[9TH ALLOTTED DAY]
Civil Estimates And Estimates For Revenue Departments, 1952–53
Order for Committee read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—[ Mr. Buchan-Hepburn.]
I beg to move, to leave out from "that" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
I move this Amendment because, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to the House on 29th January and announced that there were to be substantial cuts on expenditure on the Information Services, both at home and abroad, there has been considerable pressure on the Government from both sides of the House to restore the cuts. It was realised that if they proceeded with the cuts it would no longer be possible to maintain the essential information and broadcasting services which are so important to project Britain's point of view both at home and overseas. The danger is that the United Kingdom today is lagging behind in the propaganda battle, that the British case is not fully made overseas and that, as a consequence, our case is in danger of going by default. From this side of the House, we are, of course, not opposed to economies in the Information Services where they can be made without having a harmful effect on the fulfilment of their objectives. In fact, while we were the Government we made a series of cuts in successive years which resulted in a considerable saving. Since those cuts were made, however, costs have risen very substantially, and we consider that rock bottom has now been reached and that no further reduction in expenditure can take place without essential services being sacrificed. This question must be looked at from the point of view of defence. Admittedly, all expenditure on the Information Services is not a matter of the defence programme or a matter of propaganda in the general sense of the word, but a very considerable part of the expenditure on the Information Services and the broadcasting services overseas is related to the cold war and to our defence effort. The propaganda offensive of every major country has been stepped up in recent years, has been intensified, but at the same time, the effort of this country has been diminished, and we are in danger of being driven out by the louder voices, not only of the U.S.S.R. and her satellites but also of the United States of America. We are engaged today in spending a very large sum indeed on our defence effort. We have embarked upon a programme costing £4,700,000, and this year the net expenditure is estimated to be £1,377 million. That is an increase over last year of £245 million. If we are able to increase our defence expenditure by that amount, surely it is not impossible for us to maintain our expenditure on the Information Services. It is unnecessary and unjustifiable to cut that expenditure by £1.2 million, as intended. The cut is £700,000 for the home services and £500,000 for the overseas services. For my part, I do not propose to deal with our home Information Services this afternoon, for my hon. Friends will deal with that. My main purpose is to draw attention to the reductions which are taking place in the B.B.C. Overseas Service, the British Council, the Foreign Office Information Service and the like. The main purpose of our defence programme is to be in a position to defend ourselves if attacked but, above all, to deter aggression. How it is possible for us to be in a position to deter aggression if our policy is not sufficiently understood abroad and if our case is not adequately put forward? If we base our defence programme purely on the military aspect for the purpose of deterring aggression, then we may as well decide that war is inevitable and that our case will go by default. It is essential that we should be in a position to put forward our case, to explain our policy and to destroy the case which is put forward by those who are opposed to us. I consider that the £9 million which we spent on the Information Services last year was the minimum which is necessary if we are to maintain the essential services. With rising costs and with the reduction of over £1 million, for the first time some of the activities will have to be eliminated altogether. Up to the present it has been possible to make economies by reducing some of the activities, but now some of the functions previously undertaken by the Information Services and certain of the broadcasting services directed overseas by the B.B.C. will have to be cut out entirely. The monetary cuts which we have been told are to take place refer to the British Council and to the other overseas information services. The B.B.C. itself retains the £4¾ million grant-in-aid which they received last year but, because of the rising costs, it will be quite impossible for the B.B.C. to maintain their services. The reduction and the rising costs mean that they are unable to maintain those services which they have been able to continue up to now. In view of the small proportion of the expenditure on Information Services in the total defence budget, I ask the Government to reconsider the cut which they are making. It could quite easily have been avoided. Surely it would not make any real difference to our financial effort today if this £1.2 million were restored, or at least a portion of it, so as to maintain those services the elimination of which will harm us. We heard only this week that the final out-turn of last year's Budget is such that the surplus is larger than was anticipated. Surely, in view of that, this very important expenditure could now be undertaken. I would remind hon. Members opposite that when we proposed to make cuts in this service a year ago, they came to the House and chided us, when we were replying to Parliamentary Questions, about the unwisdom of reducing expenditure, particularly on the B.B.C. overseas services. I remember standing at that Dispatch Box and answering a number of supplementary questions put by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Foreign Secretary, and I recall that when my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary was announcing the reduction in B.B.C. expenditure he told my right hon. Friend to take this expenditure more seriously because it was more important in some respects than armament expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman said:"in view of the increasing use of propaganda as a weapon of the cold war, with the consequent threat to the full appreciation of British objectives and democratic way of life, this House urges Her Majesty's Government to reconsider the reductions made in the provision for the Government information services, films and broadcasting, and, in particular, to enable the British Broadcasting Corporation overseas services to be fully maintained and all available effective measures to be taken to counter the jamming of its transmissions."
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman recalls that, and I am confident that he has not changed his mind. The right hon. Gentleman added:"Is he aware that some of us believe that this is more important in certain respects than re-armament expenditure?"
I should like to know why, when the Foreign Secretary went to the Foreign Office, he too found it necessary to put on Treasury spectacles. Will he not break away from the degrading influence of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Will he not discard these Treasury spectacles? Or is that asking too much? Does this signify some shift in the Tory hierarchy of which we on this side of the House are not aware? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he repents at this late hour, he will certainly have the full support of hon. Members on this side of the House and of a large number of hon. Members on the other side as well. He will have support from us in pressing the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter and reminding the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a year ago he himself was taking a very different view from that which he takes today. When I was replying to Questions the present Chancellor said to me:"… those of us who had to do with propaganda in the war feel very keenly about this. Now that the right hon. Gentleman is in the Foreign Office will he look at this through the Foreign Office spectacles as well as Treasury spectacles?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1951; Vol. 486, c. 183.]
He went on to say, in a further supplementary:"Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this arm of broadcasting is one of the most vital that we can use in our general defence arrangements?"
Those are the words used by the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Why have they changed? Why are Chancellors and Foreign Secretaries so fickle? I think that one of the reasons there has been this change of front on the other side of the House is the fact that there is no Minister responsible for the Information Services as a whole. This Government, which is so fond of appointing co-ordinating Ministers in another place, has not appointed a co-ordinating Minister for those very services where such a Minister is most needed. As far as I can make out, the home services are largely the responsibility of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, whereas each Government Department is responsible for its own information service, and the Post Office and the Foreign Secretary share the responsibility for the B.B.C. It seems that the Treasury is exercising its influence, and I wonder on what basis the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, if he be responsible, has decided on the cuts and where they should be made. So far as one can make out, this action has been rather indiscriminating and without logic or wisdom. It is essential that there should be one Minister of Cabinet rank responsible for all the information services, both at home and abroad, as was the case in the last Government when different Ministers at different times were responsible. But it should not be the Lord President of the Council. We do not want Lord Woolton as the co-ordinating Minister, because although he is a pastmaster at selling attractive lines, he does not deliver the goods. False propaganda, as well as broken pledges, boomerang on to their disseminators. These cuts have gone too far. They are niggling, mean, and imprudent. But they are also harmful. They are harmful to British influence and prestige abroad. They are harmful for at least three reasons; first, because Britain at the present time is handicapped in making that special and valuable contribution which her institutions qualify her to make. That is to say, in the realm of political and social ideas this country has a considerable contribution to make, and it is unable to put those ideas across adequately at the present time, particularly in those areas where it would be most helpful. The second reason why these cuts are harmful is that if our policies are not fully understood abroad it makes their fulfilment less probable; it results in a decline in our influence, and it makes the burden which we carry at international conferences far more difficult, and that is particularly the case at the United Nations. The third reason why the cuts are harmful is that they make difficult that adequate and intelligent presentation of the positive case which alone can successfully counter the genuine appeal of Communism. It is necessary to put up against the appeal of Communism a positive alternative, and unless we have adequate propaganda and information services, it becomes increasingly difficult for that to be done. It is certainly not enough merely to be anti-Communist. There has to be some alternative offered. Britain's political, social and Parliamentary system offers an alternative to the attractions of Communism on the one hand, and to the fears of Capitalism which have been harboured since pre-war days on the other hand. I would add that the record of this country since 1945 in building up the egalitarian Welfare State has set an example overseas, and particularly in Western Europe, which has brought faith in the future and encouragement in the belief that there are alternatives to Communism or Capitalism, and we have set an example which has been of great assistance in stemming the spread of Communism throughout Europe. The success of the parliamentary and democratic system of this country and our industrial recovery since 1945 constitute a considerable factor in deterring Communism. I warn the present Government that if they pursue a policy which undermines the success of the Welfare State through attacking the social services, or which undermines our industrial success through bringing about unemployment, or in any way diminishes the value of the example which we are setting to Europe and elsewhere today, then they will be doing a disservice to this country."If he is to spend money on re-armament, he cannot spend it in any better way than in improving the Foreign Service of the B.B.C."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st February, 1951; Vol. 484, c. 1269.]
I have been listening with great attention to the hon. Gentleman, and, except in the last few phrases, he has, I think, been describing these purposes in quite admirable terms, but I cannot make out from his speech whether he is trying to tell the House that that ideal is not being effected in a proper way over the radio and through the publicity for which the Foreign Office is responsible. Is there a defect? Are we not getting this message—which, I agree, is very important—over to, say, the Italians?
If the noble Lord will bear with me he will find that later I shall be giving details to show how an increase in our services is essential if we are to succeed in getting our influence across.The Prime Minister has frequently stressed in the House the desire that this country should follow an independent policy in foreign affairs, and that view has been expressed on both sides of the House. It is shared on all sides. I recall that the Prime Minister, in a broadcast on 22nd December, said:
I suggest that that cannot be done unless there are adequate means for making that policy known and understood, and for winning adherents to it—winning support for it. Britain has an independent point of view and, granted the rightness of her policy, I contend that she can speak with the authority of experience backed by tradition, and that she can act with responsibilty, and exercise an influence for restraint in this impetuous, unstable and insecure world. That is to say, Britain is in a position to give moral and political leadership, and to influence events for the better. But in a world which is conditioned by the Press, by the cinema, by the radio, by television, with their millions of readers, listeners and viewers, with their mass audiences, unless those media are used, and used effectively and used sufficiently, we are not able to influence public opinion in the way that it is essential to do if this independent policy of Britain is to be understood and effectively carried out. I would add that it is essential that our propaganda should be positive propaganda. There are limits to what one can achieve through information services and through the dissemination of news and views, and certainly one cannot thereby change the expanionist policy of Russian Communism; but it may well influence the measure of support which that Communism receives, and it may assist in creating a better understanding of the true policy of the West, and in dissipating the erroneous views that are shared concerning it in so many quarters. The appeal of Communism is very great indeed and should not be minimised. It must be accepted that the attitudes of Russian Communism, such as the belief that the West is planning an aggressive war, are genuinely held by millions of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and it is only through an intelligent use of propaganda that the genuine appeal of Communism can be answered. Doubts can be sown in the minds of those who hold those beliefs, and the false premises on which Russian Communism makes its appeal can be exposed. That attack cannot be only a negative attack. It is not enough to attack Communism as such. What we have to do is to put forward the constructive, peaceful policy of the West, and to show that there is that alternative to Communism and that it can provide a fuller and better way of life. At present I fear that it is difficult to follow adequately the lines which I have been endeavouring to put forward. In these conditions—the conditions in which we live today—it is necessary that the propaganda services should not be hamstrung, and that this arm of our defence programme, which it partly is, should not be restricted. The effect of the decision of the Government to maintain the B.B.C. grant-in-aid this year at only £4,750,000 is such that a certain number of services will be seriously curtailed. The saving in the amount of money which would be involved in maintaining those services would be very small compared with the total amount we are spending on defence today. In fact, it has been estimated that the additional costs of the B.B.C., after making certain economies, to maintain those services at the same level as last year would be only £365,000, that is to say, 7 per cent. of the present grant-in-aid. With that small addition to the grant, the cuts which the B.B.C. have been compelled to make on those services could have been avoided; and surely, in view of our defence programme of £1,400 million, the sum of £365,000 should be found to maintain those B.B.C. services. What do these cuts amount to? It means that there has taken place as from 1st April a fall in the average programme hours per day in the external services of the B.B.C. from 92 last year to 77. There has been a fall of 15 hours per day in the B.B.C. output. In 1950, I would point out, the total hours were 92½, and although we made certain economies, some of which were restored in the case of the B.B.C., it was possible last year, in spite of rising costs, to maintain the same output through 1951. But the failure to increase the grant this year has meant that a very substantial cut in the average output has to take place."We shall do our utmost to preserve the British Commonwealth and Empire as an independent factor in world affairs."
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is by any means giving the whole picture On 1st January, 1947, the total output of the overseas services in hours per week was 714. While the hon. Gentleman was at the Foreign Office most of the time, they were reduced by the last Government to 565 hours per week. There was a steady reduction month by month and year by year from 1st January, 1947. It would be fair to the House to give the whole picture.
I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman is following my argument, that we had reduced the programmes in 1950–51 to the basic minimum considered essential for the fulfilling of the objectives of our propaganda services. If Europe is taken separately, there has been a reduction there of 32 hours in the basic programmes per week—out of a total of 246. This reduction of 32 out of 246 is considerable, and might have been avoided if the Treasury had granted £68,000. Simply for the saving of so small a sum as £68,000, 32 hours of broadcasts to Europe have been cut out per week.That seems mean and petty and completely unnecessary. The news bulletins, as a consequence, have been cut from 76 to 61 in 24 hours—15 news bulletins a day; and, after all, the news—straightforward news; honest, accurate news—on which the B.B.C. prides itself, and on which it has built its reputation, is by far and away the best form of propaganda over the transmitters of the B.B.C. I do not want to go into greater detail on the cuts which have taken place in the European services, but it is most regrettable that such substantial services as the lunch-time broadcasts and breakfast-time broadcasts have had to be eliminated altogether, that the services to Belgium and Luxembourg have been cut out completely, and that the services in a large number of foreign languages have had to be reduced. The net result of this is that the broadcasting picture in Europe, particularly in Central Europe, has changed completely; whereas a year or so ago if one twisted a knob and switched on the radio one could pick up a B.B.C. transmission, today the picture is different. Today, it is invariably a transmitter from Moscow or from one of the satellite countries which is received; one tunes in immediately to the voice of Moscow or the voice of a Moscow satellite.
Could the hon. Gentleman explain how he himself would overcome that? Surely the wavelengths available to this country are extremely limited in the medium wave-band, and the fact that powers are getting stronger and stronger makes it very much more difficult to make our voice heard when wavelengths are not available and are not free.
I should have thought that was the very argument for making full use of the wavelengths which are available to us. The tragedy today is that we are not making full use of the few wavelengths which are left. I was about to say that under the Copenhagen Plan, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we lost certain wavelengths and our voice became dimmer in Europe as a consequence, particularly in Eastern Germany where it is so important that the voice of Britain should be heard.That being the case, it is very necessary that every advantage should be taken of the wavelengths we have and that our transmitters should be used to the maximum possible extent. At the same time as we are making these reductions in the B.B.C. overseas services, the U.S.S.R., regrettably, is stepping up its broadcasts very substantially. Today, in Europe, as far as figures are available, it appears that the B.B.C. is broadcasting to Europe only some 213 hours per week against 800 hours per week from the satellite countries. Certainly, Moscow and the satellite stations are on the air at least three times as much as the B.B.C. One of the difficulties which the B.B.C. is encountering is, of course, the jamming of its transmissions to Iron Curtain countries, and I welcome the announcement by the Foreign Secretary this afternoon that the anti-jamming costs are now to be borne by the Treasury. I welcome that particularly as it may well be that that decision has been taken, or that Treasury agreement has finally been granted, as a result of the pressure exerted in this House from both sides. I trust that it is a forerunner of further concessions which the Under-Secretary will announce in the speech he is shortly to make. The concessions which I seriously ask the Foreign Secretary to consider and to press upon the Treasury as being absolutely necessary if we are to maintain the minimum services required are these. First, there should be an increase in the grant-in-aid sufficient to restore the cuts in the services in the European and Latin-American services. That is the first request which I think it is reasonable for the House to make to the Foreign Secretary. I have referred to the cuts in Europe. Latin-America is suffering equally, and the elimination there of re-broadcasting over local stations and the cessation of the transcription service means that a very large number of hours of British radio time has been lost. The second request I make to the Foreign Secretary is that there should be an increase in the grant-in-aid for the Singapore station. In Singapore, the new station transmitter is the only capital expenditure entered into by the B.B.C. for its overseas services since the end of the war. It was a big venture and a successful one, but, unfortunately, owing to the shortage of funds, that transmitter is now operating for only one shift. With additional funds it could be operating round the clock and cover for a longer period Asia and the Far East—a very important and powerful area from our point of view, and one which is so susceptible to Communism today. With the expenditure of a comparatively small amount that transmitter, on which capital investment has been made, could serve to better advantage that large and important area. The third request which I make is that it should be determined what are the minimum essential propaganda information and broadcasting services. An assurance should then be given to the B.B.C. to the British Council and the other arms of the information services that those essential services would be maintained at all costs, so that they could undertake long-term planning and not be subject to this series of cuts which make for bad morale among the staff, and which make it so difficult to carry on the necessary services. It may well be that that would require the appointment of an inter-Departmental or other committee to review the situation and to make a report; but I do suggest that it should be seriously considered so that some assurance and some stability can be introduced into the information services. Fourth, I suggest that there should be appointed a Minister of Cabinet rank who would be divorced from the Treasury, and who would be responsible for these services. To carry out these suggestions would cost a very small sum indeed—a sum which can easily be afforded. To restore the European and Latin-American services would involve an expenditure of only some £180,000, and I suggest that that should be done. I consider this the minimum which the Government can do today. The voice of Britain may be quieter than that of some of its loudmouthed rivals on the Continent and elsewhere, but it is at least regarded as an authoritative voice, and as a responsible voice, and it should be heard. I fear that unless the Government repent of this false economy which they have made on the information and broadcasting services and restore these cuts in some measure, then British policies, British ideas and the British way of life will be inadequately interpreted abroad, and, as a consequence, our policies will be seriously misunderstood. That can have nothing but unfortunate results for the prestige and influence of Britain, and to the cause of democracy everywhere.
I beg to second the Amendment.I find a certain difficulty which did not confront my hon. Friend. He had the advantage of having the Foreign Secretary, the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, all actively concerned and interested in the foreign Information Services, to answer his points, while I merely have the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who we know is a very versatile and capable individual but who none the less cannot possibly hope to cover among his other activities the role of Minister of Information. Indeed, I am sure that the last thing he would like to be is Minister of Information. I think that the reason why he and so many of his hon. Friends dislike the idea of a Minister for information is that they have the feeeling that a Ministry of Information is something which is not really respectable. That it is something which exists perhaps under the title of Minister for Propaganda in totalitarian countries, and it is something which in our more respectable democracy we can do without. I hope to show in my remarks, which will be concerned mainly with home information matters, that this attitude on the part of the Government, which is an understandable one, is wrongly based and is today having an unfortunate effect which reduces the effectiveness of Government policy in a number of directions. My hon. Friend has given a number of examples of the serious nature and results of the cuts which have come about in the field of foreign information, overseas broadcasting, etc. Before I come on to home information, there is one point I should like to make in regard to a remark by the noble Lord the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke). He interrupted my hon. Friend to ask whether he thought the information was getting through. I remember the noble Lord, in a previous debate, pouring out complaints, in the most acidulated terms of which he is so capable, against the British Information Services in America. I am quite sure now that he, on mature reflection, and, indeed, the whole House, would like to pay tribute to the people who have been carrying out a very important work in the interests of British policy. I think that is true of the British Information Services, it is true of the people in the Foreign Office, and it is true of the people in the B.B.C. and in the whole range of Government Information Services. I hope that we will recognise that although there may have been a certain amount of "empire building" and money wasting—and, indeed, one of the purposes of the Government and of the examination which this House has to make from time to time is to cut out waste—nonetheless they have been doing a useful job in the interests of their country, and we ought to pay them that tribute. I should like to leave the question of foreign services, but, before doing so, I would say that it comes rather surprisingly from the Government, particularly from the party who so frequently complained of the Labour Government for dismantling the British Empire, that they should themselves be continuing this process apparently by dismantling British influence throughout the world. It is a fact that whereas the Roman legions may have departed or the British legions—but the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, East (Commander Pursey) is not here to discuss that—there is today one great field of opportunity for British influence and British democracy, and that is not through force but through the cultural and Information Services. Let me turn to the home side. There have been a number of complaints, as the Minister of Works, in a quite ridiculous party political broadcast the other night did in fact complain, that the late Government had not informed the nation of the hard facts that face them. If in fact the late Government failed to get across, as they tried repeatedly both in the House and through various official channels to get across, the nature of the problems that confronted us, it is surely an argument that today, when we are facing these difficult problems, we should not limit and reduce the opportunities that are open to the Government to get their point of view across on the problems that confront us. My first complaint about these cuts is that not only are they damaging but in their effect they do not really secure useful financial economies. The cuts of the kind that I am about to refer to are in fact more likely to lower the efficiency of Government and to make it more wasteful, merely because an essential part of the functions of government have been removed. On this, I should like to ask the Financial Secretary a question, and I have quite a number of other questions to which I should be grateful if, when he winds up the debate, he would give answers. First, we should like to know what parts of the Central Office of Information have been cut, and how much they have been cut both in terms of money and in the functions they are called upon to perform. One of the difficulties in a debate of this kind is that we do not have available in the Estimate this sort of information, so we should be grateful if we could have some exact information on this point. I wish to give an example of what, I would say, is a certain contradiction in the carrying out of Government policy which has sprung from their failure to appreciate and to appoint a co-ordinating Minister responsible for comprehending what the functions of the Information Services really are. First, I wish to refer to the recent debate that took place on the Navy Estimates. I realise that we are concerned with the Civil Estimates today but, nevertheless, we heard during that debate a good deal of talk, and, indeed, appeals by the Minister, for greater recruiting for naval aviation, and yet we find, despite that need, that cuts have been made in recruiting publicity and in the Services which are supplied to some extent to them in this respect by the Central Office of Information. It seems to me that that is an example of ambivalence in this matter which is characteristic of a good deal of the Government's policy. Another example is the Ministry of Fuel and Power. Recently, we had a debate on fuel economy, and great play was made then by Members on both sides of the House, and, indeed, by the Minister in a very able winding-up speech, of the importance of fuel economy and of getting the public and industry fully to understand these things. Yet we find in the Estimates of the Ministry of Fuel and Power a cut in the Information Services and of the use which they make of the C.O.I. This is one of the most vital problems facing the country today, and it is useless for us to press on with a scheme for fuel economy if, at the same time, we cut off some of the means by which that fuel economy can be obtained. Again, we find the same applies in Civil Defence. I have had a little difficulty, in looking through the Estimates of the Home Department, in finding out just how much money they had spent on what might be called information services. It appears that a cut has been made amounting to about £44,000—from £123,000 to £79,000. I realise that that cut does not necessarily fall on, and most of it may not deal with, the Civil Defence services, but I find it difficult to ascertain how it is made up. We heard the other day of the shortage of recruits for Civil Defence, and again it is a contradiction for the Government to be cutting the Information Services which are essential for carrying out the policy on which they and, I think, the whole of the country are agreed. There are a number of other cuts about which I should like some information from the Financial Secretary. A number of publications have presumably been cut, and I should like to know what the Government policy is with regard to publications of a kind which in fact sell for money. We have all seen on the bookstalls, and bought, Government publications, many of them C.O.I. publications, of a very high quality which have been marketed and which, for all I know, may have paid for the costs of production. We should like to know whether some of these self-financing publications have inadvertently been cut by this sweeping overall cut. I also wish to look at the question of cuts on the films side of the C.O.I. Some of my hon. Friends will, I hope, be dealing with this matter at greater length than I shall do. One of the greatest tragedies of these cuts has been the destruction of the Crown Film Unit, and hon. Members who know the reputation which the Crown Film Unit has built up as one of the leading documentary producers in the world will regard it as a tragedy that it should have been extinguished in this arbitrary fashion. I do not propose to deal with that point at length, but I should like to know why it is, as I understand it is, that the Central Office of Information have been required to dissolve mobile film projection units. I am told that they have been dissolved. I should like to know what has happened to the equipment, whether it will be on the market and whether it may have to be bought by other Governments to do for them, possibly less efficiently, the job which the Central Office of Information has been doing. If the Financial Secretary to the Treasury looks at some of the work that these units have done—many of the films have been of a technical nature and have been essential to agriculture, Civil Defence and a whole range of other activities—he will realise that this is a most serious step, and almost a disastrous step in the sense that it will have to be rectified. If it is not rectified by restoring the situation in the Central Office of Information, we shall find individual Government Departments in the course of years gradually building up their own units to do the work, and it will probably be done less efficiently. We should like to know how many projectors are available and how many the various Departments are likely to want. This is a serious matter which a co-ordinating Minister, someone with the time to think about the problem, should have in mind and should have considered before these cuts were made. I wished to refer to a number of other cuts but I do not want to speak for too long because other hon. Members have contributions to make. Nevertheless, we shall all agree that this is a problem of very real significance and it is highly desirable that we should look at it as objectively as we can. When I complain about the Government's performance in this matter, I do so because I think there is a great deal to complain about rather than because I have a desire to make party political capital. I say that quite sincerely. In the modern world this subject is something which we must examine and think over, and I hope this debate will help us to do so. Before I leave the subject of the cuts in the Information Services, I want to refer to the cuts in the Social Survey. Some of my hon. Friends are anxious to deal with this at very great length. The Information Services do not form purely a one-way traffic. It is not purely a question of informing the public of Government policy so that it can be more readily understood and more efficiently carried out. There is also a need for the Government to be informed about certain aspects of public opinion. The Social Survey was undoubtedly the finest thing of its kind in the country and possibly in the world, and it is a tragedy that it should have to be cut. The cut has been made blindly in the belief that we can make these economies in Information Services without any real examination of the specific functions of the Information Services. Then I should like to know what the policy will be with regard to publications produced by the Central Office of Information, such as "Target" and some publications which are distributed overseas, some of which are of very great importance indeed. I now want to make one or two small points in summing up what I have had to say. We shall all agree that Information Services are a field where there is a tendency for extravagance to break out and one in which it is necessary to look with very close attention to the possibilities for economy. We ought to look at the field selectively. The cuts which have been imposed are of the very worst kind, being blind and stupid. They are the kind which, I am sorry to say, the former Government was somewhat tempted to make, but we were able to prevent some of the worst effects which would have resulted if the cuts had been fully carried out. Information Services are a function of government. It is of the greatest importance that that should be fully recognised and that the fears and prejudices against Information Services which were so frequently voiced by certain—only certain—hon. Members of the Conservative Party when they were in Opposition should be set against the undoubted fact that we must have Information Services. I do not have quite the horror that my hon. Friend had at the thought of Lord Woolton being made responsible for Information Services. It is a job which has to be done by a senior Minister, as it was very efficiently done by the former Lord President of the Council. I should have thought we had sufficient confidence in our own democratic ways to believe that this could be carried out without a political party obtaining undue political advantage through its control over the Government information machinery. If there should be such a danger, the House of Commons exists as a watchdog in this as in any other field. If there are clear cases of abuse, it is open for the matter to be raised in the House of Commons. In that connection, I want to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether it was on the advice of his right hon. Friend that five Conservative hon. Members broadcast or are broadcasting in successive weeks on "Britain's place in the world." There may be a good reason for it, but I should like to know what his right hon. Friend's advice was. Though the Government of the day are undoubtedly entitled to speak for the people of this country, nonetheless there are others who may not share their views on a number of matters; and if we were to have a series of impartial broadcasts of that kind it would have been as well if some other speakers from the Opposition and other walks of life had taken part. I only mention this point to show that the House of Commons is competent to act as a watchdog in this matter and that it will be perfectly feasible for Information Services to be developed properly as an extension of and as an essential part of the particular functions of a Government Department or the Government as a whole without our going the way of the totalitarian states and falling into propaganda. This is a matter to which a good deal more thought has to be given. It is a matter in respect of which at some time or other an impartial inquiry—perhaps a Royal Commission or perhaps something less cumbersome—should be set up in order to examine and try to establish principles. Meanwhile, these cuts have ben made blindly, and they will have consequences which are really unfortunate for this country. Therefore, I ask the Government to consider the whole matter again, to give consideration to the long-term problem, possibly by setting up an inquiry, to give immediate consideration to the restoration of what has been done by some of these cuts, and to enabling the functions of Government to be carried out more efficiently.
