Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £2,500 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, 1941, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and grants in aid of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the British Association for International Understanding.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
It will probably be convenient to the Committee if I say a few words about the grants-in-aid which are dealt with in this Vote. This, as the Committee will observe, is by far the smallest Vote which is to come under consideration to-day, but it involves an important point. I shall occupy few moments in telling the Committee something about the work of this Association. It was formed in March last year with the object of assisting the British people to understand international affairs. It is the only incorporated organisation, registered as a scientific society, which exists for the sole purpose of disseminating accurate information on foreign and Imperial matters in a popular manner, without advocating any doctrine or policy. The membership fee is fixed very low and this accounts for the need, in circumstances which I shall explain, for some State aid.
The Association enables soldiers, sailors, airmen, schoolmasters and schoolmistresses, students and workpeople in all parts of the Empire to receive the literature which is summed up in the British Survey produced by the Association. In this type of activity, the Association might therefore be compared with the Workers' Educational Association or the University extension organisation which already receive grants-in-aid. It is, in fact, an educational body and if hon. Members glance at the British Survey, which I shall be glad to place at their 1480 disposal, they will see that the work done by the Association is of an estimable character and compares very well with the work of those other organisations. The governors are trained men representing widely different interests. The chairman is Mr. G. M. Young who served at the Board of Education and is well-known as a writer; other typical governors are Mr. Walter Adams, secretary of the London School of Economics, Mr. J. W. H. Brown, chairman of the International Relations Committee of the National Union of Teachers, Mr. Ernest Green, general secretary of the Workers' Educational Association, and Mr. W. E. Williams, secretary of the British Institute for Adult Education. There are of course many other governors but the names I have mentioned will indicate the nature of the supervision which is exercised over the work of this Association. Mr. Harold Butler, the head of Nuffield College, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Sir Herbert Emerson, and the chairman of the International Committee of the National Federation of Women's Institutes are also members on the governing body.
I said in my opening remarks that the work of the Association was not connected with politics. The Association has some 2,000 members and already in the short time that the Association has been at work, there are nearly 3,000 regular readers of the British Survey and the number is increasing. A classification of the readers of the Survey may interest the Committee. It is taken chiefly in schools by schoolmasters and school-mistresses and others engaged in adult education. It is taken by education authorities in England and Scotland and in the Colonial Empire. It is taken by county and borough authorities in English counties and industrial districts, for instance, in Coventry, Derby, and Durham and big cities like Edinburgh. Copies of the Survey also taken in Bengal, Burmuda, Hong Kong, and Tanganyika. This indicates the manner in which the work of the Association is spread not only over this country but over the Empire.
These surveys are also used among other purposes for lectures to the troops during the winter. This is an important aspect of the Association's work; and 300 lectures have been arranged for the Canadian troops alone by the Association during the coming winter. The survey 1481 is also largely used by the Workers Educational Association classes and copies are distributed to officers and men in the Army, Navy and Air Force through the central advisory committee on education in His Majesty's Forces. The Association is appealing for funds to extend, in particular, the work already undertaken of giving information to the troops throughout the winter on the matters dealt with in the British Survey. The Survey is also used in public libraries. For instance, in my county of Essex, all the public libraries are subscribers to it.
The nature of the Survey is best described by reference to a letter written at the end of last year and signed by a former President of the Board of Educaticn, Lord Eustace Percy, the Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Oxford and Cambridge Directors of Extra-Mural Studies. Surveys, as described in the brochure of the Association, have been made of the Commonwealth and of foreign countries and various aspects of international affairs. I have copies of the Surveys here and the first one I notice is in reference to the petroleum resources of the Empire and of the enemy. Another particularly effective one is entitled "How a Nazi is made." It describes the process of manufacturing a Nazi in Germany and is thoroughly documented. A third deals with Iceland and its importance at the present time is obvious. A fourth deals with raw materials from south-eastern Europe. These are only examples from the vast range of information given in these Surveys and I shall be glad to make them more readily available for study by hon. Members if they so desire.
Now as to the financial position. Hon. Members will sec that this is a £1 for £1 grant. The Estimate says that the grant in aid will be subject to a maximum of £2,500 and this will be shared on the basis of £1 for every £1 received by the Association from other sources such as donations and subscriptions. The finances of the Association which we are asked to support are as follow: Subscriptions and donations reach a figure of £2,541. Of this sum £1,500 was raised before the bombardment began. Since then the normal flow of subscriptions has been somewhat restricted but efforts are being made to continue and even to increase the membership. Since June the 1482 Association has reduced its annual rate of expenditure so as to cover this survey, the provision of London and Scottish offices of the Association, and the provision of lectures for the troops during the winter.
