§ 2.46 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DROGHEDA rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they could state what progress had been made in implementing the proposals' for the reform of the Foreign Service; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, some considerable time has, I think, elapsed since any question concerning the Foreign Service was raised in Parliament, or at any rate in your Lordships' House. Therefore I have put down the Motion which stands in my name, because I think that it is well that we should be kept informed of anything which really affects the efficiency and the well-being of the Foreign Service. Nothing could more vitally affect that Service than does the scheme of reform to which my Motion refers. That scheme is set forth in a Command Paper entitled Proposals for the Reform of the Foreign Service, which was presented to Parliament by the Foreign Secretary in 1943, and which deals with some most important matters.
§ It might perhaps be convenient if at this stage I were to remind your Lordships not, of course, of all its details, but of its four main provisions. These are as follows. First, the amalagamation into one unified Service of what have hitherto been three distinct Services—the Diplomatic Service, the Consular Service, and the Commercial Diplomatic Service. Secondly, the introduction of an entirely new method of recruitment and training. Thirdly, the appointment of an additional Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office to deal with questions of administration and non-political affairs. Fourthly, the grant to the Foreign Secretary of powers enabling him to superannuate on pension any member of the Foreign Service, even though such member may not have reached normal pensionable age or years of service. I most warmly support those proposals. Indeed, I regard this as one of the most pleasing legacies left to His Majesty's present Government by their predecessors.733
§ I need hardly say that I have not put my Motion clown in any spirit of unfriendliness towards a Department in w I had the honour to serve very many years ago, at a time when one of the rising young men of the Diplomatic Service was His Majesty's present Ambassador at Cairo, the noble Lord, Lord Killearn, who has been introduced into your Lordships' House this afternoon. The scheme of which I have spoken is not, of course, and does not purport to be, the last word in possible Foreign Service reform. Indeed, the Command Paper describes it as being an outline, necessarily incomplete and liable to modification in detail, of the proposals for a new Foreign Service. But that scheme, so far as I know, holds the field. It is most important and far-reaching, and, therefore, I intend to confine my remarks this afternoon to that scheme only, and not to be led astray into discussing such inviting topics as the changes that will certainly be required in the internal administration of the Foreign Office under modern conditions, or the position of the Department of Oversee s Trade, that offspring of the Foreign Office from the Board of Trade whose parents seem never to have agreed either as to its allegiance or as to its future.
§ I wish, if I may, to ask His Majesty s Government three general questions. Do they adopt the 1943 scheme? If so, is any important modification of it proposed and in what direction? Are they now in a position to complete what was described as the incomplete outline or, at any rate, to fill it in to some extent? Having asked those general questions, may I turn once again, for a moment, to the four particular proposals? Your Lordships will remember that the first of these proposals was the amalgamation of the three Services. Well, I do not think that anyone could be found who would object to that proposal, because it is plainly right, under modern conditions, that every member of the Foreign Service should hove some knowledge of the economic as well as of the political side of the Service. And I think that that particular proposal, at any rate, must already have been carried into effect because the Command Paper speaks of it as going to he introduced immediately, and "immediately," of course, was two years ago—in 1943. The Paper goes on, I think, to say that some time must elapse before the three 734 branches of the Service can be made interchangeable, because that cannot happen until the new entrants have received training so that they are able to do the three kinds of work that will be required of them. That is, perhaps, inevitable. The great thing is that we shall know, in the future, that members of the Foreign Service will have the same wide training and equal opportunities of rising to the highest posts.
§ The second proposal, the introduction of a new method of recruitment, is, I think, the most novel and also the most important of the changes advocated. I think that I am right in saying that, hitherto, anyone who wanted to join the Foreign Service had first to appear before a special selection board and obtain leave to compete in an examination. He then went away, and, for a considerable time, either at his own or his parents' expense, studied various subjects. He then took his examination and, if successful, he at once became a full member of the Service. As I understand it, the new method contemplates three different stages. The old selection board is abolished, and, instead, there is an open competitive test designed so that it can be taken without any specialized study. The successful candidates then receive travelling studentships which will enable them to go abroad for eighteen months and, at the expense of the State, study at least two foreign languages, economics and history. Then they have a qualifying examination, and those who qualify become full members of the Service, subject to one year's probationary period, half of which will be spent at the Foreign Office and the other half in studying economic, social, industrial and labour questions in the Government Departments which deal with such matters or in centres of industry or any other suitable place.
