§ Mr. Noel-Baker (Derby)
The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) said just now that hon. Members who wanted to discuss finance thought we were going to talk about the Ministry of Information. I think that some hon. Members who wanted to talk about the Ministry of Information have probably thought that we were going to talk about finance. I make no apology for drawing the attention of the Committee again to the work of the Ministry of Information. I do not do so because I want to start another of the floods of imprecation which have fallen on its head. I do so because I want to urge the Minister to bolder and more imaginative undertakings in what I believe is a vital part of the strategy of war.
As the Prime Minister said not very long ago, this is a war of ideas. The ideas for which we are fighting are the ideas of democracy and the liberty, equality and fraternity upon which democracy is built. I believe that those ideas, in solemn truth, are the most potent weapons in the whole of the armoury with which we are conducting the war. They are the weapons in which we altogether outclass Hitler. Yet, paradoxically enough, it is in the war 1152 of ideas that so far Hitler has won his most startling successes, and he has done it precisely in that domain in which he is himself most vulnerable to our attacks. He deals in lies, we deal in truth. Yet his lies have greatly helped him in his various aggressions from 1936 until today. He is most vulnerable in the war of ideas, and so is Mussolini, because in both Germany and Italy, as we have very good reason to know if we study the evidence which comes out of those countries, the people are defeatist, unhappy and profoundly divided among themselves. The other day, American journalists who had just come from Berlin said that victorious Germany was a land of gloom. We know, too, that in the countries which the Germans have occupied and conquered there is to-day a rising tide of hatred and of hope. I cannot bring myself to feel that so far we have really begun to use the opportunities which these facts give us. We have not understood the importance of the weapon of morale, and we have hardly even started to plan the great offensive which is required.
That sounds like a very sweeping condemnation of the Minister and his work. The right hon. Gentleman knows I do not so intend it. Much of his work is, in my opinion, admirably done. On the home front he has made real progress. There has been some controversy about some of the Ministry of Information's meetings. I know that some hon. Members opposite dislike having speakers come to their constituencies unless they have first given their consent, and some hon. Members on this side think that we should be much better employed speaking on other platforms than on those of the Ministry. But I do not want to deal with this at length. I am sure that the Committee will understand that if the Members of one party are to have a right of veto in more than 400 constituencies, a sense of grievance is very likely to arise. For my part, I should be very sorry in my own constituency to take the responsibility for vetoing any meeting or any speaker which the Ministry had arranged. I am sure that hon. Members who do so may some day have a day of reckoning with their constituents. There have been many thousands of these meetings. They have given rise to virtually no complaints. They have been conducted in a truly national spirit, and I am certain they have 1153 been worth while. I do not believe that the film work which the Ministry has put through could have been much better. The travelling film vans have had immense audiences, and many of the films are really very good. So are some of the Ministry's publications. I have the impression that the regional organisation at long last is really gaining strength and beginning to do its job. I do not share the view that this is all unnecessary or wasted work. Of course, the morale of our people is now magnificent, but we have our gravest trials ahead, and the more that our people really understand the issues of the war, really know what Nazism and Fascism mean, really know why we can hope for victory and what we mean to do with victory when we have won it, the better for their resolution and for the success of our cause.
Having said this, I turn to the foreign work of the Ministry. Again, think some of the foreign work has been enormously improved. I will not speak of that because I want to save the time of the Committee. I pass directly to one part of that work in which, as I have said, I believe that our greatest opportunities are still unseized—that is, the broadcast work in Germany and Italy and in the countries which the Germans have conquered and controlled. It is of this that I want principally to speak. I am sure the Minister and the Committee will agree that the work which we can do in these countries is potentially more important than all the rest of the propaganda that we can do put together. I believe the Minister will agree that we have a chance there to win greater victories than those of Goebbels now that the tide of war has at last begun to turn. I think that the Minister will agree that of all that we can do in these countries, broadcasting is incomparably the most important part.
Unfortunately, responsibility for this broadcasting has been divided between the Minister and the B.B.C., and from that division, perhaps for other reasons, great misfortunes have resulted. We have come to think of foreign broadcasts as a kind of side-show in Broadcasting House, and the Minister and his predecessor have not wanted to interfere with the autonomy of the B.B.C. in their own domain. The result of divided counsel and responsibility, and misconceived loyalties, has been that we have largely failed in this 1154 most vital part of our work. I do not want to be misunderstood. Some parts of our broadcasts are extremely good, some have been brilliant. I have said before, and I say again, that within their means, and within the limits of their general conception of the job, the B.B.C. have done admirable work and have considerable achievements to their credit. But the means which they have used have not been enough, and their conception of the job has been far too limited and narrow. We have urgent need of something much bolder and more imaginative than anything they have tried. I do not mean that we have failed in the amount of transmitter time. We all know the difficulties of the shortage of transmitters—responsibility for that goes far back into history. Within the limits imposed by the transmitters that we possess, there have been grave shortcomings, both in the technical arrangements for our foreign broadcasts and in their substance. In both there has been a lack of vision which I think every Member of the Committee will deplore.
Let me deal with the technical arrangements first. Long ago, in last May, I called the Minister's attention to the matter. On 28th May I urged upon the Minister that the foreign service was really not a proper part of the functions of the B.B.C., that the organisation which was carrying it on was working in what I called "vile conditions," that it had no proper office space, or studio space, no proper organisation and staff, not enough experts, and that very few of the people whom they used had real radio personalities. I suggested to the Minister that he should take it over, re-house it and strengthen it, and, above all, give it more transmitter time. I raised the matter again in December last, and the Parliamentary Secretary was able to tell the House that the service had been very considerably extended—within a year the number of languages had increased from 16 to 30, and transmissions from 66 per week to 144, and so on. But unhappily the whole show was still inside the B.B.C., and unfortunately the material conditions were just as bad; indeed, they were a good deal worse, because with every addition to the programme there had been an increased pressure on personnel and upon space. I used 1155 the word "vile" last May, I repeated it in December, I gave details to support it, and I begged the Minister to go and see things for himself. The Parliamentary Secretary had already done so, and went far beyond what I said. He said that the conditions were almost intolerable, that it was quite impossible for people to do their work, and he held out hopes that better arrangements would be promptly made. Seven weeks have gone by since that Debate, and, so far as I know, no practical improvement has yet been made. These unhappy men and women have gone on working in intolerable conditions; indeed, the conditions have grown so much worse that I now venture to say they constitute a public scandal.
I will give the Committee a few details of the two sections which I believe we all agree are the most important—sections where efficiency should be everything and where no cost should be spared to give the best results. I am referring to the Italian and German sections. It has already been shown in Africa, Abyssinia and Albania that Signor Mussolini's greatest weakness is the morale of his people and his troops. This weapon of ideas is of capital importance in fighting against him. The Italian war costs perhaps £2,000,000 a day. In our broadcast service for Italy we employ altogether fewer than 20 people. If my facts are wrong, I hope the Minister will correct me. I am doing my best to state the truth as I believe it to be. We have fewer than 20 people to deal with news, talks, commentaries and all the rest combined. That is for a service of 2¼ hours a day in five transmissions spread over the night and daytime—20 including announcers, translators, typists, experts, planners, organisers and all the rest. Although they all work very hard and are very devoted and their spirit is splendid, they have not all got the experience and are not all of the type required. I have heard a rumour that they were given an announcer who had every merit except that he did not know a word of Italian. I know this to be true, that among the people who are working on the news—13 all in for a service of 110 minutes a day, people who have to translate also some of the talks given by Englishmen and have other duties to perform—10 translators and 3 1156 typists—a number have only had commercial experience in offices in Rome. If there is one job more expert than another, it is the translation of news. It can only properly be done by journalists with polical experience, and I should say by nationals of the country to which the news goes.