I think it would be for the convenience of the House if I were to intervene now and deal with the question of the Overseas Information Services, which was raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), and leave to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in winding-up the debate, to reply upon the Home Information Services and the purely financial issues that will no doubt be mentioned during the debate and have already been stressed by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton).The hon. Member for Enfield, East, is well qualified to speak on this subject, since when he held the post of Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs I understand that he, like myself, was charged with special responsibilities for the Overseas Information Services. In that capacity he, too, found himself in the unenviable position of having to make economies in those services in order to meet rising costs and to save Government expenditure. However else he and I may differ on the need for these cuts and the damage which they may or may not inflict upon our ability to present our policy abroad, we have this much of a bond in common. There can be few, if any, Members in this House who do not regret the cuts that have been made in our Information Services, whether they were made by the late Government or by Her Majesty's present administration. Everyone agrees that it is essential to present our policy and point of view adequately overseas by every available and practical method. Everyone agrees that, other factors permitting, we should certainly maintain, and perhaps even increase, the scale of our activities in this field. As the hon. Member for Enfield, East, said, we must put forward our positive alternative to Communism. Everyone in this House believes that Britain must play a leading role in winning what has been called the "Battle for men's minds." Unhappily there are other factors which have to be taken into account which must severely limit our activities in this as in many other fields. After all that has been said by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the economic and financial state of the nation, there is no need for me to remind the House that one of the first essential tasks of this Government has inevitably been to reduce their expenditure. Had drastic measures to this end not been taken and taken immediately, we should shortly have been approaching insolvency. To those who suggest that the savings we have made on Information Services are a false economy, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Preston, South, may I say that all the information services in the world would not help us much if we are, in fact, in an insolvent position? It is a hard and inescapable fact that the best advertisement Britain can have today, the best propaganda she can do for herself, is to show, as I believe we are doing, that she is determined to live within her means and to pay her own way in the world, however hard the sacrifices may be which she has to make in order to achieve that aim. That is the picture which we are presenting to the world today, and it is both understood and appreciated even by those who may hear and read slightly less of Britain's policy and point of view as a result. May I deal further with this argument about false economy? Perhaps, I should remind the House that the present Government took office at the end of last October at a time when, as is well known, the Estimates are in preparation. Faced with the desperate need for economy, to which I have already referred, it was essential to take quick action. All Departments were therefore asked to assist in making these economies. It is very easy for the hon. Gentleman to say, "After all, the three Service Estimates have gone up by well over £200 million. Surely you could find that £1.2 million for your Government Information Services at home and overseas." But that argument could apply to every service and every Government Department. We took the view that the Information Services of the Government must be in all fairness included in this purview. This is not to say, as was suggested by both the hon. Member for Enfield, East and the hon. Member for Preston, South, that this or any other group of services were subjected to a blind flat-rate cut without any consideration of their value or of the effect which the economies would have upon their usefulness or that the cuts made were chosen blindly or with the sole purpose of adding up to a particular figure.
Could the hon. Gentleman say whether the figure was fixed blindly? I quite agree that once a figure is fixed a choice can be made, but was the figure in this case fixed blindly?
No, the figures for all economies in all Departments were very carefully gone into and arrived at after much consideration of the cuts which were imposed. This figure was fixed for the Government Information Services after very careful scrutiny, as I hope to persuade the right hon. Gentleman in the course of my remarks.The facts and the figures show that great care was taken, despite the short time available for reaching decisions, to apply the cuts selectively and in such a way as to cause a minimum of change. It was, for instance, decided that of the two sides of the Information Services, the overseas side should suffer, both in percentage of the total and in the actual amount a much smaller cut. Thus the Home Information Services suffered a cut of approximately £700,000 on a total budget of some £3½ million, and the Overseas Services suffered a cut of £500,000 on a budget of over £10 million. That is what I call a highly selective cut. What is more, the cuts were still more selectively applied within the overseas field. The B.B.C. Overseas Service got off scot-free, and the remaining services, such as the British Council, the Foreign Office Information Services, and the Information Departments of the Commonwealth Relations Office, the Colonial Office and the Board of Trade, shared the cut between them. Thus home information has been cut by 20 per cent.; overseas information, less the B.B.C., by around 10 per cent.; and the B.B.C. not at all.
Will the hon. Gentleman give us these figures in terms also of the rising costs of these services so that we can get an idea of what is the real cut in these services apart from the financial ones?
I think I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman in the course of my remarks if he will let me deal with my argument as I have it here.Before I deal with the precise effect of these cuts, perhaps I should remind the House that the economies we have made are in no way an innovation. It was really a little disingenuous of the hon. Member for Enfield, East, to say that we had somehow or another, by some curious chance, reached the basic minimum at the moment at which he left the Foreign Office. In fact, as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, year by year since the end of the war the amount of these services has been progressively reduced. In 1947, after the Ministry of Information had been abolished, Parliament voted £12.9 million for overseas information work. This figure has been steadily reduced since 1948 by between £400,000 and £800,000 a year. In 1948–49 it was £11.62 million; in 1949–50, £11.21 million; in 1950–51, £10.82 million; and in 1951–52, £10.28 million. It will be seen that it was going down all the time. That was the figure which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend left us, and in the coming year it will be £9.78 million. Thus it will be seen that successive Governments have in all lopped £3.2 million in five years off the overseas information budget. It will also be seen, if the hon. Gentleman studies the figures, that in the measures we have been forced to take we have followed our predecessors both in regard to the principle of making yearly economies, and in regard to the amount by which we have cut these services, which is £500,000. No one can accuse us of adding an undue quota.
I did not quite follow the hon. Gentleman, but is he now committing himself to a policy of annual cuts as a matter of principle? I may have misheard what he said.
I am not committing myself to any future cuts in these services. All I am saying, however unpalatable the reminder may be to the right hon. Gentleman, is that when he and his Friends were in office they cut these services progressively year by year, and that we have merely followed in the principle of cutting these services. What is more, we have cut them by precisely the same amount as they were cut before.
I know that the hon. Gentleman wants to be quite fair but, as far as the B.B.C. is concerned, he must admit that last year no cuts were made in the overseas services, and in fact the grant-in-aid was slightly increased when we found that the proposed cut would cause a reduction in the services. This year the services will have to be cut because of the rise in prices.
I will deal with the B.B.C. point when I come to it. I was dealing with the general overseas information budget, which has been progressively cut year by year by the hon. Gentleman and his Friends. I am making no complaint about this; I am simply stating the fact.Let me turn to the actual facts of these economies and answer some of the accusations made about the damage that they will inflict. Let me first deal with the B.B.C., to which the hon. Gentleman referred just now. Let me remind the House of the performance of the late Government in this matter. In 1949–50, the B.B.C.'s grant-in-aid was £4.45 million. In 1950–51, it was £4.68 million. In 1951–52, it was £4.75 million. It will be seen that the grant-in-aid rose slightly each year. The hon. Gentleman will agree that however much it may have risen under his administration it was never enough to cover the B.B.C. against rising costs, and therefore never enough to maintain the full programme and the full broadcasting service that the B.B.C. had indulged in in the years before. The House heard this afternoon with some evident relief the announcement that the B.B.C.'s anti-jamming programme will be carried out and will not be financed at the expense of existing services. This meets the most important of the requests in the hon. Gentleman's Motion. Let me state the position of the present Government. Far from having cut down the B.B.C.'s estimate, as the hon. Gentleman has said, we are in fact allowing the B.B.C. an increase to the extent that may be essential to deal with the jamming they are encountering. However, this decision does not mean that the economies which the B.B.C. have already announced that they will be forced to make by reason of rising costs in order to keep within last year's grant-in-aid can be cancelled. On that score I cannot satisfy the hon. Gentleman. For the B.B.C. to maintain in full last year's level of broadcasting, together with their projected programme of capital expenditure, would involve an increase in the grant-in-aid of well over £400,000. In other words, it would cancel the overwhelming majority of the economies which have been achieved in those information departments whose Votes have been reduced.
How does the hon. Gentleman adjust that statement to the reply he gave to a Parliamentary Question in which he showed that the restoration of the European Services which are to be cut would cost actually £68,000 and the Latin-American Services £108,000.
It is not only for me to square those figures with any previous figure I have given. It is for the hon. Gentleman, who himself in the course of his speech gave the figure of £365,000 to keep the B.B.C. in full production on last year's level of broadcasting.
Including other costs.
The figure covers everything. I am dealing with overheads as well for the B.B.C. For them to maintain last year's level would require a further £400,000 over and above last year's grant-in-aid.Some of the economies which have been effected by the B.B.C. are already known to the House through the announcements made by the B.B.C. and the answers given to recent Questions. It may be convenient if I give a summary of them as a whole. In terms of figures, broadcasts to Europe have been reduced from 246 to 214 basic programme hours, and from 1,116 to 977 transmitter hours, that is to say the total hours of broadcasting, including relays and repetitions of broadcasts. These are, of course, weekly figures. The hon. Gentleman did not give a completely fair picture, and in particular he was wrong on a point of fact. He said that news bulletins to Europe had been cut from 76 to 61 per day. In point of fact the figures are from 76 to 71, which means a daily reduction of output of five bulletins and not of 15 bulletins, as stated by the hon. Gentleman. No reduction is being made in broadcasts to the Soviet Union or to the satellite countries. The only foreign language broadcasts which are being discontinued entirely are those to Luxembourg and Belgium, consisting respectively of one quarter hour per week for Luxembourg and half an hour per day for Belgium. The French and Dutch language services will continue to be available to listeners in Belgium. The foreign language services to Europe which have been curtailed—not discontinued entirely—are those in Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Norwegian and Portuguese. These curtailments have mainly taken the form of cancelling the early morning and mid-day transmissions. In addition to these reductions in output, our transmissions to Latin-America have been further substantially reduced, and the Latin-American programmes will not consist of anything more than news and news commentaries. The supply of recorded programmes to Latin-American broadcasting stations has also been discontinued. If we take the whole field of foreign broadcasting—and that is what the hon. Gentleman carefully did not take in forming his argument—there will be a reduction of only a little over 5 per cent. in what are called "channel hours," in which the available wavelengths are in use. In spite of the length of this list of economies I have read out, I do not think that the House will find the actual economies excessive.[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Above all, I must repeat that the money saved by reducing broadcasts is less than half the total money saved by the B.B.C. Most of the saving has been achieved by cutting overheads, such as in reductions of staff and office accommodation, and postponement of capital expenditure. I was asked a question by the hon. Gentleman about the Singapore transmitter. If I followed his argument aright, he would like that transmitter to indulge in a second shift. I regret to have to disappoint him on this point. To operate a second shift would add something like £100,000 a year to the B.B.C.'s running costs, and therefore it is not possible.
It is not much.
None of these economies is considered to be very much by the Opposition, I do ask the House to look at this question from a slightly broader angle. If none of these economies were made we should not be able to save any money in the course of the coming year. If I give the hon. Gentleman a few facts about this transmitter, I think he will consider that it has not been altogether idle.The British Far Eastern broadcasting service at Tebrau carries relays from the B.B.C. Far Eastern, Eastern and General Overseas services from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4.45 p.m. on Sundays. They get an extra quarter hour on Sundays. The languages in which the relays are carried are Chinese, English, French, Indonesian, Siamese, Burmese, Japanese, Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Bengali and Vietnamese. I do not think this transmitter can be considered exactly as silent. I was asked a question by the hon. Member for Preston, South, and perhaps I may deal with that before I leave the subject of the B.B.C. He asked me about Ministerial broadcasts on the European Service. He seemed to object to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and also my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, broadcast on the European Service. I find it difficult to line up that argument with the argument of the hon. Member for Enfield, East, who complained that we were using too little of the European Service and that the voice of Britain was not being heard enough. It is precisely because we wish the voice and the policy of Britain, and the positive alternative to Communism which the hon. Member wants to get across to Europe—it is precisely because we want to put that policy across that my right hon. Friends have undertaken these broadcasts.
I am sure the House will agree that the hon. Gentleman has grossly mis-interpreted what I said. What I asked was, first of all, whether these broadcasts had taken place or were taking place on the advice of the Foreign Secretary. I know that the Foreign Secretary is taking part in them and knows about them. Secondly, I asked whether it is reasonable for there to be five broadcasts in successive weeks by Ministers of the Government on "Britain's place in the world" without an opportunity for other people to speak. After all, this is a non-party, non-political matter. Is it reasonable that there should have been no opportunity for other people to express their views on "Britain's place in the world"? Such a thing never happened under the Labour Government.
It did not happen once under the Labour Government.
The hon. Gentleman should get his facts a little straighter. In the first place, these broadcasts were not instituted by my right hon. Friend or by the Government.
I never suggested that they were.
The hon. Gentleman asked me a fairly clear question and, if he will give me the opportunity, I will give him a fairly clear answer. That is what I am trying to do. These broadcasts were undertaken by my right hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend at the express wish and invitation of the B.B.C., and if the hon. Gentleman says nothing of this kind ever took place under the late Government, all I can say is that I have my right hon. Friend's word for it that when he was sitting for 6½ years in opposition he did not once broadcast on behalf of the B.B.C.
Nor did we.
Then the right hon. Gentleman should have done. In that case may I ask the right hon. Gentleman what his complaint is?
The complaint is that one political party out of two in this great country is monopolising the broadcasting.
We are speaking for the country for once, not for the party.
I think I can leave this argument at the point where my right hon. Friend has left it—that these broadcasts are undertaken on behalf of the country and the foreign policy of Britain, representing the views of all parties in the House—or we hope it represents all parties in the House—is being put across by my right hon. Friend.
There are no electors. The right hon. Gentleman need not worry.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that, on the basis of the extraordinary criticism which has been made, we should have been equally critical of the article which the right hon. Gentleman the former Foreign Secretary wrote for "Pravda"?
It was by invitation.
"Pravda" asked the right hon. Gentleman to write the article and we might, therefore, have made a legitimate complaint against the late Government on the basis of this argument, that they did not refuse the invitation of "Pravda" to write an article and suggest, instead, that my right hon. Friend the present Foreign Secretary should write it.The fact is that we cannot please the Opposition on this matter. In one minute they ask us to use more of the air in order to get British policy abroad and into Europe, and in the next minute, when we go on the air and put the Foreign Secretary on the air, they complain that the whole of the party opposite have not been invited to follow suit. May I turn from this stormy question about whether we ought to broadcast on the B.B.C. to the rather calmer issue of the British Council? There are one or two things upon this issue which I think I should say. The task of the British Council is to promote and facilitate those international exchanges in the cultural and strictly non-political spheres which we all agree and I hope we do all agree on this—are extremely desirable in the interest of peace and international understanding. This is something which no Department of Her Majesty's Government is equipped to do, and I should like to take this opportunity to place on record the Government's warm appreciation of the British Council's work.
Then why cut it so drastically?
The hon. Gentleman should go a little steady on this point because I have a very nasty figure for him in a minute. The work of the British Council is, however, long-term. It is, more than any other part of the overseas information services, directed to the young and to the future, and I feel a special regret in the contractions that have so often had to be imposed upon the work and upon the staff. For the year 1952–53 the Council's grant-in-aid has been set at about £2.43 million. This is a reduction of some £240,000 on the previous year's figure, but although that may seem steep, it is only 60 per cent.—a little over half—of the cut which was made by the then Government last year, when they imposed a cut of over £400,000 upon the British Council's services.
The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to previous cuts as an excuse for the present cuts. The theory is that because, admittedly to the discomfort of many here, the previous Government mis-handled the information services, therefore, this Government can slit the services' throat. What is the point of it? Is that a defence of the present Government? I do not see it at all?
I cannot indulge in an argument with the hon. Gentleman about whether the present Government have slit the throat of the information services. If he cannot judge for himself from the remarks I have made about the services which are left untampered with, suffering no cut at all, then he cannot have a very sound appreciation of what is the operation of slitting a throat.When rising costs are taken into account, this has obliged the British Council to make further substantial cuts, and perhaps the House will be interested to know where and how those cuts will fall. They have been achieved by reducing staff and local services throughout Europe; by making some further reductions in Latin America during the course of the year; and by closing 13 institutes and offices in Europe, Cyprus, India and Australia—but there will be no closing down altogether in any of these places. There have also been general reductions in all services in London and in their administrative over-heads and they have reduced their London staff by a further 10 per cent. I now come to the information services maintained by the Foreign Office themselves. Here, the reduction has been about £105,000, and to find this sum and to meet rising costs, we have taken the following steps. We have closed the Information Departments of Her Majesty's Missions in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, Peru, Colombia, and Panama. All possible arrangements are, however, being made to continue to supply news and information about this country in those countries. We are concentrating all our work in France in Paris, and we are reducing some of the work in the provinces in Italy. In addition, we are making economies by a large reduction of film work in most parts of Western Europe and we are suspending film work altogether in Latin America. The House will, no doubt, wish me to give some account also of the reductions that have been made by the information services run by the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office. The Colonial Office has achieved the required cuts by a general reduction in the amount of publicity material distributed in colonial territories and, in particular, by a reorganisation and reduction of the Press services. In the Commonwealth countries no United Kingdom Information office has been closed down as a result of the economies though there has been some reduction in staff. The decrease in publicity material produced by the Central Office of Information, has, of course, reduced the activities of the Information posts. Earlier in my speech I claimed that the cuts we have chosen to make in the field of overseas information represent a considered policy and have been applied in such a way as to maintain all essential services. The House will expect me to make good this claim. Taking the world as a whole it is clear, I think, that there are some respects in which no reduction of work would be acceptable. We are thus maintaining to the full our broadcasting to the Soviet Union and to the satellites. We are maintaining and, in some respects, expanding our information work in the Middle East and in South-East Asia and, in view of the need for the closest possible relations and understanding with the people of the United States, we have maintained and slightly improved the British information services in that country. But I repeat that in times of rising costs these decisions have to be paid for by reductions elsewhere. These increases have to be paid for by reductions in other fields. We have made these reductions in our work in Western Europe and Latin America. Western Europe, as I think all will agree, is one of the parts of the world where, owing to the high development of the normal means of communication between countries, we can rely upon agencies other than those of the Government to supply a full and balanced flow of information about us—so much so that it is arguable whether our information services can, in fact, add a great deal to this work without engaging in greatly increased expenditure. The reductions that have been made in respect of Latin America are no less regrettable, but here we have been careful not to cut to the point where the whole operation is no longer worth while. What I would emphasise, however, is that the reductions we have found ourselves obliged to make are not to be taken as evidence of diminished interest on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the affairs or welfare of any of the countries affected. On the contrary, we remain as anxious for the closest and friendliest relations with them all. I come now to the other aspect of this problem which was touched on by the hon. Member for Enfield, East. Turning from the negative and financial considerations, I want in conclusion to look for a moment at the other side of the medal. Each successive year the Overseas Information Services have been subjected to the over-riding requirements of finance. "What can we afford?" has been the standard by which they have been judged, rather than "How much is it politically essential we should do?" It is high time, in my view, that an inquiry was made into the political aspects of this field. We have, therefore, already taken steps to invite the Departments concerned, together with the B.B.C. and the British Council, to consider the whole range of our Overseas Information Services from the political and strategic aspects. The hon. Gentleman asked that we should do something of this kind, which only goes to show that, at any rate, Under-Secretaries' minds think alike. The hon. Gentleman also asked that a Cabinet Minister should be put in charge of this co-ordinating work. For the moment I ask him to be content with the Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. It is, at any rate, for the moment, much cheaper.
But the Under-Secretary's responsibility does not cover the home service.
This inquiry is not going to cover the home service; it is going to cover the overseas service.Let me sum up. All sides of the House are agreed that it is of first importance that British policy and the British viewpoint should be adequately presented overseas. Despite the cuts which have been imposed by a combination of the need for economy in State expenditure and of a continued rise in costs, we have, I believe, maintained all essential services in the field of overseas information. Although in output we cannot rival, as the hon. Gentleman said, the United States or the Soviet Union, our information service is still the third largest organisation of its kind in the world, and, which I claim is every bit as important, the quality of its work is second to none. We have a good story to tell abroad, and I believe we have the right people to tell it. As we progress towards solvency, as we regain our strength, we shall tell it with increasing conviction and effect.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), I want to direct most of my remarks to the Financial Secretary, but I should like, first of all, to follow the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in what he said when he objected to the phrase "a blind flat cut." He told us that these cuts had been subjected to very careful scrutiny both as to total and as to kind.I am hoping today to convince the House that the subject on which I want to speak was certainly not the result of a careful scrutiny. Being optimistic, I hope to get the Financial Secretary on my side, and even more the Chancellor, because if we are approaching a state of insolvency and I can prove to the hon. Gentleman that his cuts, far from reducing expenditure will promote more expenditure on the part of the Government, then I hope that I shall have won the day. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who moved this Amendment, spoke of the cuts—I took down his words—as being niggling, mean, imprudent and harmful. To these I would add the nice non-party point that they will also mean an additional increase in expenditure on the part of the Government. I want to deal with the Home Information Services, and I want to deal with one particular aspect, namely, the Social Survey. As I am making these remarks in a non-party sense, I hope that the Financial Secretary, when he winds up, will be able to agree that I am right in what I am about to say. If one is going to point out to the Government of the day cuts which they are making or have made, it is obviously advisable that one should first of all mention cuts made by one's own party; otherwise that duty will be done by interruption or by the hon. Gentleman when he winds up. I understand that last year the cuts in the Social Survey meant a reduction from a total of £130,000 to £120,000—in other words, a reduction of about £10,000. I am informed that those cuts meant an actual reduction in the field of work which was covered by the Social Survey, but not a reduction in staff—and that is a very important point. There is no need to labour to hon. Members the fact that in the work of the Social Survey the staff are particularly important—and outside staff at that. Coming to the cuts which this Government are proposing, I do not know that I can answer the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South, as to what the actual details were; but I should like to ask the Financial Secretary if he can tell me whether I am right in saying that the cuts in the Social Survey, as proposed now, are roughly from £121,000 to £110,000—in other words, a reduction of about £11,000? If those figures are correct, on money alone the cuts are more severe than the cuts which were made by my right hon. Friend the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer. Apart from the actual increase in the cuts, financially, I am quite sure the Financial Secretary will agree that they are even worse than that because this January there was a 10 per cent. increase in the salaries of the Civil Service staff. I hope that the Financial Secretary will note this. The Social Survey is faced today, I understand, not only with a reduction in the type of work it does, or in the field of work it covers, but with a reduction in its actual staff complement from 100 to 80. That is a very considerable reduction. I hope that, when he replies, the Financial Secretary will tell us, first, if that figure is correct, and, second—if correct, whether, after the very careful scrutiny which the Government have made, he really believes that the work of the Social Survey can be carried out with that reduction. Coming to the types of work that the Social Survey has done, in this House on 11th March last the Financial Secretary gave a very lengthy reply as a written answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu). Needless to say, I do not propose to weary the House with that very lengthy reply. However, I should like to show the variety by listing five types of work undertaken by the Social Survey in the past two years. One was the subject of older people's diets. That was to investigate the nutrition of older people and, by reference to other inquiries, to show the association of diet and health amongst old people. Another I noted—as I tried to get a wide variety—was the recruitment for Civil Defence. Later. I will come back to that point. Another subject, which is very important in view of employment conditions in this country at present, was that of the employment of elderly people. Hon. Members in all quarters of the House have been very concerned about the possibiliy of older people being retained in employment. To go wider still, another subject was that of colonial affairs—to investigate the public knowledge of colonial affairs. I do not know whether the result was pleasing or displeasing, but at least I expect that it was helpful. The last subject I shall mention was a survey of sickness, which was very important because of the statistical studies, which showed the incidence of ill-health and injuries as well as the use made of medical service. I have taken these examples merely to show, not to this House, but to some people outside who may not be aware of it, the wide type of work done by the Social Survey. Here I am on even surer ground than my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the Amendment because I propose to tell the Financial Secretary of two examples, which I think he will accept, by which the Government—not his Government—were saved money by the work of the Social Survey in the past. The point I want to put forward is that the present cuts imposed on the Social Survey are difficult to justify because its work in the past has saved the Government substantial sums of money. If I am right in saying that the cuts this year will amount to £10,000 in the work of the Social Survey, I should like the Financial Secretary to note what the Government were saved in these two examples. About four years ago the Social Survey carried out an inquiry, which I have called "The medals survey." At that time there were approximately 7 million people who, if they wished to claim, had a right between them to about 20 million medals. The question arose as to how many of those 7 million would claim medals. The Social Survey was asked to undertake an inquiry, and did so. It estimated that about 35 per cent. of the people entitled to make claims would do so. It was very reliable, quite as reliable as the Gallup Polls, because the number who did claim amounted to 34 per cent. Therefore, only that number of medals was struck, and it is obvious that there was considerable saving in respect of both manpower and medals. I am informed that the actual saving to the Government was between £100,000 and £150,000. The perfectly fair point which I wish to put to the Financial Secretary is that if that survey had not been undertaken, presumably someone else would have done it and it would have had to be paid for. As it saved a minimum of £100,000 and a maximum of £150,000 surely the Social Survey earned its keep in that year. I come to the second example, although I am sure hon. Members have many more. That is the telephone directory survey undertaken in the last two years. We were faced in the Greater London area by the fact that about three years ago suburban area subscribers to the telephone service had London and Outer London directories. The Government of the day, very sensibly, wishing to economise in a proper manner, wondered if those telephone directories were really necessary. The Social Survey got to work and was given a definite job—and here I am quoting from the reply of the Financial Secretary on 11th March. The work it had to do was
Quite obviously it would have been a very false economy—as I think these present economies are—to have withheld directories from subscribers if by that action those subscribers had to make still greater demands on the inquiry services, meaning, in turn, more staff being employed there. The result of the inquiry made by the Social Survey was that the telephone directories could be withdrawn without great inconvenience to subscribers and without additional demands on the telephone inquiry system. The Outer London directories were withdrawn. I remember Questions being asked in this House when the G.P.O. decided to withhold directories from London subscribers for a year. In view of a certain amount of agitation it has been surprising that—I speak subject to correction, but I think I am right in saying this—only nine inquiries have been received for telephone directories which have been withheld. Out of that economy we saved two things. We saved several thousand tons of paper and between £150,000 and £200,000 in money. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury is much more skilled than I with figures, but I ask him, if the Government were saved a minimum of £150,000 by this work of the Social Survey, is he justified in cutting off £10,000 this year when that work will still have to be done by somebody? Indeed by this work of the Social Survey any Government of the day, whatever its political nature, is quite often saved from premature administrative action which might be proved wrong. It is much better not to take administrative action which is wrong than to take that action and have to alter it. Here is an example. Hon. Members will remember that in 1948 the coal supplies of this country, thanks to the efforts of the miners, were greatly improved and I understand that there was some discussion as to whether or not it would be possible and advisable to abolish coal rationing. The Social Survey was asked to undertake an inquiry. It studied the heating habits of the people of this country, and found out, what is always so obvious when it is pointed out, that the use of the electric fire, was, if I might so call it, a short-term policy. In other words, apart from modern flats, electric fires were switched on for an hour or so. The British people, whether it is wasteful or not, are very addicted to the open fire. Because these electric fires were switched on for an hour or so, there was no effect on the amount of fuel supplies required for open fires. The second point it found out, which was particularly obvious to us on this side of the House, was that in 1948 people had a great deal more money to spend than they had had before. Therefore, the advice of the Survey was—or shall I say the result of studying the survey made was?—that it would be inadvisable to de-ration coal; because, in the first place, there was still a great demand, and second, people had more money and would take advantage of it. Therefore coal rationing was retained. I do not know if this present Government need such services, but I should think they would need them quite a lot. I come back to a notable example of the use made in the past of statistics produced by the Social Survey. If we turn to page 31 of the report of the Purchase Tax Utility Committee, Cmd. 8452—I am sure that the Financial Secretary and the Chancellor know it by heart—we find that the D level of the clothing scheme was fixed on the basis of inquiries into clothing expenditure made by the Social Survey in March or April, 1951. I ask the Financial Secretary, it is a perfectly fair question, whether, if that survey had not been made, it would not have been necessary for somebody else to have done it, and been paid for it? I have not any figures as to what was saved in money, I do not know. But I do know that if the hon. Gentleman looks at page 31 of this White Paper, the Committee state that it was only as a result of that that they were able to fix this level. I think it a not unfair conjecture that probably another survey will have to be made before the end of this year to find out what effect the D level is having on the standard of clothes made by manufacturers in this country. In the past, as I think this House would agree, great use has been made by the Government of the day, and the medical profession, of the monthly health survey published in the quarterly report of the Registrar-General. Quite apart from party feeling, I do not think there is any hon. Member in this House who would not agree it was a most retrograde step to cut that out in future. I am sure the Financial Secretary must know that the health index does give figures of all the non-notifiable sickness in this country, and nowhere else is that information to be obtained. I wish to ask him, in view of what we shall be discussing tomorrow, if it is not more essential than ever that that work of that type should be continued. Coming to something very close to the Financial Secretary's heart—efficiency—I suggest to him that the Treasury should welcome the work of the Social Survey as an aid to efficiency. By using the information, as I have shown, they can find out the economic position on many social questions. It is a useful instrument and if they get rid of it, or cut the staff by 25 per cent. they will, as again I have shown today, have to find something to take its place. In the past, when any national campaign has been launched, the Social Survey quite often has been used to determine how that campaign has gone and how much expenditure should be granted for the following year. It is particularly interesting that in the reply of the hon. Gentleman of 11th March—I said I would come back to this matter—he said that the Social Survey had made a study of recruitment to Civil Defence. I should like to quote to him his own answer on this point. It says:"To investigate the actual use made of London Directories with a view to deciding whether they could be withheld from subscribers without great inconvenience or greatly increasing the calls on the directory inquiry service."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 11th March, 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1265–6.]
