Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £87,810, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Overseas Trade, including Grants in Aid of the Imperial Institute and the Travel and Industrial Development Association of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ 11.50 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)
The two large sums composing the Estimate will be found referred to on page 18—£35,700 in respect of the Exhibition in Paris and £56,500 in respect of the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. Both sums are required owing to unforeseen increases of expenditure. If the Committee would like me to answer any particular questions on these matters, I shall be glad to do so.
§ Mr. Hudson
The total cost of the Paris Exhibition was expected to amount to the gross sum of £105,380, showing an excess of £29,730.
§ Mr. Hudson
No. The international sporting exhibition at Berlin was held as a result of a recommendation by our Ambassador at Berlin that it would tend to improve relations. I understand that a great deal of the work was done by the "Field" newspaper and that no charge was made by them in respect of their services.
May we have some explanation of the item relating to the Glasgow Exhibition? We generally supposed that a very efficient committee had been set up to advise the various Departments as to the necessity for this exhibition. In view of the nearness of the event, may we have some explanation why the committee were so far out in their estimates?
§ Mr. Hudson
The answer to the last point is that the Government had contemplated a display upon a very much smaller scale. Very largely as a result of our experience at the Paris Exhibition, it was decided to enlarge the scope of the pavilion, and the cost was consequently raised by the sum for which I now ask.
Is this the increased cost of a bigger pavilion or the cost of an enlarged Army and Air Force pavilion where recruiting facilities are provided for? Whereabouts in the exhibition have the Government made the mistake and have now decided to be more generous? Is it in the Amusement Park?
§ Mr. Benn
This seems to be the proper occasion on which to say something of the Paris Exhibition. I do not know how many hon. Gentlemen had the misfortune to visit it; if so, they must have found the British Pavilion a complete joke. The building itself was only a cardboard box with drawings of cave-men on the outside. Inside were some excellent books and excellent glass, but the whole effect made the thing look like a bargain basement in a store. That is a moderate statement. There were displays relating to hunting, shooting and fishing, one or two people in plus fours, a lady in an ill-fitting riding habit, 52 cricket bats, a large number of paper aeroplanes and a farm cart. Was all that a contribution 2048 to our national prestige? And £100,000 is what it is to cost us. It was a great misfortune, because other pavilions at the exhibition were very imaginative and externally were very beautiful. The Egyptian Pavilion and, of course, as regards the great Soviet and German pavilions, the former was the better outside, but the German was the better inside. All that we had to exhibit were 52 cricket bats. I forgot to mention that there was a gigantic photograph of the Prime Minister, with a fishing rod in his hand, but but nothing on the end of the line. A friend of mine overheard some French people who were discussing what these pieces of wood were. The wife said to the husband, "What are those bits of wood?" He replied, confidentially, "My dear, they are batons for dealing with the strikers in England." I believe the right hon. Gentleman disavows all responsibility for the design of this pavilion and for its contents, and we will leave it at that, but I feel that some public mention ought to be made of the appalling effect it produced on those who visited the exhibition.
The most interesting thing about this Estimate is this item for a sporting exhibition in Berlin. On 11th November last a notice was issued by the Privy Council Office informing us that, by invitation of the Editor of the "Field," who was the main exhibitor, as explained by the right hon. Gentleman, the Lord President of the Council was to visit Berlin, presumably, said this notice, in his capacity of Master of Hounds. So that this in fact is the one opportunity, if the Committee of Supply does its proper work, of examining the only financial provision which we have made for the visit of Lord Halifax to Berlin. On that, I am quite clear because the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when asked on the Friday following about this notice, curious as coming from so august a body as the Privy Council, came down to the House and explained that the purpose of the Halifax journey was in order that he should visit the hunting exhibition. Therefore it is worth a little discussion, this Halifax-Berlin visit, under this Vote.
On 17th November Lord Halifax arrived in Berlin and went to the sporting exhibition, for which we are now asked to vote £2,500, and he saw a great many heads of animals, and, in addition, we are told by the "Times," he saw a map of the lost German Colonies, prominently 2049 displayed. The day that Lord Halifax selected for a visit to this exhibition was what is called by the German Protestants Busztag. Buszen means to make amends or to pay for or to restore. On this Busztag, therefore, the Lord President inspected this map of the lost German Colonies. On the next day, 18th November, he paid a second visit to the exhibition, when he was accompanied by an Oberstjägermeister. Then he returned to London. He explained it all to a meeting of the Anglo-German Society, at which the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was present. He said:He had had the pleasure of paying a visit to Berlin for the purpose, he would remind them, of visiting the great hunting exhibition.He made some report on this to his colleagues, which was referred to by the late Foreign Secretary and apparently caused a sharp division of opinion in the Cabinet, and led to other events, which it would not be in order for me to refer more closely.
§ The Chairman
I was hoping that the right hon. Gentleman was going to get to something that would be in order. I must remind him that there is nothing in this Estimate in any way connected with the visit of Lord Halifax.
§ Mr. Benn
In that case, I will come to the nature of the exhibition itself. This was an exhibition of jungle life. It showed us a tract in which there was no moral law. It showed specimens of great animals bearing the semblance of human beings, but with no sense of the realities of justice. It showed us smaller creatures who were unprotected by the greater creatures, but who, as the Prime Minister said quite frankly, in another connection recently, were compelled to seek what friends they could. They were toadies of the great creatures, adding to 2050 their strength and force. It showed us the heads of the great animals, red in tooth and claw, who relied on their own strength. It showed us the jungle, which in its constant conflict, forced the standard of living so very low. In the end the exhibition showed, most remarkable of all, the heads of the animals which, relying on force alone, had met their end.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £87,810, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of Overseas Trade, including Grants-in-Aid of the Imperial Institute and the Travel and Industrial Development Association of Great Britain and Ireland.