HC Deb 07 February 1940 vol 357 cc265-94

Motion made and Question proposed,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £55,200, 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 Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and a grant in aid of the Royal Institute of International Affairs."

4.55 p.m.

The Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)

Perhaps it will be convenient if I say a few words now in support of this Foreign Office Supplementary Estimate. We might then, if desired, take a discussion on the Vote for Diplomatic and Consular Services which follows. If that is the wish of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I will proceed to deal with this Foreign Office Estimate in the first place.

The Chairman

I do not think there is any special reason why these Votes should be discussed together.

Mr. Dalton

I imagine that it would be convenient if we could take Class II, Vote 1 (Foreign Office) first. On Vote 2 which deals with the Diplomatic and Consular Services there are several discussable matters and perhaps, Sir Dennis, you could rule as to the manner in which it is to be taken, when we reach it.

The Chairman

I propose to take each Vote separately with everything which comes under the heading of that particular Vote. Probably what the hon. Gentleman has in mind is the fact that on very special occasions—and I have always required very special reasons for adopting this course—we have taken two Votes together. Those cases, however, are exceptions. The rule is to take the Votes separately, as they are set out on the Order Paper.

Mr. Butler

I think the course which I am taking, Sir Dennis, conforms to your Ruling, which is what I anticipated. I will, therefore, begin with a few words of explanation of the various heads under which this supplementary sum of £55,200 is asked. There is little to say about the first four heads. These are, Salaries, £14,000; Communications Department, £3,000; Incidental Expenses, £1,200 and Telephones, £2,000. The only generalisation I would make on these heads is that, during a period prior to the war, there was greatly increased tension and much more work was thrown on the Foreign Office. The increase under the head of Telephones, for example, was due to the fact that certain members of the Foreign Office were placed outside the office for a short period. There have been movings about and the cost of telephones has increased. The increase under the head of Salaries is due to the same reason of increased work and increased anxiety involving the employment of extra staff. Unless it is specially desired, I do not think further comment on those heads is necessary.

It will be necessary, however, and perhaps helpful if I say a few words about the main sum involved in this Estimate, a sum of £35,000 in respect of the Institute of International Affairs (Grant-in-Aid). This sum is required for the Grant-in-Aid up to 31st March to meet the services rendered by Chatham House. The period for which the sum is required is about seven months and the total sum falling on Government funds in a full year would amount to about £55,000. The total expenses of the organisation of Chatham House in a year, which I shall shortly explain more fully to the Committee, is about £12,000 more than that figure. That additional sum is contributed by the University of Oxford and by certain colleges, notably All Souls and Balliol, and by the Royal Institute itself, which has given its available revenue, amounting to approximately £6,000, for the work of Chatham House in war time. The Committee may take it, therefore, that the State, in using the services of Chatham House, to that extent, thanks to the generosity of the University of Oxford and the colleges and the provision of the Royal Institute itself, is relieved of a sum of £12,000.

I explained the organisation of Chatham House on 21st November last in reply to a Question put by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed). Since that date the position has been closely re-examined by His Majesty's Government, in consultation with the representatives of Chatham House. The three aspects of the work of Chatham House which I adumbrated on 21st November have been re-examined and the result of the re-examination has been to show that all three aspects of this work are valuable. Let me now describe them. The first is a comprehensive examination of the foreign Press. This is the only place within the organisation of the Government where the whole foreign Press is comprehensively examined—the Press of some 65 countries brought together into one place and the result put forward in summarised memoranda which are extremely valuable to Government Departments. Because this comprehensive examination of the Press is different from individual messages from Press sources abroad, attachés and His Majesty's missions, which come in an individual point of view from the Press of a foreign country, this work of comprehensive examination is very valuable.

The second aspect of the work is the provision of memoranda compiled by Chatham House, which has exceptional facilities, for Government Departments. I have myself had an opportunity of appreciating the value of several of these memoranda. They are used by the Foreign Office, by the Service Departments, and the Ministry of Economic Warfare. They go to the Ministry of Information, the India Office, and the Colonial Office, to give some examples. The third aspect of the work of Chatham House is the answering of specific queries and requests by Government Departments. In this connection the more requests for information the better, because there are essential facilities in the way of library services, and so forth, which enable the answers to be sent in war time and aid the governmental machine in the conduct of war.

Thus our re-examination made since the date of my reply to the hon. Member for Aylesbury has proved that these aspects of the work of Chatham House are valuable. This re-examination, undertaken by members of the Foreign Office and representatives of Chatham House, also recommended a new arrangement by which there shall be close and continual contact with the departments of the Foreign Office, and we hope it will lead in the future to co-ordination of effort and to the necessary supervision of the work of the research and Press service of Chatham House and will thereby avoid overlapping with the official work of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Information. That aspect of the question is receiving immediate attention and the Minister of Information will, no doubt, place himself in contact and any unnecessary overlapping will be investigated.

Miss Rathbone

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us what relation the work of Chatham House has to the machinery for propaganda in enemy and neutral countries?

Mr. Butler

There is no relation between the Chatham House research and Press service, which is a war-time organisation, and the organisation for propaganda in enemy countries, but the valuable work of Chatham House and its research facilities is used in the Departments which deal with enemy propaganda. The hon. Lady can rest assured that, though there is no connection between the Departments, there is co-ordination, and I can answer for it because the Foreign Office is the organisation which links the bodies.

The Committee may well ask whether this new arrangement will lead to further economies. I can give the assurance that the Foreign Office and the Treasury will keep constant watch upon expenditure and effect economies wherever possible. As the new arrangement is only just starting, I cannot give any more specific assurance of the amount of economies than that, but I hope that one of the results of the arrangement will be that due economies may be made. It is, however, for the Committee to reflect that the work carried out by Chatham House would be extremely difficult to organise in any other manner. Those who have had experience of its work in peace time will realise that to replace its exceptional facilities by some ad hoc organisation would, without doubt, be more expensive.

Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

We managed to win the last war without it.

Mr. Butler

We won the last war with the aid of an efficient intelligence service which performed functions not dissimilar from those transacted by Chatham House, and we shall win this war by an equally efficient service in which I am glad to welcome the assistance of the organisation of Chatham House. It will be valuable at this stage if I express the gratitude of the Government to the Royal Institute for the facilities which it provides. It has special facilities in its library and its Press cutting services, and it is to be noticed that this research and Press service is only a war-time organisation. The peacetime work of Chatham House will be continued at its London headquarters. It is important to make it clear that the work undertaken by Chatham House is not propaganda. Therefore criticisms on the subject of lack of co-ordination and publicity must be examined minutely in the sense that the work of Chatham House is an objective study, more scientific than propaganda. That is why we consider that the arrangement for co-ordination on the part of the Foreign Office to be most likely to be successful and most suitable, considering the work and services which Chatham House performs.

That explains the need for the sum asked for in the Estimate. Since the last answer to the House was given, the matter has been most closely re-examined. If any further points are raised in the course of the discussion I shall be only too glad to do my best to answer them and to reassure hon. Members that this service will be of real value to the Government. We consider that it is suitable that the foreign policy of this country should be conducted with the best possible aid in the crisis through which we are passing, and we are satisfied that the work that Chatham House can do will be useful to us.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. Dalton

There are one or two questions that I wish to ask arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. I had a feeling that during this war too many people would be writing memoranda, and I should like to know in a broad general way what is the scope of this memoranda production machine which is now functioning. Are these memoranda merely informative? Are they collecting material which could easily be got elsewhere, or are they discussing projects such as federal union in order that the Government may begin to form a view, well in advance of the peace conference, as to the character of the new Europe, or, if the memoranda do not fall into either of these classes, how can they in a general fashion be described? I think there is a danger in overwhelming Ministers with too much reading matter. One Foreign Secretary, who deserved well of his country, was distinguished from others who have held that office by the fact that he insisted on reading very little when a matter could be very well explained in a short time by an official of his office. There is a very great danger of Ministers being overwhelmed by masses of written, typewritten, and printed stuff coming in from all sorts of learned gentlemen. We want a little more elucidation on the matter and, I hope, a certain restriction of output to what is really useful and reasonably necessary. In particular, I want to press the question that I put a moment ago. Are we getting from these gentlemen now some expert opinion about the settlement of Europe after the peace? There are several Government Departments here between which there ought to be close working and, in so far as these gentlemen at Oxford are producing information, one would think that they should have a certain relationship with the so-called Ministry of Information, and we should like a little more than the rather bland and agreeable assurance of the Under-Secretary that this close working is in fact taking place.

What is the actual relationship between these gentlemen and Ministers? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could give some up-to-date information—particulars were furnished some time ago, but there has been a revision since—as to the number of people who are working and the number of salaries that are being paid out of this £35,000 and, roughly, how they can be classified. Are there a certain number of professors of modern history, professors of ancient history and other topics and other sub-professorial people? How is it made up? I appreciate the very splendid and diversified work that they do, but would it be untrue to say that this is an arrangement whereby certain salaries which would normally have been paid for by the Institute, and certain other salaries which would normally have been paid for by the universities, have been transferred to the shoulders of the taxpayer? Would it be unfair to describe the arrangement in that way? Are the activities which the professorial, and other people, are now performing at Oxford essentially different from the activities at Chatham House?

5.15 p.m.

Sir Stanley Reed

It is very difficult for any ordinary Member of this House to discuss this matter of the Chatham House Vote, because it is wrapped in a mystery which has not been penetrated and will never be penetrated. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) has asked several very pertinent questions, particularly in relation to this body and the Ministry of Information. The answers we shall await with very general interest. I think there are two aspects of this arrangement which cause profound uneasiness. Firstly, there is its bearing on the future of Chatham House. The organisation built up by the Royal Institute of International Affairs was for the detached and impartial study of international affairs. The whole basis and the whole value of its constitution lay in the fact that it was independent of any Government control or influence. Now it has become a Department of the Government and as such it will always be branded in the eyes of foreign observers. That is a matter for the Council of the Royal Institute, and it is no concern of this House; but what does concern this House very nearly is why, and upon what, this £5,000 a month is being spent. In answer to a Question I put in November, my right hon. Friend was good enough to give certain details as to the work of this body and a statement of its personnel. In regard to the personnel, all that I can say is that if humanity was staggered by the demands of President Kruger after the South African War, many more people in this House and out of it were staggered at the array of professorial talent and the salaries necessary to produce this service.

The Under-Secretary has divided its work very rightly into three parts. The first part deals with the survey and digest of the foreign Press. Unfortunately perhaps for these gentlemen, that is the only part of its activities which ever meets the outside eye, and those who have seen it and studied it can find no value in it at all. There is produced at very frequent intervals, almost daily, a valuable summary of the foreign Press; this is telegraphed from the various capitals through the Foreign Office and is of the greatest value, because it is prompt. The survey and digest of Chatham House emerges weeks later. True, it contains a more detailed survey, but in the opinion of everyone who has seen it, it is of very little value, because it is so belated. The Under-Secretary has told us that this is the only comprehensive survey produced under Government auspices. It would be interesting indeed if Hon. Members would probe and inquire to find how many Departments of the Government are producing surveys of the foreign Press. There is hardly a Department where I do not find a large and costly body armed with scissors and mountains of paste producing summaries of the foreign Press. That is the only part of the activity of Chatham House which the eye sees; the rest we have to take on trust. I do not think we can ask the Under-Secretary to state the nature of the memoranda of which he spoke. I agree with what the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said—that out of all these and other bodies there emerges such a mass of printed matter that it not only overwhelms the Government but makes it impossible to sift the wheat from the chaff. Perhaps it is a considerable factor in producing that paper shortage which exists at the present time in many parts of England.

