HL Deb 26 January 1949 vol 160 cc276-318

2.41 p.m.

VISCOUNT SIMON rose to call attention to the policy, achievements, administration and expenses of U.N.E.S.C.O.; and to move for Papers. The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, I have put this Motion upon the Paper in order that we may have some discussion on a very important and wide-ranging international agency and, I hope, in order that we may have some further information about it from the Government. I am glad to see from the list of speakers that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has been good enough to prepare to deal with the matter at the end of the debate. The institution conveniently called U.N.E.S.C.O. (that is to say, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has been in existence for something over two years. It has held important conferences and produced a good deal of material, but I do not think it has received, in this country at any rate, the degree of public attention that might have been expected. It is one of the advantages of your Lordships' House that it is possible sometimes to find an occasion when a subject, undoubtedly important, may be calmly considered, though perhaps in the hurry and rush of business in another place no time could be found for it.

U.N.E.S.C.O. is an international enterprise—not, I think, strictly speaking, an offshoot of the United Nations, but technically to be classified as a specialised agency, such as is referred to in Article 57 of the Charter of the United Nations. Another specialised agency, unless I am mistaken, is the International Food Commission. We should note, in the first place, that the creation of U.N.E.S.C.O. was largely due to the initiative of Mr. R. A. Butler, our former Minister of Education, and that, in itself, in my view, gives good ground for regarding the enterprise as one which had value and promise. The germinal idea of U.N.E.S.C.O., as I make out, was to create after the war an international educational agency organised by the co-operation of the peoples of the world and aiming at the spread of culture and the diffusion of things of the mind, both scientific and literary.

In my opinion, that idea is a fine one, and I certainly do not speak of it with any desire to belittle it. When one considers the destruction caused by the war, and the damage that has been caused to intellectual standards and to the opportunities of cultural exchange, no less than the social and financial disasters, this root idea of U.N.E.S.C.O. makes, I think, a strong appeal. To overcome the barriers set up by hate and suspicion in the field of ideas, and to advance in some practical way the appreciation of what is best in the sphere of intellect and thought—that is certainly a noble object to set before us. I speak of it with a full belief in the value of such a conception, and if I say some things which are critical of the methods it is not, I assure your Lordships, because I doubt the worthiness of the main purpose. But it is a familiar reflection: the finer the object at which one aims the more important it is that the means employed should be sensible, well chosen and well controlled. I wish, then, to call attention, as my Motion states, to the organisation, the programme, the achievements and the finances of U.N.E.S.C.O.

If any of your Lordships has been good enough to note in advance that this debate was coming on, and desired to inform himself, I hope he will have visited the Printed Paper Office, where there is to be obtained a document rather difficult to describe because it has no reference number on it. It is labelled "Documents relating to the Second Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, including the Programme and Budget of the Organisation for 1948. Mexico City, November-December, 1947." I have largely based myself on a reading of that and other documents, and I have also done my best to inform myself from quarters which are certainly not at all inclined to belittle or speak contemptuously of this effort. Will your Lordships therefore allow me, as the matter is little known to most people, to occupy two or three minutes in stating what U.N.E.S.C.O., in point of organisation, is?

It appears to be a fully staffed body; I think there are now over 500 people on the staff. It has a Director-General. I think the idea was that the Director-General should serve for a term of years, just as the most important official in the League of Nations, to everybody's advantage, served for a term of years; and I can hardly think it is a good plan to change the Director-General every year. But after Professor Julian Huxley had been Director-General for one year, another appointment has been made—I believe that of a most excellent gentleman, a Mexican, whose name, I think, is Doctor Bodet. I will quote a sentence from his introductory speech before I finish.

The Director-General draws, as indeed do other important officials of this Organisation, a decidedly large salary. If I am correctly informed, these salaries are not subject to any tax whatever, and if any recipient were to find his receipts exposed to tax, then the funds of U.N.E.S.C.O. would make up the difference. From inquiries I have made, I understand that the Director-General's receipts, partly in the form of salary and partly in the form of allowances, come to £6,700 a year—which would appear to bring him within the range of the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of this country, and others who certainly ought to be rewarded on the very highest scale. I am going to ask the Leader of the House to say, when he speaks, whether he thinks this scale of salaries in these international organisations is not too large. It is, no doubt, paid for good and sincere work, but still, when we consider the times in which we live, it does seem that the general scale is rather surprisingly high. To judge from the documents I have been reading, the Director-General must be very active, and his activities are exercised under the general authority of an Executive Board, consisting of eighteen members drawn from many countries.

The Organisation has a budget of over 7,500,000 dollars—I am speaking of American dollars—of which 4,250,000 dollars go under the head of Personnel, which I assume means that it is paid to individuals as rewards for what they do. Breaking up the figures in another way, as this valuable document to which I have referred does on the first page, out of this total budget of over 7,500,000 dollars, general administration requires nearly 2,000,000 dollars. That is a high proportion of a total expenditure if that amount is, as I understand it is, required by the international bureaucracy, the international civil service drawn no doubt from a number of countries who are taking part in carrying on these activities. The United Kingdom contribution is something like one-seventh of the whole—about 1,000,000 dollars. Much the largest contributor is the United States of America. Others naturally contribute a very small fraction of the whole. The Session of U.N.E.S.C.O. this year is meeting in Beirut, and I notice that Syria contributes 0.14 per cent. U.N.E.S.C.O. held its Second General Conference at Mexico City in November and December, 1947. That Conference was attended by 125 delegates, representing thirty-six countries, together with 174 experts and advisers and 53 observers. So it most certainly must be regarded as an important concern.

As your Lordships will see, if you have had an opportunity of examining the document to which I have referred, at this Conference a programme of work for the calendar year 1948 was discussed. I gather it was quite elaborately debated, and was finally settled and adopted. As your Lordships will observe, it is a programme of work for a year which is now over. The question naturally arises: how much of this programme of work for the calendar year 1948 has been achieved or even pursued? Because, while I quite see that some of the subjects here listed are useful and practical things which I hope everybody will be prepared to defend and support, I must say that I find a great many other things described in this document in the vaguest language and, I must add, in the most highfalutin' terms which I cannot think are very easy, either for the intellect to grasp or for the Director-General to carry out.

If we refer to this document, we find that the programme for 1948 covers twenty-two pages. As I have indicated, it includes a vast number of targets, one or two of which I will venture to quote to the House. In nearly every case the formula is that the Director-General—I suppose at that time it was Sir Julian Huxley—is instructed to do this or that, the Executive Board being responsible for the execution of the programme. Well, if the Director-General has in the year 1948 carried out in any practical sense even a small portion of these directions, the achievement is remarkable. Not in any satirical spirit, but because I think it is only right that we should have a fair and unbiased account, I ask the noble Viscount who leads the House—I have given him notice of this question—what in fact has been done in regard to some of those directions. Of course, I do not at all forget—we must none of us forget—that this institution is only in its early years. It is right to remember that so vast a conception as this can only slowly be implemented or made fully effective. U.N.E.S.C.O. itself has been running only from December, 1946, although before that there was a Preparatory Commission, just as there was in the case of the League of Nations (as the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil, will remember), which did a great deal of hard work. To one aspect of that I have to refer before I sit down.

I recognise—and anyone who reads this book will recognise—that some of the more concrete and practical objectives here shown are well worth the effort. For example, I believe that one of the things that U.N.E.S.C.O. has been doing is to supply books to educational institutions in devastated areas. I am sure that that is a very good work and most properly done by an international organisation financed by the money of the nation-members. Therefore, I do not want at all to belittle what is good and practical in what is being done. But I must speak plainly. What mystifies and alarms me is the kind of language in which some of the other Objectives are expressed. I can make my feeling plain to the House only by asking leave to read a few of the targets which the Director-General was instructed to promote or pursue in the year 1948. I will take two or three examples from page 22. Here is one: The Director-General is instructed to promote"— in the year 1948— inquiries into the distinctive character of the various national cultures, ideals, and legal systems"— I repeat "legal systems," my Lord Chancellor!— with the aim of stimulating the sympathy and respect of nations for each other's ideals and aspirations and the appreciation of national problems.

Quite frankly, I have not any very great respect for some nations' ideals. I do not see why at this time of day an organisation should be required to stimulate sympathy and respect for some of the ideals which exist—I need not name them—in some of the countries of the world. On the contrary, I think there are good ideals and bad ideals and, while I am all for spreading what is good, I cannot help thinking that this is just a little bombastic and surprising, If I take a portion of it in which I suppose I may be expected to be especially interested (though I am really much more interested in cultures and ideals), what is all this about the distinctive characters of various legal systems? There is a great literature which compares one legal system with another. I do not require Sir Julian Huxley to devote his undoubtedly excellent qualities, and those of his staff, in the year 1948 to make inquiries into things of this sort.

