HL Deb 16 July 1941 vol 119 cc789-833

LORD DAVIES rose to move to resolve, That this House regards the proposals adumbrated by His Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of our information and propaganda services as totally inadequate; and that, in its opinion, the time has come when, in order to secure the most effective prosecution of the war, it is necessary to constitute a single diplomatic front under the direction of a Cabinet Minister.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. About a fortnight ago we had a debate in this House on the subject of propaganda, and in that debate almost all the speakers criticised the arrangements which were in existence at that time. I thought it was only right, therefore, that we should discuss these arrangements again in the light of the proposals which were made in another place by the Lord President of the Council about ten days ago. I am sure that your Lordships will have read an account of that debate, which was a most remarkable one, in that almost all the speeches were directed against the proposals which had been put forward and dissatisfaction was almost unanimously expressed with the compromise which had been suggested. I think that most people will agree that we cannot win a war on compromises. The speeches also referred to the confusion and chaos which culminated in what I believe was described by the Press as "the Battle of Bloomsbury."

There was one remarkable speech, delivered by Captain Plugge, which was an indictment of the broadcasting arrangements which are in vogue at present. I understand that Captain Plugge is an expert on the technical side of broadcasting, because I believe that he was Chairman of the International Broadcasting Company, and therefore one concludes that he is in a position to speak on this subject from the standpoint of the expert. He drew attention to the fact that when the Prime Minister last December made his broadcast appeal to the Italian people, owing to the technical defects in our broadcasting system it was almost impossible for the Italian people to listen in to that broadcast speech. I confess that that came as a shock to me, because I had always imagined that that speech would have percolated into the minds of the Italian people and would have produced, at any rate to some extent, the results for which we all hoped. However, it appears that this was not the case. In The Times of December 27 it was stated: There is no public response to Mr. Churchill's broadcast to the Italian people because relatively few people in Italy heard it, apart from foreign diplomatists, journalists, high officials of the Fascist Party and prominent State officials of whose duties wireless listening is an integral part. The proportion of receiving sets in Italy strong enough to pick up London is low. It appears, therefore, that so far as Italians are concerned and from a practical standpoint that speech did not serve the purpose for which it was intended; and, as Captain Plugge pointed out, the Prime Minister was let down by our technical services.

Captain Plugge also pointed out that so far as the Mediterranean was concerned the Axis Powers had a practical monopoly of broadcasting. It appears that ten months ago he suggested to the authorities here that broadcasting stations should be established in Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus and, if that had been done, the Prime Minister's speech could have been rebroadcast to the Italian people and they would have been able to listen in and hear it. The present position, according to Captain Plugge, is that we do not possess 10 per cent. of the facilities which he regards as a minimum, and we employ the facilities which do exist only to the extent of 50 per cent. of their capacity. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that Captain Plugge's speech is well worth reading. I trust that the Government will consider most carefully the technical proposals which he made and see what can be done to remedy the unfortunate situation in which we apparently find ourselves.

Another impression left by that debate is the apparent inability of the Government to grasp the vital importance of propaganda and broadcasting. We may be sure that that is not lost upon the enemy, for the enemy have for years past attached the greatest importance to propaganda, and especially to broadcasting. In the last war we were the first country to realise the importance of propaganda as a war weapon. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply to this debate whether it is true or not that in the Non-aggression Pact of Germany with Turkey a provision was inserted that the Ankara long-wave station should discontinue forthwith its English broadcasts. Ankara was the last long-wave station in Europe, exclusive of Russia, that still gave free English broadcasts. It shows the importance which Hitler, at any rate, attaches to broadcasting if it is true—I do not know whether it is true or not—that such a provision was inserted in this Non-aggression Pact with Turkey.

We are all in agreement as to the inadequacy of the existing arrangements. There seems to be general opinion on that point, because when it was discussed in this House a few days ago most of the speeches expressed dissatisfaction. The same thing happened in the debate in another place, and I gather from the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Elibank has put on the Paper that he is in accord with the first part of my Motion. He wishes to delete the second part, which alludes to what I have described as a "single diplomatic front." Doubtless he has a better plan in his mind, and I hope he will be able to explain that plan to us so that your Lordships may be able to consider by what means we can improve the present arrangement and ensure that the diplomatic campaign is carried on with the utmost vigour. In approaching this question we should try to avoid all personalities and refrain from attacking any particular Department or Minister. After all, I believe that many of the criticisms and complaints levelled against the Departments are due not so much to the fact that the Departments do not try to do their best, but to the fact that they have to work under an impossible system. So long as that system remains they will always be under that handicap. I observe that one of the Directors of the Ministry of Information told someone the other day that it was quite ridiculous that we should be attacking a tank with a pitchfork. That was the way he put it. I cannot help feeling that that is due not so much to the fact that Ministries are not trying to do their best, but to the fact that they have not been co-ordinated into a single diplomatic front.

There are a number of Ministries and Departments involved in this business. First of all, there is the Foreign Office whose job it is, and always has been, to initiate policy and prepare the diplomatic plan of campaign. That is the Ministry which is responsible for outlining, at any rate, and in part executing, the diplomatic campaign. Then we come to the Ministry of Information. Its function appears to be propaganda and the dissemination of our war aims—to carry on a campaign in support of our war aims on the Home Front, on the neutral front, and in enemy country. I need not expatiate on that part of its work. Then, I believe, in some way or other the Ministry of Economic Warfare is also mixed up in propaganda. In the last war this Ministry, under the supervision and direction of my noble friend Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, was an appendage of the Foreign Office. It worked under the general supervision of the Foreign Office.

Then we come to the B.B.C., the most important of all, and the instrument for conveying our propaganda, especially abroad. That is a sort of no-man's-land. Apparently, it does not come under the control, as a good many people are apt to think, of the Ministry of Information. The Minister has no direct control at all over the presentation of the news which is broadcast by the B.B.C. He has a liaison officer who is there to represent him, but he has no real authority in the matter. Then we come to another body which is called the British Council. No doubt, the British Council does most excellent work. In peace-time it was engaged in endeavouring to popularise our points of view, our culture, our literature, our education, and so on, in other countries. That is a most beneficent work in peacetime, but I cannot help feeling that the British Council should be part and parcel of our propaganda machinery. I suggest that they take off the kid gloves and put on knuckle-dusters. Then there are the Public Relations Departments of the Fighting Services, who have a great deal to do with the news which emanates from their Departments. Thus we have all these Ministries and Departments engaged on what I have tried to describe as the diplomatic front, presenting our case and endeavouring to carry on our propaganda both at home and abroad.

What I am trying to do is to stress the need for more coherent organisation and co-ordination between these various Departments. We know very well the importance which the enemy attaches to organisation and co-ordination in all his efforts, both in the field and in the realm of propaganda. Therefore, what I suggest is that these efforts will not be properly organised and co-ordinated until there is one directing head, one Cabinet Minister who is responsible for the operation of all these propaganda services. I do not know that it matters what name is attached to a Department of this kind. I hold no brief for the Foreign Office or for the Ministry of Information, but one does feel that our many efforts on the diplomatic front should be directed from one source, and that that source should come under the direction of a Cabinet Minister who is responsible to the Prime Minister and to the War Cabinet, who obviously have the last say, and, equally obviously, have to approve of any plan or scheme before it can actually be put into operation.

I do not see why there should be any distinction between what is called our foreign policy and our war aims. I cannot help feeling that whatever Department it is that is responsible for producing the powder and shot should be the Department also for executing the plan and for carrying on the campaign. There is no need for me to stress the importance and the value of propaganda as a weapon. Our enemies, as I have said, have realised its importance for many, many years, and we have only to recall the speeches which have been made by our Prime Minister, and broadcast to America and other countries, to realise the enormous value which attaches to propaganda and to the spoken word over the microphone. The Prime Minister's speeches are limited in number because he cannot always be making speeches, and to get the maximum result out of our propaganda it must be persistent, it must be continuous, it must be drip, drip, drip all the time, so that eventually it percolates into the quarters where we want it to go. I cannot help feeling that hitherto we have been more or less on the defensive. The time has now come when we want a vigorous offensive along the whole diplomatic front, and when, especially, we want to drive in a wedge between the Nazi Party in Germany and the mass of the German people. This was alluded to in a speech delivered by the Prime Minister, the day before yesterday, in which he said: We have now intensified for a month past our systematic, scientific, methodical bombing on a large scale of the German cities, seaports, industries and other military objectives. We believe it to be in our power to keep this process going on on a steadily rising tide month after month, year after year, until the Nazi régime is either extirpated by us or, better still, torn to pieces by the German people themselves. In order to expedite that process I cannot help feeling that everything possible should be done to drive in a wedge between the Nazi Party and the great mass of the German people. I believe the population of Germany is about 80,000,000, and of that 80,000,000 3,000,000 are official members of the Nazi Party. We want to stimulate unrest and disappointment and other feelings amongst the 77,000,000 in order that they may rid themselves of this incubus of grizly gangsters (as I think the Prime Minister described them) who have brought all these calamities upon them.

