Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Information.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
When this Vote was put down originally I objected to its being taken. I thought that inadequate time would be given to the Committee to consider the proceedings and the machinery of the Ministry of Information in the light of the Report of the Committee on Expenditure. It was with a view to discussing the Ministry of Information in these aspects that the Vote on that occasion was postponed. Since then, however, the situation has been completely altered. Lord Beaverbrook, who was then Minister of Information, has resigned his office, and I am sure that all the members of the Committee deeply sympathise with Lord Beaverbrook in respect of the illness which caused his resignation. Under these circumstances, the Government have announced that no new appointment is to be made; and it has further been intimated that at the end of the War the Ministry of Information will itself come to an end. I have, therefore, decided to take this opportunity to call the attention of the Committee to a different matter which has arisen in the course of the last few days. On Monday there appeared in certain newspapers an article written by an officer of the Ministry of Information, the head of a particular Department of that Ministry, entitled "From War to Peace." It appeared in extenso in Lord Northcliffe's newspapers, the "Times" and the "Daily Mail," and in one or two other newspapers it appeared in a somewhat shortened form. In the "Daily Mail" and the "Times" it was accompanied with this intimation:This article is appearing to-day in the leading papers in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Newfoundland, India, the British Dependencies, the United States, South America, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, and elsewhere.2346 There is a further intimation that the article will be circulated in Germany during the present week. This very compendious announcement naturally excited some curiosity, and the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) put a Private Notice question to the Leader of the House in these terms:Whether Lord Northcliffe is at present in Paris; whether he is there in his private capacity or in his official capacity as Director of Foreign Propaganda; whether the statement of peace terms published to-day over Lord Northcliffe's name in all the chief newspapers of the world is part of his official foreign propaganda; and, if so, whether the terms stated may be accepted as the official view of the British Government?The reply of the Leader of the House was:I have not received any notice of that question, but I think I can answer it. Lord Nortlicliffe, so far as I know, is in Paris in his private capacity, though very likely he may be there in connection with the business of propaganda. With reference to the peace terms to which the hon. Gentleman referred, they are the expression of the views of Lord Northcliffe only.The hon. Member for East Mayo:Not the Government! I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the fact that Lord Northcliffe is in charge of the foreign propaganda of the Government, is it not natural to expect that this statement, published by him, as he boasts to-day, in all the chief newspapers of the world, will be taken as a statement on behalf of the British Government?The Leader of the House replied:I think it would be a very wrong inference. I do not think it is likely to be made.The hon. Member for East Mayo:I am sure of it!The hon. Member for Carmarthen Boroughs (Mr. Llewelyn Williams) then asked:Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the terms announced this morning in the article published by Lord Northcliffe in the 'Times' are going to be published in the enemy countries as part of the propaganda?I put a similar supplementary question, to which the Leader of the House replied:I had not noticed that especial statement in the 'Times,' but the article is in every sense the work of Lord Northcliffe. The British Government were unaware of it, and in no sense responsible for it.The hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt):Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that this article will not be circulated in Germany at the public expense?The Leader of the House:I cannot give that assurance. The question of what is and what is not good enemy propaganda is not one to which I could give an answer offhand and without consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1918, cols. 1799–1800.2347 It seems to me that the mere reading of these official answers proves conclusively that there is an ambiguity in Lord Northcliffe's position which it is desirable in the public interest to have cleared up. I do not desire, nor would it be in order to enter to-day into any discussion of the subject-matter of that article. My own personal view is that it is, on the whole, a reasonable and moderate article, and a fair statement of what may be put forward in respect of concrete terms on behalf of the Allies and of this country in particular. The question as to Lord Northcliffe's views does not therefore arise. Probably many of us would have altered the statement in some individual respects. I think it is extremely important that when a statement of terms is put forth in this way we should know whether it is authorised or unauthorised, and whether it is official or unofficial. We are in a very extraordinary position in relation to this matter—the discussion of peace terms. I may remind the Committee that on several occasions in the last fortnight efforts have been made to elicit a statement from the Government in this House, but on every one of these occasions the attitude of the Leader of the House has been one of blank negation. He clearly let it be known that the one place in which questions relating to the conclusion of peace could not be discussed was on the floor of the House of Commons, and that, even though another interview had appeared, an interview with a member of the Government, formerly a member of the War Cabinet, who now holds the position of Minister for War. So after this continued policy of silence an official of this Department of Information has rushed into print, and done it in such a way as to give the impression that what he says is really official. I hoped that somebody in a more responsible position than the Secretary to the Treasury would have been here to deal with the question, because I think that it is a matter of sufficient importance to have a statement on it from the Government. The effect of the answer by the Leader of the House was, very roughly, that the article expressed the personal views of Lord Northcliffe, but that it was being circulated by the Government. I know that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baldwin) always does his best, and when he is dealing with Treasury matters his best is usually very satisfactory to the House. 2348 But he is called on to-day to deal with a matter which is not a Treasury matter, and therefore I may be pardoned if I somewhat distrust his best on this occasion.
What we want to know is, is this really a private document, and how did it come from the Ministry of Information? I have some reason to believe that this article is founded on a Government document, headed "Private and Confidential," which was in the Ministry of Information, and I assert on authority which, of course, I cannot disclose, that if you take the most important proposals in this article, they are all extracted from the document in the Ministry of Information, a document representing the views of the Government—that every one of what are called the Thirteen Points is taken textually from that document. Take the first, dealing with the concrete terms of peace:The complete restoration, territorial, economic and political, of Belgium. In this there can be no reservation.That is taken from the document to which I refer. The second isthe freeing of French territory, reconstruction of the invaded provinces, compensation for all civilian losses and injuries—another textual quotation. The third isthe restoration to France of Alsace-Lorraine, not as a territorial acquisition or part of a war indemnity, but as reparation for the wrong done in 1871….No 4. Readjustment of the northern frontiers of Italy as nearly as possible along the lines of nationalityThat, again, is quoted verbally from the official document.5. The assurance to all the peoples of Austria-Hungary of their place among the free nations of the world and of their right to enter into union with their kindred beyond the present boundaries of Austria-Hungary.Again a quotation.6. The evacuation of all territory formerly included in the boundaries of the Russian Empire, the annulment of all Russian treaties, contracts or agreements made with subjects, agents, or representatives of enemy Powers since the Revolution and affecting territory or interests formerly Russian, and the unimpeded co-operation of the Associated Powers in securing conditions under which the various nationalities of the former Empire of Russia shall determine their own forms of government.That is, again, quoted verbally.8. The abrogation of the Treaty of Bukarest, the evacuation and restoration of Roumania, Serbia, and Montenegro.9. The removal, as far as is practicable, of Turkish dominion over all non-Turkish peoples.2349 It seems to me to be somewhat sinister to find the words "as far as practicable."10. The people of Schleswig to be free to determine their own allegiance.11. As reparation for the illegal submarine warfare waged by Germany and Austria-Hungary these Powers shall be held liable to replace the merchant tonnage belonging to the associated and neutral nations illegally damaged or destroyed.12. The appointment of tribunals before which there shall be brought for impartial justice, as soon as possible, individuals of any of the belligerents accused of offences against the laws of war or of humanity.13. The former colonial possessions of Germany, lost in consequence of her illegal oppression against Belgium, shall in no case be returned to Germany.If it be the case that all these passages which I have quoted, which are the main foundation of the article—indeed, the article would be nothing without these passages—are taken textually from an official document, surely it is absurd to say that this article has no official character. It is obviously official. If it is desirable for the British Government to place its views not only before our own country but before Allied countries and neutral countries and the people of enemy countries, the Government might well take the traditional and normal method of stating its views on these questions in a public way. It seems to me that if it is necessary to depart from that procedure and to take other means of putting the British view before the world it is somewhat unfortunate that the channel selected should be a great newspaper proprietor. We have heard a great deal of the relations of the Government and the Press. On a previous occasion, indeed, there was a full-dress attack by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), in which he said nothing against the Government which was inconsistent with returning to its ranks, but we should have expected an improvement in the procedure of the Government in view of the fact that he is now a member of the War Cabinet. The main feature in respect of the selection of this individual is that this selection is equivalent to a very considerable endowment of the papers with which he is associated. If you give this special importance to statements made by a man who is at the head of a very strong Press combination, you are adding an enhanced value to the whole of the Press which he controls. He is given a special preferential and privileged position in relation to the whole of the journalism of the country, and I think it is unfortunate 2350 that the Government, if it is going to make a semi-official statement, should take this particular method of doing it. That, however, is a minor aspect of the matter. My main object in raising this question has been not to criticise anything that is said in this article, but to ascertain clearly and unequivocally what is the Government attitude towards it. It is of the utmost importance that we should know definitely what that attitude is. I have made the statement, and I have conclusive evidence for it, that this article is really based on an official statement of the British terms. In these circumstances it seems to me that the Committee is entitled to expect from the Government full information as to whether this is an authorised statement on behalf of the country or not.
§ Sir E. CARSON
I do not intend to pursue the subject, though I recognise the importance of it, which has been raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Pringle) who has just addressed the Committee. There is one matter on which I should like to say a word, and I am sorry to say that it also has something to say to Lord Northcliffe, who, I understand, is the propagandist in foreign countries under the Ministry of Information. I am quite alive to the fact that it is almost high treason to say a word against Lord Northcliffe. I know his power and that he does not hesitate to exercise it to try to drive anybody out of any office or a public position if they incur his royal displeasure. But as at my time of life neither office nor its emoluments nor anything connected with Governments, or indeed public life, makes the slightest difference, and the only thing I care about is really the interests of decent administration, I venture to incur even the possibility of the odium of this great trust owner, who monopolises in his own person so great a part of the Press of this country, and has always for himself a ready-made claque to flatter him and to run any policies for him that he thinks best in his own interests.
Within the last few days there has been an attack made by this Noble Lord's papers upon Lord Milner. Lord Milner is Secretary of State for War, and if Lord Northcliffe is not a Minister—as I believe he says he is not a Minister—he is at least an official of one of the Government Ministers. Lord Milner seems to have given an interview to a rival paper, or another paper, with the merits or demerits 2351 of which I would not be in order in dealing, except so far as to say this, that, having read it and having read the criticism of some of Lord Northcliffe's papers upon it, I believe that it has been purposely and intentionally misrepresented and misunderstood. But whether that be so or not, all I can say is that it seems to me to be nothing but indecent that the gentleman engaged in foreign propaganda on behalf of His Majesty's Government should make part of his propaganda an attack upon the Secretary of State for War in the Government, under which he purports to serve. But it is really worse than that, because he professes to do it upon the ground that Lord Milner's interview was an indiscretion which was likely to do harm in France, and yet day after day he repeats Lord Milner's words in order that the indiscretion may be more and more rubbed into the French people. I noticed yesterday, or the day before—indeed, I would not have seen it, only somebody brought it to my attention, because I do not read those papers—that he quoted, or that the paper quoted in its leading article, what purported to be a telegram from the French correspondent who, I have no doubt, is either Lord Northcliffe himself, who happens to be there, or is somebody with whom he was in immediate contact, calling attention to the great damage that had been done, now many days ago, by this interview of Lord Milner's.
I think it is really time to put an end to this kind of thing. The Government may imagine that they gain power and support, but I do not believe it for a moment. I believe that all the best elements in the country resent this kind of thing. Everybody knows who has been in public life or in public office that the moment Lord Northcliffe's displeasure is incurred from that moment onwards a kind of man-hunt commences until he drives anybody whom he looks upon as an adversary out of office. I have a strong suspicion myself in this case that he is anxious to drive Lord Milner out of office, and, indeed, he does not cloak it because he heads his articles "Will he resign?" "What is the way out?" and all those other, I suppose we will call them popular, headlines in the midst of a crisis like this, when every moment of Lord Milner's time and his brains must be concentrated upon events of the greatest 2352 magnitude in this world—he does not cloak it that he wants to drive him out of office, and for what purpose? Is it because he has been inefficient? Not at all, Sir, because I think everybody will admit that since Lord Milner went to the War Office there has been an immense improvement in the whole management and organisation of the War Office. No, Sir; at the present moment, when Lord Milner is in France, and has been in France, I am told, as I have not seen him for a long time, dealing with these matters at the Versailles Conference and everything of that kind and with matters of vital importance to this country, to which he is devoting his whole time day after day, come these attacks from an official of the Government upon Lord Milner to drive him out of his office. For what? In order that Lord Northcliife may get it or may get into the War Cabinet, so that he may be present at the Peace Conference, whenever it comes. The whole thing is a disgrace to public life in England and a disgrace of journalism. I know perfectly well how difficult it is to ever criticise the Press. I know perfectly well the reward you reap for it. Thank God, I never cared what they said about me. I have never cared, but I do hope that Members of this House, whether they agree with Lord Milner or whether they agree with any other Minister, will see that, at all events, at a crisis like this fair-play, fair criticism, honest dealing, and decent life are necessary.
§ Mr. DILLON
I never listened with greater interest or admiration to a speech in this House than to the eloquent speech vibrating with indignation and honest feeling to which we have just listened. I have never heard the well-known proceedings of the syndicate Press of this country so ably described and so powerfully condemned as it has just been described and condemned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. But when did he find salvation? Is this a new method of Lord Northcliffe's?
§ Sir E. CARSON
May I remind the hon. Gentleman that I have condemned it on more than one occasion, and in public too.
