HC Deb 28 July 1939 vol 350 cc1831-52

Considered in Committee.

[Sir DENNIS HERBERT in the Chair.]




Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding, £40,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for the salaries and expenses of the office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and subordinate offices, liquidation expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary, contributions towards the expenses of Probation and preparation of plans for a Ministry of Information.

11.10 a.m.

Mr. Herbert Morrison

I understand that it is the intention that the Secretary of State should make a statement with regard to the projected Ministry of Information and foreign publicity, and that the Estimates on the Paper which are related to this work will include Supplementary Estimates for the Home Office, the Foreign Office and Diplomatic and Consular Services so far as they relate to plans for a Ministry of Information and for foreign publicity. I understand, of course, that foreign publicity includes the existing foreign news work of the Foreign Office. I should like to ask you. Sir Dennis, if you would be so good as to permit the relative Estimates to be before the Committee at the same moment, so that the Debate may not be unduly confined.

The Chairman

I think there is no doubt that the Committee in this case will assent to the course suggested, but I should, as I have done before, remind the Committee that it is only in special circumstances that the Chairman is justified in allowing several Votes relating to different Departments to be discussed together. In this case the three Departments are all concerned with the matters referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, foreign publicity and the proposed Ministry of Information, and I take it that the Committee will assent to the course proposed on the understanding that we do not go outside the Vote which has been read from the Chair except in regard to those matters of foreign publicity and a Ministry of Information.

11.12 a.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I am much obliged to you, Sir Dennis, for your Ruling. I think every hon. Member will see its wisdom. When we come to have the Debate it will be found that the subjects are inextricably connected, and that they must be discussed together. These services being new services, the Committee will wish to have a general debate on them, and will wish also, to have answers to certain questions with which I am now going to deal. The first question, I imagine, that may occur to any curious Member is why the Home Secretary should be introducing this Vote at all—a Vote which affects, not only war-time publicity, but Foreign Office publicity in peace time. It may well be asked why the Home Secretary should be responsible for either the one or the other. Since I have been at the Home Office, I have found the truth of what was once said of the Home Secretary, namely, that he was the residuary legatee of the rest of the Government, and that any job that was not specifically undertaken by another Department was put upon his tottering shoulders. The result is that, so far as the Ministry of Information is concerned, which, as I shall show, is a shadow department only to function in war-time, there can be no one of the existing Departments whose responsibility is connected with work of that kind, and so it came about that a short time ago, as it was nobody else's business, the Prime Minister asked me to look into the questions connected with the organisation of this war-time department and to give my advice upon it. Accordingly, I made a series of very careful inquiries into the problems connected with a war-time Ministry of Information, and the result is the Vote today. It does not necessarily follow that, supposing there were a war and that the war-time Ministry were set up, the Home Secretary would be responsible. Indeed it is probable, as I shall show in the course of my speech, that there would be a special Minister of Information with direct responsibility to Parliament for the work of the Ministry.

Having made that general excuse to the Committee for my presence at the Box this morning, let me now come to the Ministry of Information, and the objective that the Foreign Office has in mind in its publicity department. What we are trying to do is to extend British culture abroad and to explain British policy abroad in peace-time. Secondly, we are attempting to organise in peace-time a shadow Ministry of Information that will have no operation or activity in peace-time but, if war came, would be the centre of information both for home and overseas. Hon. Members will see that these two objectives—the peace-time activities of the Foreign Office and the war-time activities of the Ministry of Information—are very closely connected. In any planning it is essential that the transition from the peace-time conditions to the war-time conditions should be made as easy and as efficient as possible. In the event of war the Ministry of Information, as I see it, would become the centre of information, and the Foreign Office activities would be taken over by it. In those circumstances, it is essential that in peace-time there should be the closest possible liaison between the two activities. That is the reason why we have designated the same official to be the secretary and chief official in the publicity department in peacetime and the Secretary-general of the Ministry of Information in war-time.