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary, if work of this nature if not to be undertaken by the Social Survey then how are the Treasury, apart from pure guesswork, to find out what effect campaigns have had and what should be spent in future? Far from being cut down I believe that the Social Survey should be encouraged to make recommendations to the Government as to what surveys should be undertaken in the future, because they, the Social Survey staff, are in touch with the ordinary people of this country. If we take the health cuts—I am not going into details, and indeed I can well understand the Government not wanting to know—surely it would be useful for the Government to know how many British people are not going to the doctors and making use of the doctors' prescriptions, because they cannot afford the shilling. Equally, it would be useful to know how many people are not going to the dentist because they cannot afford to pay for treatment. That is the sort of work which should be undertaken by the Social Survey. Surely the Government would welcome such inquiries, which would show the effect that these cuts will have during the coming months. I have tried to be non-party in what I have said. I would have said all this to my own Government but of course I say it much more cheerfully to the present one. Would the Financial Secretary not agree that the Social Survey has suffered unjustly in these recent cuts? The cuts have been imposed on Government information as a matter of policy, but the work of the Social Survey is in fact, statistical and not strictly in the information field. Secondly, does the Financial Secretary believe that these cuts would have happened to the Social Survey if it had not been part of the Government Information Service? Indeed, thirdly, I should like to ask how far have there been parallel cuts in Government statistical activities generally, or have they all been confined to the Social Survey?"This survey was carried out in order (a) to discover the general reaction to the subject of civil defence and the effectiveness of the publicity exhibited up to the date of the survey and (b) to decide which were the most effective lines to follow in future recruiting programmes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March. 1952; Vol. 497, c. 1265.]
Including Lord Cherwell.
The Financial Secretary may be excused if he thinks this is a party point, but I believe that the majority of the present Government or, I might say the members of the Tory Party, have, rightly or wrongly, always been opposed to the idea of Government Information Services as such. When I sat on the opposite side of the House at Question time I often heard remarks from hon. Members opposite to that effect. The Central Office of Information, and the very names "Government Information Services," "British Council" or "Overseas Information Services," have always been singled out for attack by the Tories.
I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) shakes his head. I did not say every Tory believed it, but many do.
I do not think that the hon. Member can have listened very attentively to my speech if she derived that impression.
I did not derive it from the speech of the hon. Member. I derived it from the Tory Party, having sat opposite them in the House for several years.The London "Evening Standard" has conducted an absolute vendetta against the British Council and the British Information Services overseas. I am glad that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks agrees with me. I have not much experience of British Information Services, but I went to America in 1948 and I heard nothing but praise for the work which they did both for people who went there and in interpreting our policies to America. Again, I am glad that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks agrees. If the hon. Member does not believe that his party have attacked these services, I am glad to accept his assurance. I think that the majority of his party have attacked them for a long time.
I hope that the hon. Lady will not make the mistake, which is so often made by hon. Members opposite, of thinking that anyone on this side of the House is responsible for what appears in the "Daily Express" or the "Evening Standard." We are not.
I assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I do not. I think that none of us, on either side of the House, is responsible for what appears in papers which agree or disagree with us. I wanted to make that point because while I always enjoy the "Evening Standard" I have always deprecated that vendetta against those two services.In conclusion, I hope that the Financial Secretary, when he replies to the debate, will say that the Government have decided to restore the £10,000 cut in the Social Survey in view of the large savings which I have demonstrated that that Survey has made in the past for the Government of the day.
All of us on both sides regard this question of the projection of the voice of Britain abroad as being one of the utmost importance. I am sure that we all agree with the Under-Secretary, despite criticism from the benches opposite, in that we must play a winning part in the cold war. Despite the eloquence and persuasiveness of the Under-Secretary, I must confess to a certain amount of disquiet about the cuts in the B.B.C. overseas services.All of us sympathise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. All of us appreciate that he is in a difficult position and that economies must be made, but I find it hard to believe that when we are spending £1,400 million a year on defence we cannot afford the £400,000 required to keep the B.B.C. programme at its present level in overseas work. The B.B.C.'s overseas work is an essential part of our defence programme. As the Under-Secretary said, the cold war is not merely a question of gaining economic, political or military power: it is essentially a contest for men's minds and hearts. Today we have in the world, as we have had for some time, two opposing doctrines of life—the Communists who subjugate the individual to the State, and the free democracies who assert the basic right of the individual and of the family. During the last war we appreciated the importance of propaganda, and especially radio propaganda, in the tight against Fascism and Nazism indeed, all of us agree that we built up during the last war the finest information service of any of the Allies. I could not help feeling a little disturbed this morning when I read what I admit was only a newspaper version of General Eisenhower's report on the work at N.A.T.O. While he spoke in fairly optimistic terms about the building up of our Western security in a military sense, he obviously expressed dissatisfaction with the Western conduct of the psychological aspect of the cold war. While the N.A.T.O. forces have grown, he pointed out that
The report concludes:"We have not yet succeeded in bringing the full force, the full moral potential of our freedom-loving peoples into the stark struggle for survival of priceless values. Our goals are simple; they are honourable; they can be achieved. Once these facts are established in the minds of our Atlantic peoples, there will be less bickering in our councils, and it will become progressively more difficult for self-seeking individuals to delay our progress by exploiting internal national divisions or minor grievances between our members."
I stress the word, "moral"—"Visible and within grasp, we have the capability of building such military, economic and moral strength"—
In 1944 the B.B.C. had not only more programmes than any other country—any other ally, at least—but they actually had more programmes than the United States of America and Soviet Russia combined. Since 1944 both Soviet Russia and the United States of America have increased their broadcasts, whereas we have decreased ours progressively. It is no use hon. Members opposite trying to make the Government Front Bench wear white sheets. The Front Bench opposite must also wear white sheets, if our Front Bench does, because they progressively curtailed overseas broadcasts, as I hope to show. In 1944 we reached our war-time peak with 800 transmitter hours a day. In 1945 this had gone down to 554 transmitter hours per day. In 1948 it had gone down to 440 and by 1951 it had sunk to 316. By June of this year it is estimated that it will be down to 300 transmitter hours a day. I do not regard that figure with any enthusiasm. It means that the casual listener's chance of picking up a B.B.C. programme in Europe today is half what it was at the end of the war. When we take into account the fact that the Soviet Union have stepped, up their broadcasts five times, it means that the odds against getting a B.B.C. programme in Europe are 10-1 in favour of Russia. I am sure that none of us can feel very complacent or happy about that figure. During the war we led the world with our overseas broadcasts. Today Russia is first, the United States second, and we are third, and an ever diminishing third. I do not regard that with any happiness at all. It is fair to say—and I say it with all sincerity—that we have undoubtedly suffered defeat in the cold war over the air. I regret very much that America is spending so much of its money on putting out the programme, "The Voice of America." I believe that it would be in the interests of N.A.T.O. and of 'the whole of the free democracies if America would pool her broadcasting resources and put out the "Voice of the Free Democracies" in which we could play a part. That is one way in which we could at least get some better expression of our way of life without leaving it entirely to the Americans to express the democratic way of life as opposed to the Communist one. The reason for this diminution to 300 transmitter hours a day is the fact that we have pegged the expenditure of the B.B.C. at £4,750,000. That means that they have to cut £365,000 out of their present expenditure. That is, unfortunately, a cut in a series of cuts. In 1948 a 10 per cent. cut was made by the party opposite in the external services of the B.B.C. In 1949, and again in 1950, there were smaller cuts. In 1951 the party opposite made a 7 per cent. cut and now, unfortunately, we have followed this rake's progress and made what virtually amounts to another cut. It is all very well to say that we have actually maintained the money at the same standard, but in point of fact it means a cut in the actual number of programmes transmitted by the B.B.C. As a result of all these successive cuts, there are no administrative economies which can be made now. Therefore, the cuts have to be made in actual broadcasts by the B.B.C. We have heard from the Under-Secretary that the service to Latin America will be reduced. I understand that that means a loss of 55,000 programme hours a year spread over 350 stations. We all know the importance of South America. We all hope that a third world war will never break out, but we know how the Nazis tried to get submarine bases in South America during the last war, and the very great importance of keeping South America on our side. Quite apart from that, the South American market is very valuable to us in the export drive. At present, it is the second most important market for the export of British cars. Again, we are told that there will be reductions in broadcasting to Belgium and Luxembourg. I admit that the Under-Secretary said they amount to only three-quarters of an hour per day, but I suggest that even that is important. I would remind the House that it was on the Belgian programme that the "V" sign was first instituted—that sign which acted as such a rallying cry to the democracies of Western Europe when they were hard pressed, and I believe that a great case could be made out on the importance of propaganda on this side of the Iron Curtain, as opposed to the other side. It is very important that we should make the people living in Western Europe, the people who are our allies, realise that they are living a life that is worth defending, and that they have allies who are putting their defences in order so that they might stand up against any threat by the Soviet Union. I believe that this cut in the B.B.C. services is most serious in Western Europe itself. It is no good the Under-Secretary saying that the broadcasts to the Soviet Union and the satellite countries are being maintained; we must also maintain the broadcasts to our allies in Western Europe. If we do not do that, what does it mean? It means that we shall lose the listeners we have. We had been told that the broadcasts at dawn and at lunch time had been cut out, and that means that the average working man in a country such as Greece will give up the habit of turning the knob to get the broadcasts from London. Thus, we not only lose our listeners but, which is far more important, the channels for the dissemination of Britain's viewpoint. While there is some international agreement on the medium wavelengths, there seems to be a "free for all" on the short wavelengths; in fact, the only method adopted by countries which are using these short wavelengths seems to be that of "J'y suis; j'y reste." If we do not use them ourselves, somebody else takes them. How valuable our broadcasts are can be seen by the enormous attention which is given to them by Soviet Russia and the immense efforts they make in attempting to jam them. The attacks which the Soviet Union makes, describing the B.B.C. as "a factory of lies," only shows how the reiteration of the truth from the B.B.C., for which it is deservedly famous throughout the world, makes even the Soviet Union realise the power that lies behind such broadcasts. I was delighted to hear of the money voted for the anti-jamming services of the B.B.C. in this regard, and I was equally delighted when the Under-Secretary announced the setting up of an independent committee to make a full examination of all external information services. I am sorry that the Under-Secretary is not here now, because I should like to ask him what this independent committee really is and of whom it consists. After all, the B.B.C. overseas programmes represent work on behalf of the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office and the Commonwealth Relations Office, and are not purely the concern of the Foreign Office. One would have liked to have heard a little more about this independent committee which has been established, because very little attention was paid to the work of the B.B.C. overseas in the Beveridge Committee; in fact, that work was excluded from that survey. I should also like to ask the Under-Secretary whether it is possible, while this independent examination is being conducted, for him to authorise the B.B.C. to carry on at the present level, and then, once the committee has decided the level of overseas broadcasting, to decide that it should be maintained by the B.B.C., and that he should give to the B.B.C. some long-term assurance that this standard can be maintained. After all, we allow the University Grants Committee a five-year financial plan, and I do not see why we should not equally give a five-year financial programme to the Overseas work of the B.B.C.—a minimum Vote, at least spread over five years—so that they can plan ahead. We all know in our private business that it would be almost impossible to conduct those businesses on the year-to-year basis to which the B.B.C. is subjected. I would remind the House that a Royal Commission recently recommended that the Canadian Broadcasting Commission should be given a five-year financial plan, and I commend that to the attention of the Under-Secretary. Equally, I was a little worried by my hon. Friend's statement that, for the time being at least, we have to be content with himself, admirable advocate as he is, as the co-ordinating Minister for information services overseas. There are other Departments concerned with this matter just as much as the Foreign Office, and I should have thought that it was reasonable to ask for the appointment of a senior Minister to co-ordinate our broadcasting services. I feel at the moment that anyone who has studied the problem will realise that we are suffering from a disability vis-à-vis Soviet Russia, and that our propaganda has no centralised direction. There really is a need for a unified strategic plan of campaign, against which all the day-by-day events can be fitted. One has recently seen how the men in the Kremlin control the policy of the broadcasts sent out by themselves and the satellite countries, and how, almost overnight, they can change that policy to suit some overall plan. I refer to the change of policy towards German re-armament and the rehabilitation of Nazi criminals. I believe myself that we have a real duty to talk to the so-called converted. We really must help them through our broadcasts to their countries to refute the blatant lies put out in Western Europe by the Soviet Union. We know that the most deadly and most effective weapon of the Communists is propaganda, and a good deal of it radio propaganda, and I believe that unless we use this weapon to the maximum extent of which we are capable we shall be acting tantamount to laying down our arms in the midst of a battle. I believe that radio propaganda is one of the most important elements in our defence programme, and that there is already a certain amount of disquiet among the countries overseas that we have had to make these cuts. I would draw the attention of the Front Bench to a statement made in "The Times" of 28th February which is taken from a leading article in the "Correio da Manha" of Rio de Janeiro:"as the Communist world would never dare to challenge. When that point is reached, the Iron Curtain rulers may finally be willing to participate seriously in disarmament negotiations."
I would urge the Under-Secretary and my own Front Bench seriously to reconsider the question of overseas broadcasting, because I am afraid that any weakening of the voice of Britain overseas may be interpreted as a weakening of Britain herself, and that would be disastrous. After all, it was a great military commander—Napoleon—who said that there are two great forces in the world—the sword and the spirit—and that, in the end, the spirit always vanquishes the sword."We consider regrettable the latest step which has been taken of closing down the B. B. C.'s offices. … At a time when Great Britain, compelled by the world situation, is spending fabulous sums in armaments, it is difficult to understand why she should adopt measures which will in a way help to stifle the voice of democracy, the same voice which during the war so capably inspired the timid peoples of the world with indignation and the subjugated with hope. No doubt the British Government knows what it is doing, but it is our impression that the B.B.C. is well worth a battleship or an atomic bomb."
I am sorry that the slashing attack of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) has sent the Under-Secretary staggering out of the Chamber, because I wanted to make some comments on his speech. I can only hope that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will try to look as much like a Foreign Secretary as he can while I review what is a very interesting indication of the policy the Government are adopting not only in this field but in many other fields.I can only describe is as a Rehoboam form of policy—to find out in what way one's predecessor has oppressed the people and then to substitute scorpions for whips to do it oneself. Whether it is on food subsidies, the Health Service or in this field of information all one needs to say—whether it is true or not does not matter—is "After all the previous Government also made cuts." That seems to me to be a very odd argument, for if I had a finger cut off every day by the time I had lost those on one hand and begun on the second my annoyance at losing those fingers would increase. The idea that because services have been cut year after year in the past one can go on cutting in future seems to be an extraordinary argument, yet that was the only argument the Under-Secretary was prepared to put forward to justify these cuts. I do not think that the case put against the last Government will stand detailed examination, but even without going into detail, on the face of it it is clearly absurd. Whether the last Government should or should not have cut, if, in fact, a service has been subject to economies in the past that is all the less reason for doing anything now, not all the more reason. One would have expected the Government to come forward and say, "We found the cupboard was bare. We did not have an adequate Information Service and, therefore, believing so strongly in the importance of the voice of Britain going out all over the world to combat Communism, we think there is all the more need to build up a greater and more efficient service." What really happened here? It is quite easy to understand it. The Government in general, finding it rather difficult to redeem their pledges, and finding, in general, that they have had to say some very hard things to their supporters, have looked round to find at least one scapegoat against whom to make a dramatic gesture to satisfy those supporters. It is very easy to find a public relations officer in a Government Department and to hang him in Parliament Square. It is something which makes a simple appeal and which will convey the impression to Government supporters that the Government are, in fact, carrying out a bold and vigorous policy in the kind of direction in which the "Evening Standard" has so often invited them to go. But it seems that this policy already is producing some rather bad results. In quite a number of respects the Government have already informed us that they have been misunderstood. When there were questions about the abolition of the Christmas bonuses by the Ministry of Food we were told then that the matter had been greatly distorted, that people had not understood what was behind the Government's decision and that it was plainer and simpler than people thought. We were told that the education cuts were not nearly as bad as people pretended they were. That seems a very clear indication, if the Government are right, that they ought to be developing and not cutting down their Information Services. It was implicit in what my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), said—that we on this side of the House have been rather quixotic in scolding the Government about their poor policy in this field of information.
Is the hon. Member suggesting that we should be spending more money on telling people why they are not receiving food bonuses?
What I was about to say was that if the Government are right in saying that they are not succeeding in getting their policy across, then that is all the more reason for taking somewhat more care in the way they present it and that the presentation of a policy in a democratic country is almost as important as the policy itself. If we are not to use the whip we must use persuasion, and if we want to use persuasion we must develop a technique for bringing people into an understanding of what is going on in the economic field. If the Government's analysis of the economic situation is right it is all the more reason why they should take very great care indeed to see that people understand the purpose of their policy and appreciate what is happening.I should like to develop a point made by the hon. Member for Sevenoaks. As I understood him, he said that we cannot regard overseas Information Services as a luxury which can be trimmed when we are in difficulties. They are something which is an essential part of the struggle of ideas now going on between the democratic and totalitarian world; and I suggest that that applies equally in the economic and industrial field. The Under-Secretary said that what really matters is that we should establish our financial and economic position on a firm basis and that that is more important than talking about it. That is a false dichotomy, because the basic factors in establishing the position are that we must have the people behind us and that we must sell our goods. And it is worth remembering that quite a substantial part of Government information is concerned not with political but with trade and economic publicity. If we look at the total information figure—and this is probably just as much a criticism of the last Government as it is of this Government and look at the idea people have of the right amount to spend on Government publicity and compare it with what any advertising agency would think necessary to spend in the commercial field, it becomes fantastically out of proportion. I came across, in the "World's Press News," in January, an interesting piece of information. It said:
In other words, a soap manufacturer is prepared to contemplate spending on propagating a new detergent about £300,000 more than the whole of our spending on colonial and Commonwealth information, apart from our grant to the British Council. At a time when we are fighting almost to the death to preserve understanding among African peoples and colonial peoples of our motives, when we have the added difficulty of explaining away the Government's attitude towards Seretse Khama; and at a time when, if we fail, we shall lose not only our position in the Commonwealth and Empire but all our moral leadership of the world, we assess the importance of that in terms of information at slightly less than a capitalist combine would assess the value of a new detergent. I turn now to the question of co-ordination. When I was a very small boy I tried to play golf. I got myself at one time into a very demoralised state and I came to the conclusion that the only way was to go out with a putter because if, by using it, one lost on distance one gained by keeping on the fairway. That, to my young and immature mind—I was then a Conservative—seemed a very suitable conservative approach to the problem. But I do not think it is the right way to try to play the game and I do not think it is right in the field of information to rely exclusively on one instrument. Perhaps it is not a happy metaphor to develop, but it seems to me that in golf one selects the instrument according to the nature of the lie and the objective at which one is aiming. The same thing applies to Government policy with regard to the Information Services. The worse the lie, the more important it is that there should be a strong instrument for dealing with it. I am grateful to hear from the Under-Secretary that although he was careful not to tread upon the toes of the Financial Secretary and was not proposing anything in the home field, something would be done in the foreign field to co-ordinate the different types of information. I wish he would say what kind he had in mind, because if all he is doing is to seat round a table a number of representatives of warring Departments, each with its own particular nostrum—whether it be broadcasting, newspaper publicity or the publishing of pamphlets—that will be no use at all in the development of a co-ordinated publicity campaign. It is no use leaving it to a group of people to handle. What is required is an information general staff, which will look at the particular problem. The instrument one uses must depend on the problem which is to be tackled. One has to look at the particular problem and generally at the resources of information available to decide how to develop a campaign. I do not wish to make myself unpopular with my hon. Friends, but I am nervous about all this talk of the B.B.C. I do not underrate broadcasting, but the fact that broadcasting is the only side of information which has not been cut may have something to do with the fact that there is a very vocal broadcasting lobby in this House. I do not think it is the right approach to the problem. Just as it is no use writing pamphlets when one is dealing with illiterate people, so it is no use broadcasting where radio sets are few and far between. The type of publicity must depend on the particular field in which one proposes to operate and the particular message one is endeavouring to get across. I should have liked to hear from the Under-Secretary not a general promise, that under pressure, he was not cutting the Information Services, but that he was setting up an advisory body capable of reviewing the whole field of information in order to be quite certain that these services were being used with the utmost efficiency and in the direction for which they were most suited. On that basis I think it would be possible to develop the Information Services and to preserve economy. But merely to indulge in these percentage cuts of different services in a general way, without any serious regard to what are their particular functions in the whole service, is a short-sighted and extravagant policy. When one looks at the problems facing us—both at home and abroad—of welding together our democracies as one unit and seeing that we and the citizens of the Colonies and the Commonwealth are an informed people, I am afraid that the policy put forward by the Under-Secretary is short-sighted and disastrous."News Is now available of a number of big advertising campaigns, for products new to the British market, which are due to begin in 1952. Among the most important will be the launching of a Lever detergent—evidently intended as a competitor to Hedley's sensationally successful Tide—under the brand name of Surf. According to reports Levers are prepared to spend as much as £1,000,000 on the Surf drive and it is believed it may turn out to be the largest single promotion effort since the war."
I very much regret that the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) had such a disastrous experience in his golfing days, which led him from being a Tory to slicing himself into the rough on to the back benches opposite. Carrying on his very entertaining simile in golfing language, I think hon. Members opposite should remember that although it may be the object to decide where one is to hit the ball and then to decide the position in which the ball is lying before one takes one's shot, we have now been playing golf with hon. Members opposite for the past six years and they have been in such a state that they have cut all the balls away to one side or other of the fairway, lost most of them, and left us in an extremely difficult lie, in the roughest part of the course, with only one ball.Then they wonder why we say that the greatest care must be taken not only in the type of club we use but in seeing that we do not mislay this ball altogether, in order that one day, under the guidance of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, we may get back on to the fairway and cajole the ball into the hole into which all hon. Members wish it to go.
They ought not to cut the ball in half if they have only one.
The right hon. Gentleman makes a profound statement. I think he overlooks the fact that we are not being criticised for cutting the ball too hard, but for leaving it still. We have not yet taken a shot. The right hon. Gentleman has decided how to address the ball. I think it would be dangerous to go on with this simile and that if I did I should go on to some sport about which I know something more than golf.I have been somewhat mystified by the use of the word "cut" by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who opened the debate, has found it necessary to leave the Chamber, which is unfortunate, because I intended to address my remarks particularly to him. I do not know where we are with this word "cut." I presume that by using the word "cut" in relation to the overseas programmes of the B.B.C. the hon. Member for Enfield, East meant that we were reducing expenditure. He could not have meant that a ceiling had been imposed on the money to be spent because otherwise he and his orthodox supporters opposite would have chosen a different channel. When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew attention to the fact that Sir Stafford Cripps had cut the food subsidies, hon. Gentlemen opposite said that that was a monstrous thing to say, and that all he did was to impose a ceiling. Let us make up our minds about the use of this word "cut." Does a "cut" mean a cut, or can it be used in connection with the imposition of a ceiling? I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree, on reflection, that if one imposes a ceiling there is a cut. From the fact that there has been no interruption on that remark I am sure that hon. Members opposite agree. The fact is that Sir Stafford Cripps did impose a cut on the food subsidies. I realise that I shall be out of order if I follow this point further, so I will just say that when hon. Gentlemen opposite use the word "cut" I understand what they mean. The hon. Gentleman who opened this debate appeared to be doing so in the guise of the Sleeping Beauty, or perhaps Rip Van Winkle. I see that the hon. Gentleman has now returned. He appeared to be a kind of Rip Van Winkle who had suddenly woken up, after six years in this case, to say, "Something is all wrong. We are not dealing with this problem correctly." The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) was wrong when he said that the Under-Secretary had used as his only argument for imposing a limitation now the fact that cuts had been imposed before. That is not what was said. It is something like cupboard love for hon. Members to come along and say that the B.B.C. is something we must not cut and that it is something like the Health Service. They themselves were in office for six years and they made cuts—and during the last period of their office they threatened to cut to such an extent that it would have considerably reduced the output of the foreign services of the B.B.C. had not my hon. and right hon. Friends who were then in Opposition kicked up such a shindy that the hon. Member for Enfield, East, had to agree to leave the figure as it was.