§ Mr. DILLON
That is no new method of Lord Northcliffe. It was used with far greater, infinitely greater, lack of scruple, 2353 and far more cruel misrepresentation at an infinitely worse crisis in this War when the Ministers of the first War Government were pursued to their destruction. I myself pointed out on more than one occasion in this House the shameless manner of those attacks instituted in those days, I regret to say, with the hearty approval and co-operation of a great number of Members of this House. Although it may be true that Lord Northcliffe is now pursuing Lord Milner with something of his old ferocity and something of his old lack of scruple in these matters, that, as I have just said, is nothing new. When I put it beside the methods which he used against the present Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister his attack on Lord Milner pales into insignificance.
§ Mr. DILLON
No, but he was pursuing exactly the same methods, and does anybody suppose that Lord Northcliffe is going to be curbed by being a member of the Government. He denies he is a member of the Government. He draws no salary so far as I know, and he is perfectly free. That is his theory. There is no doubt he denies it, and says he is a volunteer and a patriot who is carrying on this Government propaganda out of love of his country. That may be quite true for all I know, but the methods are exactly the same and they are unquestionably a menace to the public life of this country. He is not the only one engaged in it. There are others who undertake to follow his example. But he is the Napoleon of journalism in this country, and he is the man who has invented this whole system of collaring the Press and turning it into a great machine of power. That is his real purpose. I acquit Lord Northcliffe of any corrupt motive or, according to his own lights, of any evil motive.
We must remember that we are living in days of absolute change, when all the old traditions of public life as I knew them when I first entered it are rooted up and destroyed. Lord Northcliffe saw long ago that under the system which was being pursued this House was ceasing to govern the country. I have been a very patient and constant watcher of the proceedings of this House for over forty years, and I have seen it for twenty-five years past losing its grip bit by bit of the control of the power of this House. Lord Northcliffe saw that about ten years ago, and 2354 with the true instinct of a man of real genius said, now that the House of Commons, partly on account of new rules and changes of procedure and for a variety of things, which it would not now be in order to enter upon, is losing its power, that power must reside somewhere. In a democratic country like this you cannot divorce power altogether from the people, you cannot have an absolute bureaucracy like Russia, because the people have a certain amount of power, and where is the power going to reside if it departs from the House of Commons? His great conception was that the power must reside in the Press, and accordingly he determined to prepare for the new era that was dawning, and he had the foresight and insight of genius to devote all his great capacity to the capture of vast quantities of the Press. I may tell you to my own knowledge that Lord Northcliffe told a friend of mine six or seven years before he got the "Times" newspaper, and when he was comparatively an obscure man, that he never would rest until he got hold of the "Times." People laughed at it, for the matter was talked about amongst a few men who knew what was going on. In six years he had control of the "Times." His policy to get control of the "Times" was not to make money, because at that time the "Times" was not making money and had never recovered from the effect of the Parnell Commission. It tried to crush us for fifteen years. There was a Homeric struggle between the Irish party and the "Times." We beat the "Times," and it never recovered, and became a more or less bankrupt concern and a money-losing concern.
Therefore it was not for money Lord Northcliffe was anxious to get the "Times." He realised that the "Times" newspaper was one of the great powers of Europe, with great traditions, and that it makes or unmakes wars and makes peace when it likes, and that it has more than once overthrown Governments in European capitals in the last fifty or sixty years. That tradition appealed to his imagination, and he said I will own the "Times," and will have a great syndicate of newspapers, with one paper for the man in the omnibus and the street, the "Daily Mail," and another for the financial world and the clubs, and between those two and the various surrounding papers I will control the public through the means by which the people are now 2355 controlled—that is, by the Press. That is by keeping on telling them every day the news cooked up in the way in which he can cook it. Lord Northcliffe is a man of genius and of judgment. He does not pay any attention, or very little attention, to his leading articles. He knows perfectly well that the leading articles of foreign newspapers have very little effect on the people. What he knows is that you can mould and control the public just as the potter moulds the clay into what shape he likes by giving them day after day as their daily pabulum the news he wishes them to hear. They breathe it in and it colours their minds, and the busy man of the world has no other means of information. I pointed that out here, and now the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken appears to realise it, whether it is because he is now in a position of less responsibility and more freedom than he was some time ago, I pointed out several times here that the real power in England was not the Cabinet, not this House, but Lord Northcliffe and certain other gentlemen who have a syndicate Press. That is the greatest danger in this country and in other countries. It is one of the greatest problems we will have to face after the War, which now, thank God, is almost at an end — one of the greatest and most terrible problems! A man said to me the other day, "Take care, Mr. Dillon, that we do not find after the War is over that we will Liberalise Germany and Prussianise England." That sounds like a paradox, but it may turn out to be true.
What is Germany's present condition due to? It was due to the fact that she had sold her soul to the devil of military triumph and military success. There was a time, and we all remember reading in our youth about a Germany which was the most idealistic country in Europe. The last thing she thought of at that time was military domination over the world. She was then rather a defenceless country. Her writers and her poets and her men of literature were idealists, and idealism was the prevailing faith in Germany. But Prussia and the statesmanship of Prussian kings, whom you admired, and whom you took so great a part in building up—but here I am going out of order, and I must try to keep myself in order—brought this curse on Germany. Take care that, having fought this good fight for liberty, and having broken for ever—or, at least, 2356 for generations—the faith of the German people in the military machine and the hideous military gospel, that we do not set up in this country a system which will Prussianise us and hand us over, unknowingly and unaware of what is happening, to the same horrible philosophy and horrible fate which the German people have suffered. What makes this Vote of such importance is that in this Vote and the present organisation of the Information Ministry, the Government have taken under their patronage this very system of the syndication of the Press, which the Government ought to be the very first to discourage. The hon. Member for Lanark (Mr. Pringle) pointed out that this document, published in the "Times" newspaper, has been circulated in every great newspaper in the world, and has been specially circulated through official channels, and, I assume, therefore, with the £1,000,000 which we voted the other day. Now you have published in this morning's "Times" the comments of the German newspapers on this document as an official document—comments on the fact that it is circulated by Lord Northcliffe, who has been commissioned by the Government to take charge of enemy propaganda. All the German newspapers are taking it as, at all events, a semi-official forecast of the terms of peace. And yet, when I asked in the House of Commons—and this is part of the process by which the House of Commons has been deliberately snubbed. You constantly see in the newspapers now, statements to the effect that the House of Commons is a contemptible institution, and I read the other day in one of the leading newspapers, a statement by a leading and distinguished man, that the sooner another Cromwell appeared on the scene, kicked the mace away and locked the doors, the better it would be. I do not wonder, seeing how the House of Commons has been treated—I put a question, as I say, the other day to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking him whether this document was in any sense official, or did it reflect the views of the Government, and, if not, why it was allowed to be published by the Government agent of propaganda? His reply was that it in no way reflected the views of the Government. I am afraid I should go very nearly to the limit of Parliamentary language if I characterised that reply in blunt language, and called it camouflage. It certainly did not 2357 represent the truth. Everyone knows now that the Government circulated this document to a certain big set of editors and agents—a confidential document marked "strictly private"—and the Napoleon of journalism, desiring to keep up the reputation of the "Times" and his journals published it in full, and the Government dare not touch him.
If I had done that, or somebody else had done it, we should have been brought up under the Defence of the Realm Act, but they dare not touch Lord Northcliffe, because he is their master, and any man who dares touch him, be it the Prime Minister himself, he will be pulled down, and they know it. This is not the first or the second time that he has impudently defied all the regulations to which citizens of His Majesty are subject. He has invited the Government to prosecute and imprison him, but every Minister trembles before him. No Minister, after the fate of the Leader of the Opposition, dare cross the path of Lord Northcliffe. Lord Milner, in his attempt to save the German Empire, which he greatly admires—he is an able man, but he has German blood in his veins, and a German education, and he has been all his life a, great admirer of the bureaucratic system of Germany, of which I am myself a great admirer, if it were not such a curse. That sounds paradoxical, but it is absolutely sound sense. It is the finest nation of the kind the world has ever seen, and it very nearly knocked us into a cocked hat. Anybody who has travelled in Germany and seen the condition of the German people knows that they have efficient and sound, honest government. I do not suppose any nation had more honest or efficient government or cleaner officials than the German people, and Lord Milner, of course, was a great admirer of it. The trouble about Lord Milner is that he is not a democrat; he showed that in South Africa. He hates and dreads democracy, and when he saw that the Germans were beaten—
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is going a great deal beyond the present Vote. The only question under the present Vote is how far the Director of Foreign Propaganda comes under the control of the Minister of Information.
§ Mr. DILLON
I am very sorry if I have wandered, and I thought I had on the previous occasion; but surely on the present occasion I am strictly following the path marked out by the right hon. Member for 2358 Trinity College. He introduced this question of Lord Milner, and you sat silent and allowed him to denounce Lord Northcliffe, not at all in relation to this document, but for his attack on Lord Milner.
§ The CHAIRMAN
For the employment of this gentleman by the Ministry of Information. That was the line, I understand, of the attack.
§ Mr. DILLON
He attacked Lord Northcliffe certainly in very unmeasured language for having attacked Lord Milner, and he went on to defend Lord Milner, and to explain how unjust the attack was. I thought I was only following on exactly the same ground. However, I have said all I meant to say, except that it seems to me quite easily to explain both why Lord Milner gave this interview, and why Lord Northcliffe attacked him. Lord Northcliffe treats anybody who dares to trespass upon the question of making peace terms as an interloper, for he thinks no one has any right, be he Minister or anybody else, to trespass upon his ground. He is the great leader of the propaganda of the Government, and he has taken the matter into his own hands. As he said the other day at Washington Inn, in addressing American officers, "As nobody seems to have the courage to announce the British peace terms, I shall do it," and he went on to give the terms from a document which he had in his pocket—a strictly secret document which was not to be revealed. What I object to in all this is—and this is certainly strictly in order—that the whole of this business means that the Government are using the Propaganda Department, using one and a quarter millions of money which we voted, and using the whole system for the purpose of nursing, strengthening, and perpetuating this system of syndicated journalism, and this system of domination of the Press by unscrupulous methods, which have been denounced by the right hon. Gentleman.
Therefore, I say, the whole system has increased enormously in its danger to the public by the fact that it has now got the patronage of the Coalition Government, and no intelligent politician can take up the newspapers now without seeing that it runs through dozens of journals, and that the Government are going to this election manipulating the whole situation in respect of the Coalition, as they call it, preparing for the election through these 2359 syndicated journals, which are all subsidised and fed, not only by our money, for so-called patriotic propaganda, but also by the fact that it is equally, or more important to the journals that they are supplied with this special and secret information from the Government. This constant supply and constant stream of a special monopoly of secret information, going to Lord Northcliffe, Lord Beaver-brook, and other gentlemen connected with propaganda, is a perfect outrage, and it amounts to this: Ministers are selling their souls to these men and becoming their servants, because if you strengthen that power—God knows it is too strong already!—and if the Government go on strengthening it, they will have created a Frankenstein they cannot resist, and if they attempt to assert their own inclinations those whom they have put in such a position of power will very shortly bring them to heel or drive them out of office. I was just now reminding the Committee of the answer given to me by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other evening, I then asked him whether Lord Northcliffe was in Paris in his official capacity or in his capacity as a private citizen. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not know, but he thought in his private capacity. Is not that foolish? A friend of mine in Paris sends me a marked copy of Clemenceau's own paper, "L'homme Libre," and here is the note:Lord Northcliffe, accompanied by Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell Stewart, has arrived in Paris.Who is Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell Stewart? He is an extremely nice fellow. I met him once; he is a very charming Canadian officer, but he is a high official of the Department, and so clear is it that Lord Northcliffe has gone over in his official capacity that he takes over with him one of the chief officers of the Department. And yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks so little of the duty of a Minister to deal fairly and squarely with the House of Commons that he says to me he really does not know, but he thinks he is over there in his private capacity. He knows perfectly well he was over there in his public capacity as the Director of Propaganda, and that he was acting in that capacity in Paris. What brings him over there at all? What does he want in Paris at this moment? He wants to be there so that the Ministers will be within sound of the crack of his whip, and if he 2360 finds when he is on the watch outside the Versailles Conference that they have begun to depart from the 0"Times" conditions he may be in a position to say, "Now, mind what you are doing; I know the whole story, and I will let it out!" And he can do it, because, as I say, for Lord Northcliffe the law does not exist. No Minister dare put the law in operation against him. Some Members will recollect the famous Debate when a Member of this House, then Home Secretary, moved a vote of censure on Lord Northcliffe. The result was that the vote of censure was duly passed and Lord Northcliffe next time simply pointed out that the House of Commons had now reached such a state of imbecility that the sooner it closed its operations the better, and on that occasion the Home Secretary admitted to this House that Lord Northcliffe had frequently infringed the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act.
