HC Deb 16 February 1938 vol 331 cc1909-69

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Lees-Jones

I beg to move, That, having regard to the increasing activity of certain foreign Governments in the field of propaganda, political and cultural, by means of the Press, broadcasting, and films, this House urges the Government to give the full weight of its moral and financial support to schemes to further the wider and more effective presentation of British news, views, and culture abroad. Up to 1914, we in this country were somewhat indifferent to the opinions of other nations and peoples, with the result that we took very few steps to advertise ourselves. Pride of race was partly responsible. Also, we thought that our position in the world was quite sufficient to make our actions and views speak for themselves. We have been inclined to assume that others would understand our motives, and, to some extent, I think we were justified, in that at that time we were a democratic country, in the midst of democratic countries. Films and wireless were in their infancy, and newspapers, which were the principal media for discussion of world news, were untrammelled by Government control. To-day things are different. In some countries, parliamentary government exists in name only. Their institutions have no power of government, and are subjugated to the will of a dictator. The democratic form of government has gone, and, with it, that freedom of exchange of views which resulted in a greater knowledge of world affairs and culture as a means of engendering knowledge and understanding of each other's views, actions, motives and attainments.

In the earlier days, when the Press was free, there was very little distortion of authentic news; but to-day we hear from various quarters of Ministers of Propaganda, subsidised and controlled news services, which either suppress entirely British news or so mix it with false deductions as to make an entirely erroneous picture of the people of this country. The result of this is that our true views and culture are unknown in the dictatorship countries, and also in other countries where attempts have been made, and, as far as I know, are still being made, to poison the minds of the inhabitants, to whom we have a special responsibility for their care. We now realise that we have to take steps immediately to present ourselves and our views, actions and motives to the world in their true colours, and to combat the insidious attacks which are being made upon us.

What media have we to combat this propaganda, and how can they best be utilised? There are four media at the moment—first, the film; second, methods of cultural propaganda; third, wireless; and, fourth, newspapers and printed journals. The films, we must appreciate, can be made into a powerful instrument of propaganda by our using the splendid educational, instructional and news films which are not only shown in this country but are produced by the British film industry. The field of subjects can be tremendously widened and can be shown abroad with very great advantage to ourselves. There are certain difficulties to be overcome, I know, but, given good will, they are not insuperable. One difficulty that has been suggested to me is that to some extent the British film industry is disorganised. We hope that the Bill which has just passed through a Standing Committee will assist the industry to organise itself on better lines. Another suggestion put forward to me is that picture houses abroad are American owned, or many of them, and certainly that the presentation of films in foreign countries is not quite so free and unfettered as it is here.

As far as methods of cultural propaganda are concerned, they devolve to a great extent on foreign agencies which, as far as they are able, bring the places and the beauty and culture of this country before the peoples of other nations. Students from foreign countries are welcomed here. They are instructed in our arts, our sciences and our industrial methods; they are introduced to our mode of life, our character, our aims, our hopes, and our attainments. They are introduced to our political international methods and motives, and, perhaps what is as important as anything, many of them are introduced into our homes and see what home life is like in the average British home. There are branches of Anglo-foreign societies in various foreign countries, and by lectures, study circles and so on information is given on our arts and sciences; and we may add to those agencies the travel agencies which do so much good work in persuading foreign people to come over here to see exactly what we are like and what are the beauties of our land.

But those two items are mainly on the cultural side. We are becoming considerably perturbed at the way in which our aims, our motives, and our actions in the political international sphere are being misconstrued and misrepresented. Many instances come to one's mind. Hon. Members will recall that when steps towards a rapprochement with other countries have been mentioned our actions and our aims have been completely misrepresented by the foreign Press. Our recruiting figures have been belittled and erroneously compared with foreign recruiting figures, foreign correspondents or whoever is responsible for putting the figures in the foreign papers entirely ignoring or hiding the fact that enlistment in this country is on a voluntary basis and that conscription has no place whatever in our life. Aggressive designs have been attributed to our rearmament proposals when one would have thought that in view of statements which have been so frequently made in this House, all foreign chancelleries know perfectly well that we are rearming for defensive purposes and in order to be in a position to meet our treaty obligations if and when we are called upon to do so. Our support of the League of Nations has been called in question, and because we have not joined any ideological bloc we have been held out to people of other countries as supporters of Bolshevism.

I do not propose to weary the House with more instances, because many will be in the minds of hon. Members, as they are in my mind. But I consider that the items I have mentioned force us to take some action and to do so in the very near future. Great damage is being done to us by a subsidised and controlled foreign Press service. But we have a powerful medium in our hands in the form of wireless. The world is much smaller because of wireless, smaller in point of the ease and rapidity of communication, and it is about the simplest and easiest-to-handle mode of transmitting our true views to other countries, and at the same time the news that we would transmit would have the advantage of not being obliterated by any foreign comment. There is no doubt that our incursion into the field of broadcasting in foreign languages has been very successful. The insidious propaganda of a foreign country has to some extent been eliminated, and we were relieved a short time ago to hear that it was proposed in the near future to broadcast in languages other than that in which we are now broadcasting.

There remains the newspaper. In trying to get ourselves across—the House will forgive the expression—as far as newspapers and journals are concerned, we are met with the language difficulty, for I suppose that only a minority of people in other countries read and speak our language, and those who can and desire to read our journals frequently find that they cannot get them in the country where they live because those journals have been debarred from entering for a few days, due to something in the paper recording events in their own country and elsewhere upon which the Government of that particular country wishes its inhabitants to remain completely ignorant. That is where a tremendous difference lies between a subsidised and unsubsidised Press service, a free and uncontrolled Press as compared with one which is controlled by a particular State. So far we have been content with authentic information having been given by various Government Departments and with the supply of information by various voluntary bodies. But a strong move has to be made and to be made soon. It was heartening to read in the papers the other day that the Government, realising to some extent its responsibility, has appointed Sir Robert Vansittart as chairman of a committee which will be representative of most if not all the voluntary agencies, and he will take steps at once, I hope, to plan means by which the problem can be alleviated and the overlapping of effort prevented. But even that does not preclude the duty on the Government itself to assist in seeing that we are truthfully represented abroad.

We are very jealous of our rights in this country. Among those rights are the rights of free speech and having a free and uncontrolled Press service. We do not look with favour on any suggestion whatever that this service should be subsidised or controlled by the Government. Nor would a Minister of Propaganda be free from objection in certain quarters. I believe that the Government can do a very great deal by inspiration and direction. They can also make it financially possible, without subsidising, for the British Broadcasting Corporation to take in hand immediately the question of still further foreign broadcasts, that is broadcasts in foreign languages, so that news may be given much more frequently in the language of the most important countries of the world, commencing with Europe. The prevention of the presentation of ourselves by the written word in a misleading light by foreign Government-owned, controlled and subsidised agencies, presents a far more difficult problem, but methods have been adopted by the Foreign Office in the past and more recently whereby there has been a considerable diminution, sometimes a cessation, of the misrepresentation of ourselves to the inhabitants of other countries.

Finally, I would urge that this problem is not a sectional one. It is truly national in the full sense of the term. I urge the Government to give the full weight of its moral and financial support to such practical and effective schemes as will secure a wider presentation of true British news, views and culture abroad, and that the Government will give their attention to it at the earliest possible moment.

4.14 p.m.

Mr. Maitland

I beg to second the Motion.

I would like first of all to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones) upon his good fortune in securing an opportunity for submitting this Motion to the House, and, secondly, upon the choice of subject which he has brought to our notice. If I may I would like also to congratulate him upon the speech which he has just delivered, in which he has shown very commendable restraint. In that direction I shall do my best to emulate his example. Like him, I am satisfied that the need exists, and that the time has come for the fullest and most effective efforts to spread in other lands a correct understanding of this country and the British people. We must try to check the harm which propaganda against Great Britain can do, and, in some instances, has already done. The British people at home and abroad resent this sort of propaganda, and there is a certain section of our people whom the House of Commons should not forget, namely, the British nationals abroad. We owe a special duty to them. Hon. Members are quite aware of the existence of the propaganda to which my hon. Friend has referred, and I am going to assume the need for British propaganda abroad, and proceed to a consideration of the objects of that propaganda.

Perhaps it is wise to say, first of all, what is not mentioned in this Motion, and certainly not intended, as far as I can judge, by any hon. Member in this House wherever he may sit. It is not intended or desired in any circumstances that we should interfere in the domestic concerns of other nations. I will give one example of that which comes at once to my mind. It is not our business to interfere with the form of government of any other nation, but it may be our concern what other Governments do. There is a wide distinction. I would say, especially in view of the terms of the Amendment on the Paper, that the Motion does not advocate in any circumstances the idea that retaliation in the way of propaganda should be indulged in by this country. The very idea is repulsive to everybody. It may be, that at times there is provocation, and that there is temptation to indulge in some form of retaliation. Our own Press, Members of Parliament and public men have a special responsibility in this matter, and I am glad to think that, on the whole, it is a responsibility both of the Press and of public men which is honourably recognised and discharged.

I would suggest one or two objects, which, I hope, will receive general acceptance, in regard to British propaganda abroad. The chief objects should be to explain and support British policy and action in foreign countries, the British Dominions, the Colonies and Mandated Territories, to refute charges against, and criticisms of, British policy and action, to establish and extend our influence on the side of world peace, further the interests of British trade and commerce throughout the world, make more extensively known the beauty and charm of Great Britain, propagate the principles of British culture, and, in a single phrase, try to tell the world what we are like as human beings. I hope that these are objects upon which we may all agree. I doubt whether we should agree upon the methods that should be adopted to secure that result. I join with my hon. Friend in welcoming the action that already has been taken by His Majesty's Government by appointing a special committee to deal with this important subject. We recognise that in the chairman, Sir Robert Vansittart, one from whom we shall get the greatest possible service, and one who enjoys in full measure the confidence of his fellow-countrymen. One sees at times all kinds of interesting things in unexpected quarters, and perhaps hon. Members saw in the "Daily Mail" the other day a rather interesting contribution dealing with the subject which is now before the House. It was an article written by the eminent novelist, Sir Hugh Walpole, headed, "How I would tell the world about us." It was not only well written but a very important contribution, and one which contained suggestions which might very well receive the sympathetic and favourable consideration of those who are charged with the duty of trying to tell the world about us.

My hon. Friend has already made some general and valuable suggestions. I know that it is dangerous, but, on a subject of this kind, I hope that it is not unprofitable for Members to try to make practical and constructive suggestions as to how the task before us should be pursued. It is with great diffidence and a sense of responsibility that I attempt to do so. I shall not expect to be told that they are all good suggestions and that they will be adopted—that is not the way in this country—but I hope that the suggestions which I submit will be useful in view of the work ahead. I turn at once to the Press, a very powerful weapon of propaganda, and perhaps the most effective instrument that can be used. What can we do with the Press? The first thing I suggest is to supply foreign newspapers regularly with articles signed by eminent British writers and public men and women on current affairs. Secondly, we should secure the widest possible publication of the official British view on international affairs by creating special contacts with Press representatives in foreign capitals and important centres.

I hope that I shall not be misunderstood in the next thing that I am going to say. There is no one in this House who has a higher regard for our Civil Service than I have, but I feel constrained to say—whether it is right or whether it is wrong—that I believe it to be the fact that in Press circles our officials are regarded as ultra-reserved. In this country we are living to-day under, perhaps, the broadest and widest form of democracy, and it is essential that, both at home and abroad, the policy of the Government should be expressed frankly, and not treated as the exclusive domain of officialdom. Of course, at times there must be reticence, but wherever possible, and to the fullest extent, the public should be informed both as to Government policy and the reasons for that policy. I recognise—not so much due to the circumstances at home but to other circumstances—that we may not be able to have complete open diplomacy, but it should be much more open than it is if we are to let the world know where we stand and what our policy is. The day has past for confining ourselves to the old diplomatic channels. We have to reach not only the Governments and officials of other nations, but the people of other nations, and, therefore, we must adopt our diplomacy and make use of the new methods provided by the Press, the radio and the film. In the United States of America the President holds a weekly conference with all foreign correspondents. He speaks to them with frankness and tells them what his objects are, and I believe that, on the whole, these conferences are conducive of great good. Is there any reason why our Prime Minister or Foreign Secretary should not have similar conferences? I welcome this Debate so that we may know what the Government are doing in this and other directions. I understand that the Noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Earl Winterton) is to reply, and I would ask him to be good enough to tell the House as much as possible as to the activities of the Government in this connection.