I do not wish to detain the House any longer, because I understand that a number of Peers are anxious to speak on this subject. May I suggest that the matter is one which demands our most careful consideration? We presume that the Government have drawn up a strategic plan in which both diplomatic and military measures are included. I infer that is so from what the Prime Minister said in the speech from which I have just quoted. The former—the diplomatic measures—are concerned with morale, the latter with the physical forces engaged in this life and death struggle. One is employed to attack the mind of the enemy, the other his body. War is a supreme act of violence, but the violence is not confined to the military, naval, and air operations; it is also a resounding clash between spiritual forces, between conflicting and opposing conceptions of right and wrong. When we embark upon war it is, therefore, imperative that we should employ all our moral and material resources so that the act of violence may develop into such intensity of volume that nothing can withstand it. I venture to think that it is the combination of spiritual and physical strength that ultimately decides the issue. Therefore, both should be organised on a war footing and coordinated in preparation for the grand onslaught upon the enemy which will hasten our victory and the triumph of our cause. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That this House regards the proposals adumbrated by His Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of our information and propaganda services as totally inadequate; and that, in its opinion, the time has come when, in order to secure the most effective prosecution of the war, it is necessary to constitute a single diplomatic front under the direction of a Cabinet Minister.—(Lord Davies.)

VISCOUNT ELIBANK, who had given Notice of an Amendment to the Motion—namely, to leave out all words after "inadequate"—said: My Lords, as my noble friend has stated, I have put down an Amendment to his Motion, and in doing so I was influenced by the fact that I felt that in any matters which we discuss in Parliament to-day—as occasional critics, may I say—it is only right that, where there is a difference of opinion even in pursuit of the same object which I and my noble friend have got, that difference should be aired so that at least the Government may know what is in our minds, and can come to the best and right conclusion about it. The noble Lord has put his Motion in two parts. With the first part I have little but agreement, and also with the arguments that he advanced for it. With the second part, as I have shown by my Amendment, I am entirely in disagreement.

The noble Lord, in putting down the second part of his Motion and in the case which he stated in its favour, has indicated that in his opinion both the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information should be placed under one Cabinet Minister. That is the effect, indeed, not only of his Motion, but of what he stated—that is to say, that this new Ministry (because we must call it a new Ministry) would have under its care our foreign policy, the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Information, which includes propaganda and all the news services, and indirect association with the Service Departments, with the B.B.C. and all the paraphernalia supposed to go with the Ministry of Information to-day. That would be a gargantuan task. I cannot for a moment foresee the present Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, being prepared to assume such immense duties. In fact, to be the head of a Department of that nature would require not only the wisdom of a Sophocles but the endurance and physical strength of a Hercules.

On the last occasion when we debated this subject in your Lordships' House, I advanced arguments with regard to the projection of propaganda, if I may put it in that way, showing that in my belief at least—and it has not been contradicted since in any quarter, except by inference by the noble Lord to-day—the Foreign Office trained official was not competent by his training or by his experience to send out propaganda or to promote propaganda in any way or in any circumstances. All his training and his experience have been, as I said on that occasion, in connection with the making of agreements, with negotiations and with diplomatic arrangements between this country and the foreign Government with whom he is in relation. Everywhere it has been admitted that Foreign Office trained officials are not the proper channels through whom propaganda ought to be made; but the noble Lord has suggested by the Motion which he has on the Paper that Foreign Office officials are capable and competent propagandists. The Foreign Secretary must be responsible for foreign policy, subject of course to the approval of the Cabinet, and consequently it must be the Foreign Secretary who is to be put in charge of this gigantic composite Department.

I venture to suggest that that is not practical. There are two main features connected with the subject which we are discussing, and those are foreign policy and propaganda. As I have just stated, the Foreign Secretary is responsible for foreign policy, and the Ministry of Information is responsible for propaganda and all that pertains to that particular subject. I cannot agree, and I can hardly see the Government agreeing with the suggestion of the noble Lord, or indeed with any suggestion which is going to bring those two Departments together under one roof and as a composite body. I noticed that my noble friend, when I made that suggestion, shook his head as if I had misinterpreted his intention in the words he has spoken, but I have in my hands a book which my noble friend very kindly sent to me called The Foundation of Victory which I recommend every noble Lord to read because there is a great deal of interest and a great deal of truth in it. If I take one paragraph out of a chapter entitled "The Diplomatic Front," I think it will be agreed that I have not misinterpreted or misunderstood the noble Lord's intention. That paragraph reads: For these reasons it is suggested that the time has arrived when the distinction which apparently exists between our foreign policy and our war aims should be abolished. Both should be merged and placed under the direction of one Minister instead of two, This can be achieved by amalgamating the Foreign Office with the Ministry of Information. The combined Ministry would then be responsible for the duties now performed by each of these Departments. I think it is perfectly clear from that statement in his book that that is what the noble Lord was conveying to us to-day. I would like to add that I hope that the noble Lord will not regard this book as Hitler regards Mein Kampf and that he will not periodically produce resolutions out of this book for debate in your Lordships' House, because, if so, your Lordships' debates may be lengthened somewhat by the Amendments which I may find myself forced to move on those occasions.

The noble Lord in the course of his remarks said that he had given his views as to how this was to be done and that he hoped the noble Viscount who had put clown an Amendment would give his views as to how it ought to be accomplished. I will give as shortly as I can my views upon that matter. First I would like to say that the noble Lord, in a number of matters on which he touched in the earlier part of his speech, has shown up the weakness of the present system under which the Ministry of Information is operated. In order further to disclose those weaknesses, I am bound to refer to the only authoritative speech from the Government which has been made upon this subject, and that was the speech made in another place a fortnight ago by the Lord President of the Council. I had the privilege of listening to that speech, and I must confess, as one who urged in this House a little over a fortnight ago the reform of the Ministry of Information and the basis upon which it was resting, that I was extremely disappointed by that speech and by the proposals contained in it. I was not alone in that. There was hardly a single member in another place who did not condemn the small amount of advance which has been made from the existing conditions in the improvement of that Department.

There were several points which particularly arose in that debate. One, of course, was the question of the relationship of the Minister of Information with the Service Departments. Another was the speed in the handling of news. Another was the question of the relationship wth the B.B.C. And a fourth was the question of the standing and status of the present Minister of Information in his relationship to the War Cabinet. The Lord President of the Council, so far as these various points were concerned, gave the House very little hope indeed. What was extremely interesting was that he emphasized, and emphasized two or three times in his speech, that speed was the essence of the whole situation. Yet, when it came to adumbrating the proposals which he set before the House, every suggestion that was made by the members of the House to that end was rejected by the Lord President of the Council as not being feasible. He hoped to get better and greater efficiency by a certain rearrangement of the relationship between the Service Departments and the Ministry of Information, under which the officials of the Service Departments should serve in the Ministry of Information. But he cut the ground from right under that arrangement in a few sentences afterwards, because he said that Each Service Minister has agreed that important issues of policy which cannot be decided by his representative on the spot—that is, in the Ministry of Information—may be referred for immediate decision to him or, if he is not available, to an official of the highest standing in his Department specially designated to give decisions on his behalf.

Not only had this to be referred back to the Service Department, but the unconstitutional procedure was outlined whereby an official of the Department was to override the Minister of Information, who is a Cabinet Minister. I see my noble friend the Leader of the House shakes his head, but I am actually quoting from the Official Report. It says here that if important issues of policy "cannot be decided by his representative on the spot—that is, in the Ministry of Information—" it "may be referred for immediate decision to him, or, if he is not available, to an official of high standing in his Department specially designated to give decisions. …" If that means to the Minister of Information himself and not to the Service Minister, then I admit that I have not given a proper interpretation. If it means that that must be referred back to the Service Minister or to a high official in his Department, then I have not misinterpreted what the Lord President stated. A Member asked: Why not appoint the Minister of Information immediately as a member of the War Cabinet so that he has all the powers to take decisions and to enforce decisions where he considers that no harm could be done from the point of view of the enemy? The Lord President of the Council, after saying that the time factor necessitated making special arrangements, went on to say: I do not think we should make any advance along those lines of making the Minister of Information a member of the War Cabinet.