These 13 men and women work in shifts. They have at their disposal one tiny room—it is not really a room at all; it is the size of a box—one room about as big as this Table, and perhaps the Speaker's Chair—and they have three dilapidated typewriters. The room is fearfully stuffy. In that place, with their three typewriters clattering away together, these men must translate, arrange, cut the news—
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
On a point of Order. I was wondering whether the statements the hon. Member is now making are not in themselves dangerous. Is it advisable to make statements of that kind in public Debate? Perhaps he will limit himself as much as possible to statements which will not help the enemy.
§ The Chairman
This is not exactly a point of Order, but the hon. Member has made his point, and the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has no doubt noted it.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
It was only after mature reflection, and after consulting a number of my friends whose judgment I esteem more than my own, that I thought it right in the public interest to bring out these facts. My only purpose is to serve the national interest in a matter which I regard as of the highest importance. These people, who have to do difficult and important intellectual work, are trying to do it in conditions which impose upon them a maximum of difficulty and strain which must have a deleterious effect upon the results that they attain. I am sure they are all in a state of chronic overwork. When any of them get ill, as they do, the others have to work two shifts a night and sleep in the morning as best they can. The Italian talks are immensely important. The plans are arranged by one person. I know his qualifications and think that they are admirable in every way, but it is impossible for one man to do this work.
§ Colonel Sandeman Allen (Birkenhead, West)
Do all the Italian talks emanate from this country, or do some come from Cairo?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That is an important point, but I am not able to answer it I believe that the most important talks emanate from here. If we have a service from here at all, we ought to give the men who are doing it a better chance than they are having. I turn to the German section. Here there is more work to be done and a few more people to do it. They have begun to organise a feature programme and soon it is to occupy 45 minutes a day. It is a splendid innovation, and I am glad it is being done. It will be extremely valuable, provided it does not fall below the standard of technical excellence which Dr. Goebbels has set for German listeners. That is an important point.
Feature programmes need an immense amount of work if they are to be kept up to a high standard of technical excellence. I am told that for a single feature in our home programme, "In Town Tonight" on Saturday evenings, which lasted half an hour, the B.B.C. used to have a whole-time staff of seven or eight people. For 45 minutes a day, according to the latest information I have received—which I hope is out of date—the German section has only four people doing the work. These people must be overworked, and I think that it is true to say that all the more important foreign sections in Broadcasting House have been desperately overworked. Some of them have not had a day off for a long time and have been working 12 or 14 hours a day. Whether overworked or not, those in the foreign sections, the Empire talks, and so on, who do such splendid service, have been living in intolerable conditions. Now there are to be big expansions of the programmes and new transmitters coming into use. The time is to be nearly doubled in some of these services. What is to happen?
The Minister will tell us that part of the new building will soon be taken over. I pressed that on the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary last December. It would, I think, have solved the problem if enough of it had been taken at once. Why was it not taken? I have heard two reasons given. I hope that both are false, but I have reason to think that they 1158 are true. One is that a private company had a contract to use the part needed for a studio for commercial purposes. The other is that the B.B.C. authorities were afraid that some Government Department might want to take the building for itself. I suppose that they were afraid of the hieratical activities of the Ministry of Aircraft Production. That is what I mean when I say that more courage and vision are required in this work. Reasons such as these ought to be swept aside rather than that a vital national service should be impaired as our foreign broadcasting has been. I am informed that so little of this new building has been taken that the material conditions will be very little better than they have been hitherto. I want to put it to the Minister that this is a job for him. Let him take it up. Let him get a proper building. Let him make certain that the new staff which is needed is quickly found and that they are the right people and do not have to wait two months to get a permit to work. Let him make sure that the whole thing is properly officered, organised, housed and equipped and, above all, that it is properly directed and controlled.
That brings me to the substance of our foreign broadcasts, the messages which we send out to other countries, above all to those people who are under the oppressor's heel. The Minister will understand that I am not going to deal with much of the work, which I think is very good, but I wish to draw his attention to matters which I think he should consider and urge upon him the general lesson which I think the Government should draw. Let me begin with our news services. Everywhere the Nazis rule the people are fed on lies. Incomparably the most important single weapon we have against them is to tell the truth. Hitherto, in all their news bulletins, the B.B.C. have kept a splendid standard of accuracy and of veracity in their news, and that has become incomparably our greatest single asset in France and the other conquered countries, and in Germany and Italy as well. It is vital that that standard should be kept up in everything we do, in our news, comments, talks, our news programmes to the German forces, and in all the services which we control. I know the temptation to use the news to try to start a whisper to demoralise the other side. I remember the instructions given to a British officer who was dealing 1159 with articles for the foreign Press in the last war, that essential and not literal truth and accuracy are required. The instructions said: "Inherent probability being respected, the thing imagined may be as serviceable as the thing seen." That will not do in this war. If Goebbels caught us inventing "essential truths" it would undo the patient priceless work of many months. I would draw the attention of the Minister to the point because I have reasons for thinking that it is well worth his while to look into it.
A second point: So far as it is possible, I urge the Minister to arrange that the news shall be selected and edited, and not only translated, by our foreign colleagues who have special qualifications for the job. This is not a job that any man can do. It needs a working journalist with political knowledge behind him. Thirdly, I want to urge that we should give all the news that is important to the public to whom we are sending it. I will give two examples. A few months ago a large group of Frenchmen in France belonging to a party which was very strongly represented in the last Chamber and which strongly supported our cause, issued a manifesto condemning the French surrender to the Nazis and expressing their solidarity with Great Britain in the strongest terms. A copy of that manifesto reached this country and has been published. For millions of the French public it was an extremely important document. Some of us may not agree with all of its language, but that does not alter the point. Friends of mine who listen with great care to the French broadcasts assure me that that manifesto was never used.
Again, last October General de Gaulle issued an official declaration stating general policy with regard to the restoration of constitutional democracy in France when the war is over. It was published in his official gazette, and he repeated it in a magnificent speech in London not long ago. My hon. Friends tell me that, to the best of their belief, it has not been used. I hope they are wrong. If they are not, I can conceive of several reasons why those items of news were not used. I believe all the reasons are wrong. I think the real reason, probably, is that the Government are acting on the principle that anything said in any broadcast 1160 from this country engages their official national responsibility. I hope that they will not go upon that principle. It would be fatal. It is really a Totalitarian conception and would have a particularly dangerous effect upon the news. The same principle would be equally dangerous in talks—and that leads me to pass from the news to talks and to say a word about the censorship which has been exercised and which has, I think, been very considerably relaxed.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
Before the hon. Member passes, in his very interesting speech, to a new topic, I should be glad if he would give us his views on something which is neither news nor talks, but comment on news, which is now a very important part of these broadcasts. Does he suggest that such comments on the news should be the responsibility of the Foreign Office or of the B.B.C., or that they should remain the absurd mixture that they are at present?
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I should very much like to see them become the responsibility of the commentator. Let me give an example. We have a military officer, Colonel Stephens, who comments on the news several times a week to Italy. He was attacked not long ago by Signor Farinacci and was referred to by their minister as "Colonello Stephens di Londra," implying that everybody in Italy knew who Colonel Stephens was, and that, as we know from other sources, he is extremely popular. Colonel Stephens, when he comments upon the news, does so on his own responsibility. The Italians regard him as a man. Suppose we used my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. V. Bartlett) for the same purpose. He is one of the most famous broadcasters in the world. He is known in almost every country. It would be absurd to give him a national responsibility.