It has been brought to my notice that one obstacle to British news being sent abroad is the high cost of cable communication. I am told that because of this cost very often news of British Cabinet decisions appear in the Canadian and United States Press from a French news agency in Paris. That may or may not be so, but that is the information which has been given to me. If it be the fact that we in this country are behind anybody else in our appreciation of rapid communications, I would suggest that we should consider the question of putting our prices for cable communication in better line with the prices operating in other countries. There is one other thing about which, perhaps, the Minister will be able to tell us something. Some of our newspapers have special features such as "Paris Day by Day" or "Pans Week by Week," and in these columns we have news of France, French people and events. To what extent is the Government in contact with the representatives of the foreign Press who watch these affairs in this country? We ought to have a London and England feature in all important foreign newspapers. We should not overlook the value and the development of the photographic side of the newspapers, and we should supply foreign newspapers on the widest possible scale with non-copyright photographs of events and persons in this country. It is true that some of the countries have, perhaps, developed the art of publicity much more than we have. Only this week I, and, I believe, other hon. Members, received a number of publications from Spain, Italy, Germany, Latvia and Estonia all directed to pointing out to the British people something of the beauties and aims of their countries, and something about their philosophy, and culture. Whether we like it or not, we have to recognise that these publications, beautifully illustrated on fine art paper, which must be very costly to produce, are a form of propaganda used by other countries, who think it well worth while that the people of Great Britain should be told something about their countries.

With respect to the subject of films, it is possible that some working arrangement might be made with British producers which would be helpful to our propaganda. Not only our own people but the people of other countries are greatly interested in the national events of Great Britain. In my own experience of two foreign countries I know that almost before the Coronation was over there were pictures in those foreign capitals of the Coronation proceedings. Our pageantry, our history and our industrial and scientific achievements are of great interest to other nations, and I believe that some arrangements might be made with British producers whereby pictures might be shown throughout the world, through the usual trade channels, and later free of charge in other places which are not able to pay the price of the first exhibition of British films.

My hon. Friend in moving the Motion referred to the wireless and said that we had been to some extent rather backward in our use of the wireless for propaganda purposes, compared with other nations. I join with him in the view that more use ought to be made of the wireless by means of lectures, and I suggest that there ought to be not a spasmodic but a regular and consistent service by means of the wireless in the language of other countries. We must use every possible means at our disposal to make the most effective use of our propaganda. I suggest, among other things, that we might have supplies of effectively produced pamphlets to be supplied to British ships for distribution at foreign ports. Aeroplanes might also be used for the same purpose. Letters for abroad might bear a British slogan, varied according to the circumstances, and exporters of British goods might accompany those goods with suitable literature of a propaganda character. Britishers travelling abroad might also be persuaded to leave a few pamphlets at hotels and in trains, ships, etc. [Laughter.] It may be amusing to some hon. Members, but if we are thorough in the desire to propagate the kind of information that is desirable, why should not every Briton take it upon himself or herself to be an advertiser of their own country and the objects of their country so long as they are objects to which they can honestly and honourably subscribe? The British Embassies and Consulates and perhaps the military establishments and agencies might be organised for the distribution of suitable literature. Branches of the British Council might be formed in every country wherever possible, in order to promote friendly relations, and to hold meetings with that object in view.

I would emphasise the value abroad of British exhibitions showing our progress and achievements in industry, literature, art and science. There is certainly a great opportunity for the advancement of British interests by means of British exhibitions in foreign centres. If we do take part in exhibitions abroad I hope that we shall take a prominent part and not be cheeseparing in regard to the money which is involved. There is ready to our hand an instrument which could be used for the purpose of propaganda within the next few months. In Glasgow there is to be a great Empire Exhibition. What are the Government doing about that? Are any efforts being made in order that other countries may be advised that this great Empire Exhibition is to be held? There are many other suggestions that might be made. I recognise that the carrying out of these ideas would involve considerable expenditure, but we ought to recognise the fact that other countries are spending large amounts in propaganda. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Duchy could give us any information on that subject, and also give us comparative figures as to how we stand. If he was able to do that I think it would be a revelation to many hon. Members.

There is one further point to which I would refer. Is it the case that some foreign news agencies, through State subsidies, are able to supply certain countries with services of news at cut prices? Perhaps the Minister may have some information about that. I have seen that statement made on many occasions. Finally, if any objection is to be raised on the ground of the expenditure of money, I would say that money would be well spent in these directions and that both money and imagination are required in work of this kind. It is not only our national prestige that is involved but the much greater question of the creation and continuance of international understanding. I believe that these objects are well worthy of the expenditure that would be involved and hope that I have been able to make some practical suggestions to the House.

4.39 p.m.

Mr. Watkins

I beg to move, in line 3, to leave out from "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: is of opinion that the evil effects of State propaganda of a tendentious or misleading character can best be countered, not by retaliation, but by the widespread dissemination of straightforward information and news based upon an enlightened and honest public policy. Having listened to the very excellent speech of the Mover of the Motion, it seems to me that there is practically no difference of opinion between us. The purpose of our Amendment is to call attention to the necessity of adopting methods of providing news which is straightforward, truthful and uncoloured as a means of informing the people in other countries of the position of Great Britain. The hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones) said that he wanted the views and policy of this country to be truthfully represented abroad. That is precisely the point of view expressed in the Amendment. The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) agreed with the hon. Member on that point, because he said that retaliation by the supply of coloured news to counteract the coloured news supplied by other countries would be repulsive to the British people. Therefore, the note of controversy will not be very violently sounded in this discussion.

The Motion calls attention to the increasing activity of certain foreign Governments in the field of propaganda. We are living in a world of propaganda. I do not know whether the word "propaganda" has not become one of the most significant words in the languages of the world. We find certain Governments, notably the Italian Government and the German Government, using heavily subsidised new agencies to supply the people in countries other than their own with all sorts of false news about Great Britain, the people of Great Britain and the policy of Great Britain. For instance, Italian propaganda in Palestine is exceedingly well organised. I read an article recently in one of the more popuar journals which stated that a large number of Italian women are out there dressed as nuns, posing as nuns, teachers and doctors, and their work is to spread Italian propaganda. They disguise themselves as charity workers, enter Arab homes and supply faked pictures of Jewish atrocities. They persuade poor Arabs that their poverty is due to Britain's mismanagement of the Mandate. In the hills of Palestine travelling cinema vans are to be found which provide free shows of films. Those shows are attended by hundreds of Arabs, and faked pictures are given of Jews killing Arabs. The effect of these shows is very great on the minds of ill-informed men and women. Concurrently with these films there are running comments in order to provide that impression. The consequence is that large numbers of people in that part of the world get a completely false view of what Great Britain is doing, and an untruthful view of the situation in their own land.

From the broadcasting station at Bari there is an Italian broadcast which I am advised is picked up in Palestine, and seductive Arab music is interspersed with slogans such as "Palestine belongs to the Arabs"; "Kill the Jews"; "Let Palestine Arabs arm." This sort of propaganda is going on continuously, and no doubt it is one of the causes of all the trouble that has been occurring in Palestine recently. A little time ago the British Government instituted something in the nature of a counteracting broadcast, which was sent out from Daventry. The inauguration of that service was fairly successful. It was attended by the son of the Imam of the Yemen, and no doubt a considerable number of people listened to it, but I understand that the Italians have captured the art of being able to provide the kind of entertainment which is appreciated, when they are giving their propaganda, and that they are able to do it better and more efficiently than we can. I understand that a lot of our music is Western and does not appeal particularly to Eastern minds and Eastern tastes, whereas the Italian broadcasts provide the kind of programme to which people in that country will listen. I read in one newspaper that an Italian broadcast finished up with a very salacious story. I do not suggest that the Noble Lord should copy that kind of thing, but the fact is that the Italians are endeavouring to make their broadcasts so as to attract great numbers of listeners, with the result that they receive false information which is dovetailed into the musical programmes.

It is not only in Palestine, but also in the neighbouring district of Syria. I have here a report from a paper published in Damascus which speaks of a high German official who went to Damascus and first appeared in the salon of the Orient Palace Hotel. It seems that there have been certain new developments in the Syrian Youth movement, in local organisations and even in some political circles. Money was found for establishing a club, which is the centre of propaganda amongst the people and seeks to persuade them that they would be far better treated under a German Mandate than under a French Mandate. All this fishing in troubled waters is going to endanger not only the peace of the East but the peace of the world. I understand that even in the United States of America there is a section of the Press which publishes violently anti-British news and views, and the people there think that something more ought to be done to get American people to understand our point of view on matters which are dealt with in this anti-British Press. The tone and temper of them are that Great Britain is selfishly and disgracefully imperialistic, is seeking her own national aims, pretending all the time to be concerned with collective security and international peace. They say that Great Britain treats her subject races with cruelty that is most improper; in their papers they say precisely the same things about Great Britain that the Italian and German broadcasters say.

In South America there is practically no dissemination of authentic British news. The news they get comes via the United States of America or via France. The Prince of Wales in 1931 said: All the news from England to Latin America is transmitted by non-British agencies. A Latin-America reader sees us and our affairs through spectacles which are neither ours nor those of his own country. I sincerely hope some means can be found to increase the volume of purely British news in South America.

One Press agency responded and worked for three years supplying information in that part of the world, but in competition with the heavily subsidised news-agencies of other countries it was un-remunerative, and had to be stopped. In Brazil, the only British news service which is available is an incomplete one picked up from the air by one newspaper. All the other British news in Brazil comes from France or the United States of America. I welcome very much the announcement in the "Times" this morning that the British Broadcasting Corporation from 14th March are going to commence a series of broadcast news bulletins in Spanish and Portuguese for Central and South American districts. It should do something to help us, especially as the announcement says that the bulletins will be objective in character.

There will be, I think, general agreement among hon. Members of what I have said, and I hope that in the further remarks I make there will also be general agreement. The worst thing we can do is to enter into competition with foreign mischievous news agencies and colour and treat our news in the way that they colour and treat theirs. I would like to see some expenditure of public money on broadcasting services and for any other medium of propaganda which would provide for the people in other countries a faithful picture of what Britain stands for and the policy of Great Britain. I do not want to discuss the question of policy, but I am convinced that Great Britain stands for peace, for democracy and for decency, in international affairs. She is not actuated by any ambitions of aggression, and does not desire to appropriate anyone else's territory. What is wanted is a stream of information going from this country which will inform the people of other nations and make them realise where we stand in regard to the great international problems in front of mankind at present.

Wars spring from mistakes and misconceptions in men's minds. If everyone thought truly and clearly there would be no danger of war. As the Motion says, there are certain Governments—there is no need to be mealy-mouthed about the matter; they are the German and Italian Governments and in some measure the Russian Government—who are concerned with putting mischievous and lying information into the minds of men in order to stir up trouble for their own national ends. Great Britain should counteract this by a campaign of truth and plain-speaking, so that the name of Great Britain will stand for truth, good will and peace. In this propaganda campaign Great Britain will emerge as the champion of truth, honesty and fair dealing among the nations.

4.54 p.m.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

I beg to second the Amendment.

The hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) has moved the Amendment in a very effective speech, and I agree with him that there is little difference between us and the proposer and seconder of the Motion so usefully brought before the House. May I say at the outset that I am convinced we ought to approach this question not from the point of view of retaliating upon, or going one better than, other nations, but with the prime objective of improving our relations with other nations by letting the true facts about our actions and our aims be known. I have already called the attention of the House to the question of news services abroad. I did so on the Adjournment last July, and in consequence of what I then said I received a large number of communications and cables from abroad. If the House will allow me I will read, as an example, a cable which reached me from a newspaper in Vancouver. It says: Thanks for your statement in the House of Commons pillorying foreign propaganda for the purpose of colouring British news; we, residing on the borders of the Empire, are most anxious to obtain authentic news and opinions from the House of Commons. However, we are now completely at the mercy of Japanese, French and German interpretations, and also friendly but superficial United States opinions. We consider that the British Government should give attention to the fact that official agencies blindly copy propaganda from foreign sources because of their cheapness. That cablegram reveals the true state of affairs, that great damage has been done, and that we are rather late in the day in taking steps to counter a situation caused by other countries subsidising their news services so that our own non-subsidised news services are unable to compete with them. In order to compete, our own news agencies will have to have access to cheap radio transmission, or to cheap cable rates comparable to the charges for radio transmission which those other countries enjoy. London used to be the great clearing-house of the world for news, but our failure to provide transmission rates competitive with these subsidised news services has led to the volume of news now circulating via London being only a fraction of what it used to be. There may be some objections to radio transmission, but are they insuperable? France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States of America all provide this cheap radio transmission for their news services. In some cases they sell radio transmission on a time basis. They may, for certain reasons, work out the charges in such a manner as to make them appear as calculated on a word basis. There are rates going up to as high as 100 words per minute, which works out at only a fraction of the corresponding cable rates. They use these services for serving their own interests and policies. These services have been literally swamping our own. My hon. Friend has referred to South America and to the fact that Reuters, who patriotically responded to the appeal of the Prince of Wales, established a news service there, have had to give up the effort: because they were unable to compete on an economic basis with subsidised foreign services. Now the Italian and German Governments are using short wave services to pour out news in Portuguese and Spanish which are easily picked out in South America, especially in the Argentine, while the British Empire broadcasts, I am told, are extremely difficult to pick up,

As I have mentioned Germany in connection with short-wave programmes, I should like to give the House an interesting example of German methods in the United States of America. As soon as the British news bulletin is finished, Germany follows it up on a wavelength which is just a hair's breadth away from that of Daventry, and as an ingenious refinement they employ announcers with an Oxford accent to give these bulletins. I quote from the "Chicago Tribune": It is easy indeed to believe that these services come from London. Let me return to South America for a moment. The British Chambers of Commerce in South America have for long deplored the inadequacy of British news services there. After all, we have £1,000,000,000 of British capital sunk in these countries and yet for news we leave them at the mercy of these antagonistic, detrimental and distorted foreign news services. Are we to consider that as common sense? In North America, in the Near and Far East, in Africa Reuters have to compete with Havas in France, the D.N.B. in Germany, Stefani in Italy and Tass in Russia—all subsidised and all putting their country's news to good advantage, and in some degree or other distorting the news about our own country. The foreign news services operating in the Far East at the present time could not possibly compete if they were not subsidised, and some of them are used deliberately to damage our interests in the Far East. In support of that statement, I will quote to the House from secret instructions issued by the German propaganda department to its agents abroad. It orders them to throw discredit on news agencies other than German ones, and to damage as much as possible the relations between such agencies and important foreign newspapers. The instructions go on to say: All disturbances created in the good relations existing between other States are indirectly to the advantage of Germany. That is the country with which at the present time we are hopefully trying to fix up another of those Gentleman's Agreements. News items, twisted to our detriment, are poured into China and Japan, and of course, our position has been damaged by them, for say what one will, a persistent flood of lies and, what are more dangerous, half-truths, is bound to have some effect in the long run. Brazil was mentioned by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. What is the position in Brazil, a very important country indeed? I will give the House one example of what happens. A little time ago the chairman of Imperial Chemical Industries was addressing a meeting of the company in London, and in doing so, he pointed out that the situation in Spain, Palestine and Japan had interfered with the business of the company in those countries. A Brazilian newspaper reported that in these words: Important British chemical trust in serious difficulties. In Japan there is only one news distributing agency, the "Domei" through which all foreign news has to pass. It has offered to it foreign news services at rates infinitely cheaper than anything which Reuters can run. These news services are not to be despised; they may be tendentious, but they are also comprehensive and very well compiled, and they are offered at a fraction of the cost of the equivalent British services. In fact, it is only Reuters' reputation for reliability, impartiality and political and financial independence which has prevented the final disappearance of British-handled news from the Far East. But that cannot go on indefinitely. If British news services are not to be ousted from the Far East, we have to find a way of selling services which are just as comprehensive and cheap as the services which I have mentioned.

Not only must that be done, but it must be done without importing into British news services those defects which are so often associated with Government-subsidised services, defects which breed suspicion and distrust. I believe that can be done if the problem is tackled, for even during the War Reuters maintained their reputation for impartiality. In Europe, Havas and the German D.N.B. are supply newspapers with news services at absurdly cheap rates, and, incidentally, they acquire most of that news from Reuters, but twist it to suit the purposes of the relaying agents. News is the bloodstream of the international body politic, and month by month it becomes increasingly difficult for news from British sources and news of British affairs to find its way into that bloodstream. We have to find a way of nullifying the poison which is being disseminated at the present time. To do that we must stick to straight news and not endeavour to answer or out-do propaganda in kind. I have never heard that it helped the pot to call the kettle black. Nor must we give to our news any political bias, for if we do so, we shall defeat our own ends. The decision of the Government last October to broadcast in foreign languages was very much welcomed. Great technical difficulties are involved, but I believe they can be overcome.

But to counteract foreign propaganda will not be cheap, and very large assignments of money will be required. I hope that the Noble Lord, when he speaks, will be able to tell us what, if any, arrangement has been come to between the Treasury and the B.B.C. in that respect. It will not be cheap, but whatever it may cost, it will cost less than the damage which is being caused to our interests at the present time. I also ask the Noble Lord whether it is intended to publish any portion of Mr. J. B. Clark's report, and whether we can be told anything about what the Government are doing in regard to the Press Conference now sitting in Cairo. Has the Committee of the Cabinet which has been set up yet come to any decisions? Is there anything to be announced in that respect?

I think it is generally agreed in the House that the Government ought to give their full support to the presentation of British news, views and culture more widely abroad; but when I use the phrase "British news, views and culture," may I say that I consider it is absolutely essential to keep news entirely separate and distinct from views and culture. If we have to resort to subsidies in any form in presenting our news, let us remember that news from any subsidised source is always viewed with a certain amount of suspicion. We must face that fact and overcome it. The B.B.C. may have its faults, but at any rate its news bulletins enjoy a very high reputation for impartiality, and what we want is that other nations should get their news of this country in the same straight form in which we in this country receive it from the B.B.C. It must be emphasised that we are concerned with news and not with propaganda. In emergencies the antidote to poison is sometimes another poison, but real health requires not antidotes, but steady nourishment on a healthy diet. That is what we have to aim at in this matter. There is enough propaganda poisoning the air already, and we do not want to add to it. I believe that objective news delivered on equal terms will always find its own market.

The first effort of the Government, therefore, should be to ensure an unhandi-capped circulation of legitimate news, and to do this, the Post Office should arrange transmission rates sufficiently low not only to enable British agencies to transmit on equal terms with foreign agencies but also low enough to encourage foreign agencies to use London in preference to other cities as a transmitting place. I agree that many statements that have been made in the House recently have shown that the Foreign Office have had their eyes opened in this matter, and are taking tardy steps to remedy what has gone wrong so far. Are those steps effective? In this connection may I ask if it is the intention of the Foreign Office to increase the number of Press attachés and commercial secretaries at our missions abroad? I fear that the average diplomat, pure and simple, or perhaps not so pure and all too simple, is neither by training nor aptitude very well fitted for watching and countering foreign news and propaganda. Anti-British propaganda, disguised as news, has been spreading and damaging us in our Colonies as well as in foreign countries, and the point up to which it could be treated with contempt was passed long ago. The virulence of this propaganda now passes all limits and we must set up, whatever the cost, the necessary machinery for putting our home, our Commonwealth and our foreign policies before the world. I think I cannot do better than to conclude by a quotation which I read yesterday from Commander King-Hall in his "Newsletter" and written after his return from abroad: I am convinced, after talking with professors and business men, that right through Central Europe there is a dismal ignorance of British achievement both in the field of social reform at home and in the development of the Empire. There is no knowledge of what British democracy is contributing to the world. We cannot ignore public opinion in the world and be too proud to take steps to see that what we are achieving without suppression of free speech and a free Press is adequately described.

5.14 p.m.

Mr. Harold Nicolson

I rise to support the Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones), but also, with some reservations, to support the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) and seconded by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher). The Amendment contains three words which are not present in the Motion, and to my mind those three words are central to the problem of British propaganda. Those three words are not by retaliation. It is valuable that we should talk about this subject in the House, but if we are to achieve any creative unanimity, apart from that passive unanimity which the hon. Member for Central Hackney noticed, we must have some idea of what is the sound philosophy, or the sound theory, of British propaganda. I think the presence of the three words I have mentioned indicates the line—not by retaliation; and by that we not only mean not abusing the other side, but also, as I think the supporters of the Amendment will agree, not imitating the methods adopted by the other side. I think that is vitally important. I think we must realise—and we do realise as the speeches made already show—that this question of propaganda is a new, multiple and highly dangerous instrument in international policy. We must bear in mind something more. It is an instrument which is uncongenial to ourselves. I do not want to be self-righteous, but I think it will be agreed that propaganda, in the first place, is based upon avoidance of the truth and I think it will also be agreed that in this country, in general, we object to untruths.

As I say, I do not want to be self-righteous, because in a national emergency we can be as untruthful as, or more untruthful than, anybody else. During the War we lied damnably. Let us be clear about that. [An HON. MEMBER: "Splendidly?"] No, damnably, not splendidly. I think some of our lies have done us tremendous harm and I should not myself like to see such propaganda again. It has done us harm in several ways. If you read the early chapters of Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" you will find that the impression which was made by our propaganda upon the then Corporal Hitler was damaging and persistent and is now a dangerous impression. He thought it tremendous. He admired it very much. I think also that if you follow the lists of books published in the United States you will find, even at this moment, an enormous number of books being published devoted solely to the subject of the effects and methods of British propaganda in 1917 and 1918. It is most unfortunate. Therefore, we must not be self-righteous and say that we could never practise propaganda by such untruthful and dirty methods—because we can. But that was in a time of war. In peace, the ordinary Englishman does not like telling lies and that is one reason why the whole thing is uncongenial.

There is another and more subtle reason. Propaganda, like commercial advertisement, is based on over-statement, and that over-statement is not adapted to our national temperament, whether English or Scottish. Our national temperament is based on under-statement and when we have to compete in superlatives with Italy or Germany or even America, we do so half-heartedly. If propaganda is half-hearted it is bad. We have to get our propaganda wholehearted. We have to get it on a basis which accords with our national temperament and that must be a basis of truth. Therefore, we cannot compete with or imitate other countries. That is why I support the Amendment, because it makes that vitally important point.

I do not want to enlarge on the dangers of foreign propaganda. A considerable number of admirable suggestions have been made as to the methods which we can adopt. I think we can leave that with confidence to the committee which is now working—which was I believe only to-day inaugurated—under the chairmanship of Sir Robert Vansittart. There we have a man of great experience, intense culture, and a very wide type of mind, who will be able to devote to this great problem, not only purely political but also psychological considerations. The point to my mind is not so much to avoid errors or to consider details of procedure, but to consider actual principles and actual guidance as to the lines which we should take. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton laid great stress, I think rightly, upon the need of having a news service something like that of the British Broadcasting Corporation. We all know that the news bulletin of the British Broadcasting Corporation is the most impartial statement of fact that has ever been produced in any country and that being so it gives us an enormous advantage. But there are other ends and it is here that I leave the Amendment and pass to the Motion because although the Motion leaves out the vitally important fact of not imitating foreign methods, I think the framers of the Amendment have probably, unconsciously, left out two points which are also vital.

The first is culture—not merely news and views but culture—and the second is finance. I wish to speak now not about news and views but about culture. I think Members of this House are probably insufficiently aware of the extraordinary ignorance of foreign countries in regard to British culture. They do not know what it is. They do not know the British point of view. They do not understand, for instance, what the Commonwealth idea is. We in this House have, in our hearts, a feeling of tremendous pride in the Commonwealth idea and in the Statute of Westminster. We think this is a brilliant thing, a new invention, a thing never done before by any country in the world which may develop in wide circles and to an extent of which no one has any conception. Foreigners, even people in the United States, have no conception of it at all. Educated men, professors in American universities, still imagine that Australia is something like Uganda, ruled from Whitehall. This great contribution which we have made since the War to human governance is ignored and unknown by people who otherwise would be very interested in it. That is the British point of view and that is the sort of thing which is not made known.