§ Mr. DILLON
By the terror of his colleagues. Many of us were innocent enough to think the system was at an end when the Home Secretary advanced to the Table and moved a vote of Censure. It was not of the slightest effect unless the Government backed it up. But they dared not back it up. Lord Northcliffe did not go to gaol; the Government went out of office. For it was he who broke the late Government undoubtedly, and that is an example which the present Government is not likely to forget. I complain of three things in connection with this Vote. First of all, I complain of the fact that Lord Northcliffe is allowed to strut about the scene as a Napoleon of this Empire, and a Napoleon of the world, to lay down the terms, to go across to Paris and to declare that he is not a Minister, when there is an attempt to fix responsibility. When the present Prime Minister begged him to come into the Ministry he published a letter saying, "I prefer the liberty of Printing House Square." Of course he does, because he can turn head over heels, change his principles as often as he likes and disclaim responsibility. He knows that he is above the law, and he is relieved of the necessity of facing the imbecile and decayed House of Commons for which he has an unmeasured contempt. 2361 I think it is deplorable and a thing that this House ought to condemn that the great office—and it is a very great office; at present a more important office than the War Office, or that of most of the Ministers of the War Cabinet—should be put into the hands of this irresponsible man who is not responsible to this House in any way, but treats this House with studied contempt. He dominates Ministers and terrifies them. He ignores and absolutely defies the law and does what he likes. He has his hands firmly on the sources of public information and misrepresents it and misleads the public, and he is rewarded by the Government in spite of many complaints by being placed in that most influential post which a citizen could possibly hold and a position which means an enormous increase to his power, with the result as I have said already that you take up your "Times" every morning and see the secrets of the Government. They are in the "Times" this morning, things that the public outside can obtain from no other source. I confess I am a rather careful student of the "Times," because I have admired Lord Northcliffe all the time. I have a great and growing admiration for Lord Northcliffe. He occupies the position Bismarck held when I was young. He dominates Europe at the present time. He and another great journalist, Clemenceau, are the two biggest men in Europe at this time, apart, of course, from the military men. It is intolerable—or it ought to be intolerable, but it seems that in this House everything is tolerated—that this man should be elevated to enormous power, and he and his fellows in the Press should be more and more the masters of this country, of this House, and of the so-called Government of Great Britain.
§ Mr. BALDWIN (Joint Financial Secretary to the Treasury)
I think it might be to the interest of the Committee if, very briefly, I were to say a few words about the subject of the Vote which is on the Paper to-day—that of the Ministry of Information; and I hope, before I sit down, to refer to the discussion which has taken place, and to be able to relieve some of the apprehensions of the hon. Member who has just spoken. I do not want unduly to trespass on the time of the Committee; but I have a vivid recollection of the discussion which took place before the Adjournment, either at the end of July or the beginning of August. I think it may 2362 be of interest to the Committee to hear of one or two of the activities of the Department which were not gone into on that day, and I should like to say a word or two about some of the criticisms levelled against the Department at that time, to which, owing to the shortness of the notice given, sufficient answers could not be returned. I am very pleased to say that, as a result of a good deal of hard work on the part of my Department, and a great deal of hard work and willing co-operation of the new Department—the Ministry of Information—the finances have been got into very good order. A system is now being worked into, returns of expenditure have been submitted to us, and I have had the satisfaction of seeing quite recently the estimated and also the actual expenditure for the last six months. I have seen for myself it has been kept in very close relation to the estimate, and I have had great pleasure in having prepared a White Paper, which will be circulated almost immediately, going through the various points raised in the Sixth Report of the Select Committee on that Department. This will be of a great deal of interest to Members when they study it. Two of the activities of the Ministry of Information will, I think, commend themselves even to those who are most prone to criticise, because they are activities about which there can be no question.
There is, first, the entertainment of American troops which they have supervised in this country. The Minister of Information, with very keen insight, saw at once that no action taken by his Department would have a wider effect in bringing closer together the peoples of the United States and of these Islands than to set on foot some organisation which would look after the entertainment of the soldiers and officers of the United States in transit through these Islands, and the movement that was inaugurated by the Ministry has had a most gratifying success. It has given the greatest satisfaction to the Americans in this country. The report of what has been done has been spread throughout the United States, and has been no small factor in causing that wonderful improvement in the feeling between the two peoples which has been more and more manifest on the other side of the water.
There are, further, the visits which have been organised of overseas and foreign journalists to this country. When these parties of journalists have come over they 2363 have been invited to go about, and make their own inquiries—to see everything, to talk to everybody, to form their own impressions, and then to relate to their own Press, and very often with their own voices, what they have seen and the impressions they have formed. I am sure the Committee will readily see that the impression which has been made on these visitors has been everything that we could have hoped, and the benefit which will result to this country and to the world at large from the improved feeling is evident from the tone of the Press in many of the countries of the Overseas Dominions and of America will, I think, be a permanent benefit.
I was very glad to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle) said about the Minister of Information, and the regret he expressed at the illness which has resulted in his resignation. I should like to say, what I am sure the Committee will endorse, that the combination of rare vision he has shown, with ability to master details, has enabled that Department, in spite of much criticism it has received, to form itself in the short time it has had and to become an engine this year that has really done most valuable work for the Allied cause and done it at a reasonable expense. It has been announced that no successor will be appointed to Lord Beaverbrook. The Committee may like to know, if it is not aware of the fact, that his work is being carried on by Mr. Arnold Bennett, who acted as his deputy. Although it is impossible, as the Committee will realise, to give here and now the date when that Committee will come to an end, it is obvious that its life cannot be a long one; and it is the intention of the Government, as soon as this work of information may safely be dispensed with, to do without it.
§ Mr. DILLON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question? Will he consider the desirability of suspending absolutely the work of the Ministry of Information during the election?
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I will bring the hon. Member's suggestion to the notice of the Leader of the House. Possibly he will consider that question.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I think, having said these few words about the Ministry of Information, I must refer to the subject which has been the sole subject of discussion since this Vote was introduced. I cannot help thinking it is a most remarkable tribute to an individual that the whole time of the Committee should have been taken up in discussing Lord Northcliffe, whose connection with this Vote is a very slender one. The Minister of Propaganda in Enemy Countries was dependent on this Vote for the first four or five months of the financial year, but it is entirely separate now, and has been so for the last two or three months.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
The expenses are a separate entry under the Vote of Credit. I would merely observe, in passing, that while the Ministry of Information itself is moribund, the work of propaganda in enemy countries must from the very nature of the case be not only moribund, but in articulo mortis, and so far as Lord Northcliffe and this Vote are concerned, is defunct.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I said, so far as this Vote is concerned at the present moment. While apologising to my hon. Friend for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle) for inadequacy in answering the questions on this Vote, I will do my best to reply to the questions he has put. I am at the same time answering the few points raised, I think, by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), about which he was very much concerned None of the money of the Ministry of Information, or none of the money that might be wanted for enemy propaganda, has been used, or will be used, in reference to the publication of the letter or article to which he took exception, and which appeared in Paris.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
No public money at all! The whole of the expenses connected with the publication of that article were defrayed by Lord Northcliffe himself.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
Including the circulation in Germany. I must, however, confess 2365 to a great deal of ignorance as to how matters get circulated in the Press. My own impression is, or was, that an article of that nature would only have to be printed in Paris to be reproduced free of charge in Germany. That, I thought, would be the most likely thing to happen. I remember a friend of mine, a very distinguished literary personage, who was approached on one occasion by the owner of a proprietary article. This proprietor inquired, "Will you write me a poem in praise of my proprietary article?" My friend replied, "No!" The owner of the proprietary article, an American, wrote back to my friend and said, "I am sorry you have not done this for me, because, in my simple way, I thought a poem written by you on this subject would be copied into every newspaper in the world, and I, therefore, would have received a big advertisement." Whether that sort of thing does happen in the newspaper world I do not know. It is a matter on which I am profoundly ignorant. In regard, however, to the question as to whether the letter or article published in Paris was one published by Lord Northcliffe in his private capacity or not, I think the answer given to the House of Commons on Monday last by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was complete and comprehensive. I have nothing at all to add to that reply. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Bonar Law) said,The British Government were unaware of it, and in no sense responsible for it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th November, 1918, col. 1800].I should have thought that explanation quite simple enough, and it is as far as I understand it. I would suggest to the hon. Member for East Mayo, if you have a Napoleon of journalism, how can you expect such a Napoleon to resist the opportunity of performing a Napoleonic feat in journalism?
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I have no knowledge at all on that subject; I do not see how I could have. The trouble seems to me to be that what the hon. Member for East Mayo wants to do is a thing that would be impracticable—that is, to add to the already long list of Controllers in this country a Controller of Lord Northcliffe.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I should like to say this—although the point has not been touched upon—Lord Northcliffe, as far as he comes under this Vote, comes under it in connection with his work as Director of Propaganda in enemy countries. Propaganda in enemy countries is a very difficult and a very delicate work. I have not heard anyone suggest the name of any other gentleman who might be qualified to do it. I would ask the Committee to remember this: The work is very often justified by its results. If we are to judge by the articles which have appeared in the German Press during the Continuance of that enemy propaganda, we in this country have every reason to be satisfied with it. Again, I cannot help feeling that if the propaganda which has been conducted by this country inside enemy countries has helped to bring peace nearer by a day, by in any way breaking the moral of the people of those countries, it would be worth every effort which has been made and every sovereign spent on it. I have given the House all the information it is in my power to afford. I cannot see how any information which may be given tome about any document can help me in explaining this Supplementary Vote for the Ministry of Information. I have nothing to do with what has been done by someone who drew money from the Ministry of Information during the first four or five months of the financial year, and who does something entirely on his own in a private capacity, and pays for it himself.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
If he uses information which comes to him confidentially in his capacity in that Department, it is a matter for the House of Commons.
§ Mr. JOYNSON-HICKS
Before the hon. Gentleman closes his speech will he make a little more clear that point mentioned about Lord Northcliffe, in regard to this matter, being in articulo mortis. Does he mean he is no longer the Minister of Propaganda in foreign parts?
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am afraid I did not make myself as clear as I had hoped. What I meant when I said the Minister of Information was moribund was that he as such was slowly dying. I meant by saying that enemy propaganda was in articulo mortis, that it was near its death, and that the Ministry of Information, obviously, in regard to propaganda, must come to an end.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I regret very much I am not able to give a further specific date when the Ministry of Information in respect to enemy territory will finish its operations. My hon. Friend may take it generally that the Government is anxious to bring both of these Department to an end at the earliest possible moment consistent with the public interests.
§ Mr. J. HENDERSON
This Vote is specified at £538,349, so I assume it has been carefully calculated, and that those concerned know exactly what are the figures. Will my hon. Friend tell me how much of this money was paid by the Ministry of Information to Lord Northcliffe prior to this date? I want particularly to get that out, and I will tell the Committee why. I happened to be on the Committee which inquired into the expenditure of this foreign information. We were told by Lord Beaverbrook he could not give us the payment made to Lord Northcliffe. I want very much to find out how much money was paid to Lord Northcliffe, or to that Department through Lord Northcliffe, or will be, out of this money that is now being voted. I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend say that this office was moribund. I should have thought that the moment an armistice was declared and arranged that the whole thing would stop.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Well, I do not know what good you are going to get from a Ministry of Information if an armistice prevents any further fighting on the part of your enemies. The object is accomplished.
§ Mr. HENDERSON
I am bound to say that when Lord Beaverbrook took the matter up as a business man, and assuming that the information he distributed was suitable, that he made a much better show of it than did the Foreign Office. He told us that when he came in the expenditure was £1,800,000, and that he reduced it to £1,200,000. Here we are taking a Vote for £1,520,000.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think my hon. Friend is on the wrong side of the page. Is he not taking all the Supplementary Estimates together?
§ Mr. HENDERSON
Perhaps so; I am afraid I must recall a good deal of what I have said. Still, I want to know, and I trust the House will be told, how much up to the present time Lord Northcliffe and his Department has spent in disseminating foreign propaganda. Lord Beaverbrook told us that when he took it in hand the expenditure was as I have stated, and the reduction was to £1,200,000. That was very good and very satisfactory. I still submit, however, that £1,200,000 is a very large amount to pay for work which is not simple information, and of no earthly use for either Allies or neutrals. The last time this Vote question was up I referred to the question of the cinemas. They are going on to-day. What earthly good they are doing I do not know! We have the cinema picture of Lord Beaverbrook distributing prizes at a girls' school. What on earth has that to do with the matter? Why should that expense be incurred? Then, there is a cinema preparing—I do not know whether I am right here or not, but I understand so—with great events from the Life of the Prime Minister. Is that Ministry of Information propaganda? Are they building up that cinema now? It has not been produced yet. If care is not taken it will not be in time for the General Election—for which I rather think it is intended. Even so, when Lord Beaverbrook on one occasion was asked the use of some particular picture or pictures, he replied. "Oh, well, the people like to know what is going on." What has this sort of information to do with the War, or with regard to showing to our neutrals or to the Allies generally really what we are doing?
The only good thing they have done—quite agree with my right hon. Friend here—is that the entertainment part of the matter has been very useful; the entertaining of soldiers and officers going abroad. But that is an Entertainment Vote, or it should be. There was taking the American editors about from place to place, and entertaining them, and so on. That would have a very good effect on the opinion they would form of this country and its activities, particularly in regard to the entertainment of themselves; but even that was very much abused, although I think it was the only good thing, so fat as I have been able to ascertain, that the 2369 Ministry of Information has done. The editors have the pamphlets and leaflets—winch nobody reads. These are sent out by the thousand. There is a great library of these things. The Ministry have even bought books at a higher price per volume than even the ordinary bookseller would pay. They have bought them by the hundred thousands. I urge strongly that it is absolutely no use spending money on this thing the moment an armistice is declared on the terms we know it will be declared. Therefore the Enemy Propaganda Department and the Ministry of Information ought both to cease. I do not know how much it is anticipated will be spent in the current financial year, but it ought to be a very small amount indeed. We all know that there are a good many editors and sub-editors attached to these Departments, and some of them are drawing good salaries, and there will be some difficulty in stopping it. I hope, however, that my right hon. Friend will put an end to it. As for the attack which has been made upon Lord Milner, I think it will be a very strange thing if he does not cease to be Minister for War; in fact I have even heard the name of his probable successor mentioned. I hope all this expenditure will stop the moment the armistice terms are fixed, and we should then close these Departments up.