All these Departments, I suggest, should be brought under review and under control. I think we have gone from one extreme to another—from over-centralization to decentralisation, widespread and overlapping in its activities. We have now a multitude of publicity departments, each without any control, for it is absurd to expect overworked Ministers to control the work of all their Press organisations. I am personally content to wait, and I hope all Members in this House will strongly support the new Minister of Information if he comes to us for power to direct and supervise the publicity departments which have sprung up like mushrooms.

I am tempted to say a few words on the question of personnel. The Foreign Office has showed a charity almost transcending the powers of ordinary men in accepting the personnel of the Oxford professors. When I was in India many of my friends used to say that the surest path to fame and profit was to attack the Government, and that the more you attacked it the greater would be your reward. When I look at the personnel at Chatham House—and I do not want to go into names—I can only say that the Foreign Office have shown a charity almost too great for human beings in gently turning their cheeks to those who smote them—to those who have been acid critics of their policy in the last few years.

5.23 p.m.

Sir Richard Acland

I can understand the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox) attacking this organisation on the ground that war is a thing which is mainly won by soldiers and sailors and not by people doing some very careful and hard thinking. One recognises the overwhelming part that the fighting side plays, but is it unreasonable to suppose that in this war there is a considerable possibility that the side will win which does the cleverest thinking in the next few years, or even months? I can understand the criticism which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), that these men whom we are now employing very frequently disagreed with the policy pursued at Munich.

Sir S. Reed

I did not mention Munich; it was long before Munich.

Sir R. Acland

I understood that the hon. Member was complaining of the way in which the Government were now employing gentlemen who had smitten their foreign policy in the past, although much of that foreign policy has been proved wrong. It seems extraordinary that so many of the Government Departments are staffed by individuals who never regarded that policy as anything but right. What I cannot understand is the attack coming from the Opposition.

Mr. Dalton

I did not attack. I asked questions, and when challenged for an opinion I deliberately withheld.

Sir R. Acland

I am quite prepared to believe that some of this expenditure can be reduced and that somebody in this Department is getting more money than he deserves, but is not the same thing true in any other Department? I am also prepared to believe that some of the work overlaps that of other Departments, but surely that is true to a certain extent of all Government work. I should not have thought that these are reasons for condemning this organisation. This body, independent of Government control, is of most extraordinary value, and its work may yield very remarkable results. If anything this Department thought of should result in shortening the war by 10 minutes, it would have paid for itself. I should have thought that the study of the foreign Press is something of immense value and that there was no ground for suggesting that it is unnecessary because of the summaries which are telegraphed from neutral agencies who, from the very nature of things, cannot appreciate what are the special items, particularly in the case of the German Press, which are of interest to us. The minutest items in the German Press might frequently suggest to a careful reader possibilities and difficulties inside Germany which we could exploit by timely action. Three or four lines of importance appearing in a local newspaper might never come to the knowledge of the Government if we had to rely on the neutral summaries telegraphed from abroad.

I would suggest that if it does not add too much to the expense, we might move some of our summary writers, and those who understand the points on which we might be interested, to Switzerland, where they would get the newspapers at least a day sooner and could telegraph reports which would reach this country more quickly. [An Hon. Member: "Why not Honolulu?"] Yes, if there is anything of importance to learn from there, but I should have thought the most important points were in connection with Germany. By a careful study of the Press we might gain information of the most vital importance, and we should have that information in time. I would suggest, therefore, that this organisation should be given its trial and not crabbed and criticised by the House, that we should hope that excessive expenditure will be reduced, and that we should see the actual result in 12 months' working before we condemn it. I would only make one request to the Under-Secretary. Is there any reason why these Press summaries should not be available to Members of the House and that at least they should be put into the Library? I appreciate that when they contain any suggestions for action they could not be put in the Library, but when they are mere summaries it would be of value to Members if they could be made available.

5.31 p.m.

Colonel Wedgwood

I hope that the Committee will Divide against this Vote. It is most unfortunate that we should allow unchecked the development of a new Government Department of this nature. It is true that in the last war we had no Chatham House but infinitely better information was available to the public as a whole. Even the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland) had to admit that one of the principal values of getting extracts from the foreign Press was lost because they were buried in the Foreign Office instead of going to the public. In the last war we had no Chatham House, and, what was far more important then, there was a certain amount of freedom of the Press. There was issued to every Member of the House week by week a summary of the foreign Press, and there was an organisation at Cambridge, the title of which I forget, which supplied week by week in a cover of pale Cambridge blue extracts from the Press so that the public at large could know what the Press abroad were saying. Anything that Chatham House is doing to-day was done in the past by the Foreign Office and by this private- organisation at Cambridge, and that last cost the country nothing.

Here we are at the start of a war which will be an economic war more than anything else, and we are starting a Department of a semi-public character. I would sooner it were of an entirely public character. The country ought to know the names of the people who are working at Chatham House and the salaries they are getting. [Hon. Members: "They do."] Is it published, as are the names of other Government servants? Is there any reason why they should not publish their extracts and the memoranda which are suitable for Press and public consumption? In the last war that was done for us by the Foreign Office and by private people. In this war we are having it done at great expense and it is much less necessary. The information is consigned to one Government Department and there is no co-ordination with the Ministry of Information which must depend for most of its propaganda upon extracts from the foreign Press. Anyone who had anything to do with propaganda in the last war knows that much the best instrument of propaganda is answering what is being said by the papers in the countries in which we want to carry on propaganda. We want principally to reply to statements in the foreign Press and that applies as well to neutral countries. Unfortunately, in this war it does not apply to enemy countries because there is no freedom of the Press there.

