§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, I am happy to find myself for the first time in debate immediately following the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, because his grace of address reminds many of us of the brilliant eloquence of his father, which on the all too rare occasions that he came down to address us made him a powerful advocate of any cause that brought him here. It too, because the noble Lord has just returned from a Parliamentary Mission to the Caribbean that we welcome him to take part in our debate to-day.
This Motion covers a wide area and certainly provides a large enough subject for any of us to "take a crack" at. I propose to choose North America as the subject of my remarks. It is difficult to go straight to it without raising one or two points, though after the considerate and full way in which the noble Earl the Leader of the House dealt with the subject, and, happily, allayed many of our points of concern, it seems almost unnecessary to go over these details. Moreover, when one speaks at this stage in the debate it is natural that any prepared order of any points one intended to make is dislocated. The Central Office of Information, by its output, gives us knowledge of the many channels of its activity. Above all this debate has brought out that the effect of promotion must depend upon central direction, and this should include not only momentary decisions but also long-term ends, and both in turn have to be in step with the comtemporary diplomatic climate.
I would insert here that the quality of the work must depend on the personnel employed to promote it, and that the important angle of emoluments must always be borne in mind. The noble Earl, Lord Home, set many of our minds at rest as to the question of direction. He told us that there was this fortnightly conference which, in substance, does ensure that there is efficiency and continuity of direction. The White Paper told us that the information staffs abroad comprise those of the Foreign Office, the Commonwealth Relations Office and the Colonial Office, and it referred also to the British 838 Council, to which the noble Earl referred so adequately as to remove the necessity of anyone else adding much as to its achievements. But it is curious that the White Paper put the Central Office of Information, in paragraph 6, last in the list. It also said:There will be no encroachment on the responsibility of individual Ministers for the work of their information staffs.That tells us fairly strongly that it is co-ordination and not management; and I will return to that later.
It is admitted that a modern Government has to concern itself with public opinion abroad and be properly fitted to deal with it; indeed, that was the conclusion of the Drogheda Committee. Elsewhere it has been recorded that promotion should be one of the strongest arms of British diplomacy. We see that many other Governments must apply a much larger proportion of their national income to propaganda than we do, and therefore we are driven to the conclusion that our expenditure is less than it could be. The noble Earl the Leader of the House reminded us that it will be something of the order of £15 million. The operations of the B.B.C. comprise a large part of this whole concern. In your Lordships' House last year there was a debate in which the noble Lord, Lord Strang, who speaks with such particular knowledge, covered the field in a manner which assisted many of us to know what goes on.
No debate should occur without reference to the activities in North America of the British Consular services and of the foreign services of the Federation of British Industries. Those of your Lordships—and there are many—who, like myself, have lived a large part of your lives in the United States of America and who go there regularly, have been concerned about the sufficiency of our promotion there. The Suez incident brought many of us to a position of dismay; but perhaps it would be fair to suspect that in that instance even the Embassy, uninformed, could not give a lead. I say that because directives must be received in Washington and Ottawa well in advance of the breaking of the news, so that the information officers can be fully briefed and prepared to take action with the Press and the radio the moment the news breaks. Dealing with North America I think it would be wrong 839 not to refer to the skill and industry of our present Ambassador in Washington, who has been assiduously presenting our case all over the American Continent. I would address myself to the noble Earl who is to reply with regard to the British Embassy at Washington. We have there a Minister Diplomatic, a Minister Economic, and a Minister Commercial. All rank senior to the head of the British Information Services, who now is one of several councillors. Surely it would seem that the individual holding that office as head of the British Information Services should rank as a Minister. It is understood that during the war, Sir Harold Butler, then head of the British Information Services, did rank as a Minister.
I would turn now to Canada. I suggest that our service there is insufficient. The organisation in Canada needs strengthening, and it should be regarded as meriting more promotion and more publicity in its own right. I would suggest further that what is expended in effort in Canada rebounds in the United States so that it hits with two barrels instead of one. Now may I turn to the recent industrial missions from Canada to this country, and from this country to Canada, the last one having just returned? They brought out the need for more projection into Canada of British accomplishments and capabilities—that is, the commercial angle which I suggested is also needed in the United States. In the diplomatic field, I suggest the Suez incident, to which I referred a few moments ago, was insufficiently presented, and this was confirmed by the later repudiation at the polls of Lester Pearson. The Canadian electorate now, with better knowledge, realise what the British case was.
I suggest that the Commonwealth countries are equally important, or more so, than the Foreign Office countries, in his speech the noble Earl certainly gave us the impression that that is recognised, and we are glad to think that he, in his responsibility as head of the Commonwealth Relations Office, has that opinion. He will doubtless reflect it with the authority of his office through the deliberations and directions. But he also said something to which I particularly want to refer, and that is that this matter is inextricably linked up with migration. 840 The percentage of the total inflow into the Dominions to-day has fallen below 30 per cent. in Canada, and is nearly the same in Australia. That presents a case which demands recognition of the fact that our policy towards migration to the Commonwealth should be an active one rather than passive.
I wish to express my appreciation to the noble Earl for bringing to your Lordships' notice the fact that so large a proportion of the recent inflow into both Canada and Australia had little previous knowledge of our British traditions and achievements, and had no previous grounds for a particular loyalty to the Crown. It needs that promotion and publicity which I have just advocated. I would also thank the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, who drew attention to the fact that it is much the same in Australia. There is, alas!, a growing tendency to seek technological guidance and education in the United States rather than in the United Kingdom. This, in spite of the fact that in the last decade—as the noble Earl brought out in a debate in your Lordships' House—United Kingdom investment in Australia is considerably greater than that of the United States.
It seems to me that this subject has to be looked at partly diplomatically and partly commercially. I am inclined to look at it effectively from the commercial side. These whole efforts are co-ordinated by a central direction, and vast sums of money are spent on promotion and publicity in the commercial field by large corporations, and in the diplomatic field by other countries, including the United States. Are we really satisfied, if we look at it as "John Bull, Limited," trying to do 45 per cent. of the world's trade on sterling, and needing ourselves a large volume of trade, that that £15 million is sufficient? The noble Viscount who moved this Motion tried to convince us—and I think he probably impressed us—that a very large sum is justified, certainly something far above £15 million, for "John Bull, Limited."
Therefore, the burden of my belief is that we should expand the degree of our publicity and promotion, and that, apart from the diplomatic aim, it should include a strong commercial selling aim, and that the expenditure must permit emoluments to assure the highest calibre of talent. I shall be asked about the cost. We can afford a vast sum for social welfare, and 841 the extravagant prescription content. Surely to justify the large expense necessary (I do not decry for a moment a healthy State) we can justify a larger expenditure which can assist our balance of payments in peace time and contribute to safety of food supplies in war.