Let us take the next paragraph—namely: The Director-General is instructed to promote: Inquiries into the conceptions which the people of one nation entertain of their own and other nations. We have heard of the man who "in spite of all temptations to belong to other nations" resolved "to remain an Englishman," and I have a strong suspicion that most nations have a natural bias and a strong conviction and entertain a pretty good opinion of their own nation and sometimes not a very good opinion of some others. But what is all this about? Why is it necessary that this organisation, based as I freely admit on a fine idea and capable of useful and practical work, should spend its time in Mexico City, or some other centre of learning, in drawing up this formula?

At the bottom of page 22, in black type, appears this heading: "Philosophical Analysis of Currant Ideological Conflicts." Then it goes on: U.N.E.S.C.O. will in 1948 continue its inquiry concerning the philosophical principles of human rights.

I know that most devoted work has been done in an endeavour to draw tip a Charter on that subject, but that is not done by U.N.E.S.C.O., and I wonder whether very much has really been done by this particular body in that direction. To take the next page, one finds it becomes, as Lewis Carroll would say: "Curiouser and curiouser." This is what the Director-General is instructed to do at the top of page 23: … to take the necessary steps to arrange for the preparation by a philosopher of a plan for an inquiry concerning the fundamental concepts of liberty, democracy, law, and legality, and concerning the influence on current ideological controversies of different views of such concepts and the actual or apparent conflicts which result therefrom. I content myself by addressing most respectfully to Lord Addison this question: Is he able to inform us whether such a philosopher has been appointed in the year 1948 and, if so, will it be a breach of confidence to tell us his name? Beyond all question if he is capable of doing all that, he is a man of most unusual attainments.

A little lower down on the same page comes what to me is the most mysterious paragraph of all. It is again in black type, so that one shall not omit to notice it. It is headed: Humanistic Aspects of Culture. and goes on: U.N.E.S.C.O. will in 1948 undertake, in the Humanities and Philosophy, a programme of inquiry into the humanistic aspects of cultures, from the point of view of their mutual relations and their subjective valuations. Again, since in this matter also wisdom begins at home, it is followed by these words: The Director-General is instructed: To address to scholars and experts of the Member States of U.N.E.S.C.O. a series of questions concerning the idea held by a country, or by a group within a country, of its own culture and the relations of that culture with other cultures, individually or as a whole. My noble friend Lord Halifax is the Chancellor of Oxford University, and I think he will bear me out when I say that if that questionnaire were addressed to the learned men in that famous place there would be a riot. Again, I ask: What advantage is it that public money should be collected from a large number of nations with the best object in the world, in order that this kind of thing should be formulated in their programme for 1948?

Then at the bottom of that page one finds this reference: Methods in Political Science. The Director-General is instructed: To promote a study of the subject matter and problems treated by political scientists of various countries in recent research materials (scientific publications and high level text-books), the various types of approach and emphasis, the methods, techniques and terminology employed and the quantity of production in recent political science. I do not want to raise a laugh, because I am sure the people who have been working on this have worked at it very sincerely, and, as I have said, there are other things of a more limited character which I have no doubt they have discharged to some practical effect. But is it not rather a pity that a fine idea like this, conceived and promoted by men who I am sure have kept their feet on the ground and still look at the stars, should get into the kind of condition which makes one almost feel that the institution has been "nobbled" by a number of influences which are inclined to prefer long words to practical results?

My Lords, I do not want to say more. If your Lordships are interested in the sort of thing I have just read, there is quite a feast left in this volume to be obtained in the Printed Paper Office. I am all for aiming high, but aiming high is not the same thing as aiming vaguely. I cannot help thinking that there are obvious instances here of how not to formulate one's targets. There are tremendous topics, suitable it may be for some great philosophical work, such as the one on page 24: Scientific and Cultural History. The Director-General is instructed to continue in 1948 preparations for the production of books which will provide, for the general and specialist reader"— I am very glad that the general reader is included as well as the specialist— a wider understanding of the scientific and cultural aspects of the history of mankind, of the mutual interdependence of peoples and cultures and of their contributions to the common heritage.

I wonder whether in fact a great deal can have been achieved on the cultural side. I think it only right to add, as I have already indicated, that it may well be that something more definite and comprehensible is in course of being achieved in some matters of science. I am not sure that I always appreciate the language used, but in the middle of page 25 there is a heading (I am not sure that I even know how to pronounce the first word) "Hylean Amazon institute." Well as is the Greek word for "wood" I suppose that "Hylean" is U.N.E.S.C.O. English for "wooded." You will not find the word in Murray's Dictionary—but never mind it is always a good plan to invent new words if they are useful. Now it appears to be an effort, and I am sure a useful one, to study conditions on the Upper Amazon, the wooded Amazon, no doubt with a view to rendering services to science—and I dare say, to human progress in other ways—which can best be done by a concerted effort by men of science in more countries than one. Good luck to it! I should think it is a very suitable thing to do.

In the same way, there are, apparently, schemes for establishing stations which are called "high altitude stations." Whether what we have been learning recently about higher altitudes in the physical sense owes a great deal to this particular effort I do not know. As long as stations established in the higher altitudes are connected with meteorology, or some other science, I am content, but I feel rather doubtful whether people adopt "higher altitudes" for a different purpose. Perhaps Lord Addison will tell us—indeed I am sure that he will tell us with perfect frankness—what has been done in 1948 through the efforts of this elaborate and well-paid international bureaucracy. I am not drawing adverse conclusions about the good work that has been done, but I do not know and it is very difficult indeed to find out from any documents to which I have access. I think it is plain that Parliament is entitled to know and ought to have reasonable information about it. It is to everybody's advantage that we should know what this good work is, and I am sure that none of us will be backward in giving our support to anything that gives promise of practical usefulness.

At the same time, I feel that no one can read these documents, from which I have quoted some extracts, without reflecting how easy it is to produce by the bushel high-sounding phrases expressive of noble sentiments without necessarily working out in a practical fashion what is sought to be achieved. I therefore do not stand here as a mere critic—certainly not as a contemptuous critic. I have the strongest desire that this effort, noble in its conception, should produce good results, and I am sure that we shall all rejoice if this has either already rendered, or will, by good guidance, in the future render real service to the world. This is a time when some people speak very contemptuously of international organisations. I certainly do not do so at all. It is so easy to rebuke, so easy to criticise and so easy to charge them with inability to conclude anything useful. Still, this co-operation between nations is probably the best hope for the future of the world, and I think we ought to be indulgent if this effort has not yet produced all for which one might hope. At the same time, I claim that it is in the interests of this organisation that it should proceed along sensible and practical lines.

There is one other reference which I must make before I conclude. To my mind, it is quite a minor point, and I am not seeking to exploit it unduly. Un- happily, it is the fact that in its initial stages the finances of this enterprise—or rather the finances of the Preparatory Commission—were conducted in the most slipshod manner. It is claimed, and I expect that it is true, that since then a proper system of accounting has been adopted. But here a very curious thing is to be observed. The document from which I have quoted, the document produced by the British Government, is, in substance, a reproduction of the contents of this green-covered document the official records of the General Conference at Mexico, published in Paris, which is the official seat of the organisation. Practically everything—indeed I think everything—in the British Document is simply lifted from this large green-covered document. But one thing has been omitted. Look at the index to this Paris Document, the official one. At a certain point there are seven appendices. When one looks at the British Copy these are reduced to six. Appendix 1 has been omitted, and all the others, therefore, are re-numbered. I regret it, because the omitted appendix contains some rather pointed references to this unfortunate financial muddle. It is no good going back if they have cleared it up now, but it is certainly very distressing.

I see, for instance, in the omitted appendix this sentence: It is clear beyond doubt that, at least till the beginning of this year"— that is the year 1947— the accounts of the organisation were kept in the most haphazard manner, not to put it stronger than that, and that there was hardly any control over accounts and expenditure. The details are extremely surprising. I have checked them, but I do not propose to mention more than two or three. I hope these are mere matters of aberration at the beginning and that everything is all right now. The well known firm of Messrs. Price Waterhouse and Company, a London firm of chartered accountants, very properly were employed to audit these accounts and they made a report. Here are two or three extracts from it. Accounts produced to us for examination were found to contain many inaccuracies. There are numerous items recorded in the books for which we were unable to obtain satisfactory documentary evidence.

