§ Again considered in Committee.
§ [Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD in the Chair.]
Question again 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.
§ Mr. Loftus
When the proceedings were interrupted I had said about all I intended to say. While I think our propaganda should emphasise our strength and determination in every way, simultaneously it should lay down the general principles of which we are prepared to co-operate for the establishment of peace, if peace can be achieved.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) in the course of his speech said he hoped the staff of the new department would spend their time banging their tables. I hope they will do nothing of the sort, because if they do they will certainly not advance our cause, they will not impress Herr Hitler, and, what is even worse, they will disturb the sabbatical calm of the Foreign Office, which would be just too bad. The fact that there is a 1884 small attendance here to-day, is not, I think, due to any lack of interest in the subject we are discussing—it may be due to lack of interest in the speeches which are being made about the subject—it indicates rather, that there is thorough approval and endorsement of the step which the Government have taken in establishing this new Department. Any doubts and fears which may have been expressed in the course of the Debate arise, I think, from a sincere anxiety that the new Department shall act objectively and truthfully and from, perhaps, a certain amount of nervousness that such a Department may accumulate undesirable powers into its own hands. There is certainly some doubt whether the new Department does represent the most effective way of filling the gap.
It has been created in response to a general feeling that in these days of competitive propaganda the British case has not been as well put forward as it should have been. But if this Department is not the best way of filling the gap, what else could be done? The newspapers are always willing to co-operate but a system of the Government of the day giving hints or even instructions to the Press would lead to Government control of the Press and much Government control of the Press would certainly be a very bad thing. Above all, in thinking of how to fill this gap we must not be hypnotised by Dr. Goebbels and the gigantic propaganda machine which he has created and try to set up a duplicate of it for ourselves.
Proposals have been put forward for a full-blooded Ministry of Propaganda. If such a Ministry were established in time of peace it would inevitably become an adjunct of the party machine of the day, and I also think that the Minister himself would inevitably tend to assemble far too much power in his own hands. The Prime Minister, for instance, would be far too dependent on his Minister of Propaganda because of the powers which would inevitably lie in that Minister's hands. In passing let me say in that connection that I think it is most essential that all information and all intelligence coming to the Government of the day should as a matter of administrative machinery, go direct to the Prime Minister himself. The existing system, under which a great deal of this information and intelligence goes direct to various Departments and is put out by them in what 1885 form happens to suit them, is not a good thing. There should be no delegation of authority in that matter and intelligence and information should go direct to the Prime Minister. I think the demand for a full-blooded Ministry of Propaganda shows a certain misconception of what is needed.
There is no need in this country, as there is in totalitarian countries, for stupefying the minds of our people or trying to impress foreign countries by bluster and swagger. Dr. Goebbels to whom I have already referred and whom I would call a malignant Quilp of the microphone relies for his effects upon keeping the German public in ignorance of the facts, but one day, probably very much to the distress and harm of the German people, reality will break through the cloud and fog of ignorance in which he is keeping them.
When considering the subject of how the work of this Department should be done, a few words come into my mind which fell from the lips of Admiral Sir Reginald Hall, who was Director of Naval Intelligence during a very critical part of the war, and who played so large a part in the successful prosecution of the war by his efforts in that Department. I remember his saying that "propaganda which is recognisable as such has no value," and that is the kernel of the whole matter. The only publicity which is worth having is not publicity which is conducted, as the hon. Baronet wishes to conduct it, by a process of banging the table, but which is conducted so quietly that the world really knows very little of what is being done. Highly flavoured material inevitably, in the long run, jades the palate and destroys its own effects.
It seems to me that one word of caution is necessary. I feel that I must point out—and I know that many hon. Members agree with me about this—that the creation of this new Department, necessary though it may be, will publicise our work of disseminating information abroad and by giving it to a certain extent a Government imprimatur make it suspect. It seems to me that there was no alternative between establishing this Department and intensifying the work of the existing machinery, and I think the creation of the new Department was necessary. The new Department has the 1886 great advantage that it gives us the skeleton of that full-blooded Ministry of Information which will be an indispensible necessity in time of war. First, as regards existing machinery, there-are the Press attaches abroad. There are not enough of them. Everyone of our Missions abroad should have a Press attache, and their work should be stimulated and encouraged.
I also wish to refer to the existing Information Officers in Whitehall who, I think, work under rather adverse circumstances. There are a great many of them. There is the Press Section of the Foreign Office, which has already been referred to and a tribute paid to it in which many of us would wish to join. There are information officers at the Treasury, the India Office, the Dominions Office, the Colonial Office, the Home Office, the Post Office, the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Air Ministry and there is also a Cinema Adviser. These Officers do very able and devoted work about which the public know rather little, and, above all, they present facts. Foreign correspondents with whom I have talked in London have always called my attention to that point and told me that the devotion to facts which these Officers display makes British information the most acceptable in the world. I hope the establishment of the new Department will not be allowed to militate against the work which these Information Officers are doing. Side by side with the work of the new Department the work of these Information Officers should be strengthened. There should be an improvement of their status and responsibilities, and perhaps more, or the necessary, money, at any rate, should be made available for them.
The post of head of this new Department should be filled by a man with intimate knowledge of the mentalities of foreign nations; he should be a man with a very great knowledge of newspaper and publicity technique, which, of course, requires a lifetime of training. I think too that he should be a man in the prime of life. Lord Perth may or may not possess all these qualifications. I would be the first to say that I think his experience at Geneva, where he must have come into close contact with the foreign Press of all countries and with their correspondents will certainly be valuable to him, but whether he has the other qualifications 1887 is a matter of doubt. The Cabinet decide policy, but the dissemination of that policy abroad in the form of information is highly expert work, work for experts who know the countries concerned intimately. The owners decide the ports of call of a ship but it is the Captain with his expert knowledge of navigation who knows how to take the ship to those ports. It seems to me that perhaps Lord Perth falls into neither of those categories.
The task confronting the new Department is one of extreme difficulty. The peace-time mental frontiers of Germany and Italy have become extremely difficult. I am told that the B.B.C. now possess 6,000,000 listeners in Germany, and I hope that may be true, but if it is, Herr Hitler can no doubt find ways quite easily to put an end to that state of affairs. Reference has been made already to the King-Hall news letters. I should not like to express a final opinion about the value of that work, but I must confess that I have felt a little nervousness whether the reactions of moderate-minded Germans might not possible be unfortunate.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I do not wish to express a final opinion at all. I am perhaps a little alarmed by some applause which I am receiving from a quarter which makes me think I am possibly on the wrong track in what I have said. But I feel that perhaps the sensation of receiving a letter which has been smuggled into the country and contains comments, however true, on its policy might cause a reaction among even moderately-minded Germans which may defeat the object of the sender.