§ That seems to me to be a most admirable scheme. It has two great advantages. In the first place, it will enable anyone to compete for the Foreign Service, whether he has any private means of his own or not. In the second place, it will ensure that everyone who goes abroad to a post in the Service will at least have some real knowledge of his own country before he goes. That has by no means always been the case in the past. Indeed, a candidate had to have very exceptional ability if he was to find time after leaving school to study any questions other than 735 those he was likely to meet with in his examination. Looking back over the years, I realize how ill-equipped I and most of my contemporaries must have been when we joined the Service, although I am afraid at times we were blissfully unconscious of the depths of our ignorance. I am sure that the new scheme is a great advance on anything known hitherto either in this or in any other country. It is inevitable, I suspect, that some time must pass before the scheme can be brought into full operation and in the meantime no doubt some provisional temporary form of examination will have to be held in order to fill the vacancies, which by now must be numerous.
§ In the meantime, may I ask His Majesty's Government if they will consider one or two suggestions? The first one is that six months seems a very short time in which to learn about social, economic, labour and industrial conditions in this country. I quite realize that it would not be fair to keep people on probation for more than one year but surely the period of probation might come to an end and the period of study, if that is found advisable, should go on rather beyond the six months. Then I should like to suggest that as much of that period as possible should be spent not in other Government Departments because entrants will have had six months in the Foreign Service. One Government Department tends to be very much like another and one may know a very great deal about Whitehall and yet be amazingly ignorant of Britain.
§ I should also like to suggest that as much of the time as possible should be spent in the provinces rather than in London and in seeing conditions from an unofficial rather an official angle—not from too lofty an angle, but the angle, in fact, of the man in the street and the man who has to earn his living in England, Scotland, Wales and even Ireland. I suggest also that it is very desirable that members of the Service should be given the chance at not too infrequent periods during their career to come home and refresh the knowledge they will have gained during their studentship period in England. Life in the Foreign Service tends, and must tend, to be somewhat that of an exile and it is only natural that people in the Service on coming home 736 should go and visit their families and friends. I think it is important that they should be brought home on some job which will keep them here and which will refresh their knowledge of England, because the higher up you get in the Service the more important it is that you should keep in personal contact with trends of thought and events in England.
§ The last point I have to make on this particular proposal is that I trust that our Missions and Consulates abroad will be sufficiently well-staffed to enable the members of the Service while they are abroad to spend some time, not perhaps each year, but frequently, going about the countries in which they are posted and learning about them in the same way as when they are students they are going to learn about England. In the past many posts have been insufficiently staffed and people were tied far too many to their desks. The third proposal in the scheme is the appointment of an additional Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, and I know that that proposal has already been carried into effect aria that the best possible appointment has been made. I hope that the Deputy Under-Secretary will see to it that the Personnel Department of the Foreign Office is always kept strongly staffed both in quality and quantity, because I know from my own experience that the nonpolitical Departments in the Foreign Office have a way of not always attracting the best men in the Service.
§ Finally, I come to the last of the four proposals, the proposal that the Foreign Secretary should have powers to superannuate. That, I imagine, was brought into effect by the Foreign Service Act of 1943. The only point I wish to make on that is that some of the wording of the White Paper makes me fear rather that the intention is not to use that power until the members of the Service are nearing the end of their careers. The wording which makes me fear that is something like this: "It is necessary that the Foreign Secretary should have the power to terminate by retirement on pension the careers of those members of the Service who, although perhaps excellent as subordinates, have shown that they are not fitted for the higher posts." My personal experience has been that the men who are not fitted 737 for the higher posts have not been excellent subordinates. Perhaps the new system of recruitment by which candidates will have to go through such a severe training before they join, will make they operation of this proposal largely unnecessary, but people can, if they are misfits, do an awful lot of harm in comparatively junior posts, and after all they are often left as heads of Missions whit, the Ambassador or Minister is away. Therefore, I think that it is wiser and better for the Service and often kinder the man himself, to terminate his career on pension, when necessary, as soon as the axe allows and not to wait until he is practically head of a Mission. I apologize for having kept your Lordships for rather long on a complex subject. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 2.59 P.m.
THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, when I first read this Motion on the Order Paper to-day, I rather feared that it might overlap with a Motion which I hope to bring before your Lordships' House later in the month, but after talking to the noble Earl who moved this Motion and above all after listening to his speech, I am quite clear that the apprehensions which I cherished were founded. My Motion is to deal with Foreign Office affairs—or may I call it the control of foreign affairs on the very highest Ministerial level?—and no proposals have yet been put before Parliament on that particular problem. On the other hand, the Motion which we have before us deals, as the noble Earl pointed out, purely with the official side of the Foreign Office, and concerns questions which have already been discussed in your Lordships' House, and to which your Lordships have given your formal approval.
With your permission, there is one word I should like to say about my own Motion before I proceed to deal with the one in front of us today. It may be possible that that Motion will not appear on the Order Paper on the day for which it is at present put down. I would like to assure noble Lords who have given me sc much support in the past, and who promise continued support in the future, that, if there is any postponement, it will not mean, in any way, that I have abandoned the cause, or thrown in my hand. It will be simply because it is plainly 738 desirable that the Government should have a little further time for the examination of this very important problem. After all, the Foreign Secretary, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the President of the Board of Trade, and the Prime Minister have all been strictly occupied since the new Government came into office, and I do not think it would be proper to press them overmuch. At the same time, I hope the Government will realize that this is a question of really cardinal importance, and that they will not, if there is a postponement, fail to examine it without undue delay.
I would now turn to the Motion which is before your Lordships' House. Before saying anything on its substance, I should like—and I think your Lordships would wish—to congratulate the noble Earl who has brought it forward, because I understand this is the first time he has addressed your Lordships' House.
THE EARL OF PERTH
I think we ought to he grateful, anyhow, to the noble Earl for bringing this Motion forward. What he has asked for, in effect, is a progress report on reforms which, we have been assured, have already been introduced. It is quite right that we should be told what has been happening, particularly as there are rumours from outside that there is a considerable delay in putting these reforms into effect. Therefore, I fully support the noble Earl in his request for a report of that kind. I would remind your Lordships that the former Foreign Secretary told us that most of the reforms outlined in the Command Paper would be effected by administrative action.
There are two additional headings on which I should like to ask the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for information. I indicated the two points previously, and I hope His Majesty's Government may be able to tell us something about them. The first concerns the economic set-up of the Foreign Office. Towards the end of last year we were told by the representatives of the Government that an Economic Department, together with a Foreign Economic Intelligence Branch, or Department, was to be established in the Foreign Office. The Foreign Intelligence Depart- 739 ment was largely staffed by officers from the Ministry of Economic Warfare, the Ministry in which the noble Earl who raised the question played such a distinguished and successful part.
I would ask the noble and learned Lord whether those economic departments of the Foreign Office are now working efficiently and effectively, and whether it has been found desirable, and possible, to add to the staff officers from the Treasury, the Board of Trade, and also from outside experts. I ask this because I doubt whether without additions of that kind the economic side of the Foreign Officers really adequate for the very important task which it has to discharge. It is certainly true that before the war economic and foreign policies were very closely interwoven; but today they are inextricably united, and, therefore, it is essential, to my mind, that there should be an economic branch of the Foreign Office which can authoritatively advise the Foreign Secretary as to the impact on foreign policy of economic events abroad, and also advise him as to the impact, again on foreign affairs, of proposals made by Government Departments here at home. That is my first point.
I now come to the second point—namely, that of publicity abroad. I know there is a small and very efficient Press Department in the Foreign Office, and I presume that we shall have Press Attaches attached to our various Embassies and Ministries in the capitals of the world. So far, that is all to the good, but I would like to ask what is the position of the British Council. This is a body which has a budget of something over £3,000,000 a year. It is quite true that not all of that money is spent on work in foreign countries, but a very consider, able proportion of it is so spent, and I would like to ask whether there is adequate Foreign Office supervision over the objects and aims of the Council, and whether there is proper co-ordination.