I do not want to read out all of this, I but there are three or four matters which I think are worthy of notice. Here is one. Many debts due to or from various members of the staff are not recorded in the books. Amongst many errors quoted is the fact that 247,576 francs worth of fuel oil used for heating was charged to car running expenses. There was an unhappy misappropriation by a cashier, who spent the money in gambling. That might happen in any institution. But rather more curious is that quite considerable sums in respect of private travel, telephone calls, and so on, were not entered in the cash book or paid into the bank until the date given. It seems possible that these sums had been misappropriated by the cashier and subsequently repaid. Included in another figure is the cost of tickets, and so on, for private travel, all of which is recoverable from members of the staff, but there are no records to show that the members have ever repaid them.


For what year are these accounts?


These are the accounts of the Preparatory Commission, which was the body first set up before the actual organisation itself began in December, 1946. I wish expressly to say that while I think that is very regrettable, I regard it as a temporary phase. I have no doubt that the greatest effort has now been made to put this thing on a proper basis. But what is to me at least a little unfortunate is that when you look at the document which is here in the Printed Paper Office and produced by the Ministry of Education, it does not contain the appendix which made some very caustic comments on this matter. If it was omitted, it was at best an error of judgment, and I hope very much that we may assume now that everything is all right.

The broad point I wish to make is that I think Parliament and the public will agree that we ought to have more light thrown on the way in which U.N.E.S.C.O. in fact is proceeding. And I am very glad that I have been given this opportunity of raising the question, because I have no doubt that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House has informed himself, and we shall all welcome sincerely any account he can give of the good work done. No doubt there has been some. I hope he will feel it right to indicate the view that the purposes this organisation was formed to fulfil are not best fulfilled by covering page after page with these large and vague aspirations. It is only right to ask that such an institution should moderate its raptures and concentrate on practical objectives.

I conclude by reading a sentence from the inaugural speech of the new Director-General, this Mexican gentleman, which was put into my hand and which seems to me to be very wisely and prudently said. I must translate it. U.N.E.S.C.O. is up against different obstacles, but there is one obstacle which is infinitely dangerous—that is, the infinite number of projects and programmes which do not really obtain the adhesion of peoples. We ought to choose and we ought to undertake what we do undertake after long hesitation. The masses hope for U.N.E.S.C.O. concrete tasks, tasks that make a direct appeal to the general good will of mankind. That seems to me to be a very wise directive given by the new Director-General, and it is in that spirit that I have raised this debate to-day. I beg to move for Papers.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, the subject of to-day's debate is one which can be treated in a variety of different ways. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, in opening, while accepting the ideals and purposes for which U.N.E.S.C.O. was created, laid so much emphasis on points of criticism, that I think anyone who had not followed the subject of U.N.E.S.C.O. at all could not but have been left in the belief that all was bad and that nothing could be obtained from an institution which couched its resolutions and its programmes in the delectable words which he used in reading from the report of the Mexico City meeting.


Surely I said the exact opposite.


The impression was left on me that the noble and learned Viscount was extremely critical of the U.N.E.S.C.O. organisation. I am sorry if I had a wrong impression, but all his criticisms, so far as the resolutions and language were concerned, were culled (I think I am right in saying, and I believe he will agree with me) from the Report of the Second Session in Mexico City. Since that date another meeting of U.N.E.S.C.O. has taken place in Beirut, to which the noble and learned Viscount has certainly referred, and of which we have not yet had a full account. But since, if I am rightly informed, the delegates present at the meeting, or the collectivity of U.N.E.S.C.O. there, agreed that the resolutions and programmes of the Mexico City meeting were both obtuse and unclear—which they were—it certainly suggests that at Beirut, as I believe was the case, an entirely different attitude was taken by U.N.E.S.C.O. as to the work which might be performed.

I have in my hand a copy of what I believe to be a summary of the Director-General's Report for 1948, dated December 22, which summarises (again if I am rightly informed), the outcome of the Beirut meeting. This, I may say, is a totally different document; it is a year later and is only two months old. In this document I find a great deal of very considerable interest, although it is true that there are some individual points of criticism. But before going on to the particular aspects of U.N.E.S.C.O., may I emphasise what the noble and learned Viscount began by saying? I think it is of the utmost importance that it should be realised in this country that U.N.E.S.C.O. was born of an idea here in the United Kingdom. This is not an invention, or an attempt to create a body, by scatter-brained people who have no practical sense of what can be done and what cannot be done. U.N.E.S.C.O. was born during the year in which the war ceased. A beginning was made before the Armistice, either in Europe or in the Far East. It was born as an initiative of the educational authorities in this country, aided by Mr. Butler and, I am glad to say, very ably seconded and supported by the late Miss Ellen Wilkinson, who did so much to bring the conception of U.N.E.S.C.O. into being.

May I remind your Lordships, if anyone has forgotten, that the Final Act constituting U.N.E.S.C.O., published as a White Paper (Cmd. 6711, Miscellaneous 16, 1945), records that U.N.E.S.C.O. was born at a meeting of a Conference of allied Ministers of Education on July 12. 1945, within a few days of the General Election, and all the preparatory work which led to that conference was done before the General Election, in which His Majesty's present Government came into power. That Conference for the establishment of an Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation which followed this resolution was convened by the Government of the United Kingdom, in association with the Government of France. If anybody can aspire or lay claim to the paternity of U.N.E.S.C.O., it is we in this country. And it is for us in this country, first and foremost, to support our own child; to seek to educate it, and to bring it up through the inevitable period of adolescence to which all children, either national or international, are subject. Out of that idea, conceived and born here in this country, came what I believe to be one of the greatest movements of popular enthusiasm in the United States of America for this conception—for this organisation which was to lead to the better exchange and better understanding among peoples of intellect and good will throughout the world.

That is the task which U.N.E.S.C.O. set itself, for which we are responsible, and for which the United States of America have assumed the major responsibility—major, not in that the contribution of the United States exceeds 50 per cent. of the whole budget, but major because theirs is by far the largest single contribution. It follows that criticisms of U.N.E.S.C.O.—criticisrns of the idea and, indeed, of the execution—must in large part be considered in the United States as a direct criticism of those who have given so much of their time and money in its support. I personally would deplore a continuation of that form of criticism, which has been only too prevalent in this country and, latterly, in the press. In its early stages an organisation of this sort must obviously suffer the teething difficulties that: any big organisation must suffer. I, frankly, can attribute no importance to the defalcations, deplorable as they are, of a cashier and certain irregularities in the accounts.

Let us get in proper perspective what they really were. The total defalcations amounted to something of the order of £1,000, or, at the then rate of exchange, between £1.000 and £2,000; and that was over two years ago. Since then there has been, to the knowledge of anybody connected with U.N.E.S.C.O., a substantial tightening up of the administration; indeed, if criticism is possible to-day, it is that the tightening up has been much too great. I have an example of a man with whom I am acquainted—I have this at first-hand—who was asked to go over to U.N.E.S.C.O. to offer some technical advice. He had his passage paid to go over there, and hoped to get his passage paid to come back. But owing to the tightness of the administration—set up largely, I believe, owing to our American friends, and the report of this very eminent firm of auditors—the time that it was calculated would be required to obtain sanction for the payment of the return passage was three weeks. As a result of popular criticism it is possible to swing from one extreme to the other. And here, apparently, we have now swung to the opposite extreme. I hope that a proper balance of latitude and discretion will be allowed to the new Director-General, now that he has come into office and taken a tight hold of the new organisation.

I do not propose to touch on any of the resolutions which are referred to in the publication to which the noble and learned Viscount referred, at the outcome of the Mexico City meeting, because I regard them as out of date. I prefer to turn to the summary of the Director-General's Report, which I have in my hand. The position here disclosed is that of a budget of 7,750,000 dollars, about 40 per cent. of which is devoted to salaries and administration, only the balance—namely, 4,358,000 dollars—has been allocated to the development of U.N.E.S.C.O.'s six major programme activities. Those sums are very small, considering what U.N.E.S.C.O. is trying to do, and what we in this country conceive that U.N.E.S.C.O. might—and what I still believe and hope will—do, with the support of this and every successive Government. As has been stated, our contribution is about £250,000, an infinitesimally small sum of money, considering the objective, and a very small sum of money, also, by comparison with the vote which is attributed to the activities of the British Council, which are solely devoted to the propagation and dissemination of our own ideas. The actual amount is about one-twelth or one-fourteenth part of what is voted for the British Council activities.

The conception of U.N.E.S.C.O., as I understand it, is two-fold. In the fields of education, science and culture—the three words which go to form the name—there are two quite separate functions. There is the function of a clearing-house, for the exchange of information, to make it possible for people in their various fields to exchange that information, even if U.N.E.S.C.O. plays no part in so doing—for instance, by paying the passages of delegates to international conferences and meetings, which are by no means all called by U.N.E.S.C.O.; indeed, only a few of them are. As I see it, that is the main function of U.N.E.S.C.O.—to enable people to exchange ideas by lubricating the wheels, paying their taxi fares and paying for their journeys, and, in conjunction with that, when people cannot meet, to accumulate from various sources information about what they are doing in order to pass it on to others who are similarly situated. For that purpose U.N.E.S.C.O. has set up these field centres, as I think they are called, in Latin America, in the Middle East, in the Far East and, I think, somewhere else, where there can be local exchanges and central bodies to act as group centres for the exchange and clearing of information. There is no one in your Lordships' House who could do other than praise that particular objective. That is, moreover, the objective to which I think the major part of the funds at the disposal of U.N.E.S.C.O. are devoted.

