I am aware, and I am sure that it will be universally recognised, that we have had in the past and have to-day a number of very able men, men with great brains and with wide human sympathies, who have rendered invaluable services to their country. But that is not to say that the system may not call for great improvement, and I believe that those who have rendered the best services will be the first to admit that fact.
The British attitude towards foreign questions differs considerably from the attitude of most foreign countries. We are not anxious to bring about complications in foreign affairs which on a narrow point of view might appear to be to our own advantage. The British attitude is a wise and tolerant attitude in the main, and those who have had contact with our British representatives abroad will know that by and large the British Government does desire really friendly relations with foreign countries, and that what our representatives say and do is directed in the main not to some narrow imperial gain but is in the interests of the world as a whole. Unfortunately, that good intention has been smeared over in many cases by failure of knowledge, failure of acumen, failure to grasp the different points of view which may prevail in foreign parts. The reform which I believe all of us want to see carried out in the Foreign Office is that the good intentions at the back of British diplomacy shall be borne out in the personnel and in the application of the principles, and that therefore our British standard shall be upheld in accordance with the highest traditions of our country.
§ Viscountess Astor (Plymouth, Sutton)
I hope the House will bear with me and not think that I am being purposely offensive—I do not want to be offensive—but I must say that I have never been more disappointed in anything than I have in the bright young men who went to the Foreign Office to build a new world. 1383 Those are the men who have brought up these reforms, but really they are so mild that even the most Conservative papers, "The Times," for instance—well, it was Conservative, though, thank goodness, it is not so Conservative as it was—have urged upon the Foreign Office to go a little further. The right hon. Gentleman, to whose speech we listened with great respect, really told us that they were bringing forward these proposed changes, not because there is anything wrong with the Foreign Office, but because times have changed. Times may have changed, but there is a certain point of view in the Foreign Office that has not changed a yard, and what I cannot understand is why the Labour people—I see the Deputy Leader of the House sitting there—let this old-fashioned, pre-1914 view as far as women are concerned prevail without saying a word. It passes my comprehension.
It is a pity that every Member of the House did not read the Report about which the right hon. Gentleman has been talking. It is interesting reading, and I think hon. Members should know what led up to it. Before the last war women were not regarded as citizens. They were in the same class as peers, paupers, lunatics and criminals. It was only after the war that we had the sex disqualification removed. That was in 1919, and that had its drawbacks. Then women had a fight in 1921 to get into the Civil Service on equal terms. They got it with difficulty, but it is only lately that women have been allowed to marry and still remain in the Service. The Tomlin Commission was appointed in 1929 to consider the whole question of women in the Civil Service. In 1934 a Committee was appointed to consider the admission of women into the Diplomatic and Consular Services, Who was at the Foreign Office at that time? That Committee consisted of eight distinguished members. There were three high officials from the Foreign Office, three from other Government Departments and two senior civil servants, with Sir Claud Schuster as Chairman.
After hearing both sides the Committee were unable to agree, and presented three separate reports. The two women reported in favour of opening both Services to women. There were six men who opposed opening the Consular Service to women. 1384 The three Foreign Office members and one other opposed the entry of women to the Diplomatic Service. The Chairman and the Treasury representatives were in favour of admitting women for a limited period as an experiment. Thus, four out of the eight reported in favour of progress. I had the pleasure of giving evidence before that Committee. It was really very embarrassing. One of the Foreign Office high officials, an ex-Ambassador, was bitterly against women, and I had to remark to him, "But you wouldn't have kept your job without your wife." It was true; everybody knew it. No man had ever been a greater failure than he was. At the end the six who did not agree said that if women should continue to gain ground classes of the population as yet unaffected would be employed in other spheres and in that event the matter could be reconsidered in the light of the circumstances then existing.
Surely everybody has by now become accustomed to the employment of women in spheres previously closed to them. Think of what women have done in this war, what they are doing in the Services and out of the Services, of the pride which the whole country has in its women folk—and then they come here with this old Report, and tell us that the Foreign Secretary feels that he must wait until after the war to give women a chance. I wonder what he will say to Madame Chiang Kai-shek in Washington. That would be interesting.
§ Viscountess Astor
Do not be offensive. I do not want to be offensive. I looked up the word "foreign," and it interested me very much. Foreign means, "Outside the country; not in one's own land." Well, the Foreign Office is well named, because it certainly is outside the consciousness of the vast majority of the people of this country. The Government say they want to bring in a Bill to represent everybody, and yet they deliberately cut out half of the population from having any say at all in these Services which are of such vital importance.
I have had a little experience in these matters. About 23 years ago, when I went to Washington, I was amazed at the Embassy there, because it was completely out of touch with everything in the United States. It was pathetic. When I came 1385 back I proposed to the Foreign Office that it would be advisable to appoint somebody who could keep in touch with the women's movement in that country, which was pretty considerable. The Foreign Office did not do it, and they never would have done it, until Lord Lothian, I think against the wish of the Foreign Office, appointed the lady who is now one of the outstanding successes at the Embassy there. In the Report of the Committee, these words occur:It must be remembered that an essential element for success in diplomatic life consists in the members of the Service being favourably received in the countries to which they are posted. If they are not so received, their usefulness is greatly diminished, and the Mission is likely to fail.How many men have failed in this way in the last 25 years? I do not want to go into the details of those failures, but their number is enormous. The Committee said many other things, including that women might not be able to stand up against the climate and that a very intimate life was lived in the Chancelleries, where there was usually such a happy family. The people in most of the Chancellories have been such happy families that they did not know what was going on in the countries where they were posted.
I am not blaming the Foreign Office officials for all these things so much as I am blaming the Permanent Secretaries. The underlings have to obey their masters, but we have had Foreign Office Permanent Secretaries who have been dominated by what we call the Latin point of view. Two of them have boasted of understanding France. France was their spiritual home, and they understood everything about it. That is one of the reasons why our foreign policy has been so dominated since the last war by France. If we had had a foreign policy not dominated by France—well, I do not want to say anything about a country when she is down. France is a shell-shocked country and has been so since the last war, and I suppose everybody knows it except the Foreign Office. We had a Foreign Secretary, Sir Austen Chamberlain, who said he loved France as a man loved his mistress. Men have no business to have mistresses. It shocked me at the time. It was upsetting that our foreign policy should be so dominated by France. We have had people who have written poems and spoken the language, so thoroughly were they absorbed in the 1386 Latin point of view. I do not want to be offensive to France, but this Latin point of view is not the British point of view. It is a very dangerous point of view. That is the point of view against letting women into the Foreign Services.
The real objection seems to be that if women got into the Diplomatic Service they might marry foreigners. Very few women for a long time would get into the Diplomatic Service highest grades, because they have to have great qualifications. If a woman has great qualifications and gets into a very responsible position, I do not believe she will jeopardise her country for the sake of marriage. I ask the House of Commons: Who has the greater influence, men or women? Have more women ruined men than men have ruined women? Everyone knows the answer. It has been proved time and time again that a man in the Diplomatic Service who has made a bad marriage is passed over, and no doubt that would be the case with women. Look at the position of women in other countries, such as China, Russia, the United States of America and the Scandinavian countries. Our Foreign Office is taking the view of Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Japan, mostly Latin countries and all with the Latin point of view. We have been waiting for years for this reform of the Foreign Office. Is it fair that the women of England should be put in the same category as we are in in enemy countries? Look at Moslem women. Nothing is more remarkable than the way in which Indian women are coming along—faster than the Foreign Office, if you ask me. The Foreign Office, of all offices, really needed a complete overhaul. I am not going to say that they have not had successes, because they have, but they have also had some crashing failures. I hope that this new broom will sweep it clean, but I am afraid that although you may have a new broom, it will have an old stick, and that stick will be the Latin point of view. I should like to remind the House of Commons of the number of Ambassadors who many people from other countries.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
It may be very hard upon us if the Noble Lady should read through the list of names of all the representatives of the Foreign Office. I hope the Noble Lady will not take too long about that.
§ Viscountess Astor
I assure you, Sir, that I shall not be long, but it is very important for us to know these things. Some of these foreign representatives have married French, American, Italian, Chilean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Belgian, Danish and Swedish women. One of the arguments was that the Foreign Office did not need women in their Embassies, because the wives of Ambassadors could get into touch and represent the British point of view, but I would point out that an American woman who is born in Paris is neither American nor French. Those women are mostly the kind of Americans that foreign diplomats marry.
Let me ask the Foreign Office whether it is really fair and just, and in keeping with the spirit of the times, that they should at this moment deny to women their chance of rebuilding the new world after the war. Women will have the most tremendous work to do, not only in Europe, but all over the world. The democracies have to give a lead to the rest of the women of the world. How can they do it? The Foreign Office says that they will consider this matter when the war is over, and that is really most unfair. I would like to remind the Foreign Office of women's great successes at the moment in the diplomatic field. There is Miss Freya Stark, who has had a wonderful success. The Foreign Office do not talk about their successes. The Report asks what would be the position if we were given a trial and then could not be got rid of, but the Government are now bringing in a Bill just because they cannot get rid of their failures. I do not believe that we are out of touch with the country in asking for these changes. I believe the Government are completely out of touch with the country in refusing admission to women in the Foreign and Consular Services. Remember that there are more women than men and that women are showing a spirit of courage, gaiety, endurance and patriotism, and they are also showing an unexpected competence. They are doing things which nobody thought they could do. I am certain that if you give women this chance, it will be better for the country, for the Foreign Office and for the world in general. Women have some sort of strength that men have not. I think you can call it moral and spiritual quality, and it has stood them in great stead in this war. Do not use that old-fashioned 1388 and out-of-date argument that some countries would not welcome the change. I do not believe there are countries which would not welcome the arrival of a sound, keen and intelligent Englishwoman.
I have been asked how I came to the House of Commons. I would point out that I got my traditions from being born in the English way of thinking in the country that is permeated with it, that is Virginia. When I talk about that English way of thinking I am talking of one of the most important things in the world, and the Foreign Office has not got it. I implore the Foreign Office to reconsider this matter. I ask the House of Commons to insist upon helping the Foreign Office to bring itself up to date. I do not want to appear offensive, but I feel deeply on this question of women having equality with men. If women had run this country for as long as the men, we no doubt should not be in the mess we are in to-day. If God's gifts and talents belong to one sex and not to the other, then it is to the mothers of the race and not to the fathers.
§ Mr. Harold Nicolson (Leicester, West)
I am sure that the House has listened with interest and considerable sympathy to the very general review of the problem of the entry of women into the Diplomatic Service which the noble Lady has just made. I agree that there are many occasions when it would be very much in the public interest to appoint some well-known woman—known for her probity, intelligence, ability and balance—to some diplomatic post. I will go further. I agree that in certain special branches of diplomatic work women will always be, as they always have been, extremely useful. I refer to women like Freya Stark and Gertrude Bell. They are enormously valuable. I would go even further. I would regard it as possible that it should become a permanent institution that one of the attachés, at Washington and Copenhagen for instance, should be a woman Attaché who would devote her very special gifts to the study of women's interests in those countries.
I gather, however, that this is not what the Noble Lady and her friends really want. They do not want women to be picked here and there for special Qualifications and given special posts in diplomacy. They want them to enter the Foreign Service on exactly the same footing as men. I must assure them that that 1389 is quite impossible. The Noble Lady dismissed marriage as though it were a mere incident; it is not a mere incident, but a very profound biological fact. She went out of her way to show how frequently marriages happened in the Foreign Service; that so great was the philoprogenitive or connubial instinct of its members that they married all the time and always married foreigners. If women are admitted, we have either to condemn them to perpetual spinsterhood or realise the fact that they may marry foreigners and lose their British nationality. If a man marries a Chilean nothing happens; she becomes a British subject. If a woman marries a Chilean, she becomes a Chilean. We are not going to alter that.
