§ 2.40 p.m.
VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD rose to call attention to the increasing importance of our Overseas Information Services in view of their value in cementing the unity of the Commonwealth, and in combating foreign propaganda directed against the British outlook on world affairs; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, we all know the saying that "the pen is mightier than the sword," or, to quote Shakespeare
that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills.
I believe that at no previous period in the world's history has the spoken or written word been of more importance than it is to-day, when millions are stirring into literacy and news and ideas can be flashed across the world in a matter of seconds. With the advent of nuclear weapons, and consequent global suicide in the event of their use, the future battle of the world must surely be the battle for men's minds allied to supplying their economic needs. In fact, I consider our Overseas Information Services a very close second in importance to defence—they are really a part of our defence.
§ As a nation we excel at many things, but in putting our case to the rest of the 772 world we rather lag behind. This is not necessarily the fault of any British Government, but is rather the fault of our national characteristic of modesty, a characteristic no doubt chiefly due to our world supremacy of the 19th century, when our achievements were self-evident and to play them down was clearly looked upon as an eccentric English joke. We can, however, no longer afford the luxury of false modesty, a charming trait when practised among cultured individuals but quite incomprehensible when practised on the countless races of all creeds whom our information services now reach.
§ Your Lordships will know the basis on which the Overseas Information Services are organised in this country, and how the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Colonial Office and the Board of Trade each assume responsibility for overseas information work in their respective spheres. Those four policy Departments work in close unison with the three operational agencies—namely, the British Council, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and the Central Office of Information. Of those three operational agencies I should like first of all to say a few words about the B.B.C.
§ Broadcasting has a unique place in our information services, inasmuch as by this medium millions of illiterate or semiliterate people can be contacted. It is a form of mass diplomacy as opposed to the old system of contacting a handful of influential men in a nation. I believe that it was Dr. Goebbels who said that if you repeat a lie long enough the mass of the people take it as the truth. It is certainly not necessary for Britain, so rich in her achievements and civilisation, to distort the facts. There is no doubt that the external services of the B.B.C. have the greatest reputation for truth of any broadcasting service in the world; and long may this record continue! Nevertheless I should like to see more appeal to the emotions brought into some of our programmes. I am thinking particularly of broadcasts to Russia and the countries behind the Iron Curtain.
We all rather tend to look upon propaganda as something un-British, as not quite nice; like using a toothpick in public—all right for foreigners but taboo if you are British. But, my Lords, we have had propaganda ever since Eve
persuaded Adam to eat the first apple. The Drogheda Report on the Overseas Information Services appears to take a poor view of the value of propaganda. It states:
… the effect of propaganda on the course of events is never likely to be more than marginal.
With great respect, I disagree. We have seen how for forty years Communist propaganda, by appealing to the baser emotions of humanity, has convinced millions throughout Europe and elsewhere that the Soviet is the promised land, in spite of the fact that those same millions enjoy liberty and standards of living far above that which they would have under the Soviet system. Surely this is not a marginal" result.
§ My noble friend Lord Birdwood will, I understand, be fully exploring in his speech ways and means to combat Communist propaganda, so I will leave the field clear for him. I should, however, just like to say a few words about the planning and control of the B.B.C. programmes to the Communist countries. As your Lordships know, under the 1952 Licence and Agreement with the Government the B.B.C. enjoys independence of programme content, apart from two instructions from the Government: first, that the news items for audiences abroad must not differ in any material way in their treatment from its treatment of items for audiences at home; and secondly that programmes must be planned in the national interest. The Corporation receives no direction from the Government and is entirely responsible for its output.
May I quote from a lecture given by the Director General, Sir Ian Jacob, to the Royal United Services Institution in May of this year, on the conduct of external broadcasting? Sir Ian Jacob said, talking of the principles of external broadcasting:
We give a strong exposition and explanation of British thought and action. There is nothing detached or objective about this, though"—
and this is important—
when conflicting views are held by substantial elements in this country they are not suppressed.
Well, there are quite substantial elements in this country who favour certain doctrines preached by the Communists. Am I to understand that this is one of the
views broadcast to The countries behind the Iron Curtain? If so, it is not surprising that our propaganda in this sphere is not always very effective. It is quite all right merely to broadcast the complete truth of events when you are broadcasting to a politically mature people. But surely, when broadcasting to politically immature people, and to people suffering under the Communist regime, there ought to be a more concentrated attack. Communist propaganda is an utterly ruthless machine and cannot be fought with sweet reasonableness.
§ When we come to the Middle East, we are, of course, at a disadvantage, with only three Arabic services to cater for all Arab countries, irrespective of whether they are friendly or hostile to us. I should like, first of all, to see more specialisation in Arabic programmes—for instance, a programme specially to counter the foul outpourings of Colonel Nasser's "Voice of Arabia ". I cannot see how this can be done when to embrace the whole Arab world we have so few programmes.
§ Africa is another area where our external broadcasting services should be increased, with a view to combating Communist propaganda and cementing the Commonwealth and Colonies. With the tribal system breaking down through out Africa, the illiterate African turns only too easily to Communism. I have not the least doubt that the world's next trouble spot will be the Horn of Africa. Here we have the intelligent but highly-strung and politically immature Somalis divided between five countries, one of which, Somalia, is soon to get her independence. Be sure that Nasser and his Soviet overlords will soon be concentrating their propaganda machine among those Somalis who are not to get their independence. Definitely we need a great network of transmitters in Africa if we are to make the British point of view understood. But we shall require more than the £5½ million a year which the Government grant for the whole of the external broadcasting services, think it a great credit to the B.B.C. that it does so much with such small funds.
§ At the end of the war we had the most powerful transmitters in the whole world. Then the B.B.C. could be picked up almost anywhere on the short wave 775 band of a radio. To-day it is the Communist stations who crowd the atmosphere. Much of the B.B.C.'s equipment needs replacing or modernising. Let us again have the most powerful transmitters in the world; let them be our "battleships" of the future. I ask the Government to be much more liberal in the matter of finance for our external broadcasting services. Especially must we look to the growth of television. Many countries who will be introducing television programmes will have to look to outside sources for enough material to fill them. Let us make sure that Britain is ready to supply this need. If we do not, America will. Surely £5½ million is quite inadequate to put Britain's case to the world on radio and television. The figure ought to be nearer £15 million.
§ Unlike the external broadcasting services, the Central Office of Information is more concerned with reaching the educated and influential members of the public overseas, through the medium of the Press. The information officers working on behalf of their various departments—whether they be the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the British Council, the Commonwealth Relations Office and so forth—are obviously the kingpin, the pivot, on which turns the question of whether the British case is well or badly stated to the editors, radio commentators and others who help so much to mould public opinion in any country. A certain degree of the success of an information office will obviously depend on the information officer's charm of manner, imagination, and enthusiasm for his work. These attributes cannot, of course, be acquired by examinations. No effort should be spared to get the right type of men to put Britain's case overseas. They should be supplied with an adequate junior staff to allow them to be free to leave their desks to meet the leaders of opinion and other important men in the country. We must also back them up at home with an efficient London Press Service. Money must not be spared to bring the London Press Service up to 100 per cent. efficiency, both technically and editorially.
§ Time is getting on, and I cannot therefore go into all the excellent work that is done by the C.O.I. in keeping the peoples of the Commonwealth and Colonies in close touch with the mother country; 776 nor all the rest of the excellent work done throughout the world, often by numerically quite inadequate staffs, to combat misinformed opinion about Britain. I should, however, like to see the activities of the information offices in India stepped up by increased staffs and expenses. It will indeed by tragic if Britain becomes a hazy memory in this vast sub-continent, so much a part of our history. Contracts for the build up of India's industrial power are increasingly going to foreign competitors. For instance, a short time ago Russia outbid us for the supply of colliery machinery to India. You may be sure that many of the so-called technicians who swarm into India to install this machinery will be skilled Communist propagandists.
It is of paramount importance that the C.O.I., through the field elements of the information staffs, do everything in their power to assist British industry to sell our goods overseas. As I have already stated, the battle of the world to-day is for men's minds and to supply their economic needs. We cannot afford to lose either of these battles. Britain has not told the world nearly enough about what our industry has achieved and can offer. For instance, the Financial Post of Ottawa writes:
Lack of publicity or of any effort to improve public relations, appeared as one of the main reasons why so many Canadians have misleading ideas about British industry.
§ In many fields we are leading in the race for industrial and scientific progress, but in this fiercely competitive world we must prove and advertise the fact. Now is the time for the C.O.I., in conjunction with the Board of Trade and organisations such as the overseas service of Aims of Industry, and "Operation Britain", to get really bold and tell the world that our goods have no equal in design, workmanship, and manufacture. We should commence a tremendous drive on advertising our industrial skill throughout the Americas from Canada to Patagonia. In the Latin American countries in particular, we are lagging far behind the Americans and the Germans. We must tell the Americas, by high-powered advertising, our great achievements in turbo-jets, atomic power-stations, Zeta, and all the other achievements in which we shine.
§ Before I finish, I should like to say a few words about the British Council, which is a very important part of our 777 Overseas Information Services. Many think that the object of the British Council is solely to encourage the arts, but in fact only 2 per cent. of the Council's expenditure goes for this purpose. This percentage might well be increased, I think. The most important part of the Council's work is in the teaching of English throughout the world. It should be our aim to make English the universal language, because obviously the more human beings there are who can understand English the greater will be the understanding between the United Kingdom and the rest of the world. The B.B.C. can help here by stepping up their programmes for the teaching of English, but the Council must try to increase the recruitment of United Kingdom teachers of English.
§ Sufficient teachers will be forthcoming only if their job is attractive enough financially and offers security of contract. I think that in many cases a teacher going abroad will need to have two contracts, one with the overseas authority of the country to which he or she is going, and one with the British Council, so that what the former contract lacks in salary or security the latter can make up. When a teacher returns home after a certain period of service abroad he should receive a pension until he can be reinstated in his profession. I should also like to see a stepping-up of the inter-university exchange scheme, particularly with the Commonwealth and Colonies. There are, of course, many more spheres in which the work of the Council can be expanded. I have mentioned merely the two which I consider the most important.
§ It is, of course, easy to criticise, and nearly everything I have suggested requires more money for the Overseas Information Services. The Treasury certainly cannot grumble at their present cost which, including that of the external broadcasting services, is barely £15 million a year. That is not a vast sum when we consider our world-wide responsibilities in defence of the free world. I very much doubt whether £15 million is spent to better purpose anywhere, and I ask Her Majesty's Government under no conditions to stint the Overseas Information Services, for I should consider £100 million a year a cheap price to pay to help the free world win the cold war. If necessary, let us do with a lew less free wigs and teeth, but on no account stint the information Services.778
§ Finally, I should like to see a very high-powered individual who would sit in at Cabinet meetings and be answerable for the general co-ordination and drive of the Overseas Information Services. Here I do not necessarily mean a professional politician, but someone chosen from outside, a person with great imagination and knowledge of the subject. There surely must be plenty of such people among the literary fraternity or in some such sphere. There are two "musts" to-day: we must win the cold war, and we must export or die. The realisation of these two "musts" will to a great extent depend on the efficiency and scope of the Information Services. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD had given Notice of his intention to ask Her Majesty's Government to resist to their utmost the world-wide Soviet propaganda campaign in the spheres of political, cultural and social relations; to ensure that the Overseas Information Services are more adequately equipped and more positively directed for this purpose; to insist that negotiations with the Soviet Union towards this end be conducted on a reciprocal basis; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should first like to say how grateful I am to the noble Viscount who has just spoken. He tabled his Motion before mine, and then allowed me to come in with him so that we could have this joint debate this afternoon. I support everything the noble Viscount has said, and if I do not follow him in further examination of the machinery of these Overseas Information Services it is because this afternoon I want to concentrate on one particular aspect of their work—the part they have to play in what I think is rightly termed the "cold war."
§ I would make one important point. When I came to examine this matter more closely, I concluded that it was not that the information services themselves were at fault but rather that there seemed to be some lack of method behind them for this particular purpose. Within their terms of reference, which include information—and information is the term always only used—these services, so far as I can judge, perform their functions efficiently, with imagination and effective 779 co-ordination. But surely there is for them today a task which goes far beyond the mere scope of objective information.
§ Subversion—both in our own country and in the countries of our Allies—has frequently been referred to as the great enemy. I have wondered whether our Overseas Information Services are fully equipped to meet this further task of combating this subversion. It seems that we have not yet discovered exactly where to fit them into this purpose, and since we all recognise that, however intrinsically efficient they may be, they are bound to be ineffective unless they are fed with the right material, much of what I have to say really concerns the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government viewed (to put it crudely) from the point of view of its news value.
§ There is another point that I would ask your Lordships to accept: it concerns the terms of reference. We are discussing the Overseas Information Services, and therefore it might be said that it is inappropriate to bring in the question of subversion within this country. I could quote chapter and verse on these activities, and on the agencies concerned whether they are concerned with their source in the Kremlin, with the contamination of coloured students arriving in this country or with planning trouble in the London Docks. All, in fact, shelter under the same great "umbrella." If anyone has any doubts about that, I commend to them this small book, The Communist Solar System, written by and for the trade union movement, with a foreword by Mr. Herbert Morrison.