There is then the second function, which is that of distributing grants in aid, or moneys, for purposes approved by the Assembly. That function falls into two parts. There is the distribution of those funds which U.N.E.S.C.O. itself possesses and can allocate to various fields, including the object to which the noble and learned Viscount referred, an object, incidentally, that interests me personally as a geographer—namely, the Hylean Amazon Institute, an international project which has fallen rather by the wayside, owing to lack of interest and of contributions, but which is a body that should be of interest to all the Riverain States of the Amazon, including ourselves in respect of British Guiana.

In addition to these direct contributions from U.N.E.S.C.O. funds, U.N.E.S.C.O.—as I read in the summary of the Director-General's report—contributed to the distribution of about 100,000,000 dollars of funds provided by other parties—"voluntary organisations," they are called. With your Lordships' permission I will read the summary: U.N.E.S.C.O. itself has set aside 175,000 dollars from its 1949 budget for the Emergency Aid Fund to meet some of the high priority needs of war-hit countries. This sum will evidently not be enough. U.N.E.S.C.O., therefore, will continue to organise fund-raising campaigns and mobilise voluntary organisations. Already the contributions received through U.N.E.S.C.O's. campaigns and the efforts of voluntary organisations have increased from a small trickle to a steadily increasing flow which in 1948 topped the 100,000,000 dollar mark. That is a great achievement.

U.N.E.S.C.O. has at any rate obtained the confidence of a sufficient number of organisations—many of which are in the United States—to be able to recommend to them, with success, the directions in which their funds are to be distributed and, with its own knowledge of the needs of countries, to provide those institutions with better information than they themselves would have been able to collect. I do not wish to name any of the particular organisations that I happen to know, because it may hurt the feelings of the many others of which I am not aware, but I do not think any greater praise or proof of confidence could be suggested than that these great American philanthropic institutions should have distributed their funds in accordance with the recommendations of U.N.E.S.C.O. Those recommendations are based on an assessment (which is still being made) of the needs of war-devastated and other countries. The first part of a publication in this regard has already appeared and a second one is in progress. For that, obviously, a staff and an administration are required. I cannot say—perhaps my noble friend Lord Perth, with his experience of a similar activity in the League of Nations, will know—whether a staff of 500 is excessive or not. I should not have thought that it was very excessive.

In short, what is it of which we have to remind ourselves? We must remind ourselves that we in this country, and not for the first time, have been responsible for the creation of an idea, for the birth of that idea and for its launching on the world. That idea has been taken up, supported and, indeed, acclaimed with enthusiasm, in America. If, in the course of working out the career of this Organisation, enthusiasts who have not perhaps had the advantage of a classical education and, therefore, of logic and tight-thinking, have run away with long words and the highfalutin' ideas to which the noble Viscount referred, and have managed to get their resolutions accepted (and, after all, it is their resolutions which have been read out; they are not the work of the Director-General, but of the people who went to the meetings); and those resolutions appear to us to be funny, vague, even silly or even perhaps mischievous, is that a reason for condemning our own child to the criticism of the world? Is it a reason for allowing criticism to go abroad in America about something which is very near to their heart, and very near to that great strain of idealism which we must welcome in America, because to it we probably owe our very existence? That that criticism which we have heard here should hurt those people in America seems to me to be a terrible thought. I hope the noble Viscount, when he comes to wind up the debate, will agree with me that ideas of that sort outside this country must never be allowed to hurt or to injure what we ourselves have created.

I believe that this idea, the conception of U.N.E.S.C.O. in which information is pooled, distributed and made accessible to others in the font of facts and, above all, in the form of ideas, is the direct consequence and descendant of an idea which has probably always animated thinking people in this country. As Mr. Lionel Curtis very aptly says in one of his books, this theory of an infinite obligation owed by each to all as the bond which unites human society and makes it a living thing, even when realised in part by the few, has nothing in common with the social contract and materialist philosophies of other countries. That I conceive to be at the back of U.N.E.S.C.O., and that is what I would beg your Lordships—with all the criticisms that may be levelled at the Organisation—never to forget.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships' House will no doubt appreciate, as I do, the opportunity that my noble and learned friend has afforded us to give some consideration this afternoon to what is a great adventure in the international field. The two speeches to which we have listened are a valuable illustration of the truth of the remark which fell from my noble and learned friend, at the outset of his observations, as to the importance of the service it was in the power of this House to render on such a topic by the kind of discussion on which your Lordships are now engaged. As one who, vicariously perhaps, stood by the cradle of U.N.E.S.C.O. in 1945, I would like permission to join in the family conclave for a few moments over the growth and development of the child.

Let me make it quite plain that I do not think the child is likely to suffer at all by the examination critical—but which my noble and learned friend assured us was friendly—to which, in these early days of his life he may be subjected. Correction and discipline I have always been led to suppose, are likely to produce a better article in the end than undue ease and indulgence, therefore let us who are friends of U.N.E.S.C.O. not complain of criticism. There was only one point on which I thought that my noble and learned friend was unwittingly less than fair, in the sense that he was liable to be misinterpreted, and I am glad that the noble Lord who followed him made the correction—namely, in his reference to the matter of the keeping of accounts. I think it is important that it should be known that the matter to which my noble friend very properly referred concerned a state of affairs which existed three years ago in the Preparatory Commission and which is not, I think, very relevant to the health and good finances which I believe the auditors have certified for the last two years in the life of the U.N.E.S.C.O. organisation.


I said so.


Yes, I know, but I was only afraid that it might be liable to misinterpretation; but I am sure the noble and learned Viscount would hardly have mentioned it unless he thought it was relevant to the present situation. Some of our difficulties in all these matters, and in other similar matters, seemed to me to arise from the inevitable effort that we are making to deal with them on a universal basis. The reason for that is sufficiently familiar to us all, but it brings a very natural difficulty with it. All sorts of minds meet; they do not employ language in the same fashion; and therefore there is apt to emerge something which lends itself readily to criticism and laughter from one quarter or another—reactions which are entirely legitimate. It is, I believe, inevitable; and the impulse to deal with the problems of mankind on a universal basis, which is now our common lot, seems to me to spring from a double motive.

There is first, of course, always the fear of and the recoil from war. Your Lordships will probably remember that in the Preamble to the Constitution of this Organisation these words appear Because wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed. That is undoubtedly true; but there are also positive reasons on which the constitution also lays emphasis: positive moral aims of moral defence against war; positive moral aims of the universal respect for justice and ordered law and freedom and the like. And those, of course, are among the great things which the Organisation (as the noble Lord who spoke last said) proclaims it to be the purpose of science, of education and of culture to try to promote. Those are also, I think, the purposes, or rather the goal, to which is directed the long march of man through all the stages of painful growth, through slow maturity and through difficult achievement, the sum of which we call civilisation.

Therefore, the task of U.N.E.S.C.O., as I see it, is not one of diagnosing and trying to find a remedy for political and economic anxieties that may be more acute this year than last, and may be different the year after, or for epidemics and diseases of the moment; it is really the task of trying to bring the mind of man in all nations to recognise and to accept a new and compelling loyalty. It is not less than that. It is quite obvious that progress with a purpose of that kind, and towards an end of that sort, is not likely to be measurable in years, and even if one were concerned with the mind of a single nation, I think our own experience through the nineteenth century would suffice to show us how very gradual such growth must be. Just look back a little. With all the resources of a great, vigorous and expanding economy and nation, the production of a comprehensive educational code—which is perhaps the nearest comparable thing one could take—has taken us roughly a century to elaborate. I do not doubt that in the course of that century countless follies were committed by enthusiasts of different sorts, all of whom had their own nostrums and theories, but who were all concerned to try to put their bit of mortar into the big building of the code. I have no doubt that there may well be still, in the field of education, educational reformers who will excite derision one hundred years hence from educational critics who will have had the advantage of another century's experience. Therefore, in all these things we have to keep our perspective long.