§ Mr. Cluse (Islington, South)
Why is the hon. Member so insistent that it cannot be altered? It can be altered, possibly in a very short space of time.
§ Mr. Nicolson
There are posts and there always will be posts, at least for three generations, at least for go years, to which women could not be appointed and for which they would not be qualified. To put them on a footing of absolute equality would be to put them in a position not only of equality but actually of privilege. The places where they would function most usefully would be the more agreeable, the more advanced places, the places closer to England where their children could be educated in good schools—the advanced places—and the wretched men would be relegated to the less convenient places.
§ Mr. Nicolson
Women missionaries are sent out with the intention of living abroad in certain countries, whereas women in the Foreign Service would be sent with the intention of being moved from one place to another. The Noble Lady said, and it is a contention of many people, that women have never been given a chance hitherto. 1390 I think it may be correct that they have never been given a chance; but from the days of Helen of Argos to the days of the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) they have taken a great many chances and they have always been disastrous.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I think not for the reasons which the Noble Lady adduces, but for a much more serious and important reason, namely, that the special virtues of women—and the Noble Lady did indicate that women possessed certain virtues and talents to a degree greater than men—are singularly ill-adapted to diplomatic life. These virtues, I should say, were, first, intuition and, secondly, sympathy. Intuition is absolutely fatal in diplomacy. It tempts people to jump to conclusions. Sympathy is equally fatal because it leads people to identify themselves with causes or personalities with which or whom they feel sympathy. That is fatal to that very balanced attitude which it is the business of the Diplomatic Service to preserve. I do not wish to pursue any further this question of women in the Foreign Service.
§ Viscountess Astor
I want to put one point to the hon. Gentleman. I am somewhat alarmed in that in many ways women are harder than men. If you give a woman a job, I do not think you will find she will be over sympathetic. I am rather worried about that.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I did not mean my observation to imply softness or hardness; but to indicate the tendency of women to identify themselves with parties, personalities and controversies in the countries to which they would be accredited. I pass from that question. After all, in the White Paper the question of women is reserved for future consideration in terms which repudiate all ancient prejudice.
There is one point, one suggestion which the hon. Lady made, which I am glad to say the right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) did not make, an imputation that hitherto the Diplomatic Service and the Foreign Service had acted with great incompetence and were staffed by people of very secondary ability.
§ Mr. Nicolson
I should very much regret it if it went out abroad that the general opinion of this House was one of anything but appreciation of the extraordinary ability shown by the officials of our Diplomatic Service during the present war. I do not wish to particularise—that might be invidious—but the work, for instance, done by Sir Archibald Clark Kerr in Chungking and the relations he managed to establish at moments of very great delicacy with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek; the work done by Sir Percy Lorraine in his relations with Kemal Attaturk, which has been carried on by Sir Hugh Knatchbull-Hugessen with great diplomatic ability; these are great diplomatic achievements. Surely the House realises also that the work done by Sir Miles Lampson—and no public servant has better deserved a peerage—in Egypt during the last few years has been worth to us five divisions—a pure triumph of personality. If the Noble Lady says that members of the Service under the old system of recruitment and training have been as incompetent as she thinks, I ask her to remember that there are, I think, eight ex-members of the Service who are Members of this House. Seven of them have for long or short times reached the Front Bench, and the eighth, who is the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson) is Chairman of the British Council and really the only begetter of this Report. If this House is, in fact as it is so often reputed to be, the filter of ability, the great strainer of character, I do not think a percentage, whereby out of eight ex-members of the Foreign Service, seven hold or have held Front Bench rank, is so very bad.
§ Mr. Nicolson
Does my hon. Friend really think the Minister of Agriculture owes his position and influence to the old school tie?
§ Mr. Nicolson
I would refer to the admirable work done by the Service as it now stands. I trust that the reforms indicated in this Report will not destroy 1392 the traditions and continuity of the Service as it existed before. I would be the very first to admit that in this modern age it would be quite impossible to work our foreign policy with the more specialised machine such as we had up to the outbreak of the present war, but I would ask the House to remember that those who have pressed for these reforms for 20 or 30 years are people who have been and are now members of the Service. I would specially mention Sir Victor Wellesley and the Minister of Agriculture, who have for years been urging reforms of this exact nature. I do not want it to be thought that this new scheme has been imposed on the Foreign Service from outside; it has come from the inside, from people having inside experience and knowing that the old system could not continue under modern conditions. I regret that the Foreign Secretary is not here. All previous demands to make these reforms, all agreements reached on committees and deputations, have always broken down on one rock—the rock of the Treasury. I think this House ought to feel deeply grateful to the present Foreign Secretary, who has had the imaginative vision to know exactly where the real blocks and barriers were; who possesses such amazing popularity in the Service that things are acceptable from him which might have caused difficulty if proposed by somebody else; and who has had the authority in Cabinet and in the House to break through the barricades which have hitherto proved an insurmountable obstruction.
I do not wish to waste the time of the House in saying how deeply I welcome this Report, how efficiently I think it has been Written and conceived, or how valuable I am certain it will prove. I wish to make certain suggestions, not criticisms, which are in fact amplifications of what my right hon. Friend said in moving the Motion for the acceptance of this White Paper. I have certain suggestions to make which, although they do not bear on the actual scheme as drafted, do bear, I think, on exactly how the scheme will work out in practice when the Service, so reconstituted, begins to find itself. The advantage of the old Service, a very great advantage, was that it was very small. The Secretary of State knew every member of the Service personally. Every member of the Service realised that his merits or demerits were known to the Secretary of State. That will not be 1393 possible if the whole Service is to be enlarged so enormously; people will become anonymous; they will become lost. In the new Foreign Service this will lead to frustration, discontent, sometimes to actual unfairness. A young man gets sent out to some remote place. He may be under a chief who is unsympathetic to progress, who wishes to snub and repress all original points of view. That young man will not get known. He has no chance of getting known. He passes from Pernambuco to Bahia Blanca and does not come back to the Foreign Office. He does not get known; he gets lost. In such circumstances, the temptation may arise, and it is a terrible temptation, for the ambitious young man to seek to draw attention to himself either by too much zeal, which, as Talleyrand remarked, has its diplomatic dangers, or actually by seeking publicity, a thing which has happened in the American Diplomatic Service before now and which is most undesirable.
The second difficulty to which my right hon. Friend alluded is that of specialisation. We have to have specialists. You have to have people who have lived their lives in particular countries and who are able to assist the Minister or Ambassador in the exercise of the functions of his Mission. If everybody is to be fused together you are not going to maintain these specialists; you are going to lose them. Thirdly, you may, as my right hon. Friend remarked, in principle fuse the Diplomatic Service with the Commercial, or the Consular, Service; but in practice it will not be one Service. There will be a differentiation of function, of categories, in the Service. That again may lead to a man feeling that he is classed as a Consular type, or as a commercial type—and that the plums of the Service are going to the Diplomatic type. Those who fall into the other categories will feel discontented.
I make these criticisms because I think I can suggest a solution for all three. The solution would be something like a staff college. I hate to use military terms, because it suggests a general staff and as such approximates to a theory advocated by "The Times," which to my mind was one of the most nonsensical things ever written in that great journal. But a staff college would be a filter, through which a man would pass between the ages of 30 and 35, by which his qualities could 1394 be strained and sifted, by which his name and value may be known, and by which he himself may see where his greatest prospects lie. That is absolutely essential, I think. Otherwise, you will have a great fishpond out of which you will never pull the right fish. There must be a filter through which, after 10 years of service, the fishes pass.
Finally, there is the superannuation rule. Of all the rules that this new reform brings in, that, to my mind, is in fact the fairest, and will produce the most beneficial results. It was this bottleneck which flung so many of us promising young men, who at that time were energetic, whose faults had not then become apparent, from the Olympian heights of diplomacy to the benches we see around us now. But there is a danger, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear it in mind, and that the House will give it their attention. The most extreme temptation in the Service is the temptation for an envoy abroad to report to his Government at home those things, those facts, those tendencies, which he thinks will be agreeable to that Government and will be in accord with the policy they have proclaimed. That has always been the danger, but the danger is going to be increased by the superannuation rule. A man may think that this future is dependent upon the good will of the Secretary of State. I do not think that there is a single man in the Service who would not willingly place his future in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary or of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, but we may have other Governments: we may have Governments of a Fascist tendency which will think that a man abroad with Socialist sympathies is not suitable, and we may have the opposite state of affairs. You may have a man who thinks his career is dependent on the favour of the Foreign Secretary reporting facts in a pleasant way instead of giving the horrible naked truth. The only remedy is for the Secretary of State and his advisers to be very careful that no man is retired compulsorily owing to any political bias or any unwelcome views that he may express, but that he is retired only because in the opinion of his contemporaries he is not fitted in terms of ability and energy for the job he holds. I beg my right hon. Friend and the Foreign Secretary, now that they have 1395 their superannuation rule, now that they can retire men of 40 or 45 with superannuation if they need it——
§ Mr. Nicolson
No. I beg them not to carry out the rule regarding retirement at 60. One of the most incredible things which have happened has been the way in which we have got rid of some of our ambassadors at the very moment when the whole weight of their experience was most essential for the public good. Diplomatists are like wine, they improve with age. To get rid of a man like Sir Horace Rumboldt at the age of 60 was perfectly grotesque. It was done in order to get the water passing through the filter more swiftly. I hope that the Secretary of State will use the discretion which he has and not retire gifted ambassadors because they have reached a certain age. I hope the House realises that this plan is much more than just a White Paper. It shows an imaginative insight into the very fibres of the problem. It has its difficulties, it has its dangers; but I believe that it will provide the country, in the extremely difficult times to come, with a Foreign Service fitted to the new order of things.
§ Mr. William Brown (Rugby)
I rise to attack the proposals of the White Paper, and I intend to assail them with all the ferocity of which my gentle nature is capable. Before doing so, I would like to pay a tribute of admiration to the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) for the speech to which we have just listened. It was couched in the most felicitous terms, and had the charm and the dignity which one always associates with the hon. Member. I think that for the House as a whole, and for me at any rate, it was a pleasure to listen to the speech. Let me say one other kind word before I let loose the ferocity with which I propose to attack the White Paper. I want to make it perfectly plain to the Under-Secretary that there will be nothing personal in the attack which I intend to make on the Government's proposals. One of the charming things about this House is the divorce between personal and political animosity. My political animosity to these proposals is extreme, but I have no personal animosity to the Undersecretary. I know him only through what he writes, and what I have read of his 1396 writing I admire. I have now finished with the gentle side of my disposition and I turn to attack the proposals.
The most essential element in the treatment of any ill, whether a disorder of the human frame, or a disease of an institution, is correct diagnosis. The first thing we have to ask is, What was wrong with British diplomacy before the war that it now stands in need of radical remedy at the hands of this House? I believe there were two fundamental defects in our Diplomatic Service. The first was a defect of disposition, and the second a defect of selection. As regards the defect of disposition, I had a conversation a week or two ago with a Yugoslav diplomat, who, knowing my interest in British Civil Service problems and in diplomatic problems, exchanged views with me about the psychological defects in our Diplomatic Service. He put it in this way: "My country is a very small country. It had no navy at all, it had no army worth speaking of, and it was never in a position to practise the diplomacy of power politics. Your country was a great Power. Your diplomats impressed upon me from time to time that in the last resort it was not they who were speaking, but the ultimate power of the British Empire which lay behind what they said." He said that there was a tremendous pyschological difference between the attitude of small Powers in diplomacy and the attitude of the so-called great Powers. I know no remedy for that except a permanent insistence from the centre of the Foreign Office throughout the Diplomatic Service that power does not necessarily connote right.