Carrying the matter a step further, I think hon. Members will see that, while there is this very close liaison between the two activities, there are, none the less, two very definite differences between the work of the Foreign Office in peace-time and the work of the shadow Ministry of Information in war-time. The first great difference is that the Foreign Office is actually working here and now, in peacetime, whereas there is no intention at all of the Ministry of Information operating in peace-time. I emphasise that, because I know there have been suspicions lest, under the shadow of a war-time Ministry of Information, we were creating, shall I say, a "dope machine" for peace-time, and lest behind this shadow war-time Ministry, we were setting up an organisation that might be used by an unscrupulous Government—not, of course, this one, but possibly a Government of hon. and right hon. Gentle- men opposite—for purposes other than we have in mind, aiming at such objectives as a Press censorship and control of information in the country. Let me say here and now that that is not the purpose of this Ministry. We have no intention whatever that the Ministry of Information should operate at all in peacetime. I, myself, am strongly opposed to the operation of any Ministry of Information in peace-time. I am strongly opposed to activities of that kind; they are much too like the kind of dope factories that one sees in other places. However carefully they are used, I am sure they would be a danger to the expression of public opinion in this country. Therefore, this Government is not going to have any Ministry of Information that will operate until an emergency comes.

The second difference between these peace-time and war-time activities is that the peace-time activities are essentially for the foreign front: they do not deal with the home front at all; whereas, to take the experience of the last War, the greater part of the activities of the then Ministry of Information were on the home front. As, in times of peace, the sole activities of a Publicity Department of the Foreign Office are on the foreign front, it is obvious that the Foreign Secretary must be the Minister exclusively responsible for those activities. On that account, my right hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State, who is himself taking a very close and personal interest in these activities at the Foreign Office, is here to-day to deal with the matters that are the responsibility of the Foreign Office. I will say a word about them generally, but I will leave it to my right hon. Friend to deal with them in detail. I think every hon. Member will agree that these peace-time activities must be the responsibility of the Foreign Office.

Let me pass from these general observations to the actual Votes. I will begin by repeating what is our objective. It is to diffuse British culture abroad and to explain the British outlook abroad. Both of these needs are very urgent, in view of the great mass of misrepresentation with which the world has been flooded. I wish that there had been no necessity for any Government publicity anywhere in the world. I still look forward to living long enough to see an end of this objectionable relic of the years of the War, but, as long as unscrupulous statements are diffused about our policy and our general outlook, it is regrettably inevitable that we should have an organisation capable of countering them, and countering them effectively. It is important also, it seems to me, to explain to the world what, in my view, is the greatest experiment in constitutional development which the world has ever seen, namely, the British Commonwealth of free nations.

Lastly, it is necessary to give the world an accurate picture of what we are actually achieving here at the present time. I claim that it is a very remarkable thing that here in recent times, as the result of a nation-wide effort, we have been going on step by step with our great rearmament programme and at the same time have not had to abandon our social progress, nor have we, except for this very rare instance of the terrorist emergency, had to relinquish any of our individual liberties. That is a very fine record. It is a record that it is our duty to tell definitely, dispassionately, and without exaggeration to the whole world. These being our objectives. I invite the Committee to look at the actual details of the work that is being done to achieve them.

I begin with the Foreign Office. The first sum for which we ask authority to-day is a sum of £10,000 for increased staff for the Foreign Office Publicity Department. That is a need that is very essential to be worked. The Foreign Office Publicity Department has been heavily overworked in recent months. It has been criticised, I know, from time to time, and I should like to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the work that it has done in the past with an inadequate staff and under very great difficulties. This addition to the staff will help it to extend and to improve its activities. There is a sum of £100,000 for various publicity activities— the preparation of literature, films, the arrangement of foreign visits to this country and of British visits to foreign countries—both of them very important for extending knowledge of the British outlook—and the preparation of exhibitions. I should like to say, in passing, that from all accounts I hear, the news record film of British activities in the New York Exhibition was of great value and drew to it very large numbers of spectators. There are also preparations for speakers and increased activities for broadcasting.

Next there is an additional sum of £150,000 for the British Council. Every hon. Member realises the value of the work of the British Council, which has been presided over so actively and energetically by Lord Lloyd in the last 12 or 18 months. In fact, it has been so successful that its activities must be extended. The object of all these activities is, as I say, to give a picture of this country to the outside world that is intelligible, convincing and definite, so that the world may know that there is a distinctly British point of view, and that it must be explained to the world at large.