§ Mr. Strauss
I agree, but I was speaking about the anonymous commentator and the practice of giving a sort of view of the news. As I may be speaking on this subject afterwards I should like to know the opinion of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Anonymous comments are open to precisely the objection to which the hon. Member has referred. I infinitely prefer the Colonel Stephens plan, 1161 and I hope it will be very largely developed. Let me get back to my original line of argument. Someone I know, broadcasting to Greece two months after the war began, was not allowed to say to the Greek people that the Greek cruiser "Helle" had been sunk by an Italian submarine. The reason given was that we were not quite sure that it was an Italian submarine that sank the ship. The Greeks knew it already, and the "Times" newspaper said that that was the reason why they began then to prepare to go to war, and if it was not the Italians who sank it, then it must have been a British submarine, for there were no other submarines operating at that time in the Mediterranean. In December, another speaker, talking to Canada and North America, was not allowed to say that an embargo by other nations upon Japanese goods would have stopped the Japanese aggression against Manchuria in 1931.
These examples are a kind of hangover from appeasement days, and the point I want to make is the same as I made about the news—that it would really be fatal if people outside our country came to think that nothing was said by speakers, independent speakers whose names they know, that did not have the approval of the Foreign Office or of some other Government Department. We want people in different parts of the world to know that, although we may not agree on other matters, we are all united in support of this righteous war. We want the world to know that here in Britain the fullest liberty of speech is still allowed, and we still have democratic discussion. If you censor some of these speakers you destroy a very considerable part of their utility for our national cause.
Let me pass to another problem. I want to ask whether the special talks for workers in the conquered countries cannot be increased? We know that the workers, peasants and trade union movements are immensely important from our point of view. Fortunately, many of their leaders happen to be in our country, but they do not get very much chance to speak to their people. I know one great country which has half-an-hour's broadcasting time per day—or did have when last I heard it—and there are four minutes a week devoted to talks to workers. My last point on talks is this. 1162 In our French transmissions we have built up a team of French speakers who do brilliant work. It is called "The French speak to the French." They are not men who held any great public positions in France. They are not trying to form an alternative Government, but they are resuscitating the soul of France. I have a letter written a month ago from unoccupied France to one of them. The writer says:We only live morally because of you. You have rebuilt the morale of France.We can measure their success by the success of General de Gaulle's one hour plebiscite on New Year's day. No Englishman, however eloquent and able, could have done this work. I want the Minister to consider whether he cannot apply the same plan to Germany and Italy as well. Why cannot we make teams of anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist German and Italian speakers like these Frenchmen? We have them—brilliant men, not tarnished as discredited politicians, of high moral standing in their countries and ardently, passionately, patriotically devoted to our cause. Hitherto, the Government have rejected proposals on these lines and the explanation that I was once given by a high official was that, of course, Germans and Italians would listen to Englishmen but they would regard their own people as traitors and would not listen to them at all. I think that that is an utter misunderstanding of the whole situation in Germany and Italy, and the people who take that view ought not to be dealing at all with enemy propaganda. We can only begin to touch the soul of Germany and Italy when they hear their own people—men whose integrity they know and trust—arguing our cause with them and telling them the truth about our conditions, about their governments and about the war.
Let me turn from that point. Again, to anticipate possible objections, let me say that this cannot be a secret matter. Thousands of people in this country and all over the world are listening to everything that goes out from this country, and besides, our people have a right to know what is being said in their land. Six months ago a man was asked to talk to Italy. He was given as his line, "Attack Mussolini but not the Fascist party." Unless I am misinformed, until recently when an important new decision was 1163 given—for which I am very grateful—it was true that none of our speakers had ever explained why Fascism was the cause of Italy's disasters. They never told the Italians that we wanted to help them to regain their freedom and to rebuild democracy and peace in Italy and throughout the world. Indeed, much of our talks implied that Fascism might be an excellent thing and that the Fascist party were simply our erring but much-regarded friends. Intelligent Italians in this country will deduce from that fact only that we are planning to make peace with some Fascist leader other than Mussolini on the terms of selling Abysinnia and Albania. I do not believe for an instant it is true, but it was what many of them thought.
I put it to the Minister that that really is not sense. The Fascist party were and always have been our bitter enemy; they wanted an Empire, and wanted it at our expense. As propaganda, it was extremely ineffective. The Italian people know very well that Fascism is the cause of their disasters; there are reams of evidence as to that. There is the evidence of the prisoners that they have now begun to hate the Fascist party, and that the very names of Abyssinia and Albania have become hateful to them. A series of articles published in the "Daily Telegraph" not long ago dealt with the causes of the present Italian defeat, and when they were analysed four out of six of the main causes were simply hatred of Fascism expressed in different manners. Mussolini has just sent eight of his Fascist Ministers to the front. That seemed mysterious until we learned that the Italian troops at the front have a new slogan: "Let the Fascists do the fighting; it is their war, not ours." Of course, the leaders had to go to the front to show that they were ready to accept sacrifices, but it shows the unpopularity of the regime and the extreme danger in which Mussolini knows he now stands. We shall only touch the Italian people when we give them a true message, such as I believe the British people want to send them, that we want a new world in which they will live with us in freedom and prosperity.
My last point in regard to policy is about the programme for the German Forces which was started at the beginning of this year. I think it was a very good 1164 idea; I think it will reach the Germans in the occupied countries and perhaps elsewhere. Some parts of the programmes have been very good, but some have been lamentable. We have tried to copy one method of propaganda from Dr. Goebbels which is open to very grievous objection, and I hope we shall never repeat it. We have used old stories, not all of them quite certainly true, and have sought to exploit an order by General Milch abolishing compulsory church parades as an attack on religion in the Army.
Most important, and this is the chief point I want to make, we have not had a clear message to give to the German soldiers to tell them why they should not fight against us. Let me give an example. One day we put on an officer in an Allied Army. He told the German soldiers that he had served in the German Army in the last war and that he had been proud of his men when they had been brave in that war, but that now the German Army was smirching its honour at the orders of the Nazis under the sign of the Swastika. Fearful crimes, which he described, had been committed in his country. Then, he ended, the Germans would not be allowed to say after the war that the Nazis were to blame; they were all guilty and their punishment would come. That is not telling the Germans why they should not fight against us. It is really inviting them to fight to the very last, on the beaches, on the Rhine, in the suburbs of Berlin.
I understand that officer's feelings. Very often I share them, but it is not sense to say that they can resist at the present stage the order of the Nazis. It is not sense to say that we will punish all the Germans, as we punish the Nazis, because we are not going to do so. But it illustrates the fundamental question which the Government have to answer, if they are to do any effective propaganda in the German Army. They have to tell the Germans what will happen if they do rebel against their Nazi masters, as we very often ask them to do. At present the Germans think, as one of them who is in this country has put it, that they have no alternative to enduring tyranny at home except to endure foreign domination, no alternative to existing as a hated robber State except to exist as a despised nation of pariahs. We have to give them a practical alternative. We should delude our- 1165 selves if we thought that they could rebel at the present moment: the power of Himmler's machine is far too great. But when the tide of battle has turned, the moment may come when they can rebel. That may come soon. That is why I hope the Government will find it possible to do what I know many of them want to do, and make a statement of general principles about the peace settlement when it comes.