I have dealt with three channels of information, the Press, the B.B.C, and the British Council. The work that these three channels are doing in putting forward the British case is essential work, because good information sent abroad about our state of preparedness in this country and about our intentions and our policy may play a quite decisive part in preventing war. By keeping foreign Governments and foreign nations accurately informed, we may be doing something which will prevent war. The misinterpretation of our intentions in the 1888 totalitarian countries has made the establishment of this Department inevitable, and the irritation that is being displayed in Germany about the step that we have taken is the clearest proof of the necessity for what we have done.
May I say one word about the British Council which, under Lord Lloyd has quite naturally shown commendable and considerable energy, has won respect. It has done much good, no doubt, by its hospitality to foreign editors, and has earned in that respect a great deal of good will for this country. I have often wondered if it would not be possible for the British Council to add to its activities the publication of illustrated papers in certain foreign countries in the language of those countries and sold at a nominal price. I do not know whether that has ever been suggested or considered, but illustrated papers of that nature might do invaluable work in putting our case forward.
I think the widest possible distribution of British films is desirable, and I do not think that so far the Government has been very helpful about this. It is true that they withdrew the extra taxation which was at first imposed in the Finance Bill but, although Ministers have shown themselves sympathetic, I cannot find that they have taken any very positive steps to help in this respect. It is now apparent that the news reel companies confine the supply of their films to their regular cinema customers. In fact this combine of exhibitors have compelled the news reel companies to refuse to supply hotels, restaurants, political meetings and public gatherings, so that the facilities for making these all important news reel films are confined to a very limited number of people. Facilities for taking news reel films are inevitably confined to a limited number of people. Cards are only issued to the representatives of the main companies, who restrict supply at the dictates of a monopoly. This limitation should be abolished and the Government shuld see to it that cards are issued only to companies which will make their films generally available.
There is one final question that I would like to ask. Will the new Department have any working arrangement with Lord Tyrrell, who acts in the capacity of Film Adviser, and his Department? I have heard only this week of a case in which 1889 the synopsis of a proposed film dealing with events that took place in Vienna after the Nazi occupation and based on a book on that subject, was submitted to Lord Tyrrell, who said that in view of the political situation in this country he thought it inadvisable that any such film should be made. I am not at all sure if he was right. That film would probably have put forward valuable views about the state of political opinion in this country. I would ask if the new Department is to have any working arrangement with Lord Tyrrell so that there may be interchange of opinion as to whether the manufacture of a film on a certain political subject is advisable or not. At present Lord Tyrrell decides. Can the Undersecretary tell us if anyone advises him, and, if so, who? Or is he a final arbiter in such matters?
§ 2.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Bracken
I agree with almost everything that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, except his reference to Lord Perth. As far as I can understand, Lord Perth is a Civil Servant, he has accepted the post of Director-General of the Ministry of Information in case of war and is carrying out very useful work for the Foreign Office in his present capacity. I imagine that he did not seek either of these positions and it would be a mistake to say that he has no qualifications for being Director-General of information. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech would have delighted the heart of the Home Secretary, because he approved of everything that my right hon. Friend says. In fact, it seems to me that, if we ever set up a Ministry of Information, the talents of the hon. and gallant Gentleman should certainly not be overlooked. I thought the Home Secretary's speech was wise and well informed, but I also thought that his use of the awful word "culture" is much to be deplored.
We must examine rather carefully some of the suggestions that my right hon. Friend made. He said we should diffuse British culture abroad. I should have thought that was pretty well done at present. I should think both Shakespeare and Milton are as well read abroad as at home, though that perhaps would not be saying very much. The Home Secretary talked about some of the lectures that have been delivered under the 1890 auspices of the British Council. I should have thought that the Home Secretary, busy as he is, probably could not have looked very carefully into the quality of the lecturers. Everyone realises the terrible harm that is being done to English interests by lecturers in all part of the world. I often wonder why we have not lost the friendship of the United States, considering some of the lecturers that we send there. In most cases they are nothing better than subsidised bores, and I object to the British taxpayers' money being applied to giving these bores an opportunity of going to America, Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey or elsewhere.
The worst instance that I know of diffusing British culture is one which the Home Secretary is not aware of, but which is striking evidence of the methods of the British Council in intepreting the needs of the country. I am referring to a play that they recently brought to London. They decided that the best possible thing that could be done for diffusing British culture abroad was to bring a band of Greeks to London. They were imported at great cost. They put on a play at the Haymarket Theatre. They were playing Shakespeare in modern Greek. I cannot regard that as a wise expenditure of the taxpayers' money. Few attended save polite and long-suffering members of the British Council. So many bouquets have been distributed, and there is such a great measure of agreement about the merits of the British Council and various other bodies, that I shall probably be regarded as completely unorthodox if I say that in my opinion foreign publicity is a great waste of money and energy. I agree with the Home Secretary that it is a very good thing to make foreigners understand England's policy, but we sometimes find it very difficult to understand our own policy. If we had a clear and consistent foreign policy it would need no explanation abroad.
But, I would ask, do we really need any foreign publicity? At the present time there is in London a corps of foreign correspondents which has no equal in the world. They are men of the greatest ability, men of the greatest integrity, most anxious to get any information they can get about affairs in England, and these gentlemen are complaining of the starvation they suffer in regard to British news.
1891 To suggest that it is necessary to complement the services rendered by those gentlemen in their newspapers all over the world by some sort of propagandist organisation here is, to my mind, absolutely wrong. I think they give us plenty of publicity abroad. Any hon. Member who takes the trouble, as I do, to read foreign newspapers, and more particularly the American newspapers, would get some surprises. I should say that the American papers publish far more news about us that the whole of the English papers put together publish about America. And we should consider that fact when it is suggested that there is not sufficient foreign publicity about England or that we ought to bank up the supply of information going abroad. Let some hon. Member pick up a paper like the "New York Times" the "New York Herald Tribune," or the "New York World-Telegram." Their supply of news about England and about Europe is really quite surprising, and far greater than that offered by any English papers about America or South America, and it is very disheartening to them to be fold that it is necessary to extend what is called our foreign publicity.