The second defect was a defect of selection. Do not let us make any bones about it: our diplomacy has been selected from the younger sons of the governing class of this country, people who were disqualified by the circumstances of their birth and their upbringing from understanding the nature of social changes taking place in the world. If anybody doubts this I commend to him two examples. I commend to him Sir Nevile Henderson's book "Failure of a Mission." Nobody who has read that book can help feeling how completely out of touch with modern realities, how utterly uncomprehending of what was happening on the Continent of Europe, was the British Ambassador in Berlin up to the outbreak of war. I assert that that emerges 1397 from every page of Sir Nevile Henderson's book. If you want an independent American view, you can find it in Mr. Joseph Davies' book. You may read in that book his comments on the equivalent failure of our Embassy in Russia to understand the significance of what was happening in that country. So long as we draw our diplomats from the narrow circle of the younger sons of the governing class, our British diplomacy will continue to be a reproach to us throughout the world.
The Foreign Office itself appears to have an uneasy feeling that my diagnosis is not far wrong, for paragraph 2 of the White Paper says:Among the criticisms which have been brought against the Diplomatic Service, the view has been expressed that it is recruited from too small a circle, that it tends to represent the interests of a certain section of the nation rather than those of the country as a whole, that its members lead too sheltered a life, that they have insufficient understanding of economic and social questions, that the extent of their experience is too small to enable them properly to understand many of the problems with which they ought to deal, and that the range of their contacts is too limited, to allow them to acquire more than a relatively narrow acquaintance with the foreign peoples amongst whom they live.I believe the criticism in paragraph 2 to be utterly well-founded. I am the Secretary of an Association which represents the clerical staff of these Embassies, and I believe that for the last 10 years my information from the Embassies of Europe has been very much better than the information that the Foreign Secretary has received. [An hon. Member: "Why?"] Because my information has come from the clerks, who move freely among the peoples among whom they live, and not from the diplomatist, whose attention was largely confined to the drawing rooms of the capitals of Europe.
§ Sir Alfred Beit (St. Pancras, South East)
I hope that the hon. Member passed on the information to the Foreign Office.
§ Sir A. Beit
I said that I hoped that the hon. Member passed on the information to the Foreign Office.
§ Mr. Brown
Certainly, but can you imagine the Foreign Office between the 1398 period of the last war and 1940 being influenced by anything like common sense? I hope the hon. Member will not interrupt me any more. The White Paper, in a burst of generosity, in paragraph 3 states that there has been extensive change and goes on to say thatby introducing the reforms hereinafter described it is intended to re-equip the Foreign Service to meet modern conditions and to create a Service which, by its composition, by the recruitment and training of its members and by its organisation, shall be better able not merely to represent the interests of the nation as a whole, but also to deal with the whole range of international affairs, political, social and economic, and so constitute an adequate instrument for the maintenance of good relations.I assert that between the great phrases of the introduction of this document and the concrete proposals contained in the document there is not the slightest relation whatever.
I would now like to look at what they propose. They propose, first, to combine the Diplomatic and Consular Services. So far so good. That ought to have been done many years ago. They propose, secondly, that the Foreign Secretary should have power to retire on pension, before the age of 60, officers of the rank of First Secretary and upwards. Good, but why limit that to officers of the rank of First Secretary and upwards? If men become stale at 40 in the higher ranks of the Diplomatic Service, they can become stale at 40 in the clerical ranks or indeed in any other rank of the Diplomatic Service. I argued about three weeks ago when discussing the British Civil Service that one of the most urgent reforms necessary was that we should amend the present Superannuation Act to enable men to retire with their accrued proportion of pension rights or to enable the Department to dismiss men with their accrued proportion of pension rights. I hold that to be true of the Civil Service at home, and I hold it to be true of the Diplomatic Service, and I do not for the life of me understand why this particular proposal is limited to officers of the rank of First Secretary and upwards.
Having provided for one Service instead of two, and having equipped itself with certain powers to get rid of senior officers who have gone to seed, the Report then goes on to give proposals as regards the future recruitment to the Diplomatic and Consular Services. I insist that there 1399 is the crux of this Report. Whether we are going to get a continuation of the old Diplomatic Service, or a Service which is capable of doing the things which I quoted a moment or two ago, depends on the type of new recruits we get into the Diplomatic Service. By these proposals this White Paper must stand or fall. On these proposals rests the future quality of the Diplomatic Service of this country. What do they propose under this most important head? They propose two methods of recruitment in future—Method No. 1 and Method No. 2—and it is significant that in all the hour's speech we had from the Under-Secretary there was not one sentence devoted to this, which is the crucial thing about the whole Report. Method No. 2 is only intended to bring in two new appointees each year. We heard from the Under-Secretary earlier that there were 700 people in the Diplomatic and Consular Service, so that whatever the merits of Method No. 2, that method will only affect an infinitesimal fraction of the number of people covered by that Report. It is Method No. 1 which will determine broadly the character of the Diplomatic and Consular Service of the future.
§ Mr. Brown
Surely, under Method No. 3. But let me add two and three together—75 per cent. of the appointees would be affected by Method No. 1. Is that common ground? Two every year out of 700 is a negligible percentage, but call it if you like 70 per cent. of the appointments to be governed by Method No. 1. What is Method No. 1? It providesan open competitive examination conducted by the Civil Service Commission and so designed that candidates will be able to take it shortly after their University degree examination and without special study.1400 What does that mean? It means that nobody who has not had a university education could enter for this examination with any hope of success whatever.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
Lord Vansittart, for instance, entered for examination in the same way and was successful.
§ Mr. Brown
I will give the hon. Member the point if he wants it for the convenience of debate. I am not talking about exceptional characters like Lord Vansittart, whose advice you constantly ignored throughout the whole period of the last few years. I am talking about ordinary folk. Under these proposals you eliminate every intermediate schoolboy, every secondary schoolboy and every elementary schoolboy from entry.
§ Sir Granville Gibson (Pudsey and Otley)
Will the hon. Member read on from line 4 to line 7 on page 7?
§ Mr. Brown
Does the hon. Member imagine that I have not read it? I will read it for his benefit: 1401Although designed for those who have studied at a university in this country, the examination will be open, as at present, to candidates who have not attended a university.That is rather like saying that the Ritz or the Carlton is open to everybody—if you have the money! I am telling the House that no elementary schoolboy and no secondary schoolboy can hope to pass this examination unless he has had a university training. So far from democratising the Diplomatic Service in this country, this Report tightens the stranglehold that the university man possesses already in relation to the Diplomatic Service, and tends to make it permanent and unshakeable.
Now I come to those who are to be recruited by selection by the Foreign Secretary, with the advice of the Civil Service Commission. Who are they going to choose? We can only answer that question by looking at the Foreign Secretary and the Civil Service Commission. What is the truth about the Foreign Secretary. He is a charming fellow, well in line for the succession. But let us look at the Foreign Secretary, not as an individual but as an institution. What is the truth about it? When there is a Conservative Government in power in Britain the Foreign Secretary will be a university man. When there is a Coalition Government in Britain the Foreign Secretary will also be a university man. He will be a university man because, while it is proper that we should have a Labour Minister to round up workmen and shove them into the Army, and that we should have a Labour Home Secretary to clap them into gaol if they make too much trouble about it, there can be no question of having a Labour man either at the Exchequer or at the Foreign Office, Those two Departments are permanently reserved to the Tories for ever.
What is the prospect of getting a Labour Foreign Secretary? That rests on the possibility of getting a Labour Government. The answer is, "None at all." Why? Because all history shows that when parties of the Right go into Coalition they may emerge unscathed, but parties of the Left can never do it without committing suicide. We are driven back on the Independents. While our numbers have increased by 25 per cent. this last week owing to the resignation of the hon. Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) from the Labour Party, and although we are 1402 not without hope of further accretions from this source and similar sources, the realist in me is compelled to admit that there is still a substantial distance between us Independents and the conquest of complete power. We are faced therefore by a situation in which there will be permanently a Conservative or university Foreign Secretary for Great Britain.
Now look at the Civil Service Commissioners, all of them university men. It will be as difficult for a non-university man to be a Civil Service Commissioner as it would be for a Labour man to become Foreign Secretary or Chancellor of the Exchequer under a Coalition Government. From their point of view it is obvious that those that they select are also going to be university men so making the Foreign Service safe for our sons for ever. The idea that there is any reform in this document is just nonsense. This document represents, to my way of thinking, a classic example of the Conservative political methods in action. May I define it for the benefit of this House and posterity? This is the Conservative Method. No. 1: "Do not move unless you are obliged to." No. 2: "When you are obliged to move, move as little as you can." No. 3: "When you do move, make it appear you are doing a favour." No. 4: "Never move forward but only sideways." That is exactly what this document does. It does not move unless it is obliged to move. When it moves, it moves as little as it can. It makes it appear we are having an immense favour done to us when there is a move—and we have had some extravagant language applied to this document—and finally, when one examines the proposals, one finds they are not a move forward, but a move sideways. It is the same thing with knobs on. This is not a document to make the Diplomatic Service safe for democracy; it is a document to make the Diplomatic Service safe for the old gang.
§ Mr. Brown
That is a wider phrase than I would care to use, because it covers everything from Oxford to Borstal. I hope I have demonstrated that this is not a document to make the Diplomatic Service safe for democracy, but a document to make it safe for the safe boys of the governing class of this country. I apply an acid test. How does this White Paper treat the subordinate staff of the Diplomatic Service itself? The Under-Secretary 1403 of State directed the attention of the House especially to paragraph 6, which deals with subordinate staff, and he used language which implied that the document would be incomplete if it did not provide for a free avenue of promotion from the subordinate to the major grades of the Diplomatic Service. Listen to what the White Paper actually does provide:In addition to the higher posts which will be available in the subordinate branches themselves, it is also proposed that junior subordinate employés of exceptional merit shall be considered with other candidates competing for posts in the senior branch by Method 2.The House may not know, but it is the fact that the phrase "exceptional merit" has a definite and well-understood connotation in Civil Service affairs. When it is stated in a document, as it used to be stated about the promotion, say, of assistant clerks to the second division, or members of the second division to the first division of the Civil Service, that they should be promoted by exceptional medit, what it meant was that they were not promoted at all. In all the years in which that phrase "special merit" existed, as between assistant clerks and second division clerks, there was not more than the merest, most contemptible trickle of promotions. That phrase is not intended to enable subordinate staff to be promoted. It is there to make their promotion the most difficult thing under Heaven, because of the importation of this phrase "exceptional merit." This Report reminds me of nothing so much as the conversation that took place when a man went to dinner with a friend. At the end of dinner he was asked, "How did you like it?" He said, "Well, it was very good, what there was of it." Then, realising that he had committed a gaffe he tried to recover himself by saying, "What I meant to say was that there was plenty of it, such as it was." That is exactly what I feel about this document.