There are other things. There is intel-lectural culture. Culture, from the point of view first of the Dominion idea is unrealised and I regard that as culture because it is the thing that we have done best. Another thing which we do best is what is vaguely called liberty, or let us call it easy-goingness. That is vitally important; it is also easy to get across. If we are to have these propaganda methods we must have something peaceful. We must, in contrast to the strident superlatives of Bari, put across something very sedative, very quiet, very calm—always seeing the other person's point of view and prepared to give way to it when it is right; never being angry; seldom ironical; and always sympathetic. That is British culture, the capacity of being sympathetic. And we must get it across.

The intellectual forms of culture are more difficult, and I am very much afraid that the committee may make the error of thinking, for instance, that we should send second-rate companies to act Shakespeare in Stockholm. We must not do this sort of thing; we must not send third-rate village companies to act "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Berlin. That will not do at all. I have suffered the torture of listening to English plays badly performed in foreign countries by English companies when they would have been performed infinitely better by foreign companies. We must avoid sending the second-rate abroad. We must not spend one penny in that way. We must work out carefully what is first-rate with us and send only that, and spend a great deal of money on sending it, but not spend odd slight sums on sending troupes of amateur Morris dancers out to Stockholm.

Mr. Beverley Baxter

The hon. Member made such a point of being completely honest that I would ask him whether, if we send only the first-rate abroad, we are giving a correct impression of this country?

Mr. Nicolson

We would certainly give an extremely correct impression of this country if we sent no actors or musicians or artists abroad. I think we should keep all that as a purely internal matter. If we can find first-rate actors in this country—which I doubt—we should send them abroad. If we cannot, let us keep to what we can do of the first-rate in different ways, and it is perfectly obvious what we can do. Let us concentrate, for instance, first upon our politics, and our Press. Let us in our broadcasts say that the "Times" was suppressed in Berlin yesterday while such-and-such a German paper containing such-and-such an article is on sale in every bookstall in London. That is the way to get our type of mind, our culture, abroad. It is to give to these people who may be "listening in" the impression that the "Times" newspaper, that admirable old lady, is forbidden for her apparent indecency to enter Germany, whereas these prostitute papers of foreign countries are on sale every day in London. I think the House will agree that the constant strain and pressure of increasing claustrophobia existing in the dictator countries, is caused by the absence of news, and is producing a reaction which is making them very ready to receive a pure breath of wind from our perfectly sane and rather humdrum discussion of affairs in this country.

That brings me to my last point, and that is the question of money. I think it was the hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) who asked whether the Noble Lord could give us any figures about propaganda. It may be a little difficult for the Noble Lord to do so, but I can give figures which are pretty correct. We spend in this country on propaganda some £60,000 a year. That is the maximum which we have ever spent, but without question Germany, France and Italy spend £1,000,000 a year on propaganda. They spend ten times what we spend. If we get an increased grant how are we to spend it? I come back to the word culture. What do we do best? Do not let us make the mistake of trying to do things that other people can do better. Let us concentrate first on education.

I do not know how many hon. Members have been in Alexandria, but I do not think an Englishman could go to Alexandria recently without being appalled by the spectacle of that enormous Italian school dominating the whole place as a sort of Acropolis of culture—and the meagre arrangements which we have in our own schools. There is, near Alexandria, a British college which is admirably and beautifully run, the Victoria College. It is run on public school lines, is very fine and very well-equipped, and is rendering great and valuable service. It is now, I am glad to say, being duplicated by a similar institution for girls, which is doing wonderful work, but it lacks money. If it were Italian, not only would it be financed lavishly from Rome, but it would be made a sort of ostentatious Pharos towering over Alexandria.

Another point is that there is no university in the Near East which can attract English students. We need that. There is an American university at Beyrout, but its culture is not English, and it very often is anti-English. Let us empower the council to create some university in, say, Cyprus. It would cost a lot of money, but it would attract not only the Syrians, the Palestinians, and some of the Egyptians, but also the Greeks, the Yugoslavs, the Turks, and, what is far more important, that new generation of educated Africans which is arising in the Sudan, in Uganda, in Tanganyika, and even in Kenya. That is the sort of way in which I envisage propaganda. Not, as the Amendment says, by trying either to imitate or to refute the lies of others; not by telling any lies ourselves; but by thinking out calmly, quietly, what we do really represent in terms of culture, and by spending a great deal of money in order to see that that theory is enhanced, fortified, and spread abroad.

5.32 p.m.

Mr. Graham-White

If this Debate is losing anything of the exhilaration due to disagreement and controversy, I think it is gaining in usefulness by enabling us to clear our minds and to reach constructive agreement upon what is a newly recognised task in our national life. From the speeches which have been made so far, there emerges a very clear realisation that, quite apart from the question of propaganda of one kind and another, there is a task, or I would prefer to say a duty, which lies upon any nation which conceives that it has a contribution to make either to culture, to education, or to art: a duty of projecting itself to the rest of the world. Like the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson), I rise to support both the Motion and the Amendment. I have only one word of criticism to say of the former, and that is of the word "moral" which is contained in it. The Motion calls upon the Government to lend its "moral and financial support," but the word "moral" in this connection seems to me to be redundant. Financial support cannot be given without moral support.

There is another and somewhat important aspect of this question of Government support. The last speaker said that the British Broadcasting Corporation has a reputation for giving an impartial and truthful news service, and I agree that is so. I think that in that Corporation we have an institution which is recognised as being entirely impartial and as seeking solely to give the news impartially and faithfully. One of the reasons why that is recognised is that it is known, at all events in this country and, I think, in British-speaking countries generally, to be independent of the Government, and that is an important thing. It is unfortunate that perhaps in some countries the fact that the British Broadcasting Corporation has a monopoly here makes it difficult for them to understand and believe that it is not a Government institution, and I think it is part of our task of projecting ourselves to the world—and I wish I could imitate or conjure up the terms in which it has been described by the hon. Member for West Leicester—that we should project the fact that we have institutions like the British Boardcasting Corporation, which are capable of carrying out, and which in fact do daily carry out, their duties without the influence and direction, and still less the coercion, of the Government. Institutions of that kind are of exceedingly great value in these days, and I wish it might be made clear, in countries where there is an effort to misrepresent us and where these attempts are to some extent successful, that the British Broadcasting Corporation is an independent body.

I am in complete agreement with the terms of the Amendment. There can be nothing worse from every conceivable point of view than that this country should condescend to enter into a sort of political Billingsgate discussion on the air. That would be a lamentable thing. We are also in agreement that we should attempt to broadcast British character and British influence, and to make our contribution effective throughout the world in science, art and culture, not neglecting our achievements in the sporting field. The hon. Member for West Leicester gave some reasons why he thought we had neglected this important task. I am rather inclined to think that there is another which has had some part in the fact that we have not prosecuted the attempt to advertise ourselves and to project ourselves and our country as vigorously and as efficiently as other countries, which perhaps we might take into account without wishing to appear self-righteous. I think we have had, instinctively, some respect for the culture and the system of civilisation which prevail in some of our overseas Dominions and Colonies, and that we feel rather diffident in thrusting our own ideas and culture upon them. I think there is something in that, but it makes it all the more important that we should give a purely objective projection of ourselves to the world. It can give offence to none, and it can only give encouragement to those whom we wish to encourage.

I said just now that it was important that the British Broadcasting Corporation should maintain its independence and that we should, if possible, secure the knowledge in other countries that it is an independent organisation, and I would like to address a practical question to the Noble Lord who is to reply on this discussion with regard to the committee which has been set up. I think it is important that the relationship of that committee to the House of Commons and the Government should be defined, and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he has in mind, or what the Government have in mind, as to the relationship of the committee, which, as we understand, started its deliberations today, to the House of Commons. I think it should have some sort of appropriate relationship, such as that of the B.B.C. to the House of Commons. It would be wrong that a committee of that kind should be entirely its own master and be allowed to go unchallenged and unchecked wherever it was so minded. On the other hand, it is important that there should be some process whereby a Minister should be in the House of Commons, prepared to answer questions in regard to it, very much in the same way as we are entitled to put questions with regard to the B.B.C. I should be glad if my right hon. Friend would clear up that position for our future guidance and help.

If I might say a word or two with regard to the actual Committee itself, I think it is an admirable Committee. In the course of the Debate there has, if anything, been an attempt to depreciate perhaps too much what we have done in regard to a British news service and the like. There is no question at all that the British Broadcasting Corporation has done a very great deal and a very great service, and if it is given adequate finance, it has all the technical ability and the resources which would enable it to give a service which would compare favourably with anything in the world. Hon. Members have only to look at the map which was recently published in the "Listener" to see what an immense field the broadcasting which is now being done does cover over South and Central America and over the Arab-speaking countries. It is true that work of this kind cannot be done most effectively in a day. It requires careful study and knowledge, recruitment of personnel, and so on, but we have—and let us recognise it freely—an admirable institution for carrying out that work.

I would like to stress the importance in the field of culture of another aspect of the matter, which I think has not received attention from any previous speaker in this Debate, and that is the importance of personal connections and personal relations. The British Council has made a beginning. It has started a number of bursaries, I understand, for foreign students in this country, and I think an extension of that service would be very valuable. I should like to draw attention also to the vastly important work of another agency, the National Union of Students, which for years past has been exchanging students between this country and foreign countries and has made an enormous number of contacts between the educational services of this country and those of the Dominions and foreign countries. I recall, one day last summer, walking into Westminster Hall and finding it fuller than I have ever seen it on any occasion that was not a public ceremony, and echoing with the French language. Indeed, I had difficulty in making my way through it, and I found on making inquiries that there were 2,000 Belgian students there at the invitation of the National Union of Students. This is a very valuable work, and this organisation has valuable contacts, which could be further developed, and I would like to suggest that the Committee under Sir Robert Vansittart might well consider having representation from that body.

The hon. Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) asked whether anything had been done to make known abroad the forthcoming Glasgow Exhibition. I refer to that in order to point out that we have had some very valuable work done by the Travel Association of Great Britain and by the Board of Trade. The Travel Association has been doing a very effective service to this country for a long time past, and I am glad to see that it is to be represented on the new committee. But there again, as the hon. Member for West Leicester pointed out, it is a question of money. We can do all these things at least as well as and more effectively than anybody else. It is a duty we owe to ourselves. We have still a mission and a contribution to make to the common life of the world, and we ought to make all these things known. We have all the technical ability and the resources, but we cannot do it with an empty purse. The work that is being done by the Broadcasting Corporation wants more adequate support. The British Council, the Travel Association and the National Union of Students could do more effective work if they received the amount of support that is necessary.

I agree with what has been said about propaganda abroad. There would have been nothing easier than to come here this afternoon and make a sensational speech with numerous quotations from various broadcasting stations abroad. I do not think that that would have served any useful purpose. I have a strong idea that this propaganda tends to defeat itself. It is unfortunate that it leads to a false coinage in international relationships. Those who indulge in a policy of misrepresentation and of abusing or making fun of this or any other country might well think that these practices must cease if we are to return to the common decencies in international relations. That must be an essential preliminary to the establishment of normal friendly relations. The constant reiteration of misleading information does in the end defeat itself. It has other unfortunate consequences. When people begin to disbelieve the broadcast messages and propaganda of other countries they begin to disbelieve in the statements of their own country. The other day I met a distinguished foreigner, a Dutchman, who asked me what the state of commerce and the economic position of this country was. I gave him what I conceived to be a true and faithful account, and he said, "I am relieved to hear that; I thought it was in a really bad way." I said, "Why?" He said, "Did not your Prime Minister and your Chancellor of the Exchequer in one week make speeches in which they said that everything was all right?" That shows the unfortunate atmosphere in which the responsible statements of Ministers who speak with the greatest authority are disbelieved.