In this connection the Scottish office of the Association is undertaking some particularly valuable work, which makes this matter one of special interest to the Foreign Office. It is undertaking to give lectures to members of the Allied forces resident in Scotland. Members of the Allied forces sometimes have time on their hands and the opportunity of giving them lectures under the auspices of this Association is a very excellent one. The present annual estimate of the Association is rather over £5,000. Therefore, it will be seen that the grant for which the Committee is asked amounts to about half the annual expenditure. So far, £1,250 has been issued by the Civil Contingencies Fund, donations and subscriptions having considerably exceeded this sum for the period ended 30th September last.
That describes the scope and nature of the Association and also its financial position. It is determined to extend its work by raising special additional funds, which is an earnest of its determined purpose. The work which, I think, will be most important in the coming winter is that connected with His Majesty's Forces, but educational work will still be very important throughout the country. The Committee may, therefore, be assured that there will be scope and value in the comparatively small sum which is being granted, in comparison with some of the other Votes, for this Association. I believe that this venture will be worth supporting, and I, at any rate, am glad to move that this sum be granted on behalf of the Foreign Office Vote.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
This, I understand, is the first grant being made for the British Association for International Understanding, and it is, as the Under-Secretary has said, a very modest sum which is involved. I do not know very much about the British Association for International Understanding, but I do know it is run by men of great ability and public spirit. I believe it has a useful function to perform in time of peace, and perhaps it can do, as indeed 1483 the Under-Secretary has shown, very special service in time of war. Everyone in all quarters of the Committee will be agreed that the work of the British Association for International Understanding must to-day be more important than it has ever been. After all, this war is being waged in the hope that we shall end aggression for good and all, and that can only be accomplished if we have a lot more international understanding than has been the case for the last 10 years, and, as has been conclusively proved by events, if we have British leadership of international institutions of a kind which has not yet been evident. I agree with the Under-Secretary that Government money could hardly be spent on a more desirable object than this.
However, I should like an assurance on a certain question of principle which I think is involved—a question of principle in which our British practice has differed from that of some foreign countries. This is a purely voluntary private organisation which is concerned with education in international affairs. For many years I have said, in public and private, and at committees upon which I have served and movements with which I am connected, that such education is of the utmost importance. The Under-Secretary has outlined some of its work, such as lectures for the troops and Allied Forces in Scotland, which is of the greatest interest at the present time. But, if we are to give Government money for purposes such as this, we ought to be extremely careful that the work is educational and that it does not become political propaganda. I say that, although I am convinced in my own mind that if there was to be political propaganda done by this body, knowing those who run it, it would be political propaganda with which I personally should agree. Even if I had organised this body myself, I should be very careful if I intended to do any political propaganda before accepting a Government grant, in view of what we have seen practised on the Continent of Europe. We know that in France, Italy and other countries there are propaganda bodies. I have had to work with propaganda bodies, concerned with this very matter, which have had Government money. It has been utterly destructive of their utility in every way. The principle 1484 of Government grants to such bodies was, in a certain small measure, responsible for the course of events in the last 20 years. Therefore, I repeat again, that I hope that, if this money is granted, it will be perfectly plain that it is for education, interpreted in a broad way and dealing with fundamental issues in foreign affairs which Governments must face and the problems they must solve. It should not deal, directly or indirectly, with what can be called political propaganda, because in that case I am quite sure that this organisation and the Committee would regret that such a grant had been made.
§ Mr. Mander (Wolverhampton, East)
I naturally approach any request for finance for the stimulation of good will between nations with the greatest possible sympathy, but there are one or two points I should like to raise in connection with the proposed grant. I have heard from those who make use of the Surveys how extremely useful they find them. They praise them in the highest possible terms as being most valuable and most informative. I want to be perfectly clear about that. But the point I wish to make is that the Government must justify granting funds for the first time to a new association, and we must be perfectly satisfied that there is no existing organisation which is capable of undertaking this work. The Government, of course, are financing various institutions, many of which are quite unsuitable for this kind of work. They are financing the British Council, and I do not suggest that they could undertake the work. Then again the Foreign Office do a great deal of propaganda work of a different kind, and, no doubt, something is being done by the Secret Service. I am wondering—and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this point—whether Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, to which a very large sum has already been granted, could not properly be asked to extend its activities, which seem to fit in very well with the sort of thing we are dealing with here.
I think that the hon. Member is getting on to rather wide alternatives to the business which is now before us.
§ Mr. Mander.
I was only wishing in passing, to put to my right hon. Friend that we ought not to grant this money in this way unless we are satisfied there are no 1485 alternative methods for doing this work. However, I do not wish to go into detail on this matter. In the heading of the Surveys it states that this Society is formedto enable British people to understand international affairs.We ought to ask ourselves before granting this money whether the work is not already being done to a considerable extent by private organisations in which no expenditure of public funds is involved. For instance, it is known that the Oxford and Cambridge University Presses have brought out very valuable series of booklets and pamphlets upon this subject. The Oxford University Press has published 35 pamphlets on world affairs, at 3d. each, which cover very much the same ground dealt with here. The Cambridge University Press has brought out some political booklets on "Current Problems," at 3s. 6d. each, under the general guidance of Dr. Ernest Barker. Messrs. MacMillan have brought out a series of war pamphets at 3d. each dealing with tile same problem, as have Messrs. Francis Aldor while other publishers have dealt with the question, I admit in a rather more controversial way.