For these reasons, I think U.N.E.S.C.O. almost certainly is gradually becoming—if I may use rather a mixed metaphor—airborne on what may seem to us extravagant flights of fancy. But I think U.N.E.S.C.O. will also undoubtedly demand a measure of indulgence as it sets out on this momentous task of trying to foster a process of spiritual growth and to try out new projects for the meeting of minds. I could not agree more with my noble and learned friend as to the immensity of the task that the Director-General was invited to undertake in 1948. It was obviously fantastic; but the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, was able to tell us that the programme of the new Director-General is to be much more restrained, practical, and balanced.


I am not sure about that. I hope it is so.


I hope that when we are able to see the Reports that emerge from the meeting at Beirut we shall all be more fully informed. But that does not absolve us from the duty of trying to encourage the pioneers who have to work through U.N.E.S.C.O., the teachers of all sorts, broadcasters, film directors, the Press, writers, scientists, artists and all the rest, to unite in creating harmony in the world in place of discord, understanding in place of conflict, and peace in place of war. But the man will be very stupid who thinks that all that is easy to do. If mankind were content with a simple solution, he would not have to look very far or very long. The Churches are there; but the Churches have long ago found out that ideals, to become operative, have to be brought home in intelligible form to the thoughts and hearts of men, for so limited is the individual experience of men, and so limited are we all by it, that language which is remote from that experience does not carry an effective message to the mind and brain. Therefore, the ideal must take form and come alive in projects through which teachers, children, artists and scientists of one country may come to realise intellectually and with their whole being that the teachers, children, artists and so on of another country are comrades with themselves in an effort that is common.

It is for that reason that it is important to help U.N.E.S.C.O. to get its programmes put into form, discussed and understood. It is for that reason that it is important that we should welcome the creation within the Member States of the national Commissions who are charged with the task of devising and sustaining such endeavour; because, as I see it, it is only when in each country men and women who are able to help can be aided and persuaded to give time and energy to such discussions that U.N.E.S.C.O. stands any chance of success. For only then, as I think, will it be possible for it to be seen to what extent large phrases represent large thoughts or practical possibilities of achievement.

If I may interject in passing, it is just because this kind of domestic co-operation and work was lacking to the analogous body under the League of Nations—the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation—that, in spite of the great efforts of Dr. Gilbert Murray, it failed to get to effective grips with its problems. Therefore, in my judgment, a real responsibility rests upon all of us who are concerned, not only with U.N.E.S.C.O. but with the United Nations. That is a responsibility that we all share in such a discussion as this to-day. As my noble friend reminded us at the beginning, where there are forty nations concerned it is no merely domestic matter which is involved. It is not domestic and, as the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, said, nowhere has greater enthusiasm and energy been displayed for this cause than in the United States of America.

If we are rapidly approaching, or if we are already at, the point where American devotion to international causes is taken for granted, let us not forget that it was not always so. We can all remember the history of the League of Nations. We can all remember—some had occasion to see it more vividly than others—the dead weight of the opposition, both active and passive, with which the late President Roosevelt had to contend before the last war and in the early months of the war, as he strove to impart to his countrymen his own dire sense of the perils that were coming upon the world. To-day, the enthusiasm and energy of the United States for U.N.E.S.C.O. are an eloquent and most welcome proof of the strength of those benevolent forces that those who know America best know always to be latent in the American character, and to which President Truman gave what seemed to me notable expression in his inaugural address a few days ago.

As we have been told, the United States alone pays nearly one-half of the U.N.E.S.C.O. budget. Its National Commission has sprung over-night into the centre of the national discussion upon education, science and culture, as great forces that are moving the world. A few months ago I noticed that the Conference held on the Pacific Coast drew something like 3,000 men and women, notable in many sides of their national life, from far and wide, to take part in it. That is a remarkable effort, even in a country where conferences flourish. The United States has always sent a large and distinguished delegation to U.N.E.S.C.O.'s annual Conference, where it speaks not only for the Government but for the American people. As the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, truly said, they have made this cause of U.N.E.S.C.O very much their own. That development of the last two or three years seems to me as heartening as it is remarkable.

If U.N.E.S.C.O. can inspire such a measure of faith and loyalty, I think—and I hope your Lordships will think so too—that there is good ground for our continuing to trust the spirit which inspired the Government of this country in 1945, while we were still living amid the echoes and the wreck of battle, to invite the United Nations to come to London—or in whatever way it was done—to form this Organisation. I look forward to reading the fuller reports that will come out of Beirut from the Lebanon meeting, which will show that sound foundations are being further laid. Meanwhile, I see nothing to make me think we have lost what is for me, as I look at this country, a proud position that has been earned by our efforts and our example. I am prepared to see mistakes made. I think it is profitable that mistakes should be pointed out. That in no way dims my conviction or my faith. I hope that we shall continue to strive, not for our own glory but loyally with all our Member States to try to use this instrument to help mankind everywhere to find in the assurance of security, order and freedom, compensation for these years of torture.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, the speech of the noble Earl is trebly welcome as a speech of one who vicariously assisted at the inauguration of U.N.E.S.C.O., as one who has been both Foreign Secretary and Minister of Education in this country and, not least, as one who knows the pulse of American opinion well. President Truman in his speech last week said that the next four years would be a decisive period in the history of the United States and of the world. In my humble opinion, a great deal of the way in which that decisive period is met is the responsibility of the United Nations expressed in U.N.E.S.C.O., if U.N.E.S.C.O. can devise a policy which will command the support of thoughtful people in different countries.

I thought that the noble and learned Viscount to whom we owe the opportunity of this debate underestimated, strangely for him, the force of nationalism. He seemed to think that the fact that national inquiries were being made into cultures, ideals and legal systems was really enough. What he did not, at any rate, bring out in his speech was the fact that these systems are at present not within bowing distance of each other. The former Director-General, Professor Huxley, in his report at Beirut, called special attention to the great difficulties in the differences of tradition, background, education, training and point of view which faces those who would bring the educational influences of the different nations together. In co-operation with churchmen of many varied countries, I have had some little experience, and I know how large are the obstacles in the way of even a modest beginning. I am grateful to the noble Earl for calling attention to the long-range character of this complex problem, and to the fact not only that U.N.E.S.C.O. is in its youth but that the changing of men's minds and the changing of men's characters takes a very long time. But I should like to join with the noble Earl in encouraging the pioneer U.N.E.S.C.O. in these early years, and I express the hope that it will go forward and flourish in a voyage which is of the greatest importance to mankind.

I have myself read the full text, which was kindly given me by the Ministry of Education in this country, of Professor Julian Huxley's Report at Beirut. I have also read the programme for 1949, the estimates and the speech on the occasion on which the new Director-General, Dr. Bodet, was presented to the Assembly, and I am sure this House would wish Godspeed to Dr. Bodet as he takes up his new work. He has the rare combination of experiences shared by the noble Earl, for in Mexico he has been both Minister of Education and Foreign Secretary, and it seems to me, from the speech he made and from the quotations which have already been uttered in this House, that he is approaching his task in the right spirit. Indeed he says that he is concerned to advance the noblest and most urgent cause of humanity, which is (and I emphasise these words) to establish peace more surely in truth, on truth, and by truth. It is notable that both the late Director-General and the present Director-General are conscious of the existence of criticisms, but that both are also confident in the future.

I speak as a supporter of U.N.E.S.C.O., but I want to refer to a danger, as I see it, in the immediate trend, and to suggest a development in its programme which, in my opinion, would make a difference, not only in the confidence held in it but in the achievement of its aims. The danger in this immediate stage seems to me to be the preponderant place occupied by science and scientific technique. This is brought out clearly in the budget for the programme. In Part III, the budget for the programme of operations, out of a total of 4,300,000 dollars, 1,500,000 dollars are assigned to mass communication, which is scientific technique in the main; 679,000 dollars to natural science and 286,000 dollars to social science. Moreover, the operation concerned with education and cultural activities and reconstruction is greatly occupied with questions of scientific technique and the rôle of science in education. I have no wish to belittle science in the promotion of human welfare, or the inestimable boons it confers on backward people, but I do quarrel with the idea that the more science there is in the world the better the world becomes; and in the report of the late Director-General and the attitude behind the programme for 1949 which he has helped to formulate, I do detect too great a belief in the perfectability of man by material means, and too little sense of the power of spiritual factors.