§ Mr. COTTON
I listened with a great deal of interest and attention to the statement which was made by the Secretary to the Treasury, but I could not help feeling as I listened to it that he was rather in the position of a very brave man struggling with a bad case. I listened to all he had to say with regard to the two branches and the activities of this Ministry, namely, the arrangements made for the American troops and the visits of the overseas editors. With regard to the entertainment of the American troops, there was no need for the establishment of a Ministry of Information to do that. I cannot imagine how the one can justify the other. I entirely agree that those arrangements were absolutely necessary and essential, but I cannot understand the connection between those arrangements and the necessity for the existence of the Ministry of Information.
With regard to the visits of the overseas editors, why have these constant visits been necessary? Why has it been necessary to import cargo after cargo of overseas journalists? There have been certain newspapers which have been incessantly 2370 decrying the efforts made by this country in the War, and therefore it became essential to bring over journalists from America, Canada, New Zealand, and what-not in order to explain that this country was really not doing so badly; and, as a matter of fact, that it was this country that was bearing the chief brunt of the War. The very newspapers which not long ago were decrying the efforts of this country are controlled by the very person whom the Government appointed to be Director of Propaganda in enemy countries. Was there ever such an extraordinary turn of the kaleidoscope as that? We heard to-day from the right hon. Gentleman that within the last few months this Department—I suppose it may be called a Department, although the whole thing seems extremely nebulous—over which Lord Northcliffe presides, has come under a separate heading in the Vote of Credit which covers it. I think it is rather strange that we have had to wait until this afternoon for any information in regard to this matter, and now we are only told that this was done two or three months ago. Was this separation effected at the time of Lord Northcliffe's visit to Paris, or how long before?
§ Mr. COTTON
That does not answer the question which the public are constantly asking, and it does not give the information which hon. Members have been asking for. What is the exact official position occupied by the Director of Propaganda in Enemy Countries? Sometimes we are told that he occupies an official position, and then at another moment, when he breaks out in some direction, we are told that you must not consider that as having been done in Lord Northcliffe's official position, but as done by him in his public or private capacity as the proprietor of a great number of newspapers. All this mystery is producing a very evil effect upon the minds of the public, and it is reducing some of them to ribaldry. I have heard this Ministry described as a huge secret department, and I have heard all kinds of jests levelled at it. I have been asked if members of the Ministry of Information have been taking part in the preparation of the famous film, and whether one of them in the disguise of a policeman, posed as the prominent politician, escaping from the Birmingham Town Hall. Surely, the honest way is to avoid all this absurd secrecy.
2371 I asked a question not long ago with the object of eliciting information as to the staff which was employed by this Ministry, the nature of the duties they performed, and the salaries they received, but I obtained a reply to the effect that this would entail a very great amount of labour. Go into any of the war-time Departments and look at the staff list and you will find out who is employed, but in the case of the Ministry of Information nobody knows who is employed there and apparently the Secretary to the Treasury is in the same position.
I cannot see why this House, and the public, should not be informed of the names of the gentlemen employed at the Ministry of Information, what are the offices they occupy and what salaries they draw from the public purse. We may be told that a great many of them render services for nothing. With regard to that, I would like to express a view, which I am quite sure is shared by a very large number of members of the public and, I hope, by many Members of this House, and it is that people who undertake public work should be paid for it in order that they may be under some sort of control. Nothing can be worse than the principle of appointing a man to perform public duties in a Government Department and saying to him, "If you do not want to receive any salary we shall not compel you to draw any." What has been the effect? We never have any direct representation of this Ministry in the House. I know there is the Secretary to the Treasury, and I bear testimony to his courtesy and the efforts he has made to help those who have been anxious to get information. But, after all, however efficient the hon. Gentleman is, it is not the same thing as having a direct representative of the Department in the House who ought to be able to answer questions relating to his Department, and who may be under some sort of control by Members of this House. Nothing can be worse than a haphazard arrangement like the present. Why may we not have some sort of Report presented to the House with regard to the acivities of this Ministry? Why may we not know what they are doing? We have been told that they entertain American troops and organise the visits of overseas editors, but that is not all the work they do; and if we cannot know now, surely we ought to have some sort of promise or under 2372 taking that at a proper time we may be told exactly how this money is being spent.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
This is the second day's Debate on this subject, and those questions have been dealt with before.
§ Mr. COTTON
This is a matter I cannot help feeling strongly upon, and so many people are talking about it that I feel bound to put their views before the House. This is a very serious matter. It is an expenditure of public money, and proper information should be given. Although these points may have been debated on a previous occasion, the information does not seem to have been given which ought to have been given, there is the point put by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) as to whether the activities of this Department are going to be suspended during the election. I want to be quite frank. Paragraphs are seen in five or six newspapers, all of them more or less identical, sometimes from a distinguished anonymous Frenchman, representing that the Prime Minister is the indispensable man of the moment. You see this distinguished anonymous Frenchman making his appearance in newspaper after newspaper, perhaps in different language, but it all comes down to the same tiling, and there is a very strong impression that all this is the work of the Ministry of Information. It may be perfectly unjust, but there it is, and I am bound to say that it is creating a very mischievous effect. It is the result of setting up a Ministry like this and surrounding its operations with every conceivable kind of mystery and refusing all information as to the names and duties of the persons employed in it.
I suggest, in the interests of the Government itself, that this kind of impression ought not to be allowed to exist one single day longer than is necessary. Under the system which now prevails, an atmosphere of suspicion is being created. It is said with regard to everything of that kind which appears, "Oh, it is the gramophone of the Ministry of Information." I have been constantly told that. It is not my business to defend the Minister of Information, and I do not intend to do so. The people whose duty it is to defend the Ministry are the people who set it up, and they do not do so by telling us that the Ministry have done admirable work by entertaining American troops and by 2373 organising visits of overseas editors. Everybody knows that those are more or less side-shows. What they want to find out is the real kind of work that this Ministry has been doing and how the money has been spent, and that is just the information that they cannot obtain. There appears to be no one to answer for the Ministry except the hon. Gentleman. We are in a very peculiar position, and I am quite sure, if the matter is left as it was left by the hon. Gentleman, that those who will read this Debate in the hope of obtaining information with regard to this strange Ministry and its peculiar activities are doomed to very serious disappointment.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
This Debate on this very important Vote has raised questions not only of immediate domestic importance, but also of considerable constitutional importance. The hon. Gentleman who sits on the Government Bench informed the Committee, and I think it was the first time the announcement had been made, that the expenses of Lord Northcliffe as Minister of Propaganda in enemy countries have been transfererd from this Vote, although this Vote contains some of them for the current year, to the Vote of Credit, and that henceforth they will only appear in a special sub-Department of the Vote of Credit. The hon. Gentleman gave no reason for this very strange change. I presume it is a matter which has been arranged by the Minister of Information. What is the object of transferring these expenses to the Vote of Credit? There is only one result. It removes from this Committee effective criticism of that part of the Vote. It means that in future years the only opportunity of discussing the matter will be on the Vote of Credit, when all sorts of other questions arise, and when it is impossible to have the same kind of detailed discussion which it is possible to have on the Estimates. When the hon. Gentleman made the announcement, he should at least have stated the reasons for transferring Lord Northcliffe's expenses from this Vote to the Vote of Credit. We were informed, when the appointment of Lord Northcliffe was made, that he was subject to some higher authority. We were informed that the Minister of Information was in supreme control and controlled even Lord Northcliffe. To-day we are told that it is not proposed to appoint a new Minister of Information. Who, then, now controls Lord Northcliffe?
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I understand that Mr. Arnold Bennett is not appointed Minister of Information, but simply to carry on the work of that Department. Therefore, I ask who controls Lord Northcliffe and directs his propaganda, so far as it now proceeds? The hon. Gentleman refers to Lord Northcliffe as a Napoleon. I think he said a "great Napoleon."
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
It is true that the hon. Gentleman was quoting from my hon. Friend, and he said if he were a super Napoleon it was no wonder that he was able to perform such journalistic feats as the publication of the article to which my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Pringle) has drawn attention, May I remind the hon. Gentleman that if this be a Government document, as has been stated, it really does not require a Napoleon of any kind in order to publish a document which comes into his hands in the course of his work in connection with the Government? The humblest of Napoleon's servants could always publish a document which came into his hands in connection with his duties. Therefore I think it is relevant, now that we are told that Lord Northcliffe's expenses are transferred from the Estimates to the Vote of Credit, and that Lord Northcliffe is no longer controlled by any Minister, to ask why these changes have taken place, and what arrangements are going to be made in the future. Personally, the announcement that I should hear with the most undisguised satisfaction would be that Lord Northcliffe had no connection whatever with any sort of propaganda on behalf of this or any Government. I regret that the present Government should have taken the representatives of a great Press and have thus interfered with the free expression of public opinion. I regret very much that these arrangements for the most part are secret arrangements, and that the editors and proprietors and representatives of so many English newspapers are in the secret service of the Government of the day. I think it is very bad public policy. It is a reversal of the traditions of English public life. Before the War it was an established principle, which was known to be binding upon every 2375 Government, that when any Member received an office in the Government he severed his connection with all commercial or other undertakings in order that there might be no conflict between his private interests and his public duties. Why has not that course been followed in the present instance? Lord Northcliffe and other newspaper proprietors are given posts in the Government. Why are they not required to divest themselves of their private interests and directorships which may clash with their public duties? I want to ask the hon. Gentleman whether he will publish the names and the salaries of all newspaper proprietors and editors who are now employed in the Ministry of Information? There is no reason why this information should be denied to the House of Commons and to the public.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
I am willing to enlarge the information to the fullest extent. I specified editors and proprietors of newspapers for this special reason. When I read in so many newspapers which are under one final control daily appeals to prejudice and passions, I feel that it would be greatly to the advantage of the public to know whether the writers of these appeals are in the employment of the Government of the day. We have a right to know how far the Press is a free Press, and how far it is corrupted by secret appointments and secret salaries. I therefore suggest that the time has arrived when complete publication should be made of the proprietors and editors of newspapers who are in the employment of the Ministry of Information and who are drawing what up to the present have been secret salaries. A General Election is thought by many to be approaching. Considerable mystery is observed so far as the Government Bench is concerned, and, therefore, no one can speak with certainty, but I desire to add my appeal to those which have been made that during the progress of a General Election, if one takes place, the activities of the Ministry of Information should be suspended. I hope that the day has already passed when any propaganda in foreign countries will be considered necessary. I hope that we are at the end of the War. I am considering this country and I think it would be a reversal of all the great traditions of the past if, during the progress of a General Election, the 2376 resources, the funds, and the organisation of the Ministry of Information were used in order to influence public opinion in favour of one political party.
§ Mr. WHITEHOUSE
Any political party. My hon. and gallant Friend will draw his own conclusions as to the political party which is most likely to be favoured by the activities by the present Ministry of Information. Whatever the party may be, it is a wrong and improper proceeding. It is wrong that any political bias should be imported into the work of the Ministry of Information, and no assurance has been given to us in that connection. In order to show how very important this matter is, let me refer to the cinema. The cinema has been greatly used by the Ministry of Information. I am not surprised, because it is a great social instrument; it is an instrument of popular education and we have only just begun to realise how powerful its influence may be. It is because it may have such a great popular influence that the Committee should receive an assurance that cinema films are not going to be of such a type as, under the guise of being something patriotic, will be used in favour of the political existence of the Government of the day. I hope before the Debate closes and before this Vote is assented to—if it be assented to; I should like to see it rejected—that the Committee will receive further information on these points which I think are very relevant to the Vote.
§ Mr. GRANT
The course of the discussion in Committee has turned broadly upon criticism of the Ministry of Information, but it has not been so much criticism of the Ministry of Information as criticism of Lord Northcliffe. I think it would be a pity if the discussion came to an end without one member of the Committee giving expression to what is undoubtedly a large body of feeling which has nothing but admiration for the work which the Ministry of Information has carried out. One or two hon. Members has asked what the Ministry of Information have done, and rather suggested that they have done little other than the excellent work they accomplished in the entertainment of American soldiers and in taking care of the editors from foreign countries when they came to visit us. But circumstances have allowed me 2377 exceptional opportunities of seeing the work which has been done by the Ministry of Information in South America. Recently I have passed through all the States of that great continent, and I have had exceptional opportunities of seeing the work which the Ministry has done there. As the Committee is aware, there is a very strong German element in South America, and they would not be surprised to hear, if they did not know it already, that every effort was made by German propagandists in South America to put forward their views in order to turn the populations from the Allies towards the enemy. No money was spared, no stone left unturned, every effort, however unscrupulous, was used, to put forward the enemy point of view. I do not think it is too much for me to say that if it had not been for German propaganda in South America that two or three of the greatest States there would long ago have been on our side, and not still neutral, as they are.
The entrance of the Ministry of Information into the field has created a tremendous change of feeling in South America. For the first time, these people have had facts instead of lies. They have gradually been able to realise that the aims of the Allies are their aims, and that their interests are our interests, and I cannot help thinking that the work which is being done there deserves eulogy from anybody who has any real information with regard to it. This Motion is put down as a nominal reduction of expenditure. It makes an attack on the expenditure. Though, I dare say, there has been some waste, and a certain amount of reduplication, and possibly expenditure that was not necessary, yet whatever the expenditure has been it has been an undoubted success, and it has been simply nothing compared with the expenditure which has been incurred by enemy propagandists in that country. From the experience I have had, I feel that I should not do justice to my conscience if I did not take this opportunity of paying the highest tribute to the work I have seen done by the Ministry of Information, which came lately into the field, in South America, and which had enormous obstacles to overcome. They have overcome them by an exhibition of brilliant ability and by an effort which deserves our greatest commendation. I should like to take this opportunity of associating myself with the expressions 2378 of regret which have been voiced at the illness which has overcome Lord Beaver brook. I cannot help thinking that it was to his keen insight, his determination, his ability and his restless energy, that the success achieved has been very largely due.