Looking at the Survey itself—and my right hon. Friend has been good enough to send me copies of the various issues—I notice that there is one on "Petroleum," and one on "How a Nazi is Made"; But I seem to remember that there is a number of very excellent "Penguins" which have been issued dealing with this very important question of "How a Nazi is made." One wants to be very careful to see that there is no duplication going on. The subject of another issue of the survey is "Fascist Italy and the Historical Background," and there is another on "China Builds for the Future." In this connection I noticed with some interest that the association is organising a series of lectures, in the National Portrait Gallery, by eminent persons. But I also notice with some astonishment and regret that for a lecture dealing with Japan, on 17th April they selected as Chairman, Sir Francis Lindley, who is known to take strongly pro-aggressor and anti-victim point of view throughout the whole of the episodes in the Far East. It does not impress me as being very wise of an association which will enjoy public 1486 money. They will have to do better than that if they are to justify a grant from public funds.
My right hon. Friend said there is a Survey on Iceland. They are all extremely interesting, and I have read many of them. Another deals with India, and political developments in India, and there is another interesting one on Canada. For a subscription of only 6s. 6d., people are able to get 26 of these Surveys—that is 3d. each, which is very much the same price as some of the publications to which I have referred which have been brought out privately. While I appreciate the excellent work which this Association is doing, and wish to help any organisation in the country which is trying to bring better understanding and good will between nations, I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to deal with the two points I have raised, namely, whether the Royal Institute of International Affairs could not have additions to their duties, and whether the ground is not to some extent covered at the present time by some of these private ventures to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)
I do not feel that I can let this Vote pass without a warning which was also given, to some extent, by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). Without exception, the Under-Secretary is a man who can most easily make a difficult case and simplify a complicated problem, and, for this grant he has made a plausible case. However, I want the Committee to know exactly what we are doing. I am in considerable sympathy with the promoters of this body, and I have a very great respect for Mr. G. M. Young, but where do we stop financing bodies which are promoting international understanding? When we give a grant to W.E.A., we do not give a grant for literature. We give a grant because a certain number of persons are going to meet for a regular period in classes. The classes are inspected by His Majesty's inspectors, reports are given, and a very happy relationship of a voluntary society with the State has grown up over a period of 30 or 40 years.
This is not quite the same thing. This is an attempt to be objective, and that is the most difficult thing for anyone to do 1487 on international affairs. I have had four professors from the Ministry of Information in Ayrshire, two of them in my constituency, and I very gravely doubt the wisdom on the part of the Ministry of Information of allowing to be delivered some of the speeches that I have heard, because in these days it is preferable that thought should be stimulated at all costs on these questions. They tend to cancel each other out. I have heard men coming away from a lecture saying, "What then is the war about?" I have heard very alarming statements made because each lecturer has tried to preserve objectivity, and, with the best will in the world, his bias is bound to come in. One man is rather anti-American. It has been clear in every lecture. Another has had such a happy time in pre-war Germany that he thinks it a pretty good place for the working man to live in, and so on. I have read scores of these Surveys, and in many cases they are first-class, but what is the right hon. Gentleman going to do? He says that, because my hon. Friend here thinks they are good, therefore the State is going to subsidise them. Suppose I started a series of surveys and I have been associated for some years with voluntary bodies which are trying to make an objective study of social and economic questions. It has never been asked that the State should have anything to do with these private ventures, because you destroy the most precious part of them which is the voluntary side of the work, which is bound to change with the changing course of the world. When this body came to the Board of Education some months ago we said we would allow these surveys to be made known to local authorities, but we could do nothing more. I was very strongly in favour of going as far as that, but no further. Teachers use them, but this is a new venture for lectures to be given.
There is a body set up by the War Office in conjunction with a very representative educational body presided over by Sir Walter Moberly which is dealing with this kind of work for the troops. There is a regional organisation all over the country, and there are thousands of lectures. On balance it should go on, though there are great dangers even there, because the speakers are subsidised. When you give a definite subvention to a body which is trying its best to present nothing 1488 more or less than an objective account of the life and habits of people in the Dominions, the Colonies and other parts of the world, we ought to be extremely careful. I have a certain sympathy with the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander). There is a number of publishers, working under considerable difficulties, who are making a brave effort, particularly the Oxford University Press, and it does not work for a subsidy. It seems so harmless—£2,500—that one is apt to say. "Let it go," but we ought, of course, to have reports on this. Mr. G. M. Young is a great friend of mine and has done magnificent work. I wish for his own sake he had kept it a voluntary body. Its strength would have been greater. If a body whose origins might be a little different, which might be associated with hon. Friends of mine who normally sit in this part of the House came along, some society which was going to improve the relations between trade unions throughout the world—a very excellent idea—it could not have a better object in view. Would the State be prepared to give pound for pound? Where does it stop, and where does it begin? I only enter this warning because even in the middle of a war, perhaps particularly because we are in the middle of a war, we ought to be particularly careful how we subsidise bodies which are promoting international understanding.