There are three reasons why I think we should have nothing to do with voting this money. The first is that this is a Government Department and should appear as such. The second is that the information is not supplied to the public but to only one Department, which I do not suppose spends much time in reading it. The third is because this is another case of a Department being evacuated at considerable expense and unnecessarily out of London when it ought to be carrying on its work at Chatham House. All who have seen anything of the work of Chatham House in peace-time are grateful to the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir J. Power) for having started that institution. I hope that before the Debate ends he will tell us whether he contemplated the institution developing into two Government Departments, because, after all, Lord Lloyd has another Government Department budding off from Chatham House and also running at Government expense.

The essence of Chatham House as it was originally formed was to bring independent criticism to bear not only upon the Government in this country, but upon all Governments and, above all, upon public opinion in this country. As long as it carried out that educational work it did very good service. Directly it was turned into a branch of the Secret Service, where vast plans are to be evolved as to how we ought to carry on the war, what the neutrals ought to do, and what should happen after the problematical victory; when it was turned into an organisation which is really doing the thinking part of the Government's duty, we got entirely away from the original Chatham House idea. We started a new Department which is not wanted, which is in the wrong place, and which is not supplying to the public what the public ought to have—the extracts from the foreign Press showing foreign opinion.

5.38 p.m.

Sir John Power

I willingly respond to the invitation of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for New-castle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). He is under considerable confusion of ideas as to Chatham House. It was founded practically at the last Peace Conference, and the duty it undertook was the examination in as scientific a manner as possible of all international questions. It later obtained a charter. It is absolutely prohibited from expressing any opinion or passing any resolution. Its work consists entirely of the examination of any problem that seems to be of sufficient interest and to publish the result of its examination. It expresses no feelings whatever, and I do not think that anyone has ever accused the Institute with reason of being anything but impartial to the last degree. Naturally we offend, sometimes the extreme Right and sometimes the extreme Left, but as long as we can get a balance of fifty-fifty we feel that we are keeping the correct course. We did not seek to do this work. We are an institution with 20 years' experience in collecting information and placing it at the disposal of not only our own members, but of any Member of Parliament who likes to apply for information, and he will receive it gratis. We have nothing to do with propaganda and are prohibited from touching anything of that kind.

We were asked to undertake this work because the authorities in their wisdom considered that we were the body best able to carry it out. Since this organisation, which we call a war-time organisation, was instituted it has been gone through most minutely. Every possible item of avoidable expenditure has been cut out. We of Chatham House are filled with only one desire, and that is to do everything we can to help the country win the war. To that extent we have thrown in every penny that we could scrape from our funds to help to pay for the organisation. We instituted negotiations with the University of Oxford colleges and we persuaded them to undertake the expense of the organisation to the extent of £6,400. We are, therefore, saving the Government £12,400 per annum. In addition, all those who are connected with the Institute are throwing in such knowledge as they possess to make the organisation as perfect as may be. Naturally, we look upon that as a service to the country and we do not get any remuneration for it. In addition to the efforts to make the organisation as cheap as possible, we are giving to the organisation and the Government the benefit of our library, our Press cuttings department and our information department, which have been built up over 20 years. As regards the suggestions about the memoranda and smothering Ministers with voluminous documents, we do not do anything of the kind.

We only get out memoranda when we are asked by a Department to give them the Latest and best information on any particular aspect of their work. I presume they do not ask for it if they do not intend to read it. With regard to the necessity for extracts from the foreign Press, there are some people who know everything and do not require to read. I have been concerned with international affairs for the best part of my life, and I have derived the greatest information and interest from reading the digests of the foreign Press when I can find the time to do it. I submit that no other organisation in the country is able to do the three things which we are doing. I consider that we are doing a great service to the country in undertaking this work and putting our funds into it. As for the criticism that this work was done for nothing in the last war, I should be surprised if it was done for ten times the amount then.

Sir S. Reed

How does my hon. Friend reconcile his statement that the work of Chatham House has been rigidly impartial with the survey of international affairs two years ago, which was made up of a biased and tendentious attack on the policy of the Government and the Government of France and on the heads of this Government and the French Government?

Sir J. Power

Of course, when you are trying to carry out an impartial work you cannot satisfy everybody; you cannot satisfy the extreme Right or the extreme Left. At all events, there are many people who probably agreed with the view that was taken in the work to which my hon. Friend refers. In all our publications we are careful to print that the Institute takes no responsibility for individual opinions.

5.44 p.m.

Sir A. Knox

I should like to support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I sincerely hope that this question will be pushed to a Division, and I shall have great pleasure in voting against the Vote. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir J. Power) said that the Government approached Chatham House and asked them to organise this service for the war. Is that really true or is it only a rumour? I am under the impression that Chatham House wanted this organisation arranged so that they could have some reason for getting a large subsidy from the Government. The hon. Member said that this grant of £19,000 would be money well spent if it shortened the war by only 10 minutes, and with that Icordially agree, but it is our business as a House of Commons to find out whether this money is well spent or not. I consider that the work is largely duplicated. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench to tell me the names of some—of only half-a-dozen, if he can remember them—of the memoranda which have been produced by Chatham House since they went to Balliol. Has he read them? How many has he had time to read? How many officials of the Foreign Office have had time to read them? The whole arrangement seems to be a most expensive one, and I think it would be possible, with a little trouble, to find a better object upon which this £35,000 for seven months could be spent. I agree with the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that these memoranda should be made public to the House of Commons. Why not? Or at any rate an extract from them. We all have a good many things to read, and probably would not have the time to read them all, but extracts from them might be made available in the Library, so that we could look at them to see whether the country was getting value for its money, because the whole thing looks to me as if this grant were made in order to keep these gentlemen for the duration of the war.