§ I should like to establish the nature of our duty in this work, for unless we all have some sense of the ethics involved it is certainly meaningless to talk of a cold war. I would anticipate those who say that we should first put our own house in order, and that only then are we justified, on moral premises, in executing an ordered campaign against Communism. Most certainly we should always be ready to acknowledge the penalties of democracy. The evidence is there for all to see, ranging from the Wolfenden Report down to a Litter Act. But, my Lords, having made that acknowledgment, I still say that we are justified in regarding this work as our duty.780
§ This is no time for a sermon on abstract values, but the point I want to make is very important for my purpose. As I see it, we are faced always with a choice. We can believe, as we were bidden to do as Christians many years ago, that we should always turn the other cheek; we can believe, as intellectual neutralists do, that in the fullness of time a movement such as Communism will be lost and absorbed in the welter of human affairs, discarding that which is bad and retaining the good. That is a point of view which appeals to a good many honest citizens. But it is a point of view, I might point out, which is no comfort whatever to Hungary, or to the many millions who share Hungary's fate and who, I think rightly, look for some alleviation of conditions, some signs of tolerance and liberation within their own lifetime.
§ The other point of view is the background to everything I have to say. It holds that, just as a physical organism of the body thrives in use or withers in disuse, so will the free world live or die according to the actual purposeful measures and direction which it is prepared to take both to stimulate its own processes and, by the same token, to sap, gradually and deliberately, the vitality of a rival alien system. That is why I speak of the need for positive direction behind such things as the Overseas Information Services. Your Lordships may rightly ask for an example of what I mean. Let us consider the Summit Conference. If the Summit Conference succeeds, there is nothing much more for the Overseas Information Services to do, because nothing succeeds like success itself. But even if it fails, need we despair? If the Overseas Information Services are tuned up to their task of presenting to our own country and to the world the real reasons for failure, then, as I see it, apparent failure can be regarded as ultimate success.
Once before I had occasion to quote Mr. Kennan, and I quote him again, with no apology, because his wisdom happens to suit the situation exactly. After referring to the fashionable dismissal of Soviet distortions as "just propaganda" and therefor not worth answering, Mr. Kennan says:
I am always startled by that phrase ' just propaganda.' Why ' just '? What is the matter with propaganda '? Is it not a serious and important force in world affairs?
Mr. Kennan goes on to say that there is nothing we could do in a few days which could influence and alter a strangely corrupted mentality, but there are things which could be said over the years which would make it far more difficult for the Soviet to ignore the distinction between the real and the unreal, and thus place limitations on their ability to use falsehood as a weapon of policy.
§ It is just this repetitive assertion of the truth and repetitive contradiction of the false which we recognise as the cold war. Our sin would seem to be one of omission. Could it not have been known, for example, that for a period of eighteen months Imre Nagy and General Maleter would have to face up to their trial and their execution? During those fateful months the widow of General Maleter was busy in New York contacting all and sundry in the hope of bringing the supposed fate of her husband to public notice. Yet who read of Nagy or Maleter in the Press? Who heard of them over the air during those months? We have no Government control of the Press, but, as I understand it, at daily Press conferences at the Foreign Office there is influence without control. The whole relationship between the Government and the B.B.C. is just such as that—influence without control; and I cannot believe that the Press, which, after all, is still the first agency for moulding public opinion in this country, would not be quick to respond to a greater sense of urgency in the cold war if that urgency were imparted to them by the Government of the day.
§ There are those who say that the answer is to call back into commission the war-time machinery, the Ministry of Information and the controls, the Political Warfare Executive and so on. I respect that view, but I do not share it; and I do not share it for the following reasons. When nations resort to physical war all diplomatic contact with the enemy is severed; the Government take over complete control of every national activity, and the information services are then tuned up to supplement the work of the forces in the field. But once formal peace is signed, back again come all the embassies; the heads of State meet and discuss; and a free democracy can, as I see it, then conduct its international relations only on the basis that it is illogical to negotiate 782 openly, on a strictly correct official level, with a foreign Power, and at the same time wage a hostile compain against it on an equally official level through the Overseas Information Services. So what happens? The information services continue to project their objective message concerned with British trade, technical achievement and culture, and it is left to the unofficial sources to do what they care to about the cold war.
§ I claim to give away no secrets; I claim to have no inside information; and I make only the deduction which any normal thinking citizen can make when I say that in theory such conditions result in a Government expecting the things it might like to say about a foreign Power being said for it by organisations such as Industrial Research and Information Services (known as "I.R.I.S."), Common Cause and many others. If then a foreign Government is provoked the Government can turn round and say, "We are sorry. This is just the way things work in a democracy. If rude things have been said about you, we just cannot help it." That kind of situation is regarded as an advantage, a demonstration of individual liberty working in a democracy.
§ Yet, my Lords, I have come to the conclusion, after some study, that that logical laisser faire method fails in many respects. In a free Britain, the conscience of the Press, the common sense of the British public and the initiative of the individual may be sufficient to place limitations on the British Communist Party in this country; but the impact on Soviet Russia remains negligible. Whether we are thinking of Communism at home, and its penetration of the unions and the universities, or whether we are relating it to its source in the Kremlin. my experience is that: if you turn to any individual or any commercial interest in this country for the money necessary to finance anti-Communist working, you are doomed to disappointment. In industry, of course, shareholders will ask awkward questions. But, even more sinister, seemingly no industry in this country dares face its employees with the knowledge that money has been given for anti-Communist work. There are various interpretations one can put on that situation, and I find none of them very comforting. As to the individual, there are no honours or awards for anti-Communist work, none 783 of the satisfactory publicity that an individual receives for giving to charity.
§ And so there is a dilemma. Private enterprise seems either unwilling or unable to meet the situation, while a rigid direction of the Overseas Information Services by the Government, apart from the reasons I have already given, lends itself to the accusation that perhaps the Government of the day is using its powers in office for its political advantage. I have my own ideas of how this problem could be resolved, but in a debate of this kind we have a difficulty. Much of what one would like to say must, as I see it, remain unsaid. One would like to believe that there were facilities for holding this kind of debate behind closed doors, but there are not, and I can only hint at what is in my mind and trust to your Lordships' discretion to fill in the gaps. Before I close, I shall make a definite proposal. For the moment, I want to follow up the analysis in the sphere of foreign relations.
§ I would ask a question of the Government. Is foreign policy constantly being related to its information value? I do not suggest that we should abandon principles in the expectation of being able to hit the headlines ", but I am suggesting that no policy should be decided without thinking out the ways and means by which it will be explained to the world. If I could frame the question more definitely, I would ask: is a Minister present in the Cabinet, when an important decision is taken affecting foreign affairs, to put forward the "information" aspect of the decision? If the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster merely has to add co-ordinating information to his normal duties, he can in no way be expected to measure up to a task which involves an intimate knowledge of the whole working of the Communist machine.
§ It interested me to realise that while in the Drogheda Report the cold war, as such, is defined pretty clearly, there is no mention whatsoever of it, I think I am right in saying, in the White Paper on the Information Services published in July, 1957. That does not mean to say that this work has not been considered. What it does mean to say is that if it has to be considered, we must certainly observe reticence. I must observe reticence in the manner in which I ask my question, 784 and I expect reticence in the Government reply; but I think that we can expect some reassurance that this aspect is being attended to.
§ So important do I regard this issue of policy being related to its sale value that I should like to indicate the type of policy which I regard as rather more saleable than much of the material which finds its way into the Press and on to the air. I take the view that we should do well to play down the whole controversy which surrounds the disarmament issue. If I may give an example, to publish, as was done the other day, on the occasion of the arrival of an American unit in this country, the size, weight and range of the missile for which it is responsible, was, apart from being a possible security risk, undoubtedly most monotonous reading. I think that it was Mr. Bevan who, in a debate early in the last world war, said that if the Germans did not manage to bomb us to death, the Ministry of Information would most certainly succeed in boring us to death. I cannot help feeling that that situation has its analogy to-day. I could hope that the Government would conclude that since armaments are the symptoms of division, rather than the divisions themselves, they would at all times, and particularly at a Summit Conference, give priority to these real divisions. In the range of real dissensions there are a hundred and one matters awaiting discussion by a Summit Conference and I am going to choose only one aspect of real division—I refer to the cultural exchange.
No responsible citizen could argue otherwise than that nothing but good could come out of the great international community of artists, scientists and literateurs, meeting and mixing and exchanging their ideas and their talent and ideas. Unfortunately, the Soviet impose conditions which one in duty is bound to resist, because on examination one discovers very soon that the Soviet Government regard the cultural exchange as the vehicle for their political message behind the culture. I should like to quote an example which took place ten days ago. A gentleman who held a high office in the well-known Society for Cultural Relations with the U.S.S.R., an organisation in this country, resigned. In his letter of resignation, published in the News Letter, he said:
As a member of the Society for Cultural Relations with the U.S.S.R. and for many
years a former employee at its headquarters and a member of its executive committee, I can have no doubts regarding the closeness of the link between this organisation and the Soviet Embassy or the spirit of accommodation to the political needs of that Embassy in which its affairs are conducted. The time has come for me to resign both from the executive committee and from the Society and to urge all other members who are not hard-core Stalinists or fellow travellers to do likewise.
Hence there is a gulf between us and the Soviet in this matter.
§ Your Lordships will know that there is a British Council Soviet Relations Committee, which strives constantly and persistently to effect cultural exchanges on the basis of individual contacts at the lowest level, free of central control. Let them all come over—the dancers and singers and artistes; they are all welcome. But what happens? The Soviet State Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries—the title is indicative of its method—insists that the entire negotiations be channelled laboriously and ponderously through foolproof controls—that is, foolproof from their point of view. Their aim is to negotiate cultural exchange through a Communist organisation in this country, when naturally it receives State blessing. Off goes a party wandering round this country, piloted by people who are completely unrepresentative of our life. The result of this one-sided control is to give an absolutely false picture of life over here and to feed the existing illusions of Soviet citizens. The British Communist Party is assigned a position to which it is in no way entitled, and—this is the important point—the very last interest which is served is true Anglo-Soviet friendship.
§ Sometimes it seems that responsible British citizens unwittingly foster this process. For example, when Members of Parliament of all three Parties contribute to a publication, British Soviet Friendship (a copy of which I have here), sponsored by the Society of that name, they lend a false prestige to the British Communists who are in fact behind such a publication. People in the Soviet Union begin to say that the Labour approach, the Liberal approach, the Conservative approach to our country are being submerged by the views of those great men, John Platts Mills, Andrew Rothstein and others.786
§ Nor do I excuse the artiste himself. If you ask any British actor of note, after his return from Moscow, whether he took an opportunity in any way of defending Western democracy or of challenging the position about Hungary, the lofty reply will be given to you that art is not concerned with politics. How unreal, how naïve, how utterly dishonest, to regard these matters concerning the great international schisms of ideology of the world as though they were the politics in a by-election in rural England! If they cannot at least face up to this higher responsibility, cannot they refrain from hitting their own side? Every time a Member of Parliament, a trade union delegate, a private individual or an artist goes over, he or she will deliberately be tempted to criticise his own Government, his own Ministers, Mr. Dulles, French African policy or British colonial policy. Whatever may be his feelings. I suggest that he performs no service to the free world by emphasising our limitations over a glass of vodka. There is another inequality to which I should have liked to refer, but I will put in only a footnote about it. This refers to books and newspapers. It is quite impossible at the present moment for any Soviet citizen to read a contemporary British book which conveys a sense of life in this country in a favourable light.
§ EARL WINTERTON
Would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? He has made, I am sure without meaning any offence, what I regard as a serious charge against a body on whose executive committee I formerly served; that is, the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Who are these Members of Parliament who go to Russia and do these things? I have never heard of anybody doing them.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
I am grateful to the noble Earl for his intervention. I am a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and I have often wondered whether developments within that body are working in a way which is not at all favourable to the freedom of the West. There are certain steps which have to be taken within the Inter-Parliamentary Union; and I am thinking particularly of the constitution of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I think, just as the noble Earl does, that the Inter-Parliamentary Union may wake up one day and 787 find that its own vitality has been sapped. As I say, I am grateful for that intervention.
I have said enough to indicate the anomaly of the cultural exchanges, and your Lordships will expect some indication of how I propose that the problem should be met. I spoke of a firm direction. I suggest that that direction should have as its watchword the one principle of complete and unyielding reciprocity. There should be no retreat from the demand that if we send over our representatives of art, culture and the sciences on terms which are acceptable to the Soviet Union, so their corresponding representatives must come to this country on our terms, and we must impose those terms. In implementing that kind of policy, we have the overseas information officers in the Foreign Office, we have the cultural attaches, the B.B.C., and the British Council. I do not attempt to define in detail the steps which should be taken, but I cannot believe that in this work there is not a leading and vital rôle for Her Majesty's Government to play, through these information services, and perhaps in association with some new and independent outside agency.