I hope, in any case, that they will deal with this business of what is to happen to the Germans who rebel against Hitler. I hope that they will not accept the old stuff about all Germans being the same. Some Englishmen said that German scholars dive deeper than others, and come up muddier. Do not let us imitate them. Let us remember that in November, 1922, in the last free election in Germany, after three years of having 6,000,000 or 7,000,000 unemployed, Hitler got only 33 1/3rd per cent. of the votes; let us remember that, since then, the Germans have suffered every kind of misery; let us remember that there have been 500,000 of them in concentration camps; let us remember the immense political exodus; and let us remember the evidence that a vast number of Germans now detest this war. Many millions of them are now our potential allies. I submit, with diffidence, that our message ought to be this: that we will never again allow Germans to threaten the peace of the world; that they have had their last Bismarck, their last Kaiser, their last Hitler; but that if they will help us, we will help them to build a free, peaceful, prosperous Germany, and share in the common progress and common happiness which we want to make. We must say to them what Mr. Neville Chamberlain said in his broadcast to the German people on 3rd September, 1939. He said:In this war we are not fighting against you, the German people, you, for whom we have no bitter feelings, but against the tyrannous and forsworn régime, which has betrayed not only its own people, but the whole of Western civilisation and all that you and we hold dear.That is not only a noble sentiment.; it is not only a pledge; it is a statement of political truth about the German people and ourselves. I hope that the Minister will send that message to the Germans and to the Italians. If he does, I believe that he will help to curtail this war by 1166 many months, and build a stable peace in the years to come.
§ Commander Sir Archibald Southby (Epsom)
In the past many hard things have been said about the Ministry of Information—indeed, I plead guilty to having said such things myself—but certainly not about my right hon. Friend the Minister. It is only right and fair, therefore, to say that adverse criticism of the Ministry of Information has very largely died down because of the reorganisation and cleaning up which the present Minister has carried out. Undoubtedly, there is much in what my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has said about improving foreign broadcasts and conditions, but my impression is that the Minister, during the time he has held his office, has immensely improved not only the dissemination of the home news and the information given to the Press, but also the foreign talks, which, the hon. Member, quite rightly, has said, are so important. I think it is infinitely more important that we should devote our attention to giving to those who are our friends true news, true facts, and as much of both as we possibly can without giving the enemy any information which should be withheld from him.
I do not think that we will influence the German and the Italian people very much by the kind of broadcast talks which go out to them. I do not think for example, that denunciation over the radio by speakers from this country of totalitarianism will have, at the present time at any rate, very much more effect in Germany and in Italy than the daily denunciation of democracy which is put out by Goebbels, Hitler, Mussolini, Farinacci and others. German denunciation of democracy has been one of the things which has unified and steeled the will of the people of this country. Therefore, I rather take exception to what the hon. Member for Derby said because I do not think we are going to gain very much by trying to win a battle of words over the wireless. Indeed, it is very hard to know how much of our propaganda broadcasts get to the ears of listeners in Italy and Germany.
The country to which it is vital that we should give news is the United States of America. I rather doubt whether, at the present time, we are giving as much day to day homely information to the 1167 American people as we ought to give. When I say that I want to differentiate between news, information and propaganda. I am certain that the last thing that we ought to try to do at any time in the United States is to put abroad propaganda. They do not want it, but they do want as much real news as we can possibly give them. The hon. Member opposite said one memorable truth and that is that the best weapon you can possibly have, as far as news and propaganda is concerned, is to tell the truth; to get the reputation for telling nothing but the truth. That is the most potent weapon you can possibly possess. I think that German propaganda has failed very largely in this country because we and indeed the German people also to a large extent know that it is a tissue of cleverly put together falsehoods. I should even doubt whether the German or Italian people pay much attention to their own speakers when they broadcast. It is essential that we should get across to the people of the United States the conditions obtaining in this country—the homely conditions, the way the people are taking the war, not censored news, but as much definite news of the actual effect of the war on the man in the street as we can give. We should concentrate much more upon that, than upon foreign propaganda to Germans or the Italians.
The last war taught us that propaganda is a very dangerous two-edged weapon. Indeed if there was anything we learnt from the last war it was that if we speak the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth as much as possible we are in an invincible and impregnable position. The hon. Member for Derby talked about the weapon of ideas. I cannot help thinking that laying too much stress on these means is rather like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey in order to make it do what you want it to do. Underlying it there is an idea that if you dangle some particular hope or aim in front of the Italian or German people, they will react at once with great violence against their own rulers. I think that in war you have to beat the enemy first and having beaten the enemy first you can then begin to talk to the beaten people as to what should be done to rebuild the world.
I believe that the Minister of Information has done an immense work while he 1168 has been in his office. As a critic of his in the past and possibly in the future, I am bound to pay my tribute to him in this House for what he has done in order to get the machine running. There was a time when in the postbag of every Member of this House there was considerable criticism about the Ministry of Information. The Press were saying that they were not getting enough news. You do not find that to-day. You do not read in the Press criticisms of the Ministry, saying that they cannot get the facts and the news that they want at the proper time or that foreign correspondents are not being given the news. You do not hear that and it is only fair to say that the good conditions now prevailing are the result of what has been done by the Minister. I hope that my hon. Friend will not take it amiss if I say that that part of his speech which was interrupted by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) will give considerable joy both in Berlin and in Rome. It is a most dangerous thing to set out in detail some of the difficulties and disabilities which are now being undergone and cheerfully and patiently undergone by members of the staff of the B.B.C. It puts my right hon. Friend in a very difficult position.
Many of us know that it is impossible for my right hon. Friend to answer in detail some of the criticisms from the opposite bench. One of the most important things in the war is to preserve, as far as possible, the efficiency and the security of your broadcasting organisation and therefore to call attention to difficulties which may exist will give great heart to the enemy. I can imagine how "Lord Haw-Haw" to whom I do not often listen, will go off to-night or to-morrow night in all his glory because of what has been said by the hon. Gentleman of the difficulties under which his opposite numbers in this country have to work. It is not a wise thing to rely too much upon broadcasts given from this country by nationals either German or Italian. It is true as my hon. Friend said just now, that the tendency in their own countries is to look on them as traitors. I think that that is so and I will tell the hon. Member why.
We know perfectly well that those renegade Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotsmen or Welshmen, or whoever they may be who 1169 speak from Germany and Italy, have little effect in this country. "Lord Haw-Haw" whose real name, I think, is Joyce, has become a joke. I do not believe that the effect of a broadcast by a German or Italian from this country is half as great in Germany or Italy, as a broadcast given by an Englishman or a British subject to the German and Italian people, because obviously it is possible for the authorities in those countries to say "Do not listen to this man. After all, he is of German or Italian blood and is only a traitor bought by the British." I think it is much wiser for us to rely upon our own people to put our case—and I agree it should be put—to the Germans and Italians.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The point is of great importance, but I submit that the difference between the two cases is this: In this country we are all united behind our Government. We have full confidence in them and it was at the urgent instance of a free Parliament that war was declared. But there is overwhelming evidence that war would never have been declared either by Germany or Italy if there had been a free decision of Parliament in those countries where their people hate war and have no confidence in their Governments. I believe it is wrong to regard Germans outside, who are anti-Nazis, as traitors to their cause.
§ Mr. Denville (Newcastle - on - Tyne, Central)
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows that the German watchword is "My country, right or wrong."
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We have, in fact, some experience. The Germans who speak as anonymous announcers—and some are known in Germany—have an extremely good effect.
§ Sir A. Southby
After the minor Debate which has just taken place I may perhaps be allowed to resume my own speech, poor though it may be. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down said there is overwhelming evidence but I have not yet heard that any German soldier, sailor or airman is not fighting wholeheartedly. I know of no evidence to show that at the present time, whatever undercurrents may exist in Germany, there is not a completely solid effort by the German forces to fight to the best of their ability. I think there may be in Italy rather different conditions. There may be some 1170 Italian forces who are not so well disciplined or efficient as the German forces but I think it is a great mistake and wishful thinking—a horrid expression—to imagine that because we want to think the German people are not behind their masters, therefore they are not in fact solidly behind their masters. We shall win the war a great deal quicker if we believe that we must beat the German and Italian people in the field before we win.
