HC Deb 18 February 1941 vol 369 cc62-86

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £ 291,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for the expenses in connection with His Majesty's Embassies, Missions and Consular Establishments Abroad, and other expenditure chargeable to the Consular Vote; certain special grants and payments, including grants in aid; and sundry other services.

Mr. Ammon

I should like a little more information with regard to the British Council. At first blush one wonders whether, under present circumstances, there is any room for a continuance of the work of the British Council. I think I am right in saying when last we debated the work of this particular Council, which was also very dear to the heart of the late Lord Lloyd, who saw in it a great opportunity for spreading British culture and knowledge of the British language, it was communicated that we had letters of appreciation from Rome and Bucharest. I imagine we are not getting any letters to-day, and that that avenue of its work is now closed; one might say it is closed everywhere, apart from the English-speaking races, where its work is hardly necessary. A good deal of the work of the Council was what one might call new sand propaganda which has now been passed over to the Ministry of Information. I should like to know what is the association between this Council and the Ministry of Information, and whether the officers of the Council are now being borne on the Vote of the Ministry of Information, or whether there are payments by the Ministry of Information not shown on its Vote which are really borne by the British Council. I think one ought to have that clarified, so that we may know clearly what is the total amount of expenditure. Is it not possible that the work of the two organisations is now overlapping, and that, at any rate for the time being, the British Council might be considered as moribund, while the Ministry of Information is carrying on the work which is necessary in these times? I do not put these points forward in any critical manner, but rather to find out the exact position. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to give us clear information as to the fine of demarcation between the two Departments, and whether or not the work of the Council has now actually ceased.

Mr. White

I should like to put one or two questions arising from what my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) has just said. Of course, it is fairly clear that on first sight there may be some possibility of competition or overlapping between the work of the British Council and the newly-established Ministry of Information. Although the functions and purposes of these two institutions are to some extent similar, they are not identical. The British Council stands for something which we hope will be a permanent institution— an attempt to express the virtues and characteristics of the British race for all time. If these functions were in any way confined to the Ministry of Information, not only for the present but after the war, the work of this Council would be seriously impeded and injured. It is an educational and cultural institution, and, although I would not deny that the Ministry of Information could claim these characteristics as well, it would be fatal for the interests of the British Council, which is doing most valuable work in many parts of the world, if it was in any way tainted with the characteristics of propaganda. I should also like to ask whether these matters have already been considered. The late Lord Lloyd gave great energy and inspiration to the magnificent functions of the British Council, and it is not surprising, therefore, that these matters should be raised.

Sir S. Reed

I am sorry that I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) in saying that this work comes within the scope of the Ministry of Information. It seems to me that it is as wide as poles asunder from the work of the Ministry of Information. We hope that the work of the Council will be carried on, not only during the war, but as a permanent part of our organisation for the future. Will my right hon. Friend give the Committee some information as to how the work is to be carried on, controlled and directed in the future? The Committee is well aware that the Council consisted in fact of a Council of one, namely, Lord Lloyd, with his dynamic energy. I should like my right hon. Friend to tell us what the Government have in mind in the way of control and direction of this work, and what are the character and attainments of the individual they hope to put at its head? If we could have an answer to these points, we should feel very much happier, realising the value of the work that the Council is doing.

Mr. Price

I am very glad to see that there has been an increase in this Vote. It indicates that the Government are taking this matter seriously. Along with other hon. Members, I should like to inquire how this money is being spent. It states in the White Paper that it is to promote abroad a wider knowledge of Great Britain, its language and cultural relations. Of course, one can clearly see the line of demarcation between cultural education and propaganda, and one assumes that propaganda is within the scope of the Ministry of Information and that cultural education falls to the British Council. But I think the Committee might ask in what way the money is being spent. Is it on the development of lectures, the distri- bution of literature in these countries—not very easy to do, I should imagine, in these times—and wireless talks? There is another thing that ought not to be lost sight of but ought to be developed, it seems to me, in regard to cultural education. I refer to films, and more particularly documentary films. This is a kind of cultural work which could be of enormous value to our war effort in explaining to various countries our life here and our objects in this war. I believe that work has been done in this connection in India. Many documentary films of industry have gone out. I want to know whether similar work has been done in the other countries dealt with in this grant. I believe there is nothing that could assist our war effort more than the development of documentary films, and I should like to know whether anything is being done in this direction.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