The noble Lord asked me, what is the plan which I should substitute for the one he has given in his Motion? First of all, as I stated in my speech a fortnight ago in your Lordships' House, I should ensure that propaganda was more journalistically minded and of a more practical character from that point of view than it is to-day. Secondly, I should form a Ministry of Information which would be responsible for propaganda of all kinds in this country and in Europe, and I should make the Minister of Information sufficiently powerful in his position to enable him to enforce that. I should, in addition, appoint him head of the B.B.C. in this country, at any rate so long as the war lasted, for all matters connected with propaganda. I am not talking about musical programmes, talks, or anything of that nature, but anything which appertains to news of a war nature or of a propaganda nature to foreign countries, the Minister of Information should be appointed to supreme command. So far as the British Council is concerned, if it is to have propaganda activities—up to now its activities have been almost purely cultural—it should likewise come under the Minister of Information. Then, alongside that, I should have the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who must be responsible for foreign policy, subject, of course, to the approval of the War Cabinet, together with an official—Mr. Bruce Lockhart, if you like—who will be responsible to him to see that that foreign policy, or those war aims, shall be passed to the Ministry of Information to be embodied in the propaganda they send out. I think the noble Lord will agree that that is a scheme, in any case, but it has one lacking quality in my mind; that is, that unless you make the Minister of Information a member of the War Cabinet, as the noble Viscount, Lord Camrose, proposed in his speech a fortnight ago, he will not be clothed with adequate authority to carry out all those duties.

I am going to suggest that to-day we are too much inclined to think in terms of the last war. Actually the conditions of this war are indicating every day that they are assuming a different character and a different nature from anything that happened in the last war. In the last war we had not the speed; we had a different kind of fighting, a different kind of equipment. In the last war we were fighting on nine fronts. In this war we are fighting on eighteen fronts. That includes the three oceans on both occasions. I have taken the trouble to add up these fronts to see whether it is correct, and if that is correct, need we, for instance, stick to the idea which I advocated in this House myself a year ago that we necessarily must have a very small War Cabinet? I am not so sure that a small War Cabinet is for the best to-day, in view of all the problems with which the Cabinet have to deal. I venture to suggest to the Prime Minister that he should consider whether the time has not come when the basis of the War Cabinet should be broadened, so as to make it include several Ministers who, as the result of the debates and of the knowledge and light which has been thrown upon the various subjects with which they deal, should be members of the War Cabinet. Whilst that basis is being broadened, it might be possible, and I think it would be a good thing, to have places reserved for representatives of the Dominions, of India and of the United States of America, who will very soon be nearer to us in the war than they are today. Then, having regard to the problems with which this country has to deal, and the problems with which the Prime Minister has to deal and the various difficulties and trials that there are in every direction, I cannot conceive that even a War Cabinet with nine or ten members would be too large in the circumstances.

I wish to conclude by thanking the noble Lord for having raised this Motion. I thank him, too, for putting down the second part of his Motion on the Paper, so as to enable at least myself to combat it, to say what one member of your Lordships' House thinks about it, and to express the nope that if the noble Lord wishes to go to a Division, your Lordships will not support it. I think I ought, in a final word, to say that I do not propose to press my Amendment to a Division—I have the right, first, to do so I believe—unless the noble Lord intends to press his Motion, and I think it is only fair to say that to your Lordships now, so that you know, at any rate, exactly where I stand. With these few words I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name.

Amendment moved— Leave out all words after ("inadequate").—(Viscount Elibank.)


My Lords, you have listened to two very able speeches, if I may be allowed to say so. I did not find that there was very much in conflict between the two noble Lords: the one who moved the Motion, and the one who moved the Amendment. They both joined with everyone else outside the narrow ranks of the Ministerial hierarchy in condemning the present arrangements. It is an extraordinary thing that in the debate in another place there was no support for them; not even the Minister of Information showed any sort of enthusiasm for the arrangements outlined by the Lord President of the Council. All the non-official speakers condemned them. Most remarkable of all is that no newspaper that I have seen has had a good word to say about the new scheme—least of all The Times, of all papers, which wholeheartedly condemns it. Sir Walter Monckton, the right hand man of the Minister of Information at the Ministry, has described his powers as "a pitchfork with which to fight a tank."

Now that everyone condemns the Ministry of Information, there must be something good about it, and that, of course, is true as your Lordships who know the Ministry are aware. Those of your Lordships who do know the Ministry and its work will agree that many of its sections are very well managed and organised, and that also applies to some parts of our foreign broadcasting. For example, take the Overseas Press Section of the Ministry. I believe it will be agreed by those who know that its work is admirably organised and it does very valuable service in the national cause. With regard to foreign broadcasts, there is general agreement, I find, that the French broadcasts are excellent. They are given by Frenchmen in touch with the best opinion in France, and they have a fairly free hand. I am told that the results are very good indeed. On the other hand, everyone with knowledge condemns the broadcasts in German to the German-speaking countries. I am sure that my noble friend has had the same experience in talking to people who know that subject.

While I do not think, therefore, that it is quite fair to blame the whole organisation of the Ministry, I say that certainly the present system is not showing the best results, and it cannot show the best results. May I in a few words—I do not intend to detain you long—give an example of the sort of neglect which does so much harm at the present time? Before the war, Dr. Goebbels had organised a world news service, called Trans-Ocean, which distributed news by radio all over the world. This news is not too plainly propagandist. Good stories are sent out, and the news is "hot," as journalists say. The service is free to second-rank newspapers all over the world, and the country newspapers and the provincial newspapers are of great importance in many countries—South America, for example. Any newspaper in any part of the world can use Trans-Ocean free of copyright fee provided that they pay the pick-up charges of their local radio station. You have this constant outpouring of German news by radio and we have done precisely nothing to counter it. There is no equivalent service to Trans-Ocean sent out from this country. That this should be so after many months of war I think is very scandalous.

One other example. We have in this country, and in London in particular, a very fine body of men in the American newspaper correspondents. I believe that they have done very great service to the cause for which we are fighting in sending out all the information they can about the great struggle in which we are engaged. Every newspaper correspondent from America whom I have heard of, or spoken to, complains that he cannot get news, cannot get information, and is not allowed to release stories which he has obtained and which are afterwards passed, after hopeless delay, while the Germans are continually getting out their versions of events in front of our own. These complaints have been going on for a very long time. They are known, I am sure, to my noble friends Lord Southwood and Lord Camrose, and these noble Lords will be aware that these complaints are made by people who are friendly to us and who wish well to our cause.

I understand that what my noble friend Lord Davies has in mind is that the Ministry of Information should have more autonomy and that its news and work should not be so completely subject to the veto of the Foreign Office, the Admiralty, the Air Ministry and the War Office. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, is shocked at the idea that there should be an amalgamation of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information, but in actual practice the Foreign Office to-day controls the propaganda abroad of the Ministry of Information; as regards its overseas service, the Ministry of Information is a handmaid of the Foreign Office. Moreover, the Service Departments control its news output. When my noble friend Lord Davies suggests that there should be one Minister who should be a member of the War Cabinet, I will agree with him if he will put it in such a way that the Minister of Information should himself be a member of the War Cabinet with full powers. If he is a man who cannot be trusted to know what can and what cannot be released, he is not fit to be Minister of Information and somebody else must be found; but, until we have one man who can act quickly with full knowledge of everything that is going on, there is not a fair chance of counteracting German propaganda, which is very able and very efficient, as put out by the propaganda machine in that country. It is a great mistake to underrate the effects of enemy propaganda.

The complaints regarding broadcasting to Germany constitute, I think, the most serious indictment. The explanation is that the Department is understaffed, has miserable accommodation, and is much hampered by the dead hand of the Foreign Office. I suggest, however, that there is a deeper cause for the trouble. I am speaking now of our propaganda to enemy countries, which is an altogether different subject from our propaganda and information to neutral and friendly countries. I think the trouble is that we have never quite made up our minds whether the whole German people are past praying for and are so soaked in original sin as to be beyond redemption, or whether there is a large or considerable section in Germany who will one day see the errors of their present Government and overthrow it. Those two conflicting views about the German nation have never, as far as I know, been resolved. There is what I may call without offence the Vansittart view, and there is what I may call, also without offence, the Liberal view, which is that there is a large section in Germany who will one day substitute a better form of Government for their present one and with whom we shall be able to live in peace.

I do not suggest which view is right; but if the view is that all Germans—or at any rate the present generation—are incorrigible, then we are merely wasting our time in attempting to influence them at all by the only two means open to us—leaflets and radio propaganda. It is a waste of time to attempt to influence them, if we take that view. On the other hand, if we take the other view, then our propaganda should be much more effective. For example, the New Order adumbrated by Herr Hitler is attractive to very many Germans. It puts them in a dominating position and it promises them peace and employment We must put something definite before the masses of the German people as an alternative, and an attractive alternative to this New Order; but as far as I know that has never been attempted.

Let me give an actual example of the bad handling of news to Germany. On the evening of June 22, after the German Army had been ordered to march against Russia, the Prime Minister made a very important speech which was, of course, rebroadcast in all languages immediately afterwards. The German version, which was the most important of all, was, however, so muddled and jumbled as to be almost unintelligible, the reason being that those responsible were not given the text in time and had not a fair chance to trans-late it into good German. People with a real knowledge of the German language who heard the version of the speech given in that language were appalled at the bad translation which had been made. I suggest to the noble Lord, the Leader of the House, that that is an example of bad staff work. The text of the Prime Minister's speech—which, of course, was ready well beforehand; it was the sort of speech which he had to have written out—should have been given out in plenty of time, especially to the section which had to rebroadcast it to Germany. Lapses in staff work of that kind should not occur at this late period in the war.