5.47 p.m.

Miss Rathbone

I was not surprised to hear the criticisms of the hon. and gallant Member for Wycombe (Sir A. Knox), they are exactly what I should expect, but I confess that I was surprised, like the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), by both the nature and the source of the other criticisms which have been made to-day on the work of Chatham House during the war. I do not often find myself in the position of defending Government arrangements against critics of their own party or other parties, but to-day I do find myself in that position. Some of the criticisms have taken the form of questions, and we all know that there can be hostile questions and friendly questions, just as there is hostile neutrality and friendly neutrality. When I heard some of the right hon. Gentleman's awkward questions I could not help feeling, though possibly it is an unworthy suspicion, that a certain amount of jealousy between rival universities comes in here. I look upon this subject from a purely common-sense point of view.

Take the situation which confronted the Government at the outbreak of war. They knew that in Chatham House was an organisation which, since its foundation soon after the end of the last war, had got together experts who were giving their whole lives to an intensified study of an objective and impartial character. Of course they had opinions on this side or that, and occasionally their opinions were seen, and occasionally they may have been too clearly seen in some of their publications; but I do not think that anyone will deny that the publications of Chatham House in the pre-war period showed impartiality. They had gathered together a considerable number of people who were real international experts, people who were making intensive and careful studies of this or that country or this or that problem as affecting international relations. Then the war broke out. Whether the Government approached Chatham House or whether Chatham House approached the Government I do not care, but the Government found a way to make use of that body of experts. I regret that they have evacuated themselves to Oxford. They might have stayed and taken the chance of bombing with the rest of us, but they were evacuated to Oxford, and they gathered to them in Oxford a certain number of other people who were supplied to them by the University of Oxford and by other universities. There they engaged in making these digests of the foreign Press and in writing memoranda about various aspects of international affairs.

One question which was asked by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) was whether the memoranda all had reference to immediate war problems, or were not some dealing with such questions as federal union and the settlement after the war. I do not know whether I was right in reading into his question the idea that he thought that was rather a waste of time if it was so, but if there is one thing which I hope Chatham House is doing it is that. By all means let Chatham House provide memoranda on the immediate problems of the war, but, after all, we hope that there will some day be a day after the war, and do we want a repetition of what happened after the last war? As a right hon. Member has said, we won the last war, but we did not win the peace. As many Government spokesmen have since admitted, that was partly, though not largely, because of the ad hocand too hasty deliberations of that time—they seemed long drawn out then. They proceeded at a period when passions still ran high and had not died down.

The studies made by the group of people who established themselves at Versailles or in the neighbourhood have often been described to us by some Members of the House who took part in them, and we all know that those discussions suffered greatly because they had to be undertaken at a time when passions had not had time to cool. If this body of experts, drawn from people of differing political views, are giving part of their time not to deciding what the peace settlement is to be—that is not their business—but to collecting materials which will assist a judgment to be made upon the facts as to races, minorities, frontiers and all the other matters which affect a post-war settlement if it is to lead to a real peace, then I think it is work which is worth doing and worth paying for.

The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) suggested that the Government ought not to have accepted the services of—we all know whom he was getting at, that very distinguished internationalist who is at the head of a certain department of Chatham House. I refer to Arnold Toynbee. He was the author of the particular survey of which, I feel pretty sure, the hon. Member for Aylesbury was speaking. Is there a man in England who has brought an abler brain to bear on the big racial, philosophic and economic questions affecting international affairs? It has been the main work of his life. That kind of research ought to be going on through the war, so that the results can be available to us after the war.

Colonel Wedgwood

Why should they not be available at once?

Miss Rathbone

Some of them are available. I do not know how much is published, but I know that a great deal can be got by anybody. Obviously there may be facts, surmises and suggestions which it would not be desirable to publish at the present moment, but which should be available to Members of the Government and the Foreign Office. It has been suggested that the work should be done at the Foreign Office. By whom? By the pre-war staff or by additions to the staff? The Foreign Office has the ad hoc, the immediate, problems to deal with, and Heaven knows, there are enough of them, and can it turn itself into an academic research department such as we have in Chatham House? If they employ people for the purpose then those people, working in Whitehall in direct contact with the ordinary officials of Whitehall, could not be expected to observe the same objectivity. They would not have the libraries at their command which the other experts have at Balliol College and in the atmosphere of Chatham House.

I am not going to say that everything which Chatham House has produced is worth while producing, I have not seen most of it, but it seems to me that the general lay-out of the whole thing and the use of the personnel of Chatham House is one of the really praiseworthy things the Government have done. We have seen enough of the creation of hasty ad hoc Ministries, flung together and often staffed partly through nepotism or through somebody recommending somebody else. Was it not better in this particular case to choose people who have made a lifelong study of the problems which they were asked to study?

If I am not out of order there is one other point I should like to make. I had rather hoped that on this Supplementary Estimate there would have been an opportunity for us to hear something about that other cognate department of Foreign Office work, propaganda in enemy and neutral countries. I understand that we could not be told a great deal about it, but I presume that it is done by a special staff at the Foreign Office, and it seems rather odd that there is no provision for—

The Chairman

The hon. Lady cannot pursue that topic.