I was somewhat disturbed by the impression gained by the speech of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). His proposal, as far as I could see it, was that the time had come for the fusion of the British Council with the Ministry of Information. I, like others who have spoken, think it would be a grave error. As I see it, the functions of the two bodies are so entirely different, except on one or two very minor details, that it would be contrary to our very best interests and the interests of the future peace to which we are all looking forward if such a suggestion were adopted. As I see it, the Ministry of Information has a very definite work to achieve, which it had begun to do with some effect. As I see its function, it is to give hot news, to answer unfounded propaganda from hostile sources, to refute lies from wherever they come and, of course, to state our case. It is purely political as far as I recognise the word, whereas the British Council is a cultural organisation formed for the purpose of persuading our way of life and our way of thought on other countries and showing them that our ideals have something so intrinsically good in them that others might with advantage follow our example and thereby ally themselves, not politically or militarily, but with our way of thinking. It would be a policy of despair either to fuse the British Council with the Ministry of Information or to wind it up. It would admit straight away that, because a few misguided countries had fallen victims to the guile or threats of the enemy, therefore there were no other countries who were still relying on Britain to give them a lead both in thought and in words. So I trust that the Committeee and the Foreign Office will not yield to any persuasion in the matter of fusing the two organisations or winding-up the British Council. I would, however, ask one thing. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the urgent necessity of appointing a suitable and worthy successor to the late Lord Lloyd? There are few who are possessed of his amazingly vital push and go, and he will be very difficult to replace, but it largely depends on the choice whether the British Council will be able to function during the remainder of the war and be ready to fulfil the even bigger task which will fall to it after the war.

Mr. Creech Jones

I should not like to say anything derogatory to the British Council, because I agree with its purpose and its general objects, but on an occasion such as this I think one may be forgiven for a little healthy scepticism with regard to certain of these activities. It receives a considerable sum of money from the British taxpayer. We are now being asked to vote something like £ 200,000, but, although many Members are able to speak about the excellent work that it is doing, we, and certainly the public outside, know very little of the range of its activities. The last time the matter was discussed the point was made that it would help the House if from time to time reports were published of what it is doing. It is true that a report appears now and again, but, from inquiries that I have made, these reports are very much delayed, and if one desires fairly up-to-date information, we are unable to discover it except by application to the Council itself. There is a great facade of committees which, as far as I understand, never meet. Distinguished names are used, giving the Council a very formidable appearance, but I understand that very little effective committee work is done and that for all practical purposes these advisory committees do not function and the whole direction of the Council is limited to one or two persons at the very top.

If we are voting money, I suggest that we should know what the future direction of the Council is to be and how it is to be controlled. We hear from time to time of some very extraordinary activities. A little while back we were informed that it had taken financial responsibility for the publication of a newspaper in Cyprus. Presumably it would make what profits there were but would stand the loss, if there were losses, in respect of the paper. Then one reads of extraordinary missions to various parts of Europe, hobnobbing with dictators and mixing with quite the wrong people. If this Council exists for the purpose of spreading British culture abroad, ft ought to be more widely based, and something more representative of British life and thought and ought to be permitted to go to foreign countries and to express to the people the pulsating life of our country. One is sometimes disturbed as to the sort of dilettante people who are given the responsibility of lecturing on British economic problems, culture and social life to the people overseas.

A further point that I would like to make in regard to the British Council is the curious absence of effective contact with our own Colonial peoples. It is true that the Council exists to do certain educational work, and that it founds scholarships to enable people to come to this country, but our Colonial peoples are virtually cast into outer darkness and no facilities are provided for them to see something of British institutions and social life. Although frequently they are struggling and blindly groping along in order to make their own movements, we do not provide them with facilities through the British Council for that knowledge to be imparted to them.

The Chairman

The hon. Member is now dealing with something that is outside the original Vote. I allowed the Debate to be very wide, but the hon. Member must deal with the work of the British Council necessitating the increased expenditure.

Mr. Creech Jones

I will put what I want to say in the form of a question. We are asked to vote £ 200,000. We have not the details as to how it is to be expended, but presumably part will be spent on scholarships overseas or in enabling representatives of other countries to come to this country. Will some of this money be made available for representatives of British Colonial peoples to come to this country and see something of the working of British institutions, and will facilities be provided for representatives of the British trade union or co-operative movements to go to other countries and to our Colonies in order that a more representative picture of British life, cultural institutions, social movements and economic organisation and development shall be presented to them?

The Chairman

If the hon. Member had put his question in one sentence, I should not have interrupted him, but he is now trying to debate something which is outside the Vote.

Sir Henry Morris-Jones (Denbigh)

I should like to endorse what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) with regard to the question of a successor to the late Lord Lloyd. My right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs will probably consider that one of the best successors would be somebody who had been an ambassador abroad. I hope that he will not take that view. Some of our ambassadors have not done so extraordinarily well that immediately on retirement they must of necessity take charge of a most important office to succeed that brilliant Colonial administrator whose loss we mourn and whose place will be difficult to fill. I want to warn my right hon. Friend, if he has anything to do with this appointment, that there are ex-ambassadors in this country who may be capable and brilliant men, but some of them have not been very distinguished in brilliant efforts —

The Chairman

We cannot discuss the qualifications of our ambassadors on this Vote.