§ 6.37 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, rising to speak in a debate of this importance so late in the evening means that a great part of my material has already been devoured by previous speakers. I fear that what I may now say to your Lordships may appear somewhat disjointed in its presentation. I must declare at the outset that I am not so sanguine as certain other noble Lords, including, I am sorry to say, my noble Leader, as to the efficacy of the information services in their present form. I do not know how many years ago it became apparent that kid-glove methods were not meeting the requirements of the cold war, and that other methods were needed to counteract the Cominform methods of propaganda. We have yet to see, in my view, that realisation put into action. What is entailed, I think, is ambitious but necessary. To carry it into action it will be necessary to marshal the forces of Press, radio and publicity, and what is now known as public relations, into a single body, not simply to match, but to beat the Soviet propaganda machine at its own game.
I hope this may come into effect through the setting up of the Departmental Committee, requested by my noble friend, Lord Birdwood, in his speech. In that request, I fully support him. The essential component is a body of experts such as existed in the Ministry of Information during the war. The story of the death of the Ministry of Information and its partial resurrection as the Central Office of Information will be better known to other noble Lords, as I was not in the country at the time. Post-mortems are often odious but also illuminating. What I understand happened was that during the period of the Caretaker Government in 1945 there was a general expectation that the Ministry of Information would disappear altogether, and during that period most of the best people in it left. When the Government of noble Lords opposite took power, they very rightly decided that the public should continue to be informed, and the Central Office of Information took the place of the 842 former Ministry. But it was a very different animal, without the bark or the bite or the stature of its predecessor.
Nothing would be easier, nothing would take longer, than to give a catalogue of the shortcomings of the C.O.I. today. I should prefer to speak more generally and less spitefully in saying how I think our whole endeavour could be better applied on this front. At the present moment the most effective means we possess of reaching those behind the Iron Curtain is through the overseas services of the B.B.C. I am an admirer of that service, and some months ago I had first-hand evidence of its success in an Iron Curtain country, where the penalty for listening to the B.B.C. is 25 years' imprisonment; and still they listen. I must say how disturbed I was by the remark, and I feel it must have given a false impression, by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, when he said that we should concentrate on sending our news broadcasts to people who wanted them, not to people who do not. We are not sending these broadcasts to the Governments of the satellite countries; we are sending them to the unfortunate people of those countries. It is most unfair to consider that those people, who thirst for news from the B.B.C., are indifferent or unwilling to receive it. It is doing them an injustice and misstating their unhappy position.
I am still not satisfied that the policy controlling and inspiring this service is the best available for its purpose. I had put to me the other day what seemed a very good summing up of what is required as news by the satellite peoples. That is the provision of what would appear in an Opposition newspaper in that country, if such a newspaper were allowed. But that I mean to include the cultural, the frivolous, the political and everyday news, the last being almost the most important of all. Because what the minds of these people are searching for is a comparison between their lives and those of their counterparts in the West. Here also lies the great danger to Soviet or to any other form of dictatorship. And yet they are beating us at that very game in which they hold fewest cards.
I can give a recent example. On the 26th of last month the Czech newspaper Rude Pravda carried the news that hydraulic mining, practised extensively in Russia and to some extent in Poland, 843 had now been introduced into Britain. This method gave a high rate of output per manshift, the equipment was easy to move and operate, and there was no danger of explosion. A colleague of mine wrote to the National Coal Board to discover if it was true and when it had been announced. The reply was that the announcement, in much the same words, had been made by the Coal Board on June 23—that is to say, 72 hours before it appeared on the streets of Prague, demonstrating that Britain was adopting Russian technical methods and was therefore behind.
I can also give an example of how we could make similar capital through overseas broadcasts. At the Ninth Communist Party Congress in Prague, deputy Premier Kopecky made a statement about tuberculosis in Czechoslovakia, including figures of an increase of 22,000 cases a year, between 5,000 and 6,000 dying every year and a total of 137,000 actively ill. At almost exactly the same time my right honourable friend the Minister of Health announced for England and Wales a reduction in tuberculosis cases of 38 per cent., in deaths of 78 per cent., and that the 1957 total was 4,250. That is 4,250 in a country of 45 million against 5,000 to 6,000 in a country of 13 million. There is plenty of ammunition of this kind that is not being used. Would it not be of interest to advertise that it takes a Rumanian workman 160 hours of labour to earn a pair of shoes, while his opposite number in Britain can earn them in seven hours?
There is another aspect of the daily news that is not fully available to the occupants of Iron Curtain countries, and that is home news which may show the administration in a bad light. The happenings in one town are often not known in the next, but they may leak over the frontier and could be picked up and passed back rapidly by a proper organisation to a Western country. If, for instance, the inhabitants of Transylvania could be told over the B.B.C. what had happened in Blaj two days before, that would make an immense impact. This is done to some extent, but not, I feel, enough or promptly enough. News value based on being up to date has the same sharp appeal to a public East of the Iron Curtain as it has in the West. Any broadcasting service 844 which could build up a reputation for this sort of dexterity, handling news which would not appear in the official Communist newspapers of the country itself, would have a very determined following in those ill-provided lands.
Another thought has occurred to me. The time allotted for these broadcasts, which I believe to be of immense value, is very restricted. It means they are easier to jam and harder to listen to. My information, which I confess is not the highest technical information, is that most of the cost of a programme is in the collection, presentation and recording of the news the actual transmission being a relatively small part of the cost. Therefore if, once recorded, the same programme could be repeated during several hours, it would make the courageous business of slipping away to listen that much easier and that much less dangerous, and add to the huge expense of jamming by the Soviet Government. I believe General Gruenther gave figures recently stating that jamming Western broadcasts costs Russia more than the whole expense of the programmes beamed from the West to the Iron Curtain territories. It is significant also that in the Polish Rising of 1956 the first thing to be attacked and the building most completely wrecked was the jamming station which prevented the people from hearing news from the West. It has not since then been repaired or revived.
My Lords, I have said that I do not wish to dwell on criticism of the C.O.I., but I have heard criticism which, for the health of that organisation. I sincerely believe should be aired. I am thinking in this instance of that part of the organisation which works through the Foreign Office and the Embassies. Without particularly seeking criticism from among foreign correspondents, I have been told the following, regarding the C.O.I. representatives abroad. They are painfully unpunctual in answering and dealing with Soviet propaganda and Communist actions. There is often an exasperating attitude that, "It is up to the Russians to explain that one". That is the attitude the noble Lord, Lord Ebury, described in his interesting maiden speech as a characteristic British attitude. But I do feel it is a characteristic which should be suppressed in an information officer. I am told that during the Berlin blockade there was a 845 C.0.I. tendency to say, with a nonchalant shrug, that it was up to the Russians to lift the blockade! Fortunately the Government of noble Lords opposite who were in power were not in any way as nonchalant as that.