There is another point: there are the activities of the Ministry of Information, as far as they concern foreign countries. Not very long ago, the former Minister of Information told us, or, at any rate, implied, that his Department was going to be wound up, and that the part of it which dealt with foreign countries would pass 740 under the control of the Foreign Office, and that some of the staff would go with the work. No doubt—and I rather gather that is so, from what has passed in another place—the Government have not definitely made up their minds on this point. It may well be that they will find there are certain vested interests which stand in the way. Vested interests created in favour of civil servants are a most formidable obstacle to overcome. Nevertheless, members of this Government have declared that they are not going, to allow vested interests to stand in the way of reform, and I therefore suggest they should take their courage in both hands and make this transfer. It is conducive both to economy and to efficiency.
Now I come to my last point, and that is with regard to broadcasts to foreign countries from the B.B.C. We all realize how intently and eagerly those broadcasts were listened to during the war and what a wonderful asset they were to us and to our fight for freedom. Is it really proposed that those broadcasts should be discontinued? I hold very strongly that we ought not to throw away those advantages, and that the broadcasts should go on under the control of the Foreign Office. I have studied very carefully the speech which the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack made the other day with regard to controls, and the conclusion that I came to was that it might fairly be said that the noble and learned Lord was slightly enamoured of controls. Well, here is an opportunity to give his affections full rein. I suggest that he might and should persuade his colleagues in the Government not only that those broadcasts should continue but that the control which this time is in the national interests should also continue and even be strengthened.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, I intend to intervene for a few moments only, and especially for the purpose of concentrating attention on the questions put by the noble Earl who initiated this discussion. He formulates his questions by asking what progress has been made in implementing suggestions for the reform of the Foreign Service, and, as he reminded us, he is referring principally to the White Paper which was issued in 1943, which was itself the basis of discussion extend- 741 ing, I think, over two days in this House. What I wanted briefly to point out was that, as is so often and so usefully the case, that discussion went rather wider than the White Paper, and it became evident that of these posed reforms some would be brought about by administrative action—by the decision of the responsible Minister or the Cabinet of the day that certain changes should be made. I think that would be so as regards the method of choice of new members of the Service. I do not imagine that would be based on legislation.
On the other hand, another portion of the then proposed reforms could only be effected by passing legislation; and legislation was passed, because the House may remember that, on the Motion of my noble friend Viscount Cranborne, in 1943, there was in due course carried through this House and placed on the Statute Book the Foreign Service Act. That Act, if I recollect rightly, though I have not a copy before me at the moment, was principally concerned with authorizing a very necessary change—a change that would make it possible for a Foreign Secretary to provide for the retirement of a member of the Service before he reached the age of sixty, notwithstanding that he was not entitled to a pension on the ground of ill-health, but providing for such a person's retirement on an appropriate pension in cases where it was felt that, though he had rendered good service, he had not displayed the qualities which would make it probable that he would reach the highest ranks in the Service. That required a Statute, and that Statute was passed. But of course, as my noble friend the Lord Chancellor will at once recognize, it provided only that the Foreign Secretary should be empowered to do this; it did not say he must do it or in what cases he should do it. It I could supplement, to that extent, the questions put by the noble Earl who first spoke, I think it would be interesting to know whether the powers conferred in 1943 have been used. Naturally I do riot ask for the names of individuals, but have those powers been used and in how many cases have they been used? That would be a very good indication of how far the very carefully thought out scheme, which this House in the war years very warmly approved, had really been put into effect or was in course of being put into effect.
742 I would also like to ask, if it is not inconvenient to answer it, what progress has been made in that branch of the changes which does not require legislative action at all. You do not, I think, need an Act of Parliament to alter the conditions under which young—I was going to say young men, but perhaps I should say young men and possibly young women, may be appointed to the Foreign Office service. That is a matter of adjustment, but not necessarily by direct legislation. How far have we got in that regard? There were very serious proposals—proposals which at any rate for the time being gave the go-by to a most severe examination and, to a large extent, if I remember rightly, would have admitted candidates to become members of the Foreign Service before they had shown that command in foreign languages which has hitherto been a very striking mark of the qualified Foreign Office servant. There are a great many of us who flatter ourselves, or flatter one another, that we speak French very well indeed; but the standards which, are attained by those who really enter the Foreign Office Service are most distinctly higher than these convenient, though possibly not always very accurate, conversational acquirements.