Lastly, I turn from the Foreign Office activities to the Vote for the Ministry of Information, and here in a sentence or two let me tell the Committee why it is that we require money now for an organisation which will operate only in war time. First of all, we need the staff for the planning of this Ministry. If hon. Members will turn their minds back to the history of the Ministry of Information in war time they will remember that it became a very big and comprehensive department covering a very wide field, and engaged in activities of many different kinds, and it is obvious to me that if there were a major war, an organisation upon much the same lines would be necessary —an organisation of great scope with a large and comprehensive personnel. If that is so, it is obvious that a war time Ministry needs a great deal of very careful planning, and accordingly we have had in recent months a number of Civil servants seconded for full time for the planning of this work. Indeed, we shall want more of them before our plans are complete. These officials are whole time officials, and they are Civil servants seconded from other Departments for this work.

Secondly, it is vitally important that we should make many contacts with the outside world, to make sure that, if the emergency came, we should be able to enlist to our aid men and women of many opinions, some of them experts in publicity of various kinds, with whose help we could create the kind of Ministry of Information that would be needed both for the foreign arid home fronts. We have during the last few months made many contacts with the outside world. We have also engaged a number of experts to make specific inquiries. For instance, there has been a number of experts making detailed preparations for contacts in foreign countries, and, as far as the home front is concerned, we have made contacts with the representatives of the principal organs of publicity. For instance, with the Press. I have been in constant contact with representatives of the Press, and at their suggestion they have set up a contact committee which has been dealing with me and other departments upon a number of technical questions, including the question of newsprint in war time, the question of distribution and the question of labour. And I think that I can tell hon. Members that we have made great progress with our discussions, and we have now, speaking generally, reached a basis of agreement that, if the emergency did come, the Press side of the organisation would be able to operate quickly and efficiently.

Sir Richard Acland

The use of the word "emergency" is used by the Minister in this Debate as meaning war. There might be a distinction raised between emergency in peace time and war.

Sir S. Hoare

I mean actual war. This is a war time organisation, and it will have to be set up as a formal body by war time legislation, presumably carried in the early days of the war.

To come back to the question of contacts. I have given the Press as an illustration. I have had a number of discussions with the representatives of the Press on the very important question of Press censorship in war time, and I have taken the view that in all this planning we ought to take very full account of the lessons that we learned from the Ministry of Information between1914 and 1918. As a matter of fact, I am receiving very valuable assistance from the gentleman who was Secretary of the Department at that time. It seems to me that one of the lessons that we ought to learn is the danger of having a Press censorship detached from the Ministry, operating in some isolated position outside, and that it is much better, if there is to be a Press censorship, as quite obviously there must be, that it should be worked as part of the Ministry of Information and should be worked upon the basis of co-operation between the Press and the Censorship Department in the Ministry of Information. Accordingly, we are working out with the Press—and we have gone a long way towards reaching an agreement in the matter—a plan of co-operation which, while it would maintain the ultimate control and security in the hands of the Minister of Information, would put definite responsibility upon the Press and, as far as possible, leave the Press with considerable latitude in dealing with Press affairs, whilst he would intervene only in questions of emergency, or stem an individual newspaper which was abusing these powers of latitude.

As with other organs of publicity, so also with the films. We have many contacts with the representatives of the film world. I do not want to be drawn into details to-day upon what the preparations are that we have made, but I can tell hon. Members that those preparations are very far advanced to ensure supply of the kind of film that would be needed in war time. A third organ of publicity is the wireless. The plan would be not that the Government would take over the B.B.C. in war time, but, on the whole, the wise course would be to treat broadcasting as we treat the other methods of publicity, the Press and the films, and to leave the B.B.C. to carry on, but, obviously, in war time, with a very close liaison between the Ministry of Information and the Broadcasting Corporation, with definite regulations as to how the work should be carried on. That is our general attitude towards broadcasting.

Lastly, we are very anxious that the greatest possible use should be made in war time of extra-governmental organisations. Let me give the Committee an example of what is in my mind. For the purposes of publicity on the home front there are few better organisations than the organisations of the great parties. We are making plans not only for having a central Ministry of Information, but to have attached to the regional commissioners in the various parts of the country an information official of the Central Ministry, who would be responsible under the Ministry for regional publicity. I think the Committee will see that it is very necessary to have a regional organisation of this kind. It might be in war time that some part of the country was cut off from the centre of government. It is, therefore, essential that the regions should be self-contained, and that there should be a machine that can carry on with the diffusion of news and the kind of publicity that would keep up the morale of the district.