Surely the shindy which was kicked up by the other side when we were in office—and to which we listened—referred to the very cuts which are now being made. We put the cuts back; but now that they have been restored the hon. Gentleman is not kicking up a shindy.
I am very grateful for that interjection, because it gives me a chance to explain that there is a completely different situation this year: it is because of the profligate expenditure of the party opposite that the country is now in a serious economic situation. I do not want to go into this, but the hon. Member for Enfield, East, tempted me and I must explain the point. The situation is totally different from last year and it is not fair of the hon. Member to make this comparison. When the party opposite were in power they sought not to limit the ceiling, but to cut the amount of money which was spent on the B.B.C.
If the hon. Gentleman does not agree with me, there are many of his hon. Friends who can speak after me, and I am sure that they will take the opportunity to try to counteract what I am saying. I may tell the hon. Gentleman that I intend to back up the argument he made, so we should not fall out too soon.It seems to me that my right hon. Friends are right in suggesting that this year every possible economy must be made. The hon. Member for Enfield, East, who was at one time Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and who, therefore, had charge of the overseas broadcasts, did nothing about this—or, at least, as far as we know he did nothing about it, although we do not know the inside workings of the Cabinet; it may be that he was turned down, in which case we sympathise with him. But, looking at the issue from the point of view of a back bencher, it seems that he himself did nothing to increase the potency of the voice of Britain speaking overseas. He has told us that the cuts which the Labour Government imposed did not result in a reduction of the output of the B.B.C., but that is not borne out by the B.B.C.'s official figures, because in 1949 the output in hours per week from the B.B.C. on the European Service was 257. In 1950, it was 270 and in 1951 it was 250. The number of hours, therefore, went down. As my hon. Friend indicated, slowly and steadily the figure was going downhill of the number of hours broadcasting which we were doing for Europe. At the same time the number of broadcasting hours from the U.S.S.R. was going up at an alarming rate. I do not think it is fair for hon. Members opposite to seek to use this as an opportunity of beating the Government It is rather like saying to each other, "We have lived in a glass house for six years, but, come on chums, now we are outside let us throw stones." I am bound to agree that I find great force in the argument about maintaining our overseas broadcasting at the present level which the hon. Member for Enfield, East, advanced, but let us get this straight: it is not fair to put all the blame on the present Government, who have been compelled to make economies all round. The hon. Member for Enfield, East, called these economies "niggling." I agree that they are niggling. When one looks at them, it makes one question very much whether the policy is correct. But I wonder what right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would have done had they been in office and been faced with the critical financial position which we face today. Are they suggesting that they would have said, "This is niggling; let us spend it."? Had they done so, they would have been wrong. If we are to make economies, we must make them all round. It is no use saying, "This is niggling" and "That is niggling"; that was one of the faults of the party opposite when they were in power—they said that these economies were not really important, and they had to get a figure of millions before they thought it worth while cutting excessive expenditure. I think right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would have had to take a different view in facing the present critical situation. The fact that no cut has been imposed on the overseas programme of the B.B.C. shows that the Government are conscious of the vitally important part which broadcasting is playing, particularly in this period of the cold war. Having said that, I must admit to the Foreign Secretary that I think we have reached rock bottom. I do not think there is anything more to cut. Let us join issue on this if we may; whatever has happened in the past, whatever the rights and wrongs of the Government this year, I do not believe we can afford to cut any more. I am convinced that this is a sufficiently important matter for it to be treated on an all-party basis. May I say this to my hon. Friend first: it is not just a question of how much is cut down—two or three hours here, five hours there, or however my hon. Friend likes to explain it. What we must remember is that once we lose a listening audience we may never be able to get it back. That is one of the basic principles of this problem. I do not mind whether we are affecting only 100 people or 200 people for half an hour a day, or what country the people belong to; for it seems to me to be of vital importance that we do not lose the attention of anybody living in any foreign country at present. I have heard it argued that it may not be worth spending the money on broadcasting to Russia and to the satellite countries. Members of the public say, "How do you know they listen, and how do you know what good the broadcasts do?" The answer is expressed in the fact that the Soviet Union have considered our broadcasts to be sufficiently important for them to jam them. I am also convinced by the fact that during the war the B.B.C. transmitted to countries—persecuted countries, where the people were under tyrannical rule—and that these people were prepared to go into cellars, to go underground or to go up trees to listen to the radio, using even "cats' whiskers" and listening under the threat of the death penalty. Remembering that, one must realise that the more the Soviet Union attempt to stop the voice of foreign countries entering their country, the more important it is to maintain the output even if it costs more money. I think it is just as important for us to maintain contacts with our friends and with potential friends as it is for us to maintain contact with our would-be enemies. I agree that the two jobs are quite different, but, while it is immensely important to see that the British way of life is carried to people living behind the Iron Curtain, it is equally important to see that we impress our style of life and our problems upon people who are allies or whom we want as allies in the future. The cut which the B.B.C. will have to impose on broadcasts to Latin-American audiences is of very great seriousness. There we have a group of countries threatened on one side by neo-Fascism and on the other side by Communism, and the one and only stabilising influence coming into their lives is the voice of the B.B.C. At the same time, this affects countries on which we depend for our future trade—countries which, through their leaders, are trying to keep us out of their markets. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite would not like me to use the word "sponsoring," but I would point out that our only means of propaganda and of advertising British goods, the only way to get into those countries, is through our broadcasts, by which we have been able, subtly, to advertise British merchandise. Far too much of that has been cut out, although I take encouragement from the fact that these channels are still open, and I hope very much, as a result of what my hon. Friend said, that it may be thought possible at a later stage for us to pick this audience up again and to increase the number of hours in which we speak to them. Another aspect of the problem which has not been argued this afternoon is this: the question of the staff, particularly of the overseas section. If we are to spend this money adequately, it can only give a good return to the country if the men who are in charge of the broadcasts are of impeccable character. What is more, they have great technical knowledge and experience, and it is on their experience that the B.B.C. have built up their great tradition with overseas countries. Today, the head of the Overseas Section of the B.B.C. cannot guarantee to any one member of his staff that he will be able to continue with his job for more than a year ahead. How can we expect a new man or woman to take such a job when they do not see any sort of long-term value in it? Therefore, the time must come, for all these reasons I have tried to outline to the House, when we must take a long-term, objective view of this problem on an all-party basis. There appears to be very great agreement among hon. Members opposite and on this side of the House on the need for keeping up our overseas broadcasts. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, in his most able speech—if I may say so; and it was a very able speech, because it nearly convinced me—say that a committee was to be set up in the Foreign Office to decide the political problems of all these Information Services. I wonder if I may ask my hon. Friend this? Will he consider something even more than that? This is a very good first step, but I wonder if he will consider something even more—the setting up of a committee, which should be permanent, and which should have on it representatives of all shades of political thought in this country, including representatives of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and which could decide what value, if any, we are getting out of our overseas broadcasts? Then, if it thinks that we are getting good value, there should be a long-term stable level of broadcasting that number of hours a week which the committee thinks right. Thus we should know that for two, three or four years ahead we should have an assured foreign broadcasting service, even if costs should rise again, and whatever anti-jamming measures have to be taken into consideration, and however much costs of equipment and wages may rise. Despite all that, we should know that we were to maintain that level of broadcasting, by general agreement between all parties, for at least some years ahead. I am afraid that I have detained the House rather a long time, but there are two other things I should mention quickly. I think that we have to have more co-ordination in two other respects—more co-ordination between the free nations who are broadcasting, and more co-ordination between the B.B.C. and the Government. At present there are three or four different stations broadcasting in Europe, all beaming their activities to the Soviet and its satellite countries, and there are, on many occasions, discrepancies between their views—I mean their views on the democratic way of life. There are discrepancies between the views expressed by, say, the "Voice of America" and the B.B.C. in London. I believe that it is very important that we should try to see that there is much more co-ordination between the freedom-loving countries trying to express their views to the Soviet and its satellites.
I have followed the hon. Gentleman's speech with great attention, but I feel that he has now reached a point that rather destroys his case. Surely the value of this broadcasting is that we show in our message to Eastern Europe a variety of thought on various items of policy, that the West presents a varied picture not a uniform one?
Yes. I am very glad the hon. Gentleman has given me the opportunity to make that point clear. I am not saying that we should all agree on the solutions to the political problems, but only that the free countries ought to have one democratic voice—that I think that the way in which we paint the picture of freedom should be as closely co-ordinated as possible; particularly when we consider that we are speaking to people with mentalities suspicious of democracy, anyway. That is a point that could well be met by closer co-ordination.I suggest the setting up, once again, of an organisation such as that we had during and at the end of the war known as P.W.B.—Political Warfare Bureau. I believe that my hon. Friend and his colleagues are, naturally, busy these days at the Foreign Office. I also know that the B.B.C. itself has to deal with several Departments. But I believe that if there were closer co-ordination between the Government and the B.B.C. the Government would have a much better picture of the effects of these economies. I think that to bring the B.B.C. more closely into contact with the Government we should have a senior Minister allocated—not a new Minister, but an existing senior Minister—to the job of co-ordinating Government policy with that of the B.B.C. I know that right hon. Gentlemen opposite adopted that practice, and I know that we have not so far, but I do ask my hon. Friend to give very serious consideration to that proposition, because I believe that, if we could have that Minister appointed once again for that work, we could avoid some of the problems we shall be otherwise facing in the near future. Finally, when we are considering cuts in our broadcasting, will my hon. Friend regard them rather in this light—the light of maintaining a fire brigade? Suppose a fire brigade to be maintained at considerable expenditure, waiting for when somebody has a fire; suppose that a fire breaks out and the fire brigade is called, perhaps from a very long distance off; suppose it comes to the fire and the firemen have got all their equipment out, and have trained it on to the flames; and suppose, then, it were possible to say, "Easy, there. Steady up. Go easy on the water. You are using too much." That seems to be how the Government are treating these Information Services. It seems that the Government, having spent money on, as it were, a fire service to overcome the flames of political conflict between the freedom-loving nations and the Soviet and Soviet-influenced nations, are now beginning to say, "Steady up on the water." I believe that it is a false economy. I hope very much that, as a result of the proposals of my hon. Friend, we shall see that no longer is there any more muting of the democratic microphones in the future.
I hope the Government have noted the decided lack of support for them from the back benches on either side of the House today. I have seldom heard two speeches from the other side containing so much with which I could approve, as those made tonight by the hon. Members for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) and Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers). It is true that the hon. Member for Stratford began a little uneasily with a long dissertation on golf, but when he got into rather deep water he charmingly informed the House that he knew nothing whatever about it. He then turned to the record of the previous Government on information policy, and, although the same confession was not forthcoming, it was plain to all that the same applied. However, as he proceeded, I thought his speech showed a marked improvement and, if I shall not embarrass him, I should like to congratulate him on several parts of it.Although he has reached the stage a little late, he has agreed, for instance, that we have reached what he called rock bottom in the cuts. That is not very sensible, because I think we reached rock bottom some time ago; but at least it is an advance on the position adopted by the Government and by their spokesman tonight, that there is no level below which they are not prepared to cut the information services. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) that we did reach rock bottom and that these cuts should not be proceeded with. The hon. Member for Sevenoaks raised an extremely important point when he pointed out that the Government proposed to have an inquiry into the whole matter of overseas information after they had made these cuts. It does seem to me—and this is a point that I hope the Under-Secretary of State will particularly note—that it is rather foolish to make these drastic alterations, to make these enormous cuts, in overseas information services and then afterwards to hold an inquiry—as a kind of postmortem to see how much damage has been done. Surely it would be much wiser to make a general investigation first—and I am glad this inquiry is being made, but let it be a general investigation—to make sure that vital things are not cut out. Then we should be in a better position to decide on drastic cuts afterwards.
I think the hon. Gentleman has forgotten that this Government were elected at the end of November when the Estimates were in preparation and that an inquiry of the kind envisaged could not have been held in the time available before the Estimates, which had been begun and were ready.
I am glad the Under-Secretary admits the principle that if it is possible to postpone these cuts until after the inquiry, he will be willing to do so. Is that the position?
I gather he is not prepared to do so. I do not see any reason why we should approve these cuts in advance of this investigation. Why should we make these drastic changes?Two Members sitting behind the Under-Secretary this afternoon, who know a great deal of this subject, have stressed the difficulty of getting back an audience once you have lost it and the long-term nature of the work of the British Council. The hon. Member for Stratford is absolutely right. It is not possible to set up an institute or an English-speaking class in some foreign country overnight. Having spent a year or two upon it, and having at last got people to go there to learn English, to cut it overnight is to do something which cannot be replaced for another two or three years. I put it strongly to the Under-Secretary that there is no reason whatever why we should approve these cuts in advance of the inquiry which he intends to hold. If the inquiry is serious, if it is worth anything at all, let us have it now and let us have the cuts later. That is surely common sense.
The hon. Gentleman has ignored one important fact, and that is that the Budget has been opened and that the estimates must take account of the Budget. If the hon. Member feels so strongly about our holding an inquiry subsequently to proposing the estimates and on running the Information Services, why did his Government cut the Information Services every year that they were in power without holding any inquiry between 1946 and the year in which they went out of office?
My position, which is logical and honest, is that I accepted a number of cuts, although I may say that I was most uncomfortable about them. But the fact that the last Government chastised the Information Services with whips is no excuse for this Government chastising them with scorpions today. It is not logical. We have reached rock bottom, and the hon. Member for Stratford agrees with me that there is such a thing as rock bottom. We have pruned it to the limits of safety, and the Government are going beyond those limits.
The hon. Gentleman held no inquiry. Why is he complaining that we are holding an inquiry at the earliest possible opportunity?
I am glad the hon. Member is holding an inquiry, but if it means anything, let him hold the inquiry first, and then if the cuts are found to be justified in the light of the inquiry let him impose those cuts afterwards. That seems to me to be good administration and common sense.There is another point I wish to make in relation to the speech of the Under-Secretary, which was courteous and informative. I am sorry that it did not reveal an understanding of what is a very important truth today—that the whole nature of power in the modern world is changing. We do not want to exaggerate this, but it seems plain to me that the power of ideas in modern world politics is increasing in relation to the power of arms, and even in relation to the power of money. A country's power and influence in world affairs today depends as much upon ideas in men's minds as on the money in their pockets or the arms in their hands. This is a profound change which is taking place slowly, and for that reason it may not be fully noticed. But it is taking place. It is largely due to the growth of modern media of mass communication. This is a thing that the British Foreign Office must take note of and it must not do that which was done by Governments before the war. It must not let the Treasury crab the new weapon. A new source of power always tends to be pushed under by the Financial Department in this country. Before the war it was the Royal Air Force. The Treasury, being a finance Department and not a defence Department, could not understand that the R.A.F. was the vital weapon of the future. We get the same thing today. The Treasury, not studying these things at all, does not understand that, as a weapon of defence, information and publicity is deserving of an entirely new status in matters of British superiority today. That status is what the Foreign Office must impress upon the Treasury now. They must impress on the Treasury that publicity and information is not just a frill. It is not just a luxury, or even just another means of defence. It is for modern coming means of defence—the basis of this country's power in the world. That is why the argument of the Under-Secretary, that we are on the brink of bankruptcy and cannot afford this new weapon, makes no sense at all. What we complain about is not the total expenditure required to defend this country and to look after our security, but the proportion of our defence effort which goes into the old weapon of arms and the proportion that goes into the new weapon of publicity and ideas. If the Under-Secretary looks at the figures, he will see that there is a fantastic disproportion—less than one half of 1 per cent. of our defence expenditure on this new weapon, because the Foreign Office is knuckling under to the Treasury in the same way as the defence Departments before the war agreed with the Treasury to prevent the Royal Air Force getting stronger. This is a most important defence matter and should be treated as such. I ask the Under-Secretary to look at this matter again and to draw to the attention of his senior Minister this point about the growing power of ideas in the modern world, to visualise his policy as one which is backed not by arms only but by a really effective publicity and propaganda weapon. I know that many hon. Members opposite will agree with me that if we put it on this basis, it makes absolute nonsense to have this further cut in our Information Services.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), speaking from his knowledge of foreign affairs, has drawn attention to the power of ideas. I think many hon. Members would agree that it is not good enough simply to be anti-Communist; we have got to say what we stand for.It was comforting to read some passages from General Eisenhower's report in this morning's newspapers. It is comforting to know that by the end of the year we shall have perhaps 25 divisions and to know that we may have 4,000 operational aircraft. It is comforting to know that the war industries of the United States and of Europe are slowly mobilising their resources. But I have a firm belief that that is not enough. What is the use of putting 25 or 30 or 40 divisions into the field in Western Europe if the battle of ideas is being lost behind the lines, in the factories, in the farms and in the dockyards? The other day I was talking to a friend of mine, a docker and a former Communist. He said, "You cannot kill ideas with bullets." I feel, as the hon. Gentleman has just said, that we need to concentrate far more effectively on the war of ideas. I was recently in Germany, where I spoke to a young girl student, a representative of the German university in Bonn, whose friend had recently been to the Communist rally in East Berlin. This friend had said to her, "We know you are against Communism, but, tell me, what do you stand for?" It is vital in our propaganda to emphasise two points—what do we stand for, and what are we against? I know that some of our friends throughout the world think, perhaps, that we stand for a more prosperous condition of life. Some people think that it would be good propaganda—I disagree—that one morning we should drop from the skies over Moscow a number of catalogues from Harrod's store in London or Wanamaker's store in New York. It might make the commissar jealous, whose idea of an earthly paradise is a Soviet Detroit or a Soviet Pittsburg, but I do not think that that type of approach will win us nations in the East who, at the moment, are standing in a no man's land between two systems. I was recently talking to a Chinaman who had been listening to the "Voice of America." He said, "I cannot tell you how effectively the Communists in China and the Far East are twisting your propaganda." Your propaganda comes to men working in rice fields, living on the lowest possible scale, and they are told that we in Europe, or people in America, earn so much a week and that there are so many motor cars per head of the population. What does the Communist say next day? He says to these men, "Did you hear the 'Voice of America'? Are you going to have a motor car, are you going to get so many pounds a week?" and they say, "No, I do not suppose we shall." The Communists say, "Why have they got them? Because they are imperialist Powers, and are exploiting you." We see how that type of propaganda is used effectively, and so it is important to talk about our way of life; to talk about Abraham Lincoln rather than about American motorcars; to talk about our British Parliament, with its centuries of tradition. We stand for a society in which every line in a newspaper is not Government propaganda; where we can talk in buses or trams on our way to work without fear that a spy will report on us; where a policeman is our friend rather than our potential enemy. But, above all, we stand for a society where we can carry out change by peaceful means and not by revolution. We can offer far more to the people of the East and to the people behind the Iron Curtain with this message. What are we against? We should certainly make it clear that we are not against the Russian people; that we do not want to invade their territory; we do not want, as Hitler did, their oil, their wheat, their steel or their coal. We simply want to leave them in peace to develop their own lives and to think their own thoughts. But we are against their Government which is using the doctrine of Communism to further Soviet imperialism and is driving those helpless distraught people into a possible world conflict. Do let us try to make that clear. We are faced with a very powerful organisation. We know that. Soviet propaganda is conceived in military terms, in terms of strategy and tactics. Its strategy is plain: it is world revolution. The tactics vary from day to day: to exploit weakness here and a wish for peace there. I believe that our voice suffers a great disadvantage at present in that it is not co-ordinated. I agree that if we are to resist the impact of Communist propaganda we must organise something on the same lines. We must have a strategy and a tactic. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) when he says that we must have a counterpart in the propaganda field to N.A.T.O. in the military. I have been told by friends who know Russia that in the first three months of Hitler's invasion no fewer than 1,500,000 Russian soldiers surrendered; there was not even a partisan until June, 1942, after Hitler had been foolish enough to maltreat the Russians. As one Russian said to me, "If a man beats his dog and the dog goes to another master who beats him worse, the dog returns to the first master." I believe that our message, that our way of life, about changes by peaceful means, will mean much to people behind the Iron Curtain. If we use our resources effectively and co-ordinate them, the voice of democracy will bring to those men and women living lives of terror, being spied on, persecuted and tortured, not only the voice of truth but, much more than that, the voice of hope.
The House will be fairly well aware by now that there is a great degree of unanimity in suggesting that the economies and cuts proposed by the Government should be reconsidered and, if possible, not proceeded with. I wish to confine my few remarks to the B.B.C. overseas services and to a part of the B.B.C.'s activities which has not so far been mentioned, namely, the monitoring service.The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) made a profound statement which should be considered by the Government, when he said that by these economies in the overseas services of the B.B.C. we lose programmes and wavelengths which we cannot easily regain if we should ever wish to restore the services later on. I would also point out that we also lose skilled and highly trained staff which, in my view, it will be extremely difficult to replace if at some future time we should wish to restore these services. I hope that these skilled and experienced news sub-editors and script writers, if they are dispensed with because of the cuts, will be able to get jobs elsewhere; but if they do get out of the broadcasting service and out of radio employment, perhaps back into Fleet Street, where many of them came from, it is very unlikely indeed that later on, if the B.B.C. should wish to restore these services, they will get these highly skilled and highly trained people back. There may be plenty of other potential news editors and script writers, but I would point out, speaking from some little experience, that it takes at least a year to train a sub-editor from a newspaper staff to be a very highly skilled operative in the presentation of radio news, and during that year he cannot give the service that is given by the present highly trained staff. If these people are dispensed with and then in a year or two the Government then in power decide to restore these services or to increase our broadcasts to the world, there will be difficulty in getting people to take the places of those who have been dismissed. There are questions of pensionable rights and stability of employment, and having risked their employment once in the B.B.C. they may be unlikely to take the risk again. I agree with the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) that there is a very strong case for providing stability, not only in the planning of the B.B.C. overseas services' policy and development over a period of years, but also in the employment of these people. They have a case for continuous employment and for stability and security of employment, which is not now provided for them. If the programmes could be better planned and some undertaking given that serious economies will not be made for the next five years, so that the staff can look ahead for employment over at least that period and adjust their lives to give their services to the B.B.C., the B.B.C. services will gain, the voice of Britain will be put over better to the other countries of the world, and the whole of this side of our national propaganda—although I hate to use the word "propaganda" in this sense—will be more efficiently handled. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), that we reached the rock-bottom of expenditure on the overseas services some time ago. Whatever may have happened in the past, the cuts now proposed will so seriously interfere with the quality and efficiency of our services that we face a really disastrous decision taken by the Government. To prove my point, I refer as an example, to the Latin-American service. The whole of South America and Central America has a population of 175 million to 180 million. They can be great friends of ours or they can be potentially indifferent to us. Whether they become our close friends, trade with us and support us, and try to understand us and help us out of our difficulties, as we would like to help them out of their difficulties from time to time, depends on how the British point of view is put over in Latin-America. It has to be remembered that a British news service like Reuters is not very active in any of the Latin-American countries. There are, so far as I know, no correspondents in this country of any Latin-American newspapers. I may be wrong about that, but I have tried to check it, and so far as I can find out the story of what Britain is doing, which is the story we want to put over to the world, is not being told through our news agencies and the correspondents of South American papers here to the 180 million people who live in that area of the world. It should not be forgotten that this area offers the greatest potential economic development at the present time in the whole world. The population there is increasing very rapidly. Latin-America is a source of valuable raw materials of which we are short in this country. We want to be associated with the development which is going on there to produce foodstuffs and raw materials for us and other countries—meat, wheat, manganese, tin, rubber and iron—as well as a number of secondary products of which we are short and which are all to be found and developed in South America. I think that, with the present stage of economic development in South America, to cut off our news and information and our cultural relationships—for by closing down the British Council's activities we do that—is an utterly foolish policy, and I hope that the Government will give further thought to that question. We have closed down our film service to Latin-America and most of the information offices are to be drastically reduced or closed down. We are closing the B.B.C. offices, which did a very valuable job of work because they not only kept local broadcasting stations in touch with what the B.B.C. was doing and what the B.B.C. Latin-American service could do for the local stations there, but they often acted as clearing houses for general information. Newspaper correspondents could go there and ask what was going on in Britain. The offices were naturally supplied with full information and they served a very useful purpose. To close them down is, in my view disastrous. There is also the transcription service. Its business was to send out recorded programmes to the Latin-American stations. It was a pretty big business, and though I am sure the B.B.C. lost on the deal, the financial loss could not have been very serious. Great value was gained by sending out these programmes to be replayed locally and not picked up over the air, with all the lack of quality which comes from recorded programmes when picked up in that way. The sending out of these programmes to the Latin-American broadcasting stations was a good business proposition, and the programmes were very useful. They gave to the people in South America who listened to the records played out over their own stations a knowledge and an idea of Britain's point of view which they would not otherwise have had. I think that it is lamentable, and a very great mistake, that these services are now to be cut off, and I hope that the Government will think about this matter again. Finally, I want to say a word about the monitoring service, which I understand—I do not know if I am right about this—is to be reduced in size; at least it has to take some part of the economy cut. Those who have knowledge of this service and have seen how it works know that it cannot be cut down in bits and pieces. Either we cut the whole thing off or keep it going on an effective level, and that level means that monitors in the service have to listen to all the major broadcasting stations in the world. We cannot pick and choose, because we do not know beforehand which of the major stations is going to produce a news story or some Government statement or semi-public comment on affairs which needs to be picked up and made use of in this country. We do not know when any important broadcasts are to be made, and therefore the monitoring service has to be big enough to cover the whole of the major broadcasting systems of the world, or there is no point in having it. To attempt to cut it down or to pick and choose before hand, making rough guesses at what one thinks may happen in broadcasts from the major stations of the world is, in my view, a silly way of trying to run the service. Rather than reduce the scope of this service, I would suggest that it should be expanded so that it can provide for the newspapers in this country, in association with one of the existing news agencies, a spot news service which will go not only into the B.B.C. news rooms but into all the newspapers in the country which the news agency serves, and that service can be paid for by the newspapers. I do not know whether the existing agency should be Reuters the P.A. or B.U.P. I suppose it ought to be the Press Association. It could be sold to the P.A., which is owned by the provincial newspapers, and the newspapers would pay for the service. I would also suggest that the "Daily Digest," the report of the monitors which goes out now, I understand, to the B.B.C. news rooms, the Foreign Office and one or two other Government Departments, should be presented in a better form for public use and available to much wider circles—the newspapers, libraries and so on, which would have to pay for it if they wanted the service. I think that there should also be a "Weekly Digest," with comments and explanatory notes by the B.B.C.'s staff. If the monitoring service were cut away from the B.B.C. in that way it would provide an effective instrument over a wider field which could be extended and improved without incurring any additional expense. I think that if this matter was inquired into it would be found that the payments made for this service would cover the expansion and improvements which I have suggested. It would be disastrous in the present period of tension in the world, when it is absolutely necessary that the voice of Britain should be heard and we should know what other people are saying about us, for a service like this to be cut down, and I hope, because of the unanimity in the House on this and other similar matters, the Government will look at it again.