We shall not win the war by words. I would back Goebbels any day in a war of words, even against my right hon. Friend himself because my right hon. Friend is not, I am sure, a perverter of the truth. Perhaps I have not put that as well as I might have done and I apologise but we shall never win a war by an exchange of words with the Germans and Italians. I think it is a great mistake to think that by foreign broadcasts from this country against the rulers of Germany and Italy we shall thereby advantage ourselves very much. I think it may have some effect on latent fires and cause smouldering embers to break into flame one day, but I do not think it is in any way commensurate with the effect which will result from our concentrating upon beating Germany and Italy in the field.
There is one other thing which the hon. Member said which rather troubled me. He seemed to imply that in our foreign broadcasts we were not maintaining our standard of truth. If he has concrete evidence he should give it; he should not hint it in open Session in this House because that is a dangerous thing to do. I am sure we all pin our faith upon the truth being given not only in our own broadcasts but in broadcasts to the Italian and German people. Anything said in this House goes out with considerable weight. Whatever Hitler and Mussolini say about democracy, they know perfectly well that what is said in this House is listened to in the outside world and has an immense effect, particularly in the United States. Therefore, we do not want to say anything in this House which would suggest, even for a moment, that something going out under the aegis of the right hon. Gentleman, with the hall-mark of the British Government upon it, is not strictly the truth. I do agree that it is a good thing that people who broadcast should 1171 broadcast under their own names, and not anonymously, so that those who hear them may know who is speaking, of course, under the aegis of the Government. Anonymous broadcasting is not a very good thing at the present time. Do not let us do anything which will undermine the faith which has been built up throughout the world that what goes out from Broadcasting House is the truth. I think a fair criticism is that more ought to go out, but, after all, we are not qualified to judge what it is wise should be broadcast or withheld in the national interest.
Another point I would like to put to my right hon. Friend, although it is not following the lines which the Debate has taken up to now, is the question of the local information bureaux. The Minister of Information is charged with the primary responsibility, as I see it, of providing the world with a true picture of happenings during the war and of news which emanates from this country. The Minister set up, at a time when, obviously, it was the right thing to do, local information committees throughout the country. They were designed to give information in different localities at a time of extreme crisis when communications might be cut. I do not believe that they should operate as centres of propaganda. They should remain dormant until there is necessity for them to be used in case, say, of invasion. Many hon. Members who have some experience of the working of these committees will, I think, agree with me when I say that there should be nothing for them to do at the present time. This country does not require committees, sitting in different parts of the country, to keep up its morale. Its morale is pretty good; in fact, it is very good and does not require bolstering up. I ask my right hon. Friend whether, for example, "London's Awake," of which 27 copies have been printed since September, serves any useful purpose. It would be much better if the contents of this publication appeared in the public Press. I would rather see the paper used by this publication given to the newspapers so that they could have larger papers. I do not believe the Minister set up these local information committees for this purpose. The publication is headed,The aim of 'London's Awake' is to give to the members of Local Information Committees, Information Officers and the other 1172 workers in the London Region, speaking points and ideas which they may pass on, and to be a link between them and our Office.That is not what these committees were set up for. They were set up to give the people of this country information and statements and instructions if and when the ordinary channels broke down. I suggest it is time for us to consider whether some of these activities had not better be curtailed. In this particular issue, for example, part of the space is devoted, at a time when there is great paper shortage, to an advertisement of a most excellent rally, which I am sure will be a great success, at Islington, by the Local Information Committee. It is to take place in the Archway Central Hall, where a musical performance will be provided by the band of His Majesty's Irish Guards, assisted by two singers. Is it really necessary that we should have this publication, coming out week by week, wasting this paper? That is not fulfilling the functions which we in this House thought these committees would carry out. Is it really necessary to have these sort of parish magazines coming out in various areas? I receive three copies of this publication a week from various committees, and I ask the Minister whether it would not be wiser to consider closing down some of the activities of the regional committees.
Although I do not agree with all the hon. Member for Derby has said, he was, I think, in the main, helpful to the House and the country in his remarks. I agree that we want to increase our broadcast talks to foreign countries, but I do not think that so much as he suggests will accrue from broadcasting to our two opponents. Again, I emphasise the vital necessity for increasing the flow of information to the country upon which we rely, and shall rely in the future, namely, the United States. It is essential that the public in the United States should be given the utmost information at our disposal which can be given without injury to our war effort. I hope and believe that my right hon. Friend has that necessity very close to his heart and realises its importance.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
Anyone who sees these two bits of paper that we are discussing realises what a tremendous sacrifice they involve for the taxpayer. I hesitate to urge that more money should be spent, but I rise to support very strongly what the hon Member 1173 for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has said, and not only because of his excessively kind remarks about myself, but because I am convinced that you cannot possibly exaggerate the importance of the work that the Ministry of Information should do and to a great extent is doing. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last referred, very rightly, to the importance of broadcasts to the United States. I do not want to do what the Minister will do very much better later on, but I wonder whether he realises the enormous number of informative broadcast talks that go to the United States about the spirit of the people in this country. I think they should satisfy the need.
§ Sir A. Southby
I was not meaning only broadcast talks. I meant conveying information by all means—by letter, by articles and by speeches as well as by broadcasting.
§ Mr. Bartlett
I admit that other lines probably should be developed a great deal, but so much is being done by broadcasting that we need not worry very much. We are obviously not going to win this war only by blockade, by air attack or by invasion. There is a tendency to say we must build up an enormous Army, but we shall always be out-numbered by the Germans in that respect, and it seems to me that we must develop this weapon of propaganda as much as we can. As I see it, there is still not enough centralised direction, and there is also too much secrecy about it. Obviously some forms of propaganda must be done in secret, but that should not prevent centralised control of all the rest, and I think all propaganda should be centralised under the control of the right hon. Gentleman on the Government Bench, including propaganda to enemy countries, which is still organised in elaborate and exaggerated secrecy. The organisation which carries out propaganda in enemy countries has an extremely able staff, in many ways more able than the present foreign division of the Ministry of Information, where there is still a certain number either of diplomats, whose whole training and tradition must be against giving out news, or of people whose knowledge of the languages of the countries they are supposed to deal with is very incomplete.
But I do not think one ought to recommend that, because perhaps the personnel 1174 of the Department which now does propaganda in enemy countries is better equipped than the personnel of the Ministry, the control of propaganda in these occupied countries should be transferred to that other Department, because that other Department works in secrecy, and it seems to me essential that we should get away as much as we can from this atmosphere of secrecy in propaganda. I would also urge that as quickly as possible the Minister should extend his control over the B.B.C.—not in any way to limit the relative freedom of opinions which are expressed, especially in talks by commentators who speak over their own names, but rather to defend the B.B.C. from the various guidances of officials in different Government Departments who have no experience whatever in the presentation of news.