I can give illustrations but I will not take up your time with this matter. I would just refer to the statement made in the Director-General's report about mind control, and the way in which he defends the new title which he proposes as the popular description of the aim of U.N.F.S.C.0.—the advance of world civilisation—with the implicit assumption that civilisation has advanced a great deal during the last fifty years. But I am much cheered by a remark made by Dr. Bodet in his speech, from which the noble and learned Viscount has made one quotation. Dr. Bodet said: Each day brings home to us more clearly that that humanism, which was based on the intellect, no longer commands universal acceptance. It has not even succeeded in solving the problems peculiar to our own Western civilisation. The intellect has exercised all its latest energies in the field of technology, in the subjection of nature to man, but has proved incapable of bringing the true forces of moral greatness into play. After centuries of rationalism, disillusionment with reason has caused many to fall a prey to the irrationalism of dictatorships. What, therefore, has to be done is, without sacrificing the intellect, to combine it harmoniously with the human virtues. Classical humanism at one time confined itself to the Mediterranean region. Modern humanism should recognise neither limits nor frontiers. It is U.N.E.S.C.O's supreme task to help to bring this new type of humanism to birth. I have spoken of a danger in the predominance given to science and scientific technique. I would suggest a development which would make a difference in the achievement of U.N.E.S.C.O's aims, which are international peace and the common welfare of mankind. U.N.E.S.C.O. has as the third object in its title, culture. To this very important word too little attention has been paid, and there is a misunderstanding and an ambiguity as to its meaning. In the Constitution of U.N.E.S.C.O. itself two meanings are attached to this word. First, the Constitution says that a wide diffusion of culture is a sacred duty of the organisation, and in Article 1 it seeks to give a fresh impulse to the spread of culture. "Culture" thus used means a training and refinement of mind, tastes and manners—to use Matthew Arnold's words The acquainting ourselves with the best that has been known and said in the world. But in Article 1 of the same Constitution, U.N.E.S.C.O. recognises its duty to "preserve the independence, the integrity and fruitful diversity of the cultures and educational systems of its state-members." Now "culture" here means something quite different. It is the anthropological meaning, described by T. S. Eliot thus The way of life of a particular people living together in one place, made visible in their acts, in their social system, in their habits and customs, in their religion. Incidentally, I should like to point out that this phrase in Article 1 rules out any idea of uniform ideology for a uniform culture. It recognises diversity.

It seems to me that the Report of Professor Julian Huxley, and the programme, speak of culture mainly in the first tense, although they recognise the second. Professor Huxley comments on a series of monographs which U.N.E.S.C.O. is preparing on the distinctive ways of life of different national cultures, and the new Director-General is instructed to promote inquiries into the distinctive character of various national cultures, ideals and legal systems. This second meaning of culture is the fundamental meaning, and it is supremely important, for the crisis of our world is neither a political nor an economic but a cultural crisis, and the heart of this is the spiritual factor. I would put it in another way. It means that a change in the way of life, a change of the human spirit, is the most vital need in the achievement of the objective of international peace.

I could give an illustration of this from the much-valued words of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in his speech on international affairs on September 24. He then said: I believe that nothing has happened in recent years more profoundly significant than the meeting at Amsterdam of the World Council of Churches. It may prove that no event of recent years has been of greater ultimate importance, because it indicates a much-needed movement of the human spirit and that is what matters more than anything else. It is a fact of experience—present-day experience and the experience of history—that spiritual forces are not only real but the most real and the most transforming forces in life. The tragedy of to-day is that the world of reason and the world of the soul have fallen further apart than ever before, and that for lack of the old consecrated ways the soul has been left at the mercy of the forces of darkness.

It may be said that the breach of the communion between the spiritual and the rational order is the most formidable problem that confronts the modern world. That is why I say that the fundamental crisis is a cultural crisis which cannot be met by the diffusion of refinement, and cannot be met by a great many instruments on the material and scientific plane. It needs the help the artist, the poet, the writer, the painter, the sculptor. Above all, it needs the help of religion. It is, therefore, of extraordinary importance that U.N.E.S.C.O. is committed by its constitution to the interest and maintenance of cultures. And in my opinion U.N.E.S.C.O., in its operation and its whole approach to cultures, should recognise the place held by religion in culture.

Living, as we do, in a highly secularised society it is difficult for us to realise that the inner force of a society has always been hitherto interpreted by its religion. The greatest living authority on culture is Christopher Dawson, the Gifford Lecturer of last year. He says: Throughout the greater part of mankind's history, in all ages and states of society, religion has been the great central unifying force in culture. … Religion is the key of history. We cannot understand the inner force of a society unless we understand its religion. Religions, then, are very relevant to culture. They are the keystones of world cultures. Buddhism tamed the Mongols—look at the peaceful inhabitants of Tibet. Islam, growing up in a cultural backwater, has influenced, converted and transformed millions of people. Judaism has had, and still has, an immense influence. So has Christianity. I am not, of course, proposing that U.N.E.S.C.O. should propagate these religions or discriminate between them, but I am proposing that it should take a real account of their influence and existence in its work and make abundantly plain the fact that it does so. For this, I am sure, there should be a real collaboration between U.N.E.S.C.O. and the religions of the world. There should be no standing apart on either side.

In what I have been saying I have only been echoing the thoughts of some of the most powerful minds in English life to-day. There are not a few glimpses of this in Professor Arnold Toynbee's collection of essays Civilisation on Trial. But there are two writers, particularly, whose books should be read by the staff of U.N.E.S.C.O., the members of its Executive Board and others interested. One by T. S. Eliot is entitled Notes Towards the Definition of Culture. He is speaking of Europe, not as a Christian but as a sociologist, and he says: The dominant force in creating a common culture between peoples, each of which has its distinct culture, is religion. I do not believe that the culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith. Above all, I would commend Christopher Dawson's Gifford Lectures, published last year under the title Religion and Culture. This work is a masterpiece. It shows the intimate connection of religion and culture right through history. It declares that religion is still a living force for culture to-day, but that a great schism exists between them. On the one hand there is a secularised scientific world culture, existing as a body without a soul; on the other hand, there is religion divorced from culture as a spirit without a body. He says (and what words could put it more truly?): There must be a return to unity—a spiritual integration of culture if mankind is to survive. That is why, in supporting wholeheartedly the work of U.N.E.S.C.O., and wishing to give every possible encouragement to its Executive Board and its Director-General, I lay particular stress, for its future development in this uneasy and turbulent world, on the paying of special attention to that word "culture" in all its richness.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, as I wearied your Lordships last week by inflicting a somewhat long speech on international affairs on the House, I shall try to-day to be brief. I think any of us who have listened to what the right reverend Prelate said would be much moved by his observations, and I trust that his remarks, particularly about the relations between religion and culture, will be read and studied by all those who are working in any capacity for U.N.E.S.C.O.

I would say a few words only because I have had some experience of the subjects and activities for which U.N.E.S.C.O. stands—namely, the educational, scientific and cultural development of the world. As the noble Earl has pointed out, in the old days of the League of Nations there was an organisation known as the International Committee of Intellectual Co-operation. I am afraid that its work, too, was often derided, but people of such eminence as Professor Gilbert Murray. Madame Curie, Professor Bergson and Professor Einstein were closely associated with it and people began to realise that the work it was doing was really worth while. It was badly hampered by lack of funds and staff, but it made headway, and the fact that in those days science and culture knew no national boundaries, whatever may be the ease to-day, made it a real force towards the promotion of world understanding. The reason why it failed was not, in my opinion, that given by the noble Earl, but because of the general collapse: indeed, I think the noble Earl will agree that it was making considerable progress when the war broke out. U.N.E.S.C.O. was destined to carry on and develop the same kind of work, and as its resources and administrative possibilities are far greater, its ultimate possibilities are very much larger.

Your Lordships must remember that U.N.E.S.C.O. was faced at its foundation, and during its first years, with a terrific problem, arising largely because of the devastation caused by the war. That is particularly true in the educational sphere. I see that the first chapter of the 1948 programme is devoted to reconstruction. Excellent schemes are put forward for assisting those countries which have been the chief victims of the war to re-establish, materially and otherwise, what has been destroyed Of course, it is easy to criticise an organisation which is just finding its feet. U.N.E.S.C.O. may have embarked on extravagant schemes and over-ambitious theories. I frankly think it has. But I regret deeply the speech with which the noble and learned Viscount introduced this Motion. I cannot help thinking that he himself did not altogether realise the amount of scorn and contempt which he managed to pour on some of the suggestions for U.N.E.S.C.O. activities, while at the same time he accepted warmly the main idea of the organisation.

The noble and learned Viscount gave us the impression that this programme was to be concluded in one year. That, of course, is quite impossible. I do not think his criticism is justified. The noble Viscount has based all these criticisms, except that on the Hylean Institute, on the chapter relating to human and social relations. I do not think he was quite fair. He said that the Director-General was instructed to perform a long list of things—which he read out—and implied that no Director-Genera] could possibly accomplish such a task. The noble and learned Viscount omitted to say, however, that the Director-General has to observe the following conditions: He shall enlist the resources and distribute the work among universities and other research centres in the various nations, utilising wherever possible National Commissions or Co-operating Bodies where they exist and appropriate international organisations. These organisations shall be free to propose such re-formulation of the projects enumerated above as may seem to them to be necessary either in order to ensure greater precision in the definition and delimitation of the projects or to enable them to investigate tensions with greater efficiency and by improved methods. In fact, the Director-General is asked to devolve the work on other people, work which I believe many of these institutions are capable of performing. If that kind of criticism is made, then I think it is hardly justified.