We should not take part in this spurious language of controversy and propaganda, but deal with affairs as best we can in the most efficient way according to the ancient historic formula, "The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." I am glad that we have had this Debate, for it shows that the House of Commons is of one mind on this subject. We have a duty to ourselves and our country if we believe in ourselves, as we do. If we are going on from day to day and [...] to year making contributions in art, [...] and science, which are the common language of the world, we have to see, cost what it may, that they are presented to the rest of the world.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. W. Astor

The House will support whole-heartedly both the Motion and the sentiments expressed in the Amendment, and I am not going to disturb the harmony in any way. The field of international propaganda is a purely postwar growth and can be traced, in the main, to the spread of democracy and to the realisation that is necessary to teach, not only officials and diplomats of other countries, but also their public opinion. Not only in democracies, but even in dictatorships, the spread of popular education has meant that public opinion is a much more important factor than it has ever been before. There has been every effort to show that practically every foreign country is engaged in a great spate of energetic activity, and it is rather assumed that we have done nothing in that sphere. No impression could be less true. We may have gone through difficult times, but our social services have helped us through them extraordinarily well. The tributes paid to our social services from the benches opposite to-day week tend to show that. It is true that some of our old industries have gone through bad times, but new industries have grown up as well as, and probably faster than, they have in any other country. Our Dominions have got closer to us. In India we have carried out great peaceful changes. In the Colonies we have been more conscious since the War both of our responsibilities to the natives and of the opportunities of beneficent economic development. Moreover, we have governed them with a negligible military establishment. Our Navy is still the most powerful, our Air Force the most modern, and our Army probably the most adaptable in the world.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) implied that England had no first-class contribution of a cultural nature to make to the civilised world. That great man of action who was also a great thinker, the late Colonel Lawrence, said and believed that we were living in one of the greatest creative ages of English literature. In literature and the art of fine printing, in the production of books and in music, this country has a world contribution to make to civilisation. We can hear in London and the provinces fine orchestral music, and the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells have shown that even the opera and the ballet are not something confined to the leisured classes but are things which appeal to all classes in this country.

I would like to pay tribute to the admirable work of the British Council in making known these activities on a very small subvention from the Treasury. That Council has had the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillsborough (Mr. Alexander), and it has done admirable work. Anyone who reads its report, which is well worthy of attention by hon. Members, will see that the Council has kept up a high quality of lectures and other cultural activities abroad. The visits of the London Philharmonic Orchestra to Paris and Berlin last year were great revelations of English culture, and I hope that the Council will supplement its activities by translating the best British works into foreign languages. I hope that when we take part in exhibitions our contributions will be worthy. In the Paris Exhibition our pavilion looked from the distance like a tin of Huntley and Palmer's biscuits, and from the inside like a branch of Fortnum and Mason's. It did not suggest that this country was the centre of a great Empire, with many and more varied productions than those, high class as they were, that were on view.

Other countries have created an atmosphere of great activity. We have all been deluged with the U.S.S.R. publications. We have had beautiful German and Italian books, and even the Spanish Government in Barcelona, whose friends are asking the working class of this country to contribute their sixpences for milk, have issued the most expensive booklets showing the achievements of their army. This propaganda is no prerogative of the extreme countries. France, a democratic country, has been spending something like £1,000,000 a year on propaganda. I hope that we shall encourage the Government Departments of this country to extend and to improve their annual reports. Some Departments have already done this, and whenever an interesting report is published, whether by the Post Office or the Home Office, it has a ready sale and fine publicity. That system of interesting annual reports on the different activities of our Government should be extended, and in appropriate cases they should be translated into foreign languages.

My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Maitland) make a remark about the Press departments of Government offices. What he said might have been true 10 or 20 years ago, but is not true now. The news department of the Foreign Office has the confidence and trust of British and foreign correspondents. It has done the most admirable objective work, and it needs supplementing by the same work being done by our embassies and legations abroad. The work is done in the Foreign Office, I would remind the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), by perfectly simple diplomats. I am sure the members of our legations abroad could do this work equally as well, if they were instructed and guided. Too often our embassies abroad regard the journalist as some form of "nosey Parker" who is trying to find out something it is their duty to conceal. They should be instructed to imitate the news department of the Foreign Office in London, which has a fine reputation for keeping friendly contact with journalists of all shades of opinion. I hope that we shall keep the independence of Reuters and the other English agencies. Even if it may be necessary to help them financially I hope that their independence will not be affected.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is now entering for the first time into the field of competition. Until now it has had a monopoly, and it must gird up its loins substantially if it is to succeed. Even in England it has suffered severe competition from the activities of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Captain Plugge). It has to go out more than in the past to please its listeners abroad. That faint aura of superiority, and perhaps that slight tinge of priggishness, is unsuitable if we are to be listened to in South America, in the Near East, and in the countries of Europe. It must be in close touch with the views of listeners abroad and must vary its programmes and its presentation of news to suit the audiences in foreign countries. One activity which has not been mentioned to-day is news reels. We should try to cultivate relations with foreign news reel companies and give them opportunities to film in Britain, and, if necessary, to give foreign versions of English news reels with titles and commentary in foreign languages.

One thing is clear, that the treatment of all these questions will vary immensely from continent to continent and from country to country, and the first thing we should do is to ask all our embassies and legations to make their own suggestions of what would be most suitable for the countries to which they are accredited, and not try to impose any standard from London. If they know that there is a little money available for this purpose they will be very prolific in their suggestions. There is one thing we can do without great expense—and there is no better form of propaganda—and that is to increase the visits paid to foreign ports by ships of His Majesty's Navy. The propaganda value of the presence of those ships and of the officers and men of the Royal Navy in ports abroad is absolutely inestimable.

Another point is that in the past we have been slow to recognise our friends in foreign countries, like those who have been secretaries of Anglophile societies, who have cultivated English ways and friendship with England. We have been slow to give them recognition by the bestowal of honours, or any other recognition which may be appropriate in the circumstances. We reap great advantage from their activities, and it would be doing only justice to recognise those friends abroad in some way. It would have the effect of attracting further friends, and we here would have the satisfaction of knowing that those friends abroad were not neglected. It is impossible to over-estimate the value which proper recognition of our friends abroad would be to us.

In conclusion, I can only support what has been said about not going in for foreign propaganda. It is impossible to embark upon such propaganda in a democracy, because if we start putting forward political views abroad we shall broadcast matters which may be the subject of acute party controversy. Weshould have the intolerable situation of public money being used to diffuse abroad matters which are the subject of acute controversy in this House. That is one of the overriding reasons why we must stick to objective news and the creation of good will, and not carry on any vendetta. That, I am sure, will be the policy of His Majesty's Government, and I am sure the House welcomes the fact that they have so experienced and so important a public servant as Sir Robert Vansittart as Chairman of the new Committee. I know that the House will wish it every success, and will support it not only with speeches to-day but with grants-in-aid when the Estimates are laid before it.

6.4 p.m.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Earl Winterton)

Since I returned to the Government I have not altered the opinion which I frequently expressed from the back benches, that Front Bench speakers should not occupy an undue share of the time of the House, or get too much in the way of other hon. Members who want to speak, and normally I should have intervened rather later in the Debate; but this is a very important subject, on which, I feel, it is most desirable that the House should have the views of the Government at an early opportunity. In the first place, I would say that no one listening to the Debate could take the slightest exception to the speeches which we have heard, either on party or partisan grounds. It is an excellent thing that it should go out to the world at large how united we are on this subject. It is, indeed, high time that the House did discuss it. If I were asked what was the most startling and effective method invented in the last 20 years for attracting and holding human attention, I should reply that it was neither the vast improvements in radio and moving pictures, great as the improvements have been, but rather the systematic, the scientific and, in some cases I must add, the devilish use of propaganda by all sorts of methods ranging from what I may call the old wooden conduit pipe, so to speak, of the deliberately instigated rumour to the modem air road of the highly tendentious broadcast. I should like to make this observation, which is not a new one, but which it is desirable that we should make in a democratic Assembly like this, that one of the few limitless commodities is human credulity. People will believe anything if you say it loud enough and often enough and they do not hear the other side.

Mr. Gallacher

That is why the National Government are in power.

Earl Winterton

I have seldom heard a more foolish interruption than that. That is exactly what is not true of this National Government or of any other Government, because they hear the propaganda of both sides. It is the difference between democracy and the form of Government favoured by the hon. Member. His Majesty's Government could not, nor would the House have it otherwise, compete at home or abroad in that sort of propaganda. We shall never, let it be hoped, believe in propaganda in the bad sense. As many speakers have emphasised, we believe in objectivity, in untainted views and sincere views, honestly expressed. But while that is so neither the Government, the House nor the country can afford to ignore the use of publicity and propaganda in which foreign Governments engage—or the majority of them—sometimes quite legitimately but sometimes decidedly otherwise, where the results are detrimental to British interests. When statements are made by official or semi-official sources abroad which are inaccurate as regards our policy, our intentions and the state of our country or such parts of the Empire as are directly governed from here, naturally we must take steps to contradict them if the matter is sufficiently important. We must bear in mind the very proper limitations imposed by our democratic constitution, which prevents anything like a censorship of news, and also the traditional British reputation for fairness and moderation in statement which has always been a bulwark of our prestige abroad. None of us who travel about the world, as I do, can fail to realise the immense value which is attributed to British statements. It is almost a cliché to say that the reliance placed upon the Englishman's word—I apologise to those in the House who are members of other races in the British Isles, and perhaps I ought to say British—the reliance placed upon Britain's word abroad is really of help to this country.

Bearing these things in mind, I have to satisfy the House that proper steps are being taken to deal with the situation which has been described. I have collected a great deal of information on this subject from more than one Department. Naturally I do not want to cite everything in detail, or read to the House long typewritten documents, but I will try to give an impression of what has been done, and in doing so to answer the various points which have been made by hon. and right hon. Members. First let me take the all-important subject of broadcasting. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Fulham (Mr. Astor) in the excellent speech he has just delivered, and other hon. Members, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Nicolson) who referred specifically to this matter. It is the case that the British Broadcasting Corporation is in a unique position, as regards both its National and Empire services, in the accuracy of its news, which is unchallenged for its fairness and moderation. It is widely listened to abroad, often as a check upon broadcasts from elsewhere, just because it aims at being objective and accurate.

In regard to what might be fairly termed reasonable counter propaganda against statements made which are inimical to our interests in other countries by broadcasting, reference has been made to our decision to broadcast in foreign languages, in which a commencement has already been made. A start is being made with Spanish and Portuguese broadcasts for South America, and Arabic broadcasts for the Near East have been in operation for some time. There was a reference in one of the speeches to the Arabic broadcast and I think it was the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) who said, basing himself no doubt on some statements in the Press, that it had not been very successful. I saw those statements, and I have taken particular pains to make inquiries of the appropriate Department about this matter. As the House may be aware, I have some interest in the Middle East, having served there under a certain famous soldier, and I know a good many people in Arabic countries, and I can say from my own personal knowledge that, having due regard to the fact that this is a novel venture, nothing of the sort having been attempted before, the broadcasts have been very successful. No doubt as we go along it may be found desirable to put in some features which are missing and to omit others.

I hope it will not be regarded as a wounding reference to Arabs to say that their sense of humour is often of a broad character, and had it been possible to broadcast the speech which was made in the House some time ago by the junior burgess for Oxford University (Mr. A. P. Herbert) perhaps it would have found many listeners in Arabic countries. The Spanish and Portuguese news bulletins are expected to begin shortly. I think that is all I need say for the moment about broadcasting.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

The Noble Lord may remember that on the Address I raised the question of broadcasting in German, Italian and other languages, and I understood at the time from the Postmaster-General that this was to be done. Since then there has been a change in the Government decision, and I wonder whether the Noble Lord can tell us anything about it.

Earl Winterton

I have no exact information on that point. As I say, it is intended to start this foreign broadcasting with Spanish and Portuguese, and if my right hon. and gallant Friend the Postmaster-General gave any undertaking that there was to be an extension of it to German and Italian, no doubt that will be carried out; but the service at present is still in an early stage.