I shall have something to say about the latest technique in developing what is called foreign publicity. We are at the present moment refreshing a number of peripatetic journalists many of whom can hardly speak English, with champagne and turtle soup at the expense of our taxpayers. The hard-boiled foreign pressmen in London are roaring with laughter at these feasts of ours. They say that a lot of these imported and expensively-fed journalists are men with very slight press connections. I looked into that complaint, and I found that one of the most recent of our honoured guests who was entertained at a sumptuous luncheon and has received the greatest possible hospitality is, in fact, the editor of a railway guide in an obscure Balkan country. Another gentleman who is brought here to hop in our walks and gambol in our smiles is the editor of a hairdressers' paper. There is nothing wrong in being the editor of a railway guide or the editor of a hairdressers' paper, but it seems to me that festivities of this type are a very poor compliment to the serious press, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland 1892 (Mr. Storey) will, I think, agree, it is right to say that the press is very jealous of its independence and it also very much dislikes organised free meals.
I want to suggest to the Home Secretary that the best foreign publicity agent for Great Britain is undoubtedly Dr. Goebbels. He is worth three times or even ten times his weight in gold to England. He makes friends for us everywhere, and I would appeal to my right hon. Friend to make absolutely sure that Dr. Goebbels is reported extensively everywhere. No speech made by Dr. Goebbels should be overlooked by the foreign publicity department of the Foreign Office. They should circulate his speeches to those newspapers who have not the opportunity of maintaining correspondents in Germany. Furthermore, every word from Dr. Goebbels should be broadcast. We should give to every foreign country that would like it the opportunity of listening to Dr. Goebbels, because no Minister we can find anywhere in the world can give us publicity which is equal to that of Dr. Goebbels. I would say that the whole of this estimate for foreign publicity should be used to disseminate Dr. Goebbels' utterances throughout the British Empire. I am not suggesting that we should send the money to Dr. Goebbels, because we all know that he is wallowing in luxury and would treat it as no more than a pourboire. But if there is a little bit over we should give it to his bell hop, Herr Streicher, or his Italian bell hop, Signor Gayda. Let us concentrate upon Dr. Goebbels and these other gentlemen because—I wish the Home Secretary would convey this to the British Council —they are the gentlemen to receive the turtle soup. They are the gentlemen to liquor up with champagne. They are the people who ought to have the Corona-Coronas, because they are doing the best service to England.
A word about the more serious problem of the creation of a Ministry of Information. I hope that the controllers of this Ministry will realise that the world is dazed and bored by propaganda. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton that the ordinary person's credulity has been strained for so long that he will not react any more to what is called old-fashioned propaganda. I agree, too, with the Home Secretary that the only effective work the Ministry of 1893 Information can do is to establish good relations between the Government and the British and the foreign Press. I must say, also, that I was greatly impressed by what the Home Secretary said about the whole business of censorship. If the Ministry of Information is to function properly it should work in close association with the censorship, otherwise we shall have a repetition of the situation which arose in the last war, when there was a great deal of difficulty between the British and the foreign Press and the censors. Good will and common sense will solve many of these problems.
The Home Secretary put his finger on the real point to-day when he said the Ministry of Information should be linked with the censors. There should be such consultation as would avoid the glaring errors which occurred in the last war. I consider that in that suggestion alone my right hon. Friend showed that he thoroughly understands the real functions of this Ministry.
I think, too, it is pretty clear that the new Ministry must be a co-ordinating rather than an executive Ministry, and I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nuneaton when he said that its direction requires much judgment, much experience and, perhaps, some personal knowledge of the policies and idiosyncrasies of the key newspapers of the world. I hope this is recognised by those who are now acting as the architects of the new Ministry of Information. In my judgment, if the Ministry is conducted on sensible and unambitious lines—because that is very important—it will perform a useful service. I beg the architects of the Ministry not to accept the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) or the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) that the Ministry should go in for "hot" propaganda. I believe the Ministry will do best to abjure all propaganda, which is the most discredited thing in the world, and, as I said, we are not so good at it as Dr. Goebbels, Signor Gayda, and those other gentlemen I mentioned. And at the risk of boring the Committee I would reiterate that the best work the Ministry of Information can do is faithfully to report and to broadcast the efforts of that most wonderful servant of England, Dr. Joseph Goebbels.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Dr. Haden Guest
I am afraid that I do not altogether agree with what the hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) has just been saying, because he has been dealing too much with the political side of things. I believe that a great deal of the work that goes on and the information which is put out by the B.B.C. fails in its effect because it deals too exclusively with political matters, with which the ordinary person abroad and in this country is often thoroughly bored. It ought to be our object to put over an account of what is happening ordinarily in this country at the present time. I think it is supremely important in the case of Germany. I do not think it is realised by many people that the isolation which is set up in places like Germany or the Soviet Union by their system of a controlled press prevents them knowing of the ordinary things that are happening in this country.
I was talking the other day with an exiled German lawyer, not a Jew, who left Germany some years ago but is in close touch with Germany, and he said that in Germany at the present time the ordinary German does not know at all the kind of things that are going on in England and the ordinary kind of life that we are leading. He said, for instance, that the ordinary German did not know the amount of money which was allocated in the Budget, not only to Defence but to other objects, had no idea of our financial resources, unless he read, the foreign Press which the ordinary German would not read, and in any case is not very easy to get at, except in a few places in Berlin and other large cities, and did not know about such very elementary things as the ordinary cost of living and hours of work, what things cost in the shops, and how people amuse themselves. He said that the ordinary German did not know about our football pools, football matches and so on. If only we could get somebody to describe the scene in which we recently took part when we went from this House to another place to hear the Royal Assent given to various Acts, and the unemotional way in which the list of Acts of such contrasting importance and value was read out, including one for the Prevention of Violence, and another for the Prevention of Damage by Rabbits, I think it would be a striking commentary on the kind of people we are.
1895 What we really should do is to put over, describe and make real, in the living language of Germany and other countries, the ordinary Englishman, who is a most remarkable person, and is extremely un-ordinary from the foreigners' point of view. The German, the Italian and many other foreign people do not understand what the ordinary Englishman is like. They do not understand the sense of humour we have—odd, I admit, sometimes. They do not understand our general attitude towards life. I hope that in any information we put over we shall not be too damnably solemn—I believe you will rule, Sir, that the word is allowable in Parlamentary discussion—and not too Pygmalionly heroic. The margin between information and propaganda is a very difficult one to define. The putting over of information about our political attitude is of subordinate importance to putting over a picture of the kind of life that we are leading and the kind of person that the ordinary Englishman and Englishwoman are.