There is my specific proposal. I am suggesting that a panel of experts should be set up, sitting at the elbow of the Government in an independent capacity, representing a kind of unofficial information Cabinet, to consider every single situation as it turns up, as the news comes in, and wondering and planning how it can be turned to account. I can think of one-hundred-and-one tasks that await it to-morrow. Its relations with the Press, on the one side, and the Foreign Office, on the other, would have to receive careful consideration. In fact, on page 12 of the Drogheda Report there is just such a proposal. The term used is a "Permanent Advisory Committee of Independent Persons". As an alternative, the Drogheda Committee suggested that an independent inquiry be held into the whole problem about once every five years. Whether or not my suggestion for a permanent committee be accepted or considered, I would suggest that the Government might consider that other proposal and. in fact, I definitely ask them if they will consider the appointment of a Departmental Committee, to be set up to consider not so much the 788 machinery of the information services as the technique of Communism, and relate those services to that technique bearing in mind the points I have raised.
I have only one final reflection. The other day I was reading a debate which took place in May, 1940, on the operation of the Ministry of Information, and it seemed that so much that was then said could be placed straight into its modern context to-day. There was the same demand that neutrals should be considered; the same demand for the immediate contradiction of the lie. But there was an element in that debate which to-day is missing; that is, the stimulation that in those days we all fought for a cause which we recognised could not contemplate defeat, because we were fighting for values which were new and enduring. I sometimes think that if the Christian message which was given to the world so many years ago were to be restated to a society which had to live with the problems of Communism and democracy, unknown at the times of mere Roman colonialism, it might be repeated, perhaps in rather different terms, to the simple injunction of rendering unto Caesar that which is Cæsar's; and I hope that the right reverend Prelate who is to speak may have something to say about the position of the Church in relation to a problem which certainly perplexes many honest citizens. For myself, I feel that the information services will be used more effectively, and we shall find and devise ways to use them, if we can recapture that sense of a mission which saw us through so many long years in the late war.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I am sure we are all glad that the two noble Lords who have spoken have brought this subject before your Lordships' House this afternoon, because it is of importance to us all. But, having said that, I must say that I disagree profoundly with a good deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has said, and particularly with his contention that we should have a sort of apartheid in this country, and cut off any association with the countries behind the Iron Curtain. To me, it is most important that we have the freest intercourse with Russia and other countries behind the Iron Curtain that we welcome to this country delegations and cultural missions 789 from them and that our delegations and cultural missions go to them. I still feel that we cannot do better than follow the aspiration of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin, when, as your Lordships will remember, he said:My aim in foreign policy is to go to Victoria and be able to buy a railway ticket to anywhere.That, I think, is not far wrong.
The necessity for the Overseas Information Services is, I believe, well summed up in the Government's White Paper. Although I am not as a rule an admirer of Government White Papers, at any rate those of this Government, I do not think we can do better than follow what they have said in the White Paper of 1957. They said:Britain's full influence can be exercised only if we are prepared to devote enough effort and resources to ensuring that the peoples of other countries have every opportunity to understand our ideas, our policies and our objectives. Furthermore, we shall strengthen our economic position only if our efforts include vigorous salesmanship overseas. Information services are one of the means by which policy is promoted and opinion influenced.I would say that that statement of Government policy is the right aim and one with which we should all agree, because it is a constructive and positive aim. It does not depend upon criticising other people. It aims to show the rest of the world what we are doing and what the British way of life is like.
In this field it is important to consider, for once, the facts which, in my view, we have not as yet considered. The information services overseas are the prerogative of the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office. Their agencies, so to speak, are the Central Office of Information, the British Council, and the British Broadcasting Corporation. Naturally, the impact overseas on the non-governmental public—that is, the wider public—is almost entirely confined to the activities of the British Council and the B.B.C. As to the British Council, it is, I think, significant of one view of Government policy—and I contend it is the wrong view—that in 1954 the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, who was then Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, went on a tour of the Far East and Australasia and, as a result of that tour closed down the British Council work in Australia, New 790 Zealand and Ceylon. I protested about that in your Lordships' House at the time. I thought it was the wrong policy.
So far as Ceylon is concerned, where it was important that the work should be kept on—and in fact the Drogheda Report, which the noble Lord, Lord Bird-wood, mentioned actually suggested that the work in Ceylon should be enlarged—the work of the British Council was completely stopped, on the ground that it was not well done. I asked the noble Earl at that time why, if the work was not well done, did he not ensure that it was well done. That, if anything, was a reason for the reassessment of the work in Ceylon, and not a reason for closing it down. I got no "change" from that argument, and the office and the work of the British Council in Ceylon, as well as in Australia and New Zealand, were closed down by the noble Earl, with, of course, the support of the Government. I may say that I told the noble Earl that I was raising this subject to-day. He told me that he was unable to be present, but that he had no objection to my doing so. In fact, he said, "You can be as slanderous as you like." I do not wish to be slanderous; I simply wish to set out the actual facts, which speak for themselves.
It is a fallacy Ito think that the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office Information Services are substitutes for the British Council. In fact, the two types of information service—I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Home, would agree—are complementary, because the British Council is confined to educational, scientific, professional and cultural fields, while the Foreign Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office Information Services deal with political, economic, financial, industrial and commercial matters. So they are complementary, and if you close one down and add another official to the other service, you are not in fact making any substitution at all. The C.O.I., of course, is an official Government agency, with all the advantages and disadvantages that that status entails. It is again not a substitute for the British Council.
My own experience in these matters may he of some interest to your Lordships. I recently toured in Malaya, Thailand, Burma, India and Nigeria. Whenever I go to a country—or to any 791 town abroad, so far as that goes—I always try to visit the British Council Office and see the official there, because I feel the Council's officials need a good deal of support, and I hope they are encouraged by what interest we can give them. In my view the British Council in these countries are doing excellent work. They are limited in finance, of course, and as a result they concentrate, quite rightly in my view, on the provision of libraries and the teaching of English. It is practically the whole work they now do, and they are quite right to concentrate on it. In these areas—and this is an important question which is not always realised—the officials of the British Council play a great part in the cultural life of the community in which they live. I have found, for example, in Enugu in Nigeria, that Mr. Anderson, who is the head and who is related to a right reverend Prelate who sits in this House, plays a considerable part in the life of the community, quite apart from the British Council work. That is the same sort of thing that happens elsewhere. You find them playing a great part in that way, and I think their presence in these places is invaluable.
So far as the British Broadcasting Corporation's Overseas service is concerned, as the noble Viscount himself said, it costs about £5¾ million per annum or a little more. There is an odd revelation in the White Paper. If it is true, it is scandalous—in the Parliamentary sense of that term, of course—and if it is untrue it is misleading. From paragraph 10 of the 1957 White Paper, it appears that we are broadcasting to Europe, including Russia, 245¾ hours per week of programme time, and for the whole of the British Colonies 11½ hours per week. That seems to me a great disproportion. We have something like 65 million people at least in the British Colonies. They are our friends.
LORD ST. OSWALD
May I say a word in explanation? To the satellite countries and to Soviet Russia it is necessary to broadcast on several wavelengths at the same time, because of the jamming activities of the Soviet Government.
§ LORD OGMORE
I was going to bring that out, and to say that I do not know how much of the 78¾ hours' broadcasting gets through to Russia and the satellites, 792 because of the jamming. But, whatever the explanation may be, and however much the noble Lord wants to rush in and assist the Government on this point, no one can tell me that that is other than a most extraordinary balance of programme time. Sixty-five million of our fellow subjects, for whom we are responsible, get 11½ hours of our time, and European countries, many of whom, or some of whom, are not very friendly towards us, get 245¾ hours. I want to be perfectly fair, and I understand that since the White Paper there has been a reduction in programme time to Europe and that the figure is now 214¾ hours, as against 11½ hours. As usual, I am afraid that in this field, as in every other, the Colonies are the Cinderellas. They cry out for our friendship and they are not fed. We pour out our blessings upon those who make the greatest efforts not to receive them at all. I hope that that will be remedied. The neglect of the Colonies, in this field as in so many others, has been the cause of many of our difficulties in the past. I do not think that, in these present times, we can possibly put up with that state of affairs, and I hope the noble Earl, when he comes to reply, will give us some encouragement that this situation will be remedied.
I do not ask for a great increase in the overall expenditure, but I do ask that there should be a better balance of the programme hours which are going out at our expense. I know that the Colonies get a certain amount of the General Overseas broadcasts, but so does everybody else, and also they get certain material and services. In this way we are indebted to many of the B.B.C.'s devoted staff who have been seconded and who go out to the colonial territories in order to assist with their broadcasting services. This was a definite policy, because when we dealt with broadcasting in the Colonies just after the war we took the opinion of Sir William Haley, the then Director-General, and he was very helpful and sympathetic. He took the view, which I think was sound, that seconding officers to colonial territories which then were starting up broadcasting on a fairly wide basis was not only helpful to the Colonies but very helpful to the B.B.C., as it enabled the young men who had never had experience of the growing pains of the organisation to 793 get experience of some of the problems which starting up broadcasting entailed.
With regard to television, the eighth wonder of the world, we were pioneers in it, although from some of the claims made in this field one sometimes would not think so. But I am informed that not nearly enough use is made of our recorded material, either from the B.B.C., the I.T.A. or the film corporations there is some mention of this matter in the White Paper, but no financial provision whatsoever. No grant has been made by the Government to expand the supply of television material overseas, although they were requested to do so as early as 1951—and in fact the Government allocated a sum for this purpose in 1956, but quickly withdrew the allocation, so that none actually has been made.
As to the Commonwealth Relations Office information services, there are just two questions I should like to ask—and this matter comes particularly within the scope of the noble Earl, the Secretary of State, so I hope we shall get an answer. If he is not able to answer to-day, perhaps he will answer later, although one question I have taken up with him previously. The first concerns Calcutta, a vital area in the Commonwealth to-day. The Drogheda Report found that the office there wascompletely unequipped to cover the vast region, covering a number of important towns, of which that city forms the centre.In my visit there in the autumn of last year I found that there had been no change; it was still completely unequipped. Moreover, in the main shopping street of Calcutta there is, or was in October, a large store with one of the main windows full of American material. The "Voice of America" (or whatever the organisation is called) had leased it and had put on a show. Our similar—if one can call it such—display was in a little shop in the back streets. That really is not good enough in Calcutta, which was built up by our forbears and was for so long the centre of British influence right throughout the Far East, from China to Suez. This is one of the few places and one of the few subjects on which I think there should be more expenditure. I am not asking for much extra expenditure, because I know the difficulties of the time; but I feel that 794 this is a case where we could very well spend a little money.
The other question I want to ask is about the old former British settlement of Penang, formed by Francis Light towards the end of the 18th century. There was a famous library in Penang, a very good library—when I was there thirty years ago I used to use it a great deal. When I was there last September I heard that there was some doubt about the future of this library. Apart from current books, it has some valuable old books. I should like to be assured that the future of the library is not in jeopardy.
In view of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, I should like to say a word about our main competitors on the air. The United States and Russia, of course, broadcast a good deal more than we do now. They did not in 1950. In 1950 we were broadcasting 648 programme-hours per week; the "Voice of America" was broadcasting 497 and Russia 460. Last year, taking the same month, we broadcast 559.44 programme-hours per week. The U.S.A. figure had gone up to 666, excluding 70 hours of music, and that of Russia up to 896.55. So we had dropped roughly 100 hours, the United States had gone up nearly 200 hours, and Russia had gone up over 400 hours. This is, so far as the United States is concerned, without taking into account Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberation, where a large number of programme-hours go out.
When I said before that I thought the Government's view was based on a fallacy (and to some extent the fallacy is not less shared by the Drogheda Report) what I meant was that I believe one should not neglect one's friends and concentrate on one's potential enemies, if you like to call them such—or actual enemies, as I believe the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, would call them—or neutrals. I think it is a dangerous policy to neglect's one's friends; yet that we are in danger of doing. The flowers of friendship need constant watering, and we must remember that even in the old Commonwealth countries, like Australia and New Zealand, there are people of the third and fourth generations now; they do not know us very well; in many cases they have few contacts with us. And in the Asian and African members of the 795 Commonwealth, of course, that consideration applies even more. In this day and age, to neglect them, as we are doing—remember that the Government have closed down altogether Council work in Australia and New Zealand and Ceylon—is, I think, potentially highly dangerous.
So far as our Allies are concerned, as we know, during the May crisis there was a very considerable amount of restriction of broadcasting, censorship of broadcasting and censorship of the Press in France. I am told that during that period, which was a very tense period, the figures of listeners in France to the B.B.C. went up tremendously. The people in France, and elsewhere in Europe, depended at that time when there was a tense international situation on the B.B.C., which had never failed them. I think that is a very important matter to remember. Do not neglect your friends. Cultivate them at all times. I do not believe that there are many people in this world to-day who do not know what the threat of Communism means; I think most of them know it. But they do not always know what are the problems and difficulties of the Free World, and that is the sphere in which most of our effort should take place.