Miss Rathbone

I only want to know whether later we shall have an opportunity of hearing something of that cognate branch dealing with propaganda.

5.55 p.m.

Commander King-Hall

I intervene to make one point perfectly clear. I had the honour of working on the staff of Chatham House for seven years, and on resigning from the staff I was elected a councillor. I should perhaps explain for the benefit of Members of the Committee that being a member of the Council of Chatham House is a purely honorary position even in war-time. There seem to be some Members of this Committee who are under the impression that the Council of Chatham House have in some way or other come to an arrangement with the Foreign Office the real purpose of which is to float Chatham House off the rocks of bankruptcy on to the bounty of the Treasury during the war. I think one can absolutely deny that any such thought has ever been in the minds of the Council; it is a misapprehension which I have noticed in the Press. The position was perfectly simple. The Council of Chatham House, very properly we thought, in the days when war appeared to be imminent, went to His Majesty's Government and asked them to say whether in their judgment the Royal Institute could be of any service to the nation, and it was the decision of the Government that the organisation of Chatham House, with its specialised staff, could do certain work for the Government which could not be done by anyone else. The Council of Chatham House then, again rightly, I think, decided that in the circumstances the institution must be placed unreservedly at the disposal of His Majesty's Government. Naturally there were conversations on the subject of what the expenses would be—Chatham House had no secrets as to the salaries it paid its staff—and the whole thing was turned over to work for the Government.

Shortly afterwards His Majesty's Government, wishing naturally to economise as much as possible, pointed out to the Council of Chatham House that the first figure agreed upon was a little large and asked whether anything could be done to reduce it. The Council did its utmost to meet this point and the position is that the Council is definitely subsidising this work to the extent of £6,000 a year. There are members of the Council of Chatham House who view with some apprehension this drain on the funds of Chatham House, and on the Council we ask ourselves very seriously whether we were really entitled to agree to this drain. We felt that in the interest of winning the war, as the Government had declared that they needed the work, we ought to take the risk and accept the situation, and that is the position so far as the Council of Chatham House is concerned. That is the only point which I wished to make, and which I hope I have made, namely, that there is no suggestion of Chatham House trying to float itself off on to the Government, but that at the moment it is partly subsidising the work which is being done.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. Charles Williams

Probably most hon. Members will agree that Chatham House took the only possible course and the right course in volunteering its services to the Government directly the war began. That point must be in our minds in this connection. I do not know that I need congratulate the Government upon the support which they received from the hon. Lady who represents the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). It has always been rather a problem to me that people should urge that certain other people, secluded and sitting away, can form cooler judgments during war than when the war is over and it is all done. I will not pursue that point, but it hardly seems to be a possibility.

I would like to ask the Government questions on two points. The first is, is it not possible that this body, who are probably doing very valuable work, should make available to Members of this House some evidence, in the form of a précis? A very considerable amount of money was paid for this kind of thing and I believe many hon. Members would very much like to have the information. Most of us realise that we have a very deep responsibility, not only during the war, but in regard to the future, and that is why I think we should like an opportunity of realising the help which Chatham House might be to this House.

The second point is that, as an ordinary Member of Parliament, I am not quite happy whether, not merely on this Vote, this organisation overlaps with some other form of organisation for gathering, collecting and sorting information. I certainly should not oppose the Vote at the present time because I do not think it would be wise to do so, but we might have an assurance from the Under-Secretary of State in his reply that there is the most careful Government co-ordination in the Foreign Office to cut off superfluities—not that this is a superfluity, necessarily—and to see that we have not too many institutions of this kind.

They were hurriedly got up at the beginning of the war and may overlap. The Government have now passed the preliminary months of the war, and they should go into the whole matter of financing and be quite sure that the co-ordination of the various forms of information and the gathering of it should be looked after very much more closely in the next part of the war than has been the case during the last few months. I put this point purely from a House of Commons point of view, and if my questions can be answered the answers will be very valuable to the House of Commons as a whole.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. Goldie

I was absent from the Committee when the discussion upon this Vote commenced, but I confess that I have been converted in part—but in part only—by the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone). Anybody who listened to the speeches of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir J. Power) supported by the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall) will be in complete agreement that the work of Chatham House in the past has been, as it is at the present moment, most valuable; but I find myself faced with the fact that Chatham House has now removed itself appropriately—dare I say?—to the more intellectual atmosphere of Oxford where, I am sure, it will be singularly comfortable and at home. I approach the problem from one point of view only, which is, is this Vote right from an economic point of view? Are we justified in voting the large sum of £35,000 because of the distinguished activities of Chatham House?

The hon. Lady, who commended the work of Chatham House, said that a large number of experts had attached themselves to it since it went to Oxford, and she quoted one name which anybody who takes any interest in sociological problems must recognise. He must ask whether the country can afford to dispense with those services, and I say "Certainly not"; but when I saw the list of names which came out in the Press just after Chatham House was formed I was amazed. I am a Cambridge man. I saw that a large number of Oxford Dons, some of whom were engaged in professorial duties, were taking their part in that work. I asked myself: Surely this is a case in which gentlemen of great distinction, and living in the cultural atmosphere of Oxford, can give, not only of their specialised knowledge in these matters, but also of their most valuable spare time which, everybody will agree who knows about professorial duties, is now reduced to a minimum in all these colleges at the present time? Is it not possible for these gentlemen to assist the country on not quite such a singularly remunerative basis?

I should like to be satisfied. We are passing a Vote not for the support of Chatham House and of the permanent officials there—who in every case are most worthy—but for increasing the salaries of gentlemen at Oxford who previously had nothing to do with Chatham House at all, and who now in many cases—I do not say all—give on a less generous basis their very valuable services to Chatham House and to the country.