§ Colonel HAMERSLEY
I wish to speak of another branch of the Ministry of Information, and to bear testimony to its work in the northern part of America. I have just recently been in that part of the country, and, without any connection with the Ministry, I had an opportunity of witnessing the work that they are doing, and the results of that work. Only a year ago the Germans, by their propaganda, had largely influenced the public mind of America, and there was no question that at that time the majority of people in America thought we had not as a country taken our fair share of the burden of the War. The Ministry of Information, having established its propaganda on our part there, has entirely dispelled that, and from what I saw and heard on my travels through America there is now a profound opinion that we have taken quite our share, if not more than our share, in the burden of this War. To my mind, if an end is put to the Ministry of Information and if its activities are withdrawn from America it will be nothing short of a calamity to this country. We have a long way to travel yet to get rid of the prejudices and the ideas which have been inculcated into many, many citizens of America against this country. Though those prejudices are rapidly disappearing, largely owing to the Ministry of Information, we must remember that though the pro-German in America is not heard at present, yet immediately another opportunity or chance arises he will be heard, and will rise up again with all the propaganda he can bring to bear. If we have nothing in that country to counteract him, it will fall back very likely into the state it was a year or two ago. I should regret, and any Englishman who has seen and had experience in America of what is being done would sincerely regret, if the activities and work now being carried on were to be stopped. They have good offices there, the men are thoroughly into their work now, the money we have spent would be very largely lost if we stopped that work; and I do trust that, before they withdraw them, the Government will seriously consider this and realise what the result will be. One 2379 of the greatest results that could happen from this War would be a union between America and these Islands, and everything should be done to bring that about.
§ Colonel HAMERSLEY
If coercing Ireland were necessary to do it, I would do that. I consider the union of America and England a far greater thing than Ireland, or any consideration of Ireland. I trust the Government will thoroughly consider this, and will realise that the work we have done now will have lasting effect, and that it will not be destroyed by being ended.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
I rise, just for a moment or two, to congratulate the Ministry of Information that up to the present, except for the Member for East Finsbury and the Member for Mid-Lanarkshire, no one has said one condemnatory word of the work of that Ministry. The Debate has gone off on an attack on Lord Northcliffe, which attack I shall not pursue. I think it is out of order, and more than that, Lord Northcliffe is well able to look after himself, whatever opponents may be arrayed against him. I should like to deal specially with the remarks made by the hon. Member for East Finsbury, recently returned to this House. What brought me specially to my feet was the obvious ignorance of the hon. Member, and I regret he is not here to enjoy, possibly to appreciate, I trust to benefit from, the criticism I shall make on his remarks. He referred to the Ministry of Information as if its principal duty was the bringing over, to use his own most happy expression, of cargoes and cargoes of overseas journalists. I cannot understand the attitude of mind of any Member of this House or of this Empire who can refer to a visit of overseas journalists, invited here by the Government of the day to visit their own troops, as the visit of cargoes and cargoes of journalists.
§ Mr. COTTON
The word "cargo" was merely a picturesque expression. It was not meant to represent that they were brought over as cargo.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
The explanation which the hon. Member has supplied confirms my opinion that he has no conception of the great Imperial movement 2380 that is surging around him but evidently swamping him and leaving him unconverted. The Ministry of Information, I would remind the Committee, came into being shortly after the formation of the present Coalition. Up to that time this country's and the Empire's cause was going back in the United States and in every neutral country owing, as hon. Members have pointed out, to the intense and keen propaganda of our German enemies and to our neglect of the most elementary steps to meet it. When Lord Beaverbrook was Appointed Minister of Information many people expected that things would not go right. I am, myself, only an acquaintance of Lord Beaverbrook, but I am bound to confess this, that his career at the Ministry of Information has been one of the most successful careers of any Minister in this Coalition Government. He actually rescued from the Germans the neutral countries and America by launching out on a system of propaganda the success of which can be vouched for by everybody who has been in those countries both before the Ministry was established and since its work has commenced, I would appeal, even to the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, if the work of the Ministry of Information was not good work for the Allied cause in the United States. This Ministry has done two great things, to which I would like to draw the Committee's attention, and especially the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Finsbury, who obviously has not followed this most valuable movement up to the present nor realised its prime importance in the development of the future of the world. Not only did Dominion journalists come to this country, but journalists came from all the Allied countries and from neutral countries, and especially from our great Ally in fact, though not diplomatically, the United States of America. It cannot be too often borne in upon this House that American people are not walking in step in everything with the people of this country or of this Empire. There are wide differences of opinion, deep-seated differences, not yet removed. The Ministry of Information has done more than any other Department in English history to remove misconceptions and to re-establish a better feeling between the old Mother Country and the great United States of America. The hon. Member for East Finsbury pooh-poohed the idea of the entertainment of American troops by the Ministry.
§ Mr. COTTON
I did not pooh-pooh it; what I said was that it was not necessary to set up a Ministry of Information in order to entertain American troops.
§ Sir H. GREENWOOD
But there was no one else to do it. No other Department ever attempted to do it. The Ministry of Information undertook it. It is no light task; it involves the entertainment of hundreds of thousands of Americans, the vast majority of whom have never seen England or cared for England. Unless every one of these men goes back with a new and better conception of this Mother Country than he had before, then we shall be losing one of the best advantages ever presented to us by America joining our cause. If the £1,000,000 or the £2,000,000—whatever the Ministry has spent, even if it be £10,000,000—has led to a better feeling between this country and Americans who visit us, it will be well worth the money ten times over. There is one other point in regard to which the Ministry of Information has wrought possibly better than any of its personnel realise. It has brought together the remotest parts of this Empire. It has strengthened the feeling, which is not always as keen as some people try to make out, between different parts of this Empire and the Mother Country. It has made us closer allied to our American kinsmen. Whether the Ministry is continued in its present form or name or otherwise, I hope that the better, kindly, and closer feeling that has been brought about by that Ministry will be continued in some shape or form by the Ministry, if necessary, strengthened. To let it all drift back again until the Mother Country becomes the isolated part of the English speaking world would be a calamity which no man who looks a year ahead, let alone a century, would view without deep dismay. I join with other hon. Members who have expressed regret that Lord Beaverbrook has lost his health. I understand that he has gone on four or five months' complete leave owing to his work at the Ministry. He deserves credit for what the Ministry have done. I can speak in compliment of the work he has done, because I know him but little and was one of those who doubted the wisdom of his appointment at the beginning. It would be only in 2382 keeping with the traditions of the House, at any rate of fair play and common-sense, to pay a tribute where tribute is due.
§ Colonel ASHLEY
I wish to associate myself with what has fallen from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Sunderland (Sir H. Greenwood) in reference to the very real and excellent services which Lord Beaverbrook has rendered to the Ministry of Information and the nation. He has not spared himself; his health has broken down in consequence of what he went through. All those who have had an opportunity of seeing what he did in that office must feel that he performed a real service to the nation in working the Ministry in the way he did, at a cost which was small compared with the results achieved. Whether the Ministry is continued in its present form or in some changed form, I hope that at any rate for the remainder of the War, for the period of demobilisation, indeed, until we reach what I may call normal conditions, the Ministry in some form will be continued. It is of the greatest importance that we should take into consideration what has been done by the Ministry in the past, and continue the work on the same lines during the period of demobilisation, when inevitably differences, small or great, must appear and creep between the Allies. It will be necessary for us to have some guiding Department which can endeavour to put forward our case in a moderate and sane way, and so smooth over the difficulties which are bound to occur. May I say how much I personally appreciate what has been done in regard to Germany. There is no doubt that what the Ministry has done has had a great effect in unsettling the moral of the German people by letting them know the truth, which they did not know before the Ministry took up the work. I ascribe a great deal of our late successes in the field not only to the gallantry of our troops, but also to the fact that the population of Germany has during the last year been informed more accurately of the world position and of the facts of the War than they were in the first two or three years of this gigantic conflict.
May I advert to a more particular matter which the Ministry has had to undertake. During the remaining time the Ministry or its successors will have to work I attach the greatest importance to the treatment of the American troops who are passing through this country, whether the men are coming back hero wounded or staying 2383 here—a few of them are convalescents, although most of them do not come here for convalescence. They should continue to be treated with the greatest consideration and help. I have had the privilege myself of meeting a great many thousands of American officers and men, and the gratitude with which they receive the smallest civilities and the smallest help from an Englishman in his home is really touching. If one offers them the smallest mark of attention or hospitality one is overwhelmed with thanks for doing something which it is only a great pleasure to do. It is not surprising, perhaps, that they have that feeling. They have been for months in a training camp in the States; they have been from sixteen to twenty days crowded together in a transport, with many more men on board than she ought to carry; then they arrive at a port in what is to them a foreign land, which 99 per cent. of them have never been before; they are then packed into a train and do a twelve or fifteen hours' journey, being dumped down probably in the middle of the night in a camp in a country they have never been in before. The Ministry has offered them attention in the form of entertainments, bands, and affording them means of playing games. They have done that in the past. It is very much appreciated by the men, and cements the kindly feeling which is so much stronger between this country and the United States than it was before the War. I want to ask the Joint Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who represents the Ministry hero this afternoon, that, in addition to continuing that good work, he should take some steps to ensure that American officers and men who come to London on leave should be absolutely sure of finding accommodation. I do not wish to refer to the difficulties of English officers in finding accommodation when they come here on leave, but we ought to make adequate arrangement here for American officers and men, so that when they come here, or to any of the big towns, they may be quite sure of finding accommodation for the time of their stay. It would be a disgrace to this country if, when they come back here, as many of them do at this moment, they find no place to sleep in and are compelled to sleep on the floors of waiting rooms at stations or on the billiard tables of hotels. I only hope that as the War comes to an end and they come back in great numbers there will be no 2384 accommodation lacking. The Ministry of Information has done its work extremely well, and I hope the Treasury will not stint the money necessary to enable them to carry it on.
§ Mr. HOGGE
I am afraid I cannot appreciate all the compliments that have been showered upon the Ministry of Information and the work it is supposed to have been doing. I know only two illustrations of its work so far as it affects me personally. On a recent occasion I had sent to me a large envelope with some twenty or thirty picture postcards of all the British generals and admirals who at the present moment are serving under the Flag, and I was told that if I distributed them it would help to keep the country up to its standard in pursuing the War. These postcards were not the ordinary picture postcards; they were printed on the very finest paper, and produced in the finest three-colour system. They were distributed broadcast over this country. That is another example of the intolerable waste of public money which is common to every one of the Departments of which we have had knowledge in this House. What, to my mind, is another evidence of waste is the system of kiosks set up in a few railway stations in London, which are about the size of an ordinary sentry-box, and in which there has been placed a small boy, usually under eighteen years of age, or a girl, to whom the public are invited to go and obtain information on every subject, from the Military Service (No. 2) Act to the variety of food coupons now issued by the Food Controller. I have never seen the use of this function of the Ministry of Information. It is nothing more or less than a most intolerable waste of public money. Therefore, I am not able to join with my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down (Colonel Ashley) in congratulating the Ministry of Information on the very excellent work which it has done. I do not think the House of Commons really knows whether the Ministry of Information hag done anything or not. On all occasions on which an attempt has been made to secure information as what it has been doing we have met with the usual rebuff, which is now one of the funiosities of the War and the Front Bench, that it is not in the public interest to give information as to what is being done; and so far as I am aware no information has been provided to enable the Committee to discuss this Supplementary Estimate.
2385 There is a further matter which we ought to have a definite and distinct understanding about before we allow the Estimate to pass. I appreciate the fact that Lord Beaverbrook is the victim of illness and I am certain we all hope that his recovery may be speedy. But when Lord Beaverbrook was Minister for Information he was in the House of Lords and is was impossibe for any of us to get any information with regard to what he was doing. There is no Minister on the Front Bench now responsible for the Ministry of Information, and at a quarter past eight there is to be an Adjournment Motion in order to discover whether we are going to have a General Election or not. I do not very much mind whether we have a General Election to-morrow or the day after. You can have it as soon as ever you like. I shall be quite glad to see it come, and to look after myself in my Constituency. But if we have a General Election this House is dissolved and cannot reassemble until January, or probably the beginning of February. That means that from now until the new Parliament reassembles this House is allowing a great Department of the Government to go on spending money on schemes which have never been discussed, about which we know nothing, and in regard to which we have no Minister responsible in this House. A Member of this House has some responsibility and I object to giving these blank cheques to Departments which, like Mahomet's coffin, seem to hang midway between Whitehall and Downing Street and have no real function which can be criticised here. Therefore I am prepared to oppose the Government getting this money unless, on behalf of the Prime Minister, and speaking for the Government, the Secretary to the Treasury is able to put us in possession of information as to who now is responsible for the Ministry. We were told the other day that it was not proposed to appoint a successor to Lord Beaverbrook. I suppose that means that the new Minister of Information shall not be a member of another place, but may be a Member of this House. The other day the President of the Local Government Board retired, or was dismissed, or was promoted, I do not know which, and his Ministry was associated with the Ministry of National Service. The Government obviously felt that the Local Government Board could not be without a representative on the 2386 Front Bench for any length of time, and they promptly and judiciously and economically handed it over to another Minister. The Committee is entitled to demand that before we part with this Estimate we shall know the other Minister, if that is the arrangement they are going to make, who is going to be responsible for questions put in this House with regard to the policy and the future of this Ministry of Information.