§ Mr. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I wish to oppose this Vote, and I gather that one or two speakers who have preceded me are not quite certain in their own minds about the rightness of granting public money for this purpose. I wish they would come out more openly and say they do not think we ought to spend public money on this society, however excellent the recommendation the Under-Secretary has given us. One of my principal reasons for opposing the Vote is that it is discriminatory. It is giving this society a privileged position which it ought not to have. At any rate, if we are going to grant public money for this purpose, what control has Parliament over either the conduct of the affairs of the society or the type of literature that it puts out? Is there to be any Government representation on the governing body of the society? I should have thought, for such a small amount of money as this, something like the Nuffield Trust, or that large fund 1489 which Lord Baldwin controls, and not Parliament, would have been the people to advance the money. As regards lectures to the troops, I welcome any efforts made in that direction, but that is an entirely separate arrangement. Separate funds are granted by the Treasury to the War Office to provide lecturers for the troops. I look with a great deal of suspicion on all these different people lecturing to the troops on various matters, many of them controversial, and I know very well that if some regular speakers wanted to put their point of view on the same subject, the military authorities would not be too keen to have them.
I hope the House will make up its mind definitely and not be led away by the very nice words which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken in favour of the society, but there is no doubt that on such a subject as this, international relations and the promotion of a better international understanding, in so far as this body sends its literature or lecturers, there might very well grow up a feeling that, because the Foreign Office have advocated the grant of public money, all that it says and does will be the Foreign Office point of view and that it will not be, as we should desire it, a comprehensive survey of international relations, and not the British point of view entirely, though I quite agree with the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) that the British point of view at present is probably the best point of view that could be given. If we are to get any satisfactory result from the war, it must be something far wider than that if we are to get a real co-operative effort between the nations. The Foreign Office, with their powerful influence, have only to say to Lord Nuffield, "Here is a worthy object," and I am certain the money would be forthcoming at once. Do not let us ask this and then, if other bodies come to us, refuse them because they have not the Foreign Office recommendation.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
I hope that nothing that I may say will be construed into a reflection on the distinguished gentlemen who have founded and are undertaking the management of this Association. The last thing that I want to do is to raise any meticulous objections on small grounds of this character. But it seems to me that the proposal is funda- 1490 mentally bad, and even at this late stage I think the Foreign Office will be well advised to withdraw it and give it further consideration. This work is being done by other bodies. More than 20 years ago a very important body was born for the promotion of the very objects of this Association. It was a large and powerful organisation, with substantial funds, and it makes no request for any assistance from the State for that branch of its work. It is true that it may have been beguiled into other paths not to its advantage, and that forms a very grim warning to this body, that it has been diverted from its true purpose by being associated with the State. Far the most valuable work in this field is that done by men of high qualifications who are perfectly free from any trammels and can therefore state their case with relative freedom of action.
It is argued that this body will pursue a purely objective course. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. blander) quoted the name of an authority on Eastern affairs. Anyone who knows anything about Eastern affairs is aware that that distinguished gentleman has the strongest opinions on one side of the case, and to think that he would give an objective view of that field of international affairs is absurd and impossible. Such an authority should contribute to a private body and not to one that draws funds from the State. A further point of view was put by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay). I think that this body has made a serious error in going to the Foreign Office for funds. It would be far more effective and efficient if it were free from any connection with the State and developed its own ideas with the knowledge it has behind it without feeling all the time that it might do something to give offence to the Foreign Office. The Board of Education were far wiser than the Foreign Office, for they refused to be lured into giving a grant to this body. It has found the Foreign Office rather more pliable, and it is taking a course which is bad in its own interests, bad in the interests of the State and had for all work of this character.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Did the hon. Member say that an application of this sort has been made to the Board of Education and turned down?
§ Mr. Butler
I am not aware that this body appealed to the Board of Education for a grant. Perhaps the late Parliamentary Secretary will be able to inform the hon. Member. As far as I know, the first application for a grant owing to the present stringency was made very recently, and it is that grant which we are now considering.
§ Mr. Lindsay
As I understand it, this body approached the Board of Education to see whether they could help in making known its publications throughout the schools. The Board did say that they would make them known, but there was no question of giving a subsidy to the organisation. In fact; it could not be done.