As an instrument of organic reform it just is not in the picture. It is a bit of spoofing, a bit of lip-service to democracy. This country is sick to death of lip-service to democracy. As a document of administrative reform, it just is not there at all. It starts with an assumption which is all wrong. It starts with the assumption that there is a necessary connection between education and diplomatic ability. 1404 Our experience largely denies that. The best diplomatist in Britain is the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister is utterly incapable of passing any examination whatever. Indeed, in his memoirs he takes a certain amount of credit to himself that this is so. The second best diplomatist in this country is the Home Secretary, who can make black reaction look like social reform. The Prime Minister had no education worth speaking of. The Home Secretary had no education. I notice that both the Americans and ourselves, when we want to get a job in diplomacy done, have frequently resorted to people right outside the ordinary diplomatic range in order to get it done. The President of the United States will frequently select a journalist. Why? Because journalists are very good public relations officers. We ourselves have sent to Moscow and elsewhere people outside the ordinary diplomatic service. I challenge the whole assumption upon which this document rests. Education has been chosen not because education is a mark of diplomatic ability; the educational standing has been chosen because in Britain it is still overwhelmingly a class classification.
I shall divide the House against these proposals, because I could not sleep happily in my bed to-night without having spoken and voted against what I regard as the most spoofing, spurious, dishonest, inadequate proposals that have ever been brought before this House to meet a really serious situation in the Civil Service at home or abroad.
§ Captain Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
It is with very great diffidence that I rise to speak in this Debate, first because it is alarming when, for the first time, one's halting words are recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and secondly, because I can make no claim whatever to be an expert on foreign affairs. All I can claim is to have made something of a Cook's tour round some diplomatic posts in Europe for a few years immediately before the war, when I served in the humblest possible capacity as attaché on the staff of four posts in the short space of three years, but I hope that my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will not imagine from that that I was like the proverbial baby whom nobody wanted to hold and who was so tiresome that he was quickly passed round from one post to 1405 another, only finally escaping disaster by the advent of the war.
The two most welcome features, to my mind, of these new proposals are, first, that the members of the new Foreign Service will be versed in the wider matters of commerce and economics. It has become increasingly clear of late years that these two subjects have so encroached upon what was hitherto regarded as the technical field of diplomacy that it was impossible to draw a line between where one began and the other ended, and when, in fact, the distinction between work of the chancery and the commercial secretariat was often very ill-defined. Secondly, the statement in the White Paper that it is proposed to increase the staffs of Britain abroad is particularly welcome. I do not know whether hon. Members realise how many were the difficulties to be overcome with an inadequate staff or how much of the criticism which has often been levelled at diplomats was due to a shortage of staff. I doubt very much whether in many posts staffs were adequate even for what were called normal times. But times are rarely normal, and what happened was that when a member of the staff was ill at the same time as another was on leave, the rest were tied to their desks from morning until far into the night, and it was quite impossible for them either to travel about the country as they would have liked or to make wider contacts outside the capital.
I have often felt that in some cases there was a gap untouched between the ground covered by our diplomats in the capitals and that covered by our Consuls in the provinces. The one tended in many respects to be too restricted to the capital for the reasons I have endeavoured to explain, and the other tended to be too parochial. I hope that under the new system whereby there is an adequate increase in the staff there will be sufficient personnel to cover this gap, hitherto not covered, so that not only will members be able to travel about the country but will be able to make contacts in the provinces. I also hope that members will be encouraged to specialise in some particular field of activity, such as education or agriculture, in the countries to which they are accredited. I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that with the increase in administrative posts there will be similar increases in clerical posts. One can hardly expect a Second, or a First, Secretary to sit up 1406 all night at a time of crisis deciphering complicated and important instructions, and be at his best the following morning either to act on those instructions or help the head of the Mission to do so.
May I say a word about finance? I think the quickest way of bringing into operation what economists call the law of diminishing returns, is by what I might call diplomatic representation on the cheap. I hope a really generous redistribution of representation allowances will be made. Too often in the past our representatives have been put in a very embarrassing position. They have either had to continue to accept hospitality which they were unable to afford to return, or if they tried to return adequately the hospitality they have received they were put into serious financial difficulties. If the prime function of our representatives abroad is to represent His Majesty's Government with the Government of the country to which they are accredited, it follows that they must have essential contacts with members of that Government and that those contacts must be assisted and strengthened by social contacts.
I also hope that my right hon. Friend will review very carefully the question of buildings. I am very glad to see that mention is made in the White Paper of this point. I think the House in general will agree that a building in which our representatives live and work should be commensurate with this country's position as a world Power. We do not want anything flashy or gaudy; we want something dignified and solid. It does not always help efficient administration if the military or naval attaché's office is sometimes a mile or half a mile away from the Chancellery, or our prestige, particularly in Oriental countries, if, when a colleague from a neighbouring Legation or Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls on you and you forget to warn him not to shut the door with a bang, a mass of plaster falls on his head. You can laugh this off once, but if six months later the same thing occurs because the Office of Works refuses to authorise the necessary expenditure for repairs it is more difficult to laugh it off a second time.
There is one point on which I am a little puzzled, and I should be obliged if my right hon. Friend would give us some indication of how he proposes to solve it when he comes to reply to the Debate. Under the existing system there are about 1407 double the number of posts abroad to posts at home. Once the Diplomatic and Consular Services have been amalgamated—and I well understand and welcome the reasons for that amalgamation—it follows that there will be many more posts abroad proportionately to the number of posts at home. If in future a member of the Foreign Service has spent six or seven periods abroad for every one period he has spent at home, it seems to me that it will be very difficult for him to fulfil the essential function of representing his country in the widest and best sense if he comes back at such rare intervals that he does not know much about his own country. I do not know whether that difficulty can be overcome either by bringing men back from the remoter posts for courses or by extending leave for which a man would be paid his full allowance.
But when these new proposals are in force and the Foreign Service has been reformed, I hope we shall not sit back in a complacent frame of mind and say, "We have reformed the Foreign Service; now we can expect all sorts of new successes to be achieved abroad." It is the responsibility of the House to see that it is the policy of the Government to create conditions under which our Foreign Service is likely to be successful. There has been a great deal of criticism of our Diplomatic Service in the years preceding the war, and much adverse comparison has been made between our own successes, or lack of them, with successes in the diplomatic field achieved by the Germans. One must remember, however, that in the 1930's the Germans had one estimable weapon with which to support their diplomatic activity and which was singularly lacking so far as we were concerned. They usually had 100 divisions on the frontier of the neighbouring Power, whereas our own diplomatic representatives were often asked to make bricks without straw.
But the real criterion by which the Diplomatic Service must be judged—I am sure it is the criterion by which they themselves would wish to be judged—is whether the advice they offered and the information they gave was good or bad, and, as only very few of the documents have ever been published, I feel that a great deal of the criticism that has been offered of our representatives abroad is largely ill informed. Let this be said, 1408 that where instructions were received which were contrary to the advice given, they were loyally carried out in a manner which those who enter the new Service under new conditions might do well to follow. I feel that after the war this country will have a chance rarely presented to any country before, to lead a suffering and starved world, particularly those nations at present overrun by the Nazis, into a world of stability and prosperity, in conjunction with the Dominions and the United Nations, and that a very large part of the burden of carrying out that task will fall on members of the Foreign Service.
To succeed, I think there are three essential conditions which must be fulfilled. The first is that foreign policy and defence must go hand in hand; secondly, there must be the closest possible collaboration between ourselves and the Dominions in our conception of foreign policy and as nearly as possible there should be one foreign policy for the whole of the British Commonwealth; thirdly, the diplomats themselves should be above all men of personality. They should possess the qualities which will make them acceptable to the foreigner. They should have a thorough knowledge and love of their own country and of the ideals for which we have fought and suffered in this war. Lastly, they should maintain that high standard of personal integrity and loyalty which has been the tradition of our representatives abroad in the past.
§ Mr. Martin (Southwark, Central)
I am very pleased to express, on behalf of Members on all sides, the appreciation that we all feel of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech. He showed at least a great intimacy with and mastery of the subject, a quality which recommends a speaker to this House, wherever his listeners may sit, and I hope we shall often hear him again in the future.
I think some of the criticisms that have been made about the Foreign Service have not been justified. There are two serious points on which beyond it this Service falls short, and has done for some time, of the ideal which we should set for it. The first is that, as a democratic instrument, it is obviously not efficient at present. The second is, as has been shown by the way it has been treated by Governments for a considerable time past, that there is something about the Foreign 1409 Service which does not enable it perfectly to fulfil the functions it is called upon to perform. I do not think we can possibly be entirely satisfied with a Service which appoints to major posts abroad at every moment of crisis envoys from outside that Service. During and after the last war we sent to Paris, in succession, Lord Derby and Lord Crewe. We sent to Washington Lord Reading, Lord Grey of Fallodon and Sir Auckland Geddes. We sent to Berlin at a critical moment, when we resumed relations with Germany after the last war, Lord D'Abernon. As soon as this war began we sent to Moscow the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), to Madrid the right hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) and Lord Lothian and Lord Halifax in succession to Washington. Those facts constitute a serious indictment of the Service in themselves.
I do not think I have the competence to trace the reason why those conditions came about, but we have to face the fact that in some way the Foreign Service fell short, apparently not on the commercial and economic and industrial side, on which we are always told its shortcomings exist, but on the political side. The people who have been chosen to go to these places were not people whom the commercial interests would choose as Ambassadors for themselves. With all respect to Lord Halifax and Lord Crewe, and even to the right hon. Member for Chelsea and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol, I do not think in the ordinary way any of them would have been chosen primarily for their commercial qualifications, but evidently there was some reason which caused this state of affairs to come about. I believe, when the Foreign Service was started, the idea in the minds of people was primarily to supply Ambassadors and Ministers with competent staffs and not to build up a great school of envoys who would be ready, when an emergency arose, to take their place in the great capitals of the world. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was customary to send ex-Cabinet Ministers, large landed proprietors, great nobles, ex-soldiers of distinction, people like Lord Stewart, Sir William Hamilton and Sir Horace Mann, not professional diplomatists but people of great competence, to represent their countries in foreign places. What was 1410 found to be necessary was a competent staff to assist them, and a competent staff was built up by the first Diplomatic Service. One thing, however, that was omitted from the qualities required for a staff seems to have been political competence. The people chosen had to be of agreeable manners, people who could get on with foreigners and who were competent as staff officers. They were not primarily concerned to be people of political competence who might well represent their country in an emergency. That was a shortcoming which gradually permeated the Diplomatic Service and brought it down to a level of service which somehow did not compete on all fours with the other services of the country in the difficult times of the last 40 or 50 years.
What ought we to do to remedy that state of affairs? What are the qualities which are most required in a diplomatist to-day? I cannot believe that we want simply to add to the qualities which they already possess just a veneer of commercial and economic knowledge. I believe that that would be fatal to the Service. We want to build up either a Service of great political talent which may in course of time provide us with competent envoys in the countries abroad, or else the best possible staff and recognise the fact that we do not in every case intend to draw the chiefs of Missions from that staff if need arises. I suggest to my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary that he should take counsel very seriously with the Foreign Secretary and his advisers on these matters and that they should make up their minds whether they wish to continue in the present way and have a system of that sort, or whether they propose to aim at building up a great school of Ambassadors. It seems to me that the modern Foreign Secretary will never in very critical questions allow an Ambassador altogether to speak for him. I know that it is the theory and the practice of the right hon. Gentleman who now holds that position to keep the personal touch as far as possible with the Foreign Ministers of countries abroad, and I believe that that is the right policy. Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries must in the future, with the narrowing factors that are going on in the world, which make the world a more closely knit community than in the past, keep close con- 1411 tact with their opposite numbers in foreign countries. That state of affairs will continue to develop rather than to decrease. It that be so, I suggest that what is required is a very competent staff and that the production and development of that staff must be the prime aim of whatever reforms are introduced.