It will be interesting to me to know how far we have already entered upon any new scheme of that sort, which has great practical advantages from some points of view. That again is putting, perhaps with more precision, the question which, I think, was involved in the noble Earl's speech and which certainly is stated in his question. I have no desire to say anything in the way of criticism or opinion, but I do think this is an occasion, fortunately provided by the noble Earl, on which we may fairly expect to get a definite answer as to what in fact has been done either in pursuance of statutory powers or otherwise in this most important matter.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD JOWITT)
My Lords, I am sure that all of us who have listened to this debate will be grateful to the noble Earl who raised this Motion, not only for raising it but for the tone and temper in which fie raised it. I am glad to have an opportunity of telling your Lordships how far 743 we have got in this matter. I agree with my noble friend Lord Perth that we are not discussing to-day in any shape or form questions of the formulation of foreign policy. That is a wholly different topic, a topic which perhaps relates to the problem of machinery of government. On an appropriate occasion, when there has been time to consider that matter, that in itself will form the subject of an interesting but wholly separate debate. To-day we are discussing the question of the Foreign Service.
Let me at the outset give this specific answer to the noble Lord who raised this Motion. His Majesty's Government adopt the proposals which were outlined in the White Paper of 1943 and adopt them without any important modification whatsoever. That, I think, will be satisfactory to the noble Earl. Having said that, your Lordships will want me to give you some account of the progress we have made in rather difficult times—difficult because, of course, we have had a very serious shortage of experienced staff and also a shortage of accommodation. I will deal with that presently. The 1943 reforms had two aspects, the long-term aspect and the short-term aspect. We realized, of course (and the White Paper realized) that at the end of the war we should find a Foreign Office seriously understaffed as a result of non-recruitment through the war years, and at the same time facing a heavily increased burden of responsibility, The short-term aspect of the proposal was designed to enable the Foreign Office to face that situation as well organized and as well equipped as the circumstances of the case allowed. The long-term aspect related to the more distant future when normal recruitment was open, when competitive examination would be resumed. It was stated in the White Paper that the full effect of the reforms so far as recruitment and training were concerned could not be felt for some years. It was laid down, however, in the White Paper that one of the main reforms—namely, the amalgamation of the Foreign Office, the Commercial Diplomatic Service and the Consular Service—should be put into effect immediately; and further (and this will appeal to some of your Lordships) that the new unified Foreign Service should be—and I quote the words of the White Paper—" entirely separated from 744 the Home Civil Service "and" be treated as a self-contained and distinct service of the Crown."
Both those proposals have now become accomplished facts. Amalgamation is now as complete as the present conditions of work allow. Let me give an illustration. Of the 120 members of the senior branch of the Foreign Service employed in the Foreign Office, one half were formerly members of the Consular branch and the other half members of the Diplomatic Service. There arc, of course, limitations upon the extent to which amalgamation can be applied to the existing members of the Foreign Office, particularly in the case of those senior officers who have spent perhaps twenty or thirty years in the Consular Service, or in work in the Foreign Office, or with Diplomatic Missions abroad. It is only in the long-term aspect, that is when the older generation has passed away, that the full effect of the amalgamation will be felt. For the time being it can only, for the most part, apply to the younger members of the former separate branches and to the new entries from the reconstruction examinations. I can, however, inform your Lordships that the principle underlying amalgamation is being faithfully followed; that is to say, to pick the best man available for the job irrespective of the branch of the Service which he originally joined. To assist the process of amalgamation and to remove even the basis of the former division into separate branches, combined Foreign Service Regulations, which will supersede the various regulations formerly applicable to the separate branches, have been drafted and are now in the final stages of discussion with the Treasury.