§ Sir E. Reed
I understand that the body went to the Board for assistance and that the Board decided that the only assistance they could give was in assisting the distribution of its literature. What will happen in practice if this grant-in-aid is made? A grant-in-aid is a fixed sum and cannot be withdrawn as long as the conditions are satisfied. This small grant will be lost in the expenditure of the Foreign Office. When foreign affairs come before the House they deal with issues so vast and important that it is impossible for the House or the Foreign Office itself to exercise any real control over such funds as it is now asking the Committee to grant. Work of this character should be under the Ministry of Information, and it could be constantly reviewed by the House and by the Minister responsible. Therefore, the House could exercise a measure of control. This is a second time the Foreign Office have come to the Committee for a grant for work entirely outside their purview. It is not only objectionable in practice that these miscellaneous demands should be made and then passed out of effective control. It is not in the interest of the society itself to be in the remotest degree linked with the State. The work has been done and is being done admirably by other older organisations and private agencies, and that is a far better machine for this purpose. I hope that the Under-Secretary will not press this matter.
§ Mr. Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I find myself in the unaccustomed position of disagreeing with the critics of the Government and supporting the proposal before the Committee. Wars take place because international understanding breaks down, and during a war the cause of international understanding inevitably weakens and drops. That is natural, for it is difficult to make the mental and spiritual effort necessary to understand the people who are dropping bombs upon you when you are sheltering from the bombs. The effort necessary has to be made. The Government recognise that it has to be made and the Committee recognise it too. Nobody has a word to say against the activities of this Association.
§ Mr. Silverman
There may be criticisms of how the work is done, but no one will have a word to say against the efforts of any body genuinely engaged in an educational sense in spreading the cause of international understanding when it is necessary that it should be spread. The difference of opinion is as to whether the Government should support such an effort financially. One hon. Member asked whether the Foreign Office could not have quietly suggested to Lord Nuffield that he should make a grant to this body. Recognising the dangers that are involved, I would rather that the most reactionary Government should have some control of this work as a slight cost than that it should be dependent on some individual. Whenever the House votes money it has some opportunity of controlling the expenditure and of criticising how it should be applied and the policy of the person spending it. I have no sympathy with the suggestion that, if it is recognised that the work ought to be done and that this body is rendering a public service in doing it and ought to be supported, it should go to some private philanthropist for support.
An alternative suggestion is that this is properly the work of the Ministry of Information. That is exactly what it is not. The Ministry of Information cannot but be a propagandist instrument. That is what it was set up for. In peacetime we do not have a Ministry of Information. In war-time it is part of the war effort designed to help us to win. Whether its 1493 policy and activities do help us to win is a matter of criticism and debate from time to time. The work that is being done by this organisation is not intended to be propagandist. It is intended to be objective. I see nothing to deplore in the Government, in the midst of war, saying, "We see nothing wrong with our case and we do not think it will suffer by objectivity. If only all the world could be equally objective, the war would come to an end to-morrow. If our case is right, objectivity does not hurt it." We cannot have objectivity in a Department like the Ministry of Information. I do not mind the Government saying, "We will grant this small amount to enable this body to proceed with a job which can only do good to the world and can do no harm to our own case."
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
Will the hen. Member deal with this point? I understand him to say that one of the objects to which he desires this money to go is to provide us with a better understanding of those who are dropping bombs on us. Does the hon. Member suggest that that is a proper subject for Government money at the present time?
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. Member does himself an injustice. He does not usually make small and not very satisfactory debating points in his speeches, and I have never known him to interrupt a speech in order to make a debating point which I am sure he will, on consideration, realise would have been better left unsaid and was not justified by anything in my speech.
§ Mr. Hogg
The hon. Member clearly said that it was important that we should understand others, and I understood him to say that among those people whom we ought to understand are those who are dropping bombs on us. I ask a simple question, to which there should be a simple answer, whether the hon. Member suggests that it is a proper subject for the expenditure of Government money to promote understanding of those who are dropping bombs on us.
§ Mr. Silverman
I see no reason why the hon. Member should get so excited. I have said that the cause of international understanding is important. Does he deny that? Does not the whole future of the world depend on international understanding? Is there any hope for us 1494 unless we make that effort for international understanding? Is not the whole war about that as far as we are concerned? Is there anything inconsistent in saying that if you are in favour of international understanding, that means understanding the enemy as well as we understand ourselves? A good soldier would have known that the first duty of a combatant is to understand his enemy. [An HON. MEMBER: "For what purpose"?] For the purpose of victory and of living with him afterwards. I do not wish to be diverted, but, after all, we have to live with him afterwards.
I think the Debate is getting a little wide, as the hon. Member himself seemed to indicate.
§ Mr. Silverman
I apologise if I have been led away, but as long as the interruptions were allowed, I thought it was not improper to reply to them. The point I was making was that so far from having any objection to it I was glad that in the midst of this war, and at a very critical phase of it, the Government should find it possible to make a contribution to certain bodies with the object of developing and improving international understanding. I was saying, also, that the Ministry of Information was not the proper body to do this work. Anyone who heard the speech on the wireless last night by Mr. Valentine Williams will appreciate exactly why it is not the proper body. I never heard such a deplorable statement.