With that aim in view and without developing that side of the matter further, I would like to ask one or two questions about the White Paper. In paragraph 12 it is suggested that the number of Consular posts must be reduced and the number of Diplomatic posts increased. That is a state of affairs we shall all welcome. It will fit in well with the greater democratisation of the Diplomatic Service. The difficulty we feel on this side of the House has already been expressed by my right hon. Friend who spoke first from this side. It is all very well to talk about the democratisation of the Service, but if the examination system is to be open to everybody, the question is how we are to get the people inside it. The ordinary elementary and secondary school boy has very little chance under this system of reform, because he has to get to work and start his career long before he reaches the ages of 21 or 23, as is suggested in the White Paper. Under these proposals a boy passes from the university, and at the age of, say, 22 he comes to the first stage and goes up to the Foreign Service. He passes an examination and is accepted. He then goes for 18 months abroad and has an opportunity of learning foreign languages and of getting some experience of what the Foreign Service is like. He then comes back to this country and goes through a second examination. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will clear up the disparity between paragraphs 14 and 20. Paragraph 14 says that the young man will become a member of the Foreign Service on his return to this country after his 18 months abroad. Paragraph 20 says that he will go through a year's further service. The question whether that second year is a probation period should be cleared up. He returns at the age of 24 and has to go through a year's probation in this country, in which time he studies economics and subjects of that sort. By that time the young man is 25 years of age, and it is not really practicable, it is not within the reach of the working-classes of this country, that 1412 their sons should be so uncertain of what their careers are to be until they reach 25.
I have the greatest sympathy with those who drew up the proposals in this White Paper, but to keep a young man hanging about, continuing as it were his technical education until he is 25 and then to say to him, "We are sorry, we do not want you; we do not think you are the right sort," is extremely unsatisfactory. It will mean that we shall not get the best type of boys going from the elementary and secondary schools into this kind of service. I freely confess that it is a difficult problem. Diplomacy is a thing to which a man must come rather late in life, and we cannot get trained diplomatists at the ages of 20 or 21. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might think again with his advisers and see whether he can do something about what the Under-Secretary in opening the Debate referred to as an army that consisted only of officers. Why not try and create an army and see that promotion is accessible to all its ranks? At the present moment the budding diplomatist does in fact have a real promise of certain success. He must be a complete dud not to get a certain distance. However much he might have been subject in his early days to sarcastic heads, he has a good chance of spending golden afternoons in Panama or somewhere of that sort, because at the present the numbers of heads of Missions are practically equal to the numbers of entrants into the Service.
This state of affairs has to disappear, and I would ask the Under-Secretary to consider whether the second division cannot be recruited more actively and whether it would not be possible to post men of promise to Consulates soon after 18 or 19 where they might learn the elements of their service until 22 or 23. If they showed promise, they might be sent to do the job themselves in a not too important Consular job where they would have the possibility, if they had the competence for it, of sending in reports on conditions in that post and getting into contact with business; then gradually by that means they would advance in the Service, and be able to share in the opportunities of promotion later. I believe it is only in that way that we shall really throw the Service open to the ordinary citizens of this country. Whatever else is true in the observations of the Noble 1413 Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), it is true that it is becoming exceedingly important that this Service should be thrown open to the people as a whole.
There are two further points I wish to put forward. One concerns the selective method. I do not altogether agree with my right hon. Friend who spoke from this side of the House that the selective method is to be discouraged. I think there is a good deal to be said for trying as an experiment whether it is not possible to find men of all classes outside the circle of examinees who might be brought in at a rather later date and become useful members of the Diplomatic Service, and I welcome this method, but it is extremely important that it should be really divorced, as I am sure it is the intention of the Foreign Secretary that it should be, from any sort of class connection. If it is to be a successful experiment, it should be open to young men of all classes who may show some aptitude for the Service.
Lastly, there is the difficult question of choosing the right kind of man to represent this country abroad. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) spoke somewhat disparagingly of the qualities of sympathy and intuition. I cannot help thinking that perhaps he spoke rather hastily. Intuition is an important quality; it is not only a facility for acting on guess work, but is the capacity for entering into the mind of the person to whom you are talking or with whom you have relations. Lord Malmesbury and M. Callieres, two great experts in this matter, speaking at different times 100 or 200 years ago, laid it down that the qualities of the heart were just as important as the qualities of the mind in diplomacy, and that in fact sympathy and the imaginative power to get inside the mind of the interlocutor were among the most important of diplomatic gifts.
I cannot help thinking that those qualities still hold good to-day, and that one of the reasons why we have not been successful in producing the best men in our Diplomatic Service is that those qualities and an aptitude for politics have not been sufficiently considered in choosing our candidates. I am glad, therefore, that the right lion. Gentleman has left his method rather vague and is prepared to advance by trial and error in this matter, and I would ask that he pays special attention to the neces- 1414 sity for seeing that people who do enter the Service have these qualities and are given ample opportunity of developing them as their period in the service advances. To-day we are helping to make a delicate precision instrument for the formation of the new world. We do not all agree in this House as to what shape that new world will take, but we must all agree that the Diplomatic Service will play an important and valuable part, and that it must be the best possible for its task; and if the right hon. Gentleman before he introduces a Bill will think again on this important matter of democratising this important Service and how to select the best possible candidates, I think it will be of advantage.
§ Dr. Burgin (Luton)
These reforms, in my judgment, are obvious reforms, and they are generations overdue, and I therefore commend their arrival in the White Paper. Perhaps I may speak for a moment about the impact which the Foreign Service makes upon business in this country. There are hon. and right hon. Members who have held very high posts in Embassies abroad, and a great many hon. Members have no doubt travelled very widely, but in a more modest way, over the last 40 years, I too have come into contact with Embassies and consular offices in a large part of the world, and perhaps I may speak of some of the things which have struck me. I was brought up to make my way at once to the Embassy on setting foot on the soil of a foreign country and to leave my card, not as a punctilio of politeness but because it was the sensible thing to do. I should like to feel not merely that it is still the sensible thing to do so but that failure to do it would be recognised as a self-imposed handicap upon any British subject visiting a foreign country. This House must take a very large responsibility for the fact that our Foreign Service has not been adequately supported in the last 20 or 30 years. On page 8 the White Paper mentions that the reforms will cost money, and also says on the same page that false economies on buildings and staffs, if they result in impaired deficiency, will be very serious. On the last page it says:The results of inadequacy may involve a costly disaster.Certainly they may. We have not supported our Foreign Service adequately. Reference has been made to buildings and to lack of staffs. Numberless stories could 1415 be given of visits to Embassies where coats of paint were obviously wanted, where books of reference were years out of date, where the Ambassador's allowance for a car or other means of conveyance was so inadequate that there were whole lists of duties which he could not perform, but I am more concerned with the aloofness of the Foreign Service. I am aware that the Ambassador and his staff live in an atmosphere of patronage, of detachment, of diplomatic immunity, of absence from the law of supply and demand, of permitted entry and of privilege. I recognise all that. It is very hard if, even nationals of the country of the Ambassador himself experience aloofness when they reach an Embassy, Consulate, or Legation, but that happens time and time again.
I say at once that, in the conduct of the international business, it is not to the Embassy or the Consulate that one goes for information about a country but to a cable office, a newspaper company, or one of the big international institutions such as a big chemical company or the Association of Chambers of Commerce or the Federation of British Industries or to any other office of that kind. It is a great pity that in the conduct of international business in foreign countries, nationals of our own country should feel that they are handicapped in negotiation with the opposite Government or with nationals of another Government; for in these cases there appears to be diplomatic support for those with whom one is negotiating, whereas in our own case there is a lack of up-to-date knowledge. These are very serious matters.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
If the right hon. Member went to another country and wanted to know something about the working-class of that country, is it not the case that he would have to go to the trade union movement, or may be to the Communist party in that country, and not to the Embassy?
§ Dr. Burgin
I am not saying that it is not important. It happens to be irrelevant. What I want to say is that I hope that there will be inherent in these reports 1416 the idea that the Embassy is a place where up-to-date information about a country can be procured. I am very struck with the fact that very often the London equivalent of the other country has more information than our own Embassy in that country, and I am wondering whether, as part of the training for the new entrants to this Foreign Service, the idea perhaps of a period of apprenticeship in the London Embassy of the foreign country to the Embassy of which he is to be posted, might not be a good idea as part of that training. This is not a fanciful suggestion but one to which a good deal of thought has been given and which would confer a good deal of advantage. When I use the word "Ambassador" I intend to cover the whole membership of that kind of Foreign Service.
We have heard a good deal of that part of an Ambassador's life which represents the portrayal to a foreign country of British institutions and the British mode of thought, but we have not heard so much about that part, very often under-done, of the representation back to this country of the feeling, thought, culture and currents of opinion in the foreign country. You cannot be aloof in an Embassy and understand currents of opinion in the foreign country. I agree with the hon. Member who asked me to give way just now that you cannot be aloof in your study engaged in deciphering documents, and at the same time be wooing the intelligence of another country and learning the currents of opinion that exist there. It is not merely a matter of knowing the language, although that no doubt is an indispensable preliminary. It is much more a matter of knowing the people, of having a very wide, tolerant, ubiquitous presence. It is moving in, around and among, and it is not merely always going to the capital of the country to which you are accredited as Minister by the P. and O. special or by train. It means taking the unorthodox method of going by air or by sea to the nearest port. The approach to a country always by the main railway station is a very limited approach, exactly as if a horse has blinkers. The approach by air gives one an entirely different access to different sections of people and to a different class of thought in the foreign country. Approach by sea is another entirely different approach. These are only a suggestion that among the 1417 training of an Ambassador should be included a departure from the idea that you merely go to the country in a coach running on rails. There is a germ of thought in that suggestion.
As to the learning of languages, it is also stated that an Ambassador must learn the languages of the Latin, Oriental and Slavonic groups. I do not know who was responsible for that selection, but I would remind the House that there is a large group of languages known as the Teutonic, a knowledge of which is not without importance. There is another group known as the Scandinavian, a knowledge of which is equally desirable. I am assuming that those are merely examples and that the White Paper is intended only to be an index and is not exhaustive in this respect. If we are to mention families of languages, let us not limit ourselves to Latin and Oriental languages. We must realise that German is the language of a number of other countries and is the second language on the Continent of Europe. A thorough knowledge of German will be necessary and essential for a great many years to come. The Scandinavian group, of which seven are very similar, is also very important.
Here is the Foreign Office saying that this system of the Foreign Service must be overhauled, and putting forward a White Paper with a number of minimum suggestions. It is very desirable that reference should be made to the different methods of recruitment. A number of men will be coming back from the war with excellent Service records, but with no capacity to take examinations in the ordinary way. The idea of a viva voce examination in order to find out what is in a man and paying tribute to the service that he is performing for his country is an essential one.
These reforms are overdue, and not only in our own country; there is not a foreign service in the world that would not be prepared to treat the proposals of this White Paper as being applicable to themselves. I have discussed this White Paper which, of course, has already been translated into most of the languages of the world, with the diplomats of many countries and they pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for having brought in this White Paper at this stage. They say how much they would like to have an equivalent in their own countries. 1418 The Foreign Service has an immense capacity for good or ill. I dissociate myself from those who try to run down the value of our Foreign Service. It is quite wrong to say that the world looks down on our Foreign Service; exactly the reverse. We who knock about the world, going to Embassies, Legations and Consulates in different countries are aware that there are shortcomings in the way of insufficient staff and not enough experts and that our Ambassadors have to spend too much of their time on tasks which they ought to be able to delegate, so that they would have more time to ascertain the culture, language and life of the countries to which they are posted; but when the most perfect organisation has been worked out, with the most wonderful signal box and a perfect system of railway lines, it is still necessary to pull the right levers or you will get the right train in the wrong place. However perfect this organisation, there will still be the human factor of selection.