The other suggestion which I should like to m make to my noble friend the Leader of the House, if I may, is with regard to our facilities for broadcasting in the Near and Middle East and in the Far East. My noble friend Lord Davies referred to the loss to us of the long-wave station at Ankara tinder the recent agreement between Germany and Turkey. I believe that we suffer very much from a lack of broadcasting facilities to the Arabic, Persian and other Asiatic countries. The entry of Russia into the war should give us the use, if we can make the necessary arrangements, of a number of very efficient broadcasting stations which are geographically nearer to these countries than are the Italian and German stations. We have suffered from a geographical disadvantage in our propaganda to these Eastern countries, but, if we could now get the loan of the Russian stations for so many hours a week, we could react the very important populations of those countries much more easily. I do not know whether it is possible to arrange that, but I suggest that the possibility of doing so should be explored. I hope that one of the missions we shall send very shortly to Russia will be a mission from the Ministry of Information and the British Broadcasting Corporation, to explore the possibilities of joint propaganda through the Russian broadcasting stations in the Near and Middle East. Incidentally, it is an extraordinary thing that until the eighth of this month—I do not know whether it has been altered since—we were attempting no news broadcast to Russia at all on the short-wave length. I do not know what the reason for that was, but I hope that that has been attended to.

I am afraid that I cannot, on behalf of my noble friends, congratulate the Government on their latest arrangements. The Labour Party have had to find the same faults with them as have speakers from other Parties. It is very sad that the Government seem to have missed the importance of this Fourth Arm, and not to have appreciated the defects in out-present machinery. If I may refer to one more example, of which I have given notice to my noble friend, Turkey is a very important country, and the British Information Office was most ably directed in Istanbul by the late Sir Denison Ross: but since his unfortunate death last November, no Director of that office has been appointed. Here we are in the middle of July and the office in Istanbul is still without a Director. I cannot imagine either the Germans or the Italians, if they had an office in Istanbul, leaving it without a head for all these months. I know the difficulty of finding the right man, but there must be somebody who could be sent to take charge of this very important office. It is easy to become very pessimistic when one considers the apparent muddle which still continues in our whole system of foreign information and broadcasting. I can only hope that my noble friend the Leader of the House will, as a result of this debate and of what he has already heard, use his great influence to try to bring about some improvement.


My Lords, I shall try to condense what I have to say to the House, although I do not often address your Lordships, because I know that there are many noble Lords who wish to speak. I shall certainly proceed on the assumption that all your Lordships have read the debates which have taken place in both Houses, and I do not propose to quote from the Official Report of either House. In the debate in both Houses there has been a great deal of criticism both of propaganda, as in the case of the last speech to which we have listened, and of the machine; but I think that the critics and the Government have really the same aim, and that is to make full use of propaganda and to get the machine right. If I did not feel that that was true, I should take a much more gloomy view than I do of the position, and I should feel that the rift between the Government and their critics was a great deal deeper than in fact I believe it to be. Indeed, if one were to take that view it would mean assuming that the Prime Minister, who is a master of the art of war in all its dimensions, was attributing inadequate importance to one of the arms of war of which he is himself perhaps the greatest living exponent.

To arrive at a right solution in this matter, it is important to differentiate between policy and the machine to give effect to policy. Both the policy and the machine have got to be right, but policy is the more important. If the policy be not right, if the importance of propaganda policy be not appreciated, then, given the best machine in the whole world, you will not be able to put it across because the essential strategy behind the machine will be wrong. In policy I would include the importance attached to propaganda and the part which propaganda has to play in this war. I am not going to elaborate that by examples. It is enough for me to say that I share to the full the views which have been expressed on the importance of propaganda. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that, while I am certain we will never be beaten in this war, we cannot win it quickly unless we make full use of propaganda. Therefore, I include in policy the importance of propaganda—propaganda itself, the text and the sermon—and in the machine of propaganda, the powers and functions of the Ministry of Information.

I would say this in passing—and I do not wish to delay in arguing it, but I wish to refer to it because in a speech delivered by my noble friend Lord Camrose on the last occasion it is the only thing from which I differ—if we are to get the full results from propaganda, I do not believe we can separate propaganda and news. I know that he said that in the last war we did. I am not sure that great use was not, in fact, made of news by the people then responsible for propaganda. It is quite true that it would simplify the job of the Minister for Information if he had no responsibility for news, but I should be very sorry to see him divorced from that responsibility because I want the responsibility for getting news and for putting news out to be in the hands of a man, a machine, a Ministry that realises the importance of getting the most comprehensive news possible and getting it quickly.

Now let me try to explain in a very few words what I mean when I say I regard policy as being more important than the machine. Whatever powers you may give to a Minister of Information, you cannot make him a Super-Minister over-riding all other Ministers. You can only have one Prime Minister at a time. Policy cannot originate simply in the Minister of Information. Policy must originate in the Cabinet. At the same time we shall not get the right results unless all Departments recognise the importance of propaganda and that it is their duty and their interest to co-operate and to contribute to the full. I see it suggested that communiqués, and whether this or that piece of information should be issued, can be referred to the War Cabinet. That is really a misconception of both the functions of Cabinet government and the way it works. You cannot have a War Cabinet, with its manifold duties and responsibilities, constantly in session as a court of appeal on whether this or that communiqué is to be issued or this or that piece of information is to be given. But what the Cabinet can do is to see that the Departments carry out their general directives in the spirit behind those orders.

I say this without being unduly dogmatic, but there is a tendency, if Departments fail to co-operate completely, to say we ought to vest all the powers in one man. I am a great supporter of coordination, and I have sometimes criticised where it was lacking, and argued for responsibility in Cabinet Ministers to carry co-ordination a little further than they always do. Certainly the general directives have to be given, but I believe that what I may call this one-man complex is unsound. There is a limit to what one man can control. In the business of government—after all, the most important business of all—as in great industrial undertakings, you may make the business too big for effective control and administration. On the other hand you cannot split the work of Departments up into watertight compartments. At least you cannot if you are to get the right results. The strategy and the work of Departments interlock far too much for that. Surely the right solution is team work between Departments properly directed. You may say that all this is rather axiomatic, although they are principles sometimes more honoured in the breach than in their observance.

May I apply these principles to propaganda and the job of the Minister of Information as I see it? In the first place, not only the Ministry of Information which perhaps does realise it—I am sure it does—but all the Ministries have to recognise that propaganda is a Fourth Arm, a fighting service requiring the full co-operation of the other Fighting Services and the Foreign Office. You cannot give the Minister of Information power to over-ride the Fighting Services. That is impossible, but you can ensure—the Cabinet and the Prime Minister can ensure—that the Fighting Services treat the Ministry of Information as another fighting service and as a Fourth Arm with which they must co-operate. That, I am sure, is vital in the release of news. That is why I join issue with my noble friend Lord Camrose. The release of news is even more important—indeed much more important—abroad than it is at home. I said I would not make a quotation, but I shall paraphrase one by a great American publicist who, in adapting the words of our Prime Minister, "Give us the tools and we will finish the job," said, speaking of the need for news all the time, "Give us the ammunition and we will do the job."

You cannot give away secrets; nobody wants to. No one expects the disclosure of plans or of information at the critical stage of a battle, but the important thing is to have more general directives. This does not apply just to the Service Ministers, who are perhaps rather more amenable people than are some of those a little lower down. After all, the art of direction in a Minister is to make sure he agrees with policy and that his Department carries it out.

I should like to see a great deal more of general directives, and a great deal more of responsibility given to the people lower down to carry out those directives when they are stated clearly to them, and when they know what the reasons for them are. The approach of the Service Departments in the matter of news should be this: "I want to release this if I can—why should not I release? Not, why should I release this piece of news?" That really is the secret of the matter. Risks? Well, there always are risks in war. War is a very risky business, and you certainly will not win a war without taking risks, though the risks are apt to be exaggerated. Really there are quite a lot of things that the enemy knows in these days of aerial observation and other means of ascertaining what is occurring, and it is worth while taking some risks, particularly if it is appreciated and realised that propaganda, with its news arm, is itself a fighting service.

I want to deal with one other matter, and that is the suggestion that in order to do his job the Minister of Information must be a member of the War Cabinet. Frankly, I think that suggestion is based on a misconception. The Minister of Information attends the War Cabinet, so we were told the other day. That is perfectly right, because that gives him full information and knowledge of what is going on, and he can get his riding orders, his directions, there. If he does not get them, it is his job to ask for them, and to say when a matter of policy is decided in the Cabinet: "Well now, the General Staff have had their orders as to what they are to do; I want my orders as to what I am to do with your Fourth Arm, Propaganda." That, of course, is what he is sitting in the War Cabinet for. You do not want him to have the other responsibilities and duties of a member of a War Cabinet, and to spend all his time dealing with questions of policy entirely outside his Ministry. He has an enormous departmental job to do, and I think most of your Lordships have had a good deal of sympathy with the view, which I have certainly very often heard expressed here, and which I myself share, that the fewer Ministers with heavy departmental duties you have in the War Cabinet the better it is. Therefore I think it is wholly unnecessary to have the Minister of Information a member of the War Cabinet with all the multifarious duties and responsibilities that are implied, but it is perfectly right to have him there at the Cabinet so that he has all the inside information and can demand, after that has been given to him, his riding orders.