There is just one more word I should like to say, and that is that we must be cautious, in view of the difficulties of the times, in asking the Government for a lot more money in this field. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, has asked for £100 million. I think that is out of all proportion to what we could possibly afford. Nevertheless, I believe that we should spend our money to the best advantage, and I do not believe we are always doing so now. There needs to be a reappraisal of the money we spend, which is, after all, a fairly big sum—over £15 million. Then, once we have arrived at a true appraisal, we should stick to it; there is nothing worse than dithering about. Your Lordships will remember the old Army saying. "Order, counter-order, disorder." It is very discouraging to the staff and very upsetting to all who have to deal with information policy abroad. We shall listen most carefully to the reply of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who as Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations is of course so deeply concerned with this subject.
§ 4.10 p.m.
My Lords, the subject which we are debating to-day is not a new one and we are glad to welcome to the ranks of old "war horses" who keep bringing it up the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, who is not only in the ranks but taking the lead. The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, is an old champion of this cause. I see the noble Lord, Lord Strang, in his place, and I hope that we may hear from him. We have in the past had great support from others, like the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and many other Members of your Lordships' House. In the past those of us who support this viewpoint of overseas information services suggested that the Government ought to take more interest and to give more attention. We now, I think, argue that this is of paramount importance, and in the few words that I address to your Lordships I shall confine myself entirely to overseas information in the sense of propaganda, and propaganda in the sense of being an alternative to the hot war.
The preoccupation of every Government, in every country, now is war; and in spite of recent advances in knowledge in nuclear and other scientific fields, apprehensions must, of course, be based on past experience because one cannot base experience on anything but the past. But we have to look to the future, and I wonder whether some of your Lordships may not remember what I thought was a most impressive little speech from the noble Earl, Lord Russell, from the Benches on my left not long ago when he summed up his view of the position in the nuclear field. He went perhaps rather further than some of us would go in damning the whole nuclear field as "poisonous" and "untouchable" something to be thrown away. I do not know that we could all go as far as he does, but I have a feeling in my bones that basically what he says has a tremendous amount of sense and rightness in it, and that we shall be coming to that point of view.
In the present generation, however, there are people who feel that if our civilisation is pervaded by some foreign and unpleasant invasion we should once again put our backs to the wall, and fight in the streets and in the villages until we are wiped out. When Sir Winston Churchill's famous phrase was uttered 797 some time ago, the circumstances were very different, because those who were going to fight to the death were fighting for the existence of somebody else and something else that would survive after their death. In this nuclear age we know that, if we do go to war, it is unlikely that there will be anything left at all; therefore, the position is quite different. Indeed, I feel it difficult to understand why this present generation feels that it has the authority to sacrifice itself as a whole, dissociating itself from generations to come and generations that are past. There is another body of opinion which says that we must not sacrifice the future, the children to come and generations of the future. My own feeling is that we have an equal, if not greater, allegiance to the generations of the past over thousands of years, to civilisation, philosophy and religion which has been built up by people before us and which, if we take this suggested line, we are throwing away.
I ask your Lordships to forgive me for diverging on to the general subject of war, but it seems to me to be extraordinarily important when we are discussing this particular subject: When I talk of "propaganda" I do not mean trying to make people believe things that they do not want to believe, or things which are not true. All I mean is that we should get across to people who are either misled or ignorant the truths which are vitally important for the future not only of this country but of the whole of civilisation.
My Lords, overseas information expenditure, of course, covers not only the type of propaganda which I have in mind but, as the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, told us, that which has a great deal to do with places like Canada and Australia, where the type of propaganda I am speaking of is not required at all. Those are understanding and sympathetic friends, and we need not educate them in things in which they are all educated. Therefore, I am not altogether in sympathy with Lord Ogmore's point of view that one of the urgent things is to step up expenditure in those parts of the world where our own views are very well represented—for instance, by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who I am pleased to see in his place. I do not think he needs any further support by broadcasting.
§ LORD OGMORE
I was referring particularly to the 11¼ hours. Would the noble Lord suggest that 11¼ hours of programme time per week is sufficient for our 65 million friends in the Colonies?
§ LORD OGMORE
Surely we are not talking about propaganda; we are talking about the whole information services of the Government. It is not propaganda in the usual sense of the term. It is stating to other countries of the world what we are doing and why. That is not propaganda.
I appreciate the noble Lord's point of view; but I should not have thought that the proportions were badly out of step. Surely it is the people behind the Iron Curtain that we need to tell far more than the people in Australia or Canada.
We were talking yesterday about Cyprus. One was very careful not to say anything which might be misunderstood. But is not Cyprus a very strong example of what can be done, what has been done and what has not been done in the propaganda field? The propaganda which brought about the present tragic situation in Cyprus has, I think, been going on for fifty years, and those of your Lordships who, like myself, have been able to have a word with Archbishop Makarios will, I think, be convinced that in that case it was not Communist propaganda; it came from another quarter which I need not mention. But it seems to me that we did not counter this propaganda. To-day, it is the Conservative Government that must take the blame for not countering it enough; yesterday it was the Labour Party, and the day before yesterday it was the Liberal Party. No Party appreciated the great power of propaganda in that little country which is now in such a tragic state.
It is suggested that it would need a very big new organisation to-day. I do not quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, that we cannot go back to the organisation which we had in the war-time days, which was referred to by Lord Ogmore—the Political Warfare Executive and the Political Intelligence Department, of which the noble Lord, Lord Strang, and I were both in some way connected, and which had an enormous power in 799 getting things across to people who could not otherwise know our real intentions and that there was no distortion in those intentions. America and Russia spend a vast amount on propaganda and overseas information. Although I am not quite sure that I would go quite so far as the noble Viscount in asking for £100 million in that field, I do not think he is far out. I think the £15 million which we get, which is only one-quarter of one per cent. of the national expenditure, is a fantastically small figure.
What I am saying—I hope I am not putting it too high—is that in propaganda and information we have a real alternative in a not very long period to the machines of war and our tremendous defence programme. I do not advocate that we should cut directly the sum we are spending every year on defence, but that we transfer gradually from it to this minute £15 million and alter the balance, so that in time we shall not be spending on defence items quite what we are spending to-day, and the fear of war will be turned aside by overseas information rather than by piling up armaments and instruments of torture and death.
There is a vast, open, unused area, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, for this work of information, and I think it is this vacuum and this void which can be wickedly used to persuade the hundreds of millions of people behind the Iron Curtain that the policy of the Western Powers is aggressive and murderous, and that they are merely looking to exploit and colonise. And, of course, on our side, we are surely left wondering to what extent these hundreds of millions of people behind the Iron Curtain are truly antagonistic to our conception of freedom and of self-expression for freedom, as much for them as for ourselves—because it applies to both. I do not think that these hundreds of millions are basically antagonistic; they are merely ignorant, and they are certainly misled. Meanwhile, the Governments of the world press on in a general armaments race in reluctant preparation for the horrible conflict which, if it does come, will wipe out probably most of mankind and all of civilisation.
What are we going to do—what are we doing—about enlightenment and the dissemination of truth, to ease tension, to dissipate suspicion and distrust? I do not 800 think that we are doing nearly enough. Religion and medicine have learned that to combat evil prevention and deflection and disclosure succeed, where conflict after the evil has arrived will fail. Force as a political power is, I suggest, becoming obsolete. It may be found already to be obsolete. What is to take the place of violence and force? I urge that we must do everything in our power—far more than we are now doing—to fight against the suppression of truth, to fight against the distortion of truth, and to exploit that good in both ourselves and our adversaries which is the crux of the democracy which it is the responsibility of the Western Powers not only to foster but to save from annihilation.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD EBURY
My Lords, in rising to address you for the first time I ask your indulgence for any lapses I may make. If I may, I should like to congratulate the two noble Lords. Lord Massereene and Ferrard and Lord Birdwood, for airing this highly important subject. My own remarks will be extremely brief, but that does not mean that I am in any way underestimating the importance of the subject; it is because I feel that other speakers are far more qualified and have far more experience than I have. I have really no expert knowledge on this matter.
My Lords, I belong to a generation that grew up after the war, and among the many things that I have found baffling in this complex modern world is the very real decline of British prestige and influence abroad. I appreciate, of course, that the economic balance of power has altered drastically, especially since the drainage of our resources needed for paying the price of fighting the war, but, even so, I am still baffled. Recently, however, due perhaps to more knowledge and understanding of contemporary affairs, I find myself, if less baffled, considerably more saddened. However, I hope that no one will suspect, as I am young and slightly saddened, that I am young and angry. I believe that one of the main reasons for the decline of British prestige and influence is that we simply will not make a case for our policies abroad and are losing untold good will by allowing our case to go by default. By default, my Lords, is surely the most unnecessary way to lose a case and to lose a battle, and we are fighting battles now, as we always have been in the past, 801 to preserve for mankind humanitarian and Christian principles forged through trial and error and experience.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House spoke yesterday, when he was referring to colonial development, of trusteeship. What he said was absolutely correct. Yet surely we in this country and in the Commonwealth are trustees in a much wider sense. Who, looking at history, would doubt our contribution to the defence of freedom? Mistakes may have been made, and sometimes serious ones, yet on balance our record is both progressive and enlightened. Yet now our star appears to be on the wane, and we are castigated in some quarters as an oppressive, reactionary and imperialist Power.
Your Lordships know, I know, and the vast majority of these people know, that that is simply untrue. But that is just our trouble. As a nation we have always tended to assume that because we believe something to be right and to be true there is on need to convince the world that it is right and true, because the world must already be convinced that it is right and true. If someone tells a blatant lie about us, we are inclined to shrug it off and to say: It cannot be helped. They do not think as we do." We have been far too slow to see the fallacy of this. Attacks and criticism pour in from all sides. I say this with a deal of hesitation, having regard to my inexperience, but even our American allies sometimes do not under-stand but, indeed, criticise our actions. We seem, I regret, to have learned nothing from the past. It surely must have been obvious in the 'thirties that propaganda would be a prime weapon both of attack and of defence in the future, and yet here we are in 1958 allowing our case to go by default.
The U.S.S.R. have not been slow to adopt and improve propaganda techniques, and now, as a result, we are perpetually on the defensive, trying to justify ourselves and face each new Soviet thrust. I do not want the information services to engage in slanging matches, or to hurl insults and abuse. I want them to make strong and vigorous statements of our case at every possible opportunity and through every possible medium. If we have achieved something good, then let us say so before someone else gets in to say that it is bad. The Commonwealth of British Nations has made and can make a 802 decisive contribution in halting the tide of tyranny and oppression, but we shall contribute nothing unless the world knows and understands what we are trying to do. It is the information services who must make the decisive contribution here.
§ 4.27 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF MANCHESTER
My Lords, it is a pleasure to be able to speak immediately after the noble Lord's maiden speech and to be the first to congratulate him on his thoughtful and interesting remarks. I hope I shall be able to follow him in the comparative brevity he has shown, and I am sure that I express the feeling of this House in saying that I hope that the maiden speech that he has made will soon be married to many others. suppose that most of us here are past the fifty mark, and it is very refreshing and adds greatly to our debate when we have some who stand below the fifty line taking part in our discussion.
May I say that I have listened with almost wholehearted agreement to all that has been said here this afternoon? I, too, believe, with many of your Lordships who have spoken, that the Government's eyes have been too closely fixed on military defence. That is understandable—very understandable indeed—since the Government are, of course, in a responsible position; but, nevertheless, it is, I believe, short-sighted. In the evolutionary battle of life that was fought millennia ago it was man, with his fragile equipment but with his quick wits, who won, and the dinosaurs and those great monsters that moved with impenetrable armour that were lost in the mists of history. So I believe it will be in the future. To-day there is a great battle of ideals. It is not enough to assume that other races and peoples—and, indeed, our own folk here at home—will see the justice and excellence of that for which our country, we believe, stands. Truth, to prevail, has to be spread; it has to be proclaimed; it has to be commended, and it has to be embodied. We here in this country have a political way of life, and that is one which we should all want to commend. Our contention is that it is not being adequately commended in the world to-day. That way of life is, briefly, the democratic way of life. Democracy, as I understand it, does 803 not mean freedom before the law; it does not mean security from want, or freedom from want. It means freedom and security—not one or the other, but both.
Like the previous speaker, I have no desire to cast any reflection on the information services. Within their limit I believe they do an exceedingly good job. But surely, as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has said, to act in this sphere we need something much more free, more positive and more imaginative. We need a new instrument, a body of experts if you like, freed from day-to-day ministerial control; a body composed of journalists, educationists and experts in public relations, who would keep their minds and attention continually on this problem without continually being harried as, alas! so many civil servants and those in Government employ needs must be.