I remember what happened some years ago when I was editing one of those popular publications that come out in monthly parts—I have been a bit of a journalist myself—and that was called "Outlines of the World To-day," under the superintendence of the general editor of Messrs. Newnes. I was proposing to insert in that publication photographs dealing with things in France because they appeared to be of very great interest and value. They were rather extraordinary and unusual photographs, but he said to me: "Look here, Dr. Guest, these things are no good. What people want to see about France is the ordinary things that they always see and which every tourist sees. They want to see a picture of the Pont Neuf or of Notre Dame because when they look at them they want to be able to say: ' I saw that.' "In putting over our account of what is happening in England, and of our point of view we should choose the most familiar and most ordinary things and not stress too much the political thing.
I urge that we should have, much more than has been suggested up to the present, active, practising journalists to do this work. And we should certainly have men associated with the organisation who have not been either to a public school 1896 or to a university. I understand it is a fact that to have been to a public school or a university is a very serious disqualification on the ordinary daily paper, and for ordinary newspaper work.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Gentleman must not make a statement like that. Can he point to any editor of any newspaper in the country who has those qualifications, and who insists upon them?
The hon. Gentleman is protesting about just what I am insisting upon, which is that to have been to a public school or to have had a university education is a disqualification, and he knows that that is the case. I ask whether he himself would take somebody who had been to a public school or a university instead of taking a man who had been through an ordinary journalistic training. I hope that in the organisation which is being set up, note will be taken of that fact. The university and public school type of man is divorced from the ordinary mind of the people of this country. That fact is well known to every journalist who is putting stuff over. I am sure that applies to the kind of man who is to put information over to foreign countries.
With regard to countries with which we are in friendly relations, such as the United States, Rumania, and so on, it is not necessary for us to spend very much time in putting our case. I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that the foreign correspondents here representing American and other papers want only to be given opportunities of getting information. When you turn to countries in Central and Eastern Europe with which we have not the same kind of relations we need definite information to be given of the kind that I have suggested. We shall have to devise means of getting to the people concerned. The information put over by the British Broadcasting Corporation is very good. I believe it is largely under the control of men who were trained as journalists on an extremely well-known British newspaper, but if we could put forward more printed propaganda which could get into Germany and nearby countries in the language of those countries, such as a description of the actual provisions in the Budget, the actual conditions of living, and the ordinary kind of life that people enjoy here, and without 1897 any particular political comment, I believe it would do a tremendous amount of good.
These conditions are quite unknown abroad, as one realises by reading the kind of thing which I was looking at this morning. It was a record of what had actually been said in Germany about us. It related that it is believed in Germany that the troops in Palestine put out the eyes of captives before shooting them. I wish we could get over a plain and simple statement written by an experienced journalist of the actual facts in Palestine as well as of conditions in this country. We must try to build up a picture in the mind of the ordinary German which would give a true idea. It should not be called propaganda because it would have nothing to do with politics at all. It would be something to give him a feeling of reassurance. I think he would at once recognise that it was the real thing, but it must be done very carefully in the German language and in the German idiom by people whose knowledge of German is as extensive as is the knowledge of English of the most competent journalists in this country. We ought to guard ourselves against being too high-falutin' in this business and too political, as well as against being too solemn and heroic. The more humour, the more ordinariness that there is in our information which we put over to foreign countries, the better it will be put over. The hon. Member for North Paddington spoke about lecturers. I agree that many lecturers are subsidised bores, and I can only say it is very remarkable to me, but he knows it is true, that people will actually pay to go and hear these subsidised bores, so some people obviously like it. It is amazing to us, when we hear each other speak in this House, but it does happen. I believe there are certain lecturers who could put over what you may call the genial—
Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman
If I may interrupt the hon. Member, I would like to know what he means by "put over." It sounds to me as if you might be putting over the truth or something that was not the truth. Surely what we want to put over is the truth.
What I mean by "putting over"—I am sorry I was using a rather vulgar, what you might call journalistic colloquialism—is conveying information to the intelligences of those who read.
1898 I suggest that what we want to put over, if I might use that easy phrase, is a genial view of the ordinary Englishman in his ordinary environment, letting people, in Germany especially, see that we are not solely and entirely concentrated on political matters, that in the background we are quite ready to resist, and, as my German friend said to me the other day, that we are spending these enormous sums of money—a fact which, I am told on very good authority, is actually unknown to many people in Germany. I have underlined it in this way, and, if I could have done so, I would have liked to have dropped all my aitches, in order to make myself as vulgar and common as possible. I am quite sure you want to get this thing out of the high-falutin' realm and down on to the ground of the ordinary man, to convey the picture of the Englishman and the Englishwoman, the English life in this country, in a very simple and elementary way to the German people. If we do that, it will have a more tremendous effect than I believe, with all due deference to the hon. Member for North Paddington, would broadcasting Dr. Goebbels' propaganda which, I am afraid, if it were broadcast, would be found to be as great a bore here in this country, as I suspect it is in Germany itself.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Markham
The Home Secretary, in his opening speech, stressed the fact that this £17,000 was to be allocatel to advocating British culture and British policy abroad, but he was very careful not to explain what he meant by "abroad." I hope it does not mean that any part of this money is going to be spent in an attempt to propagandise, if there is such a word, the United States, and still more I hope that no part of this money will be devoted to propaganda as such within the British Dominions or the British Colonies. It is perfectly true that there is every need for information—the truth, that is—to be dispersed in those countries, but I think that anything at all in the nature of propaganda would be a first-class mistake, and I hope that before the Debate ends to-day we shall have some statement from the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs indicating that no part of this sum will be spent in trying to put over, to use the colloquial expression which was so ably defended just now, the British point 1899 of view either to any of the Dominions or the United States of America.