May I interrupt?


No, I think I should like to finish what I have to say. I do not want to keep other noble Lords from speaking. I have not said anything, I think, which contradicts the noble Viscount; at any rate I can read his speech. What is important is that the Cabinet should lay down the directives of propaganda policy, and insist that Ministries co-operate. Now if that be so, what then are the proper powers and functions of the Minister of Information or the Minister of Propaganda? He should insist upon being given clear directives on policy; he should receive the full co-operation of the Services and the other Departments, and then he should be responsible for the machine, the method, the technique. In that I suggest he should cover the whole field and should have as free a hand as possible as to how he does his job, just as it is the business of the Minister of Supply to get the supplies. If he is a good Minister, he will do it well, as I have no doubt the present Minister with his powers does. If he does not do it well, then you must have another Minister who will. But he should as far as possible have the instruments of propaganda under his direction and control. In that, at any rate, I entirely agree with what my noble friend Lord Camrose said last time.

I do not want to go through all the instruments of propaganda. I only say a sentence on one of them, on the vexed question of the B.B.C. I can see objection to giving the Minister of Propaganda, the Minister of Information, power over the B.B.C. in this country, but that seems to me no reason why the broadcasts which go to foreign countries, the whole object of which is to give effect to the policy and strategy of propaganda in relation to different countries, should not be directly under his control and under his direction. I believe that given the true lines of policy to follow, given the co-operation of other Departments, which he is entitled to demand, and given operational control in his own sphere of action, the Minister of Information can make a great and increasing contribution to victory.


My Lords, I wish to begin by saying how very generally I am in agreement with what has fallen from my noble friend Lord Swinton. I cannot help feeling that there has been rather too acute a drive against the Ministry of Information, and not against the Ministry of Information only, but against the whole of our machinery for propaganda in the world. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if you compare our reputation abroad now with what it was at the beginning of the war, something at any rate has occurred greatly to improve it. I do not of course for a moment suggest that it is only a question of propaganda. It is not so, but certainly it is very remarkable if you read the Press—and I accept the Press as our best means of information about foreign questions—you find it almost universally true that the general opinion of the peoples of the world is in our favour, and against Germany. There is no doubt about it, we have succeeded in obtaining their support to a very remarkable degree. No doubt that is very largely because they hate and fear Germany. They know, as we do not know by our personal contact with the German machine, how oppressive it is. They do know, and that no doubt has been one of our great assets—indeed our greatest asset—in securing the public opinion of the world. It is no answer to that to say that in point of fact country after country has submitted to Germany. They have submitted to Germany because their Governments are afraid, naturally afraid, rightly afraid, to resist Germany. They do not like her, they hate her, and they hate her more and more, and as the rising tide of public opinion becomes more and more pronounced that will hamper and, I do believe, ultimately destroy, the German power.

Therefore, I do feel that we have got our case across somehow. Not that I know anything special about it. I will take the case of the United States of America. I cannot help feeling, judging from those Americans I have been privileged to talk to, how infinitely better we stand now than we did two years ago in American opinion. I know it was suggested in the last war—how well do I remember it—"You are doing nothing in America, you are not making your case, nobody knows what you are doing," and all the rest of it. It was said with greater vigour in that war than it is said now, and our position, let me remind your Lordships, was far weaker then than it is now. We were the traditional enemies of the United States. That had not worn out at that time. I remember well being advised that if we waited to do something to annoy the United States we had better get it done by France and not do it ourselves. No one is likely to say that now. We were urged strongly then to take much more vigorous action, and the methods and energy of Bernstorff, the principal propagandist of Germany in America, were held up for our admiration. We consulted the Ambassador, probably one of the ablest Ambassadors we ever had, Sir Cecil Spring Rice, who said, "Whatever you do, don't imitate Bernstorff." The result of his rather rigid abstention from any kind of interference resulted in public opinion gradually changing in our favour.

I wanted to say that because if we are to approach this very important question we must do it fairly and recognise, as one of my noble friends has said, that there is a great deal which the Ministry has done which has been extremely valuable and successful. Nobody denies that there have been grave misfortunes—let us put it so—in the way we have dealt particularly with news. I have here notes of several examples, but I will give your Lordships only one as an illustration, because it seems to me to illustrate the kind of way in which news ought not to be presented. I am referring to the extremely familiar communiqué issued by the Minister of Information on behalf of the Air Ministry describing the results of an air-raid in this country. We are told that a certain number of machines came over, that they dropped bombs in a certain part of England—the eastern counties or the south-western counties—and that the result was some damage to buildings and some casualties, some of them being fatal. If you analyse that it it impossible to see how you could more completely conceal essential facts. People want to know how many buildings were damaged, what kind of buildings, and how many people were killed. That kind of communiqué is no doubt due to the direction of the Air Ministry, who no doubt have admirable reasons for issuing it in that way, but I confess I cannot understand how it can be of interest from the point of view of the public to say that a certain number of people were killed in a certain district without saying how many, if your object is to impart information.

I entirely agree with the suggestion my noble friend put forward just now. The Ministries ought to ask themselves what reason there is against issuing any particular piece of news. The onus ought always to be on those who desire to keep information secret. I am certain that that is right in every country, but particularly in ours. We ought not to conceal news because of the idea that it may produce a shock to public opinion or unduly encourage people to make no effort. That is a complete misunderstanding, as I think, of the whole character and nature of the people of this country. Tell them the unvarnished facts and they may be absolutely relied upon not to err by any exaggeration in appreciating the value of those facts. Of course, although technically in a sense the Ministry of Information is responsible for all these things, it is not responsible for military information or indeed information regarding foreign affairs. The decision rests, and as far as I can see it must rest, with the Department, subject, of course, to the Cabinet. I do not see how you can say otherwise. There is, say, a piece of information—I will not attempt to go into any particular case—involving some military proceeding. Thereupon the War Office is consulted—I am not intending to make any attack on the War Office—as to whether its publication will give undue or dangerous information to the enemy. They must be the people to decide that. Who else can decide it? It is the same with the other Fighting Services and with the Foreign Office.

Something has been said about the control of the Government over broadcasting. I am very seldom asked to broadcast, but I have been asked to do so. I know quite well that the manuscript is immediately submitted to the War Department—quite properly—to see if there is anything to which they object and occasionally they say that they object to some passage. Of course, that passage has to be left out. I do not see how you are going to get away from that. I respectfully suggest to those who want to have improvement, that if they try to take this matter out of the hands of the Fighting Services they will simply fail, and there will be a great controversy without any good results. You must let them settle these matters, but you must make quite clear who is responsible for the decision. That seems to me to be the main defect of the present system. It is the old story of the three thimbles and the pea. You never know under which thimble the pea really is, and that is what is so vital.

I should like to see an arrangement by which all these offices entrusted some particular official with the business of dealing with news, and I think that official ought to be a Parliamentary official, a member of one or other House of Parliament, because, as my noble friend Viscount Swinton truly said, this is a very important matter. It is not just a question of what is desirable from the purely technical point of view. You have to consider what is desirable from the public point of view. There ought to be somebody in each Department expert in public opinion, if I may put it in that way. Of course nobody really is quite expert, but he should be the best expert we can get, and he should be a member of Parliament, a member either of this House or the other, somebody who is continually considering public affairs from the point of view of effect on public opinion. I would like to see a Parliamentary Under-Secretary in each of these offices entrusted with the duty of supervising the news, and then if any particular piece of news was withheld or issued in an unsatisfactory way, the public would know who was to blame.

I know it is said that you ought to give to the Ministry of Information some means of making known what kind of news is wanted. Within limits, I quite agree, but after all we have got people who have been trained all their lives to know what news is wanted. I remember that in the last war I had the honour of meeting representatives of the Press continually for a certain period. The same difficulties occurred then as now. When I was at the Foreign Office I had to interview representatives of the Press, particularly of the American Press. They were encouraged to put any questions they liked and I had to give the best answers I could. If I happened to be indiscreet sometimes, I could always say to them "Bless me, if you publish that I shall get into a mess. I ought not to have told you that." They never did publish it. They are absolutely to be trusted. However, that is a little off the point. But that, I venture to think, is the kind of way news should be dealt with, though I agree that the Ministry of Information certainly ought to have the power of urging that some particular line should be taken. I do not believe that that will be very necessary, because the whole machinery of the Press exists for nothing else but to collect news which they think would be of interest to the public.