It seems that Chatham House and the B.B.C. are both words which rouse the Chairman out of his Chair in order to keep hon. Members from straying from the proper path.
§ Mr. Silverman
I was not aware, Sir Dennis, that I had strayed from it. I do not think the cause of international understanding is furthered by methods such as those adopted by the Ministry of Information, which was responsible for the speech on the wireless last evening. I was using that instance to combat the suggestion that this work would be better performed by the Ministry of Information, because I do not believe it for a moment. No scientific body, no educational body, designed to produce publications and organise lectures and educational activities, would sponsor a speech designed to lead people to suppose that all original 1495 sin when the world was created was confined to that quarter of Europe which was not then, but is now, within the frontiers of modern Germany. It is a most absurd thing to say, a most wicked thing to say.
A large part of the speech of the hon. Member has been very far outside the range of this Debate, and I must ask him to keep closer to the actual Vote we are discussing.
§ Mr. Silverman
I find it extremely difficult, Sir Dennis, to understand in what way I am offending. I thought we were debating whether the Committee should support a grant of money to a body for the purpose of promoting international understanding.
Yes, that is so, but the hon. Member should know by this time that it is the duty of the Chair to keep a Debate of this kind within proper limits. It is not always very easy to draw an exact line, but the hon. Member's speech has been, I think, for some little time past very remote from the point, and I must ask him to keep closer to it.
§ Mr. Silverman
For a considerable time past my speech has been devoted to replying to interjections, and if those interjections were relevant I supposed the replies would be relevant. I am supporting the Government in the grant of this money because I believe it helps our cause, and helps humanity, if at this time we vote a small amount of money to a body which can do objectively what we, by the very act of voting the money, agree ought to be done. I hope the Government will see that in the expenditure of this money nothing is done which can worsen the cause of international understanding, and will not allow themselves to be attracted by the kind of propaganda which the Ministry of Information have put out. I will leave it there, because I do not want to rouse conflict with the Chair, but I should have thought that the considerations I have been urging were relevant.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I, too, would like to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw this Vote for further consideration. I could not disagree more than I do with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silver- 1496 man). I think this is essentially a matter for the Ministry of Information. I am told that the Ministry of Information's job is to carry on propaganda, but propaganda should be objective. The whole purpose of the Ministry of Information is to present the British case, and if the British case cannot stand objective examination we deserve to lose the war. I am one of those who want as much money as possible to be spent upon war propaganda, because we shall not succeed unless we spend that money, but I do not see why this particular Association for which I, like other hon. Members, have a great respect, should come round to the back door to get a special grant. Its claim to present the British case should surely stand in competition with all other methods of explaining what we and the British Empire stand for. It should go to the Ministry of Information, it should be studied by the Ministry of Information along with all the other methods there may be, and it should stand or fall as a result of that examination. I would earnestly ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider this matter, because there is an extraordinarily dangerous question of principle involved. If once we begin to subsidise bodies like this we shall have every other organisation which wants to present one conception or other of the British case trimming its sails and asking whether it ought to say this or that because of losing its chance, when it gets hard up, of getting money from the Foreign Office. I therefore support what other hon. Members have said and ask whether this Vote cannot be withdrawn for reconsideration.
§ Sir Walter Smiles (Blackburn)
I came with an open mind to this Debate, and I thank goodness that at the present time we are not so much bound by party ties. In the past, all of us, on whichever side of the House we sit, have at times voted against our convictions. On the question of imposing conscription in Northern Ireland and on the Defence Votes many Members on both sides voted with their party and against their own convictions. This time I am against giving money to the Foreign Office for the purpose for which it has been asked. There is no representative of the War Office on the Front Bench, at the moment, but I should like to know what the War Office think of these gentlemen coming along to give 1497 addresses to the troops. Before the war the strength of our Army was about 200,000 men. Now it is 1,500,000. Surely, in the Army itself there are all sorts of speakers representing every sort of opinion who are capable of giving an objective address to the troops. But it is not so much a matter of that: the only question for us at the moment is our survival as a nation, and everything must be done to make us survive, and for that reason I should like to see a Vote like this under the control of the Ministry of Information. It should be also controlled, in a way, by the War Office, because I have seen with my own eyes one great army break as a result of irresponsible speeches made to it, as happened in 1917 when the great army of Russia broke. One must face up to these considerations when we remember that we have an Army which is going to be sorely tried in the future, and that our Air Force and our Navy are at the moment being tried every day. I should like to see this work not under the control of the Foreign Office but under the control of the Ministry of Information, and with the agreement and support of the War Office.