Having said that, I must make clear that the Christian attitude to the Communist menace is not perhaps quite as simple as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, has suggested. There are those who would like to see the Christian Church make common cause with the anti-Communist forces. The Church of England has quite definitely refused to do so; and, lest that statement should be questioned and lest it should be thought that it is the peculiar and personal opinion of a single Bishop, I should like to quote a few sentences on this subject from the report of the Lambeth Conference of 1948. The Conference Committee which reported on this matter had within its number one who carried great respect in this House, the late Lord Archbishop of York, Dr. Garbett, who gave his wholehearted assent to the contents of that report. The Conference of 1948, while declaring atheistic Communism to be contrary to Christian faith and practice and something which must be opposed by sound teaching and example, had something further to say:Communism cannot be overcome by argument alone. It has to be outlived and not merely out-fought. By making common cause with anti-Communist forces the Church might have some success, but such a short-term policy would prove in the end to be disastrous to the Church, both in the East and in the West.804 The reasons given by the report for taking that attitude are first of all that:Ever since Apostolic times there has been a communistic strain—not an atheistic communistic strain but a communistic strain—in Christianity itself. Secondly, in the long-term policy to win the workers of the world for the Kingdom of Christ and to win them from a policy based on materialism Churchmen must begin by entering into the despair as well as the hope that has inspired modern Communism. Thirdly, they must do full justice to the truth in Communism, both in its critical insight into history and in its desire to help the oppressed; and, lastly, they must realise that those who accept an economic theory of Communism, as distinct from Marxist atheism, do not thereby put themselves outside the fellowship of the Christian Church.So much for the most authoritative statement from the Anglican Church on the attitude of the Church towards what has been called the "Communist menace".
I now pass to another point. The noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, seemed to suggest that if Our Lord had lived today He might have stated the ethical implications of His teaching somewhat differently. In one sense, of course, that is perfectly true. For instance, He perhaps would not have spoken of the Good Samaritan in the story of that name. Instead, He might have spoken of the Good Arab or the Good Communist. The clothing of His teaching would no doubt have been different, but the content of His teaching would have been precisely the same: "If a man strike thee on the cheek, turn to him the other also." I cannot see that Our Lord, would have altered that phrase by a single word or intonation had He been speaking today. His ethic, unlike the Communist ethic, does not vary with the political situation. He came to proclaim principles of eternal validity and of Divine Truth.
If your Lordships will bear with me, I must try to explain what I mean. Many modern people of a literalistic and practical frame of mind—and so many modern people have that frame of mind—turn to the Gospels, and there they read: "Love your enemy," "Turn the other cheek," and "Lend to him that asketh of thee." They look at Christians and Churchmen and they see that Christians do not obey. They conclude, therefore, that the Christians whom they know are really rather humbugging and hypocritical, and that the Christian ethic, as so-called, is something unrealistic and 805 inapplicable to the workaday world of to-day. But they forget that other instance in the Gospel where St. Peter asked Our Lord, "How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him—till seven times?": he wanting to know that at the eighth time he could hit back. Our Lord answered (it must have been with a smile) "Not until seven times but until seventy times seven." In other words, conduct in such a situation cannot be governed by rule, no matter how much human beings want those rules and desire to have them. As in the opening prayers of our Sessions we are taught to say that, having done all, we are unworthy or unprofitable servants.
What, then, do these hard sayings of Jesus mean in the world of to-day? I believe that we must remember two things about them. First, they satisfy the ideal of action. People may ask "But of what use is it to set that ideal?" It is of very great use indeed. If we turn to geometry, while it is perfectly true that no geometrician has ever drawn a straight line—the shortest distance between two points—who shall say that the ideal embodied in that definition is not of the highest value and significance in geometry? To continue in a mathematical metaphor, it is the task of those who observe these dictums of Our Lord to come as close as possible to their fulfilment in actual life. Secondly, the pictures which are given to us in such phrases as, "Turn the other cheek," "Lend to him that asketh of thee", and others, are, as it were, objectifications of the motives which should inspire our action. They are not rules to be accepted literally, any more than the statement of Our Lord when he said: "Except a man hate his father and mother he cannot be My disciple." No! These statements are surely attempts to probe human motive and to challenge us just where we most often fail.
I believe that it was Hugh Redwood who in one of his books told the story of a Salvation Army lassie who went into a house in the East End of London and there found the husband, half drunk, beating up his wife. He then began attacking her. She, being a hefty lassie, rose up and "hit him for six". The result was eventually that that man was converted. Who should say that she was wrong? Nay, rather, she was perfectly right. If 806 she had observed the literal interpretation and turned the other cheek, no good would have come to her. But because she did what she did, the man concerned learnt to respect her and the situation turned out as I have said. So what our Lord proclaims is not a series of new rules to be observed, but new motives; He proclaims a new motive and a new spirit which should inspire human action.
The Christian Church has won its greatest victories by the preaching and practice of its message, not through religious war and battle—they have always corrupted the Church. And democracy, too, will win only by the preaching and practice of its principles. I lend my support to the Motion this afternoon because I do not believe that we are in this country adequately doing just that. If the Government were to spend more money and engage in some of the activities which Lord Birdwood has mentioned in his speech, as other noble Lords have done, then I see no reason at all why such activity should not have the wholehearted support of Christian people—but on one condition, and one condition only: that such instrument, or instruments, of policy observe one rule, that they tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
§ 4.42 p.m.
THE EARL OF HOME
My Lords, I feel that your Lordships will all agree that this debate, which still has some way to run, has, so far as it has gone, been useful and stimulating. We enjoyed from Lord Massereene and Ferrard a speech to which he had obviously given a great deal of constructive thought, and which we shall read to-morrow in order to obtain its full benefit; a speech from Lord Birdwood, which has stimulated ideas on how best to combat Communist propaganda; a very telling speech, if I may say so, from the noble Lord on the Benches opposite, Lord Ebury, who made his maiden speech—and we hope, and I am sure, that we shall hear speeches of that quality from him on many future occasions; and the complement of the speech from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Manchester, when we know that there are perhaps more exciting debating distractions which he could have attended just round the corner.
807 If it is true that the Communist world will be converted, rather than conquered, by the example of the free democracies, and if it is true that the uncommitted nations of the world will be moved from the fence only by the compulsion of ideas in the fields of social and political organisation which are demonstrably better than anything the Communist world can put forward, then Britain, which can, I think, claim without arrogance to have laid the foundations of modern political democracy, should be the leading salesman of her wares and of her virtues. That is really what has been said in speech after speech this afternoon. If in the past, when we were in possession of great physical power, we were apt, as the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said, sometimes to neglect the impact of ideas, because our deeds spoke for themselves, it would be possible (and this is why I enter a caution here) to fall into the opposite idea that ideas are all that matter.
It is perhaps well to insist at this early stage in the debate that not even the most perfect information services can be a substitute for a clearly-directed British foreign policy. Nor can they excuse us as a nation from the effort which is necessary to sustain our defences and to husband our financial and economic power. Ideas may be weapons, but, my Lords, they will be blunt weapons and break in our hands unless the story they have to tell is the story of a Britain equipped in every department of the national life to meet the challenge of the 20th century, and of a Britain able and determined to exercise a telling influence on world affairs. I do not think, my Lords, that I can improve on the words that were used in his report by our late colleague Lord Drogheda, when he said that information services should be part of the "normal apparatus of a Great Power."
Information services must have very clear objectives. They must assist our friends to appreciate the direction and the motives of British policy. They must help the uncommitted countries, with the fullest knowledge of British institutions and achievements and way of life, to understand the aims of our policies. They must buttress the cause of the free world, and they must counter on all possible occasions Communist propaganda and every evil manifestation of it. It is 808 hardly possible to keep this debate coherent unless from the front Bench here we make a division of subjects, and I propose, with Lord Birdwood's permission, to leave the question of the cold war and propaganda and, I am afraid, very largely the rôle of the B.B.C. to my noble friend Lord Gosford, who will reply. I would say only this on Lord Birdwood's speech, on the subject of countering propaganda from this country. It will not be easy for my noble friend to give a detailed reply to Lord Bird-wood's questions. There is a great deal he can say, but there is a great deal that is better not said. I think Lord Bird-wood understands that, so I hope that he will be lenient with my noble friend if he cannot meet him in full.
To the world at large the information services must project Britain as a nation claiming attention in her own right. Because the world is going technological, it must be kept up to date on all the achievements in this country of science, in particular our advances in the use of atomic energy, and on our technical achievements all over the country and through the whole range of industry; and it must be kept informed of the progress of our industrial revolution, because since the war there has been nothing less than that—an industrial revolution which, the world might be reminded, enables this country to earn such wealth that it is able to maintain a standard of living as high as any in the world.
And if, as is the case, the world is searching for social evolution and political stability, then it should be told of Britain's rôle as architect of the Commonwealth Association, of our position as the partner responsible for guiding to independence many new nations, and of the processes of cooperation and consultation which we have evolved with each other in the Commonwealth family. On our success in telling the world about the part we have played in the Commonwealth story will rest much of our influence and our authority. I would agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Ebury, when he said that this case must not go by default; and it is here, perhaps, among our friends (and in this I find myself in close agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore) that our greatest efforts might with the greatest advantage be deployed.
809 Within the Commonwealth there are great tasks for our information services to perform. I would remind your Lordships that in the old Commonwealth countries generations of young people are growing up, immensely loyal to the British tradition and to the British Crown, but not having the same intimate knowledge of British life that their grandparents and parents had. In many of the old Commonwealth countries, too, immigration on a large scale is significantly diluting what were, until comparatively lately, populations of pure British stock. Again, in the new Commonwealth there are young people growing up who have never know the impact of British administration. In India, for example, old members of the Indian Civil Service, which did so much to hold that country and the administration of that country together, are gradually disappearing, though we trust that their traditions will live. To these new Commonwealth countries, Britain could become just another foreign country and we could lose our established ties and special relationship with them. I think I need give your Lordships only one illustration—the danger which would follow a decline in the teaching of English, with the manifold repercussions, to which I will return and which will be apparent to your Lordships.
I will allow myself only one more generalisation before I refer to the progress of our information services. No doubt the information which is put out by any country reflects to the foreign observer the national habits and characteristics—the national character. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Manchester said something profoundly worth while when he said that British information must be genuine. Of course, information must be adapted and presented to widely different understandings and, as the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, said, to widely different temperaments of different people, and the study of particular audiences is basic to the success of efficient information services. But in the long run it is the truth which will tell.
I have had many examples of this in recent years in my travels round the Commonwealth. One finds oneself in a Commonwealth town and some sensational news comes in from a foreign capital. The reaction of the Common- 810 wealth people is to wait for corroboration by the B.B.C. or the information services of the United Kingdom. That places a tremendous responsibility upon the British Press and upon the B.B.C., but it gives them a tremendous opportunity as well, and it is to that opportunity we want to gear our information services.
The House is familiar with the instruments and with the methods available. The instruments are the information services of the Government Departments concerned with overseas affairs, supplied with material provided by agencies such as the Central Office of Information, the British Council and the B.B.C. Because I want to be selective to-day, I am going to ask your Lordships to accept the assurance, which I feel your Lordships are likely to accept, that the Government wish to strengthen and make more efficient all the information services. I think that the Government's White Paper on the expansion of the information services is a witness of that. We realise that more money must be spent on the information services—an additional £2 million was spent last year—but I suggest that the amount of money is less important than that the money which is there should be concentrated to achieve the greatest impact. It is that aspect with which I want to deal to-day.
Until last year I think we were all conscious that there was little overall direction of the information services, and there was some evidence that we were not making the best use of our limited resources. Since then, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been put in a position to direct, to co-ordinate, to focus discussion and to plan ahead—in other words, to achieve the best possible projection of British policy. It may comfort the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, in particular, as he was talking in terms of independent advisers, to know that the Chancellor of the Duchy meets regularly with the chief information officers of the overseas and home Departments in Whitehall for a tactical review of the whole field, and if any change of method or emphasis is needed, then, with modern methods, it can be quickly transmitted to the officers in the field. Of course we will study the noble Lord's suggestions. I rather think that the Drogheda Committee's proposal for a five-year review was for a review of the allocation of 811 resources, and I am a little doubtful whether any independent committee could add very much to the knowledge of the chief information officers of the overseas Departments. But, of course, we are always ready to adopt any machinery which would make the information services more efficient.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, I wonder if the noble Earl would allow me to interrupt him for only a moment to raise the question of whether such a meeting is adequate for certain purposes. For the normal Commonwealth information, I would say, yes, entirely, but not to foresee certain situations within the context of Communism which may arise. I have in mind one example, of when Mr. Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev came over here and a Press conference was anticipated when they left. There should be a certain body of people studying how best a Press conference should be conducted and what measures could be taken if it went wrong. Issues of this kind are outside the scope of the normal conference which the Chancellor of the Duchy might hold and to which the noble Earl has referred.
THE EARL OF HOME
I think that many such matters would be within the scope. If the noble Lord will allow me, I will have a conversation with the Chancellor of the Duchy later, but I think he will find that this machinery should be sufficient to achieve most of the results, though not all, for which the noble Lord has asked this afternoon. For other purposes one must have other machinery.
There is another important function of information officers here in London, and that is to assist foreign and Commonwealth correspondents to secure quick and accurate information of Government policies and of the reasons which underlie them, so that our policies may be clear and understood by our partners in the Commonwealth. I do not think I am being complacent on this matter of machinery when I say that from my own observations this service has noticeably improved owing to these changes in the last year.