That is all I wanted to say about news. Something has been said about the other aspect of propaganda—namely, direct advocacy. I do not think there is anything much to be improved there, except that we must see that the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and others are broadcast. Nobody can possibly be better than the Prime Minister, and the Foreign Secretary is quite admirable. We have also another great publicist in President Roosevelt. Those three really do seem to me to cover the pure advocacy side, with the various assistance they have of others in this country and elsewhere. Then, we have also Dr. Goebbels, who is a very great asset in our favour, in my judgment. It is all very well to say we must not despise German propaganda, but I do say that Goebbels's falsehoods really do us infinitely more good than any ingenuity of his does us harm.

Just one word about this question of policy. I think that is the most important thing of all. I am entirely of the opinion of Lord Swinton that in the end it is for the Cabinet to settle both the actual policy and the future policy of the country. I think it is very important, and I admit that this is a point upon which I feel most anxiety. I think we have got the good will of the peoples of Europe. They do not do much; it has not got to an effervescing point, and we want to do more. Then the Germans have certainly issued one attractive item in their policy. Much of the New Order is, I think, very ill-judged from their point of view, but one point is very important, the most important of all; that is the guarantee of peace. I think that is producing a very great effect in some of the smaller countries, when they say: "It is awful to be under German domination; still, if they are prepared to guarantee the peace of Europe for the future, that would be of immense advantage, and we do not know what the other side are going to do about that. They are prepared to beat Hitler, but what are they going to do with their victory? Are they also prepared to guarantee peace?" If not, well, that is a very great item on the German side.

I believe that if one reads with intellgence the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, a complete answer has really been given. I believe they have sketched their policy in that respect, at any rate the main principles of that policy: that it is to rest not on domination, but on some kind of general agreement, and it has to be an agreement freely arrived at. I wish the Government would consider whether they could not have brought together the statements that have already been made by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, in an effective, plain, simple statement of what is to be the ultimate way in which we, as the opponents of Germany, look to establish peace, not only for the moment, but for the future. It must be clear. There is the old story: a trumpet that gives an uncertain sound is useless to arouse people to effort. I feel most fully, not only that our victory depends on our being able to get this conception over to those suffering peoples througnout Europe, but that there is more than victory, there is the prospect of peace under which freedom and prosperity may grow up again.

If this war is to finish as a kind of truce lasting for ten or twenty years and then to mean a fresh outbreak of war, no one can contemplate any such thing as that without the most profound horror. If that is to be the only result of victory, to my mind it does not very materially differ from defeat. We must be careful not to drift into that kind of position. We must show that we have got a policy, and we must be perpetually making that policy appreciated by those whom we are addressing. I remember Clemenceau saying some years after the end of the last war: "We have come to the conclusion that peace was a much more difficult job than war." I am afraid that that is true. I am sure we should be very ill advised if we allowed peace to come upon us without having thought out carefully what was to be our peace policy. I do not wish to press the Government to make any detailed statements which they think would be unwise. I recognise most fully the immense difficulties of their position. I do not want them to do anything which they think will do harm rather than good—of course not—but I do ask them if they think it is possible to make any precise statement at this moment, and as soon as they have arrived at even a provisional conclusion I would ask them to give such directions to the Ministry of Information as will enable our propaganda to be carried on with full knowledge of what is the ultimate result at which we are aiming.


My Lords, I hope the House will forgive me for interposing at this stage, but although the last two speeches have dealt with the issues of propaganda and information from the widest point of view, in the earlier stages of the debate there were certain statements and questions from which I gather there is very considerable misunderstanding of the working of the system which the Government have created to deal with these subjects. The House is, of course, very anxious to get the best possible system of receiving and spreading information and weaving it into propaganda. The criticisms we have had this afternoon have been mainly those of detail, and there certainly has been no agreement as to where the system has fallen short of being satisfactory. If is, I think, essential that these functions should be in the hands of a single Ministry. There is no counterpart in peacetime for the responsibilities which are united in the Ministry of Information. They are to ensure that the war news shall be as full and as quickly issued as is consistent with national security. The Ministry must not only publish, but they must interpret Government policy so as to maintain the public war effort, and put the case at home and throughout the world. Lord Davies and also Viscount Elibank referred to the large number of Government Departments concerned. That is an unavoidable problem, and our duty is to find a system which will co-ordinate all these varying activities in the most efficient way. The problem is not only to issue and to censor news, but also to make known Government activities so as to satisfy the home demand, spread confidence and maintain morale.

The only fundamental change in the system that has been suggested was that outlined by Lord Davies—namely, that these responsibilities should be put into the hands of the Foreign Office. Now, the Foreign Office official is trained to reticence. His work is to present the Government case not to peoples but to other Foreign Offices, and it would not be a question in this matter of merely putting the case to his own people, whom he may know, but of dealing with propaganda to go to many peoples, not a few of them ignorant and illiterate, in many countries. That is a very difficult and special undertaking, and it is not, I think, within the competence of the ordinary Foreign Office official or diplomat. In the last war the problem was considerably less complicated. You still had a foreign Press of varying degrees of freedom, even in Germany. Wireless telegraphy existed, but there was no broadcasting to individual listeners. The war, too, was far less widespread and of much slower tempo. There was not, at that time, the present flood of faked news by enemy wireless which is very difficult to check up quickly.

The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has just reminded us that there were the same kind of criticisms, perhaps even more fierce, of the activities of those concerned with information and propaganda in the last war. It was, I suppose, largely because of those criticisms that the original expedient of leaving these functions to the Foreign Office had to be abandoned. The Foreign Office was, at the beginning of the last war, helped by the Home Office, but was responsible for the news and propaganda. Propaganda in those days, of course, was in its infancy. By the end of 1914 the news department was set up under the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Mr. Francis Acland was the first of several Under-Secretaries who were in charge of that Department. News officers were placed in the various public offices, to collect information and to try to present it as a consistent whole, but the volume of work was so great that it interfered seriously with other activities of the Foreign Office. Consequently responsibilities were gradually diffused in various directions, and other committees and responsibilities were budded off.

After two years, in February, 1917, the Department of Information was set up under—as he then was—Mr. John Buchan. That was not found to be strong enough, and, after another year, early in 1918, two separate Ministries were instituted, the late Lord Northcliffe being responsible for propaganda in enemy countries, and Lord Beaverbrook for foreign propaganda elsewhere than in enemy countries. It was a very complicated story of alternating dispersal and centralisation, and centralisation must win. It is indispensable to have all these varied war activities under one control. The present arrangement gives to the Minister of Information all the responsibilities which were shared between those two War Departments. It is not, as my noble friend Lord Davies seemed to think, a compromise, but, as I think, the fullest centring of responsibility in one Ministry.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment to say that neither of the Ministries which he mentioned had anything to do in 1918 with the issue of news? Neither Lord Beaverbrook nor Lord Northcliffe had anything to do with that.


That is, I am sure, the fact, when so great an authority informs us of it, but I do not think it really disposes of the case. I think that most noble Lords are arguing for centralisation, and it is impossible to separate news from propaganda. You have got to get this-news quickly, in the best form, to the Minister responsible for propaganda, to give him his target and make him responsible for hitting it. That is the purpose of the present organisation.

The most detailed complaints, of course, are aimed at the system of censorship. The object of the Government is to secure the maximum publicity which is consistent with the withholding of dangerous news from the enemy. The issue which has been raised is whether this censorship should be exercised by the experts in the Service Departments, or whether it should be left at the sole discretion of the Minister of Information. There was a letter in The Times the other day from a very well-known publicist, who suggested that really the public interest in getting news was the only matter to be considered, and that, without consulting any other interests, the Minister of Information should be entitled to go to the microphone and tell everything. Experience has shown that that method would sacrifice thousands of lives and would prejudice our war effort. It is better to face complaints of the public going rather short of news than to publish something at the risk of human life. In the last war, as in this war, no practicable alternative was found to leaving the veto on the issue of news with the Service Departments. Naturally it has certain inconveniences. Service officers have no training in publicity; they have no knowledge of newspaper methods; and, although the Army trains people to quick decision in the field, the War Office, at any rate in the public estimation, is characterised by great deliberation. I remember a popular turn in the music halls just after the last war which showed files tied with red tape circulating from one official to another. The officials grew steadily older, the wrinkles grew deeper on their faces, and by the time the files, which by then had grown to gigantic proportions, were finally disposed of, the officials had all grown long white beards.