On the other hand, it is very evident indeed that we need more accurate sources of information to which Canadians, Americans and so on can go, and in this respect I want to mention the British Library of Information in New York. This is supposed to be the mouthpiece, if you like, of the Foreign Office, the unofficial mouthpiece to which American journalists and others can go and put their questions and come away with the right answers. Quite recently I had an indirect experience of the sort of information that is disseminated—information which is so divorced from the truth that really we can have no greater enemies than our own people in our own Library of Information. In this particular case an inquiry had been authorised by the Carnegie Corporation of New York into art and culture, and a lady, wishing to ascertain how much was spent on culture by the various peoples of the world, went to the British Library of Information, under the impression that it might have some information about British culture. She was told that a person whom Members of the House may remember, Lord Eustace Percy—he was described as "Sir Eustace Percy"—was still head of the Board of Education. I believe his last connection with that office was nearly a decade ago. She was also told that a Royal Commission which reported in 1930 was still sitting, and that at its head was a gentleman who has been dead for some time. This, mark you, was the sort of information she got from the semi-official Library of Information in New York. I am sorry to say that she did not go further, but accepted what she was told, believing that the British Council organisation would not be untruthful or so horribly out-of-date on a matter concerning culture. The result is that this information is in the official reference book, and this and other mistakes of equal magnitude will stand for presumably another decade, until another book is published on art and culture.
If there is a need for giving this information abroad, how much more need is there to ensure that when visitors from the United States and other parts of the world come to this country they are not misled by our apparent disregard of any- 1900 thing cultural. I suppose very few Members of this House ever go to the British Museum, but the average visitor from overseas goes there. He sees one of the gloomiest facades that any public building has had, and congested and almost overwhelming collections. It is on these and similar collections that people tend to base their ideas of the British attitude to such matters. One of the ways in which the Foreign Office might assist in the dissemination of the British point of view and of information in regard to culture in this country is by seeing that our established institutions give suitable guides to foreign visitors going to those institutions. It would not be a costly matter to provide pamphlets describing institutions of this kind in the language of the visitors. There are sufficient German, Italian and other Continental visitors to warrant short guides, showing what will be seen, and published in their own languages.
I hope that as the hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) suggested this money we are voting to-day will not be spent on half-Coronas, or even full Coronas, for gentlemen representing hairdressers journals in Germany or anything of that kind. I have criticised the British Council and the Foreign Office for some of the things they have done. Let me praise them for what they have done in connection with the International Congress of Historical Art in this country. That and previous exhibitions which we have held have done more to increase foreign appreciation of our cultural standards than anything else that we have attempted. If we can only follow that up by improved exhibitions of this kind, and by making certain that information on British art and science is available in the recognised quarters all over the world, we shall go a long way towards improving appreciation of British culture abroad.
May I just make a reference to a statement of the Home Secretary, with which I am in the most violent disagreement? He said that if a Ministry of Information were to be set up, owing to a war, it might be necessary to prohibit public meetings in this country. I hope nothing of that sort will ever be done. It would be one of the gravest mistakes if we, in our fight to maintain liberty, abolished liberty of that kind in these islands. Most of all in war-time, when we know that 1901 the Press may be censored and restricted, there should be no restriction on the freedom with which people may meet and discuss the problems of the day. I, for one—and I pledge the Home Secretary my unqualified pledge here—will resist to the utmost any attempt to muzzle the British public in any way in their old-established rights of having meetings on any subjects that are dear to their hearts. At the same time, I think that the censorship of the Press which may be necessary in war time might be extended a little here and now.
The Temporary Chairman
We are not dealing with the question of Press censorship on this Vote, and the hon. Member is going rather outside the Vote.
§ Mr. Markham
With great respect, Sir, it was mentioned in the speech of the Home Secretary, and it has been mentioned on the opposite side since, and I need only mention the speech of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison). I am, however, very anxious not to go over the line here, and ail I would say is that I think there is need here and now to prevent a certain section of the British Press coming out with scare headlines which are obviously untrue, and then making no correction the following day. Only a few days ago in one of the leading London journals there was a monstrous, false banner headline, and in its cricket page was the following: "Score at the fall of three wickets, 56; score at the fall of four wickets, 52? "That is a little thing, but of the major things, like the reported illness of Hitler, they never give a correction. One of the gravest injuries that can bed one to this country is the assumption which is growing very fast throughout the world that the popular British Press is absolutely unreliable and that its editors know no sense of truth or decency, and I hope that the Press will take account of these remarks which I have made today.
§ 3.17 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Strauss
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham) has said, and I agree with him, in particular, that it would be most undesirable if action were taken, as suggested by the Home Secretary if war should come, to prohibit any public meetings. I am certain that any such prohibition would be 1902 very seriously resented by the mass of the people of this country, and it might have effects contrary to those which may be in the mind of the Government. I also agree entirely with what the hon. Member said about the undesirability of trying to get any British publicity across to the United States of America. I am convinced that English affairs are reported extraordinarily well in the American papers. I find that if I make a chance remark in this House about America, it is almost certain to be quoted in some of the American papers from which my friends over there send me extracts. The happenings in this country are extremely well reported in America, and if there is any lack of sympathy between the American people and the British people— and I am afraid there is at the moment—it is not for lack of knowledge, but because of a lack of sympathy with the policy of His Majesty's Government. If we want to create sympathy, or increase the sympathy that is there, one of two things should be done: either there should be a change of Government policy, or less news of that policy should be published in the American papers, and not more.
Reference was made by the hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) to the great service done to the British cause and the cause of peace by Herr Goebbels. I quite agree, and I think that the more his propaganda can be published in England, America, the Dominions and many foreign countries, the better the cause of peace will be served.
We, however, tend to under-estimate the seriousness and effectiveness of Dr. Goebbels' propaganda in Germany. For a long time the Government here adopted the attitude that they would do nothing about it. They have altered their policy in that respect now. They feel that, although they are late in the day they must at least do something by way of broadcasting in German to counter the untrue stories that are constanly being put forward in Germany. But I am afraid they do not fully appreciate the success of Herr Goebbels' propaganda machine. It is not appreciated that the mass of the German people, through no fault of their own, not through stupidity or ignorance, have no choice but to believe most of the stories put forward, the reason simply being that they have very little opportunity of checking up on these propaganda stories.
1903 It is not only the ordinary German newspaper that publishes the anti-democratic, anti-British stories, but every paper that appears—trade papers, fashion papers and so on. The same sort of stuff is put over constantly on the wireless, and as there is no other source of information, no means of checking up on these stories —incredible as they appear to us—it is because they appear to us incredible that we have tended to ignore them—the propaganda has been extremely effective and very serious from our point of view. That is why I welcome whole-heartedly the efforts of people like Commander Stephen King-Hall in sending out not merely propaganda but extremely able letters to people in Germany. It was suggested by a previous speaker that that process might be dangerous. He said that we in this country would resent anything that smelt of propaganda being sent individually to British people.