I hope this House will request of the Foreign Secretary that, in future, a great deal of thought will be devoted to the selection of the head of a mission. The tasks that he has to perform must be put before any consideration of his own seniority and the attractions of the post to him. It is essential that the idea of the duty to the particular man takes second place to the idea of the duty of fulfilling the mission with the best possible aptitude. That is a very important matter. We have appointed a Francophile to Berlin in the past. It is very necessary that we should avoid gross mistakes of that kind by making the selection, not only because of the rights of a particular applicant or the attractions of the post, but because the person selected had the highest qualifications to represent his country, in the best meaning of that expression. I commend these reforms and I hope they will receive the overwhelming support of this House. They are years overdue.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
The character of an Ambassador has changed a great deal from the days when Sir Henry Wootton defined him as an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country. In those days he was an envoy from a court to a court. More recently he has become an envoy from a Government to a Government. To-day he ought 1419 to be an envoy from a people to a people. It is because in general these reforms point in that direction that I feel able to support them, with one rather important exception; and I feel able to support them also because they do attempt to tap the great reservoir of talent we have in the secondary and grammar schools of this country, which has not as yet been tapped to any extent for the Foreign Service. May I say on that point that it is not enough merely for this House to approve these reforms? Great expectations were held of the Macdonnell reforms of 1918; they have been frustrated. What is the Teason? Very careful examination of these reforms was made in the journal known as "Adult Education" by a tutor disguising himself under the name of Richard Krammer. He comes to this conclusion:We have thus arrived at what is, I believe, the main if not the only, explanation of the ineffectiveness of the 1918 attempt to broaden the social texture of the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service by removing all economic and social barriers to candidature. The explanation is that the sons of that section of the community in whose interests the reforms were primarily intended, did not avail themselves of the possibility of competing for admission to the Diplomatic Corps, which these reforms gave them, to anything like the extent to which the reformers expected that they would.There were many reasons for that result—the feeling that they would have to mix with people with whom they could not mix on equal terms, and so on. I want to suggest to the Under-Secretary that, in consultation with the President of the Board of Education, he should circularise all headmasters throughout the country so that they will direct the minds of their pupils, especially pupils in the secondary schools, to the possibility of a career in the Foreign Service. Very few headmasters to-day regard the Foreign Service as a possible career for their pupils.
As I say, I feel in general agreement with these reforms. In fact, I feel an enthusiastic agreement with most of them, but it is no use, for the purpose of debate, to hand bouquets over the Table. So I pass right away to the great point of disagreement. I object to Method 2 for the selection of candidates for the Foreign Service. We are informed that 25 per cent. of vacancies may be filled mainly by selection, by an interview board, on the basis of past records. I regard that 1420 proposal with the greatest apprehension. If I may briefly recall to hon. Members the history of recruitment to the Foreign Service, they will remember that the Diplomatic Service was rescued from an age of favouritism and nepotism and corruption, firstly, by the introduction, in 1855, of a qualifying examination and then, in 1870, of the principle of the open competitive examination. Whatever the faults of the Foreign Service have been in recent years—they have not been so great as some Members have supposed, though much greater than some other Members have allowed—they are in no way comparable with the faults before 1855. These defects have been removed by the principle of the open competitive examination. As I see it, Method 2 means the undermining of that great and salutary principle. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) has expressed some anxieties on this point. I wonder whether he is aware that one of his predecessors in this House expressed himself eloquently on it. This is what Thomas Babington Macaulay, as he was then, said on 24th June, 1853, in a speech which had a great deal to do with the introduction of the qualifying examination:I must say it seems to me that there never was a fact better proved by an immense mass of evidence, by an experience almost unvaried, than this—that men who distinguish themselves in their youth above their contemporaries almost always keep to the end of their lives the start they have gained in the earlier part of their career.I feel that is equally true to-day, and even more true because the technique of examination has been greatly improved.
May I take up what was said by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown)? At one point I feared I was going to agree with him, for the first time in my life in this House. I was relieved to find that I was in disagreement with him at the end. What we ought to be aiming for is to ensure that every elementary schoolboy in this country with the requisite ability is able to make his way to the secondary school and to the university. To a large extent it is certainly the case at Oxford and Cambridge to-day that a very high proportion of the young men there are old elementary schoolboys. It is quite impracticable to take someone from a workshop and put him into the Foreign Service, for the simple reason that the daily work of a man in the 1421 Foreign Service calls for special qualifications of a university standard. He must know languages, economics, and the history and social institutions of the country to which he is accredited. It ought to be our aim, to see that every boy of ability does go to the university and there does have a chance to enter the Foreign Service.
Open competitive examination is the best method of recruitment because, in the first place, it is objective; it is a test to which no exception can be taken. Secondly, I think it is the most suitable method because what a clerk in the Foreign Office or a Secretary at a Mission abroad is required to do is, as often as not, precisely what he is required to do in the examination room. His superior will suddenly call on him to write a précis, on, shall we say, the history of the Russo-Polish boundaries or something of that sort, which is the type of thing he is called upon to do in the examination room. Examinations are, therefore, a good test of the work he will be called upon to do in the future. Are there some persons who ought to be in the Foreign Service who yet cannot pass examinations? There may be a few such persons, but I do not think that with the improvement in examination technique there are very many to-day. I think that they are amply provided for by the provision that the Foreign Secretary may take two such persons annually. But with the improvement in the technique of examinations the days have gone by when such persons as John Henry Newman or Mark Pattison could be "ploughed." The re-introduction of the method of selection is not an advance but a retrogression to pre-1870 or even pre-1855 days. It is really the last refuge of the old school tie. It may not be intended for this end, but it can have the result of preserving the Foreign Service, in the words of Bright, as a "system of outdoor relief for the younger sons of the aristocracy."
I, therefore, like my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh, view with the greatest apprehension the introduction of Method 2. Apart from the two members whom the Foreign Secretary may choose annually, I would like to see all the posts thrown open to competitive examination. I am afraid the current prejudice against examinations may be very dangerous for this country. We shall, of course, have opportunities of 1422 discussing the general question when the Education Bill comes up. But we all know how on every speech day someone gets up and says, "Of course, when I was at school I never took any prizes," and as the afternoon wears on the poor prize-winners are made to feel the most wretched worms that ever flattened their bellies on the earth.
If I have spoken with some heat, it is out of zeal for the Foreign Service. The business of foreign affairs is half the business of government. On its successful prosecution may hang the question of peace or war, and of life and death for millions. We cannot be at too much pains to see that the people recruited into the Foreign Service are the very best. It is because I agree that in general the Foreign Secretary's proposals are directed towards that end, and calculated to secure it, that I feel enthusiastic in their support; but, because Method 2 seems calculated to introduce into the Foreign Service annually a number of persons who would not otherwise be there, I feel bound to register the most emphatic protest against that method.
§ Mr. Hamilton Kerr (Oldham)
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas) prefaced his remarks with the famous saying of Sir Henry Wootton, that "an Ambassador is an honest man sent abroad to lie for his country." I would add to that in these days "and to know all." It is a commonplace that science in the form of the aeroplane has so contracted the world that the impact of the nations upon each other has been greatly intensified, and it is essential for an Ambassador to know not only the leading political personalities of the country to which he is accredited, but also its economic resources and the hours of labour in its factories. I cannot help feeling how true this point about the contraction of the world is when I cast my mind back to an occasion before the war when I had tea in Berlin, to the sound of S.S. troops marching up the Unter den Linden, dinner among the tulip fields in Holland, and then returned to this House in time to vote on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. Kerr
For. In these days, when the world is contracting, it is more and more obvious that political, economic and 1423 social problems are no longer separate, but have become one major problem. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), who is not in his place, made a very lively criticism of our Diplomatic Service. He rather recalled to me the more romantic and highly-coloured pages of some of our modern magazine fiction, whose writers try to persuade us that the only qualifications necessary to an Ambassador are to be able to manipulate an eyeglass with grace and dexterity, to obtain the services of the best chef in the capital, and to write witty and barbed comments in his despatches on his diplomatic colleagues, and that the one accomplishment necessary to a junior Secretary is to be able to pay charming compliments to a long-lashed Brazilian beauty while toying with quail at a diplomatic dinner party. But that is pure fiction, recalling the saying of an American diplomat that diplomacy was "light on the head but hell on the feet." What is the asset that a diplomat most desires when he comes to a foreign capital to take up his post? It is the knowledge that the Government he has the honour to represent has a fixed and firm foreign policy, which is supported by a large majority in the country and is guaranteed, above all, by adequate armed force. To be quite frank, we all bear our share of the responsibility in this House for the fact that our diplomats did not have these trump cards before the war. You cannot, as one hon. Member said, have a good thing unless you pay for it. It is no good putting a Baby Austin engine into a Rolls-Royce chassis. If you want a good Diplomatic Service, you must spend money on it.
Let me mention the three important changes that are now being made. It is no longer essential for an able young man to possess private means before being able to take the examinations to go into the Service. Secondly—and this is the most important reform of all—there is the system of pensioning off men who have honourable records but who are not fitted for the higher posts. This will prevent the bottleneck which so often in the past blocked promotion. I also welcome the fact that, theoretically at any rate, each man will have to spend some of his time in the Consular Service. We have, as one hon. Member said, a unique opportunity after the war. We in this little Island off the 1424 North-West Coast of Europe are part of Europe, yet we speak English, the mother tongue of the United States. We can play the part of honest broker between the new world and the old. We possess in the British Empire a far greater political experience than any other part of the world. We find not only the great self-governing Dominions, in whose Parliaments the age-old ritual and procedure of Westminster is followed; we find Colonial dependencies half way to self-government with half-elected, half-nominated Councils, and we find the primitive chieftain, on the Gold Coast or in Nigeria, who dispenses justice under an umbrella, with a British adviser at his elbow. We have a tremendous part to play, and in interpreting this part the new, modernised Foreign Service will have an important influence.
Take two imagined examples. First, our relations with our enemies. Suppose that some of us are standing a few days after the Armistice among the twisted girders and still smoking ruins of Krupps' shattered works. The question comes to our minds, "Shall we allow these works to be rebuilt?" If we do, what will they make; will it be munitions, or locomotives and tractors? If any of these, where will there be a market? Suppose we walk through the streets and enter a school. On the wall there may still be hanging a picture of Hitler. We run our eyes over the textbooks and see some of the poison of Dr. Rosenberg on the Aryan myth. Are we to allow this type of teaching to continue? On all this range of problems, we shall require expert advice. What about our relations with our friends? That is perhaps even more important. Look at China. Imagine we are at Chungking, perhaps in the office of the Ministry of Communications. On the wall we see a map, showing in coloured chalks new railways, road and air fields. We can see in imagination thousands of coolies building these new roads, bulldozers on the airfields removing obstructions, rivetters at work on new commercial buildings in the cities. What part is the new commercial China to play in the world? How will her commercialisation affect us?
Very briefly, because time is short, I want to make one or two practical suggestions. The first is about the actual housing of the Foreign Service. Enter the Foreign Office, walk up the marble steps, enter the Foreign Secretary's room, with 1425 its ponderous and magnificent furniture, from the days of Palmerston. You are impressed. But go into the rooms used by some of the lower-paid workers, and you will find them more like the Bastille. If we are to have a better Foreign Service, we should accommodate its members in better offices.