Now we come to the very important question of telegraphed news. It was suggested by one hon. Member that we suffered very much in this country from the fact that news agencies in foreign countries receive subsidies such as made it difficult for English companies to compete with them on favourable terms. That is one of the things which will, of course, receive consideration from the Cabinet Committee which is dealing with this matter. Broadly speaking, the object of that committee is to consider the supply of British news telegraphed abroad. Somebody asked when it was likely to complete its labours. I understand it will not be for two or three months. It is undoubtedly the fact that the supply of telegraphed news from this country is subject to increased competition from the big foreign telegraph agencies. Of these the American agencies, which I believe are purely commercial, have great financial resources, and the German, Italian, Russian, Japanese and French agencies enjoy special facilities, financial and otherwise, in varying degrees. It is difficult, until this Cabinet Committee has reported, to say anything further on that subject, because no doubt the committee will deal with the particular point of how this unfair competition can be got over.

Perhaps it would be appropriate, in this connection, to refer to a question which was raised by one of my hon. Friends—I think it was the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion—who asked whether steps could be taken to send signed articles by eminent British writers to foreign newspapers. I can assure my hon. Friend that that has been done for many years past. Whether it has always been a satisfactory system I should not like to say. Whatever I were to say might reflect in one way or the other upon Members of this House. It is well known that a highly-paid writer for foreign newspapers is a very respected Member of this House. Signed articles will continue to be sent, and it is, I agree, a most legitimate means of making British news known to a foreign public.

Now I come to a matter which will have the sympathy of the whole House, and that is the work which is being done by the British Council to promote cultural and educational activities in foreign countries. The Council consists of official and unofficial members, and the leaders of both Oppositions are members of it. It has the full backing of His Majesty's Government, who are satisfied that it is the right way of handling these matters, and that the Council is doing admirable work within the limits of its budget. It receives a sum from the Treasury and it has secured also some financial and other assistance from private and commercial sources. May I, without boring the House, give in tabloid form some account of its activities? These are, on the educational side, the bringing of foreign students to this country, many of whom are teachers or prospective teachers of English. In that connection the Board of Education are actively engaged in an exchange of teachers and students upon an increasing scale. On the cultural side the Council sends lecturers abroad, assists societies for the study of English and English culture in foreign countries by the presentation of English books and periodicals and by other means, and spreads a knowledge of English music by means of tours and gramophone records, and of English art.

In the work of the British Council is to be found, in my judgment, a form of propaganda or publicity to which no one can take exception. My hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester said that all propaganda is based upon false news, or something of that kind, and perhaps I should have challenged his statement, but I did not do so, as a Member of the Government. This is a form of propaganda, to which no one could take exception. Its primary object is to make known to the whole world, what I may call the golden storehouse of British literature and the arts. I agree that, in our folly, we are too prone, as a nation, to allow ourselves to be regarded as an unintellectual and unintelligent community. Some of our newspapers represent the wealthier classes of this country as interested only in bathing beaches, night clubs, and field sports, and the wage-earners only in football pools, racing results and the dogs; yet we have an unrivalled heritage of artistic craftsmanship and a wealth of human intellectual endeavour for which the whole world is under a debt. Without being vainglorious we could, by co-operation and the assistance of individual voluntary contributions, always readily accorded to a national object, greatly increase the world's knowledge of those matters and thus promote what I may call the invisible export of cultural relationship. I should like to make an appeal, standing at this Box, for all possible support of the work of the British Council. I think the House will agree that it will be undesirable that the whole financial side of the work should be provided by the Government. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?"] Obviously Government help and private enterprise should work in combination.

Lieut.-Commander Fletcher

Is the council in contact with the British Broadcasting Corporation?

Earl Winterton

I could not answer that question offhand. Obviously both are aware of the existence of each other and wherever they can assist each other they do so. I think there is a representative of the B.B.C. on the British Council, and there is a number of subcommittees of the council connected with all sorts of objects, such as an advisory committee for British teachers, a fine arts committee, a lecture committee, a students' committee and others.

The question of films has been raised. A joint committee of the British Council and of the Travel Association has been promoted for the showing abroad of British films. Through the activities of that committee, British documentaries—hon. Members will understand this expression, no doubt—have been widely shown in a number of countries, in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Near East. I am informed by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, who is sitting beside me and whose Department has had some connection with this matter, that these films are first-rate in character and are as good as those of any other country. Special editions of a few films have been prepared for exhibition in Latin America, with Portuguese and Spanish captions or commentaries.

I come last of all to a very important matter, to which attention has often been called in this House. I think question and answer were given on the subject on 7th February when it will be recollected that the Prime Minister made an announcement concerning the co-ordinating committee. I will not quote the whole of what he said but the concluding portion only, which was: It has now been decided to set up a co-ordinating committee whose function it will be to prevent overlapping and, by exchange of information among the bodies engaged in various forms of publicity abroad, to co-ordinate their programmes and activities. His Majesty's Government have appointed Sir Robert Vansittart, Chief Diplomatic Adviser, to be chairman of this committee, and they propose to invite representatives of other bodies engaged on work of this character, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation, the British Council and the Travel Association to serve on the committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1938; col. 671, Vol. 331.]

Before I go on to say a word further on the matter perhaps it would be right if I said, merely from the strictly chronological point of view, something about the publicity work of this committee. The hon. Member who seconded the original Motion asked what steps were being taken to disseminate from Government Departments news suitable for reproduction, as I understood him, in foreign newspapers. He rather suggested that that was a matter which needed improvement. He said that civil servants in this country were known to be very reserved. I ought to point out that it is the primary duty of Ministers and Governments to make known the activities of their Departments, but that there is some slight danger that if that were done on a widespread scale to foreign countries it might be held by the Opposition of the day, whoever they were, that the Government were endeavouring to take an unfair partisan advantage.

On purely non-party questions and questions of external affairs, in the Dominions Office and the Colonial and India Offices, as well as the Foreign Office, there exists to-day and has existed for a long time an official whose business it is to interpret to the public and to the Press the work of the Department and to give out statements. Hon. Members need not think that we are behind other countries in that respect. I have had some personal experience of the work of these officers and it is highly creditable in every way. I would take the opportunity of saying that any responsible and reputable pressman, whether he represents a great newspaper or a small newspaper, or comes from a big country or a small country, or any gentleman or lady who is interested in international affairs or problems, or anything of that kind, may, through the proper channels, find someone in those offices who will be glad to give them any information of a reasonable character. It is a very good thing to call attention to these activities on this occasion. It is one of the matters with which the Vansittart Committee will be concerned, in order to see whether it is possible to improve it.

It would be unwise to attempt to define too exactly the scope of the committee's work at this stage. The committee is tackling a new problem. It will have to examine the whole field, consider the activities of the principal bodies already at work, seek to increase co-operation among those bodies on a co-ordinated line, prevent overlapping and help to promote further efforts in any direction in which the field is not already adequately covered. A great deal of ground work has already been prepared with other Departments, and the committee will be able to build upon foundations that have been well laid.

In some other countries, national publicity, as I have already indicated, is entirely Government financed, controlled and directed. I want to make it clear that not only is that not the English method but it is not the intention of the Government to make any change in our historic policy in that regard. I want to make that very clear. I am grateful to Members of the Opposition for also making it clear that we do not want to engage in the sort of propaganda that we see other countries engaging in. I heartily agree that what we want to do in this country is to present to the world the facts as we see them, if possible by agreement among parties upon the presentation of those facts.

I think it is necessary also to make some mild reply to the criticisms abroad upon the establishment of this committee. One has noted in some of those criticisms the assumption that the committee's activities will be inspired by a desire to attack other countries and that the committee will occupy itself with propaganda in the bad sense. I want to give a very emphatic denial to that suggestion. I may further say that those who live in glasshouses should not throw stones, especially unnecessarily throw stones at windowframes in which the glass has not yet been inserted. The object of the committee is to instruct this country not to hide its light under a bushel. There is a great deal under the bushel which is worth revealing and which will be a revelation to those who have not so far been assisted to look underneath.

In conclusion, I think the House will gather from these remarks that the Government agree that an effort is required to make this country better understood abroad. They are glad that the matter is receiving such wide public attention, and they welcome—indeed they appeal for—the widest measure of public support. Commercial organisations can cooperate in the course of their efforts to push British goods. May I point out very definitely to hon. Members who have raised the point relating to the exhibition in Scotland that the appropriate Department for Overseas Trade will see to it that such a thing is widely known abroad We sometimes hear the criticism to-day—I am not in a position to say whether it is well founded or not—that British business firms do not adopt modern methods of publicity for their goods. In helping to make British goods and the resources of this country known to the world, we are helping to achieve the object both of the Motion and of the Amendment.

The Motion seems to me to express, on the whole, the views of the House, and personally I should prefer to see the Motion adopted. I should also like, if it were possible, to avoid a Division, simply from the point of view of the effect on public opinion. I am grateful for the spirit of almost complete unanimity which has been displayed in the course of the Debate. We have had some very excellent speeches, which will, I hope, have an effect abroad. I do not think it is out of order to say that this House has hitherto taken less interest in this subject than has been taken in it in foreign countries. I hope that nothing I have said has spoiled that spirit, and that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will feel able to follow on the same lines. Each one of us has a contribution to make to this important subject, and each one of us should feel that it is a national responsibility to make it.

Mr. White

Could the Noble Lord tell us what will be the relationship of the new committee to the House of Commons? I do not want to press him if it has not been decided, but will it be under the Foreign Office?

Earl Winterton

My right hon. and gallant Friend the Patronage Secretary tells me that there was a question on this matter, but I shall, of course, make it my duty to find out to which Department questions should be addressed, and to inform the hon. Gentleman. I think he will find from the OFFICIAL REPORT that it is merely a technical matter which Department will be responsible for the committee.

Mr. White

I understand that it is to be a new directing force, co-ordinating all these activities, and it is desirable that we should know with which Department it is connected.

Earl Winterton

I will study the procedure in the matter very carefully. I think it has already been decided.

6.34 p.m.

Mr. H. Morrison

This has been one of the most peaceful debates that we have had in the House of Commons, and is an enjoyable occasional change from the more turbulent discussions that usually take place here. I will do my best to maintain the equanimity of the atmosphere on this subject of foreign and international propaganda, or dissemination of news, whatever it is and however one chooses to regard it. That there is a problem is undoubtedly the case. The problem is to get to the peoples of the world the truth about our country and the policy of our country; and there is the equal, reciprocal problem of receiving really truthful information about the life and policies of nations abroad. One of the incidental disadvantages of government under dictatorship, to put it no higher, is the very great difficulty of knowing what the Governments of dictatorship countries are thinking, and what the peoples of dictatorship countries are thinking. But, if this matter were handled in a way that was clumsy or crude, we could find ourselves commencing with a policy of propaganda for the dissemination of information for foreign consumption, which, though started with the best of intentions, and, indeed, with the best of practice, could, if we were not careful, merely degenerate into the character of propaganda that was conducted by the various nations of the world during the period of the War. That would be a great pity, and that, in part, is why we have put into our Amendment the words not by retaliation. We should like the spirit of any such activity to be, not a retaliatory spirit, but a genuine spirit of desire to inform and to disseminate information it is very easy to start an information department for the circulation of news abroad, and to see it degenerate into a mere propaganda department, the mission of which is to get the interest or the policy of the country over irrespective of truth and accuracy.

Moreover, the subsidising of propaganda abroad can lead to some exceedingly undesirable practices. It means, or can mean, that there would be a good deal of secret public money about, and it can mean the corruption of public men. It has meant, in some cases, undoubtedly, the corruption of public personalities and the purchase of newspapers. It is well known that certain newspapers on the Continent of Europe have from time to time been subsidised, or even purchased outright, by foreign Governments. When this kind of thing reaches anything like that point, it becomes thoroughly unpleasant and thoroughly nasty, and, rather than helping to clear up international relationships, it can actually have the reverse effect and create a great deal of international scandal. The type of mind, the type of man who as a journalist, a producer of films, or sometimes now and again a politician, who will allow his opinions or property to be bought by foreign money for propaganda purposes, is usually a very unpleasant type of person. Therefore, in starting on this line, if we do, we had better face it with our eyes open to the very great dangers that might well exist. That kind of propaganda is more appropriate to the nations that have not a great deal to boast about, or that have a good deal to be ashamed of, than to countries which are better situated in that regard.