The discussion we have had this afternoon is important. We are really discussing one aspect of the cold war, and nobody could possibly suggest that the cold war was not one of the things which occupies our minds to a very great extent in these days. The technique of fighting the cold war on the other side of the Iron Curtain is very different to the technique here. We should be most unwise to try to emulate the technique of the Kremlin. However, we have one thing to learn from their technique, namely, that it is under central direction and that it operates according to a carefully prepared plan.As to the broadcasting services, I would not, of course, suggest that the B.B.C., the "Voice of America," Radio Ankara and Radio Athens should all say the same thing at the same time, for that would be absurd, but we might well very seriously consider whether certain aspects of our broadcasts to Europe, and particularly to South-Eastern Europe, could with benefit be a good deal more co-ordinated than they are at present. As several hon. Gentlemen have said, we have our defence forces co-ordinated under N.A.T.O., and we have also our economic policies more or less co-ordinated under O.E.E.C.—I am not quite sure how far—and I should have thought that it was only common sense that in the cold war, having regard to the immense power of propaganda today, many of the programmes from the numerous broadcasting stations in the free world should be more co-ordinated than they are now. We cannot fight the hot war and the cold war in two separate watertight compartments. One is complementary to the other. We could not win the hot war—at least it would be very difficult to do so—if we had previously lost the cold war. Conversely, I do not think we can win the cold war unless we are able to convince the peoples of the free world, particularly those who live in close proximity to the Iron Curtain, that we are in a position to give them reasonable physical protection. At a time when the Chancellor is faced with an acute financial crisis in which severe cuts are obviously necessary—I agree with my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that nothing could be more damaging to our way of life than that we ourselves at this moment should no longer remain solvent and that that must be the overriding issue—I do not see how anybody can argue that the Information Services should be exempt from those cuts, for that would not make sense. At the same time, all hon. Members were very much relieved by the statement of my hon. Friend that the B.B.C. are now to be financed in such a way that they can continue their anti-jamming arrangements. The very fact that the Soviet authorities are interfering to an increasing degree with B.B.C. broadcasts is proof that those broadcasts are having a very great effect. That is an overwhelming argument for making certain that the counter-jamming measures are really effective so that the B.B.C. may have as much volume and as many listeners as possible on the other side of the Iron Curtain. I now want to say a word or two about the British Council. Perhaps I ought here to disclose a personal interest, though it is certainly not a financial one. The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman), and I are vice-chairmen of the British Council. I do not think it could be argued with any degree of logic that the British Council itself should not be subject to the cuts which the Chancellor is making, but equally I do not think it could be argued that the British Council has not had its fair share of the cuts.
The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), says, "Hear, hear!", and he has every right to do so, because when he was Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs for four years, followed by his hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), they made successive cuts in the British Council grants over the whole of a period of five years.Taking into account the successive reductions in the grants from 1947–48 onwards, the effect of devaluation and the rise in salaries and costs, the effective reduction in terms of work is 42 per cent. in the three years up to and including 1951–52. The difficulty of meeting at one and the same time rising costs with a falling budget has meant that, in terms of work, the reduction is far greater than that represented by the cut in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. That must be obvious to all hon. Members. Moreover, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, said, by its very nature the British Council is for the most part essentially concerned with long-term plans because it can function properly only if plans are laid well ahead, and part of the difficulty about the cuts which have come annually is that many of the long-term plans have inevitably had to be scrapped. This means that capital expenditure has been incurred while, in the name of economy, the project has been scrapped or reduced before any dividend could be earned. As an example of that, in 1947 the British Council was obliged to close down in Switzerland, only to incur all the expense of reopening again because the then President of the Board of Trade and the Swiss Government were most insistent that the withdrawal should not be complete. The British Council came out and then went back again, and that is not a very economical proposition. I understand that there is now some suggestion by the Foreign Office that the British Council should open up in Cyrenaica. I do not know whether any decision has been reached on that. It would be a very good thing if the British Council were to open up in Cyrenaica, but it means finding an office, collecting a staff, some being recruited locally and others being sent out from here, and also capital expenditure. However, there is no guarantee that if further cuts are to ensue next year or the year after the British Council might not have to withdraw from Cyrenaica.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is really quite wrong that when a Government—I do not mind which Government—cuts the British Council, a Government Department—it may be the Foreign Office in connection with Cyrenaica or the Colonial Office in connection with colonial students visiting London—should come to the British Council and ask for increased expenditure for new projects. This is going on today as it has gone on in the past, and it puts the British Council in an absurd position.
:e hon. Gentleman, who has had more personal experience of this than I have, has put the point for me very well indeed. There is another point about going in and coming out. The saving made by withdrawing is more often than not offset by liabilities connected with the termination of leases and compensation which has to be paid to local staff when their employment is no longer possible. This game of put-and-take does not create a very good impression overseas. I am sure that the Financial Secretary will agree with me when I say that as far as possible the game of put-and-take should now be brought to an end.I was very glad that the hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) referred to some of the attacks that had been made on the British Council by the "Daily Express" and the "Evening Standard." Those attacks have been quite unfounded. Some fantastic stories have been published. One was, so far as I remember, that the British Council was spending £15,000 a year in providing thrillers for the Belgians in Brussels. I looked into that. As a matter of fact, there are 12,000 books in the British Council Library in Brussels, and of those 12,000 books 75 are thrillers. The £15,000 referred to was the total expenditure of the British Council in Belgium for the whole of the year. Misrepresentations of this sort do not help the British Council at all and I do not think that they do great credit either to the "Daily Express" or the "Evening Standard."
Would the hon. Gentlemen agree with me that at least one-third of the expenditure of the British Council is on Commonwealth and colonial countries, and that these prejudiced and ill-informed attacks on the British Council are in fact greatly harming the work in the Empire and Commonwealth which we can do at the present time?
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. There is no disagreement between us on that issue at all. I think it was the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) who suggested that the Information Services would like an assurance that, over a period of years, the amount they have to spend would not fall below a certain figure. So would the British Council. So would everybody. That would be the ideal remedy.In fact, I think most people fully realise that no Chancellor of the Exchequer, no matter to what party he belongs, could give any such assurance. He could not conceivably commit either himself or his successors to a given sum of money being guaranteed to any branch of the Information Services or anything else. So that suggestion, though superficially attractive, is quite unreasonable. However, I do suggest to the Government that before any further cuts are contemplated, either in the B.B.C. or in the British Council, they should seriously consider, having had the report of the inquiry, whether rockbottom has not now been reached. The world is rent assunder by two rival ideologies. There is the ideology of Communism, which is a dynamic force, in effect a religion. It imposes upon its adherents a degree of subservience, of uniformity and of discipline the like of which has probably not been seen at any period of history. Its weapons are physical and moral and they are wielded by the same hand. But we must not suppose in the free world that, in spite of all our economic and other difficulties, there is no place for the things of the mind or that Western civilisation, and all the culture it has brought, is not an immense moral force of tremendous potential if properly harnessed. I have no doubt that money has been ill-spent in many of the information services. I know there are frills which can and ought to be cut, but I ask the Government from now on to be careful in distinguishing between what are the frills and what are the essentials.
In controversial debates in this House we often hear the view expressed on both sides how nice it would be if we could agree on something and get together on a non-party basis. It is rather sad that on an evening like this, when there is a wide measure of agreement, that the House should be so empty. At any rate, it is a non-party debate in the sense that this is an assault by the back benchers on the Front Benchers on both sides of the House.My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and I disagree on more than one thing, but he will admit that there was pressure brought to bear on the then Government a year ago when it had in mind cuts in the Information Services and particularly in the B.B.C. It is appropriate that in this debate tonight it is the back benchers who are asking the Government to reconsider their attitude with the greatest strength. On the point of the call for co-ordination, I welcome the announcement made by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs earlier that a committee would be set up to consider all our overseas information services. This is by far the most important announcement that could have been made, because the B.B.C., the British Council and the British Information Services are all trying to do the same sort of job. If we can get some assessment of the influence of those various Departments on the audience we are trying to reach, we may find that the pattern of our overseas information services alters radically. It is really no use applying a 10 per cent. cut to the British Council and a 10 per cent. cut to the B.B.C., when it may be that we could dispense with the British Council altogether and have the whole job done by the B.B C. or vice versa. I say this with due respect to the one vice-chairman of the British Council present—the other has left the Chamber. This machinery has grown up piecemeal over the years in times of war and peace. If a proper investigation is instituted as to the influence of the different parts of it, we shall be able to build up a proper pattern of attack. At any rate that is one kind of co-ordination. The other kind that has been mentioned is co-ordination between the countries of the free world. Here I find myself at variance with the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) and with other hon. Members opposite who spoke about closer co-ordination in those countries. Technical co-ordination there must be. Obviously, if one can make use of transmitters and of existing channels, so much the better. I do not know how many hon. Members here tonight do, as I sometimes do, sit at home and twiddle the dial and listen to various propaganda broadcasts beamed to this country. When I listen to the "Voice of America" I get the impression that they really do not understand in many cases just what radio propaganda should be. I find its style rather too self-confident. I find the suggestion that America is a country where there is a uniform view on foreign affairs when, as I know from my own experience, that is not the case. When I listen to the radio broadcasts from Moscow, I detect the same sort of errors. The only thing that I really like when listening to Radio Moscow is the peal of bells of the Kremlin striking midnight which, owing to the difference of time, is conveniently ten o'clock in this country. But now I should like to turn the attention of the House to the question of the technique of radio propaganda. I was for a comparatively short time concerned with broadcasting in the B.B.C. Overseas Service, and it is well worth while considering what broadcasting can and cannot do when we consider the effect and extent of these cuts. The hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Foreign Office gave the impression that these were small cuts and would not affect the fabric of overseas broadcasting. I am afraid the truth is that for a layman or, in fact for the "Daily Express" it is always easy to make fun of any overseas information services, for example, jazz for the Portuguese. One can easily make fun of them by talking about sending news bulletins to Iceland. However, the big problem faced in overseas broadcasting is that it has to be a balanced programme and one which contains sugar as well as the pill. The entire fabric of radio propaganda is built round the news bulletin. It is so in Europe, it is so in our broadcasts to North America and to Latin America. Wherever one goes throughout the world, it is the B.B.C. news bulletin which gives the Corporation its reputation. The reason for that is that the B.B.C. is scrupulously careful to see that its news bulletins are accurate and that nothing is put in which has not been checked and twice checked. That is why, during the war, the broadcasts to Europe were of such value to people there—they knew that if they heard it on the B.B.C. it was true. So the first essential of radio propaganda is the truth, even when it reacts, as sometimes it does, unfavourably to one's own cause. I do not think that co-ordination between western nations would ever arrive at a better version of the truth in news form. At the same time the B.B.C. overseas services follow the principle of the B.B.C. home services—the B.B.C. has no editorial opinion of its own. It is essential that if a news bulletin is to command the respect of people who listen to it in different parts of the world, it should be a bulletin of fact and not a bulletin of opinion. After the news bulletin, the second most important part of our broadcasting structure is the comment and opinion. These must inevitably reflect the variations of opinion that there are in this country on any particular subject. The Director of Overseas Services, in a minute which was sent round to all producers a few years ago, spoke of the B.B.C. Overseas Service as the "Mirror of Britain." That is how it should be, and that is one reason why some of us were a little concerned at the five Front Bench Ministers who were to broadcast to Europe. Although we did not suspect that they would make use of that position to push party advantage, were that possible, we felt that any broadcasts coming from Britain should mirror the variety of views and opinions that there are in this country. What would be significant to the listener in Czechoslovakia or in the Soviet Union is not so much that whenever he tunes in to London he hears the same thing, but that he hears different opinions expressed about current affairs. That is where the "Voice of America" goes wrong, and where the voice of Moscow goes wrong. The "Voice of Moscow" is the voice of Moscow and not of the Russian people, who, we know, must think with many different minds. People often speak about radio propaganda as if it were just another weapon in the armoury of war; as if there were tanks, ships, aircraft and radio rifles which we pointed and fired and which then brought us victory. The truth is that radio itself can never defeat an enemy. All that it can do is to win a friend. That is the way in which the whole matter has to be approached. When we broadcast to people behind the Iron Curtain, or, indeed, to people in Western Europe, who are hovering on the brink of two worlds, what we have to do is, first, to convince them that we are truthful; second, to speak with the voices of free men, which means different voices; and third, that we have a life and a culture which can only flourish in the sort of society in which we live. That is why it is vital that we should put on "Take it from here" in our overseas services in English; that we should put on various reflections of British life when broadcasting abroad, because it is the projection of British life in the widest sense that wins us the greatest number of friends. When I was in the North American Service, we put on one woman every week who used to broadcast recipes and chats from home and about home—really, what anyone in the "Daily Express" would regard as the most inconsequential bits of home talk. Those weekly talks were re-broadcast in America. They had their own regular listeners, and I am not at all sure that they did not win more understanding and friends for Britain in the towns to which the broadcast went than any number of bulletins or organised psychological warfare methods of broadcasting could have done.
Would not the hon. Member agree that in the case, for instance, of the ridiculous allegation about germ warfare in Korea, there might with profit have been a little more co-ordination between, for the sake of argument, the B.B.C., the "Voice of America," Radio Vatican, Radio Antwerp, and so on?
I very well understand that point and I am not dismissing it. But imagine what could happen if we were to try to get co-ordination between people who disagree on a lot of things and who work at things in a different way. Supposing we were to hammer out a uniform statement; supposing that the approach were the same, like the reply to the Russian note, when 12 identical replies were sent; that may be the way to deal with Iron Curtain diplomats, but it is not the way to deal with ordinary people who listen. Very often they may be sympathetic. If they are listening to the B.B.C., there is a chance that they are sympathetic to what is being said. If they hear different reactions from the various countries of the Western world, they may get a feeling of something they may never have felt at home: that is, a feeling of a living community, perhaps impulsive and impetuous reactions to a new set of circumstances.I do not want to dispute the attitude that in this variety and richness, this difference and diversity of our life, we give the best reflection of our way of existence to people in other parts of the world. It is because I believe that radio better than any other means is capable of winning us friends that I think more attention should be paid to it. In this time of the so-called cold war, it seems to me very stupid that the hon. Gentleman should come here and only tell us of the need for economy. I understand his point, but I would be equally surprised if the Secretary of State for Air were to come to the House and say that we are spending so much on re-armament on the Army and the Navy that we had nothing for the Air Force; and that it was no use for hon. Members opposite him in the House to say that the Air Force would be useful to us because we did not have the money for it as we were spending it on the Army and on the Navy. What we are pleading for is a balanced programme, a programme which takes account of these factors, which are not as easily assessable as the number of divisions, ships and aircraft, but a programme that takes account of these psychological factors. I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman, in reporting back to his right hon. Friend and in the various inter-Departmental Committees, will represent to them that on all sides of the House there is a feeling that this balanced programme is lacking. If tonight I could pretend to speak for the whole House, I might say this. That it was felt that the cost of six Fighter aircraft or two jet bombers was not too high a price to pay for an attempt to win friends and to influence people in the world in which we find ourselves today. If the hon. Gentleman carries back that message from the debate, we on this side will be very glad to relax any attempts to press it as a party point.
I am very glad that on the initiative of the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), this debate has taken place, although I find the terms of his Amendment rather odd. I propose to say why in a moment. What I want to deal with specifically is the question about which most hon. Members have spoken: that is, the overseas broadcasts of the B.B.C.The fact that I propose to criticise some aspects of what the mover of the Amendment has said, does not mean that I am not in agreement with a great deal that he said. I definitely am in agreement with much of what he said. I do not take any serious exception to anything in the speech by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), to which we have just listened, but there are a couple of points on which I cannot go along with him. The first is the criticism, which he repeated, of the fact that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and four other members of the Government Front Bench are giving broadcasts in the Overseas Service of the B.B.C. For more than six years, the hon. Member's party were in power and it never, apparently, entered the heads of any member of the Government to broadcast in the Overseas Service.
I do not share the criticisms of some of my hon. Friends about these broadcasts. What I said was that if there was validity in the criticisms of the broadcasts, it laid in the fact that we ought to present a varied, and not a uniform, picture.
I entirely agree. I see the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party in his place. Probably he will recollect that in the "News Chronicle" the recent broadcast of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, the first of the series, had an exceptionally good Press. If any hon. Members who feel in any way critical of this series of broadcasts would read what my hon. Friend said, I am very doubtful whether they would sustain their criticism. None the less, I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East, about the importance of variety being the essence of broadcasting to the free world.In the Amendment are two points with which I do not find myself in agreement. The hon. Member for Enfield, East, uses the words
that is used by the Cominform countries. I am not in any way convinced, from anything that has been said this evening or from my own knowledge, that there has been any increased propaganda since the last General Election. Therefore, no new situation has arisen. The situation facing Her Majesty's Government today is in no way dissimilar from the situation which faced His Majesty's Government when the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment was at the Foreign Office. The other part of the Amendment with which I cannot agree is the suggestion implicit in the last line that"the increasing use of propaganda"
should be"all available effective measures …"
the B.B.C.'s transmissions. As far as I know, "all available effective measures" have been taken and are being taken. I wish to look back a little to the record of the last Government. I do not want to introduce an unnecessarily controversial or party note into what has been a very good debate, but the hon. Member himself was rather controversial in some parts of his speech, and I wish to answer those parts. Every year, since the beginning of 1947, the grant to the external services of the B.B.C. has been steadily decreased."taken to counter the jamming of …"
Except last year. Last year the total was increased following a protest made in the House and a concession was made by my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member says that last year it was increased. He is correct in saying that, but the fact is that the original suggestion of the Government at that time was that they would reduce the revenue available for overseas broadcasting by £35,000.
And they more than put it back.
There was a row in the House and the present Foreign Secretary took a leading part in assailing the Government. The protest was made by a number of back benchers in this party and quite a number of hon. Members opposite. I remember very well the then Foreign Secretary making some very strange and veiled allusions to pressure without saying from whence it came and hon. Members in my party asking from whence it came.Anyway, wherever the pressure came from, the reduction was attacked and, as a result, another £100,000 was made available and that meant that the overseas service grant was £65,000 more than the previous year, but that is the only exception to the steady fall since 1947. Nonetheless, it has also to be said that the increased amount fell very far short indeed of the amount the B.B.C. would have required to maintain the service which had been built up in the previous financial year. I think the hon. Member will agree with me there. I pointed out, when I interrupted the hon. Member during his speech, that on 1st January, 1947, the output of the Overseas Services by the B.B.C. was 714 hours a week and on 1st January, 1952, five years later—during the whole period the Socialist Party were in power—it had been reduced from 714 to 565 hours per week, in spite of the fact that during that period there were added to the services Russian broadcasts, Hebrew broadcasts and Viet-Namese broadcasts. That is a very substantial reduction which resulted from the calculated policy of the Socialist Party. It is interesting to make a comparison with the output of the broadcasting hours from Cominform countries during that period. In 1947 they were broadcasting 371 hours a week, about half the number we broadcast, and now they broadcast 1,119, which is a very large increase. During the same period the United States have doubled the hours of broadcasts and much more than doubled the cost of this broadcasting. Therefore, from 1st January, 1947, until today, there has been a significant and substantial increase in the broadcast output of the Cominform countries and of the United States and during the same period a steady decrease in the output from this country. I thought that in the circumstances the hon. Member was doing less than justice to his theme when he described the cuts which have been made as "niggling and mean." I could not help feeling that they were not more "niggling and mean" than the cuts made during the period when he was at the Foreign Office. My own position in this matter is quite clear. I thought the cuts made when the Socialist Party were in power were wrong and I take the opportunity at once of saying that I think the cuts made now are also wrong. Perhaps I may make a very brief comment on what I think was said by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). I think he went into the argument as to whether we reached rock bottom last year, or this year. That seems to me to be a rather unprofitable argument. The fact is that now, with an expenditure of £4,750,000 on the Overseas Service of the B.B.C., we are spending just about one-third of 1 per cent. of our annual defence expenditure on broadcasting to foreign countries. At the same time the Soviet Union is thought to be spending the equivalent of £9,500,000 per year. I get that figure from the "Manchester Guardian," usually well informed on matters of this kind. The United States, I believe, is spending about £8 million a year on broadcasting to foreign countries and, over a period of a year or two, about £60 million on capital expenditure. These seem to me very significant figures and I conclude from them that we are spending too little. During the time he was at the Foreign Office the hon. Member for Enfield, East, showed that he had too little understanding of the importance of the broadcasting medium, or, if he showed great understanding of it, his voice was not heard with sufficient clarity in the higher circles in which he was able to move.
How does the hon. and gallant Member know?
I know that steady reductions were made in the overseas broadcasting of the B.B.C. and it does not seem right that the hon. Member who was responsible for these information services, should be the hon. Member who now criticises Her Majesty's Government for the further cuts that have been made. When we took office—and this cannot be said too often—the country was on the verge of bankruptcy. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is no good hon. Members saying "Oh," like that.
The hon. and gallant Member will believe himself in time.
It is a fact known to everyone, but to brush aside that extremely important national fact and say that it makes no sense, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, said, is thoroughly unfair and illogical.
May I interrupt, because the point has been made very frequently and it is only fair that we should introduce a little controversy. How is it that the Chancellor, while maintaining a firm grip on the Foreign Secretary, is able to release £30 million by Income Tax in the Budget?
If I went into all the complications of the Budget, I would get very wide of the subject, but I could take the argument much wider if I wished by pointing out that by various devices used by the Chancellor, reliefs from Income Tax and by the social services, the amount was £260 million; so it is a much bigger contrast than even the hon. Member has pointed to. But I am not going into that much wider field.On the question of jamming, broadcasts of the B.B.C. to the Soviet Union were first attacked, I think, in April, 1949, and directly that occurred the Socialist Government had to decide what to do about it. The decision they made was that the cost of overcoming jamming of the broadcasts should be met from the graint-in-aid to the Overseas Service of the B.B.C. I say now, and I said then, that that was a wrong decision, and it resulted in a considerable decrease in the output of the foreign language broadcasts of the B.B.C. I therefore welcome very much indeed, as did the hon. Member for Enfield, East, himself, the reply to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford (Mr. Profumo) given today by the Foreign Secretary, in which he made it quite clear that the cost of overcoming the efforts of the Soviet Union to jam broadcasts either to the Soviet Union itself or the Cominform countries or to Finland, would not result in any further decrease in the grant-in-aid available for foreign language broadcasts; but that these efforts are to be met from other funds. It would be quite improper and absurd that the Soviet Union should feel that by jamming our broadcasts, which we want the people of the Soviet Union to hear, they are able to stifle the truth and to reduce our output. That is our position and it is now clearly understood. The jamming of the Polish broadcasts started some time last year, and countermeasures were begun towards the end of last year. This year we had to take counter-measures to overcome the efforts of the Soviet Union to jam broadcasts to Finland. We are now faced with the increasing problem of countering the jamming of broadcasts to Czechoslovakia both in Slovak and Czech; and broadcasts to Hungary. I predict, and I think it is obvious to all of us, that we can expect more jamming, because the Soviet Union does not want the people of the occupied countries to hear the truth. Frankly, I regret that the fixing of the ceiling of the grant-in-aid has resulted in a heavy reduction in our broadcasts services to Latin-America, although I am glad, indeed, that it has now been made perfectly clear that there will not be any reduction in the broadcasts to the Soviet Union and the Cominform countries. I will now turn to the question of the co-ordination of the Government propaganda services with those of the other free countries. I wish to make a brief comment on what the hon. Member for Enfield, East said, because I am not at all sure he understood the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford, and several other hon. Members, on the question of co-ordination. No one during this debate has argued that we should all try to say the same thing. That would be thoroughly ineffective and undesirable in every way. What I think has been argued, at any rate it is my argument, is that we should all broadcast with the same objects. I hope that the hon. Member for Enfield, East, will agree with that. I want to go back to 23rd April, 1951, when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) asked in a Question, what machinery existed for the conduct of psychological warfare designed to spread the truth and to expose Communist untruth, and what improvements the Government hoped to introduce. The reply given by the then Minister of State was that the
Yet the hon. Member for Enfield, East, specifically asked that action on the lines suggested in that Question should now be taken."existing arrangements are adequate, and I have no announcement to make regarding improvements at the present time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1951; Vol. 487, c. 32.]
What I was pressing for was co-ordination of all the Information Services for which the Government are responsible. There is no co-ordinating Minister at present. That has nothing to do with the co-ordination of psychological warfare.
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I got him wrong and I can agree with him on that point. None the less, I would like to deal with the point because it is important. I myself asked a Question on 19th June, 1950, to which the hon. Member for Enfield, East, himself replied. I drew attention to a conference which had taken place at the Foreign Office with Mr. Edward W. Barrett, United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, to make arrangements for co-ordinating broadcasts to Communist-governed countries. No doubt the hon. Member for Enfield, East, will remember that conference and he may even remember my Question. I would like to read part of the reply I was given, because I wish to draw from it what seems to me an important conclusion. The hon. Member, who was then Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said:
He went on:"… co-operation over the whole field of overseas information work was discussed. Broadcasting, particularly to Eastern Europe and to other areas which are dominated or threatened by Communism, occupied an important place in the discussion, and the possibilities of co-ordinating activities in this respect were fully considered."
So even if the hon. Member did not refer to the matter in his speech it is something with which he had a great deal to do in the past. The point I wish to make is that very little indeed seems to have happened since then; or if anything significant has happened we have not been told about it. I cannot help feeling that there is important work to be done in the field of endeavouring to achieve closer co-ordination and co-operation on the lines suggested in the reply which the hon. Member gave to my Question. There is an aspect of this matter which has not been touched upon, and to which I have drawn the attention of the House on other occasions. In September, 1950, I asked a Question about Radio Free Europe and the hon. Member for Enfield, East, again replied. I wanted to know what arrangements were being made for liaison and co-ordination overseas with Radio Free Europe and whether the Government were satisfied with the arrangements. Towards the end of his reply the hon. Member said:"The desirability of expanding and sharing the technical facilities available to the B.B.C. and the 'Voice of America' for broadcasts to certain areas was recognised and a number of specific projects are now under examination. Existing Anglo-American operations to counter the effects of jamming were reviewed, and it was agreed that a study of further measures should be jointly undertaken by technical experts of both countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th June, 1950; Vol. 476, c. 854–5.]