Mr. Butler rose

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Kirkwood

I am sorry that I have to stand in the way of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but because I have listened to the Debate I want to call attention to the matter from the working-class point of view and from the point of view from which I view foreign affairs at the moment. From what has been said by the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down, Chatham House has rendered valuable service to this country. As I understand the matter those services are in advising the Government and keeping them posted upon the situation abroad. In all my experience of this House, if ever there has been a Government that let the country down in foreign affairs it is the present Government; and yet they have had this valuable assistance which we ordinary Socialists have not had an opportunity of enjoying. Nevertheless, all along the line we have foretold what was going to happen to this country if it proceeded on the lines to which we were directing attention. To-day we are landed in a war; this is the valuable assistance that Chatham House has rendered to the country.

The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Clifton Brown)

I ought to point out to the hon. Member that although hon. Members can call attention to the valuable work of Chatham House it is not in order to discuss the further action of the Government.

Mr. Kirkwood

Surely I am within my rights in drawing attention to what has happened as a result of that valuable assistance—but I will not pursue that point. Enough for the moment is the evil thereof. It is a very terrible thing that I have said and I hope the Committee will pay attention to it and weigh it up. I see that on page 7 of the Supplementary Estimate it says that expenditure out of this grant in aid will not be accounted for in detail. That is to say that the individuals who fraternise with the Chatham House fraternity do not require any details of expenditure to be given. It is only when we come to the working class that you require a means test. The document goes on to say: Any balance"— think of this— of the sum issued which may remain unexpended at 31st March, 1940, will not be liable to surrender to the Exchequer. Is the Committee going to stand for that? The Exchequer is asked to grant to this Chatham House £35,000. Of course, that is not very much when you say it quickly, and if you are living among men some of whom are drawing £35,000 a year; but it is a different matter when we have to go to our constituencies and answer questions about the means test which is being applied to the people. Here is an institution which takes £35,000 and in the event of the money being not all required, or of the organisation being unable to spend that grant which it gets from the Exchequer, the Exchequer is not to look for money being paid back. Who are they, that they should be in that unique position?

This is just a case of the ruling class of this country treating these benches with absolute contempt. Unless we get a satisfactory answer we ought to oppose the individuals who are putting forward this application for £35,000 and who have rendered such valuable service. This is the institution that has been responsible for informing the present Foreign Secretary, the previous Foreign Secretary the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and the right hon. Member for Spen Valley (Sir J. Simon) before him, as well as all the other Foreign Secretaries whom we have had here and who have made such a mess of the business. They come forward and ask us Socialists to support the idea of granting them £35,000 to continue their good work of leading the Government of this country astray. I am opposed to it.

6.14 p.m.

Mr. Pickthorn

I am sorry to detain the Committee for a few minutes longer, but I want to ask one or two questions on points of fact about the foreign Press digest. First of all, about its form. It has been suggested that we might have laid before us some sort of synopsis of it. If the thing is printed, is there any reason why we should not have complete copies of it before us? I ask the question because in 1918 I had as much as anybody to do with this thing, not in producing it but in using it. I certainly should think, if it is being produced in the form it was a month or two ago, on cyclostyled sheets, it is of very little use. The people who have to use it want to be able to look at a good deal of it very quickly, and if one has to turn over an enormous number of sheets in order to see what comes out of a small number of German newspapers it is of very little use. Therefore I would ask if the report of the foreign Press is being printed; if not, whether it is going to be printed, and if it is printed whether we should not have copies in the House of Commons? Then, further, with regard to the speed with which this Press digest is produced, we learned from the last war that the speed with which one can see these things is by far the most important feature of the question, and a very bad synopsis of the foreign Press which is obtainable quickly is of more use than a good one which can only be gathered slowly.

I wish to ask another question: what other offices are doing precisely the same work? It is a misunderstanding to suppose, as was suggested by one or two other speakers, that during the last war nothing was done with regard to the preliminary studies of the Peace Conference. A good deal was done, for instance, under the direction of Dr. Headlam Morley. If what was done did not have a beneficial effect on the Peace Conference that was partly no doubt because it was not done so well as it should have been, and partly because the politicians did not read it. As the work on the foreign Press was being done, it was being done with a great deal of overlapping. I should like to know whether the military intelligence sections of the War Office are not finding it necessary to get this kind of work done. I have no doubt that money should be spent on doing the work, but I doubt whether it is worth doing it at Oxford if it is being done in the Air Force, the Foreign Office and, for all I know, in other Ministries.

6.17 p.m.

Mr. Butler

I will do my best to answer the criticisms which have been made by hon. Members. The best preface to my remarks will be if I say that it is the wish of the Government to take into con- sideration the points of view of the Committee, and I will give an undertaking that everything that has been said here to-day by way of criticism will be examined to see that any new arrangements which will be made will be as satisfactory as possible. I would like to say emphatically that I welcome the speeches of the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir J. Power) and the hon. and gallant Member for Ormskirk (Commander King-Hall), because I am sure they have put the position of Chatham House fairly. If there is criticism I should like it directed against the Government; we are ready to take the responsibility. The work of Chatham House has been of an entirely patriotic description; it has been of a high quality, and, as I said in my opening remarks, it has been of definite value to the Government and I am convinced it will be so in the future.

Taking some of the detailed points mentioned, the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) asked about the type of memoranda produced. I should like to kill the idea straight away that we are contemplating producing at Oxford in remote seclusion a perfect academic peace plan. That is not the object of the Chatham House foundation at all. The object is that in these memoranda no subject should be excluded, but that we expect the organisation to place at the disposal of those who conduct the country's policy detailed knowledge of the political and economic conditions of the many countries with which they deal. I was asked how many of these memoranda I have read myself, how many have been produced, the exact contents of the memoranda and why we cannot publish them in detail.