I am not giving away any confidences when I say that I have approached the party leaders to ask whether they would allow their representatives to help me in planning this form of co-operation between the party organisations for these purposes of regional publicity. There is another way in which the party organisations could help me, and that is in the matter of speeches at meetings. We have not the least desire to do anything to suppress the expression of public opinion, or criticism of the Government of the day, or to prevent the gathering together of people in war time, with this sole reservation, that, in the early days of a war, for purposes of air-raid precautions and for any other purposes of Civil Defence it might be wise to prohibit gatherings of people. It would only be done on the ground of the safety of human life and would not be in any way for the suppression of free opinion. It might be necessary to close the cinemas if a series of big air raids was taking place, and so also prohibit public meetings. With that one reservation we should contemplate that there would be public meetings, as happened between 1914 and 1918, and for that purpose the party organisations would be invaluable to the Ministry. Here, again, I have asked the leaders of parties if they would delegate their representatives to discuss with the representatives of the Ministry a way of organising this side of the publicity of the Department.

I hope I have said enough to show that we are trying to build up a comprehensive and efficient machine that would be able to work as soon as war came upon us, and I hope the Committee will think that in planning this organisation I have been very careful not to do anything in the nature of partisan favour. I have made my contacts with people in every walk of life and every kind of opinion, and I should hope that the men and women who come into the Ministry to help the permanent officials in war time would really be a microcosm of the nation and of national life. I do not want to be drawn into greater detail as to the people with whom I have been discussing these things, but I am quite certain that we have consulted people drawn from all parties and from all shades of opinion. I think I have finished my description of the activities in which we are engaged.

Let my last words be that, however good our machine may be, the real thing that matters is the record that we have to tell. That was very much the experience in the War, and it was very much the experience of propaganda in the foreign countries. I have said something about the successful propaganda in the years of the War, but however good our machine was at that time it would have had little effect if we had not had a good record, if we were not achieving successor, at any rate, maintaining our position upon the battle front. So also in peace-time. It is essential, however good the Foreign Office machine may be, that we should have a good story to tell. It is deeds that matter much more than words, and I am glad to think, setting aside any partisan controversy or any criticisms which hon. Members opposite may make in this or that direction, that every day and every week the record we have to tell is becoming better. On that account I ask with greater confidence to-day for these sums to make it more possible for us to tell this record to the world, and to show that Great Britain and the British Commonwealth of Nations are not only the most interesting experiment the world has ever seen, are not only the centre of tolerance and humanity and fair dealing, but, what is scarcely less important at this critical moment, that they are very efficient organisations and that they have carried through their programme of Defence swiftly and effectively; that whilst they have this record of tolerance on the one hand, they also have the record of efficiency on the other.

11.47 a.m.

Mr. H. Morrison

The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of the survey he has made of the activities of the news department of the Foreign Office and the projected organisation of a possible wartime Ministry of Information, has given us an interesting survey of his proposal. He has referred to the letter which he has addressed to party leaders and which, I know, has been received by my right hon. Friend the acting-Leader of the Opposition, in which he suggests certain proposals for co-operation between political parties in time of war in this field. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it will be for the acting-Leader of the Opposition to make any communication to him and that it would be wrong and inappropriate for me to say anything about it to-day. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Government have rejected the idea of a Ministry of Information or a Ministry of Propaganda in time of peace. That decision is a right one in the circumstances of this country.

There is in the British people an aversion to Government-inspired and Government-organised propaganda which has the purpose of regimenting and controlling the public mind. I hope that will long be a characteristic of our country and our people, and I hope that, as soon as possible, it may become a characteristic of other countries and other people. Anything more humiliating or more objectionable than the sight of Governments preventing information reaching their people, controlling their minds, regulating their means of thought and, indeed, imposing severe penalties upon any thoughts which are not convenient to the Government, is not only most objectionable on political grounds but is a humiliation of the human spirit and an affront to the human intellect; it is unworthy of mankind. Although some people may take to it more readily and more kindly than others, it cannot be far distant when this objectionable machinery of propaganda control of the mind must go.

There is a certain amount of Government publicity going on. Each State Department has its publicity organisation and the money that is being spent on it is enormously greater than ever before. A Labour Government never spent the money on publicity that this Government is spending. A reasonable amount of publicity to explain to the public what the Government are doing is right, but even in that field it can be overdone, and this Committee has always the responsibility of seeing that it is publicity of what the State is doing and that it does not become publicity for individual Ministers. I think one or two have got mighty near to that. However, objections were raised and I think they are conscious that if they go too far they will have trouble with the House sooner or later.