Sir H. Morris-Jones

I have a fear at the back of my mind that when this appointment is made some ambassador will be selected, and I trust that it will not be so. I am sure that the Committee does not grudge this money. The British Council has done splendid work. One rather wonders, however, where at the moment its work will be done, because there are so few countries outside the English-speaking countries where it can function. It did some substantial work in the Balkans, and let us hope that in the next few days we may see a little fruit arising from it. There is plenty of scope in the Balkans for admiration and appreciation of British culture and what it means to the world in future. A note under the Vote says that any balance of the sum issued which remains unexpended on 31st March, 1941, will not be liable to surrender to the Exchequer. Why should this sum be carried on?

The Chairman

That question has already been settled and cannot, therefore, be debated.

Sir Annesley Somerville (Windsor)

In listening to the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), I was struck with the need of even a larger Vote for the British Council. He asked why the Council did not do this or that, but it is doing exactly what he asked that it should do. It is obvious that the hon. Member has not a large knowledge of what the Council has been doing. Under the late LordLloyd it had extended its activities in many directions and in a most useful way. We are trying to do what the Germans have been doing for some time. They have been spending £ 4,000,000 a year in extending the knowledge and influence of Nazi culture. I am sure that the hon. Member for Shipley does not approve of that culture. We are spending only a few hundred thousands in extending the knowledge of British life and culture. The hon. Member asked why the British Council did not exhibit to the countries where it is established a picture of British life, trade union activities and so on, but that is exactly what the Council has been doing. It has been sending out a succession of lecturers and teachers, one of its objects being to extend the knowledge of our language in various countries, and they try to put before the people among whom they live a picture of the kind of life we live here and of our objects. I listened a little time ago to a lecture by a gifted lady who had been on a lecturing tour in the Balkans, and she showed how this country was looked at in the Balkans, how, as a result of the work that the British Council was doing, schools and institutes were established in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece, and how the young people of those countries were eagerly joining the classes. That is all for the good. Such work is also done in Portugal. I regret that there is not a wider knowledge of what the British Council has done. If that knowledge were more widely extended we should realise what a debt we owe to that great man who has just passed away, Lord Lloyd.

Sir Malcolm Robertson (Mitcham)

There seems to be a lack of understanding of what the British Council is, what it has done and what it is meant to do. Unfortunately, I was once an Ambassador, and, therefore, I do not know whether I should blush or should pale before the remarks of the hon. Member for Denbigh (Sir H. Morris-Jones). Those of us who spent a great many years of our lives abroad know full well that until recent times the spread of British culture and a knowledge of British institutions, of the British educational system and of the English language were left out of our imaginations abroad. We left it to the Germans, to the Italians, and to the French. British institutions hardly existed, except for a few wholly inadequate schools in various parts of the world, which were generally run by governesses brought out from England by the natives of the particular country, governesses who proved unsatisfactory and often set up schools of their own. Otherwise, there was no system of spreading a knowledge of our culture, of our literature, of our art, of our science. Nothing was done. Finally, a small undertaking was started in Buenos Aires which was called the Anglo-Argentine Society of English Culture. It started in a small way, but within a year or two it was found there was an enormous demand, and 4,000 or 5,000 pupils joined.

Then came this British Council, which has done admirable work. Hon. Members seemed to confine their ideas to Europe and the Balkans. May I, with the greatest possible respect, point out to them that there is a very large area in this world known as South America. In that part of the world we have gigantic interests, and there the British Council is doing admirable work—starting schools, subsidising schools, setting up associations of English culture; and that is doing us a great deal of good. The same thing is happening in Central America. The British Council is trying to extend its activities all the world over. Great lecturers are sent out. Why the trade union movement or any other social movement in this country should not also send out its representatives I do not know. We are only too anxious that the countries of the world should know what we in this country are doing, what our civilisation stands for, and what our social progress is, and that is the object and aim of the British Council. It is an admirable institution. I look forward with considerable eagerness to the appointment of a successor to Lord Lloyd, whose name has been mentioned with such admiration, and such justified admiration, in the Committee to-day. It is a big job, and it is a job to which, I am perfectly certain, the right hon. Gentleman and the Foreign Office have given the closest and most anxious attention, but I would devote to it not £200,000 or £300,000 but as many millions as the Germans have devoted to their so-called cultural societies.

Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Kilmarnock)

I am sorry that I did not hear the opening speech, but I want to say that there should be no question of the work of the British Council being confused with the work of the Ministry of Information. That fundamental point ought to be made absolutely clear. I spoke in one of the first debates on the British Council, and, like the last speaker, I am aware of the lamentable lack not so much of propaganda as of any adequate reflection of British literature or of British life in whole regions of the world. I went with Mr. Guedella on the first mission to South America, where we found a complete absence of any knowledge of our own country's contribution towards the freedom of those countries. It was quite unknown among the people there. In Europe, apart from the Institute in Paris and a tiny institute in Florence—which at first, I think, was privately subsidised —there was up to a few years ago literally nothing. Since then we have at any rate got up to a figure of £200,000 in expenditure. I do not quite know what the criticism which has been made to-day amounts to, but I imagine that everyone is agreed that this is a good work but that there is a difference about the word "culture." To talk of spreading British culture sounds, at first, rather aggressive. In fact, it has to be done with very great subtlety. I understand that the representation on the Council is all-party, but I agree with the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) that it is very easy to give a conception of British culture which starts with public schools and established institutions in this country and more or less ends there.

Sir A. Somerville

It is not done.

Mr. Lindsay

I am glad to hear that, because there is a very rich social life which lies quite outside those bounds. It is one of the aims of the British Council to give a complete mirror of the life of this country, and it is true that it is not in everyone's experience to have that complete mirror. For myself, there are great and important tracts of this country about which I know nothing, and am learning everyday. Therefore, at this time, when there is so much talk of "new orders," when accusations are being made day by day about our plutocratic system of education—as is being done by Hitler and others on the Continent, with some justification—when distorted pictures of this country are being sent round the world, it is of the greatest importance that we should be certain that it is a representative picture that comes from this country.

Would my right hon. Friend tell the Committee something of the educational work among foreigners in this country which is being done by the British Council? It is, I believe, of great importance, but it is unknown to most people. Would he also say how far he thinks the literature—I am mildly interested in it myself because I have occasionally tried to write little things— which goes out is really giving a picture which can be understood by the fairly ordinary reader in South America and in other parts of the world? I think there is a tendency in the literature, and perhaps in the films, to keep a very high standard, and while I am all for that, it may be a standard which is not getting down to the life of the people in various countries. Also, could the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether anything is being done to promote schools? The subject was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson). I well remember the complete absence in Egypt and elsewhere in the old days of any such schools and universities. They were entirely French. There was a complete lack of understanding of the British point of view on a great many subjects. There was an Italian propaganda covering every phase of social life. It was in this sort of world that the world war started.

Sir A. Somerville

At the beginning of this century there were two schools in Cairo, one was the Tewfikieh and the other was the Khedivieh, of which the headmaster was an Englishman, and in those schools there was no lack of knowledge of English ideas and English life, so it is not quite correct to say there was an absence of contact between this country and other countries in that respect.

Mr. Lindsay

I am aware of that one school, and also of the troubles which had to be gone through in order to get money to keep it going. In regard to the universities, they were entirely in the hands of the French. The French language was used. There is a very real need to spread the things to which I have been referring. We are dealing at the present moment with the more permanent work of the British Council. Whatever happens to the Ministry of Information—its life will probably end with the war, at least, some of us think it should—the British Council is now a permanent part of the structure, partly of the Foreign Office and partly in relation to overseas trade, and it should export the best we have in this country. I would like to feel —

The Chairman

We are having a very wide Debate, but I must ask the hon. Gentleman not to develop the line of argument which he has just begun.

Mr. Lindsay

Then I will conclude by saying that the British Council will become a permanent feature of three or four Departments covered by the British Government, and that very great care will have to be exercised in the leadership of the Council in future. We have the very interesting experiment in the case of the late Lord Lloyd, who devoted so much time to it. The way in which the experiment is developed in the future will depend very much on the kind of person who leads it, and the range of his experience. I am sure that the Government will give very treat care to his selection.

Miss Rathbone (Combined English Universities)

Like most other speakers, I do not grudge the money which we are vot- ing for the British Council. Even now, when the amount has swollen from the original £ 50,000 to nearly £ 200,000, to every farthing we contribute in this country to the British Council, or in any other way to foreign propaganda, something like £ 1 is spent by the German propaganda machine. I would like to voice, very briefly, a criticism of the past and a question as to the future. My criticism of the British Council has always been as to why it is such a hush-hush body. Hon. Members have reproached the Council in a way that showed ignorance of its work; if we are ignorant of the work of the British Council, the British public must be much more ignorant. Whose fault is that? It is not the fault of the Council itself. The very title of the Council is of a hush-hush nature. Usually, a title suggests the objective of the body in question and does not merely describe it as a council or a society. We do not get Parliamentary reports of the British Council, and one hardly ever hears a broadcast about it. So far as I know, there is no widely circulated or easily accessible form of information which shows exactly, year by year, what the Council is doing, where it has been doing it, and how, and that is a very great pity.