I was very disappointed with that reply. Perhaps for a moment or two I may say a word about Radio Free Europe, because its activities are not known to every hon. Member. It is under the auspices of what is known as the Crusade for Freedom, of which General Lucius Clay is Chairman. Broadcasting began on 4th July, 1950, with one station at Frankfort. The headquarters are now in Munich. Its objects, and this is a paraphrase, are to counter Communist propaganda with the truth and keep alive independence in occupied Europe. It also tries to show the sympathy of the free countries with the sufferings of the people of the occupied countries and an understanding of their internal conditions. It is the principle of those who run the broadcasts that a victory in the cold war will defeat the threat of a hot war, a thesis with which I find myself completely in agreement. I am going over to Munich in a week or so to see at first-hand what they are doing to tell the people of the perversion of justice and the system of Marxist and Leninist education in those countries, of the way in which the trade unions have been turned into Government machines for making more and more Stakhanovites turn out more and more goods and work overtime without pay, and all the rest of it. These are the matters to which they refer in their broadcasts and they are also the kind of things which the people in these countries like to hear about. They are never allowed to read about them in their own papers, let alone hear about them on their own broadcasting system. I feel sure, for example, that the Polish people, although interested in the truth about what goes on in the world of international affairs, also very desperately want to know what is happening in their own country, which is something which is concealed from them in their national broadcasts. That is something with which Radio Free Europe are trying to provide them. The broadcasting hours of Radio Free Europe are advertised in leaflets and in a variety of other ways. I have here a few examples. They have been sent into Czechoslovakia by what are called "freedom balloons" in very large numbers and scattered all over the countryside. Although I cannot understand a word of Czech or Slovak it is clear to me that the broadcasting times and wavelengths advertised on these slips of paper include details about Radio Free Europe, the "Voice of America," the B.B.C., Radio Paris, Radio Italy, Radio Madrid, Radio Luxembourg, Radio Vatican, Radio Canada and a station called Radio Spojených Národú. In any case, there is a lot of evidence that the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe are having an increasing effect, and that the Soviet Union and the countries in Eastern Europe are doing their utmost to stop people from listening. I only mention this about Radio Free Europe, because it really seems that they are broadcasting with somewhat different objects from those of the B.B.C. It seems clear that there is a case for closer co-ordination of the objects with which the free countries are broadcasting. It seems clear that there is no centralised direction between the free countries so far as their propaganda is concerned. In the "Daily Telegraph" recently I read an exceptionally well-worded editorial in which it was concluded that at present in this field of propaganda there is no master plan—there is no supreme command—and that a great deal of effort is being wasted. This editorial suggested that a cold war supreme command should be set up as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. That is an idea which very much appeals to me. Obviously, such an organisation would have to have real powers and not merely be an advisory body. While I should not for a moment expect my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to reply to this point tonight, because it is a very big question in the international field, I should be grateful if the Under-Secretary will make a note of it and give it careful and urgent consideration. It seems to me that the whole prospect of peace depends on our not losing the cold war. When one summarises the speeches made from both sides of the House, one realises what a vital role broadcasting has to play in the conduct, or the fighting, of the cold war. It is no good broadcasting unless we know why we are broadcasting. It is no good broadcasting unless we know what we are trying to achieve. I know that at the moment—and this is confirmed by Chapter 8 of the Beveridge Report—the main idea of the overseas service is to "project Britain" to countries overseas. Is that really the object of our broadcasting, or is there some other object? If that is the object, it is certainly very different from the objects with which Radio Free Europe and the "Voice of America" are broadcasting. After a careful study of what the B.B.C. have done during the last few years, I would say that, without being much noticed, the character of the broadcasts has changed and, at the same time, improved. I am not a critic of the B.B.C.'s broadcasts to Poland, for example, or to other occupied countries. Although I do not think that they are perfect, they are very good indeed. They are the best in the world. But the Foreign Office only lays down the languages in which the B.B.C. should broadcast and the hours that they should broadcast. The B.B.C. itself is responsible for the contents of the broadcasts. Therefore, the next point I wish to make is that I should very much like to see a rather different relationship between the Foreign Office and the B.B.C. I realise that there is a very smooth-working and efficient liaison machinery. Obviously, the overseas services of the B.B.C. and the Foreign Office are in close touch with each other. The point I want to drive home is that the objects with which the B.B.C. is broadcasting were laid down in 1946 in the agreement between the Postmaster-General and the B.B.C. The year 1946 was the period in which the party opposite was on its honeymoon with Uncle Joe. A lot has happened since 1946. The cold war, which was practically non-existent at that time, is now admitted by everyone to be in full swing and of the utmost importance. I cannot help questioning whether a directive laid down as long ago as 1946 by the Postmaster-General, in agreement, I presume, with the Foreign Office, is up to date now. Therefore, I hope that careful consideration will be given to the question: Why are we broadcasting to the Soviet Union and to the other Communist dominated countries? The terms of reference which I have mentioned ought to be revised at once. I should like to see a clear directive given to the overseas service of the B.B.C. in the light of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's policy towards the future of occupied Europe. I should like to feel that the object with which we are broadcasting to these countries is to keep hope alive in Eastern Europe while being scrupulously careful, under no circumstances, to raise false hopes. I apologise for having spoken for too long, but this is a subject in which I am particularly interested. I conclude by saying that I fully understand the gravity of the financial crisis in which this country finds itself. It is a crisis for which the party opposite is by no means blameless. Their activities during the period they were in power undoubtedly made a serious contribution to the deterioration in our financial situation. It ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to make the criticisms they have made today, even though there may be a great deal in what they have said. I greatly regret the cuts, small as they are, that have been made in our broadcast output to the countries of Europe. I hope that these cuts will be restored before long, when we can afford to replace them. I also regret the drastic cuts that have had to be made in our output to Latin-America. I hope that these valuable broadcasts will also be restored before long. I think that closer co-ordination and liaison between the free countries in the field of psychological warfare, probably under the auspices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is something which requires urgent consideration, and I hope that H.M. Government will take the lead in this matter. I hope, too, that the "Why" of broadcasting to Communist countries—the objects for which we broadcast—will be reviewed and brought up to date. I consider that it is the supreme task of allied statesmen in the free world to do everything in their power to avoid the unthinkable horror of another war and to establish peace with honour. It is because I think that the vast majority of the people, as opposed to the Governments, of occupied Europe, and of the Soviet Union itself, though to a lesser extent, share this view, and because our only contact with them is by the propagation of truth on the air, that I regard broadcasting as a major factor in our defensive armoury, and as part of our insurance against another war. I welcome the recognition of this fact by the Government, and I look forward to the many improvements which are urgently required."It has not, therefore, been found necessary to make any special arrangements for co-ordination of the languages used in the services of the two organisations or to establish any direct liaison between them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th September, 1950; Vol. 478, c. 214.]
Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer a question on a point of information? He has obviously made a great study of these matters of foreign broadcasts by the way in which he commented in his speech on what I think he would regard as an important matter—the quality of the B.B.C. broadcasts to Eastern Europe. What was interesting me was whether the hon. Gentleman would indicate where he has access, and where we as hon. Members of the House may have access, to the transcripts of the broadcasts, which would be very interesting. I do not mean this in any offensive way; I merely ask what means of access there is to these transcripts, so that we may be able to obtain them as well. It is a matter of some importance and interest to me.
I quite agree; I am only surprised that the hon. Gentleman does not know that there is not the slightest difficulty in any hon. Member, or, as far as I know, any member of the general public, obtaining either the foreign transcript or the English translation of every broadcast that the B.B.C. puts on the air. I believe I am right in saying that numbers of them are available in the Library of the House, and that one can see not only copies of these broadcasts there, but also some very interesting monitoring service transcripts of the internal broadcasts in the Soviet Union. My remarks are largely based on a study of this matter which I have been making on some of these broadcasts.
I do not think that the general public can have access to these transcripts, but only Members of Parliament.
Then maybe I am wrong about that.
I would begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe) on the lucidity of a speech showing great courage in rebutting some of the more offensive and untrue accusations made against the British Council, but at the same time I would warn him that if he continues in this vein, I do not doubt that his political antecedents will be investigated, and I would not be at all surprised if he was described as a man who is unfitted for an Empire Party, and, indeed, if he goes further still, that his financial position might be investigated by his political enemies in a newspaper feature, and his wife's finances also reported, and his own position as a Conservative candidate opposed by one pledged to drive the British Council out of the Empire and who will stand at the next election against him.We have seen today this Chamber turned into a board room in which the directors of a going concern found themselves discussing the advertising appropriations for the next year. It is true that the advertising appropriations have not been very well presented, and also true that the directors, although they were put into office by the shareholders last year, are making it quite clear that they are still influenced by the decisions and actions of the old board of directors, although they deplore and deprecate those actions. The directors have come to us with these appropriations, and have asked us to consider them, and it is right and proper that we should make our comments upon them. The advertising appropriations of this nation are divided into two sections. There is the direct advertising appropriation used for selling goods, and the indirect one for prestige purposes, and, for the benefit of hon. Members on this side of the House who are perhaps not so familiar with the advertising jargon which I am now using, perhaps I may be permitted to explain the difference between the two. The advertising appropriation of the direct category is that which is seen in the newspapers and on the hoardings saying "Buy X's Beer," accompanied by a large-size picture of a bottle of beer so that the most simple people should be able to recognise it. That is the direct advertising appropriation for the purpose of selling goods. The indirect one is for prestige purposes, and usually shows a picture of a managing director or chairman of a company, sitting at his ease, smoking a pipe, showing his profile, and, if he has a dog, with his dog quietly sitting at his feet. If he is an old gentleman, he is described as the founder, but, if he is comparatively young, he is described as "dynamic," and this advertising generally supports the optimistic slogan "Good times are coming soon, and you will be able to buy X's beer." That is an illustration of the prestige advertising. There is a third kind concerning market research. Today, we have been discussing the advertising appropriations for the nation which have been divided into direct advertising, prestige advertising and market research, and on this subject my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) made a point that ought to be well remembered. She said that this market research of the nation, which has been undertaken, and which has been described over and over again in the political Press as being a snooping campaign run by snoopers, had saved this nation hundreds of thousands of pounds. I only hope that, tomorrow morning, newspapers which have been so critical of this expenditure will make amends and repeat every word of my hon. Friend's statement, because that is something which a nation which has been fed on these half-truths should know. In discussing these appropriations, we must consider what a good business does in circumstances such as those which face this nation today. We are finding it difficult to sell our goods when the market is not as satisfactory or stable as it was some years ago. We are finding that we have difficulty in maintaining the quality of our goods because of the difficulty of getting raw materials. It is not at this stage that any successful private business begins to cut its advertising appropriations. This is the time to increase them. The big commercial firms of this country, who well know what virtue there is in advertising, and who are faced with a recession in trade, do not cut their appropriations because they are not going to send out their salesmen unsupported by the necessary advertising. Instead, they increase them. They advertise more, but what they do, of course, is to check the results. They want to know whether this paper is paying or that magazine is bringing results or this radio programme is justifying the expenditure. But the Government have not bothered to tell us whether they consider one form of publicity or information is more satisfactory than another. It is argued that the financial situation of the country is such that the whole of the expenditure must be cut. It is not good business. It is not the sort of thing that hon. and right hon. Members opposite would do in their own companies, and if that policy is not good enough for companies I submit it is not good enough for us here. We want to sell goods. We need direct advertising and we need prestige advertising. We could take space for prestige advertising. We have for illustration a patrician figure with a dog at its feet—John Bull—which is still good for our trade throughout the world. I should like to see more money spent on advertising the idea and philosophy that lies behind that figure. We have not only consumption goods for sale but ideas for sale and now, when the whole world is being ringed by bad ideas, is the time for us to use the lever of advertising and information to break through that ring with the instrument of good ideas. It is argued, quite correctly, that money is scarce and I propose to give some advice on how the foreign exchange can be found—the dollars, francs and the rest of the currency we need—to give the Government money to spend on overseas publicity. Before I come to that point I want to say how much I regret the cuts of approximately £40,000 in the amount to be spent on information by the Colonial Office, for when the full savour of the Colonial Secretary's robust remarks in defence of flogging in Africa comes to be known throughout Africa and the tropical Colonies, when that is fully understood, much more than £40,000 will have to be spent to make the Africans understand again that what the Colonial Secretary says does not really represent the view of democratic Britain. It is at this stage that I recommend the Government to think of doubling up spending on Colonial Office information—[An HON. MEMBER: "And whether the Colonial Secretary is too expensive."]—A considerable amount of money is being spent by newspapers in this country quite recklessly, quite wantonly and quite extravagantly on the maintenance of overseas services which are trivial and unimportant compared with the overseas services that are being cut by the Government. In every direction the newspapers of this country are being given the currency required to buy the trivial, silly and absurd from the United States. One paper in Fleet Street, the "Sunday Pictorial," caused quite a sensation the other day by throwing out American strips and employing British artists to draw strips. Whether that is a good thing or not I cannot say. I have not yet been able to understand the interest people take in strip cartoons; but I know that dollars are going to the United States to buy these trivial and cheap bits of nonsense, absurd features about film stars and articles describing life in Hollywood. All this is done at a time when we cannot afford to spend the money on the real necessities of life. There is no newspaper in the country desirous of sending yet another correspondent abroad to report the latest hatchet slaying in New York, or whatever it might be, which finds any difficulty at all in obtaining the necessary dollars from the Treasury. There are hundreds of men living outside this country representing British newspapers abroad who could well come back and do a valuable job of work and save this nation a great deal of currency. There are reputable established agencies, such as Reuters, that could cover the needs and services of these newspapers quite adequately. I ask the Financial Secretary to look very carefully at this. We have all been generous to the newspapers. The Labour Government were generous and this Government are being generous, but let us ask ourselves if we are obtaining any value from all this. The money that we spend on these imports is completely lost. There is no re-export of these goods. The Americans are not interested in the newspapers and features that are being produced here. With the money that can be saved I suggest that the Board of Directors go into session again and see if they can revise the advertising provisions in order that British salesmen with ideas are properly supported by national publicity.
We have had a debate that has shown surprising and overwhelming unanimity of view. I have been in the Chamber nearly all the time, and I do not think there has been a speech that has not pointed out that the Government have not set themselves on an unwise course. I should like to start straight away with what seemed to be the main argument upon which the Under-Secretary of State relied, namely, that these cuts are no innovation. He argued that as the Labour Government made cuts it was perfectly all right for the present Government to make cuts. He seemed to think that that was a pretty good point.I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) successfully debunked that argument. It is one that does not stand up at all, though it was the main argument used by the hon. Gentleman. If one starts with the argument that if one cut last year it is a good reason for cutting this year, it will also be a good reason for cutting next year and the year after. The hon. Gentleman got very near to talking about making annual cuts as if it were the proper thing to do. If we are to have ceilings and prices are going up there will have to be continuing cuts and we shall have cut after cut after cut until this service completely collapses. When we were in office we really did cut, as the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) and the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) said. We really cut to the bone, and we went with great care into all the economies which could be made. I do not deny that there are always other small economies that could be made; but we did cut very near to the bone. At the same time we were very careful to avoid causing irreparable damage, and when it became clear that if we insisted on the original cuts irreparable damage would be done we reversed our decision and restored some cuts. If the hon. Gentleman is going to follow our example he should do it to the full. We did make cuts last year, but we restored the cuts when it was clear that irreparable damage would be done. If he is going to rest on our example let him do so thoroughly and logically.
That is precisely what we have done.
Increased the services of the B.B.C.?
The right hon. Gentleman did not listen to what was said by the Foreign Secretary. Had he done so he would have seen that we were following the example of his Government.
With regard to jamming. We put back money so that the services could go on; but jamming is quite a different thing. Now the Government pray in aid the cuts we made last year in order to justify their argument; but last year, when we made the cuts, they went full out attacking us. They cannot have it both ways. The Foreign Secretary must make up his mind whether he was right last year, when he was attacking us, or whether he is right this year, when he is defending himself.We have two complaints about the Government's attitude, both at home and overseas. First, they have made economies which involve quite a disproportionate amount of damage compared to the saving made. When one is making economies one has to weigh the actual saving against the cost of making that saving in services lost. Right the way through, both at home and overseas, it seems that in many cases they are now involving us in quite disproportionate costs. Secondly, they are making a wrong approach to the whole problem of public information. They seem to regard public information, as they did when they were in opposition, as something quite disconnected from administration. The Financial Secretary was always talking, when he was in opposition, as if information was a sort of balloon that could be let up or down for doctrinaire reasons but which had no connection with the earth underneath it. The difficulty is that this Government still have no co-ordinating person responsible for information as a whole. We had to have the two hon. Gentlemen to reply to the debate because there is no single person responsible for this matter. That is because they do not take it very seriously, and although we are very glad that the two hon. Gentlemen are here, and we have listened to one with interest and shall listen to the other with interest, I am sure we should have preferred to have had a senior Minister present and responsible. As my hon. Friend, the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) pointed out, in giving two or three very good immediate concrete examples, there is an immediate connection between administration and information. She gave a number of instances of that. When we come to foreign fields, it is clear that a proper system of information services is part of a great Power, and if we reduce it, as the Government are doing, below a safe minimum level, we are depriving ourselves of one of the features, one of the weapons, which is proper to a great Power in the world. The Government will make us, in the whole field of the cold war, less than a great Power. The fact is that the Conservatives do not like and never have liked the modern techniques of information services, both for home administration and for foreign policy. They therefore decided to deflate the balloon which they thought was over-inflated, for doctrinal reasons and before they had any idea of what the consequences would be. It is clear, if hon. Members look at the facts, that the Government made blind cuts—decided what cuts to make before they knew what the consequences of the cuts would be; and the consequences threaten to cause very grave damage both at home and overseas. On the home front, so far we have had very little information. I do not doubt that the hon. Gentleman who is to wind up will give us more. We have heard that the total cuts in the home information services will be about £700,000, but we have very little idea of what they are. In his answer on 29th January, the Financial Secretary was very vague. He said cuts would be made, and it seems quite clear that a lot of the cuts had still to be worked out when he was speaking. That is one of the reasons which makes me think that it was a policy of blind cuts, of imposing cuts without any idea of the consequences. In the course of my speech, I shall ask the hon. Gentleman one or two questions of which I have given notice, and we shall attach very great importance to the answers which he is able to give us. I should like to repeat a question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton). Could we hear the main cuts which are being made in respect of the C.O.I., if convenient, by function and money, although not every little detail? Some things are known, however, and I must say that in what we know we detect the sinister personal hand of the Financial Secretary. The things against which he had a vendetta when he was in opposition are the things which have suffered most, direcriy he has his hands on power. In particular, there were two things which he attacked very bitterly when he was in opposition, and as I thought at the time attacked ignorantly; and they have suffered very much—namely, the film service and the lecture service, and I want to say a few words about them. We built up the best film service in the world—and when I say "we" I mean all of us, because the Crown Film Unit was founded under a Conservative Government and even survived the cuts of 1931. We are apparently now in an even worse position than in 1931 when the Government were slashing all over the place. The Crown Film Unit survived 1931, but it cannot survive 1952. It has been the best film service in the world, and a model taken by many other countries, but now right hon. Gentlemen opposite are virtually destroying it. They have taken two decisions, as understand it, which make the showing of nearly all these films impossible, or which very greatly reduce the possibility. First of all, they have taken the really stupid decision to dissolve the Mobile Film Production Unit Service. I put this as a question to them: I believe they now have a new formula as a test of whether a film is admissible for showing in the public film service or not. It has to be only for technical instruction in order to help a person to learn more about the job he is already in. If these two decisions are being taken—to dissolve the mobile van service, and to have this very narrow definition of technical construction—a large number of invaluable services will be totally destroyed. As I see it, all recruiting must be destroyed. All recruiting films, I mean, must be destroyed by this, because, of course, recruiting would fall outside the formula by definition, for it they are trying to recruit someone who is already in another job, by this definition he is not to be helped in a proposed new job. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South, pointed out that this was typical of a general attitude towards information—publicity—about recruiting. Then, apparently, for the recruiting for the Fire Service and the Civil Defence Service, films will not be able to be used. It will be of no use the Home Secretary coming down to the House with his hand on his heart, as he does, saying: "I am doing everything I possibly can to build up this vital service. I can think of nothing else day and night." He has been a party to destroying one of the main means of recruiting for that Service. He really should have clung to this recruiting service in the public interest. Then, if these two decisions have been taken, that very important service run by the Ministry of Labour, the Youth Employment Service, which was designed to get young people into the right jobs, will also be affected. It has never been more needed than today, when we have this very serious unemployment, and only part-time employment, in many parts of the country. I should like here to ask the hon. Gentleman if he will give us the proportion of films shown in this film service last year, or in the last convenient period—the proportion that were technical and non-propaganda films, because there was a general feeling spread about, which he did a good deal to spread about when he was in opposition, that this sort of propaganda film or entertainment film, or something of that sort, was not very useful. I am quite sure that these two decisions, for disbanding the mobile van service, and to have this narrow definition of what is a proper film for training and giving instruction, are very stupid, and I am quite sure that these cuts must be restored, despite this formula, despite the doctrine that inspires it. It would be interesting to know, if we can know yet, how far the services that have been destroyed on the one hand are being set up on another hand. Are Departments now setting up for recruiting all sorts of services which were previously being done by the Central Office of Information? Of course, the more that is done the less saving there is, and, indeed, there may be no saving at all. Indeed, that would be even more expensive. Mobile vans are, in fact, a much cheaper way of showing films than fixed projectors. If the films are taken out of the vans and are stuck down in Departments they cannot be moved about. It will be interesting to know how far these films are being demobilised or immobilised and made fixed, because the cheaper way of using them is in the mobile vans. Of course, if the Departments now buy their own mobile vans, that will be far more expensive than running a centralised pool of them. It is an idiotic way of doing it, and it would be interesting to know, if, indeed, any plans have yet been made, how far that sort of thing is being done. It is alarming that there do not seem to be plans for alternative ways of doing these things. On 6th March I asked the Minister of Health about alternative means for making films for training in hospitals, and it was obvious that these cuts were blind cuts because he said he had no idea. Indeed, the Financial Secretary himself, when I asked him on 28th February what the saving would be, he said that he could not say. So clearly he had not foreseen what the consequences of his own cuts would be, and this sort of blind cutting is really the height of irresponsibility. It is taking the doctrine of anti-planning to asinine lengths. It is really flouting common sense, and I would ask the Financial Secretary if he could now give me some idea of what, if any, saving there is going to be after the other Departments have made substitute arrangements. On the lecture service I want to say only one thing. The lecture service has been stopped, and therewith the only public information activity in the whole of the United Kingdom about the Commonwealth has gone. This lecture service about the Colonies and the Commonwealth was in very high demand all over the country. The High Commissioners are very disappointed with this decision. We were building up an increasing co-operation, and it really is extraordinary that Conservatives, who talked about Empire and Commonwealth, are going down in history in this respect as the Government that went out of its way to destroy the only piece of information going on in this country about the Commonwealth. What would be the cost of restoring the Commonwealth lecture service, so that we can know the amount they are saving by cutting this one activity on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for spreading knowledge in this country—and, heaven knows, it is sorely needed—about the Colonies and the Commonwealth? Now I come to some overseas matters, and I hope that the Financial Secretary, who will no doubt be very well briefed while I am talking, will deal with one or two of these questions. I understand that here we are facing a cut of about £500,000. But here, too, though this afternoon we were given many valuable details, for which we are very grateful, there are still some details about which we should like to know more. The Publications Division of the Central Office of Information primarily prepares material for distribution overseas, and we should like to know what cuts have been made in this Division. If the hon. Gentleman could specify it, we should like to know how much of that falls on material prepared for the Colonies—if it is inconvenient he could tell me on another occasion—how much falls on material prepared for Commonwealth countries, and how much on material for the Far East. I am very glad that on both sides of the House there has been complete unanimity on the British Council. That is now a very efficient and very valuable body, and I echo the things that were said about the irresponsible campaign run by the "Evening Standard" and the "Daily Express." I was in entire agreement with the duet which was conducted by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) and the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Mott-Radclyffe). I wish to refer to the British Council and its role in the Commonwealth. In the Asian countries of the Commonwealth the British Council has a very important role to fulfil which it does not have to fulfil in other countries to nearly the same extent, namely, the teaching of the teachers of English. This is a vitally important thing in the interests of the Commonwealth. When I was at the Commonwealth Relations Office, I set on foot a modest programme for increasing the teaching of the teachers of English; that was what we were concentrating on, and it was going to have extra expenditure, although not very great. I take it that that has now gone; that we have destroyed this very important service for the maintenance of the English language in India, Pakistan and Ceylon. I suppose that the plans that were made by the Commonwealth Relations Office have now been cut back. We must remember that in all the Commonwealth countries, Asian and others, the United States influence is strong, and getting stronger every day. Now, we are in no way inimical to the United States, but we do not want every Commonwealth country to get an American way of life, and the amount of propaganda that is being put out supporting a great deal of their economic trade and penetration is becoming a serious thing. I think that the British Council is the best way of maintaining the British connection with and the British way of life in these countries—even the most British of them, like Australia and New Zealand. It seems to me that here, too, it is very short-sighted, particularly for a party that boasts about its understanding of Commonwealth and Empire matters, to make this sort of economy. Now I come to the question which concerned hon. Members most during the debate—the B.B.C. Overseas Service. I agree with every word that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks was saying about this. I should like to deal with it first on the short-run immediate consequences of what the Government has decided, and then say a word or two about what I regard as the very grave long-run problem. The immediate effect is that we have in fact a 7 per cent. cut not in money but in services, which is the thing we are worried about. This 7 per cent. cut is much more serious than it appears at first sight, because it is not, of course, a 7 per cent. cut of the £4.75 million but a 7 per cent. cut on nearly half of that. Quite a large part of the B.B.C. expenditure is quite rightly immune from these cuts. There are three separate things which we have to deal with. The general overseas service and the overseas service in English takes about 30 per cent. of the expenditure of the B.B.C. and is vitally important. We do not want to cut it: it broadcast to the Commonwealth, to our Forces and to English communities overseas and it is really a displaced home service. We are a vigorous country and have many commitments overseas and a lot of British people overseas. We have to give them the next thing that we can to the home service. It is a most important link, and we certainly do not want it cut. I should like to suggest that in the presentation of White Papers and accounts in the future there should be a sharp distinction made between the general overseas service, and the foreign language service of the B.B.C. A great deal of misunderstanding arises because people think that the whole of this £4.75 million goes in foreign broadcasting, whereas 30 per cent. is going in what is really a home service to British people who happen to be overseas. Then there is the monitoring, which takes about 10 per cent. of the cost of the B.B.C. That expenditure is not under B.B.C. control at all. It is under Russian control. As the hon. Member for Hillsborough said, the more Russian broadcasts, the more we must monitor. It is no good monitoring little bits of a programme, and if we are going to do it for intelligence and for other reasons for which it must be done, then it must be an adequate service, and in the last three years the cost has gone up 50 per cent. in ratio with the Russian programmes. I maintain that the cost of monitoring should not be in the grant-in-aid. The cost of it is not under the control of the B.B.C., and if we put it in the grant-in-aid, every time the Russians increase their programmes, by forcing us to increase monitoring and thereby taking money from something else in the B.B.C. they actually cut down our service, and, apart from that, a good deal of this monitoring is maintained for Departments of State, particularly the Service Departments for intelligence reasons—perhaps 25 per cent.—and that certainly should not be in the grant-in-aid. This is a service which the B.B.C. is doing for the home department, which should not come into the grant-in-aid at all. If the B.B.C. wish to reduce the monitoring service to its own needs—and it can scarcely be blamed for doing it because of the way the Government treat it now—it would cost these other Departments far more to set up an equivalent service to obtain their own information. Those are two parts—the general overseas service and monitoring—and we now come to the third part—foreign languages—which take about 55 per cent. of the cost of the whole service between Europe and Latin America and the whole 7 per cent. falls on this 55 per cent., so it is a very heavy cut indeed. The right hon. Gentleman said that it is only a very little baby; but it is a very big baby; it is a 7 per cent. cut of 55 per cent. of the B.B.C. As the "Daily Telegraph" said, it is really folly to pick on Europe and Latin America at a time when we are trying to increase and encourage our exports to these other countries, following on the cuts of Australian imports. We are paying an immensely disproportionate price for the saving that is being made. I ask the Financial Secretary if it was known that the failure to give the 7 per cent. increase would lead to a 20 per cent. cut in the news bulletins to Europe. Was it known that if £40,000 a year more was given it would be possible to keep all the news bulletins and not cut one? Was it a deliberate decision not to give £40,000 more and to cut out all the news bulletins which have been cut out. Was that a deliberate decision and not the consequence of a blind cut? These are not just temporary losses; they are permanent and irreparable losses to a large extent. A propaganda reputation is built up over a number of years, and yet in a few months of a Tory Government this has been destroyed. It will take years to build it up again. I was glad that something was said about jamming and was also glad to hear that the Foreign Office had beaten the Treasury. It must have been a long struggle. We are very interested in this. I could not make out how much is being given to the B.B.C. for it. Is it just to meet past costs which have been incurred or is it an agreement to meet future costs to deal with jamming? Is it all jamming or only Russian jamming? One way of overcoming the jamming problem is to broadcast in non-jammed languages—German, French and English—which are heard by large numbers of people in Russia, Poland and so forth. To cut the French, German and English language broadcasts at the moment is to aid jamming. I want now to say a word about the very grave long-term effects of the cuts. The truth is that the B.B.C. is being drowned. The hon. Gentleman quite rightly said that it is the third largest service in the world and the first in quality. I agree with him. But, no matter how good it is, it is useless if the others are drowning it. Vital technical developments and extensions of facilities have been put off year after year, and I take my share of the blame for that, but each year they are put off the consequences become graver. The extra cuts this year make them graver still. The Soviet Union and the United States are going up faster than we are. The figures are appalling. In 1947 the B.B.C. was double the Cominform but after these cuts the Cominform will now be double the B.B.C. That is a terrible reversal of form in sheer bulk. Of course, the United States are going up very fast too. But it is worse than that, because what we are fighting in the cold war on the air is a battle for the occupation of the individual set. As my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), said, a few years ago a man in Europe twiddled the knob of his set and very nearly always got a B.B.C. programme. The B.B.C. was occupying the sets. Today such a man has to fish around for a B.B.C. programme, and after these cuts it will be very difficult for him to find one. It is not only a matter of quantity; we have also to consider the quality and the strength of the signals. What is important is the noise we make on the set when the fellow is twiddling the knob. We are losing all this in Europe and we are being drowned out in Africa. We have to fight at a great disadvantage. Russia has a huge land mass and can place her transmitters in the most convenient places for reaching her targets. We are a tiny island, and unless we have relay stations like the United States have and use all our facilities to the full we shall be drowned out. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East, said how stupid it was not to use Singapore to the full. We have built there a great station with two high-powered transmitters, but we are using the station for only one shift instead of two. That is a waste of capital and a waste of a marvellous chance. We have little force eastwards of India, but we have this station which cost £100,000 and yet we are only using it to half its capacity. It seems to me a mad economy to cut it down in that way. But if we are not to be drowned out, we have got to undertake big projects of relay stations, new technical developments, better signals and so forth. We have got no choice here but to go forward or backward. The mistake which the present Government are making—a mistake which, perhaps, the previous Government made—is to try to rely on standing still and to rely on the good will of the B.B.C.—and the B.B.C. has a lot of good will. Technical developments are going on all the time, and it is not possible to stand still. However good our policy is, it is no good to us if we are physically drowned out by our rivals. We are already badly down—I have discussed this with many people who know—and it is certain that in five years, unless we set about major projects, the B.B.C. Overseas Service will be finished. It will not be worth having. Then hon. Members opposite, if they are still in office, which they will not be, can cut it to their hearts' content because it will be of no use to anybody. It is a terrible discovery to make, to find the situation being made worse by these cuts—because each cut does make the situation worse. What we want is an independent inquiry to deal with this matter. The Under-Secretary of State talked about an inquiry, but he was rather fobbing us off with something which will not be of much value. It did not add up to anything very much. I believe the sort of committee of inquiry that he described has been held before. There is not even a senior Minister on it. We suggest that there should be a genuine independent committee of inquiry which does its best to raise this matter above party politics—for this is not a party political matter; this is a great national service—which can look at the problem as a long-term problem, balancing our needs and the national resources and producing a long-term programme. I quite agree with the hon. Member who said that we cannot guarantee anything against cuts, but at least we should have standards by which we can judge, in terms of the national need, what cuts should be made. Indeed, it is almost possible to get guarantees against cuts, as is done by the University Grants Commission. If the Government are serious about an inquiry, there is a very simple test that can be made. If it is really going to be an inquiry of the sort I have described, they must suspend in the meanwhile those cuts which would do irreparable damage in the sense that they cannot be restored again if they are carried out, such as the loss of time on the air—time which will be occupied by other broadcasting countries straightaway so that we cannot actually regain it should we wish to change our policy. If the Government are serious about holding a real inquiry, they must go further and say that they would suspend meanwhile those cuts which involve going off the air, because that is an irreparable decision and nobody in the world could get back those lost channels which would be occupied by other countries. We feel that is a minimum condition upon which we must insist, for agreement in this matter. If the hon. Gentleman cannot give us this assurance, which amounts to a suspension of the cuts in the Latin-American and European services, pending an inquiry—and we would be happy to take part in such an inquiry if we were invited—we shall have no choice but to divide the House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) speaks on this subject with an experience based upon his official responsibilities in this matter, and indeed towards the end of his speech I caught the echoes of inter-Departmental battles of not very long ago. But I thought that the right hon. Gentleman, with the latter and more detailed part of whose speech I will seek to deal in a moment, was, in his opening passages, a little less than fair to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.The right hon. Gentleman suggested—and those hon. Members who were present during my hon. Friend's speech will disagree with the right hon. Gentleman—that my hon. Friend's only argument was that these were not the first cuts that had been made in these services. My hon. Friend—I will not weary the House by deploying at length the arguments which he deployed so well—dealt, in fact, with a great many matters. Let me, however, deal with the point in my hon. Friend's speech to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The point has this significance. The right hon. Gentleman is in this difficulty. Either it is wrong to make cuts in this subject matter at all, in which case he and his right hon. Friends stand condemned by their own speeches to exactly the same degree as they sought to condemn us; or alternatively, all previous cuts were perfectly all right, but these are wrong. That assumption involves this, that by some happy coincidence the exact optimum figure of expenditure in this direction had been reached at precisely the same moment that right hon. Gentlemen opposite left office—a very extraordinary coincidence, and a state of affairs which is in peculiar and marked contrast to the state in which certain other aspects of our affairs were left at that time. My main duty tonight is to reply on the home side of the debate, as my hon. Friend dealt with the overseas side. The right hon. Gentleman took us to task for the fact that two of us were replying and indicated that this was some mark of the lack of interest of the present Administration in this subject. I find that argument very difficult to reconcile with my own experience during the last two Administrations. As the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say, when I sat on the benches opposite I used occasionally to put a Question on these matters. When it came to discovering to whom the Question had to be addressed, a great deal of ingenuity had to be exercised. Sometimes it was the then Lord President of the Council, sometimes it was the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and sometimes it was the right hon. Gentleman who then held my present office. If the right hon. Gentleman puts any weight on the fact that in this debate my hon. Friend replies on the foreign side and I on the home side as an indication of a lack of interest in the subject, if having two Ministers concerned shows a lack of interest, I leave the House to take the view of what it means to have three. Before passing to the home side, I should like, on my hon. Friend's behalf, to reply briefly to one or two of the overseas points. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers) and, later, the right hon. Gentleman himself, inquired about the investigation announced by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State towards the concluding part of his speech. It is difficult to note, when a speech is made, the precise words used, and perhaps as a result, through nobody's fault, there has been some misunderstanding as to what my hon. Friend announced. I have, therefore, Mr. Speaker—in words which, on occasion, you use, "for the sake of greater accuracy"—obtained a copy of my hon. Friend's speech:
I have my hon. Friend's authority to add the fact that those discussions will take place, in the first instance, on the official level between the Foreign Office, Commonwealth Relations and Colonial Offices, the Ministry of Defence and the Board of Trade, together with the B.B.C. and the British Council, with a view, of course, to further stages being considered by Ministers."We have therefore already taken steps to invite the Departments concerned, together with the B.B.C. and the British Council, to consider the whole range of our overseas information services from the political and strategic aspects."