There is another form of Government publicity—looking after the film trade. I have a strong feeling that the news reels are very carefully looked after sometimes by State Departments and sometimes by the Central Office of a political organisation. There is a gentleman named Sir Albert Clavering of whose activities 1 should like to know something more, and I shall find out more about them before I have done, and we will have a discussion upon it. But it is important that these activities should be carefully watched, and that whether it is the Press or the film industry it should be free and independent of the Government of the day and should not become the creature of Ministers or political parties. The right hon. Gentleman has referred repeatedly to the experience of 1914–18 and it is right that that experience should be drawn upon. I am glad that public officers who were concerned with that organisation are giving the right hon. Gentleman advice. We shall be wise, however, to recognise that if hostilities come the problem of information and disseminating information and views abroad, the whole problem of international debate between Governments in time of war, which will be a vital matter, will be a totally different proposition from what it was in 1914–18, and it was bad enough then.

The atrocity stories on both sides were terrible. I hesitate to believe what they will be like next time—I hope there may not be a next time—with the Nazi machine at work and the British machine running in competition with it. The whole of that extraordinary war propaganda of lies and atrocities-mongering, some of it true and much of it untrue, was humiliating to mankind. They all did it, they all lied, and they all had Divine guidance and Providence on their side. I shall never forget a poem written in wartime which had an enormous amount of truth in it, although it was not perhaps quite so reverent as it should be: God heard the embattled nations sing and shout, ' Gott strafe England,' and ' God Save the King,' God this, God that, and God the other thing, ' Good God! said God, I've got my work cut out. There was a good deal of truth in that verse. I know it will be difficult in war to keep to the meticulous truth, but I hope that we shall try to remember that if war comes people are human beings, and that the interest of our country will be best served by the truth rather than by unscrupulous stories which are not true.

I gather from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that in time of war the British Broadcasting Corporation would be in a somewhat half-and-half situation. It is obvious that in certain essential matters the Government of the day must be in a position in war time, to give the B.B.C. certain instructions or guiding principles on which it is to act, but I was very glad to hear from the Home Secretary—I hope I am not overestimating what he said—that the B.B.C. in time of war would not become a meticulously controlled automatic machine of the Government of the day. I fully agree that, within a certain sphere, it must respond to the needs of the State, in the best sense of the term, and must not conflict with those needs, but it is also important, if the mental life of our people is to be maintained, that the B.B.C. should have a measure of freedom, and that it should be expected to exercise that measure of freedom and to report, with some degree of tolerance, different opinions that might exist in the world at the time. Therefore, I gather that the Ministry of Information would be in touch with the Corporation, that there would be consultation as to the general conduct of broadcasting, but that the Corporation would not become the exclusive instrument of the Government, directly administered and organised by the Government.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the purpose of the work of the News Department of the Foreign Office now, and the purpose of the Ministry of Information" in time of war, is to diffuse British culture and explain the British outlook. I have never been clear as to what British culture or any other culture means; the word "culture" is one that I do not altogether follow in this connection and do not altogether like. The real thing that we want to do is to get other nations to know what is happening in this country, what sort of people we are, what we are doing, and the success of our public institutions and the achievements of democracy in our country. I am sure that every hon. Member in the Committee will agree that, if that is done honestly and in an upright way, it should be done. It is desirable that aggressive countries, peaceful countries, all countries, should know as much as possible about our country and our people, their friendly disposition, their desire to live in a peaceful world, and their desire to co-operate with other nations in building a world of peace and prosperity; but it is profoundly important that we should be properly boastful—perhaps that is the wrong word—that we should be properly-appreciative ourselves, and let the world know that we are so appreciative, of the constructive work of British constitutional Government; representative institutions, and British democracy. That is not being done in a lively enough spirit. It is true that the story is given out in the newspapers, that there are reports of what democratically-governed States can do; but when Signor Mussolini reclaims a marsh, there is a great story about it which goes over the whole world, when Herr Hitler opened a new motor road there is a great story that goes over the whole world, and even Herr Hitler's intention to rebuild Berlin some day has had great publicity, although the job has not properly begun.