The situation in Germany is, however, different. There is a huge body of people in Germany that is distrustful of the German Government and distrustful of the propaganda stories that they are putting out. They are greedy for the true facts. They cannot get the true facts at home, and they whole-heartedly welcome any means by which they can get reliable news from abroad. I understand that Commander King-Hall has received from Germany hundreds of letters of appreciation. Sometimes people have gone over the border into another country in order to post their letters to him. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the work which he and others are doing is having a very valuable effect. It so happens that to-day there has been published an extraordinarily interesting book giving a large number of typical examples of the German propaganda which is being put forward day in and day out by the German Press and the German wireless. I should very much like to read to the Committee one or two of those extracts, which are typical. Here is one quotation recently from a German newspaper:During an attack on the Arab village of Attil five people were deliberately chosen and tortured. They were beaten over the head. Then their eyes were put out. After they had been mutilated in this ghastly way, they were finally given the coup de grace.In February of this year the following 1904 statement appeared in the "Volkischer Beobachter":We should like to draw the attention of those gentlemen who are critics of German anti-Semitism to the conditions in the English textile industry, in which opium is periodically distributed by the management to female hands for the purpose of keeping their children quiet, so that they may work' undisturbed for the profit of John Bull.Here is an example which is typical of the attack made on British Ministers and ex-Ministers. It is an attack on the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper):We do not hesitate to denounce Duff Cooper as the most degenerate of all the agitators of recent years. He is an unpaid un-fathomably mean, bloodthirsty war monger, more Jewish than the Jews, more Satanic than Satan himself; the incarnate curse of this age.That is strong language and, of course, standing by itself it may not appear very important, but when attacks on Britain, on British habits, on our decadence, our morals, our unpreparedness for war, our inefficiency and weaknesses, on our brutality, is made every day by every newspaper in Germany and by wireless, it has a very serious cumulative effect, and it is done for the simple reason that Hitler and Goebbels appreciate that in Europe, as it is to-day, with the possibility of war, the psychological factor, the attitude of mind of the peoples in the different countries, is all-important. I am told on good authority that Hitler and the German Minister of Propaganda think that we are in the first stages of a war; the psychological prelude for inculcating into the people of Germany and the surrounding countries of an attitude of hatred and distrust of the democracies, and particularly of Britain, and a feeling of justice in the cause of the German people so that they will be willing to enter into war and support the Government in the next step of aggression. It is unfortunate that this attempt should have had some considerable success.
I suggest that every effort should be made by the Government—I agree it is not an easy matter—to counter that sort of propaganda. I believe that if we were to spend more money on propaganda— propaganda may not be the right word, I mean puting over the facts and answering these stories; I do not wish to imitate the methods of Goebbels—it would pay us hands down. We should be pre- 1905 pared to spend five per cent, of the amount we are spending on armaments in this direction. I think it would be good economy not only in saving millions of lives in a war but in preventing war itself. The German Government take a keen interest in the attitude of mind of their own people. They have got to keep their people excited by propaganda to such an extent that the German government are confident that they will follow the German government into war, but if they feel that they have not been successful in their propaganda, then, I think, the chances are 100 to one against war. I consider it the first duty of the British Government to counter that form of propaganda. I will also add that it must not be destructive or critical publicity; it must be constructive, and should show the fair steps that we are prepared to take in certain circumstances. In the present struggle to prevent war the most valuable potential allies of this country are the peace-loving German people.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Storey
The Committee, I am sure, has been glad to have the opportunity of this Debate to hear the interesting and, if I may say so, the understanding statement made by the Home Secretary about the shadow Ministry of Information. The Ministry of Information, possessing as it will great powers of censorship, is bound to raise natural suspicions particularly in those who have to do with the collection and distribution of news, but I think we should place it on record that the anxiety to understand the difficulties of newspapers and news agencies displayed by the officials of the shadow Ministry of Information and the helpful attitude which they have adopted has gone a great way to dispel those suspicions. The statement made to-day by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that the Ministry would not function in time of emergency, but only in time of war, has gone a great way to satisfy the newspapers and the news agencies, if not the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland).
The Home Secretary, in the course of his speech, stressed the need for careful planning, and that is particularly so on the technical side, for the provision of such facilities as telephones and telegraphs will play a most important part if the newspapers and the news agencies are to 1906 do their work properly and keep the country properly supplied with news. While the Post Office has been most helpful in seeking to provide these facilities, a tendency has been noticeable to raise technical doubts and difficulties. I do not expect the Post Office engineers to do the impossible, but I would impress upon the Home Secretary that he should insist that all these difficulties must be overcome, and particularly that all the telephone and telegraphic facilities that will be necessary should be provided, and that newspapers and news agencies should not only be allowed to keep in time of war the private wires which they have at present, but that they should be provided with the emergency facilities which will probably be necessary. Now that the shadow Ministry of Information is in existence, I hope it will bring home to Government Departments, particularly to the Defence Departments, that in war the circulation of accurate news and information, in minimising the effect of unfounded rumours is an important part in the defence of the country, and that it will impress upon these Departments the need to give full co-operation and to give journalists all the information and assistance which they require for the proper performance of their work.
This matter might well be given attention even in times of peace. Some Ministries and some Ministers know full well the value of adequate publicity. I am glad to see my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in his place, because I want to say a few words to him about the Press Department of the Foreign Office. That Department, with its Press conferences, is good, as far as it goes: but I do believe that a great deal more could be done if the Foreign Office would give more of what I may call background material to enable journalists to interpret foreign news and give it its proper effect. The Foreign Office does give such material, but it gives it only to certain favoured papers. I submit that it should give it to all papers and all news agencies. The Foreign Office is inclined to look upon news agencies merely as a channel for the issue of official statements. I would like to remind my right hon. Friend that the Press Association actually represents practically all the morning and evening newspapers of this country, and I suggest 1907 that it should be given full facilities and receive all this background material, and be treated just as some favoured newspapers are, so that it may keep the newspapers up and down the country fully informed and give them the right interpretation of foreign news.
I do not wish to take up any more of the time of the Committee, or to enter into discussions which have taken place on the dissemination of news abroad. I will say only this in conclusion. While the work of the British Council and broadcasting is all to the good, I hope we shall not forget the older method by which the British viewpoint has been presented to the world for many years past, and will give that support which is necessary to the news agencies and the correspondents who are in London, so that they can in the normal course of their work represent abroad the view point of Britain in world affairs.