I make no apology for reiterating that speed of reaction is of vital importance in the cold war. There are excellent information officers—far be it from me to gainsay that—but they are marked for their scarcity rather than their plenty. There is what one might call a "slacking majority" of those who conceive their duty to be not answering questions but avoiding an answer, in the hope that the subject may be dropped and themselves exonerated from making any reply. Some of the more skilled in that capacity, I am told, are to be found in the higher ranks of the information services. I should like to think that this regular tactical review to which my noble Leader referred, under the chairmanship of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, will make some difference to this situation, but I am bound to mention that my own information is fairly up to date. Above all—and this I say with some feeling, though without any personal pique or personal axe to grind, since I have not been a foreign correspondent myself for very nearly twenty years—there is a tragic failure to use the British Press abroad, to call upon its wisdom, its experience, its training, its local contacts and its patriotism. There is a tendency lo be afraid of the professional, and I can hardly say anything more damning than that.
I have said that I admire the B.B.C., and I should like to think that that entitles me to say also that there is one incident of which I was told, which I cannot admire. An honourable friend of mine in another place told me that some months ago he switched to what was I think the 9 o'clock news, and at the end of the news he heard the British announcer saying that Radio. Moscow would be broadcasting during the next week at the following times on the following wavelengths, and would include in its English programme certain interesting quiz competitions for which there would be valuable prizes. My honourable friend, being of an inquisitive nature, discovered what these prizes were to be—they were, in fact, short-wave radio sets. 846 I have not given my noble friend notice of this matter and I do not know what he would reply, but I hope he will not mind, since I am not asking for a reply, if I give my own opinion—I think it was daft. I think that for the B.B.C. to advertise gratuitously the broadcasting agency of another country which is in fact jamming every foreign broadcast directed towards it, and which encourages its public to win prizes which will in fact enable them to listen more easily to Radio Moscow, is—I take the words out of the mouth of the right reverend Prelate who spoke a little earlier—turning the other cheek; but it seems to me to be taking that philosophy almost to the limits of masochism.
Much of the information I have gathered from this debate suggests to me that in that field we are children compared to the Communists. We have got to grow up, or at least we have got to recover from that second childhood which followed the war. Tile Ministry of Information was. I think everyone would agree, a superb master of its craft. So I return in conclusion to my opening point. I believe that we must bind into a single, efficient organisation, the forces and talents we have at our disposal. We must give them the effective tools to attack the job. This will require expenditure. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rea, in saying that this expenditure will be worth while, and it may eventually and ideally enable us to reduce cost and the weight of armaments. I think we must believe that it will be worth while having, as I trust we all have, the complete confidence that if a true description of the sort of society in which we live can penetrate those dark regions beyond the Iron Curtain in a lucid and truthful form, the tyrants themselves, who live on lies, will have cause to tremble.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I think it is quite clear, from what has already been said in this debate, that no one in your Lordships' House underrates the importance of the Overseas Information Services. They are supremely important as an instrument of our foreign policy, and I take it as axiomatic that we must endeavour, through them, to reach the maximum audience throughout the world. Rather than go into any one side of the information services, I should 847 like, as briefly as I can, to consider them in relation to three different types of target which they are attempting to reach. There is, first of all, the information service to our friends and Allies; secondly to the countries behind the Iron Curtain, and finally to the rest of the world—the uncommitted nations.
So far as the first is concerned, I fully agree with what has already been said by many noble Lords, that it is vitally important not to neglect our friends. As I see it, the need is for a ready exchange of information and for the development of a deeper understanding between us; and that can best be achieved by personal contacts. All the instruments engaged in the information services—the British Council, the Central Office of Information, the B.B.C. and the others—do excellent work in this field and I should like to mention also the equally valuable work done by a host of private organisations, such as the English Speaking Union and the various societies that exist for the promotion of friendship between individual countries. I believe that the development of personal contacts between the Allied countries is likely to be the most fruitful source of further understanding. I should like particularly also to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, said in commending the work of the British Council with regard to foreign students. It was very heartening news to hear from the noble Earl the Leader of the House that we have 35,000 foreign students at present in this country.
There is one thing I should like to say on the question of broadcasting to our friends in the Commonwealth. The figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, made it look as if the B.B.C. was neglecting the Colonies. I agree with him that a great deal more could be done in broadcasting to our friends in the Commonwealth, but I think that in taking into account the figures of direct broadcasting on short wave we should also take into account the figures of re-broadcasting of the General Overseas Service in the territories concerned and also the use of the B.B.C. programmes sent out on disc by the transmission service, because I feel that even a quarter of an hour's programme on the National Broadcasting Service of the Colony con- 848 cerned is probably as valuable as twenty-four hours of short wave broadcasting from this country.
I pass now to the information services to the countries behind the Iron Curtain. I listened with great interest to what my noble friend Lord St. Oswald had to say, and I do not want to detain your Lordships for long. I would only stress, as he has done, that the B.B.C. has its most devoted adherents in the satellite countries—and indeed in Russia itself—and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will continue to press, as I know they have pressed in the past, for the abolition of "jamming" in order that the air can be freed for broadcasting. I am afraid I have dealt rapidly and extremely inadequately with those aspects of our information services.
Lastly, I should like to come to the information services to the remainder of the world—the uncommitted countries, particularly those in the Middle East and the Far East. As I see it, we have more or less a stabilised situation now in the West. We have a kind of "Maginot Line" which cannot be broken, at any rate other than at the cost of a nuclear war. But it would be a great danger were we to rely on this Maginot Line and allow ourselves to be outflanked in the Middle East and in the Far East. In my opinion, it is in that area where we are now engaged in a cold war, the weapons of which are political and economic. On the political side, our diplomatic policy must be strongly supported by our information services. As in dealing with our friends, so in this field of the uncommitted nations, again I believe that personal contact is most vital. But whereas there are a number of societies in this country promoting good relationships with the other Western Powers, there is a lamentable lack of such effort in the Middle East and Far Eastern countries.
I believe that an example of what could be achieved is the admirable society of the Hispanic and Luso—Brazillian Council, more generally known as Cannon House, which does a magnificent job in the countries in South America. If only some such organisation could take equal care of visitors from the Middle East—or, indeed, from the Far East—I am sure that it would be of the greatest advantage. But so far as this area—the 849 Middle East and the Far East in generals—concerned, I come back to the British Broadcasting Corporation, which I think is our most important weapon. It is a unique instrument. It enjoys a world-wide reputation under its initials "B.B.C.", which do not necessarily connect it with the Government. I think it is all the more effective from the very fact that it is independent of Government control, so far as the content of its programmes are concerned, and I think it most important that that independence should be safeguarded if we wish its influence throughout the world to continue. I am afraid I disagree to that extent with the mover of this Motion, my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard. I think that this independence of programme content is vital if the B.B.C.'s reputation throughout the world is to remain as high as it is at present.