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman —and believe me, I am not talking politics —that when the Government in this country, or a public corporation, does some really big, imaginative and comprehensive job of work, it is our business not merely to push the story as an ordinary happening and an ordinary news story, but to make the thing heroic, as indeed it is quite often, and to present it to our own people and the world as a great constructive achievement of British constitutional Government and democracy. If our local authorities, as repeatedly happens all over the country, are doing big jobs of constructive achievement, in schools, hospitals, open spaces and housing estates, let us shout about it to the world, and show the world that this work is going on consistently with democratic institutions and representative government. The dictators are giving the impression that the dictatorship system is one under which great beneficial changes can be made with speed, efficiency and alacrity. I very much doubt whether, over a period of time, those dictatorships are indeed as efficient as British democracy in constructive achievements. I doubt whether they get as much done for the social benefit of their people. Indeed, probably it is still the case that the standard of life of the German people is about the standard of life of the British unemployed on full standard benefit, and if that be the case—although I do not intend to boast excessively about the standard of life of the British unemployed or the standard of benefit—is it not well that the German people should know that the general standard of life in this country of workpeople in work, under democratic and representative government, is definitely higher than theirs, that certain improvements have been made, and that they are going on? They are nowhere near as great as we on this side would like them to be, but the right hon. Gentle man had better make the best of them, as his party does in elections. Why should they not do the same thing abroad? —although I would sooner that they were a little optimistic in their foreign propaganda and a little more accurate at home. That ought to be done. When the Government, a public corporation or a local authority does something and does it with speed and efficiency —

Mr. Bracken

As the pulling down of Waterloo Bridge.

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Member is pulling me into trouble. Leaving out the first part of the business, that is an example of what I mean. There was an election and a representative authority took office, and almost within a matter of days, it decided to settle something which it had taken somebody else 10 years to think about. The important thing is to tell the world that the British can do things with speed, efficiency and uprightness—aslong as the right people are running it. The important thing is that there should be a good, effective, proud, creditable dissemination of information as to the achievements of representative institutions in this country. If Herr Hitler opens a motor road, he makes a great noise about it. Let us make an equal noise when we do something big in the way of social improvement in our country. I am exceedingly glad that broadcasts in German have been undertaken by the British Broadcasting Corporation. The Committee may remember that I urged the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Postmaster-General to do this quite 12 months before the event took place. I think the Government were a bit apprehensive that Herr Hitler would be annoyed if such broadcasts took place. It is quite likely that he is annoyed, but on the whole, I think it is a good thing, on balance, that he should be annoyed, rather than that good work should not be done.

According to the reports which have come to all of us, the British Broadcasting Corporation's German service has been a great success. What is important about it is that, in accordance with the undertaking given by the Postmaster-General, it is not handled as propaganda, but as news, as information about events. It is true that opinions go over. Ministers make speeches which are, in appropriate cases—I hope they are appropriate cases —disseminated in the German language and some of our own speeches on this side are now being disseminated. Those are the opinions of certain British people but that is still news, and the British Broadcasting Corporation is handling it as such. I am told, and I am proud that it should be so, that of all the foreign broadcasts now going to Germany the British is the most respected of the lot, because the Germans have found by experience that it is, generally speaking, reliable and that it lacks those twistings of the facts and those propaganda motives which are characteristic of the news services of certain other countries. Some of us who have listened to German broadcasts in English know what an utter failure exaggerated propaganda is in another country. I have listened to them but not very often. I suppose no Members of Parliament get much chance of listening to broadcasts of any sort. But having listened to some of the German broadcasts in English, I can honestly say that I found them utterly unconvincing, and I am sure they are also unconvincing to our people. That indicates the greater wisdom of making these broadcasts objective and truthful.

The right hon. Gentleman has said— and this is important—that the Departments concerned with information will recruit the services of Civil Servants who are, of course, to be impartial, and that they will also recruit the services of a certain number of outside people. I hope it is quite clear that in that recruitment, the people selected from outside, either as writers or as collaborators, or as advisers, shall, first of all, be people who, whether they are Conservatives, Liberals or Socialists, start upon the basis of British constitutional government and British democracy. I gather it is to be so, and it is profoundly important that it should be so. If any of them had the slightest connection with the Fascist view of government or dictatorship, that would be a betrayal of the purpose of this institution and would likely play into the hands of other countries in that respect. Therefore, it is, as I say, profoundly important that all of them, irrespective of their politics, shall accept the broad basis of British freedom and constitutional government and individual liberty.

