§ 4. Mrs. McKay
asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to what extent he is satisfied with the quantity and quality of Her Majesty's Government's information services in the Arab countries, Iran and Afghanistan; and what steps he intends to take to improve them.
§ Mr. George Thomson
Within the limitations of our existing overall budget and manpower, I am satisfied that we are making the best use of the available resources in our information services in the Middle East.
I do not believe we should at present be justified in stepping up our effort in this part of the world at the expense of other areas. But we do, in fact, frequently review the allocation of our resources, and have recently decided to appoint information officers to two further Middle Eastern posts at the cost of taking staff from larger embassies in that area.
§ Mrs. McKay
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister of State for his reply. Nevertheless, I hope that he will take steps to secure an increase in the overseas information Vote sufficient to enable effective presentation of the Government's policy to be made in all Middle Eastern countries, and to foster mutual understanding with a view to enabling a progressive reduction to be made in our expensive military commitments in those areas.
§ Mr. Thomson
We are anxious, both in the Middle East and in other parts of the world, to make the most effective presentation in every way possible of the policies of Her Majesty's Government, 1168 but any increase in this respect involves an increase in the global amount of money available on the information Vote.
Mr. W. T. Williams
Does my hon. Friend not know that among ordinary folk—in the countries of the Arabian Federation, anyway—there is a good deal of anti-British feeling at the moment; and that the vacuum that has been created by the failure of British propaganda is being filled by United Arab Republic propaganda and German influence? Does he not feel that these are matters that require the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government?
§ Mr. Thomson
Yes, Mr. Speaker. I am aware that there is a good deal of critical feeling of Her Majesty's Government's policies in the Middle East, and I believe that that critical feeling is almost always based on misunderstandings of our policy, which our information services do their best to remove. I would pay tribute to the work that our regional information office does in Beirut. In the face of considerable difficulties, it does excellent service on behalf of the country.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
What is the total budget for this area for last year and, as the Minister of State said that there was to be a reorganisation there, what is proposed in the coming year?
§ Mr. Thomson
I am sorry, but I could not give that information without notice. If the noble Lady likes to put down a Question I shall, of course, answer it.