§ Mr. A. Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
It seems to me that we are in grave danger of having far too much diversity in some of the Government's activities. They are so diverse that the House of Commons has long since ceased to have any effective control over what is done by many Government Departments. Here we have an additional body which we shall have to watch, because once the House gives money to a body it is under an obligation to see how it is spent, and it has become physically and constitutionally impossible for Members of Parliament to discharge that function. I should have thought that any Government Department would have been very chary indeed about adding to the amount of work we have to do. If we are to find money for this object we shall have the obligation, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) pointed out, of considering its behaviour when the Foreign Office Vote comes up for discussion. But will the Foreign Office accept responsibility for the day to day administration of this body? Is it practicable for the Foreign Office to watch the behaviour of this body to that extent? Hon. Members must see that we are getting into a difficult constitutional 1498 position. We must hold the Minister responsible for the use of money, but the Minister has handed that money to a body over which he has no effective control, and therefore, by the process of ordinary deduction, it follows that the House of Commons will have no control. The time has come for the House to watch more strictly the voting of money to the Government, because the only way in which we can ultimately control the Government is through the medium of the funds with which we provide it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne said that he has no objection, and no one should have any objection, to an objective advocacy of international understanding. I have been trying to explain to my own mind what he meant by the word "objective." I should be interested to hear any hon. Member make an objective statement on international principles that would not arouse fierce opposition in all parts of the Chamber. After all, international organisation, international understanding, is not yet a science: it is an art.
§ Mr. Silverman
Objective does not mean that it is generally accepted, but a thing succeeds in being objective if it is said with the single object of trying to state the truth as it really is without partiality or favour, prejudice or hate.
§ Mr. Bevan
At once the hon. Member loses his way, because once a thing has to be regarded as objective by reference to the intention of the person saying it it becomes subjective. So for the life of me I cannot see how it will be possible to get agreement on this matter. I have always understood, though I may be wrong, that a thing becomes objective when it can be tested by a number of dispassionate and impersonal principles. The most objective thing of all is a thermometer, but no one has a thermometer of international affairs. It is, therefore, impossible for us to find any body of principle that this association is going to propagate which would find general agreement in the House. This is a controversial Chamber. It is a place where we try to bring principles and facts into correspondence with realities and to act upon them. This is not primarily a fact-finding assembly, not primarily an experimental assembly, not primarily an exploratory assembly, but a place where we have to make up our minds between 1499 one passionate and partial and controversial opinion and another, and apply it to the realities. A fact-finding and experimental organisation is just the body for which we should not find money, because there is no body of principles about which one can get general approval that such an organisation can advocate in speeches or lectures or books. Therefore, we ought not to associate ourselves with it.
I do not rise in order to be difficult, but I believe that hon. Members will see that we are confronting a real difficulty here. The case has not been made out for the provision of money in this way. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see his way clear to withdrawing his Vote, or adjourning it, in order to see whether it is not possible to reconsider the position. After all, it is not a large sum of money. The organisation will not collapse if the money is not found, and it may be that this discussion will inspire other people to interest themselves in the organisation and find whatever money is necessary in order to keep it going, if its exploratory educational work has any value. I earnestly suggest that it is not a body with which this Committee ought to associate itself, unless it can have effective control of the money which is to be found.
§ Mr. Hannah (Bilston)
I have had a great deal of experience of university extension work, and I never enjoyed lecturing more than when I lectured to soldiers, since the beginning of the war, partly through the War Office and partly through the ordinary University Extension Movement. The real value of lecturing to soldiers was the discussion afterwards, in which everybody had an opportunity of expressing his opinion. Is it necessary, if we make this grant, that it should be unconditional? Would it not be possible to make the condition that every lecture given should leave a definite amount of time for discussion, that no lecturer can have this opportunity unless he is willing to be questioned on all the points that he has made and that a discussion should follow? As to publication, would it be possible to have a small Committee of this House to supervise any publication that was put forward, either to reject it if it were hopelessly partisan or to put in some sort 1500 of postscript? These questions might be settled by granting the money not unconditionally but under arrangements that would enable this Committee to maintain effective supervision.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
I think some of my hon. Friends have pushed their arguments rather far in opposition to this Vote—certainly farther than I should do. I very sincerely believe that there is scope for more education in international affairs. Perhaps I am prejudiced. For a short period in my murky past I held the Chair of International Relationships at one of our universities. My friends used to say that no one but I understood what International Relations meant, and therefore I could say whatever I liked. It was an experimental Chair, but it was, in fact, continued, and it has been followed by the creation of similar Chairs in other universities.
I think all who have had anything to do with this matter are satisfied—indeed, are fully convinced—that it is a very important part of education at the present time. International affairs are a problem of government, like local government, the working of Parliamentary institutions, and the rest. In our schools and universities we have had a good deal of teaching of citizenship, constitutional history, political science and other such subjects. Many of my hon. Friends who have spoken against this proposal are keenly in favour of the development of such teaching, but we believe that it must be educational and not propagandist. In proposing this Vote the Minister mentioned the Workers' Educational Association; if this were another Workers' Educational Association, and if my hon. Friends were satisfied of that, I believe that nearly all their objections would fall to the ground. But in that case, I should have expected that, when this proposal was brought forward, it would he brought to the House by the Board of Education and not by the Foreign Office. The Government ought to give more consideration than they have done to the points of view which have been put forward to-day. I therefore suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should not press this Vote to a final decision at this Sitting, but should take the Committee stage, consider what has been said, consult hon. Members about their objections and then bring the matter before us again for deci- 1501 sion at a later stage, on some future occasion.