Might I ask if the Government have dissolved the exactly similar committee we had and are setting up a new one, or are they going on with the old committee we had of this sort?
This is, of course, a new body, designed to carry on the particular review the reasons for which, the right hon. Gentleman will recollect, my hon. Friend adduced during his speech.The right hon. Gentleman also asked—this is still on the overseas side—about publications. So far as the Commonwealth Relations Office side is concerned—a matter which, for very human reasons, naturally concerns him—no publications specially designed for the Commonwealth are being cut. The publication which, he may recall, was called "Commonwealth Today," is being retained and, to round off that part of the picture, as the Colonial Office side of the matter is concerned, the publication in substance remains and the magazine "Today," the most important single item, is having its circulation expanded. That is a magazine, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, specially designed for the Colonial Territories. If I may turn to my own principal task—which is to put before the House certain considerations regarding the home service, and in the course of doing so to seek to answer certain of the large number of highly pertinent questions put in the debate—before dealing in detail with those matters may I put the general picture as Her Majesty's Government see it. As my hon. Friend reminded the House, in the financial year 1951–52 expenditure in excess of £10 million was provided for on the overseas side and very nearly £3,500,000 on the home side. In the present economic position of this country I do not think there is any hon. Member who would deny that expenditure of that magnitude ought to be scrutinized very carefully to see where economies have been effected. I quite agree that this is the type of subject on which opinions can and do very legitimately differ, because there is some inherent difficulty in assessing the precise value of items of information expenditure, since the results which they achieve are in the nature of things somewhat intangible. It is much more difficult to weigh the precise value of items of information expenditure than it is perhaps to say what is the precise value of an item of social or, indeed, of defence expenditure because we are dealing here with matters which are not wholly matters of ascertained and ascertainable facts and on which, therefore, human judgment has to be exercised in perhaps some greater degree than when we are dealing with more material matters. As a result of this scrutiny, as the House knows, Her Majesty's Government have decided to reduce the overseas expenditure by approximately £500,000 on the £10 million and the home expenditure by approximately £70,000 on the just under £3,500,000 and the disproportion—the mathematical disproportion—between those two figures will to some extent reassure the House as to the importance which Her Majesty's Government do attach to securing, in the words my hon. Friend used, that the voice of this country is properly heard abroad. It is, of course, perfectly easy to analyse the particular heads under which reduction has been effected, to argue against any particular reduction. It is perfectly easy to do, as the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) did, and, to use the classical, but I think the slightly disreputable argument, that it is "only a little one." But, of course, as the House will appreciate, if we approach this, or indeed any other element in Government expenditure, on the basis that it has to be looked at purely on its own isolated merits, it would be really impossible to achieve any substantial economies at all. It really is necessary to look at this matter with some sense of proportion. I think it was an hon. Member opposite who said some years ago that all men are equal, but that some are more equal than others. It is certainly true that while all expenditure can be argued to be essential, some expenditure is more essential than other expenditure. It does not constitute an effective argument against these proposals merely to demonstrate that the items affected have some value. What the House and the Government have to do is to decide whether in the present economic position of the country—a position which nobody will dispute does demand economy in public expenditure—certain items, of themselves no doubt agreeable and of some value, can be justified. That, I would suggest, is the proper test to apply. It is no argument against a particular cut that, against the whole vast spread of Government expenditure, it is comparatively small. A few days ago a friend who is now engaged in writing the life of the great Mr. Gladstone sent me a quotation from a speech made by that statesman in Edinburgh on 29th November, 1897, which, I think, bears on this point. Mr. Gladstone said:
That, after all, was Mr. Gladstone; and I am very glad to see the Liberal Chief Whip is in his place to render his meed of praise. But it does illustrate the fact that it is really no argument against a proposed economy to demonstrate that against the background of national expenditure it is a small one. I come now, in response to the right hon. Gentleman, to the precise heads under which the economies have been made. I appreciate that the House is in a little difficulty in dealing with the matter by reason of the fact that the annual White Paper on Information Services is not yet available. I make no apology for that. In point of fact, last year it appeared in June and there is still a little time before ours is as late as that. It is in the course of preparation and will be available with the full details; but it is not ready yet. I must do my best, therefore, to give the House the figures. As I think the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, the biggest individual saving comes from the reduction in the use of films. As I told the House during the Adjournment debate on 10th March, or perhaps I should say with greater accuracy during the not particularly early hours of 11th March, that emphasis in reduction of expenditure on films is not based on any antipathy to the film as a medium of information activity. It is based on the solid fact that the film is a very expensive method of information activity. The first decision, from which the others flow, was to make a substantial reduction—the net saving expected is in the neighbourhood of £300,000—on expenditure on film activity. It followed inescapably from that decision that the case for a continued Government film production unit failed. Most people with a knowledge of the Crown Film Unit will agree that it had, from the economic point of view, been under-employed over the last few years. A substantial reduction in expenditure upon films did make it financially quite impossible to continue a separate Government film production unit. The decision was based upon that fact. Not only do I not dissent, but I fully support what hon. Members have said about the vast artistic, aesthetic and technical achievements of the unit. But it still remains the fact that once we decided to reduce Government use of films in a substantial degree, it really became quite unjustifiable to maintain a unit for the production of Government films. This decision was necessarily inter-linked with the decision to which the right hon. Gentleman has already referred to abolish the film distribution service of the Central Office of Information. It is, of course, a fact that a large proportion of the films produced by the Crown Film Unit were seen on the screen only through the medium of the distribution service. Therefore, if it were decided to abolish the distribution service, inevitably that decision interlocked with a decision in connection with the unit itself. The right hon. Gentleman asked me to state the proportion of the films which were of one character or another. I will give him a figure in a moment. It is a little difficult to give an answer with great precision because, as he will appreciate, many of the films produced by the unit combined entertainment with instruction. The question of the definition as to what was in the strict sense a technical or training film or what was in the broader sense an information or propaganda film is, to some extent, a matter of personal opinion. But substantially, and subject to that qualification on which I put some weight, the proportions were fifty-fifty. That is the best figure which I can give. The savings are in the order of £300,000. They are appreciable, and certain considerations follow from them. One is the reduction in the administrative overheads of the C.O.I. itself. Half the C.O.I.'s regional staff, say 150 out of 300, were concerned with film work. The regional staffs can, therefore, now be reduced by that amount. The total reduction in the C.O.I. as a whole is, in round figures, 500, reducing the total to about 1,000. I would stress that a very large part of that reduction depends upon the decision on the subject of films. The hon. Lady the Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton) made a most interesting speech, almost entirely confined to the Social Survey. I must say that the whole tone of her speech was peculiarly persuasive, in that she based her argument upon the grounds of economy, an argument which no doubt she appreciated would receive full weight from this bench. Before I answer her—she did not, I think, wholly apprehend it—I asked her to appreciate what the Social Survey does. In the first place, the Social Survey is somewhat anomalously placed in the structure of the C.O.I. Whereas the main structure of the C.O.I. is designed to put out information, the whole purpose of the Social Survey is to draw it in. It is, therefore, somewhat anomalous that it should be in the information machinery of the Government at all. It would certainly be administratively possible to place it elsewhere. What I think the hon. Lady did not appreciate is that the Survey does not just conduct surveys out of the blue. It does not just decide, "It would be interesting to investigate something. Let us, therefore, go and investigate it." It carries out the surveys at the request of particular Departments of State for the purpose of assisting those Departments in the carrying out of their duty. I entirely agree with her that in the examples which she quoted—and, indeed, in others which she did not quote—it has proved fully worth while and has undoubtedly resulted, even in the stricter narrow financial sense, in substantial gains to the State. It is, therefore, being continued, and the figures in respect of it show a reduction, though not a very drastic one. The total cost in the last year, 1951–52, was £121,000; it will be £110,000 this year. The staff has been reduced from 90 to 81."It is the mark of a chicken-hearted Chancellor when he shrinks from upholding economy in detail. He is not worth his salt if he is not ready to save what are meant by candle-ends and cheese-paring in the cause of the country."
I know the hon. Gentleman wishes to be fair but the point about the staff is this. I know it has been reduced from about 90 to 81, but the point is that the complement was 100, but it has not been fully taken up so that the real reduction is from 100 to 81.
The reduction is from 90, which is the figure at which we found it, to 81. Complements, although good debating points whether spelt with an "i" or an "e", are not very substantial considerations, and the figure which we found was 90 and the figure to which we are reducing it is 81.The reason is this. We agree that some surveys should continue, but, in this respect as in others, there are some more valuable and some less valuable, and we propose to concentrate the resources of the survey on those of more direct and obvious value. The hon. Lady quoted from the Parliamentary answer which I gave on 11th March, and, quite properly from her point of view, she referred to the social surveys as of the greatest possible value. No hon. Member would dispute that fact, but if one looks at that answer, one will find that it related to the social surveys during the preceding two years, and the hon. Lady will see that there were some of rather less obvious value. One was an inquiry into the state of knowledge of and information about the objects of the Festival of Britain, and, whatever else we may do, we presumably would not go on using that sort of survey. In fact, the surveys will be confined to the real practical administrative needs, but I can assure the hon. Lady that there is not the slightest intention of abandoning those surveys which are worth while, and particularly those of the kind to which she referred. The saving on the Social Survey is comparatively small, but some of the others are larger. There is the lecture service to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. The saving by its abolition is £70,000, but the right hon. Gentleman urged its retention at least as far as Commonwealth and colonial lectures were concerned. I thought he very much overstated his case when he said that this was the only service which provided lectures upon the Commonwealth. Surely, as I am sure he is aware—
The only United Kingdom Government service.
I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman meant that, but he said the only service. The material point is that there are other services than United Kingdom Government services which deal with that subject. There are those of the societies and the representatives of other Governments, but he would agree that it would be quite wrong if we left the House under the impression that the abolition of this service would deprive the people of this country of the opportunity of ever hearing a word about the Commonwealth and Empire. The lecture service cost £70,000 a year. [Interruption.] I think the House can be assured, in view of the arrival of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) armed with a plentiful supply of books, that, whatever lecture services may have been abolished, others remain.There is one further item which the right hon. Gentleman asked me to give, and that concerns the reduction of expenditure upon exhibitions. That has been halved, with a saving again of £70,000. There, again, we have adopted just the attitude which I described to the hon. Lady a few moments ago. We have concentrated the expenditure upon those exhibitions of really direct practical value, those for example like the exhibitions of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government on the technicalities of building which will really assist those doing that job. But we have reduced expenditure on exhibitions of the kind the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) properly described as prestige advertising. I have given the cuts in substance on the C.O.I. There is also a reduction of expenditure of the home Departments, borne on their own Votes, on information work. The amount of the reductions vary. The Ministry of Food has made conspicuous reductions in its information expenditure, but regard has also been paid to what hon. Members opposite referred—the need to secure that adequate publicity is given to the Service Departments for the purposes of recruiting. About a third of the home information expenditure relates directly or indirectly to that. Finally, I firmly repudiate the suggestion made and repeated from the benches opposite to the effect that these have been blind cuts. On the contrary, the cuts to which I have referred were the result of very careful, prolonged and detailed review. They were a deliberate effort to secure economy without doing damage to anything that was essential. They were deliberately designed to secure that the Information Services as other items of Government expenditure, bore their proper load of economies but that they were so applied as to ensure that they fell upon the less essential rather than the more essential items of expenditure. As I said when I began, it is, of course, a matter of legitimate difference of opinion, particularly in this sphere, as to what is essential and what is less essential. I have been present almost entirely throughout this debate and have listened to the arguments brought forward from both sides of the House. As one who has some responsibility in this sphere I find it has been a very helpful debate. We have certainly had the value of the practical experience and the views of a number of hon. Members on both sides, which certainly have been noted and to which the fullest attention—I hope I need hardly say—will be given. But the House equally will recall the responsibility that falls upon the Government to ensure that in this direction, as in others, the utmost possible economy is exercised. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has stated, all the Information Services in the world, home and foreign, will not build up the prestige of a country whose solvency has gone. Equally, the best way in which the good name and standing of this country in the world can be built up is by restoring solvency. And it is because these cuts do constitute—it is true in one small and limited part of the field—a contribution towards the restoration of this country's solvency that I am perfectly certain that they will receive the support of the overwhelming majority of hon. Members in this House.
I think that the last phrase of the speech of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has put this debate in its true perspective—
It being Ten o'Clock, the debate stood adjourned.
On a point of order, Sir. We were just about to move the Closure.
I was informed that 10 o'clock had struck.
Army And Air Force (Annual) Bill
Considered in Committee.
[Colonel Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
Clause 3—(Amendment Of Definition Of "Active Service")
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."I move to report Progress in order to elicit from the Government what their intentions are for the remainder of this Bill. I think the Committee really must know where it stands before again going into the very complicated questions on which we spent so much time last night.
I think that hon. Members on both sides will agree that in the consideration of the Bill which is now before us the Committee finds itself in something of a dilemma. We have on the Order Paper about 107 Amendments and, in addition, some very substantial alterations to the Bill which had been proposed by the Government. I do not think it could be said, and I do not think I ever have said, that the majority of the new Clauses proposed by the Opposition are either frivolous or unjustified; but the truth is that with the exception of a few minor Amendments this Act has never been reviewed since 1881, and even the numerous proposals now on the Order Paper represent only a fraction of the alterations which might well be made.I think it is apparent to all hon. Members, especially those who have taken an interest in yesterday's discussion, that the Committee could not properly discharge its duties of considering the Bill and the numerous Amendments and new Clauses without exceeding the date on which the Bill must be passed. As a result of preliminary discussion, which I must say was very helpful, with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey), it has been agreed through the usual channels that the best solution seems to lie in the appointment of a Departmental committee comprising representatives of both parties and experts from the Service Ministries concerned, and from Parliamentary counsel, in order that they could carry out a thorough review of the whole Act with a view to putting forward their proposals for amendment. If such a course is adopted adequate time would be available for expert consideration of the Measure, a contingency which I think Members will agree is unlikely to arise if the whole matter has to be discussed on the Floor of the House. This committee would be appointed by myself, in conjunction with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air, and details regarding its composition and terms of reference would be worked out through the usual channels. This committee would then put forward its proposals to Her Majesty's Government before the end of this Session with a view to a revised Bill coming before the House during 1953. It might be for consideration that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider these proposals before being discussed by the House itself. I believe that it would be agreed on all sides that the Act as it now stands is so antiquated as to be unworthy and ill-suited to the Army and Air Force of today. In the light of this decision, I therefore hope that we can now concentrate on the remaining Clauses and the important Government Amendments proposed in the Bill which lay down the regulations for the long service engagement in the Army. I am also aware that hon. Members opposite have both moved an Amendment about and expressed anxiety about the date for the discussion of this Bill. I suggest that that subject might also well form part of the discussion of the all-party committee I have suggested. The considerable exploratory work carried out by hon. Members opposite, which I certainly recognise, will not, I think, be wasted since those Amendments and new Clauses will be available for this committee when it confronts the task for which we propose to appoint it. I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the right hon. Member for Dundee, West will consider this as really a sane method of approaching a problem which I think has embarrassed the House, in so far as the magnitude of the task that lies before us was not generally recognised by the House and results from a very long period of neglect of this Bill.
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his statement and for this suggestion. In the old days the Army (Annual) Bill was always the subject of an all-night discussion, but I am afraid that they were not awfully good discussions; they were generally dealing with comparatively minor points, or with some points which have since been dealt with. The enormous changes which have taken place in our military organisation demand quite extensive changes, and beyond that are all the widespread alterations made on courts-martial. I think there is, therefore, a very strong case for a Select Committee, and I should like to accept that suggestion in principle. We should naturally want to look at the terms of reference and consider the whole method of setting it up.There is another point. In the discussion on the Bill an Amendment was put forward for extending the time in which the Bill is introduced each year. That time, of course, dates back to old, historical times—the Mutiny Bill and so forth—but it so happens that almost inevitably the time is very short for the consideration of this Bill. If we have a Select Committee we should probably be able to get a very large measure of agreement and to thrash out quite a number of these subjects. Even so, I think the time would be very short, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman, between now and the Report stage, to consider whether it would not be wise to make the time of this Bill at home the same as it is abroad—Members will be aware that there are different times for the Act to come into force. I hope the Select Committee can get down to its work quickly. Naturally, I could not pin the right hon. Gentleman to a specific date, but I hope that we shall get the Committee in pretty good time so that we might see the shape of the Bill ahead. In the meantime, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to indicate his intentions about some of the Amendments put down by my hon. Friends. He suggested that we should go on to consider the Government Amendments, but a number of Amendments have been put down to those Government Amendments, and if the whole were discussed together I think reasonable progress might be made tonight.
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back from America after what, I hope, was a successful journey. Anyhow, he looks none the worse for it. It is quite true that in what he calls the old times there were all-night discussions on this Measure, but I do not think that in the old times to which he was referring the debates ever started as first Order of the Day. The Committee stage of those Acts was embarked upon at about 10 or 11 o'clock at night—very different from yesterday, when we started as soon as Question time was over. [HON. MEMBERS: "We lost three hours."] I do not know what hon. Members are muttering about. We started immediately after Question time.
The debate was interrupted.
There may have been lots of interruptions, but, of course, I am talking only of when the debate started. In the good old days to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition so longingly looks back, as all Socialists do, we used to embark on this stage of the discussion late at night. This year we started at the earliest possible moment.However, the right hon. Gentleman accepted, I understand, the suggestions of my right hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] But the right hon. Gentleman did. It is no good other people saying "No." They may not have. I am addressing myself to the Leader of the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "It should be the Chair."] I understood from the right hon. Gentleman that he was agreeable to the suggestions that my right hon. Friend made. There is just one point which, perhaps, he did not quite appreciate—I do not know. However, he kept referring to the fact that this should go to a Select Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"]—but my right hon. Friend has suggested that it should go to a Departmental committee.
Why did it not go before?
He suggested that this problem should go to a Departmental committee of which hon. Gentlemen from both sides of this Committee—or right hon. Gentlemen, it might be, from both sides—should be invited to be members, but that there should be other experts in attendance as members of the committee, because it seems to him that that is the best way of getting at the essence of the matter in the first place.A Select Committee, after all, as we all know, is comprised of Members of the House and can only receive evidence, which is not quite the same thing as having other people as members of the committee in the first instance. What my right hon. Friend pointed out—I do not know, but perhaps the Leader of the Opposition did not quite appreciate this, and I do not blame him for not doing so—was that it would be a good idea, after the report had been received from the Departmental committee, that that report should go to a Select Committee, from which we could then get a report from our own colleagues. It is not really duplication of work. It is really, from my right hon. Friend's point of view, an effort to try to expedite it, so that at an early stage there should be associated with the inquiry others besides hon. Members of the House, including hon. Gentlemen opposite. It would be a co-operative—if I may use the word—endeavour to try to bring up to date, as my right hon. Friend said, an Act which has been on the Statute Book for all these years and whose—I will not say errors—whose lack of up-to-dateness has apparently escaped the notice of right hon. Gentlemen opposite during the last six years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] It is only this week that this particular aspect has come before Parliament, and we all want—I do not know what the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) keeps interrupting for.
I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman.
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Gentleman must not rise. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has given way"] No, I think the right hon. Gentleman sat down because I stood up.
We are trying to get the best way [Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not wish to be co-operative in the way the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was, I am sorry; but the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be anxious to accept the suggestions of my right hon. Friend. I was only pointing out that in what the right hon. Gentleman said in accepting it he kept using the phrase "Select Committee," which was not what my right hon. Friend said.
I understood the Secretary of State to refer to a Select Committee. I do not think he indicated clearly that there were two stages, and I should rather like to consider that matter. As I said, I was prepared to accept a Select Committee, but whether it should be a Departmental committee or a Select Committee is a matter which requires some discussion. I had understood the right hon. Gentleman to say it would a Select Committee.
I am sorry, but this suggestion was made through the usual channels. Having, for the purposes of greater accuracy, a copy of what my right hon. Friend said, I should like to read it. It was this:
"As a result of preliminary discussion … with the right hon. Member for Dundee, West, it has been agreed through the usual channels that the best solution seems to lie in the appointment of a Departmental committee."