Having said that, I think it is also important that there should be no one-sided-ness in this semi-detached staff, if I may so describe it—that its members should be representative of the various political opinions in this country, and various things that have not any part political significance at all and that they should collaborate. If the thing became one-sided it would open itself to criticism here. If it were one-sided in its outlook, it would not give the comprehensive picture of British life and British outlook which would otherwise be possible, and that is most important, whether in time of peace or in time of war. It is part of the work of the Department to give information about growing British military strength, in order that other countries may not under-estimate the factors with which they will have to deal if they engage in an aggressive war. It is equally, if not more important, that the work of the news department of the Foreign Office m peace, and the work of the Ministry of Information in war, should include the confident and bold expression of British ideals in international affairs and British ideals in relation to liberty and peace and constitutional government. We must not be afraid to enter into this debate as to forms of government. We ought to do it in the right spirit and with the right confidence, with vigour and with pride.

May I refer to certain other matters which are intimately related to the work of this Department and the work generally, to which the Estimate relates? The success of the new department of the Foreign Office and of the potential Ministry of Information, will be dependent upon the activities of Ministers individually—certainly of the Foreign Secretary, who will be responsible for the Department and to some extent of the Home Secretary. But there is a responsibility upon Ministers generally to ensure that what they do and what they say in public declarations, will not hamstring the actual work which the Department is seeking to do. I give an example in the field of propaganda and counter-propaganda. I refer to the action of the German Propaganda Minister in representing to the German people that we and France were seeking to encircle the Reich. History tells us that that is a situation of which the Germans are apprehensive—and naturally so. A great propaganda on these lines began. The allegation was made that the British were deliberately encircling Germany. That propaganda had its effect, as it was bound to have, but I suggest that Ministers should not get into a state of nerves when some Goebbels propaganda has effect. It is bound to have effect, up to a point, and indeed for a few years it may have a grave effect on the minds of the German people.

I am doing some guess work about this, I admit, but I feel sure that I am right when I say that our Ministers got nervous in the case I have mentioned about this propaganda. They were afraid that the propaganda machine in Germany was really in a wholesale sense stimulating German public opinion against us. What did they do? Lord Halifax made a speech. Here is an instance to show that the speeches of Ministers cannot be separated from the work of this Department in relation to which we are now voting this money. Lord Halifax made a speech—not the later one—in which, it seemed to me, he was seeking to deny the physical fact of a foreign policy which was encircling an aggressive nation. The right hon. Gentleman has said that propaganda is no good unless it is substantially related to the truth, or, at any rate, unless you are going to get it believed.

Sir S. Hoare

indicated dissent.

Mr. Morrison

I am not trying to be witty. I am trying to put the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Sir S. Hoare

I said the first, but not the second.

Mr. Morrison

All right. We will wipe that off the record. The noble Lord, the Foreign Secretary, it seemed to me, sought to deny that fact of the encirclement of an, aggressor. What is the good of doing it? The German people know the geography of Central Europe, as well as the British, and perhaps a bit better. They have reason to. If a foreign policy is being pursued which would permit of agreement between Britain, France, Poland, Rumania, Turkey, Greece and it is hoped—we are still hoping—the Soviet Union—well, that is not far short of a circle. If you deny it, you play into the hands of those who are working the very propaganda machine against which you are fighting. That is exactly what we did. What was the German reaction? Goebbels did what any intelligent man here would have done in those circumstances. He said "This is typical British hyprocrisy. There are the facts. You all know them and the British humbugs are denying the very thing which they are doing." So it was ineffective. Not only was it ineffective, but it played the tactical game of the German Propaganda Minister against whom we were operating.

In all this work of news and information we are always much too nervous when the Nazis get cross. The fact that the Nazis get cross is, as a rule, a sign of success. If you get them cross once, there is often much to be said for saying something that will make them still more cross. In this House any of us would sooner have a Debate with a man who has really lost his temper than with a man who has not. We must not get nervous because Herr Hitler or Dr. Goebbels get cross. It is part of their business to get cross sometimes, and if we succeed they are bound to get cross. What is the right thing to say about this encirclement propaganda? It is not to deny it. It is to say "Yes, we are deliberately making agreements for the maintenance of peace with all the countries around Germany. You may call it an iron ring or what you like, but we will go on with it and make it even stronger; we will make it a ring of steel, an unbreakable ring. We are doing it, however, not because we want to, but because repeated aggressive actions and threats by your Government are compelling us to do it, and we are willing to leave off doing it as soon as a reasonable policy is pursued by your Government."