The second point I want to deal with is the continuance of this Ministry in the event of peace negotiations immediately being entered into. A number of hon. Members have pointed out the necessity of continuing the propaganda of the Minister of Information in other countries, even in the event of peace. Apparently I have been labouring under a misapprehension. I understood the Ministry of Information's main task outside the four corners of the Kingdom was to engage in what we call propaganda against the enemy, and Lord Northcliffe, amongst others, has been in charge of that propaganda, and, so far as I know, has performed his task with great assiduity and great knowledge. But do we want any propaganda in any other country once we are at peace? Are there going to be any enemy countries after peace has been declared? It is hoped that eventually there will be a League of Nations. Obviously a Minister of Information, whose primary object is to distribute facts in enemy countries, is not required after peace has been declared to distribute facts among countries which are perfectly friendly to us, and I regret exceedingly that those who are supposed to be the custodians of the public purse, imbued with this spirit of extravagance, suggest that we should go on spending the millions of pounds that we are spending now in the Ministry of Information without any knowledge being laid before the House, because we have never yet had, beyond the facts placed in front of us by the Committee which has investigated the financial side of the Ministry, any information at all on which we could decide whether the expenditure of this money was wise or not. Therefore I am very much opposed to the use of the Ministry of Information for this purpose.
There is another argument why the Ministry of Information should not be used for this purpose. I take it that one of the great reforms that we hope to get out of the present war is the reformation 2387 of our Consular service, and many of the bitterest complaints to which I have listened have been complaints against the inadequacy of that service in supplying information to British citizens in all parts of the world. Surely we do not want to create a competition between the Ministry of Information, about which we know really nothing, and the Consular service, which ought to become a real, live, vital part of the business interests of this country, and I regret exceedingly that any hon. Member should have encouraged an already extravagant Government to foster an extravagant notion that after the War they are going to have extravagant powers to be more extravagant still with the money of the people of this country.
A third point on which I should like some information is the position of certain men in the Ministry. I do not know whether any hon. Member can tell us who is really in charge of the Ministry. I noticed the other day in the papers that a certain Mr. Arnold Bennett, who sometimes writes articles and I believe has written novels—I believe he is the author of a play called "The Title," to which I have listened, though I cannot get any information out of it relative to this Ministry—s now somewhere in authority in the Ministry of Information. There have been a good many London journalists in the Ministry. In fact all London journalists seem to pass through it, just as any private soldier passes through a cadet school, and I think the House will be interested to know, for use in subsequent years, how it is possible to make use of all this conglomerate of material that you find collected in the Ministry of Information. What is Mr. Arnold Bennett doing there? Is he writing international novels for propaganda purposes in belligerent countries? There was great trouble recently about plays being produced in neutral countries, which involved a legal action. That, I believe, was done under the administration of another London journalist with disastrous results. Can the Secretary to the Treasury, who probably knows as much as we do about the Ministry of Information, tell us whether any of Mr. Arnold Bennett's plays are going to be used in Germany? If "The Title" going to be introduced into Germany? If we are to believe everything that is going on now it would be a very appropriate play in a great many German towns. We are 2388 entitled to know something about these appointments. All we know about them is what we can pick up in the newspaper Press. We do not know what they are, or what they are worth, how much these men are being paid, where they are being paid enough or are being overpaid for their work. Before the Estimate is released I want to know something about matters of that kind.
A fourth matter I want to raise is of great interest to a large industry in this country. I refer to the use of the cinema by the Ministry of Information. I have noticed any number of motor vans, fitted up most elaborately with cinema machines, which have been sent all round the country into the most remote spots in order to acquaint the people with what has been happening. I should not have thought that was possible in view of the fact that practically every newspaper now has the Government information, and that it would be quite unnecessary, in view of the large number of picture papers, for the Government to have cinema films driven throughout the country by motor vans. But in all that the Ministry of Information has done, it has not attempted to develop the British industry of the making of cinema films. We hear a very great deal in this House from time to time about the resuscitation of British industry. We have many speeches made here on the fact that British industries are not given a proper opportunity to develop. It is true that the cinema industry has had its home in America, and, thanks to the climate and the considerable number of years during which it has been ahead of the British industry, it is able to produce films quicker and perhaps better than can be done in this country. But I have heard—and it is one of the disadvantages of these Debates that we are not able to get information—I have heard that the Ministry of Information is contemplating, even at this moment, though we are in sight of an armistice and peace, the creation of a huge undertaking in this country to themselves make and develop these firms. It has even been told to me by some of the most representative firms in the British industry that the Ministry of Information is contemplating bringing over from America managers for each department of this huge undertaking. I think we ought to have some information about that. Is any of the money in this Estimate being devoted to this purpose? 2389 I wish to state that the British cinema industry, while young, is very competent. We have a number of British firms which have produced some of the very best films on the market. If the Ministry of Information is going to develop the film side of its propaganda, we have a right to ask that it shall develop it through British manufacturers. By so doing the Ministry will stimulate the industry, and when the War is over it may become a very large industry in this country. That is the very thing which members of the Government try to get others to do—to promote trade and industry in this country. Unless I can get some satisfactory assurances from my hon. Friend that this course will be pursued, and that the development will be in the hands of those who at the present moment are in the British film industry. I shall divide against this Vote. After all, that industry is not only a great industry, but it has a representative in this House, my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), who holds a very authoritative position in regard to it. Unless my hon. Friend can assure the House that the British cinema industry, which is alarmed at any attempt on the part of the Ministry of Information to go beyond these shores in developing this particular thing, I must press my opposition to a Division.
There is only one other point I should like to raise. I think we ought to have an understanding about the relation of the propaganda by the Ministry of Information to the General Election which is about to take place. I understand, and I should think it is probably correct, although we who represent the constituencies are not likely to get the announcement, that it will possibly be made on some cinema film during the week-end instead of being made to the responsible Members of this House. I want some very definite understanding on this point before the Government get the Supplementary Estimate. I invite the attention of hon. Members to this point—I want some understanding as to what is to be done with the cinema vans which the Department are running into every constituency of the country, by means of agents of the Ministry of Information, who draw large salaries, with a view to exhibiting to the people in those localities films which describe everything, from German atrocities to the endeavour to live and grow fat on the coupon system. 2390 Between each of these films there is exhibited invariably a large portrait of the Prime Minister. We understand that a film of the Prime Minister's life is to be made, and we know it is being made by a firm all the members of which have changed their German names in order to prove to the British people that the film is entirely British made by men who rejoice in good old John Bull names. I want to know whether this film of the Prime Minister's life is to be used by the Ministry of Information. Of course, if he is going to appeal to the country, the people should know something about his life, and the Ministry of Information is the Department which should supply information in that respect. But it may be that this film is not under the control of the Ministry of Information.
I want to know if during the election, if after the date of the Dissolution has been announced, the Ministry are going to withdraw these propaganda vans, or are they going down into any of our constituencies to provide entertainment while the election is going on. It has been suggested by one of my hon. Friends that this cannot be done by Act of Parliament. But may I point out that the Ministry of Information is a Government Department and not an outside organisation. I see nothing to prevent the Ministry of Information pursuing its propaganda in many subtle ways during the whole period of the General Election to the detriment of every Member of this House, because the exhibition of this film, even in the constituency of a man who supports the Government, might damage him very considerably. Whether that is so or not, I want to know from my hon. Friend whether he will give the House an undertaking that from the moment the Dissolution of Parliament is announced that kind of propaganda will be withdrawn, and that the candidates for Parliament will not be put into competition with propaganda films interspersed, as they are all over the country, with photographs of Ministers. I should not mind if the photograph of my hon. Friend in charge of this Vote were one of them, because he would impress the country. But I do object to a large number of the other photographs that appear, and to the way in which they are insinuated into the film. You might just as well print a little slide with the words, "Vote for the present Government." I am prepared to take a Division on this because it is a question of principle. We must have a distinct 2391 understanding from the Government that the various methods pursued at the present time by the Ministry of Information will cease during the period of the General Election, and unless that undertaking is given I intend to divide the Committee. I have not mentioned many of the other points which have been referred to by other speakers, and on which they want information, but I hope my hon. Friend will, in regard to the subject I have put forward, be able to give a satisfactory explanation in view of the fact that he wants to get this large sum of money to-night.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
I take the same view of this Vote as the hon. Member who has just spoken. May I say, by the way, I regret he does not know more of Mr. Arnold Bennett and his play "The Title "? I do not share at all the desire of my hon. Friend that Mr. Arnold Bennett's play should be produced in other countries. I understand the main theme of the play is that titles in this country can be acquired by the payment of money, and I hope that any such gross caricature of the unspotted honour of this country will not be allowed to circulate in foreign countries, thereby diminishing that reputation for unspotted high-mindedness which we attribute to ourselves. I am in favour of the appointment and generous maintenance of a Ministry of Information on right lines. I remember meeting two of the leading figures in the great Jugo-Slav world, one of whom unfortunately died before he saw the liberation of his country. Both of these gentlemen were strong supporters of the Allies, because, like we Irishmen, they thought the success of the Allies would mean freedom to the world and to their particular country. Being sympathetic with the Allies, they were somewhat free of their criticism of the methods of the Allies. One said to me, "If you had one paper in Bulgaria you might have a chance of keeping Bulgaria on the British side. The Germans have seven, but you have none." The other said, "If you had one paper in Athens on the side of the Allies you might have some chance of defeating the conspiracy of the ex-King and the Army against the entrance of Greece on the side of the Allies. But you have not one, while the Germans have four." And so, throughout the world, we have the spectacle of German propaganda work being done better in every country—the spectacle of a German Propaganda 2392 Department, well officered, well organised, well subsidised, while this country to a large extent allows judgment to go against it by default; it did so especially at the beginning of the War.
I think I may add that even in America papers were utilised for German propaganda work early in the War. On one point I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). I think a Ministry of Information is essential to this country, especially in time of war, and my complaint against this Government is not that it established the Ministry of Information, but that it did so too late. From the moment the United States entered into the War they established a Ministry of Information, and they put at the head of that Ministry one of the ablest men in the United States—Mr. George Creet—an American with an American grandfather and an Irish grandmother. I know on which side his sympathies are in the Irish, controversy. Mr. Creet was put at the head of the Ministry of Information, and it cannot be denied that he has done a great deal to produce that moral breakdown in the German nation which is one of the causes of their breakdown in this War. The American Ministry of Information has done enormously good work in this direction, and that is why I want a similar Department in this country. The very first thing it should not do is that it should not be used in time of war as a means of domestic propaganda for any political party. I agree with everything that has been said with regard to the energy, zeal, and ability of Lord Beaverbrook, and I join in the universal regret that his health has been shaken by his labours, and trust that he may have a speedy recovery. May I suggest that Lord Beaverbrook had one little fault—a good fault in times of peace, but not quite so good a quality in times of war. Lord Beaverbrook had the courage and the strength of his convictions. He is a strong partisan, and whatever he thinks is right he does his best to bring it to success and prosperity. I have seen indications in some of the publications issued by the Ministry of Information and on some of the most contested questions of our domestic life, the Minister of Information has taken a side which a man of the strong and well-known convictions of Lord Beaverbrook would be inclined to take. That is wrong. I should think it wrong of Mr. Creet, in Washington, if he 2393 took such a line. He is a very strong democrat, a very strong supporter of the great President of the United States. He is in sympathy with the efforts of that very eminent leader to liberate the masses of the American people from the stranglehold which held them under the pernicious influence of gigantic and not particularly delicate wealth and trust combinations. At the same time he would be open to criticism if in the pursuit of his duty as the Minister of Information he communicated to the Press of his country anything which was in favour of democratic principles, although he has faith in them himself, and although they are the principles of the great leader of whom he is a trusted servant.
That should apply to the Minister of Information in this country. Therefore, I think the hon. Member for East Edinburgh and the hon. Member for North-West Lanark were perfectly justified in bringing forward this question, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman, who has conducted this matter with such courtesy and ability, will recognise that. I think they are entitled to ask for a pledge that the activities of the Minister of Information, so far as our domestic affairs are concerned, shall not be continued during the period of the War. I do not think it is fair that the public money of the country voted to the Ministry of Information for the defence of the general and external interests of the country in the War should be allowed to load the dice between political parties during the election which is about to come. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hogge) has made some allusion to the use of the cinema. Naturally, I am delighted to find that the potentialities of the cinema are being discovered. I discovered them for myself ten or fifteen years ago, and I am surprised that the world has been so slow to see how valuable the cinema might be in many things, including political controversy. I cannot say that I share my hon. Friend's objections to the cinema being used to describe the life of the Prime Minister. It is a very interesting life, lived honestly, and ending in such a great and conspicuous success.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Well, culminating. Such a film would have an excellent effect upon the minds of the public. It would have an excellent effect on the right hon. Gentleman himself if he ever saw it. 2394 Surely the story of his consistent support of democratic principles would naturally induce in him a determination, which I am sure is strong, to keep on the same old democratic lines of his political creed. Therefore, I cannot regard the production of a film describing the life of the present Prime Minister as ridiculous, unfair, or uneducative. Here again I have to ask a question which is suggested to me by an observation made by one of the great leaders of the cinema industry in America. He is an Irishman. In fact, nearly all the great figures in America are Irishmen, including the President, who is a grandson of parents born in Ireland. If hon. Members want the names, I will give the names of great men in America, and most of them you will find have Celtic blood in them. This man is a great leader in the cinema industry in America, and also in the life of America, and he said, "We are going so far with the cinema industry in America that I believe the time is coming when we shall be able to decide the Presidential election." I do not know whether that boast was justified or not, but at any rate it has some application to the use of the cinema with Government money for the purpose of winning an election. I think that is not the kind of thing calculated to raise the level of our political life to that great high level of impeccable purity which it has reached at the present moment. I do not think such a use of it by the Minister of Information would be calculated to do good.