I understand that there is now an adviser from the Ministry of Information attached to the B.B.C.—a very able adviser. That is a step in the right direction which I welcome. It has been taken since we last had a debate on this subject. I think that that adviser needs somebody attached to him who has direct experience in the presentation of news. There is still great discontent among the junior staff of the B.B.C., and I suggest that this adviser should do as is done, for example, in the Foreign Office News Department, and hold a daily conference at which there would be all those representatives of the B.B.C. who have to deal with the presentation of news bulletins or talks for home, for foreign countries and for the Empire. He should tell them as much as he can about the situation and leave it to them to exercise their own judgment in using that guidance. Something of that sort must be done if the keenness of the B.B.C. staff is to be maintained. As much as possible must be done to bring out their own sense of responsibility. Two hon. Members have regretted that my hon. Friend referred to the conditions of the B.B.C. and have suggested that it would give material to "Lord Haw-Haw." I think the contrary. In view of those conditions, which have been lamentable—we know that some have been unavoidable because of enemy action—the fact that the staff of the B.B.C. has kept up that high level of service and has now to a great extent got the Germans on the 1175 defensive is a remarkable tribute to them. I think that the hon. Member was right in bringing out that point. Although the B.B.C. has been damaged by bombs, I believe that only one news bulletin of 10 minutes has failed to get out to its would-be listeners.
I sometimes feel that the right hon. Gentleman is contented if his Department which deals with news keeps out of the news. The Ministry of Information is one of the most important fighting Departments, and I do not think that a purely passive attitude is good enough. The Ministry has now a new Director-General, who enjoys great confidence and is, obviously, a man of great ability. It now has news with which it can do a great deal to encourage people in the occupied territories. There are the successes of General Wavell from the military point of view and the admirable proposals for the future of Abyssinia in order to ensure that the world order we have to build up will be a good deal better than the Hitler order. I think that the Minister of Information should be in the War Cabinet, but he can hardly be blamed for not being there. I hope that he will leave the Committee with the conviction that the Ministry is really now going ahead—it has great things to its credit in the last few months—and that it will go ahead with even greater vigour than before.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich)
The Debate to-day has shown on all sides good feeling and friendliness towards the Minister and the work that his Department is doing. That is thoroughly deserved. I thought that one point in the interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), which he made in criticism of the Ministry, might even be used in defence of it. I shall mention it later. One sphere of the Minister's activities which has been mentioned only briefly deserves, I think, the most emphatic praise, and that is the films division and the work it has been doing. I am thinking particularly of films such as "The Bombardment of London," "Christmas in England," "Dover," and so on, which seem to me as perfect propaganda as could be put out. The photographs are true and the comment—and I think this is significant when they are intended for America, particularly—is generally made not by an 1176 Englishman but by an American. Those films are, I think, an example of the most efficient work that the Minister is performing, and I congratulate him.
The hon. Member for Derby spoke of Italy as a country where much more could be done, but when we actually see the state of morale of the Italian Army and the Italian people, I should have thought it ought to cross the mind of everybody in this House that possibly the Ministry had done its job extremely well. Naturally, it may not be until many years after the war that we shall be able to judge whether, if we had taken the different steps suggested by the hon. Member for Derby, they would have worked more rapidly or less rapidly with the Italian people. But I think the more we study this question of propaganda in countries abroad, particularly enemy countries, the more we become convinced of this fact, that the question of time is all-important, and while it may be perfectly right now, that an attack on Fascism in Italy is the correct policy, it by no means follows that at an earlier stage it was not the correct policy rather to single out Mussolini. I certainly should not be prepared to criticise the Ministry of Information on the effect of its propaganda in Italy on the evidence at present before us.
Now I wish to pass to a different point. Here I am in considerable agreement with all the speeches that have been made on this subject this afternoon, but I wish to make one or two new points. That is the question of news and propaganda to foreign countries. An obvious point which is too often forgotten is that foreign countries constantly listen to broadcasts which are not intended for them. That is a most important point to remember. I recall that once, when speaking to some advertisers and criticising certain matters in connection with their art or science, I was informed that I had been reading advertisements which were not intended for me. No doubt I had, and people in foreign countries are constantly listening to broadcasts not intended for them. It is very difficult to make, in an open Session of this House, the points which I should like to make, since I cannot give examples in open Session of cases in which great harm has been done to our relations with foreign countries not at present at war, through matters that were 1177 broadcast to them in the news or comments upon the news.
The hon. Member for Derby said—and I am in sympathy with his wish, if it were a wish that could be fulfilled—that it would be very unfortunate if it were assumed in foreign countries that everything given out over the B.B.C. necessarily emanated from the British Government. I agree entirely with his wish, but I am afraid that whatever is done, that will be the conviction of a great number of listeners in foreign countries. So much is that the case, that they even attribute to the British Government things which are announced in the news as having been said by some foreign newspaper. They forget that what the B.B.C. announced was that it had appeared in some paper in Belgrade that morning. They only remember that the particular thing was mentioned in the broadcast from England.
The effect of this is so important and can be so dangerous that, I put it to my right hon. Friend and to the Committee, it is absolutely essential that the responsibility for news and broadcasts to foreign countries should be the responsibility of the Government. I leave it open whether it should be the responsibility of my right hon. Friend or of the Foreign Office. Whichever it is, I know that there will be liaison and that it will be a responsibility of the Government. It is not satisfactory to leave it as the responsibility of the B.B.C., limited only by guidance given by the Foreign Office or by my right hon. Friend on general lines, which sometimes either is not understood or is not followed. I should be happy to give to the Minister or to the Parliamentary Secretary in private some of the matters which I have in mind and which are obviously not suitable for discussion in open Session. I strongly reinforce the point made by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) and to some extent by the hon. Member for Derby that the Minister, or the Foreign Office, must be prepared to take further responsibility for some things which at present fall within the province of the B.B.C. or fall between two stools.
The only other matter which I want to mention is that of broadcasting to enemy troops and what can be hoped from it. Here is a matter on which I differ from the hon. Member for Derby. He said, and rightly, that, our reputation for truth being one of our most 1178 precious possessions in this matter of propaganda, it would be a great mistake if we lowered our standard of veracity in the broadcasts. It is a very great error, in my submission, to suppose that that which might be useful inside Germany would necessarily be useful in the occupied countries. Whatever is said in any of these broadcasts is picked up and used in all countries. I ask the hon. Member for Derby to consider the effect that some of the statements which he regards as so useful inside Germany may have among the oppressed nations overrun by Germany. The hon. Member quoted the statement made by the late Prime Minister, and very often made at the beginning of the war, that we had no quarrel with the German people. I always opposed that statement, because I believed it to be untrue. Whether we wished it or not, the German people were, and are, substantially united behind their Government and thoroughly approve of the effort t o destroy this country.
That is a matter of controversy in which I give my own opinion, but it has always been important to realise that these two truths are complementary: if Governments have a responsibility, as they have to their peoples, the peoples cannot be allowed to escape all responsibility for the acts of their Governments. The effect of this statement that we had no quarrel with the German people was, and would be in the future, to cause doubt whether this country was going to pursue this war to what the countries neighbouring Germany regard as the only successful end. In the early days of the war the effect on such countries as Holland and Belgium was very much this. These were countries whose peoples thought they knew the Germans quite as well as the English did; in fact, there were many more Germans in those countries than here. Therefore, they thought that they could judge the aims of the Germans and the extent to which they stood behind their Government as well as the English. They feared that if the war ended in favour of Great Britain, the people of Great Britain, in their easy-going and generous way, would say, "We have won this war; we can now afford to be gentle with the Germans again." I believe they know what I believe an increasing number of people in 1179 this country now know, that we shall lose this war unless we break, and break for ever, the military might of Germany. We can keep the military might of Germany broken for ever only if we are prepared to maintain sufficient armaments ourselves to see that they do not re-arm.
That, I believe, is the opinion of an overwhelming number of Germany's victims. I believe it also to be true that there is no way of wrapping up that fact in a way which will make it palatable and attractive to those who are to-day enthusiastically fighting Hitler's battles. I hope that the Minister will not try to achieve the impossible. In Germany and in Italy the possibilities of what we can do by propaganda are, of necessity, limited. Let him not try to achieve greater effects by saying anything that might be attractive to those countries but which would be profoundly discouraging to our Allies, actual and potential.