The remark which was made by the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson)was rather interesting. Referring to a remark made by a previous speaker that it would be a good thing if propaganda were done about the trade-union movement in foreign countries, he asked what was to prevent trade unions from doing their own propaganda, just as though the British Council's object was not to spread a knowledge—

Sir M. Robertson

I did not say "propaganda." I said "information," which is cultural. The whole object of the British Council is to give information of our social, intellectual, scholastic, and other systems.

Miss Rathbone

I do not use the word "propaganda" as though it were something nasty. There is hardly any information which is not, in a sense, propaganda. If you think things, and believe they are true, you try to spread the information. Let us use the word "information." My criticism is that the work of the British Council has always seemed rather to assume that it should spread British culture in the more humanistic sense, our literature, art, music and ideas, but not just those things which are the special contribution of Great Britain to the world's store, such as our democratic ideals, our sociological development and so on. I met this criticism a few years ago when I happened to be on a tour in Rumania, Jugoslavia and Czecho-Slovakia. In all those countries, and especially in Rumania, I heard a good deal about the British Council. The comments by the natives of the countries were all very polite and appreciative, but there was always a sting in the tail of the appreciative references.

It was often conveyed to me, during long talks with professors and sociological experts, that the British Council was sending them British music played by British artists, as well as lectures on British art or poetry, and that while that was all very interesting it was not particularly associated with Great Britain. They were not things which had a definite, national colour, such as British institutions, and democratic and industrial experience. These were the things about which those people wanted to know. They did not so much ask for singing lessons or concerts as for carefully calculated efforts to bring home to the people of less developed countries, only recently experimenting with democracy, facts to show what democracy was, how it had grown, and what it aimed to do for the world. I cannot help thinking that, during the last few years, much of the failure which led to the present war is because we had not, somehow, managed to impregnate those countries to which democracy was new with the knowledge of what we meant by democracy and how democracy should try to build itself.

I do not know enough of what the British Council is doing in war-time, but I do know something about, and deeply appreciate, the work which it is doing in this country. It is, for example, sending libraries to the internment camps and is organising cultural facilities for refugees in internment and not in internment, admirable and excellent work. Unfortunately, I missed much of the first speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and I know very little of the work which the British Council is now doing abroad. I realise that it can necessarily be doing very little in enemy, or enemy-occupied, countries, unless it takes part in—and I am vague of how the two efforts would inter-act—the propaganda in enemy-occupied countries. In those countries which are nominally neutral it is important to carry across that part of our culture which has a direct bearing upon our war effort. That, again, centres round the question of what we stand for, what liberty means for us and why it is so dear. We must tell how our habit of liberty and our democratic institutions have grown to be what they are. I hope that the British Council will come into the open and tell the public, who are paying the bill, exactly what are its activities.

Lastly, there is a point which has some bearing on the matter, namely, as to who will be the future chairman of the Council. I share the admiration which has been expressed of the late Lord Lloyd, and also of Lord Eustace Percy, who preceded him as chairman, but, if I may say so with deep respect, they are not typical specimens of the side of British life to which I have been referring. I hope that the next choice will be someone equally representative of the best aspects of British life, but slightly more directly representative of what I may call British democracy and progress in sociological and democratic experiment.

Mr. Woods (Finsbury)

I would like to make an appeal to the Minister to give us more information about the British Council. Whatever the Council may have done abroad, it does not seem to have done much at home. The enlightening comments which we have had from one or two hon. Members who have had personal experience were to some extent a revelation. We depend upon reports which are invariably very belated, and there is no excuse for being so much behind the times in keeping the Committee and the country informed. The last speaker brought out a point which makes it more vital than ever that the Committee should be in receipt of up-to-date information. The Council was founded in peace-time and, like all such councils, they seem to have had a routine form of spending money. Suddenly the whole world picture is changed, and we are plunged into war. Although the Committee may not object to voting this additional sum, at the same time it has had no information as to how the Council is adapting itself to the new situation.