The difficulty in conducting a country's foreign policy is that it is impossible to publish intimate confidential memoranda. It is impossible to conduct a country's policy, particularly in war-time, if everything is to be made public, because use may be made of it abroad, at any rate, if not in this country. Therefore, I can only describe them, as I have described them, in general terms. I would like to remind the Committee that they are used, not only by the Foreign Office, in which case they cover problems in connection with foreign countries and provide us with knowledge of conditions in those countries, but they are used also by the Ministry for Economic Warfare, for example, and they have proved invaluable to that Ministry as well as to the Colonial Office and other Government Departments. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asked for a rough idea of the number employed. The number of those employed on the staff is 65, with a suitable accompaniment of clerical assistants.

A subject has been raised with which I should like to deal straight away, and that is the question of the salaries of the professors employed at Chatham House. I think there has been a distinct misunderstanding by the hon. Members who mentioned this matter, in particular by the hon. and learned Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie). It is unfair to the professors who are doing good work at the present time. He cannot have been aware of the true facts; otherwise he would not have made the statement he did. He said many of them were increasing their salaries unjustifiably in this time of national difficulty. What is in fact happening is that at least eight of those whose names are included in the list which was laid before the House on 21st November are having their salaries paid not at an increased rate to what they were getting before, but they are being paid by the University of Oxford itself. These sums are not being paid by the taxpayers; these Oxford professors are receiving a sum approximate to what they received before for their services in the national interest.

Mr. Goldie

Would the right hon. Member forgive me? I am afraid that I must have expressed myself rather carelessly. Of course, I regret if I said anything which is not strictly accurate.

Mr. Butler

I am sure the Committee will accept the hon. Member's remarks. That is why I said that I thought he could not have been fully informed of the position. Without quoting his name, I should like to mention one of the gentlemen, a professor who gave up a salary of over one and a half times as much as he is getting now in order to come and work for the figure which I gave in the list to the House on 21st November. That is an example of the spirit of some of those who have offered their services.

The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) said that there was an atmosphere of mystery. I should have thought that there was the very reverse of mystery. I should have thought that the position was quite clear. In my opening remarks to-day I attempted to define the relationship between Chatham House and the Foreign Office and to give some idea of the work they do. There has been some anxiety lest there should not be co-operation between the Government Departments engaged in this particular type of work. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) asked that there should not be any overlapping. I can assure him that this will be further investigated in the light of criticism made to-day. I have said that we wish to avoid overlapping and I consider that in the arrangements made, overlapping between the Foreign Office and Chatham House will be avoided; the question of overlapping between Chatham House and other Government Departments will also receive consideration.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir R. Acland), the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and by the hon. Member for Cambridge University whether some of the productions of Chatham House cannot be made available to the Members so that a proper examination of its work can be made. I am going to make the following suggestion to the Committee. It is that we should make available as soon as possible the German Press Review and place it in the Library of the House so that hon. Members may examine it. This would not exclude consideration of the précis to which I think the hon.Member referred. I should like to give further consideration to that as well. The hon. Member for Cambridge University asked how the Press Review was produced, whether it was printed or on cyclo-style sheets. He said that cyclo-style sheets were difficult to turn over quickly. I would remind the hon. Member that the work of Chatham House is of such value that I trust that when he reads the German Press Review he will read it slowly and diligently. I cannot undertake to say that the Press Review will be printed, because we must have regard for economy. Therefore, I cannot undertake that any extra money will be spent in printing the Press Review unless it is found by the Committee when they read the Press Review that it is difficult to read in its present form, in which case this matter will receive consideration.

Colonel Wedgwood

Could we not have a similar system to the one which was used in the last war, when there was a weekly précis of the foreign Press issued to Members and for public use?

Mr. Butler

I would like to give the question of précis further consideration and I undertake to tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the result of my deliberations on that matter when I have had an opportunity of considering the question. That covers most of the points raised in the course of this interesting Debate. I should like to assure the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) that we desire to consider carefully the points which he has raised, but we are in some confusion. At one moment we are told that Chatham House has been very critical of Government policy in the past and that therefore we are moved by charity in accepting their services in the war. At another moment he says—I think, unjustly to Chatham House—that it is due to them that we are in the present difficulty. I think the truth lies, as the apologists for Chatham House have said, somewhere between those two extremes. I trust that the hon. Member will be patient, and that he will reflect that we are fortunate to have available the services of those people, some of whom have criticised our policy in the past and others who have supported it, but who are one and all, I believe, men and women of character, experience and intellectual ability, and whose experience and character and ability are now at the disposal of the Government in this difficult time.

Mr. Kirkwood

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for replying to my first question, I would ask him to answer my last question, with regard to the statement here that any bonds which remain unexpended on 31st August, 1940, will not be liable to surrender to the Exchequer.

Mr. Butler

I too was very alarmed when I examined this Vote, but I reflected that this is the language used in all cases when a grant-in-aid is sought. If the hon. Member will examine some of the other grants-in-aid in the Book of Estimates he will find that similar language is used. But, apart from the technical question of the language used, may I point out that I gave an under- taking in my opening remarks that due regard will be had to economy? I can assure the hon. Member that money will not be wasted. If there is a tendency for money to be wasted, the matter will be examined by the Treasury and the Foreign Office, and due arrangements will be made to avoid waste.

Question put, and agreed to.


"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £55,200, 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 Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and a grant in aid of the Royal Institute of International Affairs."