My Noble Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) spoke about women in the Foreign Service. I should like the question to be reopened after the war and examined in the light of the experience both of the United States of America and of Russia, who are making considerable use of women in their Foreign Service. I also believe it to be true that certainly there are many women workers in the Foreign Office at the present moment who are scandalously underpaid. It is true that many women possessing the gift of two languages, extremely competent typists and shorthand writers, are receiving less than £3 per week. It is shameful and does not conduce to high service and efficiency. It might be advisable as a practical step that the whole administration of the Foreign Office should be gone into by some expert in business methods to see whether salaries should not be raised, accommodation improved and the general efficiency of the whole organisation overhauled.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Windsor (Captain Mott-Radclyffe) made some very practical observations upon the necessity of increasing staffs overseas and likewise of increasing their entertainment allowances. He made the very wise observation that it is foolish for a diplomat to spend his days entirely in the great glittering world of the metropolis, where he meets only a few members of the Government to which he is accredited or perhaps the leaders of society. He must get out into the country and contact the leaders of public opinion, the editors of local newspapers, Church dignitaries and trades union leaders. Certainly the success of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir S. Hoare) in Spain has been due to the fact that he has taken the trouble to go round the provinces. I believe it will always be found that opinion is far more representative and more stable in the provinces of a country than in the capital, which is largely cosmopolitan. I hope that more generous allowances will be given to our diplomats in the future to 1426 enable them when abroad to travel round the country and get a real cross-section of the opinion of the country. I must recall one statement which has always stuck in my mind. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division referred to Lord Lothian. Before he left for America some of us dined with him, and in his charming way he asked many of us to write him and said, "My influence with the President will depend principally upon my sources of information." Sources of information are all important to the diplomat, and is because I believe that this new reform will help our diplomats overseas to extend their sources of information that I welcome it unreservedly. I want to congratulate the Under-Secretary of State upon his speech to-day and upon the definition he gave to our diplomacy as interpretative and not positive. It is we in this House, in the last analysis, who must bear responsibility for our diplomacy overseas, and we can be certain that if we state it well the Foreign Service will well and truly represent us.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I would like to echo the last words of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) in the remarks which he made about Lord Lothian. I intended to do that because my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) pointed out that no less than eight ex-members of the Diplomatic Service found their way to this House and that I think seven of them are Cabinet Ministers. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Postmaster-General, the Minister of Agriculture, one of the Whips and a very distinguished ex-President of the Board of Education, Lord Eustace Percy, all came from the Diplomatic Service. But my hon. Friend did not go on to ask why. I have heard—it may be wrong—that there was a certain amount of congestion, and these gentlemen found that the rougher ways of democracy in this House were more suited to their chances of promotion and their obvious ability. At the same time, as the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Martin) pointed out, Lord D'Abernon, Lord Derby and Lord Lothian and other distinguished gentlemen have entered at a higher level and it may be there is some discouragement in the Service because so many appointments have gone to outsiders. I do not think anyone has attempted to draw a lesson from this. 1427 What is the deduction? This Service like every other must be extremely flexible and it is not easy to let young men go in at the age of 21, 22 or 25 and let them go right through, without any fresh wind blowing from outside. This situation has come to a head at two periods, the last War and the present war.
I would like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on his speech. He has great command of language and perhaps unconsciously covered up one or two points about which I wish to ask him questions. There is the point he made that the Foreign Service is going to be drawn from a very much wider class. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown) is right on this point; I am in complete agreement with him and I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. I. Thomas). I am afraid the facts do not bear him out. If any hon. Member wants to look at the facts he can get them. It is not true that in the last 20 years, since the Foreign and Diplomatic Services have been amalgamated, there has been any democraticisation worth noticing. No less than 70 per cent. of those who have entered the Service have come through from Eton or eight other schools. I have been at some pains to get these figures and I could if necessary repeat the precise names of the schools. I do not refer to the years previous to the last war for this, because these were then the gradations in society at home. If you say now 75 per cent. are coming from universities, it depends who goes to the university. The hon. Member for Rugby is not quite accurate. It is not one boy out of every 100 but of every 900 who gets to the university in this country.
There is not a single man in the Foreign Service in this country, except three or four who came in almost by accident, who have ever been to an elementary school or a school outside the headmaster's conference list. It is a very limited range. While I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that 80 per cent. of the work of the Foreign Office is rather humdrum work, there is a percentage of his department which is highly political. A careful analysis has been made by Mr. Dale in his book "The Higher Civil Service" of what this political work means. It implies very close contact with the Minister. I admit that every Foreign Service official 1428 must work against a background at home, and that sometimes it may be a rather defeatist milieu. The only reason I dare to speak is that I feel that anybody who came out of the last war has a terrible sense of responsibility resting on him, because these last 20 years have brought about so few of the things for which he hoped. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is one of the few people who emerged from that war and has on the whole tried to see Foreign Affairs with a progressive mind, but even he must bear his share of responsibility. He was there during the period when these reforms ought to have taken place. I must be very specific and I promise that I will not occupy too much time. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman this question, because it is absolutely crucial: When are these reforms going to take place? I read in the White Paper the word, "immediately," but it is covered up by a series of qualifications. As I see it there will be no change for many years. The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), with much of whose speech I agree, would also share this view. She is anxious to get some changes made soon. I think that the hon. Member for West Leicester was wrong about the qualities of intuition and sympathy not being needed in the Diplomatic and Foreign Service. He overstated his case. This is the point: If you wish to have genuine reform it must be done within the next 10 years. But these changes will not begin to operate until the new entrants come in. I am advised—and I wish my right hon. Friend would answer this question—that a Joint Seniority list could be devised quite quickly as it was devised for the China-Japan-Levant portions of the Consular Service. Otherwise, no results will appear for from 15 to 20 years. We must be realists about it.
What are the main jobs which have to be done? What is the modern job of the Foreign Office? What sort of men and women do they want and where are they to find them? Does this White Paper help to get them more quickly? The job of the Foreign Office is, as my right hon. Friend said so well, not only political but economic; I might add social and cultural. My right hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin) wished to meet certain trade interests when he went abroad, but when I used to visit France 1429 I went to the British Institute in Paris because my contacts with the educational world were more often found within that Institute. I hope that such institute will be found throughout the whole of Europe. If so you must broaden your conception of Foreign Service. You have to train men such as those who have come into this House on the benches behind me. What is the only radical change that has affected this House during the last 30 or 40 years? People who have come here have actually been unemployed. It has made a difference to this House. The presence of an hon. Member who comes from a mining region or from the cotton industry, as my hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) does, makes the whole thing live. You have men like the late Lord Lothian in the Embassy at Washington, or like Professor Tawney or Professor Scott Watson. Would they have had to go through this sieve? The White Paper talks about specialists. What about the men who represent us abroad from the Department of Overseas Trade? What about the Foreign Department at the Ministry of Information? Is that to continue? If so, in what shape? Diplomacy may well be the least important of half a dozen jobs which will have to be done in our Embassies and British Institutes overseas.
Let us talk about the next 10 years, not about something 20 years hence. The jobs during the next 10 years will be for technicians, administrators, doctors, social workers, engineers and the like. They will be wanted from Cairo to Washington. If you go to Washington, Ottawa, South Africa or Cairo to-day you will find such men there, including five hon. Members from this House and two from the House of Lords. There are distinguished men there like Mr. Harold Butler, Mr. Brand, Mr. Noel Hall, who is an economist, and Sir Arthur Salter. How are you to get more of these men? Hence the importance of the "special entry." I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he will have to pay very great attention to the special entry. The people who go in by special entry ought to represent the spirit of men like Derek Rawnsley and others who have died in the last two years. It will be no use waiting for the time when the new entrants come in; a new race of administrators internationally will be required in the next five or 10 years.
1430 I agree with the hon. Member for Keighley about the selection. Why is it that to-day there are committees, official and unofficial, sitting on the selection and training of teachers, ministers, doctors, and architects? Why is it that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has set up a committee for the Civil Service at home only this week and this aspect of the Colonial Service has been debated three times recently in another place? The reason, in my submission, is that the education system in the higher ranges is out of date, and no longer corresponds either to the march of science or even to what I may term the science of human relations, and international affairs is two-thirds human relations. That is another reason why it is important that there should be women in these posts. How is the selection to be done? You are going to eliminate to some extent the examination system, which Mr. Gladstone and Sir James Graham started 80 years ago, saying that it was the most important reform since the taxation was taken off bread. Why is it necessary to have two interviews and for a young man to go before the selection boards? What is the experience of selection boards? Do they not depend very largely on the personal equation of the members? I think you will have to be extremely careful unless you combine examination results with a selection board.
But if there is a selection board only—I know this is intended to bring in the widest group—what will the young men do with themselves between the ages of 17 and 18 when they leave the secondary and grammar schools and the age of 21 and 22 when they go before the selection board? If they are to start off their life in different kinds of jobs, they will very likely have got a foothold in some reasonable job. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, when he replies, will say what is to happen to the 25 per cent. between the ages of leaving school and the ages of 21 and 22 when they are to meet the university men who have had three years at a university? From what sources does he expect to get these young men? Are they to come from the trade union world? Are they to compete on practically level terms with the university men?
With regard to refresher courses, I would remind my right hon. Friend that the idea of a refresher course has com- 1431 mended itself to the Colonial Service and to many industries and professions. Perhaps he will develop the idea that he had in mind when he said that after about seven or 10 years in the Foreign Service it might be possible for these officials to get some fresh experience at home. I have tried to look impartially at the home Civil Service and the Foreign Office Service. The Lord President of the Council is present on the Front Bench, and nobody has greater experience of the Civil Service than he has. Does he agree with me that it looks as if 45 years, or whatever it may be, in one profession tends to dull quite a few people, whatever their profession may be? The Civil Service in addition happens to give security. My experience of undergraduates who have neither money nor influence is that there are only three things into which that type of young man can go—academic life at the universities, teaching in schools, and the Civil Service. In an attempt to get something different from the examination product, my right hon. Friend has suggested the selection board and also two men annually coming in up to the age of 30.
To sum up my very scattered remarks, which I have had to telescope into very few minutes, will my right hon. Friend give us some greater hope that these things will be done speedily, and that we shall not have to wait until the new entrants have to come in several years hence, and can he give us any guarantee that the boys will come from the widest possible social sections of the country? If he can do those three things I, certainly, am not going to oppose him. I am only too glad to think that they have been introduced.
§ Mr. Law
The hon. Member has asked me one or two specific questions to which I will reply at once. He asked first what guarantee there will be that the field of selection will be wider in the future than it has been in the past. I think he did something less than justice to the width of the field of selection in the past. The net has been cast pretty widely. But, leaving that aside, the arrangements for training abroad at the expense of the State should ensure, as far as possible, that the net is cast as widely as it may be. He also asked me what the 25 per cent. of people who entered the Service under Method 2, were going to do between the 1432 time they left school and the time they came up for interview to get into the Service. Of course, they might be doing a variety of things. They might be at a university, or they might just have taken their Schools, or taken their degree and feel disinclined to sit for another examination, or they may have been in business and studying at a night school, or they may have spent a year or two abroad learning languages. They might be filling their time usefully in a number of profitable ways.