In the Middle East the B.B.C. is broadcasting in English and fourteen other languages (of which the most important is Arabic) for 9½ hours a day; but, of course, these broadcasts are on short wave, and it is impossible to compete on short wave with a virulent Cairo Radio broadcasting throughout the Middle East on medium wave. The pattern of these crises in the Middle East is now becoming familiar. They begin with an outbreak of propaganda from Cairo Radio, which influences the masses; they, in turn, put pressure on the Governments, and a crisis arises. Now the Arab peoples are no fools, and while they may enjoy some of the excitement of Cairo Radio's hysterical broadcasts they do not necessarily accept every word as truth. I am certain there is a great opening for broadcasts of a factual nature in Arabic, but if they are to compete effectively they must be on medium wave. Happily, this has recently been achieved by re-broadcasting via Cyprus transmitters. More, however, is required, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider earnestly the need for further medium-wave transmitters in the Middle East in order to increase the effectiveness of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. itself has had clear evidence of the value of this medium-wave broadcasting in that (I believe I am right in saying) the number of letters from Arabic listeners since they have been broadcasting on medium-wave has doubled.
850 In the Far East, where the B.B.C. is broadcasting in eight other languages besides English, it is clearly impossible, in view of the vast distances, to achieve this medium-wave broadcasting. At the same time, I still feel that more ought to be done, if possible, to increase the effectiveness of our short-wave broadcasting. Already the B.B.C. is re-broadcasting from Tebrau, in Malaya, but if the "Voice of Britain" is to be heard properly in the Far East then further short-wave transmitters for re-broadcasting will have to be provided in the Far East. Your Lordships will recall that the late Lord Drogheda's Committee recommended in 1954 that there should be an additional two high-powered transmitters in Tebrau. I think there is some argument now as to whether that is the best possible site, but I would urge the Government to consider now more transmitters for re-broadcasting in the Far East.
Further, the B.B.C., as well as its broadcasting influence, has a very large influence on the personal contact side. The fact that it is held in such universal respect for its broadcasting means that a number of students from overseas come to London and study broadcasting technique from the B.B.C. Also, there are other foreign nationals actually working in the Corporation on short-term contracts. These students and professional broadcasters go back to their countries, and often come to occupy positions of authority in their own broadcasting services. That, in turn, increases the good will of the B.B.C. and tends to spread its influence, and I think that is something that we should all wish to encourage.
I have no doubt that the B.B.C. will continue to be in the van of sound broadcasting, but I would echo the words of my noble friend Lord Bessborough in saying that we must also keep in the van of television broadcasting. I should have hoped that funds would be provided to the B.B.C. to enable it to run a television transcription service as it does a sound transcription service, so as to provide programmes for overseas countries. But if this is thought to be too heavy a capital outlay for a doubtful return, then I would at least suggest that funds ought certainly to be made available to the Corporation for the dubbing of its present television programmes into foreign languages. It has the programmes ready made, and foreign-speaking staff to dub them, and I would suggest that, without a great deal 851 of expense, a lot could be achieved of considerable use.
In conclusion, my Lords, I realise that the various suggestions I have made, like the suggestions made by other noble Lords, all require increased expenditure, and for that reason may be unacceptable. I do seriously ask, however, whether it would not be wise just to be a little extravagant on this occasion. It is, indeed, our best hope of a positive step forward towards peace.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, at this late stage of the debate I do not intend to detain your Lordships for any great length of time. I feel grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Massereene and Ferrard and Lord Birdwood, for having set down these two Motions on a matter of such great public interest. I think it is of great importance to recognise the value of the information services in cementing the unity of the Commonwealth and also in combating the world-wide drive of Soviet propaganda. I was greatly impressed by the speech of my noble friend Lord Birdwood, who seemed to be so intensely aware of the Soviet propaganda danger, and I think his awareness is realistic.
I should like to say a word or two about a problem which has caused considerable anxiety and much food for thought to such bodies as the National Book League and the British Publishers' Association, and that is with reference to the export of British books—particularly textbooks of a scientific and technical nature—to countries in Asia. Fewer than twenty years ago the only textbooks exported by the United States went either to Canada or to the Philippines, but World War II produced an entirely different situation. It dried up the European export markets, which were blocked temporarily, and since that time the American publishing activities have had an enormous success throughout the whole world, and especially in countries within the British sphere, such as Pakistan, India, Ceylon and Burma. To-day the United States textbook is a familiar sight in university libraries everywhere. On practically all technical subjects (and by technical subjects I mean mechanical engineering, economics, electrical engineering, atomic 852 physics, business and industrial management and similar subjects) it is firmly established overseas. One would not object to this situation were it not that in countries like India, Pakistan. Burma and Ceylon, the British textbook has practically disappeared from library shelves.
This phenomenal success of the United States textbook is largely due to the Aid and Information "programmes of the United States Government. Moreover, heavy subsidies and gifts have been made by American universities and other American institutions and trusts. When the Americans run into currency difficulties and restrictions, where there is a shortage of dollars, they operate under a scheme—the American Informational Media Guaranty Program—whereby the United States Government pay the exporter in dollars and are reimbursed by the importer in blocked local currency. Our Government run no equivalent scheme for countries where sterling is in short supply, such as Turkey, Pakistan or India. The reason why Her Majesty's Government should take note of this situation, and why they will, I believe, eventually be forced to do something about it, is that the distribution of British books and periodicals creates a favourable climate for the sale of other British products overseas. Obviously, if technicians are reading American textbooks they are more likely to use American machines—and the same would apply to British textbooks if they were supplied as extensively as previously.
What can be done about this problem? I have a number of suggestions. One is that Her Majesty's Government should follow the example of the United States to a very minor extent, in the purchase and presentation of major book "selection aids" to all central libraries, university libraries and education centres abroad, especially in areas where competition is greatest. It is estimated that this could be done for a sum of £40,000 plus an annual sum of approximately £8,000. Four hundred of these centres could be serviced, and we could thus avoid the situation which is occurring in many places where all selection tools are American. By "selection tools" I mean books, bibliographies, and means whereby it is possible to find out what British books apply to particular subjects.