§ 3.35 P.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
I am sure the Committee will agree that the atmosphere of this Debate has been particularly favourable to the creation and future work of the new Departments—the shadow Ministry of Information and the foreign publicity department of the Foreign Office. We on these benches are grateful for the references that have been made to the work which is being undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and which is to be under the control of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) was right in saying that we now need new methods of diplomacy and that, in fact, a new system of diplomacy is coming into being. Nation talks to nation and the views of Great Britain are to be found, in my view, not in dispatches only but in many different forms. A picture of our country and the views which we hold, are conveyed to other countries by many different methods to-day, and I shall make it my business, in the short time during which I shall occupy the Committee, to give some information on some of the methods which we are employing. This is a peculiarly happy occasion for me, because, as the right hon. Gentleman 1908 opposite has once remarked and as I think the Committee will have noticed, I am apt to be rather reticent sometimes when I speak at this Box. Therefore, to have the opportunity of giving a little information is quite a holiday for me, but I promise not to kick over the traces, because I have a certain responsible regard for the damage which is likely to result from doing so, even in matters of propaganda.
The right hon. Gentleman made certain observations about a speech of my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that in what he was saying about that, he was indulging in guesswork, and I think I had better leave his observations there, as far as that point is concerned. But the right hon. Gentleman was also kind enough to say that he supported, as I believe the whole country has supported, the speech of my noble Friend of 29th June. I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into his observations on the subject of what may properly be regarded as foreign policy, and our views on encirclement, and so forth, because I think our views are set forth clearly in the speech of my noble Friend of the date which I have mentioned. I think I can, however, do the right hon. Gentleman the justice of saying that I realise the force of his remarks about the importance of the content of speeches, and also that the more the foreign policy of the Government can have the backing of the country, the more confidence there will be in the work which we are trying to do in the foreign publicity department. I would not presume to make any suggestions about the speeches of members of the Opposition, including the party below the Gangway. I will only say that we would not, for a moment wish to deprive the Opposition or their leaders of the opportunity of criticism, and the more their speeches contain the quality which makes them suitable for export, the more they will travel over the world. There are usually, I understand, in commodities intended for export, certain materials which help in the preservation of the produce, whatever it may be. For instance, I understand, that beer intended for export has certain qualities which are not present in beer destined for immediate home consumption. I feel convinced that when Members of the Opposition are making speeches 1909 they will bear in mind that we should like to feel that those speeches could be exported.
§ Mr. Butler
Stronger, and I think more palatable. Several hon. Members have told us that we must, in this work, aim at something which is between the "high falutin'" and the political. That we shall certainly try to do. One hon. Member suggested that we must not be too gentlemanly in our propaganda and that certain academic qualifications were sometimes a demerit in those who have to handle propaganda matters. I sympathise with that point of view, but let us decide on one attribute which is necessary, and that is that we should be human. Whatever our credentials may be, whether we are fortunate enough to have had certain types of education or whether we have been in the, perhaps, still more fortunate position of having had great experience of the world and of working conditions, it is necessary that we should have the common denominator of humanity if we are to do work of this kind well.
It is in that spirit, to use the words of the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut. Commander Fletcher) "that we should do our work objectively and truthfully," that I approach the task which lies before me to-day. The right hon. Gentleman opposite said he hoped we would give some account of British achievements. I assure him that we will do so, that it is our intention to do so. Already in the broadcasts by the B.B.C. reference has been made to many of these achievements which rank so highly in our own estimation. I would not at all exclude achievements in the domestic sphere of the right hon. Gentleman himself. I remember a peculiarly happy picture in which the right hon. Gentleman was sitting drinking a cup of tea, no doubt from one of our overseas possessions, in one of the new flats erected by the London County Council, during a visit by the Minister of Health—a fit combination of Government and local authority—and the right hon. Gentleman was presenting a cigarette to one of the tenants of the flats, while the other right hon. Gentleman was interestedly watching. It was a happy picture which, with its vast surroundings of a great building 1910 estate, might well be shown as a proof not only of our domestic contentment but of our achievement in social reform.
The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. J. P. L. Thomas) made some reference to the Press Department of the Foreign Office and said he hoped that contact would be maintained with other Government Departments. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Storey) also made reference to the Press Department of the Foreign Office. I would like to thank Members of the Committee who have congratulated the Foreign Office Press Department on the difficult work which it does, I think with so much success. There are no trade union hours in the Press Department of the Foreign Office, as the hon. Member for Hereford will remember from his own experience of the office. The hours are long and the work perhaps at times exhausting, but efforts are already made to maintain that type of friendly contact with the Press of this country, including the agencies to which the hon. Member referred. This has been of value in the past and will be of value in the future. I think it is true to say that a link has been built up between the Press Department and the Press of this country. Any other points which have been drawn to my attention this afternoon I shall certainly bring to the attention of the Department so that we can progress from strength to strength and consider any points of criticism that have been raised.
The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) raised a question which he said had aroused some doubt in his mind. He wanted to know what was the difference between a certain statement of the Prime Minister on 15th June, that there would be no interference with the Press of this country by the Department, and a later statement that there must be intimate touch between the Department and the journalistic profession. I do not think that those two statements conflict. There will be intimate contact and certainly not interference, and I believe it is intimate contact and not interference which both sides want—the representatives of the Press and of the Department concerned. The hon. Baronet also asked me to define more clearly when the Ministry of Information would be set up, and he became somewhat legal in wondering when a war is 1911 a war and when a war is not a war. It is a tangle which we try to avoid in answering some of the many questions put to us. I refer the hon. Member to a statement made by the Prime Minister on the same date, namely 15th June, which I think is quite explicit. The Prime Minister used these words:In the event of this country ever becoming engaged in a major war, it would be the intention of the Government to set up at once a Ministry of Information with a Cabinet Minister at its head and a Director-General whose status would be equivalent to that of a permanent head of a public Department of the first rank.— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1939; col. 1506, Vol. 348.]
§ Mr. Butler
I think that the pledge is quite clear, and that those are the only circumstances in which the Department is to function. The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton asked me a question about Press attaches. There are now Press attaches attached to some 18 posts, some of which cover other countries. I will not read out all the posts, but they cover most of Europe and South America, and we have, of course, in mind the possibility of extending these. Already I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that this large number of Press attaches perform most useful work with our Missions overseas.
In this connection it may be valuable if I describe in a few words the work of the Foreign Publicity Department. Its object is to co-ordinate all the news that there is in England from, for instance, the news departments of other Government Departments. These will be coordinated for the purpose of export, and it is not only with Government Departments that we shall keep in touch, but with scientific and learned societies and medical and agricultural organisations, so that every aspect of our national life may be depicted in the material we send abroad. We shall use abroad our Embassies and Legations and our various Missions for the purpose of spreading the information that we send them, and that is where the work of Press attaches, to which the hon. and gallant Member referred, will be of particular value.