This is what my right hon. Friend said. There is no dubiety about that. There may be about the deductions, but this is what he said:
That was the first stage. Then he pointed out that such a committee would be appointed by himself and his noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air, after consultation as to membership, terms of reference, and the rest of it. As I say, we want this to be a co-operative endeavour. My right hon. Friend went on:"it has agreed, through the usual channels, that the best solution seems to lie in the appointment of a Departmental committee comprising representatives of both parties and experts from the Service Ministries concerned, and from Parliamentary counsel, in order that they could carry out a thorough review of the whole Act with a view to putting forward their proposals for amendment."
He only threw out this suggestion; if right hon. Gentlemen do not like it, or alternatively if they would like to press it, we are quite open-minded about it—"This committee would then put forward its proposals to Her Majesty's Government before the end of this Session with a view to a revised Bill coming before the House during 1953. It might be for consideration"—
It is much easier, on technical grounds, to put to a Select Committee some specified report or document. A Select Committee is comprised of Members of the House, and they give the benefit of their advice to the House as a whole; but in this particular field—and the right hon. Gentleman and I have both served on many Select Committees—if in the first instance there is not a specific document or proposal to discuss, a Select Committee is rather apt to lose time. That is all. It was therefore thought by my right hon. Friend—and this is still open for discussion—that the best thing was to have a committee of the kind he indicated who would present a report; and it was then thought that it would be a good idea that the House should, through a Select Committee, further discuss and argue that report, and in the end produce suggestions on which a proper Bill could be founded. We thought that was the quickest and best way of doing it. All we want to do is to revise this particular section of the law."that a Select Committee should be appointed to consider these proposals before they were discussed by the House."
I must say that this two-stage proposal, of first a Departmental committee and then a Select Committee, is new to me. I had not heard it. I am not suggesting that it had not been put through the usual channels; it may well have been, but to me it was new when the right hon. Gentleman first made it to us just a moment ago. Therefore, we should certainly want to consider that. It might have something to commend it. I do not know.The point I wish to make is that if that procedure is to be adopted, if we are to have this very elaborate and necessarily prolonged two-stage consideration of the new Army Act which will come out of it, it seems to us doubly important to consider the proposition which we pressed last night and early this morning, that the terminal date of this Bill should be put back to 31st July, so that this long procedure, which is now to be made much longer by being in two stages, should have time to be gone through, because we apprehend that otherwise this time next year we shall get into exactly the same position that we are in now. We would press very hard that on this part of these arrangements—and I venture to say that at first sight it seems to be an indispensable part of these arrangements—we should have on the Report stage an acceptance of, or an assurance now that effect will be given to, the Amendment which was moved in my name yesterday to change the terminal date of the Act. We cannot for the life of us see what the objection can be to that. It seems to us that it would be in the Government's own interest and convenience, and this time next year they would be very grateful indeed to us for having proposed that Amendment. I think it is of real importance that the proposition should be included, and I feel confident that when we cone to all these other inter-related proposals, we shall feel that this is almost an indispensable part of it.
These suggestions were put to the party opposite several hours ago. If the right hon. Gentleman was not made aware of them, I am afraid that is not my fault. We all realise that he cannot always be in constant attendance and that other appointments have to be kept, but these suggestions were made, and I thought from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition that they were within the knowledge of his right hon. Friend. All that I gather from the criticism of the right hon. Gentleman is that he does not object to the idea that we should have an exploratory investigation by a Departmental committee, which is not only less formal but where other advice can be given, subject, if necessary, to a Select Committee afterwards. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman did not take any exception to that.
I would only say that we were very willing to consider that suggestion, but it was a completely fresh suggestion to me, and I cannot commit myself.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman cannot commit himself, but the Leader of the Opposition appeared to be ready to commit himself.
I did not appreciate this was a two-sided suggestion, and I said that we would consider very carefully what was the best way. Perhaps we can discuss through the usual channels whether it should be a Departmental committee followed by a Select Committee, or a Select Committee. I think that is a matter for discussion. I have accepted it in principle.
If the right hon. Gentleman accepts it in principle, the details can be worked out but, as he knows, the matter was put to him some time ago during the course of the evening. The right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) seemed to consider it necessary that this Bill that is under discussion should have an Amendment inserted in order that it can be extended to the 31st July next year. That seems to me to be a very defeatist attitude. After all, here we are on the 2nd April talking about setting up a committee to investigate this whole problem, and I do not know why he should assume that it cannot possibly complete its work within a year. I think that is rather a ridiculous attitude.
The whole point is this. The result of what this Committee or these two committees propose will have to be brought before the House and put into the Army Act next year. The Army Act cannot be introduced until we have had Vote A. That is at the end of March. If it is to become law by 30th April and Easter falls on 3rd April next year, there would not be time to deal with that report in the House and put it in the Army Act. That is why we want to have an extended period.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is being a bit pedantic about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Do not say, "No, no," before I have said why. After all, if a report of a committee comes before the House, that is in itself discussable, and if need be time might be found for it irrespective of the introduction or otherwise of the Bill. Lots of reports are discussed as such in the House.I am aware of the fact that the Bill cannot be introduced until after Vote A has been adopted, but my right hon. Friend pointed out that one of the points which might come up for discussion by one or the other, whichever it is, of the committees was the timetable. Therefore, I do not think this is a matter on which we need quarrel this evening. The proposal which my right hon. Friend has made, which the Leader of the Opposition has accepted in principle, is that we should now proceed to discuss the Bill—there are Amendments, but we do not have to discuss them at inordinate length—and at the end of the day or night—whatever the time may be—it should be agreed that the whole question of the Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill should be referred to a committee. My right hon. Friend suggested that for the first stage it would be better to have a Departmental committee. I still think that that would be better, subject, if necessary, to a report going before a Select Committee. I have taken some advice about this and have some experience in this matter, and I should say that a Select Committee as such is not exactly the best first body to investigate a problem of this kind. That is what I put to the Committee tonight. Subject to agreement that this problem should be discussed during the next 12 months—quite a long time—in order next year to bring an up-to-date Army and Air Force (Annual) Bill before the House, that is the suggestion which is before hon. and right hon. Gentleman now. I understood the Leader of the Opposition to accept it in principle. I hope that we need not report Progress now but can get on with the Bill itself.
The Leader of the House is entirely mistaken about what was agreed to by the Leader of the Opposition. It was agreed that we should have a Select Committee. The point about which there is concern on the part of hon. Members who have put their names to Amendments is how they are to put forward their point of view. I only speak for myself. I should be prepared to do what I could to persuade my hon. Friends who have been good enough to put their names to Amendments to withdraw the Amendments if I were in a position, on the debate to send the matter to the Select Committee, to discuss exactly what should be the remit of that Committee.But I am not prepared, nor is any hon. Friend of mine, to agree that this matter shall be buried in a Departmental committee when the right hon. Gentleman dares to get up at that Box and tell the Committee that he is not prepared to alter the date for the coming into force of the Act, which automatically means that the Departmental committee's report cannot be examined. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Act has not been looked at for a long time. It has. It was looked at by Lord Tring in 1889, and many of the Amendments were those suggested by the learned and efficient editor of the "Manual of Military Law." They have never been carried into effect because only for six years have we had a Government prepared to give enough time to consideration of these military matters. The Labour Party completed the whole groundwork for this work upon which we are now embarking. We reformed the whole of the court-martial procedure and we reformed the whole of the system of the Reserve; we have done a tremendous amount of work of that sort, and the natural follow-up from that is to deal with the Army Act itself. 10.30 p.m. The right hon. Gentleman—being in grave difficulty because his own War Office did not even bother to put down the recommendations which were agreed without one word from them, as a result of the committees which insisted on criminal reform, the very reform necessary to implement the criminal law proceedings—did not even bother to include them in his own Bill. And when we tried to include them, he suggested that we were doing something improper. The right hon. Gentleman said, "I will not give an undertaking to introduce the Bill in such time that it will be possible to do this." Everybody on both sides of the Committee wants to improve the Army Act. The way to do that is for us all to get together and decide what we shall refer to the Committee. May I take one example? We have a proposal down to repeal Section 16 of the Act, which deals with scandalous conduct unbecoming to an officer and a gentleman. I do not know whether a Departmental Committee could even consider a matter of policy of that kind. We have a series of Amendments down which provide that an officer should not have a less punishment than a soldier when he commits the same offence. That seems to us for some reason to be a policy of equality, but we know that it does not commend itself to hon. Gentlemen opposite. We ought to get down and decide whether the Departmental committee has an instruction to amend the Bill in such a way as to make everybody in the Army equal before the law, or whether it has not. Those are the questions that must be discussed in the House before we come on to the appointment of a Select Committee. There are two ways in which that can be done. One is by going through the various Amendments, many of which the Secretary of State said had a great deal of point. One or two of them, I agree, deal with perhaps trivial points; indeed, I have taken one of my own off the Paper in order to help things go forward. Either we shall go through each one and discuss them in that way, which will take much time and will involve the House in sitting long hours and will make it difficult for the Government to get on with its legislation, or, what is a more sensible plan, a Select Committee should be appointed at once. As soon as we come back after the Easter Recess we should have a discussion on the terms of reference of that Committee. If such a proposal were put forward, it would command general approval and I would lend such influence as I have to commending that point of view. I do not think that the proposal of a Departmental committee is a good one. I share the surprise of the right hon. Gentleman at it ever having been brought forward. I did not know that such an idea was in the wind. But perhaps I ought not to be in a position to understand that. Since it has been suggested, it would be better if everybody knows what it means before they commit themselves to it. What I think the right hon. Gentleman should do is to say that this Bill shall be re-committed as regards Clause 2. We will not ask the party opposite to go through the Lobby on it, but they should adopt the Amendment which we proposed from these benches last night. They would then make certain that we should have sufficient time to carry the matter through. But a Departmental committee which will sit in order to produce a report which, from the very circumstances of the fact, it is quite impossible for the House ever to consider, is not something which will comment itself to people who, like my hon. Friends, are seriously trying to deal with this Act. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite says he does not see why we should not deal with it in April, I ask him if he has looked at the calendar for next year? Easter falls on 3rd April in 1953. That means that the Easter Recess will follow after the vote on Vote A, and there will be left only four or five days in which to have this discussion. I do not know what the plans of the right hon. Gentleman are for the Budget next year—whether it is to be in the House of Lords, as has been suggested. If it is the intention to have it in the usual way in this House, at the usual time, that will occupy the rest of April. So his proposal is that we shall have a departmental committee to insert something in a Bill which, by his own reckoning, we shall never have any time to discuss. I do not know if that is a really serious proposition to put before the Committee, but if that is the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, we should all be well advised to study it with the help of a calendar to see what are the possibilities of carrying out this scheme. So far as hon. Members on this side of the House are concerned, we would be prepared to welcome a Select Committee. We would welcome having, instead of late sittings, the opportunity of putting forward in a series of speeches general broad principles on which we think the Committee should act. That would be a guide to the members of the Committee, who would be the people taking political responsibility for decisions. If these things can be done by a Departmental committee, why was a committee not sitting before the Bill was brought up? It must have been obvious to the Secretary of State for War when he brought in the Home Guard Bill, yet no Departmental committee was appointed then. Unless we can have an assurance that we can have a Select Committee, I do not think this proposal will commend itself to Members.
I want to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to what happened during the debate on Clause 2. For two hours we pleaded with the Secretary of State to accept an Amendment to fix the date at 31st July instead of 30th April. We did so for the reason which the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has explained. Quite clearly this Amendment goes to the core of our discussion. The Secretary of State yesterday gave us no reason for not accepting the Amendment. Had he accepted it, that would have eased our work considerably. I cannot understand why the Leader of the House should expect us to accept the proposal which the Government now puts forward without the proposal being accompanied by the Amendment, or the terms of the Amendment which the Government refused to accept yesterday.I am sure that I shall be in disagreement with a number of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, but I can see merit in the Secretary of State's proposal that in the first place there should be a Departmental committee—that is to say, a committee of representatives of both sides of the House and of experts; but only on condition that the committee meets at once and gets on with the job and reports in a short time. I suggest that the proposal might be accepted providing that the appointment of the committee is not delayed for more than a few days and, working to a time-table, comes forward with what would amount to terms of reference for the Select Committee. The Leader of the House reminded us that before the war the Army Annual Bill came before the House at the end of a day's sitting. In those days the Army was remote from the nation. Circumstances are different today. I am trying to make myself heard, but it is difficult with so much noise going on.
The hon. Gentleman is having some difficulty in making himself heard.
I am trying to make myself heard, but my throat is bad. If I cannot make myself heard, during the rest of our deliberations I shall make up for it by taking more time. I intend to say what I want to say.On this side we appreciate that it is a citizens' army, and that its young men come from every family and home in the land. We are laying down the conditions under which they serve. Therefore, since my right hon. and hon. Friends passed the National Service Acts, it is their bounden duty to see that the Army Act, under which these young men serve and are disciplined, is brought up to date and made to fit modern life. If we are going to have an efficient Army, we cannot afford that the Army Act should be hundreds of years out of date. That is why we have brought these matters before the House and why, after several hours, we are now forcing the Government to listen to what we have to say. They could have apprehended our point, granted the will, in the first hour of the debate yesterday. I hope now that they are going to concede our point with slightly better grace than was shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who was not here during a great part of our earlier discussion but came in when the Closure was moved. We are prepared to do all we can to make the Army Act a workable instrument; we do not want to waste time. Even if I am in a minority of one, I think there is something in the idea of a Departmental committee, provided that the Secretary of State for War will learn some of the lessons we have tried to teach him and not play the smart aleck, and provided he will try to co-operate with us in the job we are going to do whether he likes it or not.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about the proposal for a Departmental committee. One would have thought from the way the Leader of the House spoke that the Opposition was in a difficulty; the fact is that the Government are in a difficulty and we are in no difficulty at all. We have legislation before us that we are proposing to improve. The Government are asking that for the moment we should surrender our leverage over the legislation in favour of a proposal so ambiguous that few can understand what it means.First, the right hon. Gentleman said the inter-Departmental committee would have on it Members from both sides of the House and experts. What hon. Members in all parts should realise is that we are dealing here with the rights of British citizens. We are not dealing with a complicated machinery; we are dealing with the question of what the rights of individuals in the forces should be after the House has conscripted them into the forces. That is a matter of human rights, not a matter of technical detail. Has the Secretary of State for War any idea what he means by "experts"? This House of Commons is supposed to contain a wide variety of knowledge and experience.
I think the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to agree that, supposing we were going to appoint a Select Committee, it would be unlikely that in that Select Committee there would be any one individual member capable of drafting this Bill. I meant by "experts" Parliamentary counsel and Parliamentary draftsmen who are capable of implementing the recommendations of this committee.
That is an astonishing reply. I am amazed. I suggest to my right hon. and hon. Friends interested in the Amendments that they ought not to abandon their Parliamentary opportunity for such a statement as that. There is no Parliamentary draftsman in the Cabinet. Does he seriously suggest that the Cabinet is incompetent to arrive at what principles should be embodied in a Bill because of that? A Select Committee, as I understand it, advises the House and the House accepts, rejects, or amends the advice, and determines what are the principles to be embodied in the Bill. It is that stage that technical experts are brought in, to put our decisions into legal form.10.45 p.m. When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of "experts," does he mean officers? [Interruption.] Ah, so that we have no guarantee at all that the Government would not pack the Committee at this stage. Indeed, the technical experts may be persons—[Interruption.] May I be permitted to continue? It is rather necessary that we get this clear, because what I am not prepared to do is to hand over my constituents' rights to a collection of brass hats. I am here for the purpose of protecting my constituents. When, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman speaks of technical experts, he obviously does not have Parliamentary draftsmen in mind, because that was a nonsensical answer. He has some other technical expert in mind. Who is it? Is it a person—
A Polish general.
Maybe it is an American general, or an American admiral. The right hon. Gentleman's leader is so anxious to promote American generals over British troops that we have no guarantee that he does not intend to put one there.Why should we forgo our Parliamentary opportunities in favour of a half-baked proposal of this sort? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us frankly who are the experts he has in mind?
Tito of Tonypandy.
I remind hon. Members opposite that their constituents are listening to their nonsense. [HON. MEMBERS: "So are yours."]We are entitled to learn from the right hon. Gentleman what was the nature of the proposal he was making to the Committee. We have not heard it yet. I see no reason at all why Members of the House, sitting on an inter-Departmental committee, should be voted down in that committee by non-elected persons who may be dependent for promotion on hon. Members opposite. It has always been regarded as one of the merits of the House of Commons that we have this diversity of experience. There are hon. Members who have served in all three Services. There are lawyers here who can advise the Select Committee on any matter involving jurisprudence. The technical experts can appear before the Select Committee and give the advantage of their technical knowledge before their superiors, who are elected Members, and from that Select Committee could ultimately come some recommendations that would put this matter in order. It seems to me, therefore, that my hon. Friends ought not to abandon their Parliamentary rights, especially as we are in no difficulties here. One would have thought that the Government were making a concession to the Opposition. That was the flat-footed way in which the right hon. Gentleman came forward. He is in very great difficulties over the timetable. He does not even understand the timetable yet. Therefore, I suggest that until the Government are able to give the Committee more precise information, we should go on with our discussions on the Bill.
I only intervene, with some hesitation, because, like the Leader of the Opposition, I have for many years past taken part in the discussions on the Bill in the old form I want the Committee to be absolutely clear as to what we are proposing to the Committee as a result of the discussions which we have had. When, as a result of my past experience, my opinion, for what it was worth, was asked, I felt bound to say that I thought the proposal seemed to me a reasonable suggestion; and I put it to the Committee again. It is entirely for them to decide one way or the other. We are making our proposal and the Committee can say that they accept it or that they refuse it, but I think the Committee will agree that we must come to some kind of decision about it.What we have suggested is that, in the first instance, there should be an inter-Departmental Committee upon which there should be, as there can be, representatives of the various parties in the House, together with the technical assistance which they will need. It is a perfectly possible thing to have, and there are plenty of precedents for it—an inter-Departmental committee on which there are Members from both sides of the House as well as expert advice. The Committee can reject the proposals if they wish. I am only trying to explain what is in our minds. I agree with the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg)—and I have been Secretary of State for War and have had a little experience of these things—that, as all of us who have had to do with these things know quite well, there are technical issues. I believe, and I advise the Committee, that it would be wise to begin this work on the basis of a committee of this kind which will combine Parliamentary with what I may call technical experience.
No, just let me finish. In order to safeguard the position of hon. Members, which I fully understand, we went on to say that if required—through discussion through the usual channels—we are quite ready to consider, after the work in the inter-Departmental committee is done, whether a Select Committee is needed to examine and express their view. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) says "No," but that is his view.I think that this, which I might call a two-tier proposal is from the practical point of view about as sensible an arrangement as this Committee can make if it wants to arrive at a positive result. We have done this not to make a concession to the Opposition or to secure a victory for the Government. From some years of experience of this Bill I share the view that something of this kind is needed. I say frankly that it cannot be well done straight off by a Select Committee. I do not think anybody who knows this work seriously believes that. Our proposal is a two-tier proposal. We are perfectly prepared to consider with right hon. Gentlemen opposite the terms of reference to be drawn up for this inter-Departmental committee; and of course we are prepared to discuss membership. The sole object that we have—
The hon. and learned Gentleman might keep quiet until I have finished a sentence. All I ask the Committee is that we draw up the terms of reference for this committee and discuss its membership with the sole object that that committee shall prepare proposals which, if necessary, a Select Committee can examine before this matter comes before the House next year.
May I put this to the right hon. Gentleman? I think that to this side there is something very interesting in the right hon. Gentleman's proposals when he said that the Committee must make up its mind and decide on this matter. Those were his actual words. Will the right hon. Gentleman say when he is proposing to put a Motion before the Committee and how long he proposes to allow the Committee to debate that Motion?
This would not be the first time that arrangements had been made through the usual channels. The offer we made a little while back was a fair and reasonable offer—that we should together draft the terms of reference for this Inter-Departmental committee, consider its membership and get down to a really useful job of work for the House of Commons.
I think there is, of course, a case, as the right hon. Gentleman put it, for an inter-Departmental committee first, but there is a case on the other side. There is a case that one wants to discuss the main issues from the citizen's point of view and the Parliamentary point of view before one sets the experts to work. Therefore, I do think this is a matter upon which we would all do well to think a little more before coming down on one side or the other. I should be prepared to accept the idea of a committee in principle. I am not prepared to accept right-off the two-tier or the one-tier system. It needs looking at with a great deal of consideration. I agree that what is needed is a committee to deal with this matter.
I only want to say that I fully accept what the Leader of the Opposition has said. Even the order in which one does this work is arguable. But what is certain is that this work has to be done, and on some practical basis, such as we suggest.
I hope that we shall be able to come to a reasonable arrangement on this, but the Government must realise that we have got a large number of Amendments on the Order Paper. We believe, that by Amendments we shall be able to do something, although not everything, to improve this Act, and to improve the conditions most of our citizens have to live under today. If we are to forgo these Amendments, we are anxious to have something real in their place. On the question of a Select Committee, what we feel is of vital importance is that the terms of reference should be such—It is a little difficult, Sir Charles, with all this noise going on.
It is of vital importance that the terms of reference of this Committee should be such that they could consider the matters which we want considered. May I mention one particular principle? We have a citizens' Army and, as far as possible, the citizen in the Army should be under the same law as the citizen out of the Army, and that military law should only differ from the civilian law in so far as it is necessary to maintain military discipline. That is a principle which we would like to have considered. There are various other principles involved.The suggestion I would make, and it is a purely personal one, is that if we should appoint a Select Committee, that Select Committee, if necessary, should appoint a sub-committee, which would work with the Departmental experts and report back to the Select Committee. Then, we would have our principles and something which, in our view, would give us something real. The other vitally important point is that the Select Committee can only bring us principles. Next year, these principles have got to be put into an Act of Parliament. In that Act, they have to be considered by the House. The few days in April, which would be available on the present dates, are quite insufficient for the purpose. So, unless the Government are prepared to accept the Amendment we suggested yesterday and extend the period of the Act this year to July to allow time to discuss the Clauses which result from the recommendations when these Clauses come before us, we on this side of the Committee, shall not feel that we are getting anything real at all. I feel certain, speaking for myself, that the extension of the Bill would be a sine qua non to accepting, and an alternative to doing what good we can for this Bill by our new Clauses now, even if it does take some days' work and may be an imperfect way of doing it; but it will be an imperfect way of doing something which will get us somewhere. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that he will accept a lot of our proposals. If we are to give up these, we must have something real, but it is not something real unless the date is accepted.
I should like to make one further point to the Foreign Secretary, because I think he has moved a little way towards us. I do think that the Government should realise that they are asking us to make a very large concession. We are the people who are being asked to concede our Parliamentary right to debate this Bill at length, and if we are to make the concession I think our point of view should at least be considered more than the Leader of the House appeared to consider it at the beginning.I suggest that we have to consider very carefully the way in which the Select Committee is appointed, and, second, the amount of time the Government are prepared to give to discuss its terms of reference; because, after all, we have sought in our Amendments—and I may say that we have put down only our first batch of Amendments: there are many more to come—to suggest certain principles on which we believe the reform of the Army Act should be undertaken. If we are to give up the right to debate those Amendments, we must be given an assurance that there will be time to put the substance of what we have expressed in those Amendments in the debate on the terms of reference of the Select Committee. It will be a great relief to me if I know from the Foreign Secretary that two days will be given to the debate on the terms of reference of the Select Com- mittee. That would be a small exchange for the amount of time this Committee of the whole House will otherwise have to consume in studying our Amendments. Let us be perfectly clear about it. If we do not get that agreement, there are all these Amendments to discuss, and all the further Amendments we intend to put down; and there is nothing the Government can do to prevent that happening. We should much prefer the other method, I agree with the Foreign Secretary. The amount of time devoted in the immediate future to discussing the way in which the Select Committee is appointed is not for the Government to decide. It is for the Government to find how much we are prepared to concede of our rights, because if we are not prepared to concede our rights, the Government cannot move at all. I am going to ask the Government to show a little more recognition of the weakness of their position tonight. They entered the debate last night in a very cavalier way, as though they thought, "They are just a lot of amateurs with a lot of phoney Amendments."[Interruption.] Some hon. Gentlemen opposite here now were not here then, and were not present when right hon. Gentlemen opposite discovered their mistake—when they discovered, at long last, that the Amendments were substantial Amendments, and that this was an important matter which they, in Opposition, could have done something about in their day any time in six years. Those hon. Gentlemen opposite, had they done that, had they studied the Army Act and decided to reform it, could have saved us all a lot of work now. But they forgot to do it. Well, we have not forgotten to do it this year. We are exercising our Parliamentary right to improve the Army Act. I believe that improvement of the Army Act will be a great deal more for the good of the citizens of this country than the legislative proposals which are mooted from the other side. We have the right to do this, but we are prepared to forgo that right on condition that there is a genuine reform of the Army Act, and a genuine chance that the principles which we have enshrined in our Amendments are embodied in the Act. Shall we have only a committee of brass hats and a report to be presented back to another committee? Oh, no. We are prepared to allow a Select Committee if the terms of reference are discussed for an adequate time. We are very well aware that public opinion, when the people hear about the principles of reform which we have adumbrated, may not permit the brass hats to get their way. When the British public, whether the young men going into the Forces or the fathers and mothers, begin to hear of the sort of principles we want to see enshrined there will be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."] There is the whole difficulty. Hon. Members of the Opposition have been working on the Amendments, and there are a large number of people who have been working on the Amendments. We have not yet started to work, and hon. Gentlemen opposite will get used to it in time if the right hon. Gentlemen are not amenable to reason. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] They have got to get used to it. I say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that this is not a question of overplaying a hand. This House of Commons has a right to discuss the Army Act and all the Amendments that are put down. We all want to get a better method, and we want a Select Committee, but we want the right sort of Select Committee and the right terms of reference. Therefore, the question which I am putting is how much time will be given for the broad and general discussion of the terms of reference, so that we, in giving up our Amendments, shall not give up the ventilation of the principles on which those Amendments are based?
I suggest that there is only one difficulty that lies between the Government and the Opposition. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made quite clear the position, which we have accepted. My right hon. Friend said, as I understood it, that he thought there was a great deal in the Government's suggestion and that it ought to be examined.Let the usual channels go on examining the Government's proposals, and we will go on examining the Bill. What is wrong with that? In the meantime, the examination through the usual channels will be illumined and maybe hastened by our discussions on the Bill. Why waste any more time? Let the right hon. Gentlemen opposite proceed to discuss with my right hon. Friends the proposals they have made. In the meantime, we will go on doing our Parliamentary duty in moving our Amendments and discussing them. I should think there is no difficulty about that.
I listened with interest to the desire of the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) to build up strength behind his negotiations, and I hope he will assist us in the international field in that same sense later on.The offer that I have made, and which, as I understood it, was interpreted quite accurately by the Leader of the Opposition, is really before the Committee, and we must ask the Committee whether they are in agreement with it or not. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman waving his hand at me; I am only saying that any Government directing business must press for a decision and must know whether the offer is accepted or not. Normally, it is the Leader of the Opposition who expresses the view, either of dissent or assent.
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman continually refers to the Resolution before the Committee on which we shall make up our minds.
As I have said before, the raising of points of order which are obviously not points or order is to be deprecated.
On a point of order. With great respect, I thought it was self-evident that it is impossible for this House ever to come to a decision on a matter, and, indeed, one of our most important rules provides that, unless there is a substantive Motion dealing with the matter—
The Question before the Committee is that I do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.