§ Commander King-Hall (Ormskirk)
In the five minutes which I have at my disposal I hope the Committee will excuse me if I put my points extremely briefly and without very much argument to support them. I would like to make a few suggestions which I hope my right hon. Friend will recognise as being made with a view to assisting his Department to add to the considerable war effort which it has achieved up to the present. The thesis which I would like the Committee to put in its mind at the outset is that total war definitely consists of a combination of two strategies, one of which is directed towards obtaining victory over the enemy by bringing pressure to bear upon the enemy's bodies, and the other a parallel strategy, which leads towards victory by an assault on the psychological plane. I have gathered from most of the speeches to-day that hon. Members feel either that more could be done on the psychological plane, or that, on the whole, it is really a waste of time, and probably of money, to do very much on that side until one has achieved great military success.
On behalf of those who feel that more should be done on the psychological plane, I would like to point out that we are not asking that fewer bombs should be dropped on the Germans or that the blockade should not be intensified, if 1180 that be possible. We are asking that additional pressure should be brought to bear on the enemy and that that pressure should take place on the psychological plane. Then, people who do not hold that view say that it is a waste of time talking to the Germans, and perhaps the Italians, because they are people upon whom that kind of thing makes no impression. If that should be the case it seems to me very extraordinary that Dr. Goebbels, with his enormous organisation, should exist at all. Why did he exist before the war? The very magnitude, the character, of the German propaganda machine seems to me to show how thoroughly afraid the Nazi party is that German public opinion should get out of hand. For that reason we have in front of us, from our enemy's side, ample evidence that they are probably as afraid of what our propaganda might do as they are of any other side of our war effort.
In conclusion, I will put this one point. In fighting a total war one should have one's eye on the fact that war is only a means to an end. What we are aiming at is the establishment of a total peace, and if in the conduct of our war we can bring pressure to bear on the enemy and achieve victory by a mixture of force and persuasion, there may be something in the view that results obtained by persuasion are more permanent than results obtained by force. Therefore, I think that in the conduct of total war one should always aim at including in the war strategy the element of persuasion, based, as many speakers have pointed out, on the goodness of our cause and our insistence on speaking the truth. By combining these two forms of strategy together, we may possibly write into the final victory a degree of permanence which was certainly not reached as a result of 1914 to 1918, but which may be reached if our plan for victory includes persuasion as well as force.
I find some difficulty, however, in seeing how my right hon. Friend can deliver the psychological broadsides against the enemy which I hope and believe he wishes to deliver, and which I hope and believe I shall see him deliver, unless he has some rather larger shells to put into his propaganda guns than is the case at present. That is why I am one of those who feel that sooner or later—and I think the time, if not actually ripe, 1181 is very nearly ripe—we must make up our minds to take the risk of producing something as a counterblast to Hitler's much vaunted and, if you examine it, entirely bogus, although in some respects rather specious, new order in Europe.
§ The Minister of Information (Mr. Duff Cooper)
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down was relegated to so short a space of time in which to address the Committee. He said he would speak for only five minutes, and, unlike other Members who make that promise, I think he actually diminished his own allowance. He is one of the most experienced, and is among the most successful, propagandists in the country, and I am sure we should all have been grateful for further advice from the hon. and gallant Member.
This question of propaganda is a difficult one to discuss in the House of Commons, which is listened to by all the world. I have always felt that it is one of the services which are playing a great part in the conduct of the war, along with the Fighting Services, and that to discuss the ways and means of propaganda in public is almost as difficult as to discuss strategy and tactics. I doubt whether anything has been said to-day which could possibly be of any advantage to the enemy, but I have felt more than once that there was that danger. Our enemy is astute; he is ever on the watch, and can deduce from words idly allowed to fall in speeches, or even from interruptions in the House, facts and information which may be of great value. All of us who took part in the last war remember how much value the General Staff used to attach to very small pieces of information. Great risks were run in night sallies and attacks, in order to capture one member of the enemy forces, so as to find out what corps or regiment were occupying the trenches opposite to those we were occupying ourselves. We must realise then, when discussing these all important topics, how careful we must be.
We have been told frequently to-day how inferior to our enemies we are in the great art of propaganda. I do not believe that that is true. Goebbels certainly achieved great success in peace-time, because he was fighting with a vast army at his back, with unlimited expenditure at his command, and with no opponents in the field. We had no Minister of 1182 Propaganda, or of Information, and other countries also lacked such equipment; so Goebbels persuaded many simple souls into believing what he wanted them to believe, that Germany required only certain things, and that it would be easy to persuade her to accept terms. If we look at what has happened in these 18 months of warfare, at what has taken place in the United States, where we have been, perhaps, too backward in giving information, and in attempting to form opinion, we find, there and elsewhere, that Germany's credit has fallen, even while her victories were increasing. We can only hope and believe that the hundreds of millions of pounds spent by Goebbels and his department on propaganda have been wasted. Our more sober, pedestrian, and slow methods are catching him up, if they have not already caught up, and will in the end surpass him.
The main subject to-day has been the B.B.C., that extremely important vehicle of propaganda. Everybody can criticise the B.B.C., and certainly will do so, as long as the B.B.C. exists. But we should remember the difficulties of the B.B.C., and pay some tribute to the B.B.C. for what their achievement has been. In this House, with 600 Members—although they are not always all present—he is a clever speaker who can please his entire audience—a small audience, but an extremely critical one. The B.B.C. addresses an audience sometimes of 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people. A Member speaking in this House occupies the Floor for perhaps 20 minutes at a time. B.B.C. programmes occupy not 24, but 48, hours every day. I only wonder that the criticisms are not more violent, and the mistakes more frequent. The B.B.C. have been working under difficulties. The fact has been revealed—there is no longer any necessity for concealing it—that they suffered a direct hit and had casualties, and that within half-an-hour the whole of Broadcasting House had been evacuated. Yet that might not a single listener was aware that there had been casualties at Broadcasting House. The whole programme was carried on. The following morning a 10-minutes broadcast of foreign news was missed, because the announcer did not turn up in time. That is the only part of the B.B.C. programme that has been missed. That is a great achievement.
1183 The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has criticised the conditions in which those serving in the B.B.C. are now working. I accept those criticisms and recognise that they are completely justified. They were justified, as he said, when he made them towards the end of December, and the improvement which we hoped to achieve has not yet been achieved. There have been disappointments and great difficulties in getting into new buildings at the present time. The staff of the B.B.C. cannot be moved as other staffs. They have to have all the technical appliances and all the cables. Hon. Members who realise this fact will readily understand the difficulties that the B.B.C. has to encounter in going from one station to another. There have been these difficulties and disappointments. We hope that the move that has now been made will be successful. I can assure the hon. Member for Derby that I have myself visited the places where the staff of the B.B.C. are now housed, and I appreciate fully as much as he does the difficulties under which they are working, and I pay tribute to those who are working under these difficulties, in that they do not complain, because they see themselves in the same way as those who serve in the fighting Services. They realise what fighting men have to put up with in time of war, and they carry on, and are proud and glad to carry on, in discomfort and in danger because they are doing a tremendous service for their country. We shall do everything we can with the least possible delay to remedy those conditions.
I should perhaps make plain exactly the position with regard to the relations of the Government and the B.B.C. because it is a slightly anomalous position, but one which, I think, ought to be maintained. There were two courses open when war broke out. We had the power to revoke the charter granted to the B.B.C. and make it simply a Government Department. It was open to the Government at any moment to take that step. The view of the Government was that it would be unwise to do so. It is a general principle in war-time—I think it has been a sound principle—that, while it is necessary to interfere with the liberty enjoyed by the people of this country owing to the exigencies of the war, such interference should be as slight as possible, and 1184 when it has made its appearance precautions should be taken in order that, on the completion of the war, the status quo ante should be reverted to and the liberty should be restored.