I should be very sorry if in tone or in substance I used language which justified the noble Lord's observations. What I am anxious to learn, and what I hope the noble Viscount will be able to tell us, is: What has been done under that directive? Surely that is a perfectly fair question to ask. It is not hostile to the body. It is necessary that one should at some time know if there has been this devolution to the universities and other institutions. The university I know best is not, I think, engaged in this work.


I think that is a perfectly fair question. I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, when he replies, will be able to tell us what has been done. But that was not altogether the tone of the speech the noble and learned Viscount made. I agree with him that some of the proposals have been too ambitious, but I am not sure that we should condemn U.N.E.S.C.O. for that. I have often thought that we Anglo-Saxons attach too little importance to ideas. We occasionally think over-much in terms of practical results. Surely in the long run it is ideas that are the main determining factor in human history. We cannot afford to neglect them.

I would like to turn for one moment (because I think this would be of interest to the noble and learned Viscount) to some of the practical proposals that have been carried out with regard to the reconstruction suggested in the programme. There is in this country and in America a great fund of good will towards the children of lands where education has been a victim of the war. But to bring that good will into action, and take all possible measures, is a task which is clearly beyond the capability of any voluntary organisation. In the programme we find two straightforward duties placed on U.N.E.S.C.O. One is: To advise contributors concerning priorities of need for books and other materials in the devastated countries in order that the most urgent needs may receive appropriate attention. The other—and this is obviously most important—is: To purchase and distribute, within the limits of allocated funds, books, educational material, scientific and technical equipment. I do not know how much has been done to put these suggestions into effect. I hope the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will be able to tell us something on the point.

There is another scheme which is of practical value, which could not have come into being without U.N.E.S.C.O's help—namely, the new book coupon scheme. I think the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, will agree that the universities of this country feel a great lack of books from overseas, and particularly from the United States. He will also agree—in view of the important official position he holds—that we do not want to see our centres of learning overwhelmed with overseas ideas to the exclusion of our own. I do not think the new book coupon scheme is likely to lead to that result, however, because it is only in experimental form, and it is for a period of one year. I hope very much that the experiment will succeed, and that when the year is up it will be continued for a far longer period.

I will give just one other example of the practical accomplishments of U.N.E.S.C.O.—namely, its contribution towards the teaching of international understanding. The United Nations Organisation cannot survive simply as a body of Government representatives and international civil servants. We know that it requires the support in all countries of people who believe in its aims and who have faith in its ability ultimately to achieve them. It is not too early (I hope it is not too late) to prevent the children acquiring prejudices about their own and other countries which will handicap their efforts to reach this belief and this faith in later years. U.N.E.S.C.O. has done a great deal of work in that direction. It has held two Conferences, in France in 1947 and in New York in 1948. Teachers and people concerned with education from over twenty different countries attended those Conferences. They exchanged ideas, talked about methods and prepared booklets; and on returning to their own countries—and this is the important thing—they are now inculcating those ideas into the minds of the children. I feel that that is a valuable and practical proposition. All of us who support with our efforts and our prayers the cause of international understanding, or at any rate the cause of international toleration, must wish U.N.E.S.C.O. well.

These are all practical propositions. Personally, for the time being, I think it would be well that U.N.E.S.C.O. should consider itself as a kind of clearing-house for educational and scientific ideas, and particularly as an organisation to stimulate and assist other bodies to perform those activities which are required. If I were to advise, my view would be that, in existing circumstances, U.N.E.S.C.O. should concentrate on a short-term programme, so that it will produce concrete results which the man in the street and we ourselves can see, hear and feel. Then, when success in that narrower field has been achieved, the Organisation can go forward into the wider fields which are appropriate for it with far greater support and with confidence of success. It may well be that through the efforts of U.N.E.S.C.O. greater progress will be made towards that ideal of one world for which we all hope, rather than by political or even economic methods. With all its failings—and there have been failings—we cannot lightly condemn it. We agree that it should correct the errors it has made, but we feel also that it should successfully pursue its work. Its failure would prove a disaster for that world understanding for which we all hope.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, the Government welcome this debate. It may well prove in the future to have been of critical importance. I would direct the attention of the House to the beginning and purpose of this body by quoting from its first Article, of which, owing to the overlaying of it by a multitude of suggestions and propositions which may obtrude themselves, we may well be apt to lose sight: The purpose of the Organisation is to contribute to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the Nations through education, science, and culture, in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for the human rights and fundamental freedoms. That is what this Organisation, which is now only in the third year of its life, stands for. That is its purpose—a purpose which contemplates, and will certainly involve, generations. Despite juvenile errors, and perhaps extravagances, we have to keep in mind the potential value and the immense importance of this scheme of international cooperation. It is because we have that in mind, and we are anxious that it should not be lost sight of, that as Leader of the House, have undertaken to reply to the debate. We know that wars begin in the misunderstandings between peoples. We know how terribly ignorant for the most part, one nation is of another—even the best informed. Ignorance breeds distrust, and it is distrust and ignorance, and all that follows from them, that in times past have led to wars, and will do so again unless we can devote ourselves by all the means in our power to their removal.

I want to take your Lordships through the history of this scheme, which we are proud to know had its start in this country. I shall refer later on to some of the quotations made by the noble and learned Viscount who introduced the discussion. It is true that the published summary of the plans and activities of the organisation covers a bewilderingly wide field; but, at the same time, if we look behind them, we soon learn of practical things that it is helping to do. It is, by various means, promoting the spread of knowledge in different countries: so far as books are available in these very early days, by making more books available; by getting meetings of teachers; by the institution of Fellowships to help students and other people to travel from one country to another (there are 200, I think, at the present time); by the spread of articles; by the use of the radio; by the use of films; by helping libraries; by distributing books in backward countries, and in a hundred other ways doing really helpful things to dispel ignorance and give people a better knowledge of one another.

It is very difficult indeed to assess these things in real terms, because they are things of the mind; they affect the thoughts of people. But in order to make them more realistic and practically helpful, twenty-eight out of the forty-four States already associated with U.N.E.S.C.O. have set up in their own countries what are called "National Commissions," which are national organisations to help in a practical way to forward the work that is in mind. We have a very effective national commission in this country, and, through the good offices of the Ministry of Education I have been supplied with a list of the different branches of activity which are being pursued, not in terms of dreams, but in reality, by different groups of people in this country. There are apparently about 250 bodies scholastic, scientific and cultural, represented on our national commission. I have before me a list of names of the men who are directing these different branches of activity and helping to spread knowledge and dispel distrust. Mr. Harman is the Chairman of the education body, Professor Adrian of the natural science and Mr. French of mass communications—I suppose that means radio and films. So you go through a list of libraries, museums and so or., and of people who are helping, by the use of these institutions, both at home and abroad, to increase the spread of knowledge, to attempt to get people to know one another better, to remove distrust and so on. Those are practical things, and we are approaching it in this country with our usual national realistic disposition.

For an organisation of this kind, with the immense possibilities that it has before it, and the immense difficulties which tradition and national habits must impose upon it, there are obvious dangers. The noble and learned Viscount has referred to some of them. He has referred to what, quite frankly, I think are the extravagances of form of expression in this document. I do not think it does any harm to refer to them; it may lead to their being abated. I shall come to what practical steps have already been taken to abate them. When he asks me, as he did quite properly, if I understand what is meant by some of these things, I frankly tell him at once that I do not. I do not profess to understand—I am only a simple-minded person. I think that some of them are in rather an extravagant phraseology which is foreign to our habit of thought.

But let me just explain to your Lordships why it is not quite so absurd as it may seem. I believe that some of the propositions which are here translated into English originated in Arabic. You have to remember that forty-four nations are contributing to this document, and they submit suggestions in their own languages. In languages of many nations, even the same words are difficult to transfer from the phraseology of one into the phraseology of another, and it is particularly so in some oriental languages. These statements embody the result of collaboration in Mexico and the bringing together of different suggestions, but there is a considerable difficulty, which is obvious to any one of us familiar with these things, to try and bring into one common language the thoughts expressed in various forms of words by others who think quite differently. That does account—and you have to be fair about it—for rather obscure and polysyllabic language which to me, as a plain person, does not convey any real impression. We have all come across people in life who seem to take a glory in what we call rather highfalutin' language, and my impression is that it is often used because they do not quite know what they mean themselves. That is all by the way, and is a small thing. But when we come to reflect upon what things make the most impression upon people, we find they are usually the simple things. Of all the discourses in the history of the world, I think the one which has made the greatest impression upon the habits and thoughts of people is the Sermon on the Mount, and nothing could be simpler than that.