Now I come to recruitment. The arrangements outlined in the White Paper for recruitment during the reconstruction period have now been put into effect and the results of the first examination have just been declared by the Civil Service Commissioners. I am glad to say that we are fully satisfied with the standard of the candidates declared successful. Some twenty young men are now about to join the Service as a result of that examination and in the course of the next three years we hope to get some 200 more. Owing to the situation now facing the depleted Foreign Service—a position which might be described as desperate and which is most certainly unprecedented—the help 745 which these new recruits can bring to sorely-tried posts abroad is so eagerly awaited and so urgently needed that we cannot afford to give the men more than a brief period of preliminary training. This training will include a course of lectures on the Foreign Service and its work and a special short intensive course in the French language for those who need it. However, if recent candidates are any guide, these now entrants will already hay a very good knowledge of at least one foreign language.
The noble Earl referred to the six months' study of economic, industrial and social questions which will be undertaken by candidates who qualify for the Service during their year's probationary period in this country. He suggested that six months might not be long enough for that purpose As I have just mentioned, it has not been possible to give the recent new entrants more than a very brief period of training, but I can assure the noble Earl that the more lengthy period will be put into effect as soon as the Foreign Service has been brought up to strength through the reconstruction examinations, and by the resumption of recruitment by open competition. We have to gain experience of the six months training period before considering any extension of it. I agree it is a very short time, but these young men have very much to learn and a comparatively short time in which to learn it. I sympathize with him when he says he thinks it desirable that a good deal of the time should be spent out of London and in unofficial rather than official circles. That idea will certainly be sympathetically considered. We shall learn by experience in these matters, but I think his suggestion has much to commend it.
We want, further, to enable members of the Foreign Service to make renewed contacts with this country from time to time more frequently. There has, therefore, been introduced a system of what are called refresher visits. Officers from all posts, from Embassies to Vice-Consulates, are by this system able to return to this country to see what they like; for instance, to take tours around ports or factories or to study some particular problem in which they are interested, such as labour conditions, housing, hydro-electric schemes, education Officers from agricultural regions have been able to visit 746 experimental farms and see for themselves what is being done. I should like to say how grateful the Foreign Office are to the Ministry of Information, who have arranged tours for this and kindred purposes.
Finally we organized short summer courses, both last year and this year, to enable officers who were visiting this country on leave to meet together and to discuss under expert guidance such subjects as Commonwealth affairs, domestic reconstruction and international trade. We are indebted to the authorities of the colleges at Oxford, where the courses were held, and to the very distinguished speakers who gave their time and thought to leading the discussions. I hope that the noble Earl will agree that this scheme will go some way to meet his point that members of the Foreign Service should be given the opportunity, at intervals throughout their career, to maintain and improve their knowledge of home conditions. He also suggested that posts abroad should be sufficiently well staffed to enable members of the Service to spend more time in travel and in studying the countries to which they go, and less time tied to their desks. I entirely agree, and we hope to reach that position as soon as ever we can; that is to say, as soon as the present depleted Service has been reinforced. The White Paper further describes a scheme for incorporating the subordinate ranks in the regular Foreign Service, and we have made very satisfactory progress on that. I shall not trouble your Lordships with the details, unless you want to hear them.
I now come to superannuation. It is the fact, as the noble and learned Viscount; Lord Simon, said, that under the Act of 1943 the Secretary of State is empowered to place on retirement with a pension certain officers who prove unsuitable for the highest posts. He asked me whether that power had been acted upon, of course not asking me to mention names. I can tell him that it has been acted upon six times; six officers have been retired in accordance with the provisions of the Act. I agree that it would be wrong merely to retire people who have reached almost the top of the tree at the end of their career, and we have no intention of limiting our powers in that way. At any time in the course of an officer's career, if it appears that he is not fitted for this 747 particular Service, we shall not hesitate to apply the powers under the Act.