There is another body, the British Council, whose work has been referred 1912 to in the course of this debate. I could not help thinking that the hon. Member for North Paddington (Mr. Bracken) gave perhaps a rather too luxurious idea of the hospitality given by this body. There fore I asked for the programme of one of these tours of journalists who have come to this country, and I have been sent an account of the Rumanian journalists' visit to us. First of all, the journalists seem to me to have represented most or nearly all of the leading journals in Rumania. My first impression of the kind of life that these journalists must have led while they were here was that it was extremely exhausting. On the first day they flew to Portland, saw the Fleet, and visited a submarine. On the next day they had a rather more private time at receptions, and the following day it is true they had a Government hospitality luncheon, but they also visited the General Post Office and saw an international telephone exchange, and at dinner, where, I presume, they received this lavish fare, they were entertained by the "Daily Herald" and saw the production of that newspaper For the rest of their tour they not only visited Oxford —I notice omitting Cambridge—but also in the course of their tour they visited Scotland on a 24-hour visit, when they saw Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Highlands. They also visited Halton and saw the R.A.F. Training School, and they visited Aldershot Camp and saw a mock battle. On their only rest-day they visited the B.B.C. in the evening, so that I think hon. Members will see that for journalists visiting this country, life is not all beer and skittles.
§ Mr. Butler
That was perhaps at the "Daily Herald." That is only one feature of the work that is undertaken by the British Council. I have noticed in this debate the fact, to which we shall pay attention, that there is some distaste for the word "culture." We shall certainly pay attention to that, because one of the values of these debates is that one can obtain the reactions of hon. Members, and no doubt those who run in such an excellent manner the work of the British Council will pay attention to this criticism. I think it is important, for instance, to remember the work of the British Council 1913 in setting up British institutes abroad. The institutes, for instance, at Paris and Florence have already shown great results and further institutes are being set up at Athens, Salonica, Cairo, Alexandria and Malta, and also at Lisbon and Bucharest, and the British Council is considering enlarging the foundations at Rome, Milan, Belgrade and other foreign cities, and also in Cyprus. One simple result of the extension of the work of British institutes is that the English language is better known.
§ Mr. Loftus
My hon. Friend mentioned British institutes established in many capitals. Is any institute of any kind to be established in the capital of Turkey?
§ Mr. Butler
I think that is certainly in mind. I will certainly give attention to the point my hon. Friend has raised. The work of the British Council has world wide ramifications and I have taken out from a vast amount of material one or two details to indicate some of those ramifications. For instance, the British Council arranged for15 Rover Scouts from Iraq to attend a scout moot in Scotland. It has arranged for a telephonic conversation, for the first time in history I believe, between children of L.C.C. schools and certain children from Argentine schools. The British Council has extended its work even to the Belgian Congo and we find that books, periodicals and gramophone records are being sent there. Beyond this, if you look into the world of music, you will note that in Denmark, Sofia, Lithuania and Tokyo British music has been sent by the British Council.
§ Mr. Bracken
How has all this been financed? I should imagine that no one but the Minister of Overseas Trade has the money for these vast activities.
§ Mr. Butler
In order not to give a one-sided account of the work of the British Council I was attempting to pick out different points in its activities, and not to give so luxurious a view of them as the hon. Member has given himself.
So much for the work of the Council. The hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Markham) raised a point about America. The position in America is different from that elsewhere and the work of the Foreign Publicity Department does not apply to America. There are so many 1914 personal contacts between our two countries, and so close are our relationships, due to a common sharing of the same language and the same ideals, that methods of publicity suitable to other parts of the world are in our view unsuitable to the North American Continent. What the Americans appear to have is a thirst for information. All our news from there goes to show that they are ready and anxious to receive as much information about this country as possible. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member's criticism of the British Library of Information. This is the first occasion that I have received a criticism of the work that it has done. Needless to say, we shall investigate the point raised by the hon. Member and see, if such a thing has happened, that it never happens again, because, according to our information, requests are coming from all over America for more information from the British Library and its work is increasing and being more and more appreciated. It works only on request and it issues information only when asked for. We have found that to be the most satisfactory method of providing the American nation with the information that they desire. I made inquiries before the Debate and I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that the general position in America is pronounced by expert opinion to be satisfactory, and I can only hope that this desirable state of affairs will continue.
It only remains for me to say one word about broadcasting. As I have told the House on previous occasions, the B.B.C. has now eight distinct foreign language services—Arabic, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish for Portugal and Spain, and Portuguese and Spanish for Latin America. This last service alone, which ranges from Mexico to the Straits of Magellan, can be listened to, I am told, quite clearly by some 110,000,000 people. This indicates the sort of range of activities that the B.B.C. are undertaking. I should like to assure hon. Members who have shown an interest in the subject that the possibility of extending even this considerable range of broadcasting is under consideration, particularly with reference to some central European countries. The extent, therefore, of the work for which my right hon. Friend and I have to answer is very great indeed and, if we approach it in the spirit which appears to animate the whole 1915 Committee, I hope we shall have more and more success. The right hon. Gentleman said we must bear in mind elevating moral principles and great truths, and the greatest truth of all is that we are all working for peace. There may be some misapprehension. Because we have had to consider in the course of our discussions the possibility of an emergency, do not let us imagine that we are in that emergency, and let us remember that the more work of preparation we do, the less likely it is to occur. The Ministry of Information will be set up only in the case of war. The Foreign Publicity Department will continue to give the world a better picture, if that is possible, of Great Britain as she really is, a human country with human people with a great belief in liberty.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed
We have heard a great deal of the activities of the Department in relation to Europe and European countries, but we have had no mention of its relations to the Dominions. I do not suggest that the Department should consider sending propaganda to the Dominions, but there is in London a corps of representatives of all the Dominion and Colonial papers. They are literally hungry for information. It is of vital 1916 importance to them in guiding opinion in the countries that they represent. I would ask my hon. Friend not to exclude from the activities of this great Department the Dominion representatives in London, who are so avid for news.
§ Mr. Butler
The foreign publicity department does not apply to the Empire or the Colonies, but the Government has of course in mind the necessity of considering that great Empire which already has so much knowledge of us, and we of them.
§ Ordered, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again." — [Mr. Grimston.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 31st July