853 Another thing which could be done is the organisation of a limited number of subject book exhibitions in areas not served by the British Council. We might also send out a regular service of news-sheets on British publications designed for such specialists in foreign countries. These lists could be prepared by experts in this country and sent to various individuals and bodies recommended by our information officers and officers of the British Council in different parts of the world. I would suggest the establishment, under Government approval, of a joint standing committee of the two major organisations—the British Council and the Central Office of Information—on the one side, and a voluntary organisation, the National Book League, and the Publishers' Association, on the other, to consider this whole problem. Perhaps that would be the best way of making a start towards seeing what can be done to remedy this rather unfortunate situation that has arisen over the last ten years and which is causing so much anxiety.
I should like to say a word or two on the question of combating world-wide Soviet propaganda. The Soviets have the advantage of clear aims and a closely-knit organisation in Which there is a fanatically held belief that the end justifies the means, however ruthlessly those means may be used. The "Achilles heel" of the Soviet system is its disregard for fundamental human rights and liberties. The individual human being and his development count for little in Soviet countries. The individual is depersonalised, de-humanised and reduced to a mere social unit. Mere counter-propaganda, though of course it is necessary, is not enough to meet this situation. Something more positive is required.
We must make known abroad, particularly in uncommitted countries, the general and moral principles which lie behind our policies. I believe that the British Council, which works on a long-term basis, does much valuable work in building up a climate of opinion favourable to this country and to Western values in general. I am sure that increased financial support for the work of the British Council and an extension of its activities in Africa—which I regard as the" key Continent—would be highly desirable. My information is that Tunis 854 and Morocco would be a good field for an extension of the activities of the Council, for apparently there is a great demand among the Arabs there for a knowledge of the English language.
No praise can be too high for the work the British Council is doing in services and facilities for students from abroad visiting this country, and particularly for those students who come from the Colonial Empire. I find myself very much in agreement with what has been said in this regard by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. I am convinced that it is this kind of activity, directed at individuals, that in the long run does most to benefit this country and Western values. May I conclude by congratulating Her Majesty's Government on providing another £18,000 for the promotion of the arts abroad by the British Council? That goes some way towards the £55,000 asked for, but our effort still falls far short of what can be regarded as adequate in relation to the effort being made in this sphere by other countries. We simply must recognise the advantages, commercial and otherwise, which result from the exhibition abroad of our drama, music and visual art. Such promotion of the arts is more than justified by the current achievements of our artists in all three arts in which we are second to none in the creative and executive fields. An increasing number of people abroad are influenced by the arts in numbers which far exceed the extent of, say, the professional classes. Two examples of them which I can give are the fact that two years ago in Jugoslavia an exhibition of Henry Moore sculpture attracted no fewer than 45,000 people.
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. We are listening very carefully to what he has to say, in which we are much interested, but could he please speak a little louder?
§ LORD CROFT
My Lords, I apologise if I have not spoken loud enough to be heard on the other side of the House. I was giving an example of an exhibition held in Yugoslavia, two years ago, of Henry Moore's sculpture, which attracted 45,000 visitors. And there was another example last year of spectacular success in the same country, when Sir Laurence Olivier and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company bad a tremendous 855 success in Belgrade with what one might imagine would have been the least promising of Shakespeare's plays, Titus Andronicus. I submit that those activities reach a very wide public and are well worth doing. Any way of increasing this country's prestige abroad should be encouraged, and the promotion of the arts represents a great field for development by the British Council.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, the theme which the noble Lord who has just sat down introduced into his speech is one on which I should like to detain your Lordships for a few minutes before the winding up of this debate. In other words, I want to refer not so much to the cultural side and general propaganda as to the effect, sometimes forgotten, of the way in which American publications may affect the trade and production of this country. I think we are rather apt, thinking as we do in terms of the cold war and Russian activity, to think of all the publications which the Russians are pouring out—of children's comic productions, textbooks and documents for the table of the doctor's waiting room and the barber's shop—and to forget some of the consequences flowing from the American reply. America has replied very effectively from the point of view both of the propaganda of Russia in general and in relation to their culture, and of general opportunities for publicising the American way of life.
With her large-scale presentation of books and periodicals by the Information Media Guaranty Program, to which the noble Lord referred, there is the publication and sale of United States textbooks and technical books at cut prices—the distribution and publication of books from the U.S.A., of which 100,000 copies of some issues are going out at the moment—and the spending of five million dollars to finance the translation, publication and distribution of books abroad. To date she has produced 3,626 editions. In addition, there is the low-cost publication programme, which in 1957 launched 41 million copies of books in 185 editions and 21 languages. Those appear to be, as they are, very effective answers to the Russian effort.
While agreeing with all the general and quite impeccable principles which the 856 noble Earl the Leader of the House offered to us in his speech this afternoon, I take up one point that he made when he said that if we can get the English language established, we shall have gone a great way to achieve all that we want in these foreign countries. I agree with him completely; but I would say that I want the English language not to have the American accent that I fear it is being given at the moment. What these business-men, colleagues and friends of ours in America, are doing, is selling the American way of life and selling to the students of the country, as Lord Croft said, a general idea, so that when they grow up they will have learnt in terms of America and they will buy in terms of America.
If your Lordships read any of the official publications of those responsible for the information services of the American Government you will see, not just that they are conscious of that, but that they are deliberately aiming at it. They have made it very clear. They have departed in the translation of their textbooks from the ordinary pounds, hours and seconds basis, used in text books heretofore, and have adopted the metric system, because it would lead to the cutting out of the rest of the English production. Indeed, they made it clear two months ago in the official publication Books in the U.S.A., in the following words:In the past two decades, the flow of United States books across international boundaries has increased from a trickle to a flood. On the crest of this flood is the United States university text book now used by some students in nearly every country in the world.That great doyen of publishing in this country, Sir Stanley Unwin, said that trade follows the book. I agree; and I agree, what is more, that we have to watch that it does not follow in a way we do not like. The noble Lord referred to the effect of the Information Media Guaranty Program. I should like to remind your Lordships first of what that is, and secondly of the fact that we invented it but we do not use it. It enables countries short of dollars to purchase American publications in terms of local currency; the currency is then used for the local needs of American Embassies, lodged in blocked accounts or spent on local aid—in Pakistan, on the building of libraries. We invented that 857 as the British Book Export scheme. Sir Stanley Unwin invented it in 1939. We operated it during the war through the British Council, and by the Central Office of Information since the war. When I say that we "operated it", I mean that we operated it in principle; but, as I have no doubt the noble Earl who replies will tell us, like so many other things it works only in principle. That is because the dead hand of the Treasury descends where currency is concerned. Request is made for the money to be used for local expense of the British Council and the British Embassy.