I turn next to the question of financial grants and allowances payable to officers of the Foreign Service on transfer and during tours of duty in the Foreign Office. The White Paper asserted, as I think is obvious, that Foreign Service officers posted to London should not, if they are to do their work properly, be obliged through lack of means to cut themselves off from contact with foreign representatives or from those wider contacts which are necessary if they are to be effective representatives of this country when they go abroad again. It is plainly necessary that such persons should be able to live on their emoluments once they-are in the Service, whether abroad or at home. The question of home service allowances is now being discussed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I have every reason for hoping that arrangements will be reached which will enable the Foreign Service officer who possesses no private means to regard a transfer to the Foreign Office as a welcome opportunity to renew contact with his homeland and to maintain his effectiveness as an interpreter of British ideas abroad, without subjecting him to financial difficulties and stringency.
As the noble Earl has said, it is the fact that we have already appointed an additional Under-Secretary of State to relieve the Permanent Under-Secretary of administrative and non-political work. We have also created a Personnel Department. We hope to be able to make further administrative improvements when the Departments principally concerned with the administration of the Foreign Service are housed together in one building, which will be the former German Embassy. At the present time the question of accommodation is one of the very greatest difficulty for the Foreign Office. That Office to-day has necessarily a vast communications staff working all round the clock, ciphering and deciphering and distributing telegrams. I asked how many documents the Archives Department deals with in an average week, and I was told that I should be safe in saying well over 10,000. The Foreign Office has completely outgrown the building erected to house it some eighty years ago, and now occupies no fewer than nineteen different buildings 748 in London alone. It is remarkable that, notwithstanding the difficulties which come from that dispersal, and from the very acute shortage of what I may term "professional staff," the Foreign Office gas been able to discharge its main task with efficiency and dispatch, and at the same time it has been able, as I hope that I have satisfied your Lordships, to press on with these reforms which will lead to the creation of a first-rate Foreign Service.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, asked me about the various Departments. I am told that the Intelligence Department has been set up, staffed very largely with officers formerly employed by the Ministry of Economic Warfare. The Economic Department is in process of being formed. The extent to which the British Council or, indeed, the Ministry of Information and their services shall be integrated with the work of the Foreign Office has not yet been finally determined, but those problems are under consideration, and the observations which the noble Earl made will certainly be borne in mind.
He referred also to broadcasts. I seem to have left him under the impression that I was in favour of controls. Let me say that I always feel that if we are "gunning" at controls as being unpleasant things, we are gunning at the wrong enemy. The real enemy is shortages. In the abstract, I suppose that we all dislike prisons; but, after all, prisons are necessary so long as there are malefactors. The real thing to aim at is the malefactor, not the prison. I feel that so long as shortages exist, controls are necessary; but directly shortages go, nobody will be more pleased than myself to be able to buy what I like where I like, and from whom I like, and to be able to buy socks which reach some considerable distance above my foot! That, however, is by the way. The noble Earl asked me about these broadcasts. I did not know that he was going to ask that, or I should have got myself instructed with the proper answer. I entirely agree with him that it would be a lamentable thing if some similar service to the wonderful series of broadcasts which we had throughout the war were not to continue in the clays to come. With regard to the admission of women, that has been mentioned, and I may add that, as your Lordships probably know, a Committee has been set up to 749 consider the matter. When it has reported, no doubt the Foreign Secretary will turn his attention to the subject.
There it is. We have in the past been proud, and have had every reason to be proud, of the work which our Foreign Service has done for us, but that is not to say that it cannot be improved, and we intend to do what we can to improve it. We want to make it a service which can be staffed by and recruited from all, sections of society. We want to have a Service in which a man, once he enters it, can earn sufficient emoluments to live in a suitable position on his pay. We want to be able to see that he is instructed not merely in diplomacy and foreign affairs and languages, but also in those hundred-and-one problems of economics labour, housing and so on which must enter into the life of the diplomatist, and a knowledge of which is required to enable him to play his full part in the service of his country. I hope I have been able to satisfy the noble Earl that we are very anxious to carry out these proposals in the White Paper. There is no sort of political difference between us on this matter at all, and, as soon as we have got over the difficulties of shortage of staff and lack of accommodation, we shall be able to carry on still further on the lines on which we have proceeded so satisfactorily so far.
THE EARL OF DROGHEDA
My Lords, I am very much obliged indeed to the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack for his replies to my numerous questions, and for the way in which he received the suggestions I made. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.