The new arrangements, however, aim at cutting out all unnecessary delay and at the same time leaving to experts the decision as to what can safely be published. Matters involving large principles are continually brought before the War Cabinet. I have here a good many cases which have arisen in the last few weeks, but I shall not detain the House by giving examples. Many of these matters—such as the way in which the news of the sinking of ships should be given without helping the enemy to replace his submarines, how far it is possible to disclose the names of units without giving away the order of battle, and so on—do lend themselves to broad decisions of principle; and, whether on these larger matters or on matters of detail, the forbidden ground is dealt with by the censorship in the Ministry of Information by producing a constantly changing list of "Stops" which is made available in the news-room. Admirers of German methods may be interested to know that Dr. Goebbels also runs a news-room very much on this principle. He has with him, in close consultation, technical officers of the highest rank, and he yields to their advice. I am assured that far less is published in the German communiqués about military operations and the doings of the German Air Force than is vouchsafed to the British public about ours.

Much of the news, of course, originates in public Departments, and in that case it is censored by the authors at the source. To save time, publication may be direct, but the news is simultaneously sent to the news-room of the Ministry of Information. Some Departments, such as the India Office, the Colonial Office, the Dominions Office, the Ministry of Home Security and the Ministry of Food, carry on a vast amount of publication which goes straight out, but only in close consultation with the officials of the Ministry of Information; and there is a good deal of other information which is sent out by some of these Departments acting as a post office for the Ministry of Information.

I do not think that there is much controversy about that side of the work; the criticism is centred rather on the communiqués of the Fighting Services. There I think that it must be left to the officers in command and to the heads of the Service Departments to publish what they consider safe. This information from the Service Departments is, of course, of much smaller volume than that which is collected by the great organisations of the Press. I sometimes wonder whether we are sufficiently grateful for the wonderful efficiency and performance of the British Press service, which carries on in time of war under difficulties of which perhaps few of us really have an adequate understanding. We must not forget that we alone in the old world still have a free Press, and that no other country now enjoys those advantages of quick information and well-informed comment which the British Press provides. For most of the productions of the Press there is no compulsory censorship; the Press brings for approval only those matters which might raise issues which would be objectionable for security reasons. For news outside the constantly changing list of "Stops" there are Service censors in the Ministry of Information, giving quick decisions.

Ordinarily there is no delay, but there is, of course, the natural risk that the censor may play for safety and sometimes be unnecessarily severe. It is now arranged, however, for officers of high rank of the three Services to be always available at the Ministry of Information to give quick decisions on new issues which may involve doubt. Where these officers wish for the reinforcement of higher authority, or where the Minister of Information is not satisfied with the opinion of the Service censors, it is arranged that the matter may be taken for immediate decision to the Service Minister in charge of the Department concerned. This provision seems to cause some anxiety to the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, because it is laid down that in the absence of the Minister from the Department a high official can act on his behalf. I think, however, that there is nothing really alarming about that, because it must be remembered that censorship is a negative action and, if the Minister of Information is not satisfied with the decision of the Service Minister, he attends the War Cabinet at each of its sittings and he is able to challenge the decision and obtain the view of the War Cabinet at the earliest possible moment. There is really no danger, therefore, of the Minister of Information being overridden by anybody but the War Cabinet itself.

There is also, of course, much public anxiety about propaganda. The Germans have the advantage that they can quickly circulate information regardless of its truth, whereas our method of always telling the truth necessitates a check-up and some loss of time. We believe, however, that, apart from other reasons, this method is rewarded by public confidence, and it is now realised that our communiqués can be relied on as accurate. Many of our critics seem to want the best of both worlds. The machinery also includes a close link-up with the Public Relations officers of the various Government Departments. They are not only responsible individually for keeping in the closest touch with the Ministry of Information and for seeing that they know every useful detail of departmental policy, but they have to work as a team and go to the Ministry of Information and sit under the chairmanship of the Minister or whomever he may appoint.

Really, in matters of foreign propaganda, it is not a question of directives from the Foreign Office. The system works by constant touch at many different points. The Foreign Office diplomatic correspondence and telegrams are all sent to the Ministry of Information. The officials are in constant hourly touch with all departments of the Foreign Office, and there is an Assistant Secretary of State charged with seeing that the Foreign Office end is responsive to all demands that may be made upon it. Most important of all, on the bigger issues, the Minister of Information attends all deliberations of the War Cabinet, and is thus kept in closest touch with Government policy. He not only hears what is going on, but, like any other Minister who sits in, he is free to raise any point he thinks it is his duty to bring up. It is of course very necessary that he should have the earliest possible information. The noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, has made an eloquent plea for an early declaration of our peace aims. He has suggested that many of these are already implicit in some of the speeches which have been made by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I am sure that this matter is being very carefully watched, and, whenever the occasion is ripe, further information will be given. Meanwhile, it is the duty of the Minister of Information to think widely on these matters and think ahead.

The difficulty about much of this criticism of our propaganda abroad is that many of our activities are necessarily secret, and if they were talked about they would lose all their force. I would only say that it is a great error to assume that nothing is happening because it is impossible to talk about it. Many criticisms which have been made regarding the conduct of propaganda can already be tested by experience. It was said a few months ago that Dr. Goebbels was having a tremendous effect in the United States, and the Ministry of Information were pressed to force the pace in competition. There were strong reasons against that action, and the forecast of the result on American opinion of the then policy has been completely contradicted by events. There is no doubt that the broadcasting methods of Quentin Reynolds and Raymond Gram Swing have been far more effective in the United States than those of Dr. Goebbels. We were told that in this country "Haw-Haw" was doing infinite damage, that all the nation was listening to him. We are no longer worried about that. We realise that, if anything, he has only added to that wonderful morale which has been admitted and admired throughout the world. Of course the B.B.C. offers an entirely new problem in war-time. It was a very efficient organ for peace, but it has to cake on very different activities in war. It has to disseminate news, it has to give publicity to Government policy, and it is the most important engine, perhaps, of propaganda abroad.


On the question of the B.B.C, would the noble Lord say what the Government's reaction is to the suggestion I made to-day, that the Minister of Information should take charge of the B.B.C. in so far as all its propaganda and news services are concerned?


I shall come to that. I think I can satisfy the noble Viscount on that point. Lord Davies has mentioned the lack of broadcasting stations. That is, of course, largely due to the accident of geography and the fact that our enemies now control the Continental stations throughout Europe; but we are doing everything possible to increase our resources, though in war-time, with the tremendous demand for every kind of plant, and for telegraphic and wireless plant for other purposes than broadcasting, it is not very easy to supply these wants with great speed. Lord Strabolgi suggested that we might take advantage of our alliance with Russia to get our broadcasts through that country into the neighbouring territories of the Middle East. I will certainly draw the attention of the Minister of Information to this possibility, but we already supply Russia with full information which they can use at their discretion in the various efficient services which they run.

Lord Davies asked about Ankara and whether, as a result of the agreement between Turkey and Germany, they have cut out all British programmes. I have made inquiries from the service which checks up all these foreign programmes, and I am assured that the English programme on short wave from Ankara is going out still every day. Lord Strabolgi asked why we did not have some parallel organisation to Trans-Ocean. I am assured we are even better supplied. Firstly, there is Globe-Reuter, which is none the worse for being unofficial. Then there are three daily British news services sent out in Morse, and of course there is the widespread organisation of the B.B.C. overseas programmes. Lord Davies and Lord Elibank were concerned that the Ministry of Information did not have adequate control over the B.B.C. The new arrangement has charged the Minister of Information to take full day-to-day editorial control of the B.B.C. service of news and propaganda, and the Minister of Information is responsible for both initiative and censorship. I hope that assurance may do something to satisfy my noble friends.

All these matters are of course in constant development. It is a matter of trial and error, but I can assure noble Lords that the powers of the Ministry of Information, and the centralisation of the necessary opportunities of presenting the British case, are being steadily improved. The actual control in the Ministry of Information is at present carried out by advisers on home affairs and foreign affairs and the provisions of censorship of the news which falls in there, and the opportunity of quick appeal to high officers is exactly parallel to that which I have described in the news room of the Ministry of Information. My last word on these rather discouraging opinions that have been given about the activities of the B.B.C. is that if its broadcast propaganda is as ineffective as noble Lords have sometimes said, why is it that the Germans have resorted to such extreme penalties to prevent people listening, and have even condemned people to death for passing on information which they have received?

Lord Davies has suggested that the British Council is not adequately controlled. Well, after Lord Lloyd's death the chair of that very active organisation was left vacant for about six months, but it has been filled just lately by Sir Malcolm Robertson, whose great energy and experience in foreign affairs are well known. The relationship of the British Council with the Ministry of Information has been readjusted to secure the greatest possible value from its activities while leaving its cultural and educational work unimpeded.

I would apologise for having been so long, but the Ministry of Information touches us all at so many points that it is naturally the subject of much public controversy and some criticism which is not altogether reasonable. The difficulty is increased by publicity and propaganda nowadays being matters on which many amateurs consider themselves to be experts. I can only assure your Lordships that this matter has received most anxious and careful consideration from the Government, and no practicable alternative in general layout has been found, although constant improvements are being introduced in detail. I believe that where criticisms are well founded the faults are due not to the machinery but to the human element, which can only be improved by effort and experience.