We have to think charitably and understandingly of what, to me, quite frankly, are linguistic extravagances, and no Director in any one year would ever be expected to achieve any of the things here. Those are the things he has to aim at. If a succession of Directors achieve them in a century, then they will have done a good job of work. The fact that we have a high aim before us is no discredit. It is to our credit that we have such an aim. On the question of this drafting, I can reassure the noble and learned Viscount and give him, I hope, some comfort, because at Beirut this question was taken very effectively in hand, and a committee of five was appointed—of which our own distinguished public servant, Sir John Maude, was one—to try to get the project drafted in language which was perhaps more understandable and more concise. I can say that the British delegation at Beirut have done an extraordinarily good job of work in improving the drafting and in getting forward machinery from year to year to see that the aims and purposes of U.N.E.S.C.O. are set out, as clearly and realistically as possible. So it is not fair to U.N.E.S.C.O. to make fun of some of these strange sentences. Those who are directing the programme have already recognised that this may be the effect and are setting about remedying it in a very practical fashion.


May I ask whether the report of the Beirut Conference will be circulated here in the same way as the other one?


I have not consulted my right honourable friend or his Department, but I am quite sure that it will. We will make it our business to make it available as soon as possible, for there is every reason why we should.

Then there are other matters which are being taken in hand for the purposes of improvement, including that of staffing. These questions have already been dealt with and are still being watched very carefully, so that in the course of time any extravagances, waste, or over-lapping may be eliminated. That work is already in hand. When one conies to think of it, here is a body with representatives of forty-four different notions; it has really only been going for two years, and it was inevitable that there should be trouble, and perhaps confusion in some respects, at the beginning, both with regard to the drafting of its programme and to the improving of its administration. But really effective steps have already been taken and are being pursued.

Now I should like to put in its proper place another feature of the progress of U.N.E.S.C.O. I must say that I regret that the noble and learned Viscount made so much of the financial difficulty which arose in 1946. It was not really U.N.E.S.C.O. which was responsible it was a preparatory body. There were gross irregularities, and they have been dealt with fairly severely. A very eminent firm of auditors, Messrs. Price, Waterhouse & Co., have been called in, and in their report for last year they noted a very substantial improvement. But I should like to make one comment before I come to what the auditors say has been happening in the last year and a half. Their report was issued and I will quote from it in a minute or two. But let me first remark that while we have had a great amount of publicity given to the irregularities which occurred two years ago, we have not had an equivalent amount of publicity given to the credit which the auditors have frankly given to the Organisation for improvements it has effected. It is only fair that that should be done, and I now propose to quote from the report.

After inspecting the accounts for 1947 the auditors say: In reviewing the alterations which have taken place in keeping the accounts and checking any mistakes, it will be seen from the foregoing that important improvements in the controls and accounts have been made and that further improvements are being introduced. They go on to say: The present state of the accounts and records appears to be generally satisfactory. That is with regard to 1947.

With regard to 1948, on June 7, 1948, they say: In our opinion, based upon our examination, the attached statement summarises fairly the recorded budgetary and financial operations of U.N.E.S.C.O. In September of last year they said: As far as was disclosed at our tests and checks of the detailed operations and from inquiries we have made, money has not been obligated or expended for purposes other than those for which the appropriations voted by the general conference were intended to provide. That is a very definite and explicit statement by this eminent firm of accountants. I think it is not in the interest of this great organisation that we should have wide publicity given to mistakes that were made two years ago before it really came into being, whilst failing to give the credit for the great improvements which have recently been effected and which are commended by the auditors.

There is one other point I wish to mention. It is true that all these millions of dollars seem a lot of money; and they are indeed a lot of money. But I would like to tell the House, as an example of the rapid improvement in the administration which the executive is bringing about, that the budget as presented at Beirut was 8,473,530 dollars; and the British delegation there was responsible for submitting this budget to a very critical examination. The proceedings at Beirut will record that the proposed budget was reduced by no less than 633,000 dollars. The budget was scrupulously examined in the process. I think if one remembers the great number of nations which are gathered together round the table in this scheme of co-operation, it is very fair to say that to have brought about this improved system in so short a time as two years is exceedingly creditable.

My Lords, let us not lose our sense of proportion. This is an organisation which is helping to promote the principles of better understanding throughout the world. That is its job. And the contribution this year of the United Kingdom is £261,586. I can only say that if at that price we can bring about an improve- ment in the minds of people throughout the world, it is the best and cheapest investment we have ever made. In that light it seems to me to be an extraordinarily small contribution. I am putting these points before your Lordships only because I think that this organisation, in consequence of the kind of mistakes of which we have been reminded, has been subjected to considerable misrepresentation. It is of vital consequence that its work should be proceeded with in the world, and I say to your Lordships in conclusion that, in my view, it behoves us all, with all the wisdom and effort we can command, to help to guide and foster the services, possibly of quite incalculable value, of this great and important international enterprise.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the whole House will feel most grateful to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, for the information which he has put before us. When I look back on the debate I do not think there is any real difference between us. My noble friend Lord Halifax very truly said that it is profitable that mistakes should be pointed out. We cannot proceed on the basis that nobody dare say anything for fear that somebody else should put a wrong construction on it. If this is a noble object, as I most sincerely believe it is—very well then; it is our responsibility and duty to do what we can to see that it is pursued in the right way. The noble Earl, Lord Perth, was a little critical about my tone. I am sorry about that. I meant only to raise the question and point out things for consideration. He said, perfectly correctly, that the important thing was that we should concentrate on concrete results. I am sure that is right, and if I did not succeed in stating that in my opening remarks as clearly as I should, no doubt it is my fault; but I thought that I made it exceedingly plain that that is so.

I cannot expect the noble Viscount who has just spoken to say more than he did say about the passages in this document to which I thought it well to call attention. He says the language is obscure, extravagant and polysyllabic, and that some of the things there phrased could not be achieved in a century. I am concerned with the pursuit of only that idealism which is practical idealism. That is the only sort of idealism that can achieve anything. If he thinks that I am not an idealist, then he knows very little about me. I do feel, however, that in pursuing an ideal it is important to pursue it in the right and practical way. I am glad to hear from the noble Viscount. Lord Addison, that we may shortly expect to have the Report of the Beirut Conference produced, just as we had the Report of the previous Conference. I wish to point out that I used only the latest material that was available.


Quite right.


I have not been relying upon any stale matter. I hope it will turn out that when we read of what happened at the Beirut Conference much which I think are excrescences will have been removed.

With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, I doubt whether he will find that the sort of matter which Lord Addison and I both feel is a little highfalutin' is all excluded. I did not like to use it because I thought it was still confidential, but I have a copy of the resolutions at Beirut. I find in them a phraseology which seems to me to indicate that some people were really not aiming at the proper target. I find, for instance, that there is a direction here that, The Director-General is instructed to promote the study of a subject matter treated by political scientists of various countries in recent publications, the number, method, techniques and terminology employed. That may be right or wrong, but it is the same. Again, I find that he is to inquire into, the ideas which the people of one nation hold concerning their own and other nations. And there are other repetitions. Right or wrong, those seem to be exactly the things which I read from the programme of the previous year. But I am not in the least anxious to exaggerate a critical attitude. I think it is useful to have had this debate. My concern is that it should be brought out that this Organisation has a great function to perform for the benefit of us all and that we are not serving that Organisation if we are too mealy mouthed to point out where it has gone wrong.

I think it is a good service to an international Organisation to point out where it appears to be wandering in desert places where it will not secure better things. It is proper, as the right reverend Prelate said, to encourage people to pioneer. I am all for the encouragement of the pioneer. But if one finds that the pioneer, while doing many things well, is really pursuing some phantom, I do not think it is part of the duty of a high-minded man to say: "I must not mention that because he is a pioneer." The right thing to do is to take our responsibility in this matter and to do what we can—in moderate terms, I agree—to the best of our ability to direct it and to help it upon the right course. If that happens, I am sure that great and good results will follow.

I am reminded of one thing that has not been mentioned in the course of this debate, even by those who were seeking to point out how excellent much of the work of this Organisation is. That is that it has established a number of Travelling Fellowships for the purpose of helping people to go to other countries, in order to secure a better understanding between peoples. I am quite unrepentant in the view, which I share with many noble Lords in the House, that the most admirable object and determined intent of U.N.E.S.C.O. for promoting the good of the world is not necessarily stimulated by the use of very large and almost incomprehensible expressions I hope that the result of the debate will be that we have made a useful contribution to the work of this Organisation. I claim that with great respect, and I hope that in a small way I myself have contributed somewhat to this end. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.