§ Mr. Butler
It has been clear to anyone listening to the Debate that there are doubts in the minds of hon. Members. The first thing the Government should do is pay attention to the valuable criticism which is put forward by the Committee. I will at once undertake that the matter shall be looked into, in the light of the criticisms made. I found them very interesting. Only one expression I do not think is true, which is that this association approached the Government by a back door in order to get support. In fact, the matter has been perfectly open throughout.
§ Mr. Butler
Ouite so, but I want to take up the phrase, which suits my purpose in explaining how this matter came about. We have come to the Committee to ask for £2,500 for an Association, the main object of which has, I think, general support. The Committee feel that this is not a matter which ought to be brought forward—or several hon. Members feel so—on the Foreign Office Vote. Some do so because they see difficulties of control, others because they want to know more about the Association and others, I think, through a misapprehension. In the circumstances, the best course seems to be that hon. Members should let the Committee stage go by now, on the b understanding that the Government will reconsider this Vote before the Report stage, and when the next stage comes forward, a statement should be made by the Government as to the results of their deliberation.
Meanwhile, I should be very glad to consult hon. Members who have raised points, because I do not believe it would be in the interests of this Association to press a matter through the Committee, and thereby to create an impression that the work of the Association is not, on the whole, and subject to normal human differences of opinion, one which the Committee would wish to press forward. If that procedure is agreed to, I will give that undertaking, so that the Committee will have complete control of future policy regarding this matter, when it is raised again on the Report stage.
I would like to refer to one or two details—the question for instance, of lec- 1502 turing to the troops. Please do not let the Committee get the impression that there is anything peculiar about this. No lecture has been given to the troops except at the request of the welfare organisation, and the regional committees for education in the Forces, under the military authorities. The matter has therefore been just as above board as the manner in which we have asked for the money to-day. On many other questions which have been raised the Committee will not expect me to go into detail, but let me say again that there is nothing very mysterious about this matter. If the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) will turn to the annual report of the Council of the Royal Institute of International Affairs for 1938–39, he will see that Chatham House, in which he is interested, welcomed the foundation of this Association and claimed that co-operation was maintained between the two organisations, and that Chatham House had placed its resources of information at the disposal of the association. Members of the council of Chatham House are members of the governing body.
§ Sir S. Reed
Is my right hon. Friend saying that Chatham House supported the proposal that this body, with which it was working in liaison, should become a State Department by a grant from the funds?
§ Mr. Butler
I should say that my hon. Friend was correct that, at that date, they were not envisaging it, and that is another argument for looking into this matter more closely. I should like also to place my observations in the hands of the Committee in regard to the Board of Education, and to tell them the full circumstances. I gave them my personal impression of what happened, and I should like to have a right of investigating the matter, in order to give this Committee full information. I do not want to make any statement or investigation which is not quite open, so that the Committee may have the full facts at its disposal.
I think that statement answers the outstanding points, and I trust that the Committee agree that the educational work done by this body is above reproach. It makes a genuine attempt, not only in its, work with the troops, but with the 1503 Workers' Educational Association itself—from which I can read out a testimonial—with the students, in the Empire and in India. It will be seen that the objective work of this association is very admirable. So far as I can see, the problem for us this afternoon is to find the best manner of supporting this work, but I must say that I am not convinced that purely private sources will be sufficient. If they are not sufficient, we must meet the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) on the question of control and supervision and see what can be done about it. Therefore, I hope, in the interval, to find some method of helping this Association which will receive the unanimous support and approval of the Committee. I hope that we shall now be able to pass this Vote.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I do not know whether I understand the right hon. Gentleman aright. Does he mean that we are to accept this Vote in principle but leave to a later stage the method with which we shall deal with the Association, but that, actually, £2,500 will, at some stage and in some manner, be granted to this association? If that is the purport of it, I can only say that the right hon. Gentleman has not taken cognisance of the fact that some of us are entirely against this proposal on principle. I, for one, could not support any public funds going to this society, even if the right hon. Gentleman bring the matter up again at a later stage.
§ Mr. Butler
I think hon. Members will have a perfect opportunity of expressing their views on this matter when it is raised on the Report stage. I have already said that we shall not press this matter through against the wish of this Committee. I cannot believe that any hon. Member will feel that he is being trapped into a position of doing something that he does not want to do.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £2,500, 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, 1941, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and grants in aid of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the British Association for International Understanding.