I should now like to indicate to the House some features of the expansion of these information services, and to start with the physical cover in the information field, because it is upon the men on the spot—that is to say, the informa- 812 tion officers in the field—that the success of much of our effort rests. They provide the newspapers and the public with the information; and if, as my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard said, you get a man with initiative and enterprise to talk, explain and persuade, then he will have a great effect in his own environment. In the information services to have the right man in the right place is halfway to success, and we are taking great care now with our selection and placing. Having visited a good many of these gentlemen who are doing this job, I must say that they often work in unpleasant climates, sometimes with audiences who do not want to be convinced; they do (and I should like them to know it) work which is of great value and vital to a proper understanding of Britain overseas.
Within the Commonwealth we have reinforced our posts in the last year in India, Pakistan, Ghana and Malaya; in the Central African Federation, Nigeria, the West Indies, East Africa and Singapore. I should like the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, to know that there is an information office in Calcutta, and we have stepped it up (I always listen to advice from the Opposition, and particularly from the noble Lord) so that it has now two officers, one a Principal Information Officer—a higher rank than there was before—and we are considering new buildings for it. So far as I know, the library in Penang is going on all right, but I should like to have a further word with the noble Lord about that. That is a considerable reinforcement over a large number of Commonwealth and Colonial Territories. In the old Commonwealth, in particular, posts in Australia have been strengthened, and in Canada, where there were three posts, there are this year seven, with new posts in Winnipeg. Edmonton, Vancouver and Quebec. I should like your Lordships to remember that, unlike the Press in this country, the Press in Commonwealth countries, and in Canada and Australia, in particular. is purely provincial. Therefore, there is a great deal of work to be done by the information officers, keeping in touch with the provincial Press. Men must be armed with material which is well produced.
If any of your Lordships is interested. I should like you to go along to my information office in the Commonwealth 813 Relations Office and see the media which are available and the quality of the information which we send out to the posts. They embrace all types of information media—films, television, booklets, reference material, posters, exhibitions (we had one very successful exhibition in Africa not long ago, and the Brussels Exhibition is, I believe, recognised to be a success for Britain), picture sets and newspaper articles.
In catalogue form, I should like to give your Lordships one or two illustrations. There is the London Press Service which now goes out on twelve wireless beams with the latest news and comments; and there is an industrial Press unit which is being set up by the Central Office of Information to increase the content of industrial news that goes overseas. The commercially produced magazines are, I think, of a high quality, and the six-weekly colour magazine, known as Commonwealth Today, now has a circulation of 300,000 and is produced in ten different languages. There are libraries for people eager to read British books; and visitors, mainly Commonwealth journalists, are brought here before tours so that they can see at first hand this country and its ways. Films are sent into the towns of the Commonwealth, and they are also sent by mobile vans into the country. They are allowed 13,000 prints of films, in fifteen languages, which are sent to 130 posts. There is a weekly newsreel of events in Britain which goes to 62 different countries.
Then there is television. I remember—and it made a great impression on me at the time—my noble friend Lord Woolton, who is so wise in these matters, advising this House in the early days to get into television "on the ground floor", so far as information services were concerned. The development of television overseas is uneven, but now in 33 out of 48 countries with television services they are able to take British material; and enough material is now provided to major posts to offer from 25 to 30 minutes of television time a week; and by the end of the year the amount will be one hour. The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, asked me about the hours of broadcasting as between the Communist countries in Europe and the Free World. It was a question at short notice, and I have obtained the figures as well as I could. 814 I think the position now—because there has been a great switch of effort, from some countries where we thought the effort was being wasted to others where we thought it would be of more value—is that 100 hours a week are broadcast to the various Communist countries in Europe, and 250 hours a week to the free world. If the noble Lord wishes to have a breakdown of those figures, I may be able to give it to him at a later stage.
This is the second day that I have made a long speech to your Lordships, but perhaps I might say a word or two about the British Council, which does unpublished but sterling work. It presents to the world the educational, professional, scientific and cultural life of this country; and in many of those other countries the cultural background is the same as our own. I know that we are apt often to ridicule culture—the things we really think are valuable are often most subject to ridicule. Still, I am glad that a number of noble Lords have given to the House what I believe to be the true picture of the British Council activities, which, as I see it, is something like this: libraries full of students working diligently from British text-books; students eager to read British books and technical articles in all kinds of magazines.
Then, there are scholarships offered to foreign students at the universities, and help with British teachers. I do not know if the House realises the number of students from the Commonwealth who are in this country to-day. In 1946 there were between 2,000 and 3,000 such students in this country. In 1950 there were 10,000, and in 1957 35,000 students educating themselves in one way or another, 11,000 of them at universities. Each of those students is a potential carrier into his own homeland of good will for Britain. From the moment when each year 7,000 of them arrive at London Airport (that is the number for which the British Council are able to cater at the moment) they are met, they are shown their way around and they are given every chance to integrate in the best way into the life of the community here. That work of the British Council is one the value of which cannot be overestimated; nor is it possible to give too much gratitude to the people who give voluntary service to help the British Council with the students.
815 Lastly, there is the teaching of English. If people in the new Commonwealth, or even further afield, learn to talk in English, they will learn to think in English; and the wide repercussions of that, and the high dividends that that would pay to this country will be well understood by your Lordships. If English, which is already a truly international language, can be made the accepted international language of science, commerce and administration, then the benefits which will flow to this country will be immeasurable.
So what do we plan to do? We plan to recruit English teachers to serve in schools and universities overseas. Your Lordships will remember that the superannuation rights of these teachers are now, of course, reserved; and although some of them have misgivings I think it is clear that for a long time ahead there will be a shortage of teachers in this country, so that they should not have any difficulty—and I hope local authorities will consciously co-operate in this if the teacher wants to go overseas—in getting a job when they return to this country. We want to expand the existing arrangements for training local teachers, for bringing Commonwealth teachers here on scholarships to learn the techniques, sometimes at special courses arranged for this purpose, of teaching English, and for improving our techniques and facilities for research in teaching English as a foreign language. I want to emphasise that, because so often we think that we have to teach English abroad in the same sort of way that we teach English to our children. We have to learn that there are many new and promising techniques to teach English as a foreign language to those who have never understood it. We want to develop, too, the use of films and television and new media of teaching. I find it impossible to exaggerate the importance of this field, and I think we are making promising progress.
My Lords, I have covered a very wide field, but I have left gaps which my noble friend will fill. I have scarcely touched upon the British Broadcasting Corporation, a great instrument of influence, or on the techniques of fighting the cold war. I would add only this point. In my view, a balanced and truthful account of what we are and what we stand for 816 is a winner. We must counter the enemy in every way, but the facts of life in Britain should be allowed to speak for themselves continuously, and they will win the day. I have tried to give to your Lordships a picture of information services, well thought out and balanced, representing modest progress and sober progress, but on the right road. I hope I have convinced your Lordships that the determination is there, the direction is there, and that the men and material are there, and that if we use our imagination, intelligence and foresight we shall be able to give to the world the great story which Britain has to tell.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD SALTER
My Lords, if I ask for a few minutes of your time this evening, it is not because I intend either to repeat or to differ from what has been said this afternoon. I want to place some emphasis upon what has either not been mentioned or in my view has been inadequately discussed during our debate up to this moment. I would take as my starting point a remark of the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, who has just spoken. when he said that, however perfect your mechanism of broadcasting information, it will not be of much use unless you have the right facts to put into it.
What I want in a very few minutes to suggest is the kind of thing that we ought to have available in order that we may present the Western world worthily to the rest of the world. I am all in favour of an excellent shop window, but it is no great use having a good shop window unless you have something pretty good to put in it. I am not, of course, going to suggest specific policies—it would be completely out of the scope of a debate of this kind—but I should like to make two comments or two suggestions of the kind of thing that I think should be available for those who are putting our case towards the rest of the world.
I have sometimes been greatly perturbed by remarks of this kind made, and made by very influential people on both sides of the Atlantic: "Of course, it would be a very good thing to have a Summit Conference, and it would be a very good thing to work out the proposals for such a conference if we thought there was a likelihood that those proposals would be accepted." If you have a good 817 proposal, in my view the improbability of acceptance is not a reason for keeping silent about it. I should like to see a positive effort made to find a constructive and reasonable proposal which might be put before a Summit Conference, if there is one; but if it is rejected there, or if there is no Conference, it should be published to the world. It would then help us to present ourselves to the uncommitted peoples, or the hesitating or uncommitted sections of our own peoples as having a constructive policy which would he to the advantage of the world as a whole.
As I say, I cannot obviously now put forward specific policy proposals, but I can suggest the conditions that such a proposal should satisfy. The first is that it should be such as if adopted would reduce the tensions and dangers of the world. Secondly, it should be such as not to aim at changing the relative strength of the West and the East as it now exists. That is a matter for later proposals or other measures. But not only would it of course be criminal folly to make a suggestion which, if accepted, would make our Western world strength relatively less in relation to the Communist world than it is at present, but it is also absurd and useless for any purpose of propaganda to put forward proposals which, if accepted, would obviously increase our relative strength vis-à-vis the Communist world. For not only is it completely impossible that it would be accepted, but it would seem to the hesitating or uncommitted peoples of the world absurd for us to have proposed it; we shall get no credit and rather discredit for having produced such a proposal. But there are within the sphere of plans that have been recently discussed some quite positive and promising proposals which would meet those two conditions of being useful, not in ending the competition of the two worlds, but seeing that it would, if accepted, be at a lower and less dangerous level, and, if not accepted, would present our case favourably to the rest of the world. That, my Lords, is the first suggestion I want to make.
The second is this, I will preface it by recounting a conversation I had with a good friend of mine, a Moslem from a part of the world where the impact of West and East is already crucial and 818 dangerous and may become more so in the near future. He himself is a sincere Moslem, but he is at the same time a man who understands deeply the value of our Western civilisation and, indeed, of the Christian faith. He realises, as indeed many Moslems do, how much there is in common in ultimate values recognised in both the Moslem and the Christian faiths. He made this remark to me: "Why at present does the Western world present itself in the picture of a world offering bombs and dollars? Have you nothing more to say?"—bombs and dollars; the modern equivalent of "guns and butter." "What of the voice of your great past?". He realises, as well as anyone brought up in our Faith and in our system realises, what is the heart and core of what the Western world has given and has to give—the infinite and ultimate value of the human individual, the illimitable possibilities of human development, the absolute and imperative need of freedom and a free system if that potential development is to be realised.
As he spoke I thought of what those who have used the English language and been brought up in the English tradition on both sides of the Atlantic have done over the last 300 years to form and transform the thought of the world and the political forces of the world: Milton and Mill, Jefferson and Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, yes, and Winston Churchill. Where are those voices now? Among our statesmen and our writers on either side of the Atlantic, where are our Miltons and Mills, our Jeffersons and our Lincolns? If they cannot be found we may do not so badly in our armaments competition or in economic competition; we may do well in the mere mechanism of broadcasting and propaganda. But in our contest, this vital and crucial contest now for the soul and mind of the world, we shall lose if there is no one to take up that great heritage and resume that great tradition.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD ADRIAN
My Lords, we have been debating great fundamental principles. I have only a very limited theme, and it is one which has already been dealt with admirably by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. My only excuse for speaking is that I have been associated for some years with the work 819 which the British Council does on the scientific and medical side. Of course, much of the work the British Council does is aimed at improving the understanding of countries outside the Commonwealth. I believe that about two-thirds of the total budget of £3 million goes that way, and of the £1 million or thereabouts spent on Commonwealth services a great deal must go for teaching English. I expect there are dozens of ways in which we could spend more money on information services, with great effect. I am quite sure that we and all the wealthier members of the Commonwealth could spend more than the £1 million on medical and scientific contacts alone, with great profit to our future relations with one another, and particularly the countries with which we are most concerned to-day, countries which have recently become independent and which are, very naturally, looking around to see what the rest of the world has to offer.
We have a good deal to offer in the way of science and medicine and technology. It may not be proof that our hearts are in the right place or that our system of government is any better than the system in other countries, but at any rate our science is good enough to make many people want to come here to study it and our ties with the new Commonwealth countries are still strong enough to make it easier for them to come to Great Britain than to go anywhere else. If we can take able young men and women over here for a year or so for advanced study or research, if we treat them well and give them all the opportunities they want, we can be quite sure that they will go back with the sort of understanding which will really help to keep the Commonwealth together. When we give fellowships for this kind of study here, we are only asking intelligent people to come and see for themselves, and that is the best kind of information service which we can give.
The same kind of service has been carried out now for more than thirty years in the United States, and between us and the United States, by the Commonwealth Fund Fellowships which were founded by Mrs. Harkness and, which the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, will know all about, as he has been Director of the Committee. Every year we send twenty 820 of our best young graduates to work for a year or more in American universities. They are befriended there for the whole of their stay by the officers of the Fund. They are encouraged and they are paid to travel. They can put our point of view to their colleagues in the United States, and when they come home they can understand the American way of looking at things. Your Lordships will know how these fellowships have greatly helped both countries to get on together. The 500 ex-Commonwealth Fellows that we have in Great Britain now may be as critical as you like of some aspects of American policy, but at any rate they will not believe all that they read about it in the Communist papers.