The foreign Government concerned usually refuses to agree to this, since it would lose sterling for its own country, and it therefore follows that nothing happens at all. That is why there are no schemes by which we can deal with our position in Pakistan, in Israel or in Turkey. Pakistan, we all know, traditionally relied in the past entirely upon Britain for her textbooks and publications. Recently it has become increasingly difficult for libraries to get anything, and completely impossible for individuals to get anything at all, because of the shortage of sterling. Even with the help of the Colombo Plan scheme, which was very valuable, for £30,000 or £40,000 worth of British books, many Pakistan universities and libraries are unable to get the British books they need, and their science faculties have lacked all specialist journals over the past ten years. It is estimated by friends of mine in Pakistan to whom I have talked over recent months that, as at a year ago, the unsatisfied demand in that country for British books amounted to £50,000 worth per annum, and £15,000 worth in respect of periodicals.
What about the I.M.G. scheme, which was copied from our scheme and effectively operated by America? They have operated it in Pakistan since 1953. Their authorised expenditure for the current year is 600,000 dollars. In addition, the Asia Foundation has distributed this year 40,000 books and 20,000 more are on the way. This week, I understand, a lending library scheme has been opened at Dacoa University to allow students to have American textbooks on easy terms for the purpose of their studies.
So it is in Israel, where there is a well-educated type of person looking for more 858 education. Nothing from this country is available at all, while America is operating her scheme. She has made available 30 million dollars, not all for books but also for publications, films and general education. On the other hand, we are unable to make anything available because of the shortage of currency. In Turkey, we can wipe English books completely out of existence from the point of view of the ordinary person. No books or periodicals can be bought through the bookshops because of the lack of sterling. An American Information Media Guaranty Program has given up to June 30 last year a total of 2,898,848 dollars, so that we cannot be surprised to know that American publications are plentiful in the shops.
I have tried to curtail the points I had wanted to make at greater length if I had risen to speak earlier. I urge that most careful watch should be kept by the Government on the powerful effect of all this on our general trade prospects in the next ten or twenty years. They should take particular care quickly now to see what can be done about the currency problem in the three countries to which I have referred and in other countries in the Commonwealth and out of it who need attention of that kind in an important way. I strongly urge upon the Government, not any wildcat or large expenditure, but that points of the kind to which I have drawn attention are worthy of some consideration because of their nature.
I am conscious of the genius which has enabled us to achieve such excellent results with the small amount of money available. Before I sit down I want to add my tribute to the two information organisations whose work has been under investigation this afternoon. As one who went to the opening ceremony of the Virginia Exhibition last year and then went with the opening party round the pavilions, British and American, I can only say that the small amount of £50,000 which I believe we made available was spent in a magnificent way to produce a highly cultured exhibit for the American people, which they deeply appreciated. Similarly, I would not listen to anyone who said that our exhibit at Brussels suffers from the meanness of the Government; it does no such thing. It is not always a bad thing to have a limited amount of money on which one must do 859 the best one can. I think that we make a greater cultural approach at Brussels on a shoestring than some of those countries who, by a larger expenditure, have gone in for more flamboyant structures than we have. As one who has seen the work of the British Council in many countries, I should like to say how much we all owe to all sorts of hardworking people who get all the kicks and not many of the ha'pence for the difficult job they do for us in many parts of the world and do it well. All I ask is that a little more "shoestring" should be applied in some of the directions to which I have referred.
§ 7.35 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF GOSFORD)
My Lords, I am sure that the organisers of the British exhibit at the Brussels Exhibition will be warmed at heart by the kind words the noble Lord, Lord Crook, has just said about them. It has whetted my appetite even more for the journey I am making tomorrow to see the exhibit myself.
We have had a long and interesting debate, and I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Massereene and Ferrard and Lord Birdwood for their Motions, which have given us the opportunity of discussing this important problem. Your Lordships have made many suggestions for improvements and additions. Naturally these will all be gone into to see what can be done to incorporate them in the services already given. There is no hope at all, at this late hour (and I am sure that your Lordships will not want me to do so), of trying to answer in detail all the questions put to me during the course of the afternoon. I hope that noble Lords who have asked me detailed questions which I do not answer to-day, will forgive me. I will write to them in due course.
Though it is perfectly natural that your Lordships should be interested in seeing that the information services should be used to the best advantage, it is not easy to gauge the success of these activities. The results cannot be measured in graphs or expressed in the form of dividends. To a great extent it is a matter of opinion. However, reports received from our posts overseas, and other evidence, suggest that 860 a considerable degree of success is being achieved. We believe that the services themselves are operating on the right lines and are providing full value for the money and effort expended. I make this assertion without complacency. This is a long campaign, in which we can never relax and in which we must always be on the lookout for new tactics and new weapons. I hope that this debate will have made it clear that the campaign is being conducted with the necessary flexibility and determination.
As many noble Lords have pointed out, one of the dangers in the world to-day is the ignorance within the Communist countries of what is going on in the outside world. The people are fed with propaganda by their own Governments, telling any sort of lies which those Governments may wish to put about; and, of course, it is no easy matter to counteract such lies. In his Motion, the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, insists that negotiations with the Soviet Union should be conducted on a reciprocal basis with a view to breaking down the artificial obstacles to the free flow of information and ideas across the Iron Curtain—obstacles which, as your Lordships well know. are none of our making. So long as it remains the Soviet Government's policy to prevent their people, so far as they can, from hearing what goes on in the outside world, so long will these obstacles remain; and I cannot see that any reciprocal action on our part could possibly improve the situation. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, who I think is inclined to agree with me on this point. If, in reality, the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, wishes the same sort of obstacle to anti-Soviet contacts as exist on the Soviet side (though he did not say so in his speech, and I am going by the terms of his Motion), then I cannot go along with him. I consider that it would be wrong in principle.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, did say that when he criticised the delegations that were going to Russia.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt to make a brief explanation of what I intended to convey. 861 I would impose no restrictions whatsoever on what the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, called "free intercourse." The trouble is that intercourse is not allowed to be free from the other side, and I would say that the only weapon left to us eventually is reluctantly to impose some kind of reciprocal restriction on the Soviet delegations and visitors coming over here—that is to say, we should demand that they come on certain terms, which we should impose, and they will be complete freedom from Soviet control in this country.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
Am I right in thinking that the noble Lord is limiting his reciprocity restrictions to visits?
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
I am afraid that I still cannot go along with the noble Lord. I consider that it would be wrong in principle, and it would be completely contrary to British traditions and the British way of life to impose restrictions on ordinary British citizens, as a measure of reciprocity, merely because a foreign Government sees fit to restrict the movement and the reading matter of its own people and to deny them access to information from outside. Moreover, in many cases Her Majesty's Government have no power to intervene in this way with individual freedom. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that a policy of strict reciprocity, even if feasible or desirable, would bring about any change in the Soviet attitude. The only form of reciprocity which we should countenance would be complete freedom of information and contacts between ourselves and the Russian people.