The Ministry of Information has devoted some of its activities to welcoming and entertaining American troops. No purpose could be more admirable and no necessity could be greater. I always regard as one of the stupidities, I will not say the most characteristic defect, of our life in this city is that we have allowed some of the greatest figures in our own Empire, and the greatest figures in the world, to come within our gates, and to pass from our gates without a word of recognition, without a card of invitation, without a lunch or a dinner, or anything else, while they were here. My hon. and gallant Friend opposite will remember that he took me to see the late Sir Richard McBride, one of the greatest figures in our Empire, a Minister at the age of thirty-two, and Prime Minister and almost Dictator of the great province of British Columbia for ten years. We found him left lonely, sad, and almost 2395 abandoned in a London hotel. We got rid of that by various means. I think it would have been a crime, considering all that we owe to the American Army, if some means had not been adopted for giving them proper hospitality and proper welcome. I had the pleasure of travelling across the Atlantic with 4,000 American troops, part of a convoy, which was bringing over 40,000 soldiers. My hon. Friend (Mr. Hazleton) reminds me of the fact that these soldiers were under the command of two Irish Generals.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I am afraid we are all doing a little propaganda of our own instead of restricting it.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I think I was inspired with a little of the sublety of the Minister of Information, and that I was getting my propaganda without exposing myself to your sleepless vigilance. I think you will find (Mr. Whitley) that I get there in the end. I am dealing with a point made in the work of the Ministry of Information, that among its beneficent activities it provides welcome and entertainment for American officers and troops. I did a little of that kind of work myself on board the steamer, and I did a good deal of it in America. I was welcomed at more than one American camp during my visit, and I do not think they found any fault with the particular line of thought which I brought before them. I observe that there is a Committee for welcoming the American troops, and the chairman is the hon. and gallant Member (General McCalmont). He is no doubt a very charming host, but I would like to know how many Liberals and how many Irishmen has the hon. and gallant Member invited to assist him in his labours?
§ General McCALMONT
Does the hon. Member ask how many Irishmen and Liberals I have invited to assist me?
§ General McCALMONT
I do not quite follow the question. So far as I know, I have not invited anybody to do anything politically. I did not know that politics came into this question.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I have not suggested it. But surely my hon. and gallant Friend has to entertain these American soldiers, and among the various sources of entertainment I assume there are some 2396 addresses. How many Liberals and Irish Nationalists has he invited to address the American officers?
§ General McCALMONT
So far as I know, I think I am safe in saying I have issued no invitation to anybody. That is not part of my duty. I do not issue invitations to anybody to address American officers or troops. Invitations have not been issued by me to anybody, but I believe I am right in saying that several Irishmen have addressed the American troops; and I know of one lady in the past few days who has addressed American troops, and whose principles are the same as those enunciated by the hon. Member himself.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I am very glad to hear it. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants to get the right kind of man and the right kind of woman to address American soldiers, he will have to seek them in ranks which do not quite share his own political views.
§ General McCALMONT
I think I am entitled to deal with this point. The hon. Member appears to be making a suggestion, so far as I understand it, that I have made use of this position for the purpose of arranging for people to address American troops on political questions. I wish to make it perfectly clear that I have made no such arrangements whatsoever at any time. If I did arrange these sort of things, they would certainly have been arranged in the Department over which I, for the time being, preside; and if I had done so, I should never be animated by motives which the hon. Member seems to suggest I am animated by. I think it would be fair to me if he would quote some instance or instances of person or persons addressing American troops who should not have addressed them.
§ General McCALMONT
Then my hon. Friend has no right to suggest that I have allowed anybody to address American troops who ought not to have addressed them.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
The hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to think it extremely unfair that I should ask him questions as to the manner in which he conducts his work. I think I am entitled to ask the 2397 question, and I repeat it—how many Members of Liberal or Nationalist opinions have addressed the American troops under his guidance? As the hon. Gentleman has taken these observations of mine as something unfair, may I say that I do not think a more unfortunate selection—
§ General McCALMONT
I cannot carry in my head the names of people who have addressed American troops during the last six months. I have been responsible for this Department for the last two months. I cannot say off-hand who addressed them. If the hon. Gentleman had done me the honour of letting me know that he was going to raise this question I should have been in a position to give him a straight answer. He makes the suggestion that I have been animated by party views, and he does not give me a fair chance. If he will suggest that somebody has addressed American troops under my auspices who ought not to have done so I am prepared to answer it, but if he presses me to give names which may or may not exist, for which I may or may not be responsible, I think that is grossly unfair.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I will tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman something which I think he can confirm. I do not know that any member of the Irish party has been invited to address these officers.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman mean that it was not part of his duty when he had these American officers over here to ask them if they wanted to be addressed by Members of the House of Commons?
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
When I was in America there was not an occasion on which I was within forty or fifty or even within two hundred miles of a camp of soldiers when I was not begged and prayed to go there and welcomed when addressing them. I have not been invited in this country by the hon. Gentleman or anybody else, but, though I say it myself, I do not think that I would have been quite an unwelcome guest.
§ General McCALMONT
The hon. Member is entirely under a misapprehension. Speaking from my recollection, only one gentleman has addressed American officers under my auspices. That was Major Fox, a returned prisoner of war, who addressed the officers at Washington Inn in the course of the last week. Various other gentlemen and ladies have addressed troops in various parts of the country. So far as I know none of these speakers were Members of this House, and, with the exception of Lord Denbigh, who addressed the troops at Winchester on one occasion, I do not think that any of them were Members of the other House; and as to the suggestion that I asked them to give addresses on any political question, such a thought never crossed my mind. No one addressed them on any Irish question, and I think that the lady whom I have mentioned, who addressed the troops in Winchester last week, was the only person who mentioned Ireland. I do not think that it is part of my duty to arrange addresses for officers. That is entirely managed by their own committee in London.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
If I had the honour of occupying the place of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, one of the first things I would have done would have been to invite Members of this House to address them—not on any party question. I never addressed them in America on any party question; I addressed them on the question which was of intense interest to them, namely, the issues of the War. I do think it rather unfortunate that, when so many of these men and officers belong to the Irish race, no man of their own race and creed was invited to address them.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
So far as I know that is so. It is not for me to say it, but if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had done either myself or any member of my party the honour of giving us an invitation to address the American officers or American soldiers we would have been very glad to accept it. We never got any such invitation, and I think that it was deplorable that some such step was not taken. However, I pass that by and return to the Ministry of Information, merely remarking that the provision of welcome for American soldiers was one of the main reasons for 2399 the establishment of the Ministry of Information, and I conclude by asking the hon. Member in charge (Mr. Baldwin) will he or will he not give the undertaking that in the coining election the liberty of this Department shall be suspended so far as political domestic propaganda is concerned. I do not mean the filming of the Prime Minister, or anything like that, but anything of a party complexion shall not be issued by the Ministry of Information so as to load the dice against any party at the expense of the country?
§ General McCALMONT
I only rise to say that I shall take the very earliest opportunity of getting a reprint of the hon. Members remarks and issuing them to the A Officers' Council of London. Then that council will be in a position to judge whether they require his services to speak to them or not. The American Officers' Council in London arrange their own entertainment. There are three in number, but these places have nothing to do with me. However, I will take the earliest opportunity of conveying the hon. Member's desires to them and will give a list of parties represented by the hon. Member and others of the same gentlemen, and I have no doubt that in future they will be kept fully occupied in addressing these officers.
I want to join in the appeal with regard to propaganda during elections. I am quite indifferent as to what the opposition to any candidate may be, because I recognise that it is not only the right but the duty of all parties and candidates to use every means at their disposal in order to get their own particular views accepted. But while that is the duty of political organisations and of parties and individuals it most certainly must never be made the duty of the Government itself. There is, I believe, general agreement among all who are in touch with the industrial classes that whenever peace comes the problems immediately following it will not only be difficult but will require very delicate handling. That, in my judgment, is inevitable, and anyone who knows anything of the industrial classes and is in touch daily with their opinion would not for a moment challenge the statement that the dangerous period which we have to face more than all others is the period between peace and normal conditions. Rumour says that we are to have a General Election follow- 2400 ing an Armistice. I think that it will be frankly admitted that the position at that moment would be overwhelmingly in favour of the Government. Personally I should be expressing their feeling when I say that that is one of the reasons why the General Election will take place then. After all, it will only be a khaki election. But if in addition to having an election in those circumstances the Government make the mistake of loading the dice against any section of the people, then they will have created a situation that will absolutely destroy the authority of this House. I believe that the safety valve of the future is this House. I disagree totally with the people who believe that you can ignore the House of Commons and rely absolutely on what is called industrial action. I know the power of industrial action only too well. I am called upon to exercise it, but I recognise this danger, and I want the authority of Parliament recognised as being essential to the future of the country. You can only get that recognised, you can only get respect for authority and government, by the people having confidence in the Government and by the people having confidence in the methods by which the Government are elected and by being satisfied that they have had a square deal I admit frankly that the Ministry of Information has been necessary. Like the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, I have been in America, and when I came back I said distinctly to the Government that one of the failures for American opinion was due to their want of action in not taking steps properly to inform America of what England was doing. On the contrary, the great bulk of the Press read, in America was more concerned in deprecating our efforts and in making out that we were practically doing nothing. From that point of view I believe the Ministry of Information has done good, but that is an entirely different thing from taking any partisan side or influencing in any shape or form a political campaign. It is because I believe it would be dangerous, and not in the best interests of the Government itself, that I hope a very clear and definite statement will be made on that point, and if it is I am sure that will do much to allay feeling in the country.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not think precautions of the kind are necessary. We heard that Mr. Arnold Bennett is now in charge. I have the honour of knowing Mr. Bennett personally, and I should think, if there is 2401 one Member of the House he would be inclined to make a favourite of, it would be the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), and I am perfectly certain you could not get him to allow the Department to be used to hurt my right hon. Friend.
I am not concerned with the question of Mr. Arnold Bennett or anybody else. What I was trying to put was a danger which I want avoided.
§ Mr. BOOTH
The whole discussion has been on personalities. Lord Beaverbrook has been attacked because of his pronounced views, and Lord Northcliffe because of his pronounced views. We were told, now that Lord Beaverbrook is gone, that Mr. Bennett is the man in charge, and if he is inclined to make a, hero in this House he would, I think, choose my right hon. Friend, so that I cannot understand what all the alarm is about. I challenge any hon. Member to get up and say that Mr. Bennett is going to use his position in favour of the present Prime Minister. Of course, they know he would not, and I do not believe anyone would in the same position. I am perfectly certain Mr. Bennett would not. What is all this bother about? I have listened to all these warnings, and I have not the remotest notion of what my hon. and right hon. Friends are driving at. I do not agree with the suggestion in two or three speeches that this Department should be closed down. I quite agree that I would not like the Minister of Information to be doing very much in this country during the election, but I do say it is highly necessary that that Department should continue its splendid work in foreign countries. Take Austria, where new nationalities are springing up or newly asserting themselves or having new recognition. The Minister of Information has not been able to do very much in the way of educating the Czecho-Slovaks, the Jugo-Slavs, or even the Hungarians, with regard to this great Empire in the past few years. I think there is a most excellent chance in the next few months for the Ministry of Information to get literature into those now republics.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I hope they will tell them about the different parts of the United Kingdom and of the Empire. I say quite frankly I would like these new Republics to know not only our political history and 2402 literature, but also other information about the Empire. What has been going on in Sweden? I have taken the trouble to find out what the propaganda department of Germany has been doing in places like Stockholm. The school children, as they are leaving school, are presented by German agents with nicely-bound volumes with gilt edges as little gift-books to take home. [An HON. MEMBER: "And chocolates!"] And chocolates as well. They have secret agents who go to the parks in Stockholm and leave handsome volumes lying about where people pass, in order to convey to those people the glorious history of the Huns. That has been going on for the last few years on a wide scale. I do not suggest that we should do the same, but I ask the Government whether they are going to stop at once because Lord Beaverbrook has resigned. I do not think it would be right. Take the great districts of Belgium and Northern France. A Member of this House recently received a letter from his son stating that people in parts of rescued France had only then seen British khaki for the first time in their lives. What chance had a Minister of Propaganda in the last few years of telling that French population what has been going on? The same remark applies to Belgium, where the people have been ground down since Brussels and Antwerp were occupied. Belgium has got to be re-peopled and re-established in industries and in universities, schools, and so on. I venture to say that expenditure of the kind I suggest might well take place in Belgium itself and Northern France, telling the people there what this great Empire has done for them, and explaining to them our learning, and our schools of philosophy, as well as politics, and even our business. The German Ministry of Information have always kept an eye on business; and why should not we tell the Belgian people about how our machinery orders will have to be placed by those people? I would urge on the Government to spend more money. They spent too little on secret service and propaganda. I am not now discussing and do not wish to traverse what many hon. Members have said with regard to methods. I am only putting this question in a general way, since I think the Ministry has now got the best chance it has had since its formation to do some real, useful work.