I would like to associate myself with the appeal made by the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), namely, that the Colonial aspect of the Council's work should receive particular attention. Whatever may be the opportunities of carrying on our educational work abroad, the hope for the future must be based on this country and America and their democratic institutions. The Council has made a substantial contribution to building up that community of ideals and ideas upon which democracy rests. In that connection, the aspect which the last speaker emphasised is one to which the Council should give particular attention. When the history of our times comes to be written I believe that the great gifts from this country to the world will be recognised as those twin democratic organisations, the trade union and Co-operative movements. In Nazi countries they have been exterminated or so mutilated as to have lost their beneficent capacity, but they are the great contributions towards welding together the human population of this planet with a common ideal. So far as I know, although there may be representatives of these organisations on the Council, the Council has given very little attention towards "putting across" the contribution which this country has made for the good of mankind and the peace of the world.

I am particularly interested in the Cooperative movement, and, whatever the Council may have done to make known throughout the world the nature and activity of this great social organisation, which in this country embraces about 10,000,000 people, there is very little knowledge abroad apart from that which is given by the organisation itself. The time has come when it should be realised that it is not propaganda but information which is wanted. Not only do we get persona requests for information, but we get deputations from various countries, particularly from America, to seek information. When there is that thirst for information the British Council should make that contribution.

It seems to me from the reports which we get that the actual functioning, ex- penditure and control of the Council have been vested too much in the hands of an individual. I do not know how frequently the Council meets or how far the Council is divided into committees to deal with various aspects of the work; that is the kind of information which should be given, so that although there may be satisfactory work in one Department, if there are other Departments which are lagging behind, we may be informed so that we as a Committee or a House of Commons may know which activities are falling below the mark.

Mr. Muff (Hull, East)

My hon. Friend has referred to the British Council and to some of its personnel. I would remind him that one of the most distinguished members of the Committee is also one of the leading members of the Co-operative movement. At any rate, he was until he undertook the office of First Lord of the Admiralty. I hope he is still there. In reply to the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined Universities (Miss Rathbone), I think our fault in past years has been that the British Council has been nobody's baby. I, for one, although I have been in this Committee for six or seven years, had never heard of its work until I had the great privilege of listening to the report from Lord Lloyd, and I agree with hon. Members who have spoken that that report should have been in the hands of every Member of Parliament and should even have been given to the public. The late Lord Lloyd adopted the child and it became a most lusty infant. I would say to the hon. Lady, though, that we cannot compete with the blatant shriekings of German and Italian propaganda, even in their broadcasts in which a certain type of story goes down with a certain type of person who is listening. I would prefer that we went on the same lines as those which I observed for myself in the British Pavilion at the World's Fair in August, 1939, when I found that the British Pavilion had received twice the number of visitors— nearly 2,000,000— than any other pavilion in that great World's Fair. When I went in and saw the long queue waiting at one place almost reverentially, I went with curiosity to see what they were doing. They were simply waiting their turn in order to see the Magna Charta which was there displayed. That was the type of British propaganda which has struck the imagination of the Americans. I also found—and this is the type of propaganda in which we ought to indulge —that in one part of the Pavilion there was an exhibit showing what we were doing in a certain part of Yorkshire with nursery schools and with primary education. There was not so much about the universities, because I suppose Oxford and Cambridge had little to say about themselves. But that quiet restrained effort of the British people as displayed in that Pavilion had attracted so many people— twice the number that went in to any other pavilion— that the authorities had had to get the steps of the front entrance to the Pavilion re-cemented, because they were worn away by the devotees who wanted to see something of British culture. That was American workmanship; of course, if it had been British workmanship, I agree that the steps might have lasted longer. But that is by the way; what I am driving at is that the British Council has no need to apologise for its existence, but I think that the British people would apprecitae what has been done by the British Council if they were told more about it. I do not know what the British Council is doing at the present time— I hope it has not put up the shutters — but I hope that it will be by our works and not simply by blatant propaganda that we shall show to the world the worth of British institutions. I agree that we can make much more use of such efforts, restrained but effective, which have been put forward in the past by this most excellent institution.

Mr. Butler

The Committee has listened to an interesting Debate on the subject of the British Council. We have had a series of speeches in favour of the British Council's work, notably by the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Sir M. Robertson), and the hon. Members for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed), Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), Kilmarnock (Mr. Lindsay) and Windsor (Sir A. Somerville), and we have had a series of speeches none the less helpful because of their criticism from other hon. Gentlemen who have raised points with which I hope to deal in the course of my reply. I propose to give the Committee a little further information about the British Council, since there has been a request for it, but I will endeavour not to stand for too long a period between the Committee and the further Business of the day.