The more we can copy that kind of scheme for improving relations in our own Commonwealth, the better we shall be spending the money we have to spend. We already copy it to some extent in the British Council's scholarships for postgraduate study. Some of them go to countries outside the Commonwealth, but they also bring students here for postgraduate work, and they have brought about thirty a year from the Colonies and Commonwealth. There are scholarships of the same kind financed by other bodies like the Nuffield and Leverhulme Foundations. I think about half of those are now given for science. It would be difficult perhaps to give many more of these scholarships for post-graduate work, without being in danger of lowering the standard too much, but I hope that it will be realisation of that danger rather than the expense which will limit the numbers we can take. I hope that the British Council will be given, adequate funds to look after them when they are here, to give the kind of facilities the Commonwealth Fund Fellows get when they go to America, so that the overseas Fellows here will not find themselves less favourably placed than the Fulbright and the Marshall Plan scholars from the United States and Great Britain to-day.
There are, of course, a great many other aspects of the British Council's work that could be expanded. I have mentioned only this particular one, that of bringing able students to post-graduate work, because I have some personal knowledge of the excellent harvest that it can bring. Visits on which the guest can see for himself what the country is like are far more 821 effective than lectures and missions overseas which tell him what it is like. I believe that even the short visits of senior people to this country can help us a great deal. They are, in fact, one of the methods used with considerable success by Communist countries. I have been to Moscow on two such visits with parties of scientists. It would take much more than a short visit to convert people who have lived under our own system—and I hasten to assure the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, that we did not come back Communists. But we did come back with friendly feelings towards our own immediate hosts, and we could not fail to be impressed by the material achievements which we saw. Senior Commonwealth visitors have probably seen most of the material achievements here already. For them personal contacts will be far more effective than the sight of new hospitals, schools and atomic power stations. They may well have seen them in other countries, too.
So may I end by saying this? One knows that busy people here have their own cares, and will not want to spend their time explaining what they are doing and entertaining people from overseas; but I think that our information services ought to feel that they have a claim on all of us to help them with any of these guests they bring over here. If we do that, we can at least say that we have taken some part in bringing the Commonwealth a little more together.
§ 5.33 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sure that we were all delighted to hear from the noble Earl the Leader of the House what the Government have recently been doing in this field. I personally found his remarks reassuring and enlightening, and perhaps more is being done than many of us have supposed. I was particularly impressed by the number of students who had arrived in this country this year. Of the noble Lords who put down the Motions, I found myself more in agreement with Lord Massereene and Ferrard than with Lord Birdwood. Indeed, on the point in regard to contacts with the Soviet Union, I was more in agreement with Lord Ogmore than anyone else.
One of the fundamental objects of our Overseas Information Services must be to bring together conflicting ideas in the East and in the West. There are many 822 different ways in which we can pursue this object. We have no magic wand to wave which will merge the basic ideological and philosophical differences in our attitudes. However, all the contacts which are being arranged through the information services, the British Council, the universities and private channels are, I believe, gradually bringing our points of view a little closer together. As I said in another debate, the Russians whom I knew twelve years ago seem now to understand our point of view more clearly than they did immediately after the war, when closer relations with them broke down over their refusal of Marshall Aid and their policy which led to the Berlin blockade.
I believe, too, that the continued protests from the West about Soviet oppression in Poland and Hungary do have their effect, even if sometimes ghastly backward steps seem to be taken, as over the execution of Nagy. Such barbarous actions should, to my mind, stimulate us to redouble our efforts in the field of information and exchange. A multiplication of contacts in all walks of life and increased intermingling at all levels would seem to provide the only long-term solution to the problem of bringing the Soviet people, and ultimately their leaders, to understand our own moral values. I am glad to see that Mr. John Gunter, in his remarkable volume, Inside Russia Today, seems to agree that this is the policy we must follow.
I think, therefore, that those in the cultural field should be greatly congratulated for arranging, for example, the extended visit of the Moscow Arts Theatre to this country. I had the great honour to meet various members of that company, including Mr. Solodovnikov himself, on more than one occasion, and I cannot believe—I think I should address this remark particularly to Lord Birdwood—that the friendly relations which have undoubtedly been established between, in this case, the theatrical professions in both countries are altogether meaningless. Obviously, I cannot go into details about our talks, but I believe that we are beginning to understand one another. Incidentally, I should add that, far from being watched and observed the whole time, the Moscow actors, during the six weeks or more that they were here, moved about quite freely and mixed with 823 a wide circle in this country. After all, it is not the Soviet people, their industrialists, their engineers or their artists who have been responsible for the terrible methods of repression which are still sometimes employed.
I know that at these commercial or cultural meetings we do not usually discuss Hungary or Poland or disarmament. but with Mr. Solodovnikov, for example, I did discuss objectively, and I hope usefully, the question of the freedom of the writer, whether in the theatre or elsewhere, to express his own views about conditions in his own country as well as in other parts of the world. This freedom of expression obviously lies at the heart of the problem. I believe that greater freedom is beginning to develop to-day in the Soviet Union, and that nothing, not even renewed repressive acts by their Government, will succeed in stopping altogether the slow evolutionary process of our coming together.
The object of my saying all this is that I feel that we should continue to increase the contacts in every sphere, and certainly not reduce them. Even if the exchanges sometimes appear to be unbalanced—that is to say, more going one way than the other—contacts are contacts, and wherever they are made, as such I consider them to be good. I hope, therefore, that bodies such as the Soviet Relations Committee of the British Council, who are concerned with such exchanges, will not impose too many conditions on the operation of the exchange programmes. I recognise, of course, that while the Soviet Union continues "jamming" we are at a disadvantage. But I do not think that we should then say that, because of the "jamming" of our radio programmes we should not send to the Soviet Union delegations of an industrial, commercial or cultural character. I do not think that at this stage we can expect to achieve complete reciprocity.
It seems to me that, despite these difficulties, the information services and the British Council, as well as private organisations, should redouble their efforts. When such contacts are made, let us take every opportunity to express our views to the Russians; congratulating them, perhaps, on what they may be doing in some industrial or cultural field, but also 824 —and this is most important-condemning what we must condemn. As other noble Lords have said in other debates, it is important that the information services should use every means at their disposal to put over the British point of view: not merely the Government's point of view but our way of life as a whole, which may entail putting many different points of view.
In particular, our information services should use the most up-to-date method which the noble Earl has mentioned—that is to say television. This is especially so in uncommitted countries. The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, spoke of the spoken word. I should like to look at the visual image, if your Lordships will permit that expression. In the White Paper a year ago it was stated that there was no early prospect of television supplanting sound broadcasting in many countries. It was, however, admitted that it was growing fast. And when it does come, it does in certain parts of the world certainly distract people from listening to the wrong radio stations. When television comes to these new countries—Africa and Asia, for example—I should like to think that it was Britain that helped these countries to get it in the first place.
As the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, said in the debate last year, one company with which I am associated—Pye—achieved what many at the outset thought would be impossible; that is to say, the establishment of a television service for Baghdad. This station was opened by His Majesty King Feisal on his birthday, over a year ago. Despite the numerous difficulties involved in this pioneering operation, the station has never been off the air, and it is manned almost entirely by Iraqis. It is now running satisfactorily and has become an institution in Iraq which our Iraqi friends wish to keep and extend. I believe that there are plans for extending the service to Basra and Kirkuk. Meanwhile, there are now more than 8,000 receivers in Baghdad, and since a conservative estimate of the number of viewers per receiver there is twenty-five—some people put it much higher—the total number of viewers in Baghdad may, it appears, be well over 200,000. It might, therefore, be possible to say that television there has already become as influential as some of the newspapers.
825 This operation was mounted under great difficulties and at considerable financial risk on the part of the company which I have mentioned—and, of course, in the teeth of acute international competition. The point which I now make is this: is it proper that this kind of operation should be left entirely to private enterprise? I should be most grateful if the noble Earl could comment on that in his reply. The Iraqis, we know, are reasonably well off and can afford it, but in countries which cannot should we not make them loans which might enable them to equip and run a television service which would thus maintain British links from the engineering and commercial points of view, as well as that of programming? Now that the Baghdad operation has proved a success, surely similar schemes might be drawn up in other African and Asiatic countries. But we must move fast, for our rivals have similar ideas. I hope that Her Majesty's Government—and, in particular, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—will give this matter their very careful consideration, and that the Government will announce soon plans of this kind. Why should we not go ahead and assist countries such as Turkey and Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Ghana, which have not got television, to start a television service before they accept equipment, and, even more important, programming advice, from others, including the Soviet Union?
Our information services are doing a great deal of useful work on programming on the lines set out in paragraphs 16 to 20 of the White Paper. But should we not, in certain cases, think of assisting certain countries to obtain their equipment, as well as their programmes, in Britain, and also, perhaps, help them with their initial running expenses? The cost would not, as noble Lords might expect, run into millions. It is perfectly feasible to erect and equip a station for some £50,000, and running expenses need not amount to more than £25,000 a year. These stations would be more effective than the television stations which the Americans are erecting for their own Armed Services in different parts of the world. It seems to me, therefore, that we should help over equipment. This would certainly make it easier—it is not, of course, a condition in any way, but it would certainly make it easier—for us 826 to follow up with programming when the station gets on the air.
To revert for a moment to programming itself, it seems to me important that we should not forget the entertainment value of a television service. People will not buy receivers in large numbers unless really popular programmes are transmitted. The size of the audience is in direct relation to its popularity. I was most impressed by the catalogue which was sent to me this morning of films issued by the Central Office of Information. I will leave a copy of the catalogue in the Library for your Lordships to see, as I do not believe there is one there at the moment. The noble Lords in this House—and I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Rank, is not still in his place at this moment—would greatly appreciate these films and benefit from them. They are excellent examples of their kind. There are films on the Royal Family, on Britain now, on the English countryside and on domestic and other industrial developments. There are hundreds—nay, thousands—of them available, as well as a large number of children's educational films. All these are excellent, but the fact remains that few of them attract large audiences. I feel, therefore, that serious consideration must be given to the proposal that we should provide, in the first instance, popular entertainment programmes. Then, later, more serious documentary or current affairs items can be "sandwiched" between. We must be realistic about this matter. These programmes never attract a large number of viewers unless they are presented in a controversial form—I might even say highly controversial form.
It is a curious fact, my Lords, that perhaps our most popular ambassador in the world to-day is Robin Hood. In saying this I should perhaps declare a small indirect interest, but Robin Hood has become a world figure. He is in his fourth year on the networks in the United States of America. Hundreds of these films have now been made, and the fourth series has now been produced, also in this country, for syndication in the United States. New television stations, from Vancouver to Sydney, in the Commonwealth, and from Baghdad to Tokio, seem to make Robin Hood their choice—and often their first choice—as an entertainment series. I can think of only one television country 827 which has found Robin Hood unacceptable, because of its unfortunate theme that it may not be wrong to rob the rich people in order to help the poor. I leave your Lordships to guess which country that may be! At any rate let us not forget that the Robin Hoods, and, I believe, some other forms of entertainment, may greatly assist us in putting over more serious aspects of the British way of life in many parts of the world.
In paragraph 20 of the White Paper it is said that the Central Office of Information will be authorised to negotiate for the rights of such films as might be made available in countries where commercial showing would be unremunerative. I should be most interested to know whether any action has been taken on those lines. But, all in all, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will proceed in the way I have suggested and will help from the equipment point of view, as well as in documentaries and entertainment, for those are positive directions in which I hope our information services will move.
§ 5.52 p.m.
My Lords, having inflicted myself on your Lordships for no less than ten minutes as recently as yesterday, I can assure you that I shall confine my remarks to much the same period of time to-day. I shall not follow the noble Lord who has just made such an interesting and engaging speech into the activities of Robin Hood, of which I must confess I had never heard until three or four minutes ago, but shall turn to the more sombre picture presented by the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, with whose speech I am almost entirely in agreement.
It has been said to-day—and it has been obvious for many years—that the British attitude generally towards our propaganda or counter-propaganda is one of tolerance. It has been said that the world is well aware of the admirable attributes of the British as a race, and that it is not really worth while going to the trouble and expense of informing people of what they already know. I think that that view was largely held by Sir Winston Churchill when he was Prime Minister, and I believe that the lack of proper support and funds for the information services stemmed from the days when he disregarded them. During the war it was different. There was a 828 Political Warfare Executive, to which my noble Leader has referred this afternoon, and other organisations of that type; but they died with the ending of the war.