The hon. Member who has just spoken has opened up rather an alarming prospect of what the future 2403 activities of this Ministry of Information might be. He has suggested that it should undertake not in enemy countries, but in practically all foreign countries, particularly among the new nationalities, a sort of current history of England or a history of current events in England. The hon. and gallant Member for Antrim (General McCalmont), in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), made another equally alarming suggestion. He told the Committee that he proposed to get a reprint of my hon. Friend's speech and to circulate it amongst the American officers in London. If that is to be the policy, I hope if it is pursued that the Ministry of Information will also get a copy of Tuesday's Debate on Ireland and the Irish question and circulate it amongst the Czecho-Slovaks and Jugo-Slavs, and other nationalities of Europe, along with the chocolates, and that might be a very effective method of counteracting a great deal of the sort of propaganda that we have had up to the present. I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will reconsider his announcement about circulating my hon. Friend's speech. I agree with every word said by my hon. Friend, but what did his speech amount to? It amounted to a political controversy with the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and are we to circulate to the American officers in London political controversies which take place on the floor of the House of Commons? It would be much better if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would follow the advice given by my hon. Friend, and not create dissension between this Empire and co-belligerents.
§ General McCALMONT
The hon. Member misunderstands the matter. It is in order to carry out the wishes of the hon. Member, and to make quite sure that the American officers may know that the Nationalist Members desire to address them.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot really get away in that manner. If he wants to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division, let him ask the American officers if they would like to be addressed by the hon. Member, but for Heaven's sake do not plunge the American officers in London into the midst of political controversy at a time like this. I hope that he will adopt some other method that will be much less open to question, because, 2404 if that is to be the method adopted by the Ministry of Information on its various branches, I do not wonder that there has been a great deal of friction and irritation and annoyance created by those methods. The hon. and gallant Gentleman really misunderstood the Member for the Scotland Division. That hon. Member did not suggest for a moment that the hon. and gallant Gentleman sought to use his position for political purposes.
He never meant to make that suggestion, and really did not make it, and I do not think the Committee understood him to do so. The charge was that the hon. Gentleman's crime was a crime of omission, and not a crime of commission.
No, my hon. Friend did not use the word "deliberately," and if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will look at the record of the speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT, I am quite certain he will not find that in it. It was inefficiency of which my hon. Friend complained and thoughtlessness, if you like, and those are serious enough charges. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will pay attention to them. I turn from that subject.
§ 8.0 P.M.
If we have some reform in the methods which the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes to adopt, then I hope that what I have said was worth while. Before I turn to other branches of this matter with which I propose to deal, there are a few general words about the Ministry of Information that I want to say. I think the country has had far too little information about the Ministry of Information. A great deal has been said as to the curious cloud of reticence and secrecy about the future control of this Ministry, but I think it would he a desirable thing that the whole procedure of the Ministry—and here I am going to offer a practical suggestion to the Minister for his consideration—that the whole procedure of the Ministry and the kind of propaganda that has been carried on ought to be far more available than it has been to those anxious to follow its proce- 2405 dure. Its literature has been spread in a great many foreign countries. Why should not the Minister bring down to the House, so that it may be available to Members, a set of the pamphlets, a set of the posters, and a set of the other propaganda literature that is spread abroad in so many languages and so many countries throughout the face of the globe? What do we know he is saying at this moment to the Russian people? How are they treating the propaganda in Russia? The House of Commons has a right to know, and surely it is not too much to ask that the type of leaflet and pamphlet now put before the Russian people should be laid on the Table or put in the Library of the House, or a translation of it, because I believe there is only one Member of the House of Commons who speaks Russian.
Then we should have some knowledge, at least, of the lines upon which this Ministry is proceeding. From my experience of the work of the Ministry in foreign countries, and that is in the United States of America, I hope they are not doing in many countries of Europe some of the things they have been doing in the United States of Amercia. But before I leave Russia, let me ask the Minister whether it is a fact that this Ministry of Information and Propaganda has spent huge amounts of money in Russia upon posters and other literature in evident total ignorance of the fact that eighty-seven, or a higher percentage than eighty-seven, of the Russian people can neither read nor write. Is that good value for the money spent? Who is responsible for a policy of that kind, and what is the amount of money that has been spent in Russia on literature which the great mass of the people are not able to read? In regard to America, there are one or two questions on which I would like enlightenment. I do not know how long Lord Northcliffe has been Minister of Propaganda.
I mean Director of Propaganda in enemy countries. I do not know how long he has been in that position. I do not know whether it was before or since his official connection with the Government, but while I was in the United States of America a rather curious circumstance—at least it appeared curious to 2406 me—occurred when, in the midst of a certain controversy that took place over Irish affairs in the House of Commons and in the United Kingdom earlier this year, columns and columns of articles from the London "Times" and letters in the London "Times" were cabled to the newspapers of the United States of America and were published in those papers. If Mr. Hall Caine, or somebody equally ridiculous, wrote to the London "Times," the letter was published. Columns were touched up of the grossest and unfairest libel upon Ireland, and were published in some of the papers. Was that telegraphed at the expense of the "Times," or at the public expense by the Minister of Information? I think we have a right to know. There was also a question that was raised in an earlier Debate, which was never answered, about Mr. Ian Hay. Then, in addition to Mr. Ian Hay, you had in America, as a propagandist for this country, Mrs. Pankhurst. Had the Ministry of Information and the Department of Propaganda anything to do with Mrs. Pankhurst's visit to America, and was it at their instigation, or the instigation of any Department of the Government, that she went around making the most outrageous speeches in connection with the position of Ireland and the War?
And I am not going to tell the Committee what I think of what she said. The suspicion was prevalent in America that Mrs. Pankhurst was in some way, unofficially or otherwise, an agent of the Government in her visit to that country. In my experience throughout the twelve or thirteen months I was in America, it was almost impossible outside, I will say, the splendid work which was performed for the cause of the Allies by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division to find pro-Allied propaganda on the part of anyone from this country—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about F. E. Smith?"]—and I would certainly take this opportunity of bringing up the conduct of the Attorney-General during his visit to America if I had given him notice, but I think that the practice of the House of Commons is that on an occasion of that kind it is usual to give 2407 notice to the Member concerned, and therefore I must postpone the very interesting and enlightening things I would have said about him to another occasion.
I turn to the last branch of what I want to say, and that is about the activities of this precious Department in Ireland. I disagree to some extent, at any rate—and it is not often I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division—but I disagree with him on this point. He said he hoped the activities of the Ministry of Propaganda and the Ministry of Information would be continued after the War. He assumed—I think he said—under proper safeguards. I differ from him, at least so far as Ireland is concerned, because the activities of this Department in Ireland have been grossly inefficient, and in many cases open to the gravest attack. For instance this Department was responsible for the fact that when the Colonial pressmen were over here every effort was made to prevent their going to Ireland at all, and it was in defiance of the Ministry of Information and Propaganda that the Colonial pressmen went to Ireland and sought to get information about the Irish question at first hand. Again, it was late in the day that the War Aims Committee, which I understand is presided over by Sir Horace Plunkett, was set up in Ireland. I am not going to reflect upon the activities of that Committee. I will only say in that connection that I think it was a great pity that at an early stage of the War, when Ireland was enthusiastic for the cause of the Allies, an efficient Ministry of Information, under charge of those who understood Irish conditions, was not set up. We might have avoided many of the unfortunate disasters which
§ the history of the last two or three years has produced. I agree, of course, that the War Office was responsible for a large part of the mischief which turned Ireland from a country full of enthusiasm for the cause of the Allies to one which felt that it was going to be cheated and betrayed. Really, nothing has been done in Ireland of the slightest advantage under this Ministry, and I hope that the very moment the War is concluded its Irish activities will be brought to a conclusion.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not intend to trouble the Committee by a further speech, but I think it useful before we leave this Vote to point out that the most important, if not the only essential, question which I put at the beginning of my speech to-day has received no answer from the Financial Secretary. The burden of my complaint in respect of Lord Northcliffe's article in the Press was this: That, according to information which had come into my possession, that article was based on, and in parts textually identical with, a confidential document. I think, in view of the time at which the question was put as to whether that was true or not, that if the Financial Secretary was unable to answer me, as he professes he is unable to answer me, although there are within the precincts of the House representatives of the Ministry of Information, we should have had on the Front Bench some Minister who was able to answer me.
§ Mr. BALDWIN rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided. Ayes, 114; Noes, 43.2409
|Division No. 91.]||AYES.||[8.15 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)|
|Anderson, G. K. (Canterbury)||Butcher, Sir John George||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)|
|Ashley, Wilfrid W.||Carew, C. R. S.||Hancock, John George|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Coates, Major Sir Edward Festham||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)|
|Barnett, Captain R. W.||Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Havelock-Allan, sir Henry|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Hewins, William Albert Samuel|
|Barrio, Charles C.||Coote, William (Tyrone, S.)||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.|
|Barrie, H. T.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Higham, John Sharp|
|Seals, Sir William Phipson||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Horne, E.|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Currie, George W.||Hume-Williams, Sir William Ellis|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Dawes, James Arthur||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.|
|Bigland, Alfred||Denniss, E. R. B.||Ingleby, Holcombe|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Falconer, James||Jackson, Sir John (Devonport)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Boyton, Sir James||Fletcher, John Samuel||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Ganzonl, Francis John C.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Brookes, Warwick||Gilmour, Lieut.-Col. John||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Gretton, John||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Mackinder, Halford J.||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Swift, Rigby|
|Macmaster, Donald||Pryce-Jones, Colonel Sir E.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|McMicking, Major Gilbert||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Maden, Sir John Henry||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Magnus, Sir Philip||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)||Wardle, George J.|
|Mallalieu, Frederick William||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)||Watson, J. B. (Stockton)|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||Rowlands, James||Wheler, Major Granville C.|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Morrison, H.||Rutherford, Sir W. Watson (W. Derby)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N. W.)|
|Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Neville, Reginald J. N.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)||Samuels, Arthur W. (Dublin U.)||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Shortt, Edward||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Norton Griffiths, Lt.-Col. Sir J.||Somervell, William Henry||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Parker, James (Halifax)||Spear, Sir John ward|
|Perkins, Walter F.||Stewart, Gershom||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray||Sutton, John E.||J. Hope and Mr. Pratt.|
|Anderson, William C. (Attercliffe)||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hackett, John||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Lelx)|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Harbison, T. J. S.||Molloy, Michael|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hayden, John Patrick||Nolan, Joseph|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hazleton, Richard||Nugent, J. D. (College Green)|
|Buxton, Noel||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Byrne, Alfred||Hogge, J. M.||Reddy, Michael|
|Cotton, H. E. A.||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jowett, Frederick William||Sheehy, David|
|Dillon, John||Joyce, Michael||Tootill, Robert|
|Donnelly, Patrick||Keating, Matthew||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Doris, William||Kenyon, Barnet||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Duffy, William J.||King, Joseph|
|Esmonde, Capt. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Flrench, Peter||Lundon, Thomas||Boland and Mr. Pringle.|
Question put accordingly,
That a sum, not exceeding £1,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending
§ on the 31st day of March, 1919, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Ministry of Information."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 113; Noes, 40.2411
|Division No. 92.]||AYES.||[8.26 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Anderson, G. K. (Canterbury)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. John||Nield, Sir Herbert|
|Ashley, Wilfred W.||Gretton, Col. John||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut-Col. Sir J.|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Hall, D. B. (Isle of Wight)||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hancock, John George||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Barrie, H. T.||Harris, Sir Henry P. (Paddington, S.)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Barrie, Charles C.||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Pryce-Jones, Colonel Sir E.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arton)|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Higham, John Sharp||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Bellairs, Commander C. W.||Holmes, Daniel Turner||Richardson, Alexander (Gravesend)|
|Benn, Sir Arthur S. (Plymouth)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. (Midlothian)||Rowlands, James|
|Bigland, Alfred||Horne, Edgar||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Hume-Williams, Sir Wm. Ellis||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Samuels, Arthur W. (Dublin, U.)|
|Boyton, Sir James||Ingleby, Holcombe||Scott, A. MacCullum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Jackson, Sir John (Devonport)||Shortt, Edward|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Jodrell, Neville Paul||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Brookes, Warwick||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Stewart, Gershom|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Swift, Rigby|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir W. J.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bcote)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Butcher, Sir J. G.||Layland-Barratt, Sir F.||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)||Wardle, George J.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Festham||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Colvin, Col. Richard Beale||Mackinder, Halford J.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Coote, William (Tyrone, S.)||Macmaster, Donald||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, N.W.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||McMicking, Major Gilbert||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Maden, Sir John Henry||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Magnus, Sir Philip||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Currie, George w.||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Yate, Col. Chas. Edward|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Younger, Sir George|
|Falconer, James||Morrison, H.|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Neville, Reginald J. N.||J. Hope and Mr. Pratt.|
|Ganzonl, Francis John C.||Newman, Sir Robert (Exeter)|
|Anderson, William C. (Attercliffe)||Hackett, John||Mooney, John J.|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Harbison, T. J. S.||Nolan, Joseph|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hazleton, Richard||Nugent, J. D. (College Green)|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hogge, James Myles||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Buxton, Noel||Jowett, Frederick William||Reddy, Michael|
|Byrne, Alfred||Joyce, Michael||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Cotton, H. E. A.||Keating, Matthew||Scan Ian, Thomas|
|Dillon, John||King, J.||Sheehy, David.|
|Donnelly, Patrick||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Whitehouse, John Howard|
|Doris, William||Lundon, Thomas||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Duffy, William J.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Esmonde, Capt, John (Tipperary, N.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Field, William||Molloy, Michael||Boland and Mr Pringle|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph|
§ It being a quarter-past Eight of the clock, and leave having been given to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 10, further Proceeding was postponed, without Question put.