When, as Minister of Information, I endeavoured to ascertain what my relation would be to the B.B.C. I consulted with those in authority at the B.B.C., and they said, quite frankly, that they were prepared, as far as possible, to do anything I wished. I really could ask nothing more than that. They have held completely to that view. They have always met every question affecting policy when I have made the wishes of the Government plain, but there has not been that complete liaison which we desired between Government advice and the independent conduct of the B.B.C. It was decided that we should appoint from the Government two advisers to the B.B.C., one on general topics, and home policy more particularly, and one on foreign policy, and that these two officers should be officers of the Ministry of Information under the control of the Minister of Information, who should, as far as any political issues were concerned, be able to give advice which would be taken by the B.B.C. If there was a difference with the Director-General, it should be referred to the Minister of Information for decision. That plan, which has only recently been decided upon, was referred to by the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) to-day. We have already appointed a foreign adviser, but have not yet selected an officer as home and general adviser.
§ Mr. Cooper
The foreign adviser is Mr. Kirkpatrick, who for many years was a Counsellor at Berlin and who has a wide knowledge of politics. I am sure he will fill the position admirably. The only reason that we have not yet filled the other position is that we have not succeeded in getting a man of equally wide knowledge and importance to fill it. The Prime Minister said to-day that it was not too easy to find good men in these days, and it is no good putting somebody there who cannot exercise authority and will not have the necessary experience of politics in this country, the Press and all the facets of the question which will enable 1185 him to carry out the duties of so important a position. I hope in this way that through the complete harmony which exists already between the Government and the B.B.C., we shall be able to work more easily and swiftly and with less interruption than hitherto.
That, I think, is really the solution of the question which has been raised as to where the responsibility lies. The responsibility, so far as the activities of the B.B.C. are connected with politics, lies with me, and I am always prepared to meet it in the House of Commons and answer for any of the activities of the B.B.C. But at the same time I do not want—and I think hon. Members will agree—the B.B.C. to become simply the mouthpiece of the Government. I think there was a little inconsistency in the speech of the hon. Member for Derby when he seemed to suggest that it was most undesirable that the B.B.C. should be the mouthpiece of the Government while he criticised bitterly the fact that a Polish officer who commanded a German regiment in the last war should have been allowed to say in German to the Germans that from his point of view the whole of the German people were guilty and would be punished for the crime they had committed. Nobody will say that this was the voice of the British Government. It was the case of a Polish officer speaking as a refugee in England, and surely it is a right thing that a man should voice these opinions if he holds them. Nobody would imagine that he was the mouthpiece of the British Government; he was merely speaking as an individual and stated his view to the German people and the German army.
If we eliminate from the discussions of the B.B.C. all individual opinion, although it may shock some people and delight others, the B.B.C. will become a dull, dead voice—a sort of official "Gazette." I am all in favour of permitting not only violent statements to be made by independent persons, but criticism of the Government. Many people are very much offended when speakers at the B.B.C. are allowed to criticise His Majesty's Government, but I believe it is right that we should keep the B.B.C. as a public forum—in so far as it does not interfere with the prosecution of the war—where all opinions should be 1186 freely voiced, and this is a principle which I hope will be carried out in the future.
§ Mr. G. Strauss (Lambeth, North)
If that is the Minister's view, could he make representations to the B.B.C. as to their policy in not allowing anyone whose political opinions differ from those of the Government to broadcast on technical, religious or musical subjects?
§ Mr. Cooper
I was careful to say that the opportunity to anybody to speak on the B.B.C. should be limited to speakers and opinions which were not likely to interfere with the prosecution of the war. If a man spends his leisure time in making public speeches against carrying on the war, if a man is a notorious pacifist, and thereby helps our enemies and is therefore an enemy of this country—which pacifists are, for, in the words of the Archbishop of York, pacifists are deliberately helping Hitler to win the war—then he should not be given the privilege of being allowed to address the public, or even promoted to the distinction of performing in public, over the wireless. There are quite enough performers and speakers to fill the programmes of the B.B.C. day and night without having recourse to those who, in my opinion, are the enemies of this country.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir A. Southby), for whose speech I am extremely grateful, said that he thought we might do more with regard to speaking to America. As the hon. Member for Bridgwater said, there is a very large number of talks to America night after night. Here again, as far as information is concerned, neither the B.B.C. nor the Ministry of Information can provide it; we can only see that when we get it, it is transmitted to the widest possible public. In the United States they have a news service from all countries in the world, so that now they are probably getting more information from many sources than any other country. I do not think it is information or persuasion that they are lacking. Distinguished Americans whom I have met recently have said that if the great change that has taken place in opinion in the United States during the last few months were in any degree due to the Ministry of Information, then I might 1187 consider that I have made a wonderful success of my job. I was obliged to assure them that it was not, in my opinion, due to the Ministry of Information, but to events over which I had no control.
My hon. and gallant Friend also criticised the local information committees and said that he felt these bodies, which were set up for a particular purpose at a particular moment of crisis, were extending their activities into a realm where they were neither necessary nor perhaps even desirable. I quite recognise that there is something in that view. In war-time, if one gives people a job to do and they find that there is not very much to do in it, their energy and their conscience urge them to find work, and to make it even if it is not there. Perhaps some of the local information committees have erred in that direction, and any efforts that may be necessary to restrain their activities will be made. With regard to the publication to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred, and which he said is a very good publication—"London's Awake"—the cost is almost infinitesimal in comparison with expenditure at the present time, and I feel that the publication has more or less justified itself.
I feel there is so me force in the criticism of the hon. Member for Bridgwater when he says that he thinks it is the object of the Ministry of Information at present to keep out of the news. If he had been as much in the news as the Ministry has in the past, perhaps he would rather sympathise with it if its attitude is that of a burnt child who fears the fire. But there is more in it than that. The Ministry cannot succeed in its work if it is at loggerheads with the Press all the time. The Ministry must work in co-operation with the Press. It has been my object, ever since I have been at the Ministry, to get the Press to work together with us, for that is the only way in which our work and their work can be properly done.
Certain genera] principles of propaganda have been raised to-day, but I have hardly time to deal with them. The hon. Member for Derby raised the very interesting question whether it is wise to rely upon native rather than upon foreign talent in propaganda in foreign countries. There is a great deal to be said upon both 1188 sides. There is the argument that a man who is a native of the country to which the broadcast is going may be looked upon by some of his fellow countrymen, to whom he is speaking in their own tongue but from a foreign soil, as a renegade and a traitor, whereas an Englishman, speaking, it may be, with a slight accent, will get a better public. Conditions vary from country to country and from time to time, and we do not in any way exclude either Italians or Germans from speaking on the broadcast. There is also something to be said on the subject of whether propaganda should be too conciliatory. There is the danger that if you are too conciliatory the man who listens will say: "Well, we are all right. If we win it will be splendid, and if we lose the English are not going to be hard upon us. Let us get on with the war. What have we to worry about?" There is that kind of danger which besets the art, if it is an art, of propaganda. So far as the main principles are concerned, I am sure that we in this House are all of one opinion, that we should voice continually through our propaganda the desirability of liberty and freedom, the things for which we are fighting, and that we should observe throughout the principle of truth.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £600,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for general Navy, Army and Air Services and for the Ministry of Supply in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament, for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war, for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a sate of war.