I believe that since then far too little has been done in that field, not only in "selling" our way of life and our ideas to the world generally, but in trying to introduce counter-measures against those who misrepresent us—which is another matter. Towards the end of the war, in 1944–45, we endured in the Middle East a series of mutinies among the Greek Forces under British Command. Several mutinies occurred, all of them engineered from a very obvious direction—whether by the common enemy or by those fighting with us is quite unimportant. Mutinies took place and were a perfect nuisance. The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East Forces, sent for a representative of the Ministry of Information in Cairo and asked him what he proposed to do about it. The representative replied that he had no knowledge of any mutiny; that he had been given no line to pursue if there was a mutiny, and that in any case he had no machinery with which to deal with such an eventuality. On the strength of that, leaflets were prepared by my own staff, small as it was, and the following day those leaflets were dropped by the R.A.F. over the mutinous forces and no doubt helped to settle the matter. There was a clear and, in my opinion, extraordinary case where the machinery broke down altogether so that one doubted whether it had really existed.
I believe that in the 1914–18 war the late Lord Tweedsmuir found exactly the same difficulties as I have described, and I am sorry that the present holder of the title, who was in the Chamber a short time ago, has not taken part in this debate. The late Lord Twcedsmuir, too, found an inability or disinclination to face the need for information services and to supply the proper machinery and funds. A lack of co-ordination among these scattered organisations still exists, although the noble Earl the Leader of the House has told us of these fortnightly meetings which are now taking place under the chairmanship of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Even so, one feels that the agenda is largely taken up with matters affecting the Commonwealth, and that that is to some extent converting the converted—which was not 829 really at the back of the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, in bringing forward this Motion.
In his speech our noble Leader said that:The information services must counter Communism at whatever level it is found.I doubt whether that is possible with the present machinery, for it is questionable whether the Foreign Office are fully aware of what they are up against in this matter, although if I am wrong about this I shall be glad if the noble Earl who is to reply will so inform me. Agitprop the organisation, part of the Soviet Pyramid, which deals with agitation and propaganda, is on the highest level of all but one and operates directly under the Præsidium of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. It is a world-wide organisation, ranging right from the very top, in the Kremlin, down to the smallest Party or Press organisation in every country in the world. A lead is given and it is slavishly followed everywhere. I have no idea of its size numerically, but its scope is virtually unlimited, and I doubt whether the Foreign Office are fully aware of the activities of Agitprop, which means, agitation and propaganda—agitation for the masses and propaganda for the intellectuals. It has been well said that the strength of Communism is not to be found in the doctrine which it propounds but in the character of the organisation which it has built to achieve that end.
Before resuming my seat, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, on bringing forward this Motion. I believe that it is timely. I agreed with his speech, and although we have heard from the noble Earl the Leader of the House a speech that was to sonic extent reassuring, I doubt whether that is really tackling the root of the matter. The problem is not so much to keep our friends (although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that that is important) as to make absolutely sure, so far as we can, that the lies and the attacks made upon us from elsewhere are counteracted, at least to the best of our ability as regards the cost of any such organisation.
I agree that £15 million would not begin to cover that cost. When the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, mentioned £100 million I thought I detected among some 830 of the more sombre Members of your Lordships' House, just after lunch, an uneasy stirring in their seats on hearing mention of so large a sum, but I do not believe that it is a large sum, compared to what it could achieve. After all, £15 million, the annual expenditure on this absolutely vital Service, is about the cost of one aircraft carrier. Last Tuesday I spent a day on the "Ark Royal", a magnificent ship; and that sum is about what she cost. She could probably be put on the bottom of the sea in eight and a half minutes, as "Hood" was in the last war. Of course, I very much hope that does not happen, but one wonders whether the cost of armaments is really comparable to what could be spent on making those armaments, in the long run, unnecessary.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, my reason for taking part in this debate arises from my connection with information services under war-time conditions in the Mediterranean area, and, since then, from my residence and travels in various Colonial and Commonwealth territories over the past seven years. At the end of the debate on the international situation last March, the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack spoke most sympathetically when replying to certain anxieties expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and by myself in connection with our information services. That this debate is taking place comparatively soon afterwards, and has attracted such an array of speakers, is, I think, an indication of the seriousness with which both Her Majesty's Government and the Back-Benchers of all Parties in this House treat this most important matter.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House gave us a most interesting and comprehensive account of what our information services, or some of them at any rate, are doing. But I am glad that he did not claim we are already doing sufficient, and that the Government are considering the expenditure of more money. It is perhaps worth drawing your Lordships' attention to the fact that the White Paper issued in 1957 was based on the findings of the Drogheda Committee, whose Report was submitted to the Government in 1953, though its publication was not until April of 1954; and it is 831 only now, in 1958, after an interval of four years, that we are really beginning to see the first fruits of the recommendations of the Drogheda Report. Furthermore, in the last paragraph of the White Paper of 1957 it is stated that the extra expenditure of £2 million, which was comparable to the recommendation in the Drogheda Report, will not in fact come into full force and be fully expended for some time to come. So between the Drogheda Report's publication and the fulfilment of its recommendations there will be a lapse of, not four, but perhaps five or six years—and that, my Lords, is rather slow going.
That brings me to a question about a certain discrepancy in figures, which I think may easily be cleared up. At the time of the Drogheda Report we were expending £10 million; at the time of the White Paper in 1957 it was stated that we were expending £13 million. I think we should be right in assuming that that increase in expenditure was due not to any improvement but rather to the higher cost of the services as they existed at the time of the Drogheda Report and that by expending £15 million now we shall, in fact, be spending only £2 million more than we were spending in 1953.
That brings me to the most important point made by the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, about the Advisory Committee, or the alternative of an independent inquiry, upon which I think the noble Earl the Leader of the House did a great deal to ease our minds. I hope that this Advisory Committee, such as it is, which sits under the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster every fortnight, is really bearing in mind the present cost of living (shall I put it that way?), which is bound to affect our information services from year to year; that it really will alter the services and bring them up to date; and that it will no longer be necessary to have any further inquiries, so that no time may be wasted in adapting the services to the present needs of the ever-changing world. I believe, in that connection, that the expenditure of another £10 million, without wasting any of the Treasury's money, could well be afforded, and in fact will prove to be necessary in a very short space of time indeed.
832 The noble Earl the Leader of the House invited your Lordships to visit the Information Department of the Commonwealth Relations Office. I think that perhaps he was really referring to the Production Department, which is in fact situated at the Central Office of Information. While considering what I should say this afternoon, I tried to equip myself with a few facts and I paid a visit last week to the Central Office of Information in its brand-new building, only ten minutes walk from this Chamber, on the other side of Westminster Bridge; and I am sure that your Lordships would find a visit there a most worthwhile visit. From my very slight experience of the operations of a news service and the production of a newspaper, and of propaganda work in films. I came away convinced that that Central Office of Information is a first-class organisation, working at a very high degree of efficiency; and that, although it was cut down by half between 1947 and 1952, and has had only a slight increase since then, because of its reorganisation and streamlining technique it is now giving a better service than it was in 1947.
There was one aspect of the Central Office of Information to which the noble Earl the Leader of the House did not refer, and that is the courses which that Office runs for the benefit of officers of the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office and of the British Council, and also for officials of Colonial and Commonwealth territories who come over to attend both a long and a short course of instruction in the various arts of information. I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, in respect of the Foreign Office, why it is apparently necessary for the Foreign Office not to co-operate in the same way as do the other Departments concerned in these courses at the Central Office of Information. I realise that they have some courses of their own. This is, in fact, part of a question of which I have given the noble Earl notice, so I do not think he need begin scribbling. I want to know just what the courses are that the Foreign Office run for training their own officials, because I believe it is the Foreign Office posts which cover two-thirds of the total outlay of the Central Office of Information from the point of view of its production and the oversea posts which it is 833 furnishing. Also in that connection, apart from the courses they are running, there was a recommendation in the Drogheda Report that 30 per cent. of the posts in the Foreign Office should be reserved for specialists, and I should be glad to know whether in fact that is being done.
May I turn for a moment to the Commonwealth and Colonies and how our services operate there? I have had the opportunity in the last eighteen months of visiting our United Kingdom information offices and our British Council offices in Ghana, Nigeria, Tanganyika, Kenya and throughout the Caribbean area. I should like to make one or two brief comments about that. First, there are one or two points which I think need stressing. They are mostly dealt with in the Drogheda Report. The first is the question of premises. I have found that whereas the Caribbean area is well served, the British Council offices in East Africa are very inferior and it is noticeable that it must be difficult for them to do their job properly.
The second is in connection with news service. The London News Service provides good coverage, but it is up to the information officers to edit the news they get, adapt it to their region and send it out in proper form. It was a criticism in the Drogheda Report that quantity seemed to be rather better than quality, and I think that that is a criticism which probably may still be justified. It is clearly connected with the lack of staff to do the necessary editing. The third point, which is entirely to the credit of the services, is the very fine co-operation between the information officers and the British Council itself. As the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, said, these services are complementary and I assure your Lordships that they do work in that fashion, that they do not overlap and that a happy relationship, and a very effective one, exists between them.
Finally, I think I should mention a point which may not occur to many people in this country—that is, that these services, which are put there at the expense of Her Majesty's Government and of the people of this country, are expected to receive the support of the Governments on the spot. I am happy to say that in almost all cases there is considerable enthusiasm and the closest co-operation between the Governments and our information services, but I have come across 834 one case where the British Council was rendered ineffective by the attitude of a higher Government service. I think that that sort of thing is intolerable and should always be reported upon when found.
If there is any gap in these services, I would say that it is in the provision of the background story to the Commonwealth. The masses are touched, of course, by day-to-day events, which are provided for efficiently by the London Press Service of the C.O.I. and the various papers, magazines and pamphlets which they issue, but on the spot there is a grave lack of instruction or education in the background which we wish the Commonwealth and Colonial people to absorb. Of course, this refers also to the information services in foreign territories. This is no occasion on which to try to teach history to your Lordships—that would be entirely unnecessary—but I refer to the remarkable period which runs from the loss of the American Colonies in 1776 for the next 100 years, at the end of which the word "imperialism" began to lose its real meaning and became a term of denigration instead of pride. In that period the most remarkable things were done by our people all over the world, and the British Commonwealth and Colonial Empire as we know them to-day were being fashioned. We have never lent ourselves to the modern meaning of imperialism, which stemmed only from the grab in Africa which was originated by the Germans at the Conference of Berlin in 1884. I think it is that period which is so ignored all over the world, even in our own Commonwealth and Colonies. That must be put across, and I suggest to the Government that that is a significant gap to be filled.
I am afraid that I am speaking at some length, but there is one subject which I must cover—a rather more detailed study of the situation in East Africa and the Horn, upon which I touched in the debate on the International Situation to which I have referred. I have to thank both the noble Earls, Lord Gosford and Lord Perth, for providing me with information about our services in those territories. It becomes clear that from the Foreign Office point of view the services in Somalia, which will be a key area in the next two years at the most, are not sufficiently well served yet, and I think that that is acknowledged. We have only one 835 information office in East Africa, in Tanganyika, started only this year. Others are promised in Kenya and Uganda in the next two years, but, all in all, our information services are very deficient in this area. It can be best served perhaps by broadcasting, and that is a matter with which I wish to deal.
The noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, complained, I think rightly, about the lack of broadcasts from the B.B.C. to our Colonial territories, but, in fairness, I think it should be remembered that many of these territories have their own broadcasting stations and are able to give considerable coverage to their people. Kenya is broadcasting regularly no less than l7¾ hours from Nairobi, six from Mombasa, seven from Nyeri and six from Kisumu. In Tanganyika and Uganda the coverage could be improved, and in the Somaliland Protectorate three hours broadcasting is woefully inadequate. I should like to know from the noble Earl how many hours are broadcast from Radio Cairo, and how many are broadcast in Swahili, Somali and other languages understood in that area.
I think we might have to look into the power of our transmitters in that area, because they are not very strong, and possibly are not heard outside the territory. If we could put in a powerful transmitter, it seems an admirable opportunity to get our information and propaganda into Somaliland itself, which, naturally, is a vast area which cannot be reached at the moment from outside. Finally, there is the question of the co-ordination of these services. I still believe that there should be yet closer liaison on the spot, and that we must direct our information on the radio to East Africa and the Horn as a propaganda effort. Here I would take up what was said by the noble Lord. Lord Birdwood: it must be directed with a positive aim and not merely by way of putting over information. It must be with the deliberate purpose of attacking the enemy. By that I do not mean telling lies; I mean propaganda in the true sense of the word—we should speak the truth but also deny the lies of the other side, 836 and that is a very different thing from spreading lies about our enemies.
It is my understanding of the situation that this aspect of our information services, especially broadcasting, which is all powerful in East Africa and the Horn, is being neglected. I have been told by one Governor in that area that they do not answer the specific accusations of Radio Cairo, but prefer to ignore them in the hope that not too many people will hear. I suggest to your Lordships that the time for that attitude has past, and we should have some overall broadcasting policy, possibly co-ordinated by a regional broadcasting officer in East Africa and the Horn, to ensure that enemy propaganda is answered, and answered on the spot. I remember in the war these directives coming so often to me when I was directing radio stations just behind the front line in Italy, giving me orders to do things that if I had not done the week before I ought to have been sacked. That is why I feel we need a regional officer on the spot, who will seize every opportunity to counteract the evil propaganda which one day will lead us into serious trouble in that area if we do not take action immediately. I should be grateful if the noble Earl would carefully consider that matter with his colleagues.