Mr. De Chair

I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead any other country, and recognises that there is a tremendous difference between defensive encirclement and aggressive encirclement. What the Foreign Secretary is making clear is that we are not pursuing a policy of aggressive encirclement, which is what the Germans particularly fear.

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I cannot allow that subject to be pursued. It is really outside the matter before the Committee.

Mr. Morrison

I do not want to go unduly far, and I shall not go into the realm of foreign affairs. I have kept strictly to the issue as to how a given piece of German propaganda could be handled, and it is material to this discussion that the actions and speeches of Ministers in relation to this information work should be within the field of discussion in Committee as long as we do not turn it into a sheer foreign affairs Debate.

The Deputy-Chairman

That is why I rose. I thought the right hon. Gentleman had gone far enough and I feared that the question would extend the subject further still.

Mr. Morrison

I am much obliged. I only say this, that in the work of this new Department it is of importance that Ministers in their activities should act in harmony with it, and I suggest that in the particular sphere of propaganda by Dr. Goebbels and his organisation instead of merely running away from the issue we should, if anything, run into it, and make it clear that what is being done is not anything in the nature of a British invention of aggressive encirclement, but British defensive action following the actions of another Government, and that in fact that other Government is encircling itself and bringing these events about.

I was exceedingly glad that the British Broadcasting Corporation disseminated to the German people the message of the National Council of Labour. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, though they do not necessarily accept our view, will agree that that was an exceedingly useful message to have sent to the German people. It was additionally useful as it was adequately transmitted in German by the Corporation, and it provided evidence that messages or news of things happening in this country can effectively be disseminated. In my view the work which Commander Stephen King-Hall is doing is also work of the greatest value to Germany, to peace and to our country. The German Propaganda Minister is very, very cross about it and it is understood that the German Government is cross about the message of the Council of Labour. I do make the appeal that in the work of the Departments Ministers will realise that when the German Government gets cross it is not an occasion for us to retire and get nervous, but is rather an occasion to realise that on the whole these are successful things well worth doing. I hope that Ministers in their declarations and speeches will keep in mind constantly the interconnection between those things and the actual work of this Department. There is an intimate relationship between ministerial declarations, their spirit and their tempo, and the success of the work of this Department, which is of vital importance.

We have to remember that the whole conduct of diplomacy has changed under modern conditions. In the old days there was a peaceful exchange of diplomatic notes until the occurrence of hostilities. Now the speeches of Herr Hitler, Dr. Goebbels, and Field-Marshal Goering and of our own Ministers, and even the speeches of Opposition leaders are just as much the conduct of diplomacy as was the exchange of Foreign Office notes before the War. Therefore, it is vitally important that our Ministers should take pains to understand the technique of Nazi methods, the psychology of the Nazi leaders, and that they should bring things up to a high level. I have given the instance of the recent speech of Lord Halifax to the Royal Institute of International Relations. In our view it was of very great importance. It commanded wide support in the country; it did a lot of good in this country, and I am sure in Germany also. Within three days the Prime Minister had to broadcast a short message on the occasion of the National Service Rally. The job of the Prime Minister, following Lord Halifax, was to bring down the hammer and drive the nail further in. I listened to the Prime Minister's speech. I was really-appalled by the tone and spirit of that declaration and the utter waste of an opportunity to follow up the good work of a Foreign Secretary. Unless Ministers coordinate their own work and the work of this Department, one Prime Minister can undo in five minutes the good work done by a Foreign Secretary in a speech of great national importance made only a few days before. I think that that was done on this occasion.

It is of the most profound importance that the right spirit should be maintained throughout. We ought not to forget that in addition to work in Germany and Italy, it is equally important that the British case should be known and upheld in other countries; and finally, as the right hon. Gentleman himself indicated, if goods are to be advertised they must be the right goods. I therefore trust that the Government will remember that if this new activity is to be successfully conducted it is profoundly important that British policy and British acts shall be of a high order and above suspicion, in order that they may commend our country and its work to the nations of the world, for acts of high moral purpose and good work are the best propaganda of all.

The Deputy-Chairman

I understand that a Message has now come from another place and that our proceedings will be interrupted.


Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.