The Noble Lord has expressed the hope that the House might be unanimous about this Motion. We are not wanting to be "sticky" for the sake of being "sticky," but, quite honestly, we think that the wording of the original Motion is open to objection in certain respects. It looks as if it is merely retaliatory, because it opens by saying that: having regard to the increasing activity of certain foreign Governments in the field of propaganda, we should do something. I am sure there was no evil intention in the drafting of the Motion, but it goes on to urge the Government. to give the full weight of its moral and financial support to schemes to further the wider and more effective presentation of British news, views, and culture abroad. It is very easy not illegitimately to read into that the mere subsidising of propaganda in the ordinary sense of the term, because, if the Government is to give the full weight of its moral and financial support, in the dissemination, not only of British news, but of views and of culture, it might well be thought to be merely subsidised propaganda of the ordinary international sort that we do not like. Therefore, we thought it better to substitute the words of the Amendment, which indicate that our purpose is not retaliation, but the dissemination of straightforward information and news based upon an enlightened and honest public policy. In view of the general agreement that has been shown throughout the Debate, I hope that the Mover of the original Motion will be able to see his way to accept the Amendment, so that the House can be unanimous.

One of the difficulties lies in our getting the views of our own politicians of all parties known, as well as the policy of the Government itself, and I shall make a suggestion on that point for the development of existing policy which I think would be helpful. But we are not free from problems in our own Press on that score. There is a certain limited number of newspapers which give much more extended reports to the speeches of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini than they ever did, or ever will, to those of any British politician or any British Prime Minister. A certain body of the Press has come to the conclusion, and it is not for us to say it is wrong, that the statements of politicians, whether in power or in opposition, in this country are dull and ought not to be reported except to a very limited extent; but the curious thing is that the same newspapers which will not report the speeches of Ministers or of Members of the Opposition will report at great length the speeches of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini, and it seems to me that their readers are more likely to know the political opinions of the ruler of Germany and the ruler of Italy than they are to know the opinions of the British Prime Minister and the other Ministers who sit on the Treasury Bench, not to mention those of us who sit on this side of the House. Unfortunately, that is in part the case with one of our great Sunday newspapers, which was formerly a remarkable institution and very fair to all quarters. Sometimes one wonders whether that great Sunday newspaper, now owned by Lord Astor, has not come to feel to a certain extent that it is an organ of the official point of view of the Governments of Germany and Italy. Let us recognise, therefore, that there are problems at home as well as abroad in these matters.

I wanted particularly to refer—and I was sorry the Noble Lord could not give us any great amount of information about it—to the question of broadcasting. I agree entirely, and we all agree, that we do not want the British Broadcasting Corporation to be made a mere engine of propaganda of any sort. When it broadcasts opinions in this country by way of debate, we know what it is doing. As regards the dissemination of news abroad, in my view, and I think in the view of everybody, it would be exceedingly unwise, indeed wrong, to disseminate for foreign consumption propaganda on behalf of our Government or anybody else; but what I think is particularly important under modem political conditions is that the news of happenings in this country—happenings of public interest, statements of public interest—should be disseminated in various languages. A beginning has been made with Arabic. I should not have thought that that was necessarily the most urgent language with which to begin, though I see its significance in relation to events in the Near East. We have also begun in Spanish and Portuguese. But all the European Governments are now disseminating both news and propaganda in-English, and I think it is really important that we should disseminate from the British Broadcasting Corporation, not propaganda, not what is known as "dope," but straight news, in the great languages of the European Continent I do not see that we should lift that into a major diplomatic issue. I cannot get an answer from the Government as to why it is not done. It may be that there is a perfectly complete, definite and proper answer. It may be that the technical explanations are fully adequate, though I find that difficult to accept without further information. Is it that the Government take the view that dictatorship countries will object to our disseminating; honest straight news?

The important thing is that Central Europe should have some chance of knowing what is happening in the outside world and what the people of other countries are feeling. It is a terrible thing that, so far as the Government and the internal Press and internal wireless of those countries are concerned, everything is done to make it difficult for their people to know what we are doing and thinking; and, indeed, for us to know what they are doing and thinking. Those countries disseminate and broadcast news and opinions in English. I would not make any ado about that, but why should the British Broadcasting Corporation not disseminate news as well? Is it because we are afraid of other people objecting? I do not want it done in a spiteful, nasty way, but merely as a duty to the world, so that people living in other countries would be able to listen to news of what is happening here. It is time that we had an indication of the Government's intention. The Postmaster-General did say that they were going to do it. Subsequently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reduced the number of languages in which it seemed to have been intended by the Postmaster-General that we should broadcast. I think that that ought to be cleared up.

Reference has been made to subsidies to Press agencies. That is a question that wants thinking over. There may be something to be said for postal facilities and facilities for things like cables and telegrams, but Government subsidies to news agencies, even for sending news abroad, might be very dangerous, because it might lead the agencies to think that they were under obligations to the Government. There is something to be said for improving British Embassies abroad. In a number of cases, the British Embassy in a foreign country is a sort of island on its own, very much cut off from the life of the country. It ought to be the duty of an Ambassador and his staff to meet all the people they can in those countries, of all types and opinions. Moreover, though they ought not to be politicians in the party sense, they ought to be familiar with political opinion at home: not only Government opinion, but opposition opinion as well; so that they can fully and intelligently interpret British thought to those countries.

I wish that Ministers, in their speeches on foreign affairs, would remember that those speeches may be read, not only by Governments abroad, but by the peoples abroad. We are having a good deal of discussion between this and that personality—the Foreign Secretary and the Italian Ambassador, for instance. Lord Halifax goes to Germany. I will not say whether that is right or wrong. It may be that it was a very good thing. Nobody knows what has happened; whether it was any good or not; it has all been secret. Our Ministers ought to be delivering the kind of speeches which are calculated not merely to strike an answering chord in the heart of some dictator, but to convince the people of Germany and Italy that this country wants to do the right thing. That is the really fundamental need. I know that the dictators have to be dealt with, but in the long run it is the peoples of countries that matter. If we can get the peoples of those countries to feel that we are anxious to give them a square deal, let them draw the inference, which Ministers cannot utter, that somebody else must be standing between them and the justice which we want to do to the other peoples of the world.

As far as I can see, the Government want to be very pleasant to Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini. Up to a point, I know that Ministers have to be very careful in dealing with those gentlemen, but it should be remembered that there are still the German people and the Italian people, who are really much the same kind of people as we are, and that it is getting our voice to them that matters. Above all, we need a clear, upright and intelligible foreign policy that everybody can understand. That is terribly important if British influence is to be aroused and made strong. We must all do our best to make British democracy work, to prove that it is the best system, to get results from its workings, because if the people abroad see, as sooner or later they will be in a position to, that the British representative system is working here and producing good results for the people of our country, that clear and enlightened policies are being sought for here, that will have the best effect. It is worth more than all the subsidised propaganda, doctored films and controlled newspapers of the dictator countries. So while, up to a point, the means which have been suggested for getting information to foreign peoples are good, the fundamental thing in the end is for the British people to earn a reputation for clearness of policy, upright dealing and efficient and good government. That will get us the highest name among the peoples of the world.

6.52 p.m.

Mr. Keeling

The House must have been very much struck by the unusual and quite refreshing display of unanimity which is being shown on this subject. I shall have a proposal to make in a few moments, which, I hope, will commend itself to the House, for registering a unanimous expression of opinion on this matter. But, before I do so, I would like to refer again to a matter which has been only briefly touched upon in the Debate—the first regular broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation in a foreign language, namely, Arabic. I am sorry that I am following, and not preceding, my Noble Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, because during his service with Lawrence he must have got to know the Arabs very well, and I should have liked to hear his comments on what I am going to say. I have obtained from the British Broadcasting Corporation—and I take this opportunity of thanking them—copies of the news broadcasts which have been sent out by them in Arabic. I have read them in English, and I have not found a single fact twisted, or a single syllable which is either anti-Italian or even pro-British. This shows that, whatever other nations may do, we have no intention of entering into an international slanging match. A French newspaper made the suggestion the other day that a new decoration should be created, called the Order of Without Hatred. The British Broadcasting Corporation have certainly earned that decoration, and I wish that certain English newspapers which specialise in inflaming public opinion against Italy would try to earn it. But I add this. If any nation outside France has good justification for broadcasting in Arabic, it is England, with her close alliances with Egypt and Iraq, and her mandates for Palestine and Transjordan. We certainly have more excuse for broadcasting in Arabic than Italy for broadcasting, as she does, in Hindustani.

In introducing the series of Arabic broadcasts, Sir John Reith stated that the object was to strengthen the understanding between this country and the Arabic-speaking nations. If that is to be achieved there are two obvious essentials. The first is that the broadcast must reach the Arabs, and the second is that it shall be sufficiently interesting for them to tune in and remain tuned in. In spite of what my Noble Friend has said, I do not consider that the British Broadcasting Corporation have yet achieved either of these objects. The broadcasts, according to my information, are not reaching the Arabs. The problem can be very simply stated. I believe that there are about 60,000 wireless sets in the hands of Arabic-speaking people in Egypt, 4,000 in the hands of Arabic-speaking people in Palestine, and about the same number in the hands of Arabic-speaking persons in Iraq. In addition, there is, at any rate in Egypt, in every café, barber's shop and grocer's shop a wireless instrument. Now, the Arabic broadcasts from Daventry are sent out only on the short wave, and very few of the instruments in Egypt, and only a minority in Palestine, are capable of receiving short-wave broadcasts. If there were a broadcast on the medium wave, everybody in those countries could listen to it. There is no doubt about that: I have frequently listened in, both in Egypt and in Palestine, and heard the British National or Regional programme coming over well. We were told the other day by the Colonial Secretary that people who have only a medium-wave set can listen in to Palestine; but the Palestine radio is regarded as Jewish, and the Arabs will have very little to do with it. If the Palestine radio were a satisfactory substitute for Daventry, why spend money on Daventry?

I contend, therefore, that it is most desirable that the broadcast should be on the medium wave. It might mean cutting out one of the English programmes for half an hour or so, but we must pay that price if we are to make the Arabic broadcasts a success. A broadcast on the medium wave would, moreover, reach not only the Arabs in the Arabic-speaking countries, but many thousands of Arabs in England and France. There are at least 1,000 Egyptian students in London, and I am told there are at least 100,000 Arabs in Paris. If these people want to listen to our Arabic broadcast on the short wave they cannot do so, whatever their set. There was a complaint in the "Daily Telegraph" the other day on this point, from an Arab in London. Of course, all the difficulties about the length of wave would disappear if there was a medium-wave broadcasting station set up in Cyprus, but that would cost a lot of money.

My second criticism of the Arabic broadcasts is that they are not sufficiently interesting. Sir John Reith said that their strength would lie in their reliability and accuracy, but he omitted another essential, namely, that they should have drawing power. If the Arab is not interested he can, without being impolite—and no Arab would be impolite—merely turn off the station. Do not let us forget that the Daventry broadcast is in competition in Egypt with the Cairo radio, which is an excellent service, and in Palestine not only with Cairo but with the Bari radio which, for obvious reasons, is popular in Palestine. It is therefore important to make the news attractive. There ought to be more news about the Arab countries and less about Europe. The Arab is not interested in knowing that France has had 41 Cabinets since the War, though he might be interested to hear that the French contemplate some change in their policy in the Near East. I should like to know who is responsible for selecting the news which goes over. Has he lived for a long time in Arabic-speaking countries or has he simply a superficial knowledge of those countries? The Spaniards have a proverb that one should not speak Arabic in the house of a Moor. Whoever controls these broadcasts should have a real insight into the Arab mind.