My Lords, may I detain you for just one sentence in order to refer to what fell from my noble friend who seemed to suggest, unless I misheard him, that there was some delay during the last war in releasing news from the War Office? I can inform your Lordships that the censorship at the War Office was very closely connected with the issue of the news. They were in the same section and they were under the Director of Military Intelligence and in the same building, and he also was in the same building as the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. I had a great deal to do with it, and I do not remember that there was any delay. The procedure was quite simple, because communication could be made immediately with the department or section concerned, and, if necessary, with the heads of the General Staff.


My Lords, this is the second debate we have had within quite recent time, and another place has had at least two debates also on this question of propaganda and information. I think the fact that we have these numerous debates does indicate that there is a very general disquietude. I agree in particular with two points that were made by my noble friend Lord Swinton and the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil—namely, that policy is more important than mere machinery—and I do not want to-day to go into detailed discussion of machinery. At the present time it seems to me that we are trying far too much to kill Hitler's positive creed by a mere negative creed and that the only way in which we can overcome Hitler's very attractive (to the unsophisticated and unthinking) positive creed is by having a positive creed ourselves. I think it was Clausewitz who said every belligerent had both a political and a military objective. If you compare our political objectives in the last war with the policy and aims of the Kaiser, I think everybody must admit that we had an enormous advantage. The Kaiser's war aim, so to speak, was, "Save the Fatherland." It was a nationalist and limited but patriotic appeal, whereas the appeal which was made by Mr. Woodrow Wilson, Mr. Lloyd George and M. Briand was in the nature of an international crusade. It was on a far higher plan than the Kaiser's, and it was much more attractive to neutrals and to the world at large. It captured the imagination in a way in which, up to date, our aims, as stated, have failed to do.

I hope the noble Lord will realise that when the Government are criticised it is not merely on the way in which the news is given, but it is on the inadequacy of the creed as enunciated. I am myself convinced that there is a large amount of potential support in the neutral and enemy occupied countries which can be mobilized in our favour as soon as we define more positively our alternative to the New Order. Hitler understands political strategy all too well, and he combines military and political offensives with extraordinary acuteness. It is only just now, I think, that the Government are beginning to realise—in fact I do not think the Government are as far advanced as the country or large parts of the country—that in order to win the war, we have to have military warfare, economic warfare and also political warfare. In this respect Hitler is a past-master. First of all he started an international movement against Communism and Bolshevism, and got support in several countries. He then started a movement against the Jews, an Anti-Semitic movement, and he got a measure of support in some countries. Then he enunciated the policy that modern Germany, Nazi Germany, represented a young virile State which was preferable to the old democratic plutocracies. And Hitler keeps on hammering at the failure of democratic and Parliamentary government, and far too many people are apt to 1st that challenge go without being answered. There is a far better case to be made for Democracy, for Parliamentary government, than has been made hitherto, or has been made with sufficient frequency.

There is another point which was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil—namely, the appeal of peace. Hitler promises unity and peace through his New Order. Hitler has realised that you can have war aims enunciated in slogans, that it is not necessary to give out a detailed statement on war aims. I think that too often Ministers here have shown a reluctance to enunciate peace aims or war aims, and have failed to realise that that may be done by slogans. It is not necessary to dot all the i's and cross all the t's and give all details. A moment's reflection will show what enormous success Hitler has had through his Fifth Column and his Quislings, in France, Norway, Belgium and Holland. I am convinced that the rapid overrunning of France was not merely a military victory but was assisted enormously by the constant propaganda of Goebbels and others during the preceding winter and autumn months.

There is another thing we have to realize, and that is that Hitler depicts England as waging an Imperialistic war, and that far too many neutral peoples accept this war as being a war between two Imperialistic nations or two Imperialistic peoples. I think that so far our political strategy has concentrated its propaganda far too much on defending our island home and saving our own lives. That is all right as far as it goes, but it is not enough. We started the war by attacking Hitler himself and the Nazis. I regret to say that far too much we have degenerated to abuse of all Germans. Lord Haw-Haw is constantly trying to drive a wedge between the Prime Minister as being a warmonger and many people in England as being more peaceful. I think we ought to take a leaf from his book there. The people of France are not going to rise against Darlan just to save England. It is not enough to appeal to the world to save Britain. We should have a positive policy and a positive creed. There are many down-trodden Germans, Belgians, Dutch and Norwegians who cannot be expected to risk their lives, who cannot be expected to risk being beaten up and put into concentration camps, just to save England. There are millions of people of German descent in the United States of America who are likely to follow the isolationists or Lindbergh unless we can make this an international crusade.

Our immediate aim is quite clear—namely, to defeat Hitler. Our ultimate goal is also clear, namely, to achieve a lasting peace, to increase liberty and allow civilisation to go forward. It is the intermediate action which is not so clear. I repeat what I said just now, that we must have a positive creed of our own. We have got planks in our platform which Hitler does not possess. We must obviously get one—economic security or social security, or whatever you choose to call it. We can give that a far better character than he can, because the social security which he offers is the security of the slave, and what we offer is obviously very much better. In the same way he offers peace by universal conquest, whereas we offer the world peace through collective action.

But there are two other planks of which we have a monopoly—namely, freedom and morality. Mankind, century after century, has had a hankering after liberty and has gone forward with the development of liberty. Hitler has put back the clock to the Dark Ages. The anti-Nazi in Germany who has the largest following is Pastor Niemoller and that shows that in Germany, as elsewhere, people will follow the call of morality. Man prefers the creative instinct of brotherhood to the destructive instinct of hatred and brutality which is associated with the Nazi creed. So I would urge the noble Lord to use his influence to see that we improve our political warfare, that we realise to a greater extent than we have hitherto the value of political warfare, and that we appreciate that there is excellent material at hand for setting up a clear, attractive, world-wide political objective. We can turn what, at the present moment, is far too much a defensive war into a positive world-wide international crusade, and if we do that I am sure that, coupled with our military war and our economic war, it will hasten the overthrow of Hitler.


My Lords, may I say a few words as one who has been identified with the British Broadcasting Corporation for eleven years? I want to say that whilst I am sure the Governor and Directors of the British Broadcasting Corporation will do everything they can to carry out the wishes of the Government, it is important that there should be some independence left to the management of the British Broadcasting Corporation in trying to allow the public to express their own views wherever that can be done without detriment to our great war cause. There is another point I want to make, as I have had some experience in connection with propaganda, and that is that propaganda to be effective must not be recognised as propaganda by those whom it is to influence. It is most important that the Press should be able in its own columns to put its own views and the views of correspondents so that they appear to be expressing views which are not necessarily going to be interpreted as propaganda. There is a great danger, if a Minister of Information is alone trusted to supply the news, that propaganda will be recognised, and then it will not have the same kind of influence as if it came from an independent source.


My Lords, may I interpose by leave of the House, to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord? The Government fully appreciate the importance of maintaining the independence of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Direction has been issued to the Minister of Information—I have not the exact words—that he is to carry with him as far as possible the Governors who stand as sureties to Parliament and to the public as to the fair and impartial spirit with which the British Broadcasting Corporation has always conducted its operations.


My Lords, I desire to thank the noble Lord opposite for his reply. There is one point on which I am not quite clear. He said there was no interference in Turkey with British broadcasts over the short wave. Does that also apply to the long wave? It is a rather technical matter.


My information is that the Turkish broadcast in English is issued from Ankara on the short wave. I am afraid I do not know anything about the long wave.


In another place it was stated that there was a long wave, and that it was the only long wave.


I am afraid I have not information upon the technical point.


It is a very technical point. The noble Lord rather implies that all is well with our propaganda, but obviously there must be something radically wrong, otherwise we should not during the last three weeks have had all the Battle of Bloomsbury, and I do not think the responsible Director of the Ministry of Information would have made that observation about pitchforks and tanks. Obviously we want something better than a pitchfork; we want at least an anti-tank gun to defeat the propaganda of the enemy.

The noble Lord said there were large numbers of Ministers and Departments connected with our propaganda and that they presented an unavoidable problem. He also suggested that I wanted to hand it over to the Foreign Office, I tried to make it clear in my speech that I hold no brief for the Foreign Office or for the Minister of Information. What I suggested was the merging of all these Departments and all these Ministries into one single diplomatic front, and that that front should be under the direction of a Commander-in-Chief of the Diplomatic Forces. It should be regarded as we regard our Fighting Forces and organised on much the same lines. If the two Departments were merged, the Minister responsible to the War Cabinet and Parliament would select the Chiefs of Staff from the best men available.


Does the noble Lord propose to abolish the Foreign Secretary? That is the effect of his suggestion.


I am merging them all under one roof. With regard to the supply of broadcasting plant and material, I understand that this is available in America. Perhaps the noble Lord will inquire whether it is possible to secure it from the United States. There are other points I should like to mention, which have been brought up in the course of the debate, but the time has gone. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.


My Lords, I beg leave also to withdraw my Amendment as the: Motion is to be withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.