A general tribute has been paid to the work of Lord Lloyd in connection with the British Council. I do not think there was any work which Lord Lloyd did which was nearer to his heart, or in which his personality stood out more vividly. He had a unique experience in the Near and Middle East which made him particularly suitable to be the Chairman of the Council. Expressing, I believe, the feelings of those who work for the Council, I can say that nowhere have his associates and friends been left with deeper feelings of regret at his death. About the only time the British Council has felt cast down was when his chairmanship was brought so abruptly to an end. I do not at all disagree with the statements that have been made to the effect that there is a great work waiting for his successor, but I am sure the Committee will excuse me if I do not go any further into that question to-day. I will, however, say that my right hon. Friend and those who are interested in this matter will no doubt read with interest the observations made by Members of the Committee as to the way in which this work should be carried on. Therefore, this Debate will have been valuable when this important decision is taken. I must, however, make it perfectly clear that the British Council is an all-party body; it does not exist for any sort of political reason, nor has it any political bias whatsoever. It includes representatives of all parties, and you have only to read the list of members of the Executive Council to see from what wide ranges of interest representatives are drawn. I think it is essential to make it quite clear that the picture of Britain which the British Council seeks to present abroad is a real and genuine picture of Britain as a whole. There is no doubt whatever that such movements as were referred to by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Woods) have stood the British name in good stead in the past and will stand it in even better stead in the future. That is not forgotten by those who manage the affairs of the British Council. In fact, the object of the Council and of its late chairman was to make the name of Britain known and respected abroad, and the name of Britain has never been one which could be interpreted in a narrow or shallow way.

The hon. Member for North Camber-well (Mr. Ammon) wondered whether, in view of the restricted number of countries in which the British Council can operate, it has now sufficient scope for its activities. It is true to say that after the German invasion of certain countries and the entry of Italy into the war the field in which the Council could operate was obviously limited, but I wish to give the Committee a few short but simple examples of the growth of the work of the Council during this year. In particular there has been a great growth in Latin America. No fewer than 15 new anglophile societies have been started there, and I feel convinced that that work is one which will be of great value in the future, considering our great interests in that part of the world. There has also been a large increase of the Council's work in the Balkans, to which I propose to refer when I consider the work of the Council in more detail. There has also been a very distinct increase in the work of caring for foreigners in this country. This was an aspect of its work to which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock referred. The Council has been responsible for setting up and running a Polish House, to the work and influence of which the Polish authorities have constantly paid tribute. Only last month the King of Norway and his entire Government paid a visit to the Polish House. The Czechoslovak institute, which was opened by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary at the end of last month, is also a special care of the Council.

There is also the work which is being done, and which was referred to by the hon. Lady the Member for the Combined English Universities (Miss Rathbone) for those in internment camps, in regard to caring for refugees and the provision of literature. In Liverpool, for example, there is a British Council House which will centralise all the educational and cultural work among Allied nationals in the Liverpool area. There are centres for seamen, in particular the Norwegian Seamen's Centre, and there is a series of schools, about which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked a question, in various parts of the country for the children of Allied nationals. Perhaps one of the most remarkable pieces of work which the Council has been able to do has been the continuation of the "Institut francais," the French Institute which, up to the collapse of France, was receiving a subsidy from the French Government. That, of course, was cut off, and now the Institute receives a grant from the Treasury through the medium of the British Council, and we hope that the centre in South Kensington will be a real centre for the elements of French life in London. The importance of that sort of work cannot be over-exaggerated.

The work of the Council is perhaps more extended than some of us have realised. In reply to the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones), I would say that the last quarter's account of the work of the British Council is in the Library, and I have no doubt the hon. Member will repair any deficiency by reading it carefully. I have specially arranged to place this document there, because I think that hon. Members in the past have not perhaps had sufficient facilities to enable them to appreciate the whole work of the Council.

Mr. Creech Jones

Are there published annual reports?

Mr. Butler

There are published annual reports, to which I can refer the hon. Member.

Miss Rathbone

Would the right hon. Gentleman ask the Council to consider publishing a threepenny or sixpenny booklet giving an informative account of the activities of the Council, which would be available to the whole of the public, and not only to Members of Parliament?

Mr. Butler

I will certainly do that. I will also make available in the Library for hon. Members information about what the Council do already; and if I think the information can be improved, I will look into the matter. The Council have a very able Press officer; and, no doubt, he will take note of the points of view which have been expressed.

I might now give a short account of the work which has been done in the Middle East. I will take up the point of the hon. Member for Shipley about the work done in the Colonial Empire. I will start by describing what has been happening in Egypt. Besides the large institutes in Cairo and Alexandria, there are smaller ones in Upper Egypt: We are hoping to found one at Port Said in the coming year. New institutes have been started in Irak, and there is now an Englishman teaching English in every school there. In Turkey the evidence of the desire of the Turkish authorities to adopt English methods of education has become more and more clear.

Mr. Mathers (Linlithgow)

Would it not be better to teach British methods?