There should be more talks as distinct from news. I understand that since the service began six weeks ago, there have only been eight talks, apart from a few talks relayed from Cairo. These talks should be on non-political subjects. A wide range of topics is available. There could be descriptions by Arabs in England of life in English homes. There could be an appreciation of the Arab horse, explaining why it is so admired in England. There could be an account of the two Egyptian ships now being built in England; a description of the cotton market here; and talks about famous English travellers in Arabia, such as Burton and Doughty. There could be a descriptive account of the work of the School of Oriental Studies, and talks about the popularity of the Arabian Nights in this country, and the influence of Arabia on European literature, art and music. On the other hand it is futile to talk to the Arabs about subjects on which they already know everything. One of the talks sent over by the B.B.C. was on the pilgrimage to Mecca. That is like carrying coals to Newcastle or, to use an Arab proverb, it is like selling water in the water carriers' own quarter.

The B.B.C. began very badly indeed with their music, because they sent over almost exclusively European music, for which the Arab has no more liking than we have for Arab music. I am glad to say that that mistake has been put right and that Arab music is now broadcast. My last criticism is that nearly all the broadcasting is, I understand, done by Egyptian Arabs, who give out Egyptian newspaper Arabic, just as the Cairo radio does. As ray Noble Friend is well aware, the phrasing and vocabulary of Egyptian Arabic differ from Palestinian and Iraqi Arabic, and I suggest that if persons who speak Palestinian and Iraqi Arabic are available in this country they should have a share of the broadcasting. I have felt it necessary to make these criticisms of the B.B.C., and I hope they are constructive. But I echo the tribute which my Noble Friend had paid to the B.B.C. for being true to their lifelong policy of honesty and impartiality, and I am certain that in the broadcasts that are to be made in other foreign languages this policy will be continued.

With regard to the Motion, I have indicated that I have a suggestion to make. We have in this House to-day shown great unanimity. Why should we not display that unanimity to the world by passing a unanimous Resolution? Why not combine the Motion and the Amendment? A very good point was made by an hon. Member opposite when he said that the Motion omits, while the Amendment clearly emphasises, the fact that we do not believe in retaliation. The suggestion that I have to make is that the Amendment should be spatchcocked in so that the complete Motion would read as follows: That, having regard to the increasing activity of certain foreign Governments in the field of propaganda, political and cultural, by means of the Press, broadcasting and films, and being of opinion that the evil effects of State propaganda of a tendentious or misleading character can best be countered, not by retaliation, but by the widespread dissemination of straightforward information and news based upon an enlightened and honest public policy, this House urges the Government to give the full weight of its moral and financial support to schemes to further the wider and more effective presentation of British news, views and culture abroad. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley (Mr. Lees-Jones) tells me that he would accept that arrangement, and if it commends itself to the hon. Members who were responsible for the Amendment, and to the House generally, I should very much like, when the time comes, to move that Motion.

7.9 p.m.

Miss Rathbone

From the very early hour at which the Noble Lord wound up the Debate, I assume that he considered that this subject had been sufficiently discussed some two hours ago. That seems to me a little unfair, both to the importance of the subject and the private Members whose opportunities of discussing these topics are so limited.

Earl Winterton

On the contrary. I adopted the method I did only because a large number of questions had been put to me, and by arrangement with hon. Members opposite and on this side I thought it only fair to the House to give them the information for which they asked. There was no question of winding up the Debate.

Miss Rathbone

The Noble Lord will recognise that it takes the stuffing out of a debate when the Ministerial reply is given when only half the speeches have been delivered. However, the Noble Lord was within his right, and I am not complaining. I am apologising for prolonging the Debate. I want to draw attention to an aspect of the subject which has hardly been touched upon. With nearly everything that has been said I have been in agreement. I have hardly ever attended a debate where there was so much unanimity of opinion on all sides. I have been, however, struck by two facts; first, the general assumption that the evil of uncounteracted foreign propaganda has been an evil only to ourselves, an evil to British prestige and interests and, secondly, the assumption that the main incidence of that foreign propaganda has consisted in direct propaganda in the form of grossly unfair, tendentious and vituperative broadcasts, and in the brochures and literature which have been disseminated. It seems to me that both those assumptions underrate the very serious significance of this whole problem.

To my mind the worst feature of the Nazi and Fascist propaganda—why not speak frankly and name the countries of origin—is not only that it misrepresents ourselves to the foreign countries where it is indulged in, but that it is doing terrific harm in those foreign countries, especially those whose civilisation is of a rather less matured type in some respects than our own, and who are feeling their way as independent nations. Perhaps I can bring my point home best if I give two instances of countries which I visited not long ago, where I observed things for myself. About four years ago I visited Palestine and Cairo. That was about a year before the Abyssinian adventure of Italy had begun, or had been talked about, although we all recognise that it had been prepared for by Italy for a considerable time. It came as a complete surprise to me when I was beset in Cairo with complaints from some of my own graduate constituents who happened to be teachers or doctors in the service of the Egyptian Government. What they said was confirmed completely by British officials themselves as to the immense pervasiveness of the propaganda that was being carried on by Germany, France and, above all, by Italy.

What they complained of were not the broadcasts—the famous broadcasts from Bari had not begun—but the enormous sums of money that the Italians were spending on objects which, in themselves, were apparently innocent, especially scholarships and lectureships in Cairo, financed by Italian money. The best Italian lecturers were sent to lecture on Italian culture and art, all for the purpose of drawing young Egyptians towards Italy. Schools were established, supported by Italian money. I think the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) referred to the magnificent Italian school at Alexandria. Hospitals were also established. Enormous sums of money were being spent by the Italians, to say nothing of the money that was being spent by France and Germany. My attention was drawn to the fact that in that way all the young Egyptians were being gradually brought up to look to these foreign countries not only for the material help that was given by them for educational and humanitarian purposes, but they were looking to them for their political ideals and their examples of what a young country ought to strive for. At the same time, it was pointed out to us how we were leaving the whole field to these other countries, although at that time Egypt was a country where we had had special rights and claims. One quite small aspect of the question, not altogether unimportant, is that whereas these foreign countries choose their best lecturers and teachers and second them to go out to Egypt and take service under the Egyptian Government, the English people had to go out there at their own risk and disadvantage. They lost step in the hierarchy at home and the years they spent in Egypt did not count for superannuation. That, I believe, has been put right, though I am not quite so sure to what extent. But also they lost the chance of promotion. The years they spent in Egypt were regarded as dead years. As a result I was told that whereas Egypt was getting the very best French, German and, above all, Italian teachers, it was getting relatively a very second-class quality of British teacher.

Take the case of two other countries, Yugoslavia and Rumania, which I visited about a year ago. I find it very difficult to speak critically of two countries where I met with the greatest hospitality and cordial friendship. They have an old civilisation and a magnificent peasant art, and are a delightful people in many ways. But we have to face the facts. Those who have been reading the papers lately will have realised what is happening in Rumania alone. There is an open military dictatorship following upon a terrible drive of anti-Semitic legislation and persecution. When we were there a year ago all that was coming. It has brought with it all the worst features of Nazi and Fascist ideology.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady cannot go into these questions on this Debate.

Miss Rathbone

I am not going to dwell upon them. I am referring to them only for the purpose of illustrating my point. I submit that they are really relevant to the subject. The point I am making is that Nazi and Fascist propaganda is carried on in these countries to an extent, and at an expense, and with a subtlety and perseverance of which we can get no idea at all simply by talking about broadcasts and brochures. These methods are like tentacles which are penetrating into every department of life. All the educational and humanitarian activities are simply pervaded by Nazi and Fascist young men and women who are sent out there for the purpose. For example, there is a rule in the universities of Rumania that nobody shall remain in the university hostels—the universities are far more directly under the State than they are here—for more than a certain time unless they are taking university examinations at fixed periods. It has become the established custom that the young Germans who come over shall remain for far longer periods, so that every student who goes to the university becomes thoroughly pervaded with Nazi propaganda. It is not only the bad aspects of Nazi and Fascist ideology that is put before these people, but also the good aspects in the way of an appeal to patriotism, love of the Fatherland and religion.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady is now introducing subjects which are not in order on the Motion which we are now discussing. She is talking about foreign questions on their merits and policies in other countries which have nothing to do with this Debate.

Miss Rathbone

I must have, indeed, failed to make myself clear if what I said did not appear to be relevant to the purpose of the Debate. The point I am trying to make is that Fascist propaganda is not only injurious to us if it attacks us, but it is injurious to the country where it is carried on, and that we are allowing it to be carried on without doing anything to speak of to counteract it by carrying across to those countries our own better ideals of democracy, progress and freedom. Is not that relevant?

Mr. Speaker

That is, but the other was not.

Miss Rathbone

The other would have led on to this. I do not want to detain the House by saying anything that is irrelevant, but merely to bring home the terrible responsibility which rests upon us—not only a responsibility for the harm done to ourselves by propaganda which we do not counteract, but harm done to countries for which we have some responsibilities. They are countries set up by ourselves as a result of the Peace Treaty. We have a responsibility to minorities who are ill-treated, yet are doing nothing to bring home the reasons, ideals and principles which make us refrain from cruelly treating people because they are of a different race or religion from ourselves. I suggest that, if we are to carry across our true, beautiful and real ideals of democracy, peace and order, we shall not do it merely by having a few B.B.C. broadcasts and good news bulletins. All that is very good, but we need something which will be very much more elaborate, and it will have to be very much more carefully planned. The Noble Lord spoke of the admirable work of the British Council. That is on right lines and it is educational work, but upon what an infinitesimal scale! As the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) said, £60,000 a year is spent to carry across to the world British culture and British ideals as against £1,000,000 per annum in the budgets of Germany, Italy and France. How can you really counteract so much by so little?

Earl Winterton

It is not the only method. There are many other activities—the promise of exhibitions and things of that kind.

Miss Rathbone

This is not the only example, but everything which is done by them, and everything else, is a drop in the ocean as compared with what Fascist countries are doing. They are getting it across and we are not. It is pathetic to see the people who are on the side of liberty and in the peace movement of these countries. It is like the cry: Sister Ann, Sister Ann, is nobody coming? They are ready to clutch any friendly hand held out to them from this country and other democracies. I suggest that the Vansittart Committee should not only investigate what is being done by the British Council and kindred bodies, but should enter at once upon plans for an extensive and carefully planned campaign of educational work by getting our books in far greater numbers into these countries, and by sending teachers who shall not merely give a couple of lectures and a concert or two. I speak as a representative of universities when I say that they should get into touch with the universities in this country and ask them for their co-operation. Teachers and lecturers should go and settle in those countries for a number of years and give courses of lectures and instruction, not so much in our literature and art, of which the Noble Lord spoke, but, above all, in the things which are peculiar to ourselves and which other countries ought to be learning from us, such as democratic ideals, sociological conditions, and industrial history. After all, are we not the first great Parliamentary democracy? That is our great contribution to the culture of the world. We have great art, drama and all the rest of it, but there is one thing we have which other countries have not, and that is our forms of democracy, our traditions of liberty, and our methods of ordered progress. Ours is the one country in the world that has not had a revolution for two and a-half centuries, and has never been defeated in war for about the same period. These are the secrets which foreign countries want to learn from us. We have a great opportunity, if we would only seize it, of making our true and beautiful song of liberty as frequently and as well heard as the hideous din of the Nazis and the Fascists. But until the Government have the courage to open their pockets instead of dribbling out a miserable £50,000 a year, we shall never be able to do the thing upon the scale upon which it ought to be done not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of those who have learnt the lessons of democracy at our knees, and whose constitutions after the War were professedly founded upon our Constitution, but who are following false ideals because they are not given the opportunity of seeing and learning what our true ideals are like.

Mr. Watkins

In view of the suggestion by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Keeling) that the point of my Amendment might be met by amending the Motion differently, I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Keeling

I beg to move, in line 3, after the word "House," to insert: being of opinion that the evil effects of State propaganda of a tendentious or misleading character can best be countered, not by retaliation, but by the widespread dissemination of straightforward information and news based upon an enlightened and honest public policy.

Question, "That those words be their inserted," put, and agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That, having regard to the increasing activity of certain foreign Governments in the field of propaganda, political and cultural, by means of the Press, broadcasting, and films, this House being of opinion that the evil effects of State propaganda of a tendentious or misleading character can best be countered, not by retaliation, but by the widespread dissemination of straightforward information and news based upon an enlightened and honest public policy, urges the Government to give the full weight of its moral and financial support to schemes to further the wider and more effective presentation of British news, views, and culture abroad.