I should like to say how much I welcomed the very interesting speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Windsor (Captain Mott-Radclyffe). I think he did something less than justice to his own career in the Diplomatic Service. Indeed, it was obvious from his speech that, in spite of the comparatively short period during which he was connected with the Diplomatic Service, he made the most of it. For one who has been connected with the Foreign Service for so short a time he made a very remarkable name for himself, and I am still hearing of some of his more famous exploits. If he makes the same name for himself in the House—and I think from his speech to-day he will—there is a very great future for him.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) for the welcome that he gave to our proposals, but there were one or two points upon which he was doubtful and upon which he asked enlightenment. One was the separation of the Foreign Service from the home Civil Service. I tried to explain that the separation is not absolute and that there will be opportunities for seconding, or the appointment of Foreign Service officials to posts in other Departments and vice versa. The appointment of people from other Departments to the Foreign Service will not be in any way excluded by these reforms. The right hon. Gentleman was also rather doubtful, like my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) about the selection by interview. I would like to remind him that under these proposals the preliminary Foreign Office interview is discarded. That will no longer take place, and the examination which the new entrants will have to face will have to be the examination conducted by the Civil Service Commissioners for 1433 the Civil Service as a whole. The interview—which is really the wrong name to give it—which candidates will have to face will be the viva voce part of the examination which I understand all candidates for the Civil Service will have to face. The Civil Service Commissioners can be trusted to see that the oral part of the examination will not be loaded against the candidate and in favour of the old school tie.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) made a very interesting, sincere, sympathetic and almost passionate speech about the proposals, which she regarded, I understand, with a certain amount of disfavour. I gather that she would be opposed to any measures for the reform of the Foreign Service which did not allow of the entrance of women into the Diplomatic Service and which did not recognise the great work, which no one for a moment denies, which women are doing in every sphere of national activity today. It is, I think, fair to say that my Noble Friend's principal interest in these reforms is in the question of recognising the position of women. It is necessary to remember, however, that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has to regard the problem from a slightly different point of view. One would have gathered from the speech of my Noble Friend that the Foreign Secretary and the whole of the Foreign Office were violently and unalterably opposed to the admission of women into the Foreign Service. That is not the case. The point I tried to make earlier, and the point, I think, that is made in the White Paper, is that this is such an important problem and a problem of such difficulty, that it would be a mistake to rush into it without the fullest consideration, and a mistake to hold up the whole of the reforms until this very difficult point has been decided. My right hon. Friend has to regard this problem from a point of view slightly different from that of my Noble Friend. He has to think not so much of the position of women but of the efficiency of the Foreign Service. That is the sole criterion he has in his mind, My hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson), who made such a lucid, useful and, indeed, brilliant speech from the depth of his wide experience of this subject, gave us some idea of what the difficulties of the question of the 1434 admission of women are. I think the House would agree after listening to that speech that it was at best a finely balanced argument and that it would be a mistake to come to a decision, not on a consideration of what is best for the Foreign Service, but on a consideration of how best the services of women in the war effort, or wherever it may be, might be recognised.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester raised two or three points to which I would like to allude. I am very glad to think, and my right hon. Friend will be very glad to think, that he does generally welcome these reforms, but he has pointed out, as indeed I pointed out earlier, that the amalgamation of the services will bring with it certain compensating disadvantages. He pointed out that the Service as constituted at present is a small Service. When the Consular and the Commercial Diplomatic branches are brought into it it will be a very much larger Service, and it will be impossible for the Secretary of State to take in each individual man the same interest as he can when it is a small Service. That is true; but that point we try to meet in Part 4 of the White Paper, where we explain that a personnel department is being established which will keep careful record of all members of the Service, and that a system of inspection of diplomatic posts is to be established which will enable the personnel department to keep track of individual records. I do not think the disadvantages which my hon. Friend fears will be anything like as great as he suggested.
Then the hon. Member dwelt upon the essential need for having specialists, men who have spent their whole lives in one part of the world. My right hon. Friend is fully aware of the need of having experts in various spheres but he does not want to train a corps of specialists. He wants even the people who specialise on any particular subject to have, as well, all round knowledge and experience. I think that will be achieved by the proposals of my right hon. Friend. My hon. Friend also said that with the amalgamation of the Services there will be a sense of frustration, because members of the Services will fall into categories of sheep and goats, and the goats will get very despondent. I do not believe that is so of the future though I believe it to be very largely the case at the moment. I 1435 think the Consular Service at present suffers to a very great extent from that sense of frustration, because it feels there is no outlet or avenue of promotion. That will be corrected by my right hon. Friend's proposal.
My hon. Friend also mentioned the desirability of having a staff college. I doubt very much whether a staff college would produce the results which he has in view. After all, the purpose of a staff college is, as I understand it, that soldiers who in peace time have no training in or experience of war and need training in the theoretical side of warfare go to the staff college to make up the deficiencies which peace imposes upon their training. The Foreign Service is quite different. In the Foreign Service the battle is going on all the time. All the time members of that Service are getting, so to speak, their staff training, their war training, in the natural course of their career.
§ Sir Percy Harris (Bethnal Green, South-West)
There is a proposal to set up a staff college for the Civil Service as a whole. It has been recommended by a committee and has been discussed in this House. Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that if such a staff college were set up, the Foreign Office would refuse to let their staff have the advantage of it?
§ Mr. Law
No, I would not suggest anything of the kind, but I would point out that a staff college for the Civil Service would probably have a different function from a staff college for the Foreign Service. A staff college for the Civil Service, as I understand from what was said at Question time in the House a day or two ago, would be designed mainly to train civil servants in administration, and the training we want the Foreign Office staff to have is not strictly administrative but much wider than that. The hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. Brown), who opposed with such violence these proposals, impressed me not so much by his violence, because I thought his attack was weak, as by the amount of nonsense he was talking.
§ Mr. W. Brown
Will the right hon. Gentleman illustrate that? Let us have a little argument and less abuse?
§ Mr. Law
If the hon. Member means that nobody who has been to a secondary school or elementary school would have a chance of entering the Service, that is untrue; people who have been to elementary schools and secondary schools will have abundant opportunities, both under Method I and Method 2. If the hon. Member means, as I think he does, that somebody who has been to an elementary school or secondary school and whose education has stopped at that moment, and who has never been educated further or educated himself further, would not be able to get into the Foreign Service, I agree that he is probably right.
§ Mr. Law
The hon. Member is absolutely right in that. Somebody whose education stops maybe at 14 or 18 and has had no more education at all and whose mental age remains at that, will not get into the Foreign Service, will not get into any other Service of the Crown and, I imagine, will not get into any other responsible work.
§ Mr. Law
The Prime Minister is catered for under Method 2. In his extremely interesting speech, which I am sorry I was not able to hear in full, my right hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin) put the matter into truer perspective than did the hon. Member for Rugby. My right hon. Friend has had great experience in these matters, and he pointed out that this idea that the Foreign Service of this country is regarded abroad with contempt and derision was completely unfounded. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, our Foreign Service has a very high reputation, but, as he also pointed out, 1437 it is not perfect and it never will be perfect. It is the purpose of these reforms to make it better, and I believe they will have that effect.
I wish there were time for me to comment on the very interesting speeches made by the hon. Members for Oldham (Mr. Hamilton Kerr) and Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), but my time is getting rather short. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Keighley objects to Method 2. As the White Paper says, it is an experiment, and if those fearful things happen that the hon. Member expects to happen, the experiment will come to an end. If it is more successful than he expects, the experiment will be carried on. I would like to add that there is one right hon. Member of this House whose advice and counsel we have greatly missed to-day, the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson). It is something more than two years since the Foreign Secretary
|Division No. 9||AYES.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McNeil, H.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Cannock)||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Makins, Brig.-Gen. Sir E.|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Etherton, Ralph||Martin, J. H.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Fildes, Sir H.||Mathers, G.|
|Anderson, Rt. Hon. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ.)||Furness, Major S. N.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Apsley, Lady||Fyfe, Major Sir D. P. M.||Mott-Radclyffe, Capt. C. E.|
|Assheton, R.||Galbraith, Comdr. T. D.||Murray, J. D. (Spennymoor)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gammans, Capt. L. D.||Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H.|
|Astor, Hon. W. W. (Fulham, E.)||Gates, Major E. E.||Nicolson, Hon. J. G. (Leicester, W.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Gibson, Sir C. G.||Petherick, Major M.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P.||Glyn, Sir R. G. C.||Pethick-Lawrence, Rt. Hon. F. W.|
|Beattie, F. (Cathcart)||Goldie, N. B.||Peto, Major B. A. J.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Gower, Sir R. V.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton|
|Beit, Sir A. L.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Price, M. P.|
|Bennett, Sir P. F. B. (Edgbaston)||Grimston, R. V.||Pym, L. R.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Groves, T. E.||Rankin, Sir R.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C.||Gunston, Major Sir D. W.||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bower, Norman (Harrow)||Guy, W. H.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham (St. M.)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hannah, I. C.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Brass, Capt. Sir W.||Harris, Rt. Hon. Sir P. A.||Russell, Sir A. (Tynemouth)|
|Broadbridge, Sir G. T.||Harvey, T. E.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Brocklebank, Sir C. E. R.||Headlam, Lt.-Col. Sir C. M.||Scott, Lord William (Ro'b'h & Selk'k)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Heilgers, Major F. F. A.||Silkin, L.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hely-Hutchinson, M. R.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Bull, B. B.||Higgs, W. F.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Burden, T. W.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Southby, Comd. Sir A. R. J.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hughes, R. M.||Storey, S.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Hutchinson, G. C. (Ilford)||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Butcher, Lieut. H. W.||James, Wing-Com. A. (Well'borough)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (Northwich)|
|Cadogan, Major Sir E.||John, W.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T. (Bromley)||Johnstone, H. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Summers, G. S.|
|Gary, R. A.||Kerr, H. W. (Oldham)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Channon, H.||Kirkwood, D.||Sykes, Maj.-Gen. Rt. Hon. Sir F. H.|
|Chapman, Sir S. (Edinburgh, S.)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Tate, Mavis C.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C.||Lawson, J. J.||Taylor, Captain C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Levy, T.||Thomas, I. (Keighley)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Linstead, H. N.||Thomas, Dr. W. S. Russell (S'th'm'tn)|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Lipson, D. L.||Thomson, Sir J. D. W.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Little, Sir E. Graham- (London Univ.)||Thorneycroft, Major G. E. P. (Stafford)|
|Davidson, Viscountess (H'm'l H'mst'd)||Locker-Lamoson, Commander O. S.||Walkden, A. G. (Bristol, S.)|
|Douglas, F. C. R.||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Ward, Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L. (Richmond)||Mabane, W.||Ward, Irene M. B. (Wallsend)|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||McCallum, Major D.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.|
|Edwards, Walter J. (Whitechapel)||McCorquodale, Malcolm S.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Elliston, Captain G. S.||Macdonald, Captain Peter (I. of W.)||Watt, Lt.-Col. G. S. H. (Richmond)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold|
§ asked the right hon. Member for Mitcham to predigest some of his ideas and submit to him a report. That report was submitted, and though our proposals do not agree with it in every detail—or indeed altogether in principle—it has been of the very greatest help to my right hon. Friend in preparing these proposals. We have had a very interesting Debate, and I feel convinced that the House does, in the main, approve of these proposals.
That this House approves the proposals of His Majesty's Government for the Reform of the Foreign Service contained in Command Paper No. 6420.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 153; Noes, 6.
|Wedderburn, H. J. S.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|White, H. Graham (Birkenhead, E.)||Wootton-Davies, J. H.||Mr. Boulton and Mr. J. P. L.|
|Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. (Blaydon)||York, Major C.||Thomas.|
|Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, S.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Bevan, A.||Granville, E. L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Maxton, J.||Mr. Kendall and Mr. Horabin.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Stephen, C.|