Mr. Butler

British methods. I accept the hon. Member's correction the more readily as half of me comes from North of the Border! It was the Council that organised the important visit of Turkish editors and deputies to this country last year. We have a direct indication of the value of that visit when we study the Turkish Press. Perhaps in Greece the British Council has had its most remarkable effect. The huge institutes at Athens, in Salonika, and in several other places, bear witness to the name of Britain in Greece. An important piece of pioneer work has been done by the signing— for the first time, I believe, between this country and another— of a cultural convention between Greece and this country, which may be said to be the charter for perpetual cultural relations between the two countries. To crown that work there has been appointed a new Byron Professor at the University of Athens. This post is to be filled by Lord Dunsany, who has left for Greece.

Turning to other parts of the world where the Council's work is progressing, let me refer to Malta and Cyprus. It is rather remarkable that in one morning, on different Votes, the spirit of Malta should be twice referred to. Perhaps the success of the British Council is most dramatically seen in those countries which are putting up the best resistance, in those areas most remarkable for their resolution. In Valetta, British culture has been kept alive in this impregnable fortress. In Cyprus four institutes have been opened during the year.

When we consider the development of the work of the Council in the Colonies, I would say to the hon. Member for Shipley that that aspect of the question is in mind, but that if the British Council are to extend their work to the Colonies, it will mean coming to this Committee for more money, and for an extension of the scope of the Council beyond what they undertake at present. That does not mean that it cannot be done. It does mean that the matter will require deep consideration, which will be given to it.

Another country in which the work of the Council has been very important is Portugal. In Madrid, too, the British Institute, opened this year, bids fair to be as successful as other institutes elsewhere, and there is evidence that its work is welcomed by the people of Spain. Those are some of the examples of the extension of the work of the British Council. I do not apologise for giving them, because I believe that the Committee was desirous of obtaining further information.

The other main question that I was asked was about overlapping. I was asked by the hon. Member for North Camberwell under which Vote the expenses of the British Council are borne. There is no doubt about that. The Vote is that set out here, "Diplomatic and Consular Services," and the Foreign Office is proud to be able to take a close interest in the work of the Council and to assist them in any way it can. I am myself not apprehensive of the danger of the overlapping of the functions of the British Council and, say. the Ministry of Information. The Council's function is to make British life and thought better known abroad. The work of the Ministry of Information—which must not be underestimated—covers in some respects fields equivalent to those of the British Council, but its work has a much more political and propaganda tinge than the work of the Council, which is essentially cultural. In the realms where overlapping might have existed, such as in the distribution of books and periodicals, the distribution of excerpts from the Press— articles and that sort of thing— and films, there has been a demarcation of the activities of the Council and those of the Ministry of Information, agreed upon by Lord Lloyd and the then Minister of Information.

Mr. Price

Is the film to to be developed in future?

Mr. Butler

I am coming to that. I made a note of the fact that the hon. Member wished to know more about the film aspect. The news reels and the documentaries, which have to be of a particular type to suit the work of the institutes, for example, will be developed within the bounds for which money is provided. The question of overlapping of function is not one upon which the Government wish to sit back and say that nothing further can be done. The matter will be kept under review, and any criticism made in the Committee to-day will be considered by the Government. That, I think, gives the Committee some closer idea of the work of the Council. I trust that the Committee will, therefore, let the Government have this Vote, and so give encouragement to a body whose task, I believe, is essential to our success. An article appeared recently in a paper in Buenos Aires, which said: It is indeed remarkable that when the British are fighting for their lives they can pay so much attention to the things of the mind. It is through things of the mind that we are going to be brought through this struggle, and it is in order to support them that we arc asking for this Vote.

Mr. Woods

Would the right hon. Gentleman reply to the point as to how far the Council exercise control, how frequently they meet, and how far the actual control is in the hands of one man, the Chairman?

Mr. Butler

The Council have an Executive and a series of other committees. There was a theory that some of these committees did not function as they should, but I have been into that and I am satisfied that the Council is run in an efficient manner. Very naturally, in the period of the dynamic personality of the late Lord Lloyd, his name came very frequently to the front in the organisation and the running of the Council, but I am satisfied that he was not himself of the dictator type, even in the Council, and that he listened to the point of view of other people, as the hon. Gentleman opposite can bear witness. I am certain that under the new arrangements that are being made, attention will be paid to the necessity for running the Council efficiently as a corporate body.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £291,000, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1941, for the expenses in connection with His Majesty's Embassies, Missions and Consular Establishments Abroad, and other expenditure chargeable to the Consular Vote; certain special grants and payments, including grants in aid; and sundry other services.

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