As for making reciprocity a pre-condition for Summit Talks, or at any rate a very high priority in the discussions, at such a conference we should hope as a result of careful preparation to make some progress on those major international issues which are the root cause of tension and represent the greatest menace to our security. There is no doubt that the free interchange of ideas between ourselves and the Russian people, if the Russian Government were in fact to allow it, would result finally in better understanding between the peoples and the lowering of international tension. Subjects which are discussed at such a 862 conference must be those on which there is hope of real progress towards the relaxation of tension. The real causes of tension are political. Priority must be given to the main political issues, and particularly to disarmament. Substantial progress on these issues would undoubtedly create a favourable political climate, in which we should hope to see the gradual lifting of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet people enjoying greater freedom in their contacts with the United Kingdom and other countries of the West.
My noble Leader said in his speech that I would touch on the work of the Overseas Services of the B.B.C. There are two aspects of this work, one the piercing of the Iron Curtain itself, and the other the keeping of the British point of view well in the minds of all friendly and uncommitted countries. In their task of piercing the Iron Curtain, the Overseas Services broadcast in Russian and in the languages of all the Iron Curtain countries, and although we greatly regret that the Russians jam these broadcasts, we know that we are having some success. For many people behind the Iron Curtain radio is the only link with the free world. About 100 hours a week are broadcast to the various Communist countries in Europe. As to the free world, the B.B.C. broadcasts just over 250 hours a week, in some thirty different foreign languages.
There is no doubt as the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, said, that the reputation of the B.B.C. for truth and impartiality is most valuable. The question of the political independence of the B.B.C., however, is a highly controversial one, with which noble Lords are familiar. I do not propose to go into this again tonight, except to quote rather more fully than did the noble Viscount from that section of the Government White Paper on Broadcasting Policy which deals with the external services. It states:The Government intend that the Corporation should remain independent in the preparation of programmes for overseas audiences, though they should obtain from the Government department concerned such information about conditions in those countries and the policies of Her Majesty's Government towards them as will permit them to plan programmes in the national interest.Over the years a system of consultation and advice has grown up between the 863 B.B.C. and the Government which is well fitted to ensure that this objective is kept in view. Broadcasts to Iron Curtain countries, to which the noble Viscount specifically referred, are a particularly difficult problem, to which the closest attention is paid. I have already pointed out that these broadcasts are "jammed" as fully as possible by the Soviet Government, and this, I think, suggests that Moscow, at any rate, considers that they are potentially effective. I should like to take this opportunity, along with the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, to congratulate the B.B.C. on the fine work which it does in this sphere, and to tell your Lordships of the very high regard in which these broadcasts are held throughout the world.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and I think other noble Lords, suggested that the equipment of the B.B.C. needed modernising. As the White Paper made clear, the Government have come to the conclusion that capital expenditure is needed to modernise the B.B.C. equipment in the United Kingdom for transmitting the external services to all parts of the world and their local relays to certain key areas. But your Lordships will understand that the putting into effect of this programme is a matter of great technical complexity, which is receiving the closest attention and study, not only of the Corporation but of the Government Department concerned, in consultation with them. I now turn to television.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, before the noble Earl proceeds to television, would he address himself to the point that I made, that only 11½ hours weekly are devoted to broadcasts to the Colonies? Is there any hope of stepping that up?
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
If the noble Lord will permit me, I feel that in order to give a considered reply to his question I should write to him and give him the full facts.
As to television, the details given by my noble Leader will, I think, have shown that the Government fully realise the vast potentiality of television. We are fully aware of its growing importance in countries such as those of the Middle 864 East. I am indebted to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for his mention of this subject. But in the context of the Government Information Services the important thing is not so much the equipment as what is transmitted over it. Her Majesty's Government, for their part, are therefore concentrating their efforts on the provision of suitable and attractive programme material. On this matter I am in sympathy with the noble Earl, and I am sure that this is the best way of using our limited resources to make a direct impact. I should not deny that it is in our interests that British equipment should, wherever possible, be available. Nevertheless, this is a commercial matter and, as I said, one where we have to be careful about our slender resources. I should like to mention en passant, that, even if we were able to provide equipment to various countries who cannot afford to buy it, there is no guarantee that our material would be used over those networks once they had been installed.
Before I go any further, I should like to correct—or, shall I say, complete—a remark made by the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard. If I remember rightly, he implied that the Drogheda Committee did not seem to have much faith in the power of propaganda, in that its effect was only marginal.
§ LORD OGMORE
Has the noble Earl finished with television? I was hoping that I should receive a reply to the point I made: that it was hoped that the Government would provide some contribution towards the supply of television material for countries abroad, particularly in the Commonwealth. Could the noble Earl give us an answer on that?
THE EARL OF HOME
I forget my speeches as soon as I can, but I thought that, so far as television material was concerned, I did give in my speech an indication that the material to Commonwealth countries is being stepped up considerably, with television films and the rest.
§ LORD OGMORE
I listened to that point with keen attention. I gathered—perhaps I was wrong—that the noble Earl was referring to television material from the Government Information Department, the C.O.I. I think he said it was going 865 up to an hour a week. I did not gather that he was referring to the particular point I made, which, referred to television material from the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. At the moment, as I understand it, they do not receive any grant at all from the Government. It is not a question of stepping it up—they do not receive any. If I am wrong, I will withdraw what I have said. Perhaps the noble Earl can look into that point.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, I was saying that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, had pointed out that the Drogheda Committee felt that the effect of propaganda was only marginal. But I feel I should complete that, because the noble Viscount failed to say what is, in fact, in the next sentence of the Committee's Report, which is as follows:But in certain circumstances it may be decisive in filling the balance between diplomatic success and failure.Those words, surely, alter the situation completely. That sentence confirms Her Majesty's Government's view that the information services are extremely important.
I do not propose to waste your Lordships' time by adding now to the comprehensive review of the principals and organisations of our information services which has already been made by the noble Earl the Leader of the House. Your Lordships will appreciate that the field of activity is a vast one. Tactics are constantly changing, and our forces are always being re-deployed to meet new threats. As my noble Leader has already explained, the objective of our Overseas Information Services is to explain the policy of Her Majesty's Government so that it is correctly understood by the world and, at the same time, to put across the advantages of our way of life, not only to the Communist countries but also to those countries likely to be affected by Soviet propaganda.
Before I end, I will mention two particular aspects of this effort. The first of these is the effort being made to try to persuade the Soviet Government to allow greater interchange of both ideas and people. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, that Her Majesty's Government will continue the policy of fostering exchanges with the Communist world, and we will continue 866 our efforts to effect the eventual removal of artificial obstacles to the free flow of information and ideas, and the free movement of people between this country and the Soviet Union. It is only in this way that a genuine improvement and mutual understanding can be brought about.
No amount of persuasion on our part, however, seems to be of much avail. So long as the Communist Governments need to insulate their people and are afraid of the full impact of Western ideas on a population which has been to a large extent starved of contact with the non-Communist world for over forty years, just so long will this Iron Curtain remain. Discussions at the Foreign Ministers' Conference in Geneva in 1955 on the development of East-West contacts were unsuccessful. Since then, very limited progress has been made as a result of bilateral arrangements. But the main barriers erected by the Soviet Union to the free interchange of persons, ideas and information remain.
In April of this year Her Majesty's Government proposed to the Soviet Government that talks should be held in London or Moscow with a view to removing these barriers. The agenda proposed included the cessation of "jamming"; the unrestricted sale and distribution of newspapers, books and films; improved travel facilities; and the organisation of Anglo-Soviet exchanges through representative channels—not, as is often the case, through various Communist "front" organisations in this country. The Soviet reply avoids direct reference to these topics. It describes them as, "the complex questions on which there exist serious disagreements". Her Majesty's Government regret that the Soviet Government have not accepted this proposal.
The situation, however, is not entirely without hope. In 1955, at the request of Her Majesty's Government, the British Council established the Soviet Relations Committee—to which the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, and other noble Lords have drawn attention—in order to provide a representative body for arranging and sponsoring Anglo-Soviet exchanges and visits. During the past three years an increasing number of exchanges and visits have taken place, and are continuing to take place, under the Committee's auspices. Incidentally, both the Conservative and Labour Parties are represented 867 on this Committee, and I should like to pay a warm tribute to its work in furthering the cause of Anglo-Soviet understanding.
The organised exchanges and visits which the Soviet Relations Committee arranges or sponsors represent a valuable step forward. It is, however, questionable whether they go to the heart of the problem. We should all have greater confidence in the prospects of improved relations with the Soviet Union if the Russian service of the B.B.C. were not "jammed"; if British books and magazines were on unrestricted sale in the Soviet Union; if the Soviet people were allowed to visit the Western countries whenever they wished to do so; and if large parts of the Soviet Union were not closed to British diplomats, journalists and visitors.
Before I close I wish to turn to the problem of providing effective countermeasures to Soviet propaganda throughout the world. Noble Lords have rightly expressed concern at the incessant stream of abuse and distortion which the Communist—and the Egyptian—propaganda machine see fit to inflict upon the minds of peoples of the free world, and particularly those of what are known as the "uncommitted countries". We are often accused of failing to counter this, but our critics should pause to consider what is really implied in this charge.
We know full well that the Soviet Government enjoy certain advantages in this field. They do not have to consider Parliamentary or domestic public opinion or scrutiny. Propaganda and publicity is not, as with us, a means of explaining policy, but has become an instrument of policy itself. As such, it manipulates half-truths, untruths, misrepresentation and the application of funds in a thousand ways of which not a single instance would be tolerated under the conscientious scrutiny of our system. I need hardly remind your Lordships of the price we might have to pay in terms of the effect on our constitutional freedoms and democratic way of life if we were to attempt to compete with the Soviet Union in this way. As regards nailing the lie of hostile propaganda, I can assure your Lordships that close watch is kept on the utterances and writings of our enemies both by radio 868 monitoring and posts in the field, and that, where necessary, these lies are refuted by all the means available to us; and in this matter I am glad to say we enjoy the constant co-operation of our friends and Allies, notably the United States.
Finally, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government believe, along with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Manchester, that the best possible answer to Soviet propaganda is the constant and steadfast dissemination of the truth about Communist policies and pretensions, rather than in slanging matches. In that I am glad to say the noble Lord, Lord Ebury, in an imaginative maiden speech, agrees with me. I hope that we shall hear him more often. It is to this end, rather than to ingenious methods of so-called psychological warfare, that the efforts of the official information services are directed. We may be limited by resources and by the inevitable restraints imposed by our democratic way of life, but we have ample evidence that, in the Ion run, the flow of factual, objective information, not only from British sources but from those also of our Allies and associates in the free world, has been and continues to be one of the main factors in containing the spread of Soviet imperialism throughout the world.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, before the noble Earl concludes, could he say anything in regard to the status of the head of the British Information Services in Washington?
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, I regret that I cannot give the noble Lord an answer now, but I will write to him.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships would not wish me to prolong this debate. We have, I think, had an extremely useful opportunity to draw attention to the extreme importance of the Overseas Information Services, and I should like to thank the noble Earl the Leader of the House for the fullness of his statement. It is obvious that he is extremely aware of their importance, and I trust that he will bring his wisdom to bear on Her Majesty's Government to loosen the purse-strings of the Treasury.
869 I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ebury, on his maiden speech. I had the honour and the pleasure of knowing his father extremely well. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood for putting down his Motion in conjunction with mine, because it has so much enriched this debate. I was rather shocked, I confess, to hear my noble friend Lord Aberdare say that I wished to take away some of the independence of the B.B.C. Nothing was further from my mind. All I was trying to ask was, if we are broadcasting to countries behind the Iron Curtain is, for instance, the recital of the truth of events sufficient? For instance, are we going to tell them about the Red flag flying over St. Pancras? Is that going to cheer them up? I should have thought it would have done exactly the reverse.
I must also thank the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, for his extremely full statement, and I apologise if I quoted out of context the passage in the Drogheda Report—I certainly had no intention of so doing. We have had an extremely useful debate, and I should like to conclude by paying a tribute to all those men and women in the B.B.C., and throughout the whole world, in all the information services, who work so hard, often under extremely hard conditions, to put Britain's case. I must also thank all those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, the majority of them with very much greater experience in this subject than I have. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, as there is a Motion in my name on the Paper, I should like, with the indulgence of the House, to say one or two words of comment, although of course I do not intend to move my Motion. The noble Earl, 870 the Leader of the House, referred sympathetically to my proposal for a Departmental Committee, and therefore I hope that although the noble Earl who wound up did not mention it specifically, that proposal will be borne in mind by Her Majesty's Government.
As to the question of reciprocity, it seems to me to hang entirely on our definition of the word which is one it is indeed extremely difficult to define. I of course, never had in mind, in speaking of reciprocity, that any restrictions whatsoever should be put on British citizens, as the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, seemed to think. British citizens should be allowed to travel as much as they possibly can to countries behind the Iron Curtain. It is only when the Soviet Union imposes restrictions on their own visitors that the question of reciprocity arises. As to helping our friends, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, that nothing should be sacrificed in any respect in putting across the British message to old friends. I thank the House for the indulgence